Makarâ€™s daiklave cleared its scabbard with a single stroke, and he stepped between the four undead and the remains of his patrol. â€œGallen, Kaltos, take the woman and run. I will cover your escape.â€
â€œBut we canâ€™tâ€¦â€ Gallen broke off at the harsh look that his commander shot him, and nodded. â€œYes, sir.â€ Without further comment, he and Kaltos started edging towards the door. The creature laughed maliciously.
â€œThere is no purpose. You cannot escape my wrath, no. You will all die, and then you will join me. Yes, it will be glorious. Yes.â€
Makar frowned at the Dragon King, his sword slicing out at a zombie that started to shuffle close, severing its left hand. It staggered backwards in confusion, rejoining the others, as Makarâ€™s patrol circled towards the engine bay door. His eyes narrowed, the Essence of Earth flickering around him as he called upon his Charms. â€œA ghost that can possess inhuman corpses? I didnâ€™t know that was possible.â€
â€œThere is much that you do not know, Dragonling.â€ The mouth of the Dragon King moved in a hideous parody of a laugh. â€œOr you would never have come here.â€
Makar glanced over his shoulder, as Gallen and Kaltos slipped through the doorway, flanking the scientist. â€œYou left her alive as bait.â€
â€œIndeed.â€ The creature nodded vigorously. â€œI required eight deaths, to complete the Symphony. Thisâ€¦ thingâ€¦â€ It broke off distastefully, gesturing down at the Dragon Kingâ€™s corpse it wore. â€œâ€¦its soul fled before I could seize it. I could not use it. And so there were not enough crew. It was very problematic, after waiting for so long, yes. But I let one live. The Whispers did not understand, but I understand. I understand my purpose.â€
Makar shook his head, taking a single step backwards towards the door. In perfect harmony, all four of his opponents took a single step forwards, and he frowned. â€œDeath to unleash another of the Anathema. I understand all of that, but howâ€¦â€ He broke off, and nodded grimly. â€œYou are the ghost of the man who once served that demon soul.â€
â€œClose enough for your understanding.â€ The Dragon King laughed again. â€œYou are very observant. But you are also boring me.â€ It gestured, and the zombies ran forwards as one, flanking the monster in their midst.
Essence coiled around his blade as Makar ducked and spun, his daiklave cleaving through a zombieâ€™s chest and an engine coupling in a single brutal stroke. The energy animating it collapsed from the severity of the blow, and it tumbled to the ground even as the other two swept in to claw at him. Backing up to the doorway, his blade held out defensively, Makar turned aside their claws, returning a riposte that stabbed through the second zombieâ€™s head â€“ and then the Dragon King struck, its fist coming around like a sledgehammer. Smashing through his guard, it sent him staggering into the wall.
â€œI have spent centuries perfecting my arts, Dragonling. Trapped here alone, in the darkness.â€
â€œYou are nothing. A ghost.â€
â€œThen why are you the one injured?â€ The creature laughed harshly, driving in again. Rolling under its outstretched arms, Makar leapt to his feet and braced against the rumbling engine, spinning to slam his daiklave into the beastâ€™s back. It hissed with rage, its claws parting the steam as it struck back. Makar dove to one side, and the creatureâ€™s powerful strike tore through more conductor cable.
As he turned, the last zombie leapt for Makarâ€™s back; he dropped down, desperately feeling the creatureâ€™s foul claws caress his cheek as they passed, and stabbed upwards with all his might. The last zombie, unable to stop, drove itself through the blade, cleaving itself in half. Makar started to smile, but then the steam parted again as the Dragon King grabbed his ankle, swinging him around into the machine with a resounding crash. His daiklave skidded away as Makar staggered to his feet. He could feel blood running freely down his cheek, and his leg felt like it was on fire.
The Dragon King stepped forwards, then staggered and looked down in confusion, seeing the mess of muscle that made up the remains of its own leg. It sighed. â€œThis body is failing, it seems. But it matters not. You are weak, and I am unhurt beneath the flesh.â€ As it spoke, the corpse of the Dragon King collapsed backwards, leaving a faintly glowing outline of a human standing in its place. â€œI can strike you, Dragon. You cannot strike me.â€
â€œAre you sure?â€ Makar grabbed a length of pipe, slamming his hand into the base to knock it free, and swung around at the ghost. It laughed, letting the weapon pass harmlessly through its body, and retaliated. Claw-like fingers stabbed into his chest, puncturing jade and drawing a gout of blood.
â€œI am sure. There is nothing left to save you.â€
â€œThatâ€™s true.â€ Makar dropped the pipe, using it for balance. â€œBut I know something that you do not.â€ The room was filled with billowing steam, and his expression was unreadable in the fog. The creature frowned, pausing in its assault.
â€œAnd what, exactly, is that?â€
â€œWayfarer engines use pure Essence reactions. And if those overload, the explosion will harm spirits as readily as flesh.â€
The spirit paused. It turned to the rumbling, rocking engine. It started to scream in frustration and rage.
And then the ship exploded, and both the spirit and Makar were no more.