Drawing by Caio Vincent Corsini.
The metropolis of Karsen was in many respects more beautiful than any of the cities Dionne had seen during the apparent golden age of Tairos.
It was surrounded on all sides by a gigantic wall, though as Dionne would later learn, it was actually something inside that provided the key to its defences.
The time travellers were greeted very warmly by the heads of the city. Whilst Karsen may have become isolationist, it nevertheless did not harbour any prejudices towards outsiders. As long as they were not hostile, then the Karsen’s would treat them with respect. That said however the fact that the Circus Family were there on the recommendation of the Vitox undoubtedly helped their case.
Tarkan talked with the heads of the city about why he had come here. Surprisingly they were familiar with the Circus Family, though it had been a later incarnation they had worked with in their respective past. At the very least they knew that there had been multiple Circus Masters and expected the change by this stage.
Whilst Tarkan told the leaders about the mission and discussed plans, the others were free to explore this beautiful metropolis and even learn a bit about its history and the history of Tairos. Dionne naturally was the most eager to find out how the war had ended, and what had become of her beloved Gorgonopsid. Sadly however she could not find any historical records pertaining to her in the local library, touted as having the most complete historical records in all of Tairos. Even with events that she was a part of, such as the Dragons graveyard and the fall of Mosterik and most notably the death of Jakarian, who according to history books was killed by the armies of the sky city.
The answer would soon become clear when she was visited by two old friends. Friaj, Trian’s sister and Dionne’s trusty pet Gorgonopsid, both of whom miraculously were still alive. Dionne almost didn’t notice Friaj at first as she was so overjoyed to see her favourite pet alive again, which still recognised her even after all these centuries.
Friaj would explain to Dionne that after she was placed into suspended animation, Friaj wandered Tairos on her own. She did not take part in the war for years. Unlike her late brother, she surprisingly felt no desire for vengeance as she had been made numb to virtually everything around her.
Friaj wanted to see if she could experience joy again and so she travelled the world with Dionne’s trusty Gorgonopsid by her side sampling the best of what she could from the cities around Tairos, avoiding the vampires and slowly but surely mastering what little magics she could.
Eventually however Friaj would be drawn back into the war again, when one of her favourite sanctuaries fell to the vampires. Realising that if not stopped the bloodsuckers would rip the joy she had rediscovered from her again, Friaj however said that she was still not motivated by anger or hatred, but simply practicality to finally help eliminate the bloodsuckers from the face of the earth.
Friaj and the Gorgonopsid were present on the final day of the war alongside many other great heroes of Tairos such as Gina, the Queen of the Forest and the Mysterious Mr Diassa, when the vampires lost and the Emperor was finally killed. She told Dionne that the stories she had heard in her day about the Emperor were wrong. The Emperor wasn’t simply a mutated vampire that had survived the Hylexans attack. Rather he was in fact Khastran, the ancient demon that had created vampires in the first place.
According to legend Khastran was the oldest and most powerful of all demons. He is known to have visited our earth twice. First when his spirit crashed into the planet 66 million years ago at the end of the age of the Dinosaurs. Khastran had previously ruled over the hellish realm, but an alliance of gods, angels and even demons who had enough his cruelty, led to the demon finally being destroyed.
Some of his lackeys, centuries later would attempt to revive him however, but they were only able to awaken his spirit which was forced to flee to earth to escape. There Khastran’s spirit would proceed to take over the body of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, after which he would exterminate the Dinosaurs (except for those he turned into Demonic creatures like himself.) Aided by his new army of demonic Dinosaurs, Khastran would return to the stars and inflict a bloody reign of terror across the omniverse for millions more years to come. At the time of early man however the demon would return to our earth once more still inhabiting his Tyrannosaur body, though what for is still a topic of debate, at least among historians. Either way he was destroyed by another alliance of demons, gods and angels, who made sure that his spirit was eradicated this time. Just before his death however, Khastran who knew that he could not stand alone against the angels and the gods, attempted to create a race of lesser demons, who could bring him back to life centuries later. His first attempt were the savage Turok Han, who were deemed a failure as they were too monstrous. The second however were the vampires, who were created from a book he made, bound in his own flesh and inked in his own blood. Each page of the book could transform someone into the first of a new breed of vampire.
The vampires were more than just Khastrans creations or his children as many referred to them however. They were linked directly with him to the point where when they outnumbered the dominant natural creatures on earth. The humans, then he would live again.
This had always been the goal of the vampire race, to kill off humanity, but again they had failed ironically due to the fact that they were such vicious, power hungry, backstabbing monsters.
The Hylexans dark magic meanwhile had allowed the few scant traces of Khastran’s spirit, scattered over the earth to reform briefly enough to the point where he was able to possess the corpse of a fallen vampire, one of his “children”. The host body allowed Khastran’s spirit to remain on earth in one form, though his power was obviously depleted to a huge extent.
At the very least however in this body, Khastran could not only bring his children back (though still only using his book which it took years to find), but he would also be able to influence them to a certain extent, at least enough to work together under him, which had ultimately been what created the vampire horde in the first place.
According to Friaj, the Emperor had concealed his true identity to prevent any of the gods or angels from finishing him whilst he was vulnerable. As the war came to a close however, the Emperor/Khastran in desperation actually attempted to drain the life force from all of his children to gain at least a fraction of his former power to destroy his enemies.
Whilst Friaj was never exactly clear to Dionne what role if any she had played, she nevertheless saw Khastran’s final attempts go up in flames and the ancient demon who had caused so much pain and suffering endure its final end.
With Khastran dead, the surviving vampires he hadn’t already sacrificed were no longer united. They scattered and fled across Tairos, becoming mere shadows of their former selves. Dionne herself meanwhile was at some point after the war brought backwards in time by the Circus Family themselves. Though it was not this incarnation, but rather a later one. Dionne had always suspected that it may have been them, but she didn’t want to probe, knowing how delicate time itself could be. In the decades that followed Khastran’s death, several historical records would be lost of the war as the cities struggled to survive, but in the case of Dionne, they would be lost on purpose. Many people had come to worship Dionne as a god after her final battle against Jakarian, coming to place all hope that she would return and smite the vampire horde. Even after the war however many hoped she would return and rebuild the world as it was. The founders of Karsen felt that relying on her was not a good motivator for the people. Also it must be said that many of the founders would rewrite history so that the cities they had come from, had been responsible for Dionne’s and other great figures victories as a useful form of propaganda.
In time given how hard life was in the new Tairos, even compared with the original, it became easier to belief that a beautiful goddess was not watching over them and the myth of Dionne faded until virtually no one knew her name.
Friaj herself for the record protested the removal of Dionne from the records in Karsen, but eventually she became bored of Karsen and the other survivors petty arguments and returned to wandering the earth on her own, with her magic keeping her and the Gorgonopsid young and strong.
In spite of what Friaj told Dionne about feeling joy and happiness again, she still spoke in every bit as monotone a voice with a blank expression as she had done when she first got out of the vampires camps, centuries ago. Even Tanith and Anck Su Namun, two literal walking corpses were somewhat unnerved by her.
Friaj however had also been told that this would be the day when Dionne would return to Tairos by the Circus Family who brought Dionne backwards through time. She demanded Dionne and the others come with her now, stating that they couldn’t afford to wait for the city of Karsen to come to a decision. The cities leaders as always were somewhat ineffective. Their city generally didn’t need to do much in order to protect itself, thanks to a powerful force field that served as its real protector. The wall was simply to mark the end of the force field and serve as a back up. The force field was generated in the centre of the city, by the statue of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. (Who were naturally still regarded as the kings of the forests.)
Whilst the statue appeared to be gold, in actual fact it was made out of magic. (Remember that gold is the colour of magic.) The statue had been created from the most powerful surviving warlocks, wizards and witches from numerous destroyed cities.
The combination of the city having the perfect protection, and its isolationist policy meant that it very rarely ventured into the outside of Tairos anymore, unless there was something in it for them.
Instead the city would just send the 7 heroes of Karsen out to deal with any other problems. The 7 heroes, who were known as Karsen’s 7 or Jameela’s 7 (After their founded) had been protecting the city and in some cases the rest of Tairos for decades now. They had first formed to retrieve the Tyrannosaur statue after it was stolen by a demon. The group were not formed by the leaders of Karsen who were too busy trying to stop the demons forces from climbing over their walls. Rather they were formed by the witch Jameela, a fairly low level member of the city who had long questioned their isolationist policy.
The 7 successfully retrieved the statue and were hailed as heroes, and subsequently allowed to explore Tairos as much as they wanted, unlike the other citzens. They acted on their own mostly, but if Karsen ever needed them, they would have to return right away.
Typically the leaders rather than waste their own resources, simply told Tarkan to wait on the seven returning to Karsen. They were away on a mission on the other side of the planet, though with the magics of Tairos that wouldn’t necessarily be a long time. Still understandably the Circus Family weren’t going to want to wait that long, and whilst Tarkan was distrustful of Friaj to some extent. (He was a bit distrustful of everyone truth be told.) He agreed to go with her.
Just before the Circus Family left Karsen however, Friaj would make sure to give Dionne her old weapon that the sky city had constructed for her all those centuries okay. Her sword, that only Dionne could wield because of the magics in her body. Technically others could pick it up, but only in Dionne’s hands would it possess its unique powers. Sadly however due to how badly her powers had been depleted, even in Dionne’s hands it was now nothing more than a sword. Still Friaj had faith that Dionne could find the power to use it.
Friaj took the Circus Family to the other side of Karsen, away from the black woods, telling them that what they were looking for had already absorbed the power from the Terrible One’s cave and was ravaging the countryside.
The Family soon came upon a small settlement of mostly farmers who had got by on a few tame, prehistoric animals such as Indricotheres, Entelodonts and some Hyeanodons as both protection and in some cases food.
The latest threat to the settlement however had been too much, even for their prehistoric mammals. A large, powerful spiritual creature that had been abducting settlers and transforming them into hideous demons. The creature however hadn’t attacked them in two days.
One of the settlers, a young man named Ajian, told the Circus Family that the creature had just two days ago had abducted his daughter, who had been out playing with her friends near the edge of the settlement when the creature came unexpectedly during the daylight hours. He personally rode on his pet Hyeanodon into the woods to try and find her, battling many of the mutated horrors this entity, whatever it was had created. Eventually however to his surprise, the mutants suddenly collapsed, and he found his daughter as well as her friend, crying and scratched, but otherwise unharmed on a nearby rock. Up above he saw the entity, which had taken on the form of a black smoke drift quickly through the sky until it reached the ruins of the old church, which had ironically been used as a sanctuary for survivors during the vampire war.
Of course he didn’t follow it as he had his daughter to think of, though admittedly in the two days since, no one else had been brave enough to go there.
Hell even the Circus Family themselves weren’t too keen, but they knew this was what they were here for, and wasting no time the unlikely band of vampires, mummy’s undead aliens, werewolves and rock stars headed through the woods to the church.
Along the way they encountered the corpses of the numerous mutants this spiritual abomination had created. One of them was still alive, though it was not a threat to the Circus Family. It could barely move, and was clearly in the most heinous agony. All of its bones looked broken, in fact some were poking out from under its skin. Numerous other parts of its body looked torn, with its transformation having clearly been haphazard and unfinished.
All of the Circus Family, even Tanith were horrified at the state the creature had been left in, so much so that Dionne held its clawed, broken slimy hand whilst Tarkan put it out of its misery.
Once they reached the church they could feel a dark presence right away. Carlene in particular felt uneasy. Two of the Gargoyles meanwhile that adorned the church’s roof came to life and began to attack the Circus Family. These beasts were actually a simply security system, that all churches in Tairos once had. Still they were enough to give the Circus Family some trouble, and in the middle of the fight, one of the creatures zeroed in on Dionne and dragged her a few feet through the air and through the church doors, which then slammed shut behind her.
As Dionne tried to use her sword to cut it down, she suddenly heard a voice taunting her from behind.
“My dear Dionne. What’s it been several life times. You haven’t changed a bit. I meanwhile well that’s a different story.”
Dionne knew that voice only too well. It was Jakarian.