The party reaches the bottom of the central pit in the Ether Mines, where they take on Xord in the twenty-second of my Xenoblade novelisation! Go, Sharla, go!
The elevator halted at the very base of the ether mine. The huge metallic pillar in the middle of the central pit was fixed to the ground before them. Gaps in the floor allowed Shulk, Reyn and Sharla to see the ether river that flowed through the bottom of the mine. It glowed an eerie green, lighting the room from below.
The first thing Sharla noticed was the distinct lack of residents from Colony 6. “No…” She felt dizzy as she looked around, spotting abandoned weapons and blood splatters all over the floor. “They’re… gone…” She ran from the lift with Reyn and Shulk right behind her, and bent down to examine the stains on the floor. “So whose blood is…” Her head snapped up. “Oh no!”
A voice boomed out from above. “Ahh, here at last!” Laughing, Juju’s faced captor flew down to meet them. “I’ve been getting hungry!” It sped forwards and then landed on the ground, turning to face them.
“Shulk,” Reyn began, “isn’t that…?”
“It’s him all right,” Shulk confirmed. “He’s the one who took Juju!”
The faced Mechon took a couple of steps towards the party. Sharla would have none of it. She drew her rifle and pointed it at the Mechon. “Juju and the others! Tell me where they are!”
The Mechon merely continued to laugh. “You want the brat? Well, he’s right here!” The Mechon gestured towards the central pillar, where Juju could be seen trapped within a transparent purple triangle, hovering far above the ground. He appeared unconscious.
“Juju!” Sharla cried. He didn’t respond.
“He’s still alive,” said the faced Mechon. “But don’t think he will be for long!” The trio readied their weapons, but the Mechon continued, failing to notice Otharon climbing down the wall behind it, towards one of the robots used for mining. “As for the others, well…” Otharon jumped off the wall, landing neatly on the machine. “I just couldn’t help myself. I ate them all up!” Shulk, Reyn and Sharla were stunned. Otharon was consumed by a white-hot fury, his mind on all of his fellows who had gone missing.
The machine opened its arms wide, swinging its hammer before it. “Welcome to our banquet hall.” It pointed its hammer at the party. “Tonight, the main course, will be… you!” It chuckled. “And if I’ve still got room, the brat will make a tasty dessert.” It stomped its foot on the ground, laughing.
Shulk was furious. “Murderer!”
The Mechon ignored him. “I’m Xord, your host tonight.”
“Xord?” Shulk echoed. “So you have a name?”
The Mechon’s tone changed; suddenly he sounded confused. “That’s what they all say. Can’t say that I remember it myself!”
“What’s he talking about?!” Shulk muttered. Sharla was resisting the urge to be ill.
Xord appeared to regain his senses. “Oh yes!” He slammed his hammer into his hand, excited by the battle he was about to fight. “It’s good to see fresh meat on the table.” He raised the hammer above his head. “These colony folks just don’t fill me up!” He slammed his hammer into the ground before him, blinding the boys with its bright light.
But Sharla wasn’t paying attention; she was still staring at the ground, at the blood that stained it. “Gadolt…” Is this his? “The others…” She shook her head; it was all too much.
Xord laughed gleefully. “Come on boys, dinner’s ready!” The Mechon M55 surrounding him scuttled forwards eagerly. Shulk responded in kind by swinging the Monado to cast Enchant on himself, Reyn and Sharla, who was still kneeling on the floor.
Sharla took a deep breath. She raised her head up to look her enemy in the eye. “I swear I won’t stop,” she breathed, her quavering voice becoming louder and steadier with each syllable, “until I’ve scrapped each and every one of you!” She rose to her feet, shooting down an M55 as it lunged at her. She fired again, and again, advancing on the machine like someone gone mad. The Mechon collapsed, and Sharla put her foot on its head and fired once more, so it exploded in a spray of blue ether.
Sharla paused for breath, her blood pounding in her ears. Reyn dashed in to block an attack from an M67 as the smoke cleared. “Get behind me!” he barked at her, holding up his shield. Shulk dashed in front of Reyn and cleanly sliced three M55 in half.
“Reyn! Sharla!” Shulk wouldn’t take his eyes off of Xord. “We are Homs. And we won’t just stand here, waiting to be eaten!”
Otharon looked down at the rifle in his hand. He then jumped into the mining bot.
“The Monado?” Xord sounded amused. “Do you think that that thing can dent me?”
“How about this!?” Shulk ran towards the machine, slamming the sword on to its leg, which bounced straight off it. Shulk quickly regained his balance as Xord chuckled.
“I’m not Metal Face,” he raised his hammer above his head. “You’ll have to try haaaaaaarrrrrder!” He slammed his hammer down on to Shulk, who leapt backwards to avoid it.
“It’s the same as before.” exclaimed Shulk. He came to a standstill beside Sharla. “The Monado’s useless against this guy.”
“For now we can just take out the smaller Mechon,” said Reyn. “Let’s move!”
Shulk, Reyn and Sharla were quick to take out the handful of Mechon M55 and M67 units that Xord had summoned before. But, try as they might, they simply could not do any damage to the faced Mechon himself.
Xord swung his hammer at the party; Shulk ducked under it, but he, Reyn and Sharla were all blown backwards by the force of the blow.
“No!” Shulk shouted. Xord slowly walked towards them, his hammer trailing across the ground. “We’ll never get to Juju at this rate.” Xord slung his hammer over his shoulder. “I’ve got to think of something!” Hearing an odd noise, Shulk, Reyn and Sharla looked to their right and saw that one of the mining machines had gone rogue. They watched as it delivered a punch to Xord’s face, much to the surprise of the Mechon himself.
“Where did you come from?!” Xord demanded.
“You feeling hungry, eh?” Otharon asked coldly from the cockpit.
Xord swiftly brought his hammer down on Otharon and his machine, but he caught it in his machine’s claws and retaliated with another blow to Xord’s face. Xord cried out. “Chew on this, scrap-for-brains!” Otharon kept his fist in Xord’s face, forcing his foe backwards. Xord hit Otharon’s arm over and over, desperately trying to prevent the old man from gaining ground. Otharon forced Xord to the ground and pinned him there.
“Boy.” Otharon looked back at Shulk. “Now’s your chance. Save Juju!”
Shulk’s thoughts flicked back to his vision. “Otharon, don’t do it!” Sharla fired a few shots at the prism trapping Juju, freeing him.
“Hurry up!” Otharon roared.
Sharla and Reyn were quick to comply, but Shulk lingered. “At this rate, even if we save Juju, Otharon’s gonna be…”
Reyn’s face appeared in Shulk’s mind as he remembered. It spoke. “You see a vision you don’t like, we’ll change the future together. Got it?”
Shulk pulled himself back into reality. He watched Sharla and Reyn stop beside Juju, bending down to get a better look at him.
Shulk straightened up. “Change… the future.” He looked around, spotting a machine with a long mechanical arm protruding from it, tipped with a large metal grabber. “Yes! That’s it!” He looked back at his friends. “Reyn!” he called. “You grab Juju!” He started to run towards the machine.
“Shulk, what are you doing?” Reyn yelled, exasperated.
Meanwhile, Otharon had charged into Xord, sending the two of them sliding across the metal floor beneath them. Together, they slammed into the central pillar, the ground on either side of them open to the ether river. “Old man,” growled Xord, “you think you can stop me?”
“No, I don’t,” said Otharon. “But I can do this!” He sent one of his claws flying into the pillar behind them, which exploded. Otharon backed away as the ground started to give way. Xord was struggling to rise, but by now it had tilted too much, and the Mechon started to slip. “Let’s see if that Mechon body of yours can withstand an ether river.”
Sharla was gently shaking her brother. “Juju! Wake up!”
“Sharla!” She looked up at Reyn. “Leave the rest to us.” Reyn turned and began running towards Otharon and Xord. “Hang in there you old fool!” he yelled.
Xord was trying to climb back on to level ground, but Otharon had him by the shoulders and was shaking him back and forth. “Fall, you damn machine!” he cried.
And suddenly, he was. Xord lost his grip on the metal beneath him. “Damn you!” Otharon, put off-balance by the sudden movement, found himself teetering on the edge.
Having finally figured out how to drive his machine, Shulk steered it towards the ether river. “Otharon!” He flung the mechanical grabber back. “Hold on!” He propelled it towards Otharon, just managing it get a grip on the end of his machine. Shulk slammed on the breaks as he skidded across the floor towards Otharon, just as Reyn arrived.
“Shulk!” called Sharla.
“What a shot!” exclaimed Reyn.
Otharon looked up at Shulk from the cockpit of his machine, amazed. “Boy…”
Shulk set his vehicle into reverse. “We can change our destinies. Otharon… You won’t die here.” Otharon could only stare. “Not today.” Shulk gave a shout of alarm as the arm that sat atop his vehicle began to break. Surely it should be able to take the weight!?
Xord had gotten a hold of Otharon’s machine, desperate. “You cannot defeat me,” he cried.
Otharon began to climb out of his cockpit. “Get out of there, quick!” Shulk shouted. Otharon pulled out his rifle, staring down at Xord. “It’s giving way!” Otharon trained his rifle on the Mechon trying desperately to bring him down.
Reyn gasped. “He’s gonna…” He ran back towards the fray.
“It won’t be long now, my friends,” Otharon began. “But not before…” he paused, and took a deep breath. “Gadolt! This, is for you. This… is for the people of Colony 6.” He shot Xord’s hand, and the Mechon lost his grip.
He cried out as he fell, sinking into the ether river below.
Then the machine Otharon was standing on jolted, and he was flung off it, up into the air.
Shulk watched in horror as Otharon and his machine started to fall into the ether river. “But I… This isn’t supposed to happen.” Shulk stood up in his seat. “Otharon!”
Otharon watched as Shulk’s machine began to shrink away from him. “Gadolt,” he sighed, “I’ll see you before long.” Shulk looked away, overcome with grief.
With a yell, Reyn leapt over the edge of the floor. He grasped the grabber on Shulk’s vehicle, his other hand wrapping around Otharon’s rifle. He grinned down at the old man. “That was close!” Otharon stared up at him. Reyn gritted his teeth. “You wanna hurry up?” asked Reyn. “My arm’s about ready to drop off.”
What do I say? “Thank you.” Otharon began to climb up his rifle.
“Save the thanks for Shulk and his visions.” Reyn helped Otharon up into the metal grabber. “As soon as I saw an ether river, I knew this had to be the place.”
Shulk slowly brought the boys back up on to level ground and hopped out of the machine. The three of them walked together back to Sharla and Juju, who was still out cold.
“Juju… You’re safe now,” Sharla murmured.
Pleased with the way things had turned out, Reyn faced Shulk. “What did I tell you? You and me can make anything happen.”
“Yeah, you were right,” Shulk agreed.
Otharon was looking down at Juju. “A boy who can change the future.” Otharon turned to Shulk. “I stand corrected, young man. You’ve done a great deed here today.”
“I didn’t really do anything.” Shulk scratched his head, embarrassed. “I couldn’t have done it without you guys.”
“Tell me.” Otharon’s tone grew serious. “Your vision saved me. But what of the others? What happened to Gadolt?”
Sharla lifted her head, ever so slightly, to catch Shulk’s reaction. Shulk glanced at her, and then shook his head.
Sharla silently rose and left. Otharon fixed his eyes to the ground. “I see…” He followed Sharla, holding out the rifle in his hand. “Sharla, take this. Gadolt would have wanted you to have it.” Sharla took the weapon and held it close, her eyes closed in memory.
Reyn broke the silence. “Time to head back to the camp.”
“We’ll need to get Juju some medical attention,” said Shulk.
“There’s a freight elevator on the next level,” said Sharla. “From there, it’s an easy route out of the mine. As long as it’s working…”
“We’ll know that when we get on it,” Reyn replied.
“You make me laugh,” Sharla chuckled.
“Well, I’m right, ain’t I?” Reyn demanded.
“You’re absolutely right,” Sharla agreed. “We need to move on and stop worrying about every little thing. Come on, guys.” Reyn picked up Juju and followed Sharla with Shulk and Otharon, back up to the next level so they could exit the mines and return to camp.
Images taken using Scalz311‘s YouTube channel.