Lunar Steel

“Fight me yourself, witch!” Hercules bellowed and smashed the skulls of two skeletons together. Dozens more still surrounded him and the few others left standing. King Arthur and his knights, along with Robin Hood, Merlin, and a bevy of myths lay slain on the wide-open field. Behind Hercules, Thor continued fending off the skeletons with brilliant arcs of lightning. Ballisea smiled at the brutish man.

“If I did that, it wouldn’t be any fun at all,” she said. The tall, horned woman stood atop a hill looking down on raging battle. “I haven’t had this much fun in eons.” A bolt of lightning shot at her from behind; it passed through her and struck a group of skeletons in front of Hercules. “I wish more Earths were as feisty as this one.”

“Your evil ends here,” Raiden said hovering over her to land next to Hercules. Thor fought his way through the skeletons to meet up with the other two. He gave Raiden a nod, then both loosed electricity at Ballisea. The beams passed through her head; she smiled and began walking down the hill with their attacks still flowing through her.

“It’s like you’re not even paying attention,” she said. They ended their attack. “But, I find your ‘never give up‘ attitude wonderfully entertaining. I’ll make it easy on you.” Ballisea snapped her fingers; the hundreds of skeletons on the field vanished in an instant. “One on one, each of you against one of my representatives. If you win, I’ll leave your Earth unconquered.” Hercules stepped forward and nodded.

“We accept.”

“Wonderful,” Ballisea smiled. “Who’s first?” Hercules pounded his chest in answer. She looked him over for a moment, then nodded. “I have just the thing.” A hole opened in the air next to her and someone fell out.

“Hah!” Astrid said, happy she landed on her feet. She looked around and caught sight of Ballisea first, then she saw the three men. The scrawny young girl moved toward Ballisea.

“What’s up?” she asked. Ballisea nodded at the three men.

“Want to fight them?” she asked. Astrid grinned and turned around.

“Yeah!” she said. She did not need more reason than Ballisea asking.

“She’s a child! And a girl!” Hercules’ protests were joined by Raiden and Thor.

“The poor thing isn’t even ten yet and you’re sending her against three gods?” Thor added.

“I’m FOURTEEN!” Astrid yelled. “And I’m stronger than you!”

“Cruel witch! Sending a malnourished child to fight your battles; we won’t attack a child no matter the age,” Raiden said.

“I’M NOT MALNOURISHED!” Astrid yelled and charged at Raiden. She moved faster than he expected, and she would have scored a direct hit. Fortunately for Raiden, Ballisea reacted even quicker. A black hole opened in front of Raiden. It swallowed Astrid. She fell, face first, on the field in her initial spot.

“He’s not your opponent yet,” Ballisea said. She pointed at Hercules, “That one is.” Hercules shook his head. “I will not fight a child, but she seems to believe she has strength enough to match the gods,…”

“Stronger!” Astrid shouted the interruption but Hercules kept speaking over her.

“I propose a contest of strength instead,” he said.

“Aww man, I was in a fighting mood,” Astrid grumbled when Ballisea nodded at Hercules. A black portal opened in the air next to Astrid’s 4’9″ frame and a black cube fell out. It landed on the ground, made a sizeable crater, and buried itself more than halfway.

“Since it’s not a fight anymore I’ll let all three of you go at the same time. First, all of you get a chance to lift that cube, together. Then, Astrid. Whoever lifts it higher wins.”

“Agreed,” Hercules said with a broad smile. He stepped forward alone, knelt and touched the black cube. “Not that I’ll need their help.” He scooped dirt out from around the edges to get a better grip on the 1′ cube. He heaved, but it did not budge.

“Maybe some help, Thor,” he said with a grunt. Thor walked forward, knelt and helped Hercules. With both their effort, the cube wiggled upward a bit. “RAIDEN!” Hercules added; his face was strawberry red with strain. Raiden teleported instead of walking the three steps, he wanted to show Ballisea she wasn’t the only one that had tricks. He knelt and added his strength to theirs.

After grunting for several seconds, they managed to lift the cube out of its hole entirely. They moved as one and carried it to Astrid before they dropped it at her feet.

“Good luck, little girl,” Hercules said while trying to catch his breath.

“Whoa, it’s kind of pretty!” Astrid said. She reached down, lifted it like a beach ball and manipulated it in her hands as she tried looking at all its sides. “What is it?” She asked Ballisea. The three gods stared at her slackjawed.

“It’s called Void-forged steel,” Ballisea smiled. “It’s kind of like the Unique Soul of metal-working. That cube is actually millions from different universes forged together into one. Anyway, I believe that means I won,” Ballisea smiled at Hercules. Astrid grinned.

“Unless you wanna try again? Catch!” she shouted and tossed the cube at them. She used an under-handed toss and launched the cube in a high arc. The three gods spread out to avoid getting hit, but a portal appeared in the air. It swallowed the cube then dropped it on Astrid from above her head.

“Owww,” Astrid said as the cube fell forward and into her hands; she caught it. “What was that for?”

“Don’t throw it or you’ll break the Earth,” Ballisea said. “Off you go,” a portal opened under Astrid and swallowed her and the cube.

“Thank you for the entertainment, gentlemen, but I must get back to what I was doing.” As she said that, hundreds of portals opened around them and skeletons began marching out.

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