Written in the style of the Mask Maker Voltex's histories, detailing the events of the War of Five Kings and the Magical Crisis - two events that have changed the face of Okoto forever, and signal the Great War to come.
Written in the style of the Mask Maker Voltex's histories, detailing the events of the War of Five Kings and the Magical Crisis - two events that have changed the face of Okoto forever, and signal the Great War to come.
-327 AE: The Western Wall-
He awoke to the sound of silence. It was a silence of an absolute nature, blanketing everything around him with an alien sense of quiet and calm that did not belong. The ground around him was covered with blood and muck, littered with the fallen corpses of Protectors. A hundred yards away, he could just barely make out the crumbling ruins of what had been the Western Wall, a formerly impenetrable defence that had stood between the Regions of Earth and Fire for hundreds of years, undefeated and unbroken, until now.
Dawn was slowly breaking on the horizon, but even still, the sky was still dark, and the air still freezing cold from the crushing presence of Kulta, the Skull Grinder. Somewhere deep inside, he knew that the corpses littered around him had been moving, walking and stumbling mindlessly along, only hours before. But something – or someone – had stopped them. In his heart of hearts, he knew that Kulta had fallen, her Undead Army eradicated. The Faith of the Skulls had undoubtedly been crushed.
Spitefully, he hoped that Lord Toru Sevoi and General Quin Galum were among the fallen. After all, it was they who had abandoned him. He felt his blood beginning to boil, as feelings of frustration, rage, and betrayal washed over him.
He had been left behind, and forgotten. It was clear that nobody had felt the need to see if he was actually dead. He hadn’t been worth the time. Then again, they never were, he and other Protectors from the minor houses. House Petros, House Maran, House Raqmu, House Aodh… those houses, and others like them – the so-called Great Houses of Okoto – made history day after day, crushing all others under their heels. Of the smaller houses, he knew of only one that had ever managed to rise up above their station. But House Ash had paid dearly for that privilege in blood, nearly been exterminated, and he doubted anyone else would feel it worth that effort.
A fist slammed into the dirt, splashing mud everywhere. He closed his eyes, taking several deep breaths. He needed to calm down.
Beneath him, the earth shuddered.
His eyes flew open again, fear and adrenaline racing through him. Something stirred nearby, and before his horrified eyes, one of the corpses slowly stirred, moaning deliriously. He watched, paralyzed, as it turned away from the Western Wall, stumbling further into the Earth Region. He remained absolutely still, praying it would not notice him. But then he heard more inhuman moans, and all around him, more corpses shifted and sttirred, and panic began to fill him.
Rollor save me.
Unable to help himself, he pushed himself to his feet with trembling hands. Some of the corpses turned, staggering towards him, and he stumbled away. He opened his mouth to cry out, but the sound caught in his throat, and he spun in place, sprinting away from the Wall, away from the Undead.
He raced through the barren wasteland of the Earth Region for hours, and then for days. Every so often he would stop and make camp, rest for as long as he could force himself to remain still, but always, inevitably, he would be forced back on the move by the arrival of the Undead. Not just Protectors, either, but other creatures, other monsters, corrupted by Kulta and the dark energy that had powered her. The Earth Region, home to the Skull Warriors and their master for so long, had become a breeding ground for those creatures that belonged in Okoto’s worst nightmares.
Hunted and surrounded, he eventually fled the only place he could – underground. Deep within the heart of an old, empty earth city, left abandoned and burned after the rebellion decades before and never again re-populated, he found an entrance into the ancient mining caves. He fled into them, hunted by Skull Warriors and Undead and other nightmarish creatures, and still, he could not rest. So he fled deeper and deeper, into the massive caverns below the Earth Region’s surface. Deeper still, into the chasms, and the unimaginably ancient catacombs, older than even the Mask Makers. Surrounded by the cold, suffocating presence of dark energy, choking on it and his own fear.
Still, he fled deeper, and deeper still, deeper than any Protector had ever dared to walk before. Deeper than even the Mask Makers had ever ventured, to a place where even the Titans had avoided since a time before recorded time, where he found an ancient, heavy stone gateway. Left alone and untouched for a thousand years recorded and a thousand years untold, with symbols of a language so old that even Kulta and Umarak would no longer remember it.
It is open.
Somewhere, in the back of his mind, he knows that it should be closed. A barrier of shimmering energy covers the opening, but it is weak, and fracturing, and he is able to push past it, when he knows that it should render him into a hundred, a thousand, a million different pieces. The barrier feels warm, and light, and cleansing, but then he is across it, and the dark presence is back, even stronger, more powerful, and more threatening than before.
The cave on the other side of the gateway and the barrier is lit with torches that burn with an otherworldly white fire, but they do little to light it up. He takes one step in, and then two, and then three, and then he feels it. Something, or someone, in there with him. A presence behind him.
He turns, trembling and shivering, his legs threatening to give way beneath him, and finds himself staring at a towering figure, clad in pitch black armor and wearing an alien black mask. He can make out a single red eye behind the mask, silently inquiring and loathing at the same time, and he suddenly knows. That whoever this is, they are older than Kulta, stronger than Kulta, more dangerous than Kulta. That Kulta was, in fact, only a pale imitation of this being, this dark shadow given physical form, and that he has found Okoto’s greatest threat, imprisoned for an eternity.
And the prison is failing.
He feels a flicker across his thoughts, feather-light, and knows that his mind has been read like an open book. His entire life is now in this monstrous figure’s hands, and they know him better than he knows himself.
“Ahkmou Umrik,” the being says, in a voice that is melodious and strong and ancient beyond belief. “Are you afraid?”
He does not speak, but he does not need to. He is quivering, shaking like a leaf in a hurricane, and his voice will not work. It cannot. Not now. He is paralyzed, and knows that to this being, he is less than an insect.
“Your island’s Age of War is finished, and the pale shadow of the Great Ata dead,” the being says. “The Titans are scattered, and soon, I shall be freed. You will help me, Ahkmou Umrik. You will prepare Okoto for its true destiny, for its lord and destroyer. You will prepare it for the Great War that is still to come, before Okoto’s time runs out.”
EVERYTHING BEFORE WAS JUST PRELUDE.
The Great Game returns October 6th.
Back in... January, I think, we created a G&T Skype chat; this new Discord is intended to replace that, since Discord is better in just about every way so far.
The Discord has a few channels; one for general discussion and another where we're hoping to arrange a couple game nights each week. Chances are these game nights are going to be Left 4 Dead 2 or Team Fortress 2 MvM most of the time, but I'm sure there are other games we'll play as well.
So anyway, come on and join us!
-342 AE: Silodas, Aodhiim-
-VOLTEX AODH-Voltex Aodh (commonly known as ‘Tex’ to those who knew him), a Loremaster in Training for the Knights of Ekimu (and Aodhiim, as the higher ups of the nation were always keen to remind him), stepped into his home on the outskirts of the city of Silodas one day late in the year 341 AE to the smell of coffee. He immediately froze in the open doorway, and began reaching for the sword at his side. He wasn’t very good with it – his lack of prowess in combat was one of many reasons why he was in training to become a Loremaster – but hopefully it would be enough to deter an intruder in his home.
He stepped further into the home, dropping his bag onto the floor and kicking the door shut before gripping the handle of his sword tightly with both hands, creeping toward the smell. With each step, his heart rate increased; droplets of sweat ran down the back of his neck, and adrenaline raced through his veins.
Outside the kitchen, he paused, hesitating, the anticipation building.
An odd place for a thief to scavenge, he thought, frowning. There’s no shortage of food that I know of in Aodhiim….
Pushing the thought and his confusion aside, he stepped into the kitchen, raised his sword, and-
-froze again, the confusion rushing back, this time in a wave that crashed over him. His sword dropped to his side and then fell to the floor with a clatter as he stumbled back into the cupboards behind him, clutching at the countertop with both hands to keep his balance as his legs threatened to give way.
Sitting across the small room at his table was a lone figure, clad in black and white armor. A black cloak was draped over the back of the chair, and he wore a pure white Protector Mask, still the only one of its kind, his blue eyes shining.
“No,” he muttered, shaking his head. “No, you’re not here. You’ve been missing since the beginning of the war.”
A small, sad smile appeared on the figure’s face. “Which war? There have been so many. Wars for the Walls, Wars for the Throne, Civil Wars of Ice and Fire and Jungle, Conquerings and Burnings… it becomes hard to keep track.”
Tex swallowed thickly, his throat dry. “The War of Five Kings, after the Battle for the Dawn. It started early in 328. Fourteen years ago.”
“The War of Five Kings,” the figure murmured, sounding amused. “There were five kings, yes?”
“You were born around then, as I recall,” the figure continued. “You’re only fourteen now, are you not? A little bit young to be living on your own, and training with the Knights of Ekimu. Particularly for a member of House Aodh. Family has always been so important to them, has it not? Maintaining the legacy, they call it. Continuing the longest lasting dynasty on Okoto. How is it that you have been left out on your own?”
Tex stared at the figure for a long moment. “I think you already know. You are the First Mask Maker, then. Voltex.”
“’The First Mask Maker’… I wasn’t truly the first, though I don’t believe I could remember who was,” the figure mused. “Too many of us took up the title at once. But I suppose for you Okotoans, it doesn’t really matter. You still call Ekimu the Last Mask Maker, do you not?”
“There you go, then. But to answer your question, yes. I am Voltex.” The Mask Maker shifted in his seat, and chuckled. “I don’t think I have ever had the issue of speaking to someone with the same name before, do you know? I was always the lowest of the Council of Twelve, never one that the Okotoans felt was worthy of naming their children after. And then I exiled myself for all those centuries… you’re the first yourself, in a way.”
“My friends just call me Tex,” Tex said, shrugging, a lump in his throat. “So did my mother, before she… well. She said you saved her, during the Battle for the Dawn. Said that Kulta was just cutting through the Fire Protectors like butter, and she was next… and then suddenly there you were, standing in the way, holding Kulta off. She was already pregnant with me, probably shouldn’t have been fighting, but she knew she had to. But without you I’d have never been born.”
The Mask Maker nodded, looking weary, and when he next spoke, Tex could hear all of his many years in his tired voice. “I know. I used to visit, during the early years of the war, when I learned that she’d named you after me. At first I just tried to change her mind, and then when your father was killed, just to help out. I took on a new identity for a little while and stuck around, but… eventually, the war just became too much. Okoto had just united together to save itself from annihilation, only to turn around and begin annihilating itself. I hit my breaking point.”
Tex frowned. “Wait. You were Crotesius?”
“I was. You remember?”
Tex shook his head. “Only… bits and pieces. I was so little.”
The Mask Maker smiled. “You were at that. I think I did love her, you know. Your mother. I can’t really be sure; unlike most of my brethren, I always found it difficult to forge lasting attachments to anyone. I always thought it easier to stay somewhat distant, to avoid the curse of time ripping us apart; so I don’t really know what love is, really. But your mother… well. Nikila Aodh was an extraordinary individual, one whom I considered very special. I will miss her dearly.”
Stepping forward, Tex pulled out the second chair and collapsed into it, staring dull at the table’s surface. “You do know, then.”
Beside him, Voltex sighed. “I do.”
Quiet drifted down on the two of them, Loremaster and Mask Maker, as they silently mourned, until after a long moment, Voltex broke it.
“I… have another purpose here. I don’t intend to stay long,” he said, causing Tex to glance up at him and frown at the Mask Maker’s eyes, which had shifted from blue to violet.
“I’ve come with a warning,” Voltex continued, ignoring him, pulling out several scrolls and sliding them across the table. “When I vanished from Okoto, I returned to my old home – Ikir. The island was still mostly inhabitable after all this time, though it was no surprise, considering who was killed there.”
Tex’s brows furrowed. “The Magical Crisis, last year. King Vinheim arranged a voyage to Ikir after some of the Knights discovered records of it in the notes you left behind. Most of the crew died, but those that returned… they brought back a few items. The Torch of Ma, for one.”
Voltex nodded. “Provides its bearer with the divine protection of Ma, assuming Ma is willing, though it is fatal to wield for very long. And the Staff of Annona, the source of all magic, among others. The crew – those who even made it to Ikir, at least – ran into me. I… had a difficult choice to make. It was ether allow Okoto to die off now, without magic… or return the Staff of Annona to you, and send out the beacon.”
Tex felt his stomach drop. “The what?”
“The Staff of Annona is one of the sources of all magic,” the Mask Maker said. “It was responsible for the birth of magic here on Okoto, and was so powerful that even after its removal more than a millennium ago, magic still ran through the island’s veins until recently. But that’s also the source of my concern – the Staff is so powerful that anyone of a certain power level can… sense its presence, in a way, and moving it from one location to another… would cause a significant shift. The moment it left Ikir, everyone knew it was lost. The moment it arrived on Okoto…”
“…everyone knew where it was again,” Tex finished. “Why did nobody go after it before?”
Voltex grimaced. “Many reasons. Someone… very important died on Ikir, and the rest of their kind were quick to threaten vengeance on any who might desecrate the island where their brother fell. But as time passed, its presence also became background noise. The problem now is that it has been moved, so there’s a vacuum where it used to be that will lead them straight here.”
Tex rubbed at his temples, staring down at the scrolls. “What are these, then?”
“Corrections to the histories I wrote,” Voltex murmured. “I wasn’t entirely accurate with them, you see. The histories were always meant to focus on Okoto, so I stuck with what was relevant to you… but it’s now imperative that you know the truth.”
“It was never a Council of Twelve that ruled over the Mask Makers,” Voltex said, his voice colored with an anger as old as time. “It was a Council of Thirteen.”
“What happened to the thirteenth?”
“He betrayed us all,” Voltex whispered, eyes blanking as the Mask Maker lost himself in the past. “During the disaster that destroyed Ikir, he turned his back on us. Enslaved himself to a Titan of Darkness in exchange for his own life, never minding that he was forsaking the rest o us. He helped them bring down a dragon and tear our island apart.”
Tex leaned in, his heart racing. “Who was he?”
“His name was Sahmad.” Voltex turned to face him, leaning in as well. “That’s why I’m here. I had thought, surely, that he would have perished since he deserted us, or at the very least, that I would not see him again. I was wrong.”
“You found him on Ikir,” Tex realized.
The Mask Maker nodded, pushing his chair back and standing to his feet. He reached down, reaching into a pouch at his side and pulling out a pure white mask, identical to his own. He placed it down on the table with a thunk. “This… is for you. When Sahmad arrives… you must avoid him at all costs. But he must also hear about you – about the Voltex who wears black and white armor, with his pure white mask.”
“He’s already betrayed you once,” Tex said. “Are stories about you really going to slow him down?”
“Perhaps not,” Voltex said, shaking his head and shrugging, “but it might give him pause, or convince him not to act openly hostile. Or perhaps we will be lucky.”
I doubt that, Tex thought.
“My presence, or what appears to be my presence, will send a message that Okoto isn’t forgotten,” Voltex said. “It could mean that Ekimu and Umarak and the Tribe of Time are all somewhere on the island, just not revealing themselves. He’ll be forced to use caution, to avoid our wrath.”
Tex picked up the mask, staring down at it. “Where are you going, if you won’t be here?”
“A new age is dawning,” the Mask Maker said. “With the end of the War of Five Kings, the Age of War has ended.”
Tex shook his head, confused. “From what I’ve been hearing, we’ll be lucky if we make it another ten years without another war sprouting up.”
The Mask Maker waved his hand dismissively. “War never ends. But in the Age of War – it has been near constant. But Okoto has shifted dramatically; one region a barren, and the others making up four independent kingdoms. One ancient power awoken, and subsequently defeated. But Kulta’s death, and now the recovery of the Staff of Annona… your greatest fight is still to come. The Great War.”
Tex shivered, a chill running down his spine. “The Great War?”
“The only war that matters,” Voltex said. “It has already begun, though it won’t reach Okoto for quite some time yet. Ekimu and Umarak and I… we hope to delay its progress to these shores. Long enough that you can deal with what awaits you below.”
Voltex nodded, and Tex stood to follow as the Mask Maker walked out of the kitchen and down the hall, pausing at the front door. The Mask Maker looked back at him, his eyes blue once more. “The balance of power is skewed. The Titans of Light are all dead or gone, and Okoto no longer under their protection. But the Titans of Shadow remain strong… and the Dragons are becoming active again.”
“Dragons? Titans of Shadow?” Tex shook his head again, his thoughts spinning. “I don’t understand.”
“You don’t need to, not yet,” Voltex said. “Just… watch for Sahmad. And watch the Barren. If it stirs, before I return….”
Voltex closed his eyes. “Pray.”
The Mask Maker opened the door, and then he was gone.
The Great Game returns October 6th.
CURSE“You haven’t aged a day.”
Onaku turned around at Hahli’s words, giving her a playful smile, raising an eyebrow. “You say that a lot. I don’t know, I think I’ve gained some air of wisdom in my years.”
“Yeah…” Hahli smiled wistfully. “But you’ve also maintained one heck of a youthful look. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you actually hadn’t aged since we met.”
Onaku chuckled at the thought. “Yeah, well, maybe my mask maker blood will make me live forever.” He joked, giving her a playful nudged with his elbow.
The two of them finished putting their gear together, and left for the main entrance to their abode. Each was heading to their region’s leaders, a courtesy call to ensure good relations between the knights and Agua Hielo were ongoing.
Marah, Onaku and Hahli’s daughter, intercepted her parents as they were heading out, youthfully skipping along into their arms.
“Good luck out there, you two.” She said, hugging them tight before letting go.
“You keep the house in order, young girl. You’re old enough to know what to do and what not to do.” Hahli told her daughter, a faux stern look to her face which melted into a genuine warm smile that radiated love for Marah. “Take care, alright? We won’t be long, hopefully.”
“You know me, mom.” She said, her tone carrying a light tone of ‘get off my back’ that still carried understanding and love for her mother.
“Be good, snow star.” Onaku said, a smile of affection on his face. Marah nodded, smiling warmly to her father.
Then they were off, Onaku and Hahli taking the same road until it split up off to Agua and Hielo respectively. Waving each other off, they went their separate ways, taking with them each a company of five soldiers, a habit they each carried from the more violent days of Okoto.
After a few days journey Onaku arrived at Grave’s Peak. As he arrived, the sky was clearer than usual, with the sun mildly shining through a thin veil of clouds. The air was still, free of cold winter winds.[/size]
Onaku entered Nato‘s forge, holding a folder with the latest Knight troop placements and other military reports for Nato to give his thoughts on.
“Nato? I was wondering if you had a moment to...” He saw Nato, standing by his forge with a mask lying on the slab in front of him, his tense posture as he stood over it, both hands on either side, relaying clearly that he wasn’t happy with it. Not happy at all.
“Should I… come at another time?”
“No. I’m done here anyway.” Nato turned around and walked up to Onaku. Onaku handed him the folder, which he then subsequently perused.
“Hey, so-” Onaku started, before getting interrupted by Nato.
“Everything seems well maintained. Keep up the good work.” He said, handing Onaku the folder again.
Onaku knew Nato meant those words to be encouraging, but he could feel the irritation in them, as well as in his expression and posture overall. Onaku knew they had time to spare; very little had happened that required their immediate attention, and he wanted to try cheering the old man up.
“Hey, don’t beat yourself up about one failed mask. You’re a better mask maker than I could ever be, and I’ll prove it to you. Let’s have a small competition, just between the two of us, right now. We’ll each forge the same mask, and see whose is better.”
Nato looked at Onaku, furrowing his brows further. “I’m… not sure we have the time. Then again, perhaps we do. Everything checks out on our military end, and there hasn’t really been anything out of the ordinary that’s truly required my attention for a long time.” Nato stroked his chin before smirking. “Alright, nephew, I’ll take you up on that offer. May the best mask maker win.”
Onaku was certain he’d lose. That was the whole point. He’d never even attempted to craft a mask before, since he wasn’t really sure he even wanted to know if he had it in him. But even if he did, Nato had already done it way more often than he had. There was no way Nato could lose.
And so, after a long gruelling session of mask making, Onaku took his mask out of the forge’s fires for the last time to hammer in the last few strokes. Although he’d been surprised at how easy it had been to get the shape of the mask to look fine, he was certain it was only an aesthetic achievement. Surely the magic that fuelled the mask’s power was nowhere near up to snuff, he thought.
He thought wrong.
Holding up the mask in his hands, its metal lukewarm against his palm and fingers, he could feel the raw power emanating from it. This mask, for all intents and purposes, was perfectly crafted. Looking back at Nato, still toiling away, he could see just from looking at it that, despite being good, it wasn’t nearly as good as his own.
Onaku grimaced. This could not be. Even if he had mask maker blood like Nato, that shouldn’t mean his mask should be so much better than Nato’s mask. And… if he showed this mask to Nato, he’d be furious.
Thus, setting the mask down again, Onaku went in for some extra hammer strokes, even if it went against every fibre in his body, he slammed the mask with the hammer, again and again, sabotaging it and disrupting its perfection, dissipating the power within and ruining its shape, just enough to pass off as having still tried.
Holding it up again, it didn’t seem too obvious that it had been ruined deliberately. It would have to do. With Nato now inspecting his own mask, now clearly finished crafting it, he turned around and looked over at Onaku. “You done with yours yet?”
“Er, yeah. I’m done. I don’t think I can get it any better than this…”
Presenting his mask, it was clear that whereas his mask had been miles better before, it was now sorely lacking compared to Nato’s satisfactory mask.
“See? Mine isn’t nearly up to snuff compared to yours. I don’t even think it works. Turns out I might not have the mask maker blood in me after all.”
“Yes, well, I’m sure you did your best.” Although he could tell he was trying to hide it, Onaku noticed a smirk on Nato’s lips. At least he’d managed to lift his spirits.
Two days later, Onaku returned to his home closer to the old Ice/Water border, opening the door to see her daughter, Marah Vatten, leap out of her chair in gleeful surprise. “Dad! You’re back!” The young girl raced into his arms, hugging him and squeezing him tight. “How’d it go?” She asked, releasing him from her tight embrace.
Onaku stroked the back of his head. “It went fine. Nato was a bit grumpy, but he gave his blessing on how we’ve been doing. We even had a contest on who could forge the better mask. I lost, of course, seeing as how I’ve never done it before.”
Marah grinned in amusement. “Oh come now, you’re being too hard on yourself. I’m sure you’ve got it in you, you just haven’t given it the time and care it needs.”
“I suppose you’re right.” Onaku smiled. He hated lying to his daughter about this, but the mysterious perfection of his mask was a mystery he had to look into himself. “Where is your mother? Has she not returned from her meeting with Terrorsaur?”
“Not yet. I’m sure she won’t be far behind you. Anyway, I got a message from Voltex earlier, and he said he’s coming to Agua Hielo to visit. How cool is that?”
Onaku furrowed his brow. “Voltex? Oh, the fire kid. Right. Yeah, I suppose he’s coming to check through Agua Hielo’s libraries.”
“Well… yeah, I guess.” Marah shrugged.
After a further debriefing by her daughter, Onaku moved on to his personal study, where he kept plenty of tomes, scrolls and parchments regarding the island’s past, as well as anything he’d found on the history of the world itself. A parchment on ancient myths, forgotten giant weapons, great gods at the beginning of the world, and plenty more.
Nosing through tomes he had scrounged up through the years, as well as copies of manuscripts Voltex (the mask maker) had left behind, a certain truth was starting to dawn on Onaku.
Reports of a long life. Perhaps indefinite. No clear signs of aging. An unrivalled ability to forge masks of great power.
“You haven’t aged a day.”
Onaku shuddered as the memory of those words resurfaced. Those words had gained a new weight, and a far more serious aura now festered in that memory.
“If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you hadn’t aged a day since we met.”
“What if I haven’t aged?” Onaku muttered to himself as he folded up the manuscript he’d been reading through.
Two out of the three signs were as good as confirmed to him now. Somehow, in some way, he’d become a Mask Maker.
As for a long life, only time would tell. Time Onaku now dreaded intensely. Time he would have to live through, watching not only Hahli, but his daughter Marah, die of old age from him as he persisted, alone, unchanging, into what could very well be eternity…
The thought alone horrified him.
Marah Vatten entered her father’s study, hoping to talk to him, only to find it vacant. What she found instead was letter propped up on his desk in plain view, with her name written in large letters. Clearly it was meant for her. She opened up the letter, and as she read it, she became distraught.
Marah my beloved daughter
It pains me to say that I must go. Things have come to light that I cannot ignore, and I can’t stay as Lord Commander if I am to find answers. The last thing I ever wanted was to leave you behind, but I must. I hope you can forgive me, and I wish you and your mother the best… I will miss you. Take care. I know not if I will ever return.
Your loving father, always,
The freshly written words dissolved into diluted ink as Marah’s tears hit the parchment. Her hands clutched the letter tight, until finally she crumpled it up and threw it away.
Hahli Vatten came home to find Marah preparing to leave herself. She had packed supplies, readied her equipment, as well as the sword she’d received as a gift from her father, and the shield from her great uncle Nato.
“Marah? Where are you going? Where is your father?” Hahli asked in a concerned tone.
Marah turned to face her mother, a look of grief and anger on her face. As she spoke, her voice cracked, her emotions coming through in her words plainly even though she tried to sound stoic. “He left.” The words felt bitter in her mouth. “I-I don’t know why... but he’s gone.”
Hahli’s eyes widened in shock. “What are you talking about?! Your father wouldn’t just leave without a reason!” She hurried into the house, frantically searching for something, anything, to reveal to her why he’d left, and in the doorway, Marah sighed. As much as she wanted to stay and help her mother through this, she didn’t have time. The longer she waited, the further her father would get away. She needed to go, and she needed to go now.
A bitter determination was visible in her eyes as she marched out the door, her sword sheathed at her hip, her shield strapped to her arm, and a newfound heaviness to her steps she’d never felt before today.
“Father… Wherever you are…” She muttered to herself. “I’m coming to find you.”
The Great Game returns October 6th.
PRESERVEThis is what it feels like to be Kopeke Nakali right now:
You’re numb. From the cold, firstly, but also from all of the blood flowing out of your legs, which have been sliced to ribbons. The snow around you has been stained crimson, where the blood has melted it into some twisted, nightmarish bit of red slush.
You’re scared. Terrified, actually. Your heart is beating what feels like a hundred times a second, and adrenaline floods your veins. You’re dying, you know this. It is inevitable. This expedition has gone horrifically wrong, and now you’re lying here, dying in the snow. There is nothing you can do to stop this.
You wanted to be one of the Knights – the Knights of Ekimu. You had just finished training; this was your first mission. You were given the honour of joining the Lord Commander himself on a small expedition, one joined by Toa Kopaka. No other trainees could say the same. They saw something in you, your trainers, and the other Knights. He saw something in you as well – the Khan. Nato Greavesey, the Traveler. He gave you this mission. He expected great things from you. He knew Agua Hielo would see great things from you.
Perhaps you might elevate the status of House Nakali, like he once did for House Greavesey. Even if the houses and their distinctions have meant less since the war. You were supposed to be like him.
You’re a failure. Your first mission, and you’re dead. Your first mission, and everything that could go wrong has gone wrong. Toa Kopaka is lost. The Lord Commander is dead, or worse. When you tilt your head to the side, vision going blurry, you still recognize the dead, blank eyes of Kraku Treml staring at you. You don’t know what happened to the others. Are they dead? Are they missing? Did they escape?
You can only pray that they did. That they will warn the rest.
Your watch has only just begun, if it ever began at all. A part of you doesn’t think it did.
You close your eyes one last time, and everything goes black. You can feel the wind howling, but you cannot hear it.
And then you feel no more.
-This is what it feels like to be Toa Kopaka right now:
You’re filled with rage. Endless, suffocating rage. It burns within you, so hotly that you feel like you might explode, so hot that you cannot believe it has not melted the snow around you, and turned this blizzard into a rainstorm. Your muscles are tensed, and your chest heaving for breath. Blood is splattered across the tip of your spear. Your shield is missing.
You look around, and find it. It is embedded in a tree; one half of a Protector above it, another below. They are dead, that much is clear. You cannot remember their name. It was meaningless, really; pointless. They angered you, that much you know. They deserved it, a voice whispers in your mind, and you agree.
Then you pause. An inkling of suspicion begins to grow.
The voice rushes to calm you, to distract you, to turn you away, but you’ve already figured it out. You’re already remembering what happened. You remember plodding through the snow, grumbling with the Protectors. Grumbling at the Lord Commander. The mission, the expedition. A dangerous one, thanks to the blizzard, but necessary. A sighting of dark energy – the first in the North since the Battle for the Dawn.
You know the voice. It feels cold, and dark, and sends a shiver down your spine. It feels and sounds wrong. It ran alongside the voice of Skull Basher whenever it spoke. You feel like it might have done the same for Kulta. Not their voices, no, though their voices were much the same. This one is different. Older, more powerful, irresistible.
It whispers again. Kill the Spare. So you search, mindlessly, following its command, and a part of you dies as another fades away to horror as you lose all control. You search out the area with the x-ray goggles built into your mask, and you find the Spare.
He is fleeing up the mountain. Your body turns like an automaton, and rips your shield out of the tree. Both halves of the Protector collapse into the snow. You heft your spear, and take your first step up the slope.
You feel terror, horror, disappointment.
Another, darker part of you feels satisfied, and this sickens you, but it also feels so right.
You remember a colossal figure, with a single, gleaming red eye.
Metus, the Spare. He cannot be allowed to escape.
The hunt begins.
-This is what it feels like to be Corban Greavesey right now:
You’re afraid. The chill of terror eats away at your insides, and you’re paralyzed. Frozen to the spot. You’re scared to remain, but even more scared to flee. Can you make it? Do you want to? You do not know.
It was supposed to be an honor for you. To be named as the Lord Commander of the Knights of Ekimu, the third member of House Greavesey since the Knights returned to hold the position. You were supposed to carry on the legacy, continue your family’s domination and influence across the island. But you were never like Nato, pragmatic and stubborn and brave to a fault. You were never like Onaku, determined and hopeful and loyal. Historically, these two would have been the outcasts of your house, the outliers; thirty years ago during the War for the Throne, that’s exactly what Nato was.
But those thirty years have seen great changes come to the house, thanks to Nato himself, and now you are the outlier. A Protector who some might call coward, who prefers to remain uninvolved, and has always been considered with himself above all others. You’ve heard the whispers, about how you don’t belong, how you don’t deserve the Greavesey name.
You accepted the position, though. It was an elevation in status, and though you saw through the excuses, saw it for what it was, you still felt proud. Of all the Protectors, all the Knights to choose from, you had been selected.
Yet here you are – one mission in, and you’ve failed.
You never should have been made Lord Commander. You never should have given into Kopaka’s taunts, and decided to run this expedition yourself. You never should have allowed a rookie like Kopeke Nakali to be assigned to the team.
It didn’t help that the rest of your team despised you. Kraku Treml, who now lies next to Kopeke in the snow, having bled out minutes ago. Solek Sivr, now stuck to a tree, impaled by a shield. Kylma Glacies, whose head was crushed like a tin can. Lumi Nivis, burned away to ashes by pure Dark Energy. Metus Crustallus, who is much like you, and now stands trembling next to you in the snow; and finally, Toa Kopaka, now twisted by the Spirit of the Wild, corrupted into something else.
Kopaka advances. You know this is the end.
Your watch ends here.
But somewhere, in the back of your mind, you know that one of you must escape. The word must be spread. The Knights must be warned. Toa Kopaka as they knew him is gone. The Spirit of the Wild – long thought to be only a myth – has returned, and is now powered by the same Dark Energy that once fuelled Kulta. The other Toa are at risk; if they all turn, Okoto might be doomed.
So you turn to Metus.
“Go”, you say. “Run.”
No more needs to be said; Metus understands. You shake hands, and then he is gone.
You turn to face Kopaka, whose eyes have been consumed by madness, gleaming red, and bow your head.
You feel no fear, anymore. Only acceptance.
You watch as Kopaka advances towards you. You watch as he hefts his spear in his hand. You watch as he stabs it towards you, watch as it pierces your armor like paper, watch as the blood begins to gush out of you.
And then everything goes black.
Your watch has ended.
-This is what it feels like to be Metus Crustallus right now:
You’re exhausted. Your heart is thumping, adrenaline pumps through your veins, and your actions are fuelled by the desperation of a dying man who fights to stay alive at all costs, but you are exhausted all the same. You have watched each of your companions be butchered, first by the Spirit of the Wild, then by Kopaka, after he was twisted into something else entirely.
The old words of the Knights of Ekimu ring through your mind. “We Watch, We Listen, and We Remember”, they had said. Well, you watched your companions die, and you listened to their screams and cries, and for the rest of your life – however short it might be – you will remember.
You are filled with shame, that you might be the only one to survive. You have always known that you were a coward. You only joined the Knights out of self-preservation, to avoid the conflict of the War of Five Kings after your house butchered its enemies at a peaceful banquet. Now here you are, running yet again, because that is what will keep you alive. Even Corban Greavesey – disgrace to his house that he was – could find enough bravery to make one final stand.
He is dead now, you know this. You can hear Kopaka somewhere behind you in the storm. He is relentless in his hunt, and you know that he will find you before you can return home.
You hear footsteps crunching in the snow up ahead, and pause.
Kopaka still approaches from behind.
A part of you expects the corrupted Spirit of the Wild to confront you. You prepare yourself for the single, gleaming red eye of Keetongu to penetrate into your soul once more-
-but it is not Keetongu whom you see, pushing their way through the snow.
It is a figure clad in what must have once been a navy blue armor, though its edges have rusted orange. He is your height, but he is no Okotoan that you remember, and no region has ever clad its Protectors in armor of that design. He is… something else.
He stares at you in silence.
Your shoulders slump. You are tired, and weary. You’re ready to give in.
“Metus Crustallus. I’m here to offer you a choice. Join me, and the one that I serve… or die.”
Kopaka approaches. He senses you now, you know. His Mask of Power will have revealed your location to him. Somewhere, Keetongu still roams the blizzard. This stranger, he radiates some sort of power. Not Dark Energy like Kulta and Keetongu, nor the feel of the Toa, with their elemental powers. It is power of a different sort.
You saw the Mask Maker Voltex, once, after the Battle for the Dawn. Before he disappeared.
This newcomer’s aura… is not unlike his. But it feels darker than Voltex, and colder.
“Make your choice, Okotoan, before I leave you to your fate.”
You consider refusing his offer, but, flushing with shame, you realize you never could. You are selfish, and a coward, and you fear death most of all. Any opportunity to delay it, you will seize with both hands. You fall down to one knee, and bow your head. When you look up at the newcomer again, there is a satisfied gleam in his eyes. He understands what you have said without words.
You hear Kopaka slow to a halt behind you.
“You have chosen well,” the figure tells you, and you incline your head again.
You have only one question.
“Might I know your name?” you ask. “And the name of whom we serve?”
The newcomer smirks. “My name is Sahmad. And as for the one we serve...”
He trails off, and a chill runs down your spine.
“…you’ll find out soon enough.”
The Great Game returns October 6th.
pretty lowkey birthday, nothing particularly special. didn't have any money to be spending until i received some this evening so i didn't make any plans (since plans would most likely involve some drinks and that's expensive yo)
anyway that's all for now.
2 user(s) viewing
0 members, 2 guests, 0 anonymous users