In a rustic little kingdom to the north, all was quiet and calm. Vast waters rippled softly, stars twinkled overhead. Against the landscape of greens and blues stood a large, powerful structure: the kingdom’s Royal Palace. It overlooked the city as a symbol of strength and protection, a reminder to its denizens that all was well. For a time, in this place, the world was peaceful.
That was, until the peace was broken.
From within the palace walls, the earth began to shake. Soldiers standing guard looked around curiously, and, as the tremors grew stronger, so did they grow panicked. Soon the ground had given way beneath them, crumbled stone falling away into inky abyss, taking the soldiers with it.
Those who remained looked on in horror as a monstrous, golden metal paw lifted itself from the chasm and gripped the floor with ferocious claws the size of a dozen men. As it pulled the rest of its enormous feline body into view, the air was filled with sickening laughter that echoed up and down the corridors. The soldiers raised their guns, opening fire on the mechanical monstrosity before them, but try as they might, they couldn’t so much as make a scratch. The visor over the contraption’s face lifted slowly, revealing a gleaming green light that resonated with energy. For a moment, there was quiet as the soldiers stared up at the light, almost as if entranced. And all at once, it let loose a devastating laser beam, ripping across the ground, through the soldiers, and up the wall. Everything in its path was gone.
The wretched mechanical beast stomped across the palace, the cackling it gave off filling the throne room. As the doorway collapsed to make room for the intruder, the King of Shuigang rose from his royal seat, battle axe in hand. He looked on as a click came from the robot, and its cockpit lowered, revealing the figure at the wheel. The laughing faded as the figure stood, staring down with striking reptilian eyes. Donning heavy armor and gripping the robot’s controls with metal hands attached to metal arms, the creature grinned a twisted, fanged grin.
“Hello… Your Majesty.”
The King snarled, his grip on his axe tightening. “This is impossible!!” he exclaimed. “Our walls are impenetrable!!”
The snake man gave a sly smirk. “Your floor isn’t.”
The King clenched his fist, eyes burning with indescribable fury. “Well then, if it is death that you seek… I will gladly provide it!!”
He leaped into the air, raising his axe over his head, and as he did, the snake man pulled back on the controls. The robot reared up, and the axe slammed into the visor, smashing it open and revealing that green glow. The King ducked down as the laser fired, and it just barely grazed his head, annihilating his crown and the wall behind him. He stuck his landing, then bounded up again, but this time was not so successful. A set of thin black cannons emerged from the robot’s shoulders and fired off a round of plasma blasts, each and every one of which landed a direct hit. The King crashed back down, his weapon falling from his hands and clattering on the ground. Before he could retrieve it or even so much as stand, he was pinned beneath the robot’s mighty paw, and no matter how he struggled, he could not break free.
“Now now, Your Majesty…” The snake man winked and waved a metal finger from side to side. “Let’s not be so hasty! I’m not looking for any trouble. I’m only here to relieve you of that great throne of yours. Let somebody else have a turn on it.”
The King growled through gritted teeth. “If you honestly think you can overthrow our lineage—”
“Ah-ah!” The snake man lifted his hand and waggled a finger. “I wasn’t talking about me. Though I am very great.” He put his toothy smirk back on, leaning over his robot’s head so that his eyes met the King’s directly. “No, I have somebody different in mind. A little more fresh meat. You might know him! His name is—”
Smack. The snake man was cut off by a projectile blasting him upside the head, exploding against him and leaving smoke in its wake. With a snarl, he whipped around to face the offender. Then, his lips curled back up into a grin. He turned his robot around, removing its foot from the King’s chest and allowing him to sit up and catch his breath, only until the mechanical beast’s tail coiled around his body to suspend him in the air. At the other side of the room, standing where the doorway had once been, was a young man, draped in the Kingdom’s royal green, eyes burning just as fiercely as the King’s.
“Spade!!” the King exclaimed.
“Unhand my father and I might spare your life,” declared Prince Spade, glowering unto the intruder who smirked down upon him.
The snake man tapped a finger to his chin. “Hm, let me think about that… No.”
Spade hurdled forward, dodging around the plasma blasts that were fired on him. Speedily gathering his irregular weapons of choice, he released a barrage of playing cards onto the robot. Yet, it barely left a scratch. He gritted his teeth and dashed backwards, and the robot’s foot crashed down where he had been mere moments ago.
“Tchya!” The snake man cackled. “Nice try!”
“You’re not going to get away with this,” the Prince spat.
“Really? Because it sure looks like I am.” With another snicker, the intruder continued, “Don’t even bother fighting, boy. You’ll only make it harder for yourself and your dear old dad, and besides, I need you to look presentable. I’m doing what I’m here to do, and I’m finishing it right now!”
Spade snorted. “Yeah? You and what army?”
The snake man raised a brow cockily, and Spade’s confidence faltered. Without breaking eye contact, the intruder tapped a button on his control panel, and the sound of marching filled the halls. Spade turned, and with a barely audible gasp, his eyes widened in shock. Before him was row upon row of heavily armored unnatural slime creatures, each with a scarily large high-tech rifle in hand. They marched through the gaping opening in the wall and across the wreckage, halting just before the Prince.
His eyes darted across the army in a panic as the snake man’s cackling once again filled the palace, and each trooper met him head on with a single grotesque eye. Fists clenched, Spade dove for the troops. In one swift movement ripping the cards from his artillery and sending them crashing across the army, loud explosions rang out and dust was sent flying into the air. Several soldiers were destroyed, but the many that remained took aim and opened fire. With a howl of pain, Spade was on the floor.
“Spade, NO!!“ the King cried over the unending laughter. As two of the troopers grabbed Spade by the arms and restrained him, the King lifted his head up and clenched his eyes shut, tears welling up in them. Under the unbearable pressure of the tail’s coil, he wailed, “What do you want from us?!”
At that, the laughter stopped. The tail moved up, then swiftly down, slamming the King into the ground and uncoiling to leave him writhing there. The robot turned back around, looming over the King as he stared up at it. The snake man smirked maliciously down at him.
“It’s nothing personal, really,” he explained soothingly. “It’s just that there’s something here that I need, and I need you if I’m going to get it. More accurately… I need you out of the picture.”
As the robot’s paw was slowly lifted over him, the King lowered his head. Across the room, he saw his son, struggling desperately under the hold of his captors. He stopped just soon enough for his father to catch his eye, and for a moment, just a moment, they looked at each other. In an instant, Spade was frozen, as if time were standing still. But there was no time left.
“Goodbye, Your Majesty!”
When the instant had passed, the King closed his eyes in silent acceptance, and with a forceful SLAM, the robot’s paw crashed down on him.
Pale petals scattered across the floor.
The King of Shuigang was no more.
“NO!!” Spade shrieked, his voice horrified and shrill. He looked on, eyes wide and wet, as the robot’s terrible foot was removed from the crushed remains of what had once been his father. There was no laughter from the one responsible for this. There was only deafening silence.
“You, you… MURDERER!!”
Screaming for all it was worth, the orphaned Prince explosively hurled himself into the air and dove straight for the perpetrator. But in a swift movement, the snake man whipped his arm around and grabbed Spade out of the air by the neck, leaving his body to flop limply. He struggled to choke down air, fading in and out of consciousness, eyes filled only with rage and the image of a twisted reptile’s grin. With his free hand, the snake man snapped his fingers. “Syntax,” he hissed.
Obediently, the robotic monstrosity sat itself down. With a click, its jaw lowered, two long, pointed tentacles detaching from it. From the robotic mount’s head emerged another, smaller robot, this one with a large glass head and piercing green eye. It levitated before the pilot, who fired a wicked smirk.
“Let’s get this show on the road.”
With a click and a shock, the prince’s screams pierced the moonlight.