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IC: Voltex (All), Sahmad (All)
“We must protect it.” Voltex stared down at the shard he was holding through a torn piece of cloak. Vorox were rising up all around him and Sahmad, a dying but not dead Skrall was trying to flee back to Roxtus or Atero to inform of both the shard and themselves, and his hand had been ruined by it. Not a nice predicament to be in.
He could Sahmad try to finish the injured Skrall off, yet instead Sahmad staggered and stumbled as a Vorox erupts from the sand between them. Behind him, he could feel the Vorox advancing. There was no safe way out at this point. He had to flee.
Thus he did so, darting past a Vorox while alerting Sahmad to follow. Behind Sahmad, he could see yet more Vorox erupting from the sand as already-present Vorox prepared to attack, though he had confidence that Sahmad could deal with it as he saw Sahmad slice their legs, dart away, and fire off a thornax at the Vorox behind himself. Voltex had almost been distracted as he fled while watching, narrowly avoiding a buried Vorox stinger.
Eventually, however, the sound of Vorox grew quiet, and Sahmad was not far behind. They had escaped successfully, and mostly intact. Voltex turned to Sahmad.
“I must journey north, to Iconox, and possibly Roxtus. In the mountains I might find a place to keep this shard safe. You are welcome to join me, but I understand if you wish to pursue other business.”
“I will head back to Atero,” Sahmad turned to look behind himself. “The careful way. The Great Tournament is happening soon, and many will be distracted by it. I bid you luck.” Though, that was not the only reason - there was still the chance, however small, that the dying Skrall could return to Atero instead of Roxtus, and should the Skrall return… it would not be good for Sahmad, or Voltex.
IC: Quin (All)
He entered the infirmary, checking on the soldier who’d returned from Creep Canyon and informed him of the Bone Hunters. He found that the soldier was now conscious, his condition stablisied.
“Alright, soldier, did you see where the Bone Hunters went?” Quin asked, walking up to the bed the soldier was lying on.
“No… no. I did not see where they had gone. They set up an ambush for us, near the canyon we found in the crater. Everyone else is dead, to my knowledge.”
Quin sighed. “Get some rest, you deserve it.”
He headed back out, to the armory, where he was greeted by a jovial quartermaster who inquired what it was he needed.
“I need thornax launchers. What you got?” Quin asked, examining his current weapon, a short knife.
The quartermaster reached into his desk, pulling out a folder of documents, then pulled out a document from the folder and looked over it. “Well, as I’m sure you know, thornax is grown and thus just like any plant it decays with time. As such, this greatly limits our stock. Right now…” The quartermaster produced a series of clicking noises with his tongue as he looked over the list. “Right now we have a backstock of seventy. Fifteen of those are on the verge of expiration.”
“I’m gonna need to take around twenty thornax and one thornax launcher.”
“Twenty is a bit much, sir. There’s not any realistic way you could carry that much alone. I can give you ten of the potentially defective thornax and five normal, or only five normal.”
“Fine, I’ll that. Double time, please. I need to get moving.” Quin knew every minute that passed was a minute the Bone Hunters had a powerful and strange artifact.
The quartermaster snapped his fingers, and a younger Agori scurried from the back room. “Get the General everything he needs from that list, and prompto.” The quartermaster looked back at Quin. “Gonna need to know why you need these, as is protocol.”
“Some Bone Hunters stole something they shouldn’t have. We need it back ASAP.” Quin blurted out quickly.
The Quartermaster scribbled down Quin’s words, adding a small note to the end of the text. “Revenge. Got it.” Quin rolled his eyes - this was far more than revenge.
The younger Agori returned, a sack strapped across their shoulder and a launcher in their right arm, quickly handing the materials to Quin.
“Thank you.” Quin then left, too quickly for him to hear the Quartermaster’s words.
He quickly organised a party of 35 soldiers, and knew where his next decision was - where he would return to. Creep Canyon, where he first found the shard.
IC: Jed (All), Lan (All), Luroka (Until Exit), Nato (Until Exit)
Jed hailed the Jungle Agori. Lan, diplomat of the Jungle Tribe, had come on some important business, it seemed, judging by the number of guards and the offering of crated agricultural goods they seemed to be presenting.
“What brings you to Tajun, Jungle Diplomat?” Jed asked, eyeing the goods.”
“Right to the point, eh?” Lan smirked. “I like your style. I respect your time, esteemed friend, so I wil keep this as brief as possible. Tesara would like to forge a Trade Alliance with Tajun. In exchange for bi-montly water shipments from you, we will offer choice portions of our agricultural goods, some of which you may sample within these crates,” He said, gesturing to his cargo, “There will also be a mutual peace between our villages, no acts of aggression, unless completely justified. What say you?”
“I don’t think Tajun nor I would have a problem with the deal, however, before we agreed on it, I hope that Tesara understands our problemed trade situation. Our shipments often have trouble arriving where they were sent due to attacks, so they may not arrive on time or may be lesser than anticipated. Still, Tajun has no problems with this agreement.” Jed - and Tajun - had long waited for such an opportunity, most other tribes having not sought to present one. Perhaps this would be the first step to having more steady trades and a new age for Tajun and Tesara both.
“Wonderful!” Lan said, smiling, and bowing as was the course for such agreements. “I can understand the situation with your trade, we in Tesara often experience the same thing. However, I am sure that we will find it in our hearts to be grateful with whatever we receive, whenever we receive it, even with all the tension between villages.” He took a few steps toward his cargo, and presented Jed with the official document of alliance, already bearing Lan’s own signature, and a quill. “If you please sign this treaty, esteemed friend.”
There was a long, somewhat awkward silence, during which there was a very faint rumbling. Luroka, who had been observing, felt compelled to return to Atero, finding Jed too busy to discuss the agreement between them. Nato, who had also been observing, felt disheartened by Luroka’s decision, and thus decided it time to return to Iconox, feeling that something horrible had happened.
Jed finally interrupted the silence. “Can I please inspect the contract more closely?” He, despite earlier words, was slightly skeptical.
“Certainly, friend.” Lan relinquished his hold on the contract to allow Jed to more closely examine it.
It read as thus:
We of the twin villages of Tesara would initiate a trade alliance with the village of Tajun. Each village shall provide the other with unique goods of high quality; from Tesara, the goods are agricultural products; from Tajun, the goods are fresh water.
The proposed period of trade is approximately once every two months. This period is adjustable, depending on the situation of the villages. Each village shall provide the other with enough goods to last for all or most of the time between trade periods. Each village shall respect the time it takes for the other to provide the goods.
In addition to trade, the villages shall agree to abstain from antagonising the other. No acts of aggression shall be initiated against either village, unless completely justified.
With the signing of this document, the villages of Tesara and Tajun agree to uphold the terms stated above.
After much consideration, Jed replied, and signed the agreement. “Alright, I agree to your deal.”
“A wise choice,” Lan gently gestured. “And now, esteemed friend, I hate to trouble you so soon after the forging of our trade alliance, but my villages require your help. Our water supply is dwindling quickly and our Hot Springs cannot produce enough usable water to counteract the shortage. My retinue and I would gladly trade the agricultural products we have here for as much water as you can produce on short notice.”
“Sure thing. I will take these goods now, and send the water to you as quickly as possible.” Jed ordered Lan’s retinue to enter Tesara, and ordered two caravans of Water Agori to deliver water to Tesara as soon as possible.
“Many thanks.” Lan signalled for some of his retinue to follow Jed with the crates of agricultural goods. He bowed his head deeply, and said “Your help is much appreciated, esteemed friend. We of Tesara are in your debt. May the sun never shine too harshly upon you.” He gathered up his retinue, now empty of its goods, and departed for Tesara, following the caravan of Water Agori.
IC: Timelord (All)
Timelord hailed the arrival of two caravans of Water Agori, each bearing water for Tesara. He knew that this must have meant Lan was at least successful in his dealings with Tajun. Tesara’s water troubles were over, brief as they were, no longer needing to be rationed. Timelord handed each Water Agori a piece of fruit for their return trip, and ordered some Jungle Agori to move the water over to its designated storage.
He then decided it was time to address Tesara, to inform that its water troubles were indeed over. Thus, he went over to the village that favoured the Skrall, for a rather outspoken Agori named Orkahm had already recently misinterpreted the water rationing as an act of malevolence toward them. He stood in the same spot they stood mere days before.
“May I have your attention, great citizens of Tesara! I am happy to say that the water rationing program has ended and, hopefully, it will be the LAST time Tesara will ever have to ration it out. For Tesara and Tajun have entered a steady trade deal! Never again will Tesara have to worry about its thirst for it shall always have its water!”
The citizens of the village whispered and murmured, taking in the news. Timelord could hear that some were relieved, others unsure. He knew that tensions were somewhat lowered with this news. He sighed in relieved.
Then a rotten, mouldy fruit narrowly missed his head. He sighed in annoyance, the Agori who had thrown it quickly pointed out to him by his guards.
“Guards, stand down. Obviously, this Agori thinks something is wrong. I want to hear what he has to say. For if there is a problem, I want to be able to help.” He waited for the Agori to speak.
“You knew this water was coming! You rationed our water to see us suffer!” The Agori yelled.
Timelord sighed again. “Sir, I must politely say you are wrong. I have sent our diplomat, Lan, to Tajun, in hopes of creating a trade deal. I had no idea we would receive the water so quickly, but it is only a testament to the effectiveness of our diplomat. I only put the rationing in place in case something tragic happened or the negotiations took longer than expected. But, it appears Lan is working wonders for Tesara.” Timelord looked at the whole crowd. “We may be two villages, but we are all Tesara and I am sworn to protect you all. If you ever feel that you have been wronged, that you have faced injustice or feel that you cannot escape hostilities, come to me. I will do my best to right any wrong that there is.”
“So be it. Things will change soon enough.” says the Jungle Agori, somewhat ominously.
Timelord finished up his business in the pro-Skrall village, and went to the other of Tesara’s villages to make the same announcement. There, nothing much of interest happened, asides from a few Agori toward the back of a crowd calling him a heathen, that Grunkhar did not choose him. He shrugged it off, and returned to his hut.
Only to find that Orkahm, the Agori fond of the Skrall from a few days prior, waiting for him.
Timelord was a little surprised to see Orkahm. I wonder why he is here? Maybe he actually did listen when I said I was willing to help. He told his guards not to be hostile, but to stay close, and motioned for Orkahm to follow him inside. He sat down, prepared some tea, and said in a welcoming voice while smiling; “Greetings, Orkahm. How may I help you today?”
Orkahm followed, and sat down. “Ah, Timelord of Tesara. I have been waiting, wondering and waiting. What do you think of General Hyethut? And your brother, Andekas. They are taking a long time on their mission, are they not? Excuse the insubordination, but I asked a guard of their whereabouts. Have you considered, sir Timelord, that your General may be plotting against you? In command of the troops, in command of a religion, seeking exsidian to forge their own weapons…”
Timelord stared at Orkahm for a while. By the gods! Who would even dare think such a thing, especially in times such as these? He then spoke. “I’m glad you came to me with your concern, but I doubt they were planning any coup. They may have simply bumped into the Gatherers, better known as Bone Hunters. They are investigating an area they are known to frequent, after all.” He sipped his tea.
Orkahm sat still for a few seconds, as if thinking. “Should Andekas not be back, at the very least? The Great Tournament is soon nigh, and judging by that parchment there, he is to be there if you are not to insult most of Bara Magna. Perhaps you have a little too much faith in your ‘brother’ - have you considered he is the elder and thus more jealous of you two? You are brothers, yet it is the younger that leads. Surely that must be some sort of insult to Andekas if you are not his puppet.” Orkahm stressed the words ‘jealous’, and ‘insult’, and ‘puppet.
Timelord sipped his tea more, trying to calm down a slowly building rage within himself at the implication his brother was plotting against him or was in any way jealous of him. “I may be the younger brother, but Andekas never wanted to rule. He always wanted to be a Glatorian, so I took power so he could live his dream. I sent out troops recently to Gatherer’s Ridge in hopes of figuring out what happened to them. I pray they return safely and the sun does not shine too harshly upon them.”
“I’ll take your word for it.” Orkahm paused, and his mouth suddenly formed a sinister smile.
“What would you do tonight, if a village of Tesara was set alight?”
IC: Pahrak (All), Luroka (After Entrance), Sahmad (After Entrance), Tuma (In Arena)
“Iconox has accepted the offer. I have been told to inform you to inform Mighty Tuma in an official capacity.” A Skrall said, having walked up to Pahrak.
Pahrak’s face lit up. “Truly? How delightful. Thank youm I shall inform him at once.” He hurried his way into the arena, approaching Tuma. “Please forgive the intrusion, Mighty Leader. I have just been informed Iconox has accepted the protection of the Skrall!”
“It was always inevitable. Our empire grows, and now we have complete control over all exsidian…” He paused, seemingly thinking. “If we so desired, we could coerce the rest of Bara Magna into submission… but not yet. We will give them slightly more time before we take ever more direct approaches. Now… if you can send a message to Iconox, they are to reduce their Agori Military tenfold. We will not extend an offer to anyone else for a short while, not before the other tribes react.”
Pahrak’s enthusiasm faded a bit. “Oh… uh, yes, of course, Mighty Leader.” He went to pass the message to a Skrall, and returned to the Arena Magna’s gate.
When he did, he found a Skrall approaching him. Not just any Skrall, but the one he had sent out to investigate the shooting star. It was limping, bleeding from the neck, covered in Vorox stings, and missing its weapons. It did not wait to speak, yet Pahrak could tell it pained it to do so.
“We… we found… it. Taken by be… beasts. One… one talking. Other… other Skrall killed. Stolen… by… by Iron Agori… two of… of them. I… I have… failed the… Skra… Skrall.”
Horrified at the sight, it took Pahrak a moment to react. “My word… here, lie down!” As he tried his best to stop the bleeding, he called another Skrall, “Please fetch a medic! Surely there must be one not far from the arena!”
Another Skrall ran up to the injured Skrall, inspected it, and grunted. “It will die no matter what you do. It has already lost too much blood.”
Pahrak locked eyes with the Skral, calmly and clearly replying. “Please fetch a medic.”
“Watch your tongue, Agori.” The Skrall growled, and soon stomped away. Soon after, it returned, accompanied by an Ice Agori.
“Thank you.” Pahrak said, then turned to the Ice Agori. “Please, is there anything you can do to help?” He asked, as the Ice Agori examined the injured, dying Skrall.
“There is nothing I can do for it. The wound is too deep and there is not enough blood even if I do patch it up. I am sorry, but this Skrall will die. But I promise you: we Ice Agori will do our best to support the Skrall in the future, given our recent agreement.”
Pahrak continued to stare at the Ice Agori in disbelief for a few moments, before turning to the injured Skrall. “I…” he muttered, desperately searching for words. “I… I’m so sorry…”
“Is there anything I can do to help?” Luroka asked, having just arrived at Atero and coming to investigate the odd sight of a dying Skrall.
Pahrak simply continued to stammer, having no idea what to do, while Luroka felt a tap on his shoulder. Luroka turned around to see Sahmad, who seemed unusually tense upon seeing the dying Skrall and seemed to be avoiding eye contact with everyone but Luroka. Sahmad whispered into Luroka’s ears: “Voltex is heading toward Iconox… and we had a very weird experience before that.”
Pahrak’s thoughts were racing, but he somehow managed to grab hold of one. When the Skrall had staggered into Atero, he had mentioned something about Iron Agori. Turning toward Luroka and Sahmad, he asked, “Have either of you been around this area? Have you seen anything strange - anything that might have caused this?”
Sahmad was unusually quick to respond, and seemed to be taking great care to tighten a piece of armour on his right arm, as if to obscure something. “I have not. I have simply taken a long walk around Atero.” The Skrall and Agori present at Atero do not pay attention, but to Luroka and Pahrak, it was an obvious half-truth.
Surely, if Sahmad was around Atero, he must have seen something similar to what the injured, dying Skrall saw, Pahrak thought. Pahrak’s gaze shifted to the arm Sahmad was adjusting. Rising slowly, he asked “Are you wounded as well? Why not have a medic take a look at you?”
“I’m not wounded, aching, and it’s none of your concern.” Sahmad spat, rather bitter in his tone.
The dying Skrall suddenly very, very slowly turns itself over after finally hearing Sahmad’s voice, as if it had been very slightly rejuvenated before it would die. It pointed at Sahmad with what little strength it had remaining. “H… him…” it said, weakly.
Pahrak’s eyes widened a moment before narrowing into a deadly glare aimed at Sahmad. “How curious,” he said. His voice was calm and even, but anyone could see the terrible rage building up under the surface. “I wonder what he could have meant by that. May I ask again if you’ve seen anything in your walk? Something that might have slipped your mind earlier?”
“I did not see anything, save for kindly old Vorox that handed treats to good little Agori.” Sahmad said, sarcastically and with increasing annoyance in his voice. “Your Skrall is bleeding out, covered in Vorox stings. Have you considered they are delirious and not in the best control of their faculties like the Vorox that which stung them?”
Uh oh. He just insinuated something’s wrong with a Skrall, thought the Ice Agori tending to the dying Skrall.
Pahrak glanced at the other Skrall. “I could be mistaken, but you just compared Skrall and Vorox. What utter nonsense is this? Perhaps we could demonstrate the difference somehow?”
“Sahmad, it’s entirely obvious you’re lying, and I dislike liars.” Luroka interjected.
As the uninjured Skrall next to Pahrak stepped forward and readied its sword, Sahmad whispered into Luroka’s ears “I dislike people who don’t keep their mouths shut when the lives of two of their supposed friends are on the line, but I guess I should’ve known better.”
The uninjured Skrall pressed the tip of its sword against Sahmad’s back. “If you really killed the unbeatable, unkillable Skrall, you will fight against the Elite Skrall in the Arena!” It turned to Pahrak. “Agori, please tell Tuma we have a criminal to fight against in the absence of anyone to take your challenge on. There will be no reward but the continuation of their life.”
“It will be done.” Pahrak said, turning and making his way into the arena. As he walked, Pahrak did best to organise his thoughts, but he still felt a bit unprepared as he approached Tuma. “Forgive the intrusion, Mighty Leader, but… a situation has developed. Earlier I asked two Skrall to search the nearby area- I had heard rumours of fallen stars, and thought if we could obtain some rare material from beyond Bara Magna, it might help the Skrall to grow even stronger. One of them has just returned… and he is dying. We have detained an Iron Agori who is responsible, and another Skrall recommends this Agori be made to fight an Elite Skrall in the arena to determine if he lives or dies.”
Tuma stood tall, looking somewhat bemused at the suggestion of an Agori somehow mortally wounded a Skrall. “Bring this Iron Agori, anyone with him, and this dying Skrall to me. I must see for myself.”
Pahrak nodded, and ran back to the gate. “Tuma wishes to see you,” he told Sahmad. “He would also like to speak with you,” he turned to Luroka. “-and… he wants this Skrall brought to him. Medic, can you help me move him, please?”
Sahmad slowly walked into the Arena Magna, followed by the Ice Agori, Pahrak, and Luroka, who were slower, carrying the dying Skrall.
Upon seeing Sahmad, Tuma’s eyes glowered with surprise and disappointment. “Sahmad. I had hoped one such as yourself would know better than to make stupid decisions in all your years of surviving the wastes. I gave you your Baranus. I gave you your whip. I gave you your life the first time we wanted to execute you.” Sahmad stared at Tuma with cold, contemptuous eyes. “You defile the mercy shown by the Skrall.”
Sahmad mocked Tuma as soon as he uttered the word ‘mercy’ with his fingers, but Tuma did not react. Even should he die, perhaps he would be more welcomed in the world after than the world here.
“Shameful. I would benevolently welcome you and all your tribe as part of us in but a week’s time had this not happened, with no need to cling to a dead tribe that only brought itself misfortune.”
“The ‘Mighty’ Tuma does not know the meaning of benevolence. Did you think I took your contracts because they were ‘benevolent’? That’s not the truth. You were the only one willing to pay us. You are not benevolent… but I’ll give you that you treated us better than the rest…” Sahmad trailed off. “That’s not something to laud.” Sahmad made a very rude gesture towards Tuma.
“Despite your actions, even as you spit in my face now, that you mock the mercy of the Skrall… I will show you the ‘mercy’ of the Skrall.” Tuma sounds surprisingly solemn.
Sahmad is taken aback, as is the Ice Agori. All trains of thought are interrupted.
“You will not fight an Elite Skrall.” He paused, and there is a tense few seconds, marked as Tuma leans down, removes the dying Skrall’s helmet, and brings his massive sword down on the neck, decapitating it. He tossed the helmetless head into his thornax launcher and points it at Sahmad in a mockery of his actions. “You will fight me.”
Pahrak stared at the body of the Skrall in horror. It was a few seconds before he managed to snap out of it, and turning to the Ice Agori, he quietly said, “We should… vacate the arena.” He started to move, but then stopped. “And thank you. Even if it was hopeless, you tried to make him more comfortable, and I appreciate what you’ve done.”
As Pahrak and the Ice Agori left, Tuma turned and stared at Luroka. “Iron Agori. Tell me what you know of Sahmad.”
“He is an abrasive individual who doesn’t get along with others, he also doesn’t share much with me, so I don’t trust him. He and I don’t generally have pleasant meaningful conversations. I don’t actually claim to know much about him because I don’t pry, but I’ll try to help out anyway I can.”
“All you need to tell me is… who you last saw him with.”
“Last I saw Sahmad before this occurrence, he was talking with myself, Voltex, and Nato.”
“Voltex… and Nato?” Tuma stomped his feet, in anger. “Then the Ice Agori has abandoned the mission I mercifully gave him, and as for the Iron Agori… I give you two contracts, Agori.” He clears his throat
“You are to bring me Voltex, dead or alive. For the crime of killing a Skrall. You will be rewarded, as per usual. No doubt they were an accomplice to the heinous criminal you see before you now.” He says, pointing to Sahmad. “Second, you are to bring me Nato, alive. He was to help us, and if he decides not to, we will make him.”
Tuma relaxes a bit. “I suppose it must come as a shock that the Agori you associate with are such dishonourable individuals, but that is the truth of being an Iron Agori, is it not? All other tribes cast you away, and asides from we of Rock, only the criminals welcome you. I implore you, then, to consider this offer: cast aside your attachment to Iron, and join us in Rock, where you will be welcomed as one of us, and not just any one of us, but as someone important to the future of the Rock Tribe, the Skrall, and all of Bara Magna.”
He paused. “Now exit this arena, and think the offer over. I must fight this dishonourable whelp. You, and all others here, are free to watch from the seats above if you wish.”
Sahmad merely stared at Luroka with distaste, and as of then, hatred.
IC: Nato (All), FF (All Except Search), Voltex (After Entrance, Before Exit), Rahkshi Guurahk (Speech), Toru (Speech),
Nato walked up to Iconox, trying to avert his eyes and then look back as if he was dreaming. He was not. The Skrall were present in Iconox, seemingly taking the place of the Agori guards that had been there the last time he was in Iconox. It seemed a decision had been taken without his consent or approval, a heinous insult to a diplomat such as Nato.
As he entered, he saw General FF approach him with fifteen of the remaining Agori guards. What for, he could only guess.
“General… what are the Skrall doing here? Who let this happen?” Nato asked, still not entirely believing what was before him.
“Guurahk accepted an offer for Iconox to receive the Rock Tribe’s protection in addition to being able to trade for Roxtus’ goods and using Skrall as caravan guards.” FF lowered his head, as if he felt shame. “I know it sounds like a good deal, but, I wasn’t exactly on board with this decision. For some reason, I had a hard time trusting the Rock diplomat, who spoke of the offer at a meeting earlier, on telling the full story. I wish I had spoken up more on my opinions. I felt like I failed an important job.” He lowered his voice. “Now, the Iconox military has mostly become obsolete and it is almost as if Iconox was assimilated into the Rock Tribe, becoming a second Roxtus.”
“Guurahk did what? I met Tuma a few days ago. He doesn’t want to protect the other villages, he wants to rule them. Why would Guurahk agree to something this stupid when he knew I was visiting the other villages to strike up trade deals with them?”
“I suspect he might be collaborating with Tuma behind the scenes, or maybe making up his own secret, complex plan. Either way, I do not know for sure… oh. You’re an… Iron Agori…” FF trailed off, hesitant at the new arrival suddenly accompanying them.
Their conversation had been interrupted by the arrival of Voltex, who had accidentally stumbled upon them.
“Voltex is an ally of mine, one who has no love for the Skrall. You can trust him.” Nato paused, considering something. “Speaking of trust, what do people think of this Skrall takeover?” He lowered his voice, making sure no Skrall were nearby to overhear. “How many of our former troops would be willing to fight back to drive the Skrall out?”
FF responded just as quietly. “There was a public vote going around about the offer while both Smoke Monster; the Rock diplomat; and Guurahk made a speech supporting it. It was apparently a ‘rousing success’ and the majority accepted it.” He looked around, trying to ensure no Skrall overheard. “As for the troops, I have fifteen of them with me, and I heard some more were unwillingly relieved from their positions when the Skrall moved in. We might be able to get a small army.”
“A speech, you say? Well, two can play at that game. I think I have a plan.” Nato, after all, was a diplomat. Speeches, therefore, were natural to him.
Voltex; having been quietly listening until this moment; frowned, holding up the unusual shard he’d recently acquired. “You might have bigger problems,” he said to Nato, ignoring FF, who he did not trust. “This, and five other fragments all fell near the various villages. Sahmad and I recovered this one near Atero… but we were forced to kill one Skrall and maim another while doing so. Another shard has fallen near Iconox, and if these shards all function the same as this one… they are not something we can allow the Skrall to gather.”
Nato briefly considered the nes of the shards. “Hm… one problem at a time, I think. If we can push the Skrall out of Iconox now, while their numbers are low and their grip is weak, we’ll stand a better chance of being able to track down these shards of yours afterward. If we try to do it now, while the Skrall are still in the city, it increases the chances of them catching us and taking the shards.”
“My presence will do you no favours, I’m afraid. Perhaps I can search out the shard while you resolve the issue of the Skrall occupation?” With that, Voltex left, seeking out a second shard to the one he had now.
“Very well. Good luck, my friend.” Nato turned back to FF. “Spread the word to whatever loyal troops you can find; get them ready to fight. I’m about to go and do something very stupid, and I’m going to need some backup.”
FF left to search, knowing exactly where to find the most loyal troops. After all, he was their general, and what good general isn’t acquainted with their troops?
Nato himself then proceeded further into Iconox, now knowing that much had transpired since he had departed from Iconox, and was somewhat displeased that he had not been consulted as part of the decision-making progress - diplomacy was his job, after all. He decided not to take it personally, and publicly proclaimed that he would ensure the transition from being an independent village to a protectorate of the Rock Tribe would go as smoothly as he desired.
As their diplomat, it was his job to inform Iconox’s Agori of the political ramifications of Iconox’s new status, and to alleviate any concerns they may have had. He knew that some agori may be worried that such a major decision had been made without his input, so he knew it would be a good idea if he were to publicly declare how much he supported and accepted this change.
As such, he organised a communal meeting in the village’s centre at midday, where he would deliver a speech to reassure the populace. This was a delicate situation, after all, and the last thing Iconox would want would be discontent among its treasured citizenry.
And so midday came, where he delivered his speech.
Stepping onto the platform, he stood silent for a moment, letting the crowd that had gathered before him quieten down a little before he spoke. Despite making a living out of speaking to the leaders and diplomats of other villages, he appeared visibly uncomfortable in the presence of his own people - or was that the Skrall he could see in the back?
“People of Iconox, I stand before you today with a heavy heart. I have a message I need to give, but I’m not strong enough to deliver it on my own. I’m going to need all of your help… if you’re willing to give it. You chose me to serve as your diplomat, to negotiate on your behalf with the other villages, to protect and preserve your interests, and in that duty, I have failed. I set off a few days ago to visit each of Bara Magna’s settlements, starting with Roxtus. There, I spoke with Tuma himself, and offered him Iconox’s partnership, as equals.”
Nato paused, casting another nervous glance toward the Skrall scattered among the crowd. “He refused my offer. He made it clear to me that he has no interest in being our partner or our protector. Because, as it turns out, Roxtus has its own source of exsidian, which Tuma intended to use to destroy our economy, and force us to bend the knee to him. But now, thanks to our spineless, cowardly excuse for a ruler - a ruler who encourages us to blackmail and belittle the other villages, a ruler who goes behind the back of his own diplomat, a ruler who has no regard for the welfare of his people - Tuma has no need to conquer us. Guurahk gave up our freedom without a fight.”
His hand drifted toward the hilt of his sword, ready to draw it and defend himself if need be. “We are the Ice Tribe! We don’t need the Skrall’s protection, or their partnership! We have the exsidian, we have the high ground, we have the finest Glatorian in the Great Barren, and we have walls that have withstood centuries of war and turmoil. Iconox can withstand whatever Roxtus can throw at us, and Tuma knows it! Why else would he dissolve our military and fill our streets with his servants? He’s afraid of us, because he knows that if we stood against him, united and resolute, he could never take Iconox by force! So let’s prove him right! Attack! We outnumber them thirty to one! Let no Skrall leave Iconox alive!”
Nato’s call for revolution did not succeed. The few who did reach for their weapons were quickly discouraged by their lack of support, and stay their weapons. Instead of a crowd cheering him, like he expected, he found a crowd mocking him.
It dawned on him that Rahkshi Guurahk did not hand over Iconox to the Skrall, like he had implied. No, he recalled what FF had told them.
They willingly voted for this. To one such as Nato, that was a far more horrifying realisation than Rahkshi Guurahk simply handing Iconox over. In the back of the crowd, he could already see a few Skrall dashing to get Iconox’s leader, while four more were heading straight for him.
This, of course, looked like the end for Nato.
-WHITE QUARTZ MOUNTAINS-
IC: Voltex (All)
He looked at the sky. The sun was still in the right place - a sign he had not gotten lost. He’d gone through many confusing ascents and descents through the mountains and the valleys between them, and the fact that it was getting colder only reinforced his knowledge that he was going the right way.
Yet in the dark corners and edges around the mountains, he thought he saw strange things watching him, shining in the little light upon them. Slightly unnerved, Voltex put the shard he’d been carrying in his hand through a torn piece of cloak into his satchel, pulling out his sword with his free hand while he continued, wary.
Looking away from the now-setting sun, he saw something strange. At the foot of the mountain he saw before him, the mountain’s slope abruptly stopped into a crater. He shuddered as he saw what was covering almost all of the crater: slithering worms, of a variety usually found underground.
With distaste, he examined the crater further. Ugh. It would be me who has to deal with this, too. He wasn’t about to go blindly in - generally, going into slithering masses of worms did not end well. He sheathed his sword, and carefully pulled out a thornax fruit, rolling it into the worms. A rock might have been safer, but a thornax was similar to his own flesh, if the worms were to eat the flesh of living beings.
He watched as the worms slithered over the thornax as it comes to a stop, yet did not seem to consume it. It seemed as if they were incapable of consuming anything larger than themselves, thankfully enough. Double-checking his ruined hand to make sure it was still wrapped before drawing his sword again, he took a few steps forward toward the crater, stopping just before the worms as he impaled one on the the edge of his sword. It tried to wiggle free, yet soon stopped, presumably dead.
Voltex took a step in. Immediately, worms were slithering on his foot. Alright, nope, I can’t do this. He sheathed his sword, took a step back at, and armed his thornax launcher. He fired it, and suddenly, there was the sound of a massive splat, following by many more quieter but similar sounds. In the midst of many worm corpses, he saw something shining fly up into the air, landing just outside the perimeter of the crater across from himself.
He walked around the crater, keeping an eye out for possible threats. Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw the same strange thing watching him, though he did not seem to be in immediate danger. He approached what he could only guess was another shard, though there were a few stray worms on it, which he nudged away with his empty thornax launcher. As he did so, he noticed that a worm on the shard suddenly became two, perhaps explaining the sheer number of worms in the crater. He noticed he was still being watched, and armed his thornax launcher.
He picked up the shard with his wrapped hand, strange things still watching him.
IC: Smoke Monster (All), ShadowVezon (All), Onaku (After Entrance)
Smoke Monster entered the Tuma’s chamber, seeking out not Tuma; who he knew was away at Atero; but ShadowVezon. Cordially, he shook ShadowVezon’s hands. “Hello, ShadowVezon, It feels like I haven’t seen you in forever!” He paused. “Anyways, while I was at Iconox, I heard something strange is afoot at the foot of one of the mountains north of that village. I wasn’t able to pinpoint which one though. I wanted to see if I could take some Rock Agori with me to these mountains to see if I could investigate this. There could be something useful there.”
“Is there any rumour on what could be over there?” ShadowVezon asked, unsure what, if anything, could be of use to fortify the might of the Skrall.
Their conversation was interrupted by the arrival of Onaku, who also sought out ShadowVezon for a meeting. Having overheard part of the above conversation, he offered: “If you’re taking my men to Iconox on some scavenger hunt, then I’m coming along too. I assume I’m not currently needed here in Roxtus anyway, ShadowVezon?”
Replying to ShadowVezon, Smoke Monster answered. “I believe it to be a piece of the strange object that fell from the sky not too long ago. It could be a valuable item for us, so I would be interested in finding it if I can.” Turning to Onaku, he bowed. “I would be okay with you tagging along. I would actually prefer it, as there is safety in numbers.”
ShadowVezon spoke up. “There is nothing at present you are needed for here in Roxtus, Onaku.” He turned his head to Smoke Monster, slightly skeptical. “If your belief is correct, then an investigation would be wise. You and Onaku may take as many men as you deem necessary.”
So it would be, that the three Rock Agori had no idea what they were getting into. They, indeed, would be most surprised with what they would soon found at Iconox.
IC: Nato (All), FF (All), Rahkshi Guurahk (All), Toru (All)
Nato drew his blade as he retreated. His call for revolution had been a failure, and Skrall were heading for him. No doubt he would either soon be executed or exiled, depending on how merciful Rahskshi Guurahk, Tuma, and the Skrall were feeling.
With what he thought would be his last breaths, his voice boomed out, louder than he would ever have thought possible. “How can this be what you want?! We had it all! What are the Skrall offering that we couldn’t already take for ourselves? They offered you protection, and instead they gave you a measly hundred warriors to defend a village of thousands. Our army was four times that big, and where is our army now? Gone! Because the Skrall don’t want anyone standing in their way when they decide to murder you all in your homes! Stand against them now, while you still can!” He pleaded, again and again. For a few seconds, it felt like time had slowed down.
And then his words started ringing true in many minds. One agori spoke up of their concerns, soon joined by another, and then a few more still emboldened by the courage of the first few, until there was a cacophony of concerned voices, having been made to think about Nato’s words.
It was not all of the crowd before him, merely a half, but for Nato, that was enough to stand a chance. His luck, it seemed, had turned almost completely around, going from a first-minute failure to a last-minute success.
Especially as General FF had appeared at the back of the crowd, leading eighty-five troops, seventy of which were recently unwillingly relieved of their jobs.
Especially as the crowd began to riot against itself, and he saw something that he did most want to see.
He saw the first Skrall fall. The unbeatable warriors, slain by a few Agori.
Iconox’s civil war had begun.
IC: Sahmad (All), Tuma (All), Pahrak (All), Luroka (All)
Tuma dashed toward Sahmad, ready to carry the momentum over into his massive sword. Sahmad tried to dart between his legs, scratching Tuma’s legs, yet as he got back up he found his arm slashed by the edge of Tuma’s sword, Tuma having spun around with the momentum. Concentrating, Sahmad darted towards Tuma’s left leg, grabbing hold of it while narrowly avoiding getting beheaded. Immediately, he found himself sent flying off as Tuma shook the leg, and he collided into the arena wall.
But he got up, and waited for Tuma to come to him - exactly what Tuma did. As Tuma rushed towards him, he utilised the wall to jump and flip onto Tuma’s back, where he noted a strange wound unlike any he had ever seen. He immediately thrust his sword into it, and Tuma grunted in pain, something he did not think he would hear. But he was interrupted by the head of a Skrall exploding all over his body, sending him falling to the ground as Tuma turned around. He quickly rolled away, yet found a blunt object collide with his right leg - Tuma’s thornax launcher. Tuma growled, yet he paused as he snapped one of the Skrall blades on his back off, wielding it in his hand.
Sahmad took advantage of the slight pause, and fired his own thornax launcher, stunning Tuma as he slid underneath Tuma, trying to trip him with his whip. Rather, he found that his whip was cut in half as Tuma brought his Skrall blade down, then found that Tuma’s massive sword cut a few fingers off of his left hand. Sahmad, in response, tossed his whip aside, and dashed towards the walls of the arena again, once again awaiting Tuma.
This time, he did not use the wall. He brought his sword up to Tuma’s massive one as Tuma attempted to swing, and hopped his feet up on Tuma’s Skrall Blade as it approached him, his head now staring Tuma’s. He grunted, as did Tuma.
And then Sahmad’s blade broke, being ages old and in dire need of repair. Tuma’s massive sword cut straight through his legs, leaving him lying on the floor, not unlike the Skrall he had maimed.
The last thing he saw was Tuma’s foot coming down upon his head.
Sahmad had lost. A foregone conclusion to all watching.
IC: Timelord (All), Lan (All)
Timelord stared at Orkahm in shock. What are we going to do? He thought to himself. “I would imprison those responsible. Why, do you know something I should know?”
“We would imprison those responsible until we found a suitable punishment for them.” Lan said, making his entrance after hearing Orkahm’s words, in an odd, almost angry tone of voice. The idea of setting one of Tesara’s villages ablaze disgusted him. He took a seat, and shot an angry look at Orkahm. He had only just met them, and already disliked the Agori.
Orkahm snorted, ignoring Lan. “I know a lot. There will always be tension in Tesara as long as you rule.” He looked through a window, staring at the sky. “Our General is not present, and neither is our Glatorian. To some, it looks as if he has abandoned his post. Quite a few of his troops are indeed very fond of the Skrall, they are a military marvel after all. They’re quite frustrated with both their inaction and Tesara’s, which they attribute to the other village being vehemently against the Skrall. Now, if that village were to, say, disappear, there would be much less opposition to joining the Skrall.”
Orkahm smiled. There was a chilling smugness to it. “Imagine if a discontented, concerned, and frustrated Jungle Agori convinced fifty-five troops to burn down the other village under the cover of night. Imagine if the remaining village then pointed out such things would never happen under the Skrall. Imagine if the Agori known as Orkahm even convinced one of Timelord’s guards to join in. Imagine that Orkahm’s plans are already in motion, and that he has delivered himself to Timelord for justice before it all even happened. But not because he regrets.” Orkahm winked at Timelord and Lan, then bowed.
Timelord quickly whipped out a loaded thornax launcher he had carried with him, and pointed it at Orkahm. “Move one inch, and you are dead, you filthy, traitorous swine.”
Lan’s eyes widened as he heard Orkahm. The meticulous detail he had gone into describing his ‘hypothetical’ plan was horrifying, his smugness about it only making it worse. Lan joined Timelord in drawing his weapon, darting behind Orkahm and drawing his knife across Orkahm’s throat. “I would listen to him if I were you,” he whispered. “He is a very good shot with that thing.”
Orkahm laughed within his head. He had left out some very important details.
Timelord’s eyes burned with hatred. “To think I tried my best to help you in easing tensions a few days ago. But no, you just want cruelty to get cruelty. You claim I mistreat your village while planning a genocide over a political situation. Any chance of Tesara joining the Skrall is GONE, as soon as Tesara refuses the offer. Lan, keep him here while I get the negotiation tools.”
Timelord walked over to a bookcase, revealing the same weapon stash he drew a thornax launcher from, and pulled out a thin blade made of the finest exsidian. He held it over a candle flame, trying to heat it up. “Lan, guards, tie up the traitor - I’ll get him to talk.” Timelord looked at Orkahm with a sinister smile as he pointed his thornax launcher at him.
Orkahm was delighted by Timelord’s reaction, but clearly not because he enjoyed pain - but because he was willing to die for his cause.
Lan raised his voice. “Leader Timelord, are you sure that is a good idea? Maiming the leader of the pro-Skrall movement will most likely incite the anger of the entire pro-Skrall village, leading to the torching of the anti-Skrall village even sooner. I suggest we imprison him immediately and think this through a bit more.”
Timelord dropped the now-hot blade, and turned to Lan, nodding. “You would be right, but I want guards at his cell at all times. If he escapes, it will be their heads along with his. I got a bit carried away there.” Timelord kept the thornax launcher pointed at Orkahm, sat down, and sipped his tea. Calming down, he suggested, “We need to prepare the ant-Skrall village against such an attack. We need water buckets, sand buckets, and to find the fifty-five soldiers planning the attack and stop them.”
Lan nodded. “I will see to the firefighting preparations. Seeing as the pro-Skrall village thinks you are a puppet, I think you should deal with Orkahm’s co-conspirators. Show them that you are a firm Leader and not the pretender they hold you to be.” With that, Lan left to escort Orkahm to prison alongside four guards.
Timelord nodded, and left his hut to address the two guards standing outside. “Guards, we will go to the pro-Skrall village. There is a movement of fifty-five troops that wish to burn down the other village, we will find and imprison them, and show me to the hut of Orkahm. I want all documents raided from it - this is important business.”
Timelord was shown to Orkahm’s hut, and began to look for anything that could help prevent the other village from being torched down, when his eyes came across an important-looking notebook. Within, it listed the names of the guards of the pro-Skrall village, and as he flicked through, he noticed that several were circled.
He handed the notebook to one of the guards accompanying him, and ordered them to “Arrest these individuals - they are the fifty-five traitors to Tesara.”
Time passed, and Timelord returned to his hut. Immediately, he was informed forty-eight of the traitors had been arrested, though many seemed to protest as if unaware of their own treason. As they passed Orkahm in the prison, Orkahm reportedly yelled that they were ‘a disgrace to the cause!’
Timelord soon found himself summoned to the prison by a guard, Orkahm apparently having an urgent message for him. As he walked, he stopped to observe Lan in the anti-Skrall village, who was making a speech after having fortified the village against its would-be torchers. Lan stood atop a tall tree stump, and was addressing the many present.
“Citizens of this village of Tesara! I come bearing grievous news! Leader Timelord and I have discovered a plot to set your homes ablaze this night. The Agori known as Orkahm intends to do this as a statement of Tesara’s weakness and inability to remain unified. We have arrested Orkahm, but he has accomplices, some of which may go through with their leader’s plan. You must prepare yourselves, you must gather as many buckets as you can, and fill them with water and sand. Whatever you can find to extinguish flames, use it! See, the night will be here soon, and the hour of action may well come with it. If you wish to prove both Orkahm and yourselves that he is wrong, that Tesara can stand strong and united, then heed my words!”
The crowd seemed strangely emboldened by this, moreso than expected. Their resolve had been strengthened, and they seemed certain nobody would torch down their village.
Soon, Lan found a guard summoning to the prison, Orkahm also having a message for him. He joined Timelord, and the two entered the prison.
In the prison, they saw Orkahm smiling at them, slumped in the corner. “Timelord, Lan… tell me, did you ever stop to consider I may have been telling a half truth? That there was no plot to burn down the other village? That the fifty- five guards I told you about were not planning to burn the other village down, but rather the ones most loyal and steadfast to you? And you went and imprisoned them! But now the other village is prepared to defend itself, with most supplies gone to defend it, and it’s only emboldened in doing so.”
He paused, and laughed.
“Because everything I told you… was the wrong way round.”
He laughed more.
And it dawned upon Timelord and Lan. The pro-Skrall village would not burn down the anti-Skrall village.
The anti-Skrall village would burn down the pro-Skrall village.
They’d sent most supplies to defend the anti-Skrall village. They’d imprisoned the most loyal guards of the pro-Skrall village. They’d imprisoned the pro-Skrall village’s most outspoken Agori. They’d told the anti-Skrall village to stand tall. General Hyethut was not present to help stop this. Neither was Andekas.
And they looked out the windows of the prison, where the stars were not the only things illuminating the sky. The night skies were alight with flame.
The pro-Skrall village was burning, and Orkahm died as Timelord’s thornax exploded in his face.
END OF EPISODE FOUR!
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