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BZP's GAME OF THRONES: SEASON 3

BZPGOT Voltex Onaku Okoto

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233 replies to this topic

#161 Offline Rassilon (TTL)

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Posted Feb 14 2018 - 05:58 PM

Wait are you saying I'm the new plot device of BZPGOT?
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#162 Offline Nato The Traveler

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Posted Feb 14 2018 - 06:59 PM

I agree with me. 

 

I demand #PayriseForNato


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#163 Offline Lucina

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Posted Feb 14 2018 - 09:19 PM

I agree with me. 

 

I demand #PayriseForNato

 

I am now increasing your wage

 

You'll get paid twice as much per minute, but with half the minutes


Wait are you saying I'm the new plot device of BZPGOT?

 

yes


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#164 Offline Rassilon (TTL)

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Posted Feb 14 2018 - 09:37 PM


Wait are you saying I'm the new plot device of BZPGOT?


yes
*Looks over script sees major plot developments around Rassilon and Pythia characters*

I request my own private make-up trailer and a raise.

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#165 Offline Onaku

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Posted Feb 15 2018 - 04:03 AM

*Sighs* Well, I guess this is what happens when we're generous to our castmembers. *Takes out gun*


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#166 Offline Rassilon (TTL)

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Posted Feb 15 2018 - 07:25 AM

*Sighs* Well, I guess this is what happens when we're generous to our castmembers. *Takes out gun*

*sees gun*
On second thought, just the make-up trailer. Who needs extra money anyway?
*slowly backing away from Onaku*

Edited by Rassilon (TTL), Feb 15 2018 - 07:26 AM.

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#167 Offline Nato The Traveler

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Posted Feb 15 2018 - 08:12 AM

Who needs extra money anyway?

 

Not Onaku, if he can afford a gun. He should probably sell that thing off. The money could be put towards a higher CGI budget. We don't want any Justice League-esque facial hair mishaps here. 


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#168 Offline Finch

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Posted Feb 15 2018 - 11:54 AM

wait, we're supposed to be PAID for this?!


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#169 Offline Dallior

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Posted Feb 15 2018 - 01:16 PM

*from within padded security cell*

I'm just happy to be part of the team, haha... *Cries*


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"Remember when the comics forum had a lot of good stuff? Let's make that a thing again." -Kazi the Matoran


#170 Offline Dane.

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Posted Feb 15 2018 - 01:43 PM

give me a single minute of screentime pls


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"I'll be in my bunk."

 

Corpus profiles: Rider Shield Eps Paladin Crate Thud


#171 Offline Rassilon (TTL)

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Posted Feb 15 2018 - 11:02 PM

*runs into padded security cell with Dallior still dressed in the Sahmad costume*

We're safer in here. Onaku has a gun!

*balls up in the corner hoping someone will take the gun away from Onaku*

Edited by Rassilon (TTL), Feb 15 2018 - 11:03 PM.

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#172 Offline Onaku

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Posted Feb 16 2018 - 10:01 AM

Not Onaku, if he can afford a gun. He should probably sell that thing off. The money could be put towards a higher CGI budget. We don't want any Justice League-esque facial hair mishaps here.


Nato, you are getting a CGI mustache and you will like it.

Edited by Onaku, Feb 16 2018 - 10:01 AM.

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#173 Offline Lucina

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Posted Feb 18 2018 - 01:04 PM

Here's a small teaser for Episode 2 while I continue to work on it:

 

-

 

They had left Captain Garan in command of Qendroj City. With the looming threat of the Rahkshi Vorahk still present, Luroka didn’t wish to risk anything. The Rahkshi had been content to wander the Barren so far, but there was no knowing how long that would last… and, with his scouting party having never returned, they no longer had eyes on its location.

 

So, with Onua and twenty Protectors in tow (four of his own Earth Protectors, and sixteen of the loaned Fire Protectors), Luroka entered the Barren. Unfortunately, it didn’t take them very long to find the beginning of Vorahk’s trail. It was less than an hour before they discovered what was left of the scouting party – or rather, the shrivelled husks that used to be the scouting party.

 

“Everyone, be alert,” Luroka said, crouching next to one of the husks. “We’re dealing with a dangerous hunter.”

 

“Look at them,” one of the Fire Protectors said, sounding horrified. “What the heck does this thing do?”

 

“I doubt it’s pleasant, which is why we need to deal with it,” Luroka said grimly.

 

Onua nudged one of the husks with his foot. “It looks like it absorbed them somehow,” the Toa said. “Be on your guard. If you begin feeling tired, warn us all immediately. I’ve heard reports that the Rahkshi roaming Aodhiim emits an aura of fear around itself – it’s possible that this Rahkshi does something similar.”

 

Luroka clutched his staff tighter. It was made of sturdy oak carved into an intricate design, reinforced with a steel that he suspected was of magical origins. “I reckon you’re right.”

 

“Check it out,” one of the others called from up ahead. “There’s a trail leading southeast. Dead plants and animals. Looks like they’re all husks too.”

 

“Then we have a path to follow,” Luroka said, standing. “Let’s proceed.”


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#174 Offline Toru Nui

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Posted Feb 18 2018 - 02:28 PM

Hunting the most dangerous game...

 

Slugs in giant mech suits.


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NOT READING THIS IN THE MATORAN FONT ARE WE

WELL THAT CAN EASILY BE REMEDIED

http://www.fonts2u.com/matoran.font

 

:infected:


#175 Offline Onaku

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Posted Feb 19 2018 - 04:00 AM

You have no idea... not yet, anyway


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#176 Offline Rassilon (TTL)

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Posted Feb 19 2018 - 07:18 AM

You have no idea... not yet, anyway

Well that doesn't sound suspicious at all.

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#177 Offline Finch

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Posted Feb 19 2018 - 08:59 AM

look on the bright side.

 

they can't pull you through time.


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#178 Offline Lucina

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Posted Feb 19 2018 - 04:11 PM

For those not on discord, I'm hoping to have e2 ready tomorrow.
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#179 Offline Lucina

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Posted Feb 19 2018 - 07:47 PM

Another teaser for Episode 2: Divided We Fall. Rassilon finds the Creature of Jungle...

 

-

 

As he followed the creature, he overheard chatter that Reyna Saryian and Toa Lewa had slain the Rahkshi. Hinterhall itself was still in chaos, thanks in no small part to the fact that Makani Chloe had apparently done nothing at all since before the attack. But the Makani’s approach to ruling wasn’t Rassilon’s business right now, and as he made it to the outskirts of the city, he saw the creature dive into the trees not too far away.

 

Thank you, Bota, he thought, before frowning. Or Ma? Whatever.

 

Curious to see the Creature of Jungle, and wondering if it had broken free of the Mask of Control’s influence, Rassilon crept further into the jungle. He made sure to stay hidden in the bushes as he made his approach, his armor blending into the landscape, and he had his twin blades at his sides, just in case the encounter turned into a hostile one.

 

After a few moments, he spotted the Creature of Jungle up ahead, perched on the branch of a tree. Taking a deep breath, he stepped out into the open, carefully making his way toward the creature. Its wings shone in the sunlight, brighter than the finest emerald, and he took a moment to appreciate how majestic the creature truly was before speaking.

 

“Hello, Uxar,” he said, keeping his voice soft to avoid frightening the creature, which was now staring down at him, its eyes shining with intelligence once more. “I’m glad to see you free, and back in your element. Don’t be frightened. I want to help Okoto, keep it safe from people like those who controlled you. I’m here as a friend.”

 

He bowed respectfully to the creature. A few seconds later, Uxar fluttered down to a lower branch so that it was eye level with him. Its head tilted curiously, and Rassilon felt a strange sensation, as though someone were brushing their hand gently across his mind. It was a rather surreal experience.

 

Confused, yet certain that this was something of Uxar’s doing, Rassilon spoke again. “I’ve lived a long life, full of other people’s conflicts. Noble Creature of Jungle, I know you are key to stopping the Great War… but I can’t let them control you again.”

 

The feeling in his mind intensified as Uxar’s eyes fixed on his own, almost as if it was searching for something. Rassilong felt the words of Karamu called to his mind; Proud and Free.

 

“I’m not proud of Makani Chloe,” he said. “But I’m trying my best to stop her, and free Karamu from her influence. I know we’re a people to be proud of, and I know we can be proud of ourselves again. I know that we can keep our freedom through peace, not war. Maybe we can’t live up to those words yet… but one day, I know we can.”

 

He had a feeling that Uxar seemed to agree – and then the Creature of Jungle lunged at him, latching onto his back.

 

Rassilon screamed as he felt a terrible, terrible pain… and then everything went black.


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#180 Offline Lucina

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Posted Feb 22 2018 - 11:47 AM

Fingers crossed that I'll finish Episode 2 tonight. In the meantime, have an ominous teaser from the Jungle:

 

-

 

Reyna closed her eyes tightly for a moment to try and regain her composure, and then snapped them open as she dashed off after the Rahkshi. She and her remaining guards passed by the Purple Oasis – which had now been abandoned – and spotted Lerahk on the next street. She ran closer, trying to get its attention.

 

“Hey Slug Face!” she called. “You’re going to answer for what you did!”

 

Lerahk turned at the sound of her voice – and then, on a rooftop behind it, she saw a familiar figure wearing the Mask of Control.

 

Oh no.

 

She pointed the crossbow at Lerahk with a grim look on her face. “What are you waiting for?”

 

Lerahk moved to lunge at her – only to be yanked back as several vines wrapped around its arms and legs. Toa Lewa stepped out onto the street, his eyes still strangely blank. He was, curiously, back to his old form, from before he had united with the Creature of Jungle. Reyna glanced back up to the roof. The figure had not moved, though they seemed fixated on Lerahk and Lewa. Lerahk, meanwhile, had snapped two of the vines, and now swung its staff at Lewa, who ducked.

 

Biting her lip, Reyna kept the crossbow pointed at Lerahk, trying to wait for the opportunity to freeze it again. A vine ripped away Lerahk’s staff, and the Rahkshi opened its faceplate to screech at Lewa.

 

Without hesitating, she fired. The crossbow immediately fell apart in her hands, but it worked – the bolt of time energy flew until it struck Lerahk, who froze.

 

“Now!” she yelled. “That’s it’s weak point!”

 

Lewa reached in and grabbed the slug-like creature, ripping it out of what was a mere suit of armor. The Toa’s hand turned black upon contact with the creature. Reyna’s guards raced forward, each chopping down with their swords and slicing the creature into three pieces as it hit the pavement. As soon as the creature died, its armor began to rust and flake away in the breeze as the time freeze failed.

 

Reyna glanced back up at the figure on the roof, only to find that they had vanished – and when she turned her attention back to the street, Lewa was gone too.

 

What the…? She frowned. “Where did Lewa go?”

 

“He just left,” one of the guards said, sounding as confused as she felt. “Not sure why. Or where.”

 

Something felt off about the whole situation. “Let’s get back to the palace,” she said.

 

How was he back in his original form? She thought as they made their way to the palace. Why did mother step in?

 

-

 

When they arrived, they found the palace oddly silent… and suspiciously empty.

 

“Be on your guard,” Reyna said, drawing her sword as the three Protectors with her did the same. “I don’t like the look of this…”

 

They progressed through the halls of the palace cautiously but quickly, and soon, surprisingly, came across Lan Lasang, Diplomat of Karamu.

 

“Lan?” Reyna asked, startled. “What’s going on?”

 

“I have no idea,” the Diplomat said, scowling. “I’ve been in a cell for the past… who knows how long.”

 

“How did you get out? And what did you do? I only heard vague mentions from Nidhiki before…” she trailed off and closed her eyes, pushing the memory of Tanma’s horrified face out of her mind. “Nevermind. Let’s go. Something really doesn’t feel right here.”

 

With Lan in tow, she made her way as quickly as she could to the throne room. Its doors were shut once more, but both of its guards were slumped on the floor. Each now sat in a puddle of their own blood, their throats slit open. Her heart racing, Reyna pushed the doors open, avoiding the two guards.

 

She immediately spotted her mother. Makani Chloe was seated in her throne, staring at them down the hall. Toa Lewa was nowhere to be seen, and the Mask of Control sat on the floor before the throne. Reyna cautiously stepped forward. “Mother?”

 

The Makani did not respond.

 

Gripping her sword tightly, she walked toward the Mask of Control, and toward Chloe. As she neared them, she noticed something… off about the mask, and about Chloe. Ignoring the mask for the moment, Reyna reached out and poked her mother. Chloe didn’t react at all… except for her head to fall off her torso.

 

Reyna shrieked as she recoiled, her gaze snapping away from the corpse in the throne and the head now resting in its lap. Swallowing thickly, and trembling, she retreated and knelt by the Mask of Control. As she did so, she accidentally nudged the mask – which was enough for the Mask of Control to split into two pieces.

 

Someone had killed her mother. Someone had broken the Mask of Control, so that it could never be used again.


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#181 Offline Terrorsaur: Drunken Khan

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Posted Feb 22 2018 - 04:04 PM

This new teaser pleases me
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#182 Offline Rassilon (TTL)

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Posted Feb 22 2018 - 10:16 PM

If I find a IC reason to hate Sahmad I'm killing him. You don't just go breaking mask of power.
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#183 Offline Lucina

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Posted Feb 22 2018 - 10:19 PM

If I find a IC reason to hate Sahmad I'm killing him. You don't just go breaking mask of power.

 

who says it was Sahmad?

 

also, the mask was being used to literally mind control people with free will, so it's understandable why the murderer would break it.


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#184 Offline Rassilon (TTL)

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Posted Feb 22 2018 - 11:04 PM


If I find a IC reason to hate Sahmad I'm killing him. You don't just go breaking mask of power.

who says it was Sahmad?

also, the mask was being used to literally mind control people with free will, so it's understandable why the murderer would break it.
The mind controlling people thing was bad but the mask could have been a way to control Keetongou potentially.
Also just going off of OOC evidence Sahmad could easily teleport into the room and kill her and escape with no one knowing and have the knowledge on how to destroy the mask.
Also he already told me in character he wanted her out of power, so there is a motive.

Then again this is BZPGOT and anything can happen. Also your the host of the game and I should stop talking now.

Edited by Rassilon (TTL), Feb 22 2018 - 11:05 PM.

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#185 Offline Lucina

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Posted Feb 24 2018 - 04:29 PM

 

Episode Two

“Divided We Fall”

(Part I)

 

-The North-

-Rilgivi Nivis-

IC: Rilgivi

 

Rilgivi had led twelve hundred soldiers in search of the Rahkshi Kurahk. The blistering winds and the blinding snow they carried had made the search difficult, and even for the Protectors of Ice, the thick layer of snow under their feet slowed their pace significantly. The storm they were in the middle of was turning out to be a particularly bad one, and frustration was mounting.

 

“Hey! Stop pushing me!” she suddenly heard someone shout behind her.

 

As the sounds of aggression began to spread throughout the soldiers, Rilgivi smiled slyly. “Halt our march!” She commanded. “We are discontent, frustrated, and angry. Soldiers, the creature we hunt endangers us all – it wants us to be angry. It wants you to take your rage out on each other. I say, all the better! That anger, that discontent, can be weaponised into fury! Fury that we shall use against the Rahkshi. The Rahkshi controls anger, but it has made the last mistake it will ever make, for what weapon is greater than the fury of a united army? Weaponize your anger, weaponize your discontent! Turn it against the Rahkshi, and make it regret messing with the army of the North!”

 

The snow storm continued to hinder her sight as she tried to search for any signs of Kurahk. Following her speech several of the soldiers cheered, though from most she heard only unenthusiastic murmurs of agreement.

 

“Stalk our prey!” she called. “Keep watch on all sides! We will tear this creature limb from limb, delight in its blood, and show that we are not ones to be messed with!”

 

Rilgivi herself was struggling to contain her own frustrations. Anger at the Khan for infecting the North, at the one responsible for the plague, and with her own failed search thus far continued to mount, and with each passing second it became harder to resist. The struggle was so natural, and so gradual, that Rilgivi found herself uncertain; was the source truly external, or was her inner resentment spilling forth?

 

Despite her words of warning, as the army continued to march, tensions continued to rise. She turned just in time to witness two of her soldiers begin fighting.

 

“If you cannot act like soldiers, leave,” she said, as four other soldiers stepped in to pull the fighters apart. She took a deep breath to calm herself, but her fury was too great; she was barely resisting the urge to punch them both herself. “When we return to Grave’s Peak, you will both be punished appropriately.”

 

“That’s right, keep it together!” a soldier further back yelled.

 

“Shut up, you ain’t the commander!” another called.

 

“Both of you cool it!”

 

“Don’t tell me what to do!”

 

Soon enough, the entire group had devolved into bickering. The two soldiers who had been fighting before were now brawling, egged on by a few bystanders.

 

Insubordinate, Rilgivi fumed, her fists clenched at her sides. Pathetic! They aren’t even bothering to listen to me! How am I supposed to keep these animals in check?!

 

The fighting spread like wildfire. What had been a disciplined force only minutes before had now devolved into a riot.

 

“Enough!” Rilgivi yelled. “Enough of this pettiness, you undisciplined curs! Are you unfit for life outside a cage? Stand down! I will personally execute the soldier who started this mess, and any who continue to participate!”

 

Without waiting for any of the soldiers to obey, driven by the adrenaline racing through her and the blood pumping in her veins, Rilgivi drew her sword and stepped toward the two soldiers who had started the fighting. With one clean stroke, she beheaded first one, and then the other, feeling a rush of euphoria as she did so. It felt good to deal out justice like this, to act on her fury.

 

Suddenly, another soldier knocked her down into the snow. As he lay there on top of her, practically foaming at the mouth, he raised a fist to punch her only to receive a sword through the head from another soldier. As she shoved the corpse away, her saviour turned away, swinging his sword at his next target. All around her, the snow was running red with blood.

 

Words are wasted on these mongrels, Rilgivi realized, barely able to even think around the cloud of rage that had consumed her mind. I must kill the insubordinates, and all who defy my command! First them, then Khan Nato, and then the rest of the island! Every last Protector who does not bow, who does not follow command! I will crush the disease, right here, right now!

 

Without a second thought, Rilgivi began killing her own soldiers. Each stroke of the blade felt righteous, every dead or dying soldier in her wake a testament to her new vow. She made no exceptions, not even for those soldiers she stumbled across who seemed to cower rather than fight. They had to be punished as well.

 

They must all be punished, they will all question my commands some day. Kill them all!

 

Kill them all!

 

KILL THEM ALL!

 

-

 

She found herself standing in the icy tundra of the North. The once snowy ground around her was littered with the brutalised corpses of her men, soaked red and brown the blood and muck. The blade of her sword was caked with blood, and her armor was the same. As she caught her breath, she saw a handful of other soldiers standing among the corpses. They all looked the same as she felt; confused, numb, exhausted, and filthy.

 

With the snow storm finally faltering, she noticed something else in the distance – a humanoid serpentine being with bulky armor, white and covered in spikes. It carried over its shoulder a long staff with ornate spear heads on either end, and was leisurely approaching them.

 

She pointed at the creature, arm shaking. “That thing. It’s approaching….”

 

Her surviving soldiers slowly made their way to her, warily glancing behind them at the approaching Rahkshi. One of the survivors was unfortunate, having been at the edge of the massacre closest to the approaching monster – and before they could even begin to escape, Kurahk’s staff pierced through their chest. Not slowed by the merciless kill, the Rahkshi removed its staff and continued its unwavering advance.

 

One of her soldiers, still looking over their shoulder at the approaching enemy, finally reached Rilgivi, a numb look of exhaustion and despair on her face. “G-general… we can’t fight it… we’re too few. Too spent. Wh-what do we do?”

 

Rilgivi shook her head. “We… we draw it to where its attention doesn’t go unnoticed. Run to Grave’s Peak, gather any support we run into. Issue an emergency… hopefully the creature doesn’t feel empowered.”

 

“We can’t take it to Grave’s Peak,” the soldier – whom Rilgivi now recognized as Macku Greavesey, who had been one of the more notable recent recruits – protested. “There are thousands of people there! If it does to them what it did to us… think of what would happen!”

 

“She’s right,” another soldier said quietly.

 

Macku, now shaking, looked back at the still advancing Rahkshi before turning to her. “I think we need to lose it. Either that, or… we need to find something worse.”

 

The rest of the survivors – only thirteen in total, Rilgivi noticed – made their way over. They now all looked to her for guidance, some still glancing worryingly back at Kurahk.

 

“Then we find something worse,” Rilgivi decided. “The strange weather and Kopaka were both most recently sighted south. We find one of them.”

 

The Kurahk was very close now – close enough that, should it wish to close the gap and kill them all now, she knew it could. Without another word, Rilgivi turned to run, her soldiers following behind – though ‘running’ would be an overstatement. With the condition they were in, it was nothing more than the Kurahk’s malicious grace that allowed them to stay ahead of it, as it continued to advance.

 

It was nothing, if not patient.

 

-The South, Burned Harbor-

-Pythia Rayne-

IC: Pythia

 

Pythia sat in a local bar on the outskirts of Burned Harbor, scanning the room. She had been there for about an hour already. Emptying her latest drink, she decided to ask the bartender a few questions while waiting for her refill.

 

Hopefully she could find a lead to Handric Sayle – and the origins of the magical talismans she had been tracking – soon.

 

The bartender was wiping the counter with a tattered cloth as she approached. He looked at her once before finishing up the counter and bending down behind it, before standing straight again and setting an empty glass on the counter. “What’ll it be?”

 

“Something strong.” She waited for the bartender to pour her drink before asking, “maybe you can help me find someone in town?”

 

“Who’re ya lookin’ for?”

 

The smell alone from the drink that the bartender had poured her had Pythia resisting the urge to cough. She briefly wondered if Terrorsaur would consider it too strong.

 

Probably not.

 

“I’m looking for Handric Sayle,” she said.

 

The bartender’s expression became grim. “Aye, I’ve heard o’ him. And met him. Why’re ya lookin’ for him?”

 

Pythia took the tiniest sip and regretted it immediately, grimacing as she forced herself to swallow. She set the disquieting liquor down before taking a broken amulet out of her pocket and setting it on the bar.

 

“I was told he might know whoever is responsible for these,” she said. “I was given this one by a mother who lost her son to its magics. I’m here to stop it from happening again.”

 

The bartender’s expression softened. “Talkin’ to Miss Rafte, have ye? Aye, terrible, what happened to her son. I’d recommend the trader’s route west of here. That’s where that soft gut merchant always travels.”

 

“Thank you sir.”

 

She paid for the drink and swiped the broken amulet back into her pocket before exiting the bar. It didn’t take her long to find the route outside of town, nor did it take her much longer to find someone walking the road, escorted by two burly mercenary types. They pulled a beast of burden behind them, carrying supplies and other wares.

 

Pythia shifted her cloak to hide her sword from view, before walking up to them. “Hello, merchant. Do you happen to have anything worth giving as a gift? I’m headed to a family reunion, and forgot to purchase something in town.”

 

“A gift, you say? Well, I do happen to be selling some beautiful trinkets,” the merchant said. “Made from the finest materials straight from Last Rest. Gemstones, metals. Here, I’ll show you one.”

 

The merchant pulled a small box out of one of the bags and opened it to reveal… an ornamental paper weight. It was crafted from fine silver metal with gilded edges, holding three beautiful azure gems… but it wasn’t a talisman.

 

“What do you think?” the merchant asked.

 

“That is quite beautiful,” Pythia admitted, reaching into her pocket and pulling out the talisman. “But I was looking for something similar to this.”

 

The merchant visibly paled, clearly recognizing the amulet, and Pythia realized this must be Handric Sayle. “Wh’where did you get that?!”

 

“A grieving mother gave it to me. It caused her son Amlynn grievous injuries. How is it that a necklace could do such a thing?”

 

“Look, lady, I don’t want no trouble,” Handric said, holding his hands out beseechingly. “I didn’t know they could be dangerous, alright? I swear! Guys, back me up here!”

 

The two mercenaries now stepped forward, raising their arms.

 

“I’ve already lost business in Burned Harbor thanks to these dammed talismans,” Handric said. “I don’t want anything to do with them anymore. Whatever happened to Amlynn or anyone else, I truly am sorry. I had no idea the amulets would do what they did.”

 

“I need more than that,” Pythia said.

 

The merchant sighed. “Listen, there’s a boat back in Burned Harbor that belongs to fishermen from Oarsong Island. It’s a small fishing settlement just off the coast. They’re the ones who got me on track to that godawful drunk. Ask them about it!”

 

A drunkard on Oarsong Island is responsible? Sounds like Terrorsaur’s kind of person, Pythia thought. She slid the talisman back into her pocket, turning back to Burned Harbor.

 

“Thank you, sir. You’ve been a great help.”

 

-The Barren-

-Luroka Qendroj-

IC: Luroka, Unit (After Entrance)

 

They had left Captain Garan in command of Qendroj City. With the looming threat of the Rahkshi Vorahk still present, Luroka didn’t wish to risk anything. The Rahkshi had been content to wander the Barren so far, but there was no knowing how long that would last… and, with his scouting party having never returned, they no longer had eyes on its location.

 

So, with Onua and twenty Protectors in tow (four of his own Earth Protectors, and sixteen of the loaned Fire Protectors), Luroka entered the Barren. Unfortunately, it didn’t take them very long to find the beginning of Vorahk’s trail. It was less than an hour before they discovered what was left of the scouting party – or rather, the shrivelled husks that used to be the scouting party.

 

“Everyone, be alert,” Luroka said, crouching next to one of the husks. “We’re dealing with a dangerous hunter.”

 

“Look at them,” one of the Fire Protectors said, sounding horrified. “What the heck does this thing do?”

 

“I doubt it’s pleasant, which is why we need to deal with it,” Luroka said grimly.

 

Onua nudged one of the husks with his foot. “It looks like it absorbed them somehow,” the Toa said. “Be on your guard. If you begin feeling tired, warn us all immediately. I’ve heard reports that the Rahkshi roaming Aodhiim emits an aura of fear around itself – it’s possible that this Rahkshi does something similar.”

 

Luroka clutched his staff tighter. It was made of sturdy oak carved into an intricate design, reinforced with a steel that he suspected was of magical origins. “I reckon you’re right.”

 

“Check it out,” one of the others called from up ahead. “There’s a trail leading southeast. Dead plants and animals. Looks like they’re all husks too.”

 

“Then we have a path to follow,” Luroka said, standing. “Let’s proceed.”

 

-

 

It took them two days of following the trail to reach the Western Wall. They could hear the city of Valmai from the other side, and despite his hesitation, Luroka knew they required assistance. They set up camp just outside the gate to the city, and a messenger was sent to inform Captain Narmoto of their request.

 

It took several hours – during which they took the opportunity to rest and eat – before the gate opened to reveal Captain Narmoto – and, surprisingly, General Unit.

 

“Lord Commander,” Unit said stiffly, holding out his hand.

 

“General.” Luroka shook it.

 

“We have 175 soldiers with us to help you hunt down this Rahkshi,” Unit continued, as said soldiers slowly marched out onto the Barren.

 

“Then I reckon we should accomplish the defeat of the beast quite promptly,” Luroka replied, turning to his own smaller group. “Pack up, we’re moving out!”

 

“Indeed,” Unit said, crossing his arms over his chest. “How long have you been tracking it?”

 

“Weeks now,” Luroka said. “We’ve been directly on its trail for the past few days.”

 

Unit nodded. “Does it seem like it’s attempting to elude you?”

 

“I doubt it. It seems too powerful for that. Rather, I think we should be on the lookout for an ambush, judging by the corpses it tends to leave behind.”

 

“Were they Skull Beast or Protector corpses?”

 

Luroka nodded. “A bit of both. I’d sent a scouting party out, and we found their remains.”

 

Unit frowned, rubbing at his chin thoughtfully. “That is concerning, but it’s good to know that it kills indiscriminately. If it was more particular about its targets, I’d be inclined to think that the Brotherhood of Ata was responsible.” He shrugged. “As it stands, do you know anything about its origins?”

 

“We do not,” Onua said, joining them, “although we suspect that it may have something to do with whatever is stirring beneath the Barren.”

 

As if on cue, the ground trembled beneath their feet, and a sinister chill ran down their spines.

 

“In any case,” Luroka said quickly, “we should get moving.”

 

“And we shall,” Unit agreed, turning to Narmoto. “Captain, ensure that we have a good watch on our flanks and rear, then start marching. Space out the formation; I don’t want to see the men chain-immolated if we get ambushed.”

 

“Of course, General,” she said, before turning and barking out the commands.

 

Luroka took a deep breath. “Alright. Here goes nothing.”

 

-Kamuk, Daggerfall: Catacombs-

-Quin Galum-

IC: Quin, Vinheim (Confrontation)

 

Quin’s attempt to sneak past the five guards in front of the vault was a dismal failure – not that he had expected much from it in the first place. Sighing, he drew his sword and make a break for the vault door. One of the guards moved to stab him, only to choke on their own blood as Pouks’ knife was buried in their throat. He flashed his companion a quick grin (even though Pouks had disobeyed his command) and cut down another guard before reaching the vault.

 

He chanced a glance over his shoulder at Pouks, to find the young rookie holding off the remaining three guards far more easily than he would have expected. This was, clearly, why a rookie like him had managed a position in Daggerfall.

 

Quin turned his attention back to the vault door, managing to get it open. Inside, on a pedestal, he saw the Torch of Ma. He could feel its divine energies crackling in the air as he slowly stepped inside.

 

“Oh, Quin….”

 

He glanced over his shoulder to see Pouks having backed to the entrance of the vault. Vinheim had arrived, with fifteen of his best guards accompanying him.

 

“Shoot them,” Vinheim ordered. “Assist the vault guards! Kill the traitors!”

 

Pouks cut down another of the vault guards, leaving only one left. As some of Vinheim’s soldiers charged forward, Quin retreated further into the vault.

 

Time to see how powerful this thing is, he thought, as he grabbed the Torch of Ma.

 

Just the act of touching the Torch seemed to flood him with energy, and Quin shuddered from the overload. Filled with energy, he lunged past Pouks. Wielding the Torch in one hand and his sword in the other, he swung his sword at the final vault guard, slicing their torso open as they tried to back away. He grimaced as one of Vinheim’s soldiers stabbed him in the back – but the Torch of Ma flared, and the soldier’s sword shattered without harming him.

 

“Push forward! Kill the Petros swine!” Vinheim ordered. “Let the traitor have the Torch. Don’t let him escape the vault!”

 

Quin turned his attention to Vinheim, removing his sword from the dead guard’s body and throwing it at the King. Vinheim dodged the sword easily as his soldiers took up defensive positions, though the move opened up a possible path of escape.

 

“Pouks, run!” Quin yelled, holding the Torch before him as he dove past the soldiers. Pouks followed him, and once the rookie was next to him, Quin asked, “your relative, Velika. Where is he?”

 

“He’d be in Fort Patrus,” Pouks said as they rounded a corner. “We’re not going to see King ShadowVezon?”

 

“I fear it’s too late for that,” Quin said, sighing. “I have a hunch that he may find his own way out. I need to speak to Lord Anuhea; I’ll require his aid.”

 

“To Fort Patrus, then?”

 

“Yes, Pouks. To Fort Patrus.”

 

-Qendroj City-

-Ehksidian Glacies-

IC: Ehks

 

Ehks, Piruk, Velika and Photok arrived at the gates of Qendroj City. Surprisingly, they found only Fire Protectors guarding the gate – led by one that Ehks recognized as Captain Nuhrii Coal.

 

“State your business,” Nuhrii called.

 

“We’re making our way to the Barren on Knights business,” Ehks called back. “This was the safest route to get to our intended destination.”

 

“What business do the Knights have in the Barren?”

 

“To find a long-lost temple,” she answered. “One that, until recently, we were unaware even existed. It has been gone for hundreds of years… and we finally have a way to recover it. It may be our only hope at learning how to stop the Great War.

 

Nuhrii laughed. “Sure, sure. Come on in.”

 

The gate opened, and with the others trailing behind her, Ehks entered the city. Once all four were inside the gate shut behind them – and then no less than thirty Fire Protectors were surrounding them, all armed and ready for combat. Nuhrii himself soon appeared, and apologetic look on his face.

 

“I’m afraid that we’re going to have to take you into custody,” he said. “Qendroj City prides itself on being a neutral location for the good of Okoto. We can’t have the Knights bursting in here, pursuing political goals.”

 

She frowned, her hand drifting toward the hilt of her sword. “We’re merely passing through.”

 

“I’m sure you are,” Nuhrii said, his tone making it clear that he either didn’t believe her or simply didn’t care. “You won’t mind waiting in the holding cells, then, while I report your presence to my superiors…?”

 

“The fire burns in the dark,” Velika said quietly, so that only Ehks could hear. She could see a spark of realization and dread in the Mask Maker’s eyes. “From a spark, an inferno.”

 

“Time is of the essence for us,” Ehks said to Nuhrii, pushing Velika’s words to the back of her mind. “We cannot wait for too long. One small mistake and we may lose our only chance to stop the Great War… or at least, to prepare for it.” She sighed. “If you must talk to your superiors before letting us pass onto the Barrens, then do so. As quickly as possible; I have no idea how much time we have left.”

 

Nuhrii smirked at her, before turning to one of the Fire Protectors. “Get word to Lady Efandril and the Imperator, won’t you? Tell them that we have Knights in custody, attempting to enter the Barren… at the bidding of both Kamuk and Karamu.”

 

Oh no, Ehks thought, seeing her own dread reflected at her in Piruk’s face as the guard nodded and hurried away.

 

“We’re not entering on behalf of Kamuk or Karamu,” she said slowly.

 

Nuhrii turned back to her, ignoring what she’d said. “I want twenty of you to take them to the holding cells. The rest of you… with me. It’s time that Qendroj City found a new Lord Commander.”

 

She scowled. “You’d rather be promoted than tell the truth? Even at the cost of Okoto itself? One misstep and we’re doomed. The Temple of Histories is our only hope against the oncoming threat. This doesn’t only concern the Knights; it concerns the entire island.

 

“Your actions will spark a war. If we fight amongst ourselves, there is no chance that we will survive the oncoming battle. This is beyond what has happened before. Worse than the Long Night, worse than the War of Five Kings. Do you really wish to have the guilt of letting that happen land firmly on your shoulders? To know, in your dying moments as the island is razed to the ground, that you could have helped stop it?”

 

Nuhrii was gone before her rant was even half-finished. His guards, clearly more loyal to him than they were willing to listen to her, poked and prodded her group with their swords, nudging them in the direction of the holding cells. Ehks clenched her fists, beyond appalled at what the Fire Protector had done as the guards began stripping them of their weapons.

 

“Any ideas?” she whispered as they were shoved into a cell, the door rattling shut behind her. “There’s no way we’ll get out of the cells, and he’ll clearly lie about our purpose here.”

 

Velika shook his head, looking tired. His teleportation stunt back in Fort Patrus must have exhausted him more than he had let on.

 

“There must be something,” Piruk said. “If we can escape, it’s possible that Nuhrii’s superiors will believe he was making it up. It will, at least, delay hostilities.”

 

Ehks nodded. “Especially if we can find his superiors first, and directly inform them.” She glanced over to Velika. “I’m guessing that you won’t be able to use our key to the temple again?”

 

Velika shook his head – not until they reached their destination.

 

“Informing his superiors would be a poor idea,” Piruk said. “We can’t afford another delay, and it’s likely they would take his word over ours, even if they know that he lies.”

 

“Right... so, outnumbered and outclassed. Simply running would be a bad idea,” she mumbled, her gaze shifting to the guards. “Do you truly believe that Nuhrii has what is best for you all in his heart? Do you not pride yourselves on your neutrality?”

 

“Nuhrii’s an idiot,” one of the guards said, shrugging. “But he’s an idiot who’s loyal to Aodhiim.”

 

“We should have just gone straight to the border,” Piruk said quietly. “We’d be in the Barren already if we had.”

 

Nodding along to what Piruk was saying, Ehks tried once more to get through to the guards. “He’s an idiot who wishes to make Aodhiim fight a way that nobody can afford to fight. You care more for Aodhiim than here, correct? Do you truly want your nation to go to war again, based on a lie?”

 

When the guards refused to respond, Piruk tapped her shoulder. “Perhaps it is time that we started taking some risks,” he said, still so quiet that the guards could not hear him.

 

The aged Jungle Protector slowly unwrapped his travelling cloak, laying it on the floor – revealing four large knives. The guards had been smart enough to seize their more obvious weapons, but had clearly been too eager to remember to properly search them.

 

Exchanging a silent glance with the others, Ehks nodded. She reached down, closing her hand around the handle of one of the knives – and then sliced it at the legs of one of the guards. “Photok! Grab one and move! Disarm and disable, don’t kill!”

 

Photok ignored the command, grabbing a knife and shoving it into the back of the guard that she had injured. As the guard died, Photok grabbed the ring of keys from the guard’s slackened grip. The second guard fled, no doubt running to sound the alarm. Ehks threw her knife at him, but it bounced off the bars and nicked Photok on his arm. The Stone Protector inhaled sharply, looking sheepish.

 

“Let’s get out of here,” Ehks said.

 

Photok reached around and unlocked the cell door before pushing it open. “There must be an armory somewhere,” he said. “As much of a hurry as we’re in, the Barren’s a dangerous place. We’ll want proper weapons.”

 

“Of course,” she said. “Daggers won’t do.”

 

Velika took the lead now. Even with the changes that had been made to the city since the War of Five Kings, he still knew it better than anyone else alive. With his guidance they snuck into one of the city’s sublevels without difficulty, and into an armory. Ehks cursed under her breath as a patrol of guards ran by – the alarm had been sounded.

 

“Grab something quick,” she ordered, grabbing a spear for herself.

 

“I know that I said this journey would be my last,” Piruk said, looking worried as he grabbed a sword, “but we really can’t afford for any of us to die here. Keep any fighting to a last resort.”

 

“The less fighting the better,” Ehks agreed. “Velika, show us the way.”

 

Velika led them down several hallways, before coming to a stop in front of a wall and frowning.

 

Uh oh.

 

“New wall?” she gussed.

 

Looking worried, Velika nodded.

 

“Do you know of any other ways to exit?”

 

As if in answer to her question, she heard shouts from behind them – troops searching the catacombs of Qendroj City for them. Velika gestured to her before reaching up and pulling off the Mask of Time, holding it out to her.

 

She glanced at the Mask of Time and then back to him. “You want me to use it?”

 

He nodded, pointing to her mask and then to his own face. Ehks took the Mask of Time from him before removing her own mask and handing it to him. Velika put it on before turning back to the wall and placing one palm on it, concentrating. Ehks turned as six Fire Protectors rounded the corner, weapons drawn; they opened their mouths to shout to their comrades.

 

Here goes nothing….

 

She concentrated on the Mask of Time, trying to slow down time around them. She felt something tug in her gut, and the world seemed to shift, a sense of wrongness overcoming her.

 

Whatever happened, she knew it hadn’t worked correctly – but it did look like the Fire Protectors had slowed. Ehks herself felt strangely warm, like when she rubbed her hands together. A quick glance at the others told her that they were all fine. Velika alone remained as he was before, but both Piruk and Photok looked worried.

 

“Did it suddenly get really warm in here to anyone else?” Photok asked.

 

“Yes, it is,” she said. “I… let’s make this quick. It didn’t work right, I can feel it.”

 

“I think,” Piruk said slowly, “that instead of slowing down time, you’ve sped it up… for us, at least.”

 

“Well,” she said, sighing, “that’s one way to do it.”

 

-The South-

-Reisen Tyde-

IC: Reisen

 

Reisen stepped off his ship, eyeing the smoke that trailed into the sky from what he knew to be the nearest village.

 

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” one of his crew members said.

 

“Double time!” Reisen yelled, ignoring them.

 

His men picked up the pace, hurrying toward the village. As they approached, Reisen noticed the source of the smoke – a great fire burning in the central building of the village. Corpses were strewn about, presumably villagers who had tried to fight back. Giving some of the men flares, Reisen split them into groups to scout the village and its surrounding area, before one of the survivors, a young woman who had clearly been roughened up, ran to him.

 

“Please, you have to help us,” she cried, desperation clear on her battered face.

 

“What happened?” Reisen asked. “Who did this? Where did they go?”

 

“It was terrible! They were big, some bigger than Toa! They attacked us, took everything, k-killed my brother!” The woman collapsed into a wailing heap. Some of the other villagers now started to get up and approach Reisen’s soldiers.

 

“I’ll ensure they pay, madam, but someone must first tell me which way they went,” Resien said, before raising his voice: “Did anyone see which direction the marauders went?”

 

One person, an older Protector with a fractured mask, stepped forward. “They went further inland, southwest of here. If you can find them, please, you must stop them. They took my son, and others prisoner.”

 

Reisen reassuringly set a powerful, armored hand on the elder’s shoulder. “I swear that I will.”

 

He turned away to speak with his soldiers. He left the medics and a small squad of soldiers with the villagers, to tend to them and make sure that the fire raging in the center of the village couldn’t spread. Five others he sent back to the ship, to signal the others in the fleet to provide reinforcements. The remaining soldiers and returning scouts were then gathered, and they began marching southwest.

 

It wasn’t long before, up ahead, they saw a signal flare shoot into the sky.

 

-Silodas, Council Chambers-

-Jakura Aodh-

IC: Jakura, Efandril (Meeting)

 

It didn’t take long after Jakura returned to the Council Chambers for Balta to arrive. Relieved at how quickly Balta had returned – as well as the fact that he was still alive – Jakura welcomed him with a slight bow of his head, before getting right to business.

 

“I apologize for summoning you so soon, but I’m pleased to see that you’re safe. Any luck in your investigation?”

 

“Not much,” Balta said, looking frustrated. “There’s definitely a traitor on the Council, but… we turned up some other worrying signs too. There’s somebody outside of Aodhiim acting behind the scenes, driving events. They have an agent placed high in the chain of command somewhere, but we’ve been unable to narrow down any suspects.”

 

Jakura sighed, his disgust evident, and collapsed into his chair. He irritably stroked his chin. “What are the odds that these two individuals are connected?”

 

Balta shrugged, scratching at his chin too. “I think it’s likely that they’re connected in some way, though how closely, I couldn’t say. If they are, I’d say that one of them is playing the other for a fool.”

 

“Mm,” Jakura mumbled. “I suppose it wouldn’t be a good idea to leave Aodhiim right now, then. Your lead proved useful, at least a little – I know now that RG II isn’t dead, or at least wasn’t dead when we assumed he was. He apparently fled to Karamu.”

 

“Captain Kapura recently returned,” Balta said. “He’s down by the harbor, volunteered himself for any upcoming tasks. We could, perhaps, send him?”

 

“Do so,” Jakura said. “Give him ten soldiers. It’s an investigation, not a military operation.”

 

Before Balta could fulfill the command, the doors to the Council Chambers slammed open to reveal Efandril. She stepped into the chambers with one of her Pyromancers – Takua Pyre, her unofficial second in command – in tow. Takua shut the doors behind them, though the sound was covered by Efandril’s shout.

 

“Imperator! Urgent news for you!”

 

Surprised at the interruption, Jakura stood from his chair, leaning forward onto the table. “What’s the meaning of this, Pyromancers?” he asked, a tinge of annoyance in his voice.

 

Efandril bristled slightly at his tone but otherwise continued unperturbed. “Captain Nuhrii has taken control of Qendroj City in the name of Aodhiim. Luroka and his Toa have been locked out in the Barren. What’s more, he apparently captured  a join envoy sent to venture into the Barren by the Knights, Kamuk, and Karamu.”

 

Jakura arched an eyebrow. “Unexpected, I’ll admit. Was this a peaceful capture?”

 

“Messenger didn’t say,” Efandril said. “But out forces in the city outnumbered the Earth garrison four to one. I can’t imagine they would have put up much of a fight.” She paused for a moment before continuing, “but if we don’t do something, combat is sure to ensue when Luroka and Onua return.”

 

Nodding solemnly, Jakura tapped his fingers thoughtfully on the table. “The last thing Aodhiim needs is an angry Toa breathing down our necks… but it’s too late to pull out now. I want it declared that Qendroj City is indeed under Aodhiim’s sovereign control – but I also want it made clear that the city is still a free and individual entity, and is permitted to continue governing itself so long as they remain loyal to Aodhiim. I doubt either Luroka or Onua will be particularly pleased, but it’s better than the alternative. We can argue specifics with them when they return, and hope they’re willing to be diplomatic about the situation.”

 

He looked up at Efandril. “Unless you have an alternative solution?”

 

Efandril pondered the question for a moment. “That could work. You’re certainly right that it’s too late to pull out. It would make us look weak, and could sour our relations with the other nations more than simply keeping the city.”

 

She cocked her head. “I think it’s a good solution. I’d propose a slight addition to it, however; we should send reinforcements to Qendroj City. Otherwise Luroka might try to drum up support with nations that dislike us, such as Karamu. He might storm the city directly or try to pressure us into abandoning it. Neither of those occurrences would be particularly good for us. However, a force of two thousand well-trained Fire Protectors manning its legendary fortifications would make the city nigh untouchable. Nobody would so much as think of trying to reclaim it.”

 

With a satisfied smile, Jakura nodded his approval. “Splendid thinking; that’s what we’ll do. I’ll have the necessary troops deployed to the city. Do we know whose orders Nuhrii acted on?”

 

“His own, I imagine,” Efandril said, her tone making it clear that she didn’t think much of the Captain. “Possibly Unit’s, I suppose. Bartok and I wouldn’t have the influence, and I take from your inquiry that it wasn’t you.”

 

“Mm… well, until I know, perhaps I should have Nuhrii imprisoned and replaced as military captain,” Jakura mused. “We can’t afford to tolerate soldiers acting on their own impulses – not in these times, even if it does serve to benefit us.”

 

“Should we really imprison Nuhrii?” Balta asked, frowning. “I mean, I get that he acted outside his command, but if you’re going to solidify our hold on Qendroj City, imprisoning him will seem a sour way of rewarding the commanding officer responsible.”

 

“I am… inclined to both agreeing and disagreeing, with Balta,” Efandril said slowly. “On the one hand, what he says is true. On the other, Nuhrii has done more than act without orders. He has created two different political situations, both equally tricky to deal with.”

 

“Punishment is certainly in order,” Balta said, “but if we intend to hold Qendroj City, we must be seen to reward Nuhrii for his actions, or we risk soldiers who will refuse to fight.”

 

“We could ‘reward’ his behaviour by relocating him elsewhere… perhaps the Barren, under Unit’s command, where he can’t cause trouble,” Jakura suggested.

 

“I had a similar thought,” said Efandril. “I’m not sure about the Barren, though. That doesn’t seem like much of a reward… perhaps a ‘promotion’ to a desk job that doesn’t directly command troops, but has a higher pay grade?”

 

Though he disliked the idea of increasing Nuhrii’s salary, Jakura had to admit that it would sit better with the troops in Qendroj than removing the Captain entirely. “Your suggestion is more sound than mine, I must admit. Very well; I’ll have Nuhrii promoted to ‘Overseer’ of Qendroj City, with someone else taking over as Captain. He’ll have little more to do than ensure that trade continues as usual.”

 

“Excellent,” Efandril proclaimed. “That still leaves the concern of the envoy. Contrary to the city, keeping them isn’t a viable solution. We’ll have to either let them go on their way, or turn them back where they came. Anything else and we’ll surely draw the ire of Kamuk and Karamu.”

 

“Were they passing through Qendroj City, or did they come from Kamuk’s border?”

 

“Messenger didn’t say. I expect he doesn’t know,” Efandril said. “Perhaps I should go with the soldiers? Make sure your orders are carried out, and use my best judgement to deal with the envoy?”

 

After a moment of thought, Jakura nodded. “Very well. Just remember that while it would be disadvantageous for this envoy to make it to the Barren, we don’t want to provoke them into doing anything rash. Do your best to turn them away, but not at risk of war. I may have Balta catch up with you at some point, just to ensure everything is going well.”

 

“Certainly, Imperator,” Efandril responded. She turned to depart, before something stopped her. “Oh… the Rahkshi. Did anyone brief you?”

 

“Not yet,” Jakura said. In all honesty, he had been so involved with his personal business that he had forgotten about it. “But I assume, since you’re standing before me in one piece, that everything went well.”

 

“Depending on how you look at it, yes,” she said, seeming suddenly weary. “The Rahkshi was slain. But… its armor shrugged off darkfire like it was nothing, and it cut through our troops like they were butter. Less than a sixth of them made it back with me, and I barely made it back at all.”

 

Jakura fell his smile slowly twist into a grimace. “We overestimated the darkfire’s potency, it seems. Regrettably that we lost those soldiers, but I’m glad the beast is dead – and that you’re safe. Did you suffer any injuries?”

 

“Nothing serious,” Efandril replied. “But, to be fair, the Rahkshi itself was killed by the darkfire, once it had been forced to abandon its armor.”

 

She filled him in quickly on the Rahkshi’s strange physiology.

 

“Peculiar and enlightening,” Jakura murmured. “It’s too bad Voltex isn’t available to look further into the matter for us. What about its staff? Was that destroyed too?”

 

“The staff disintegrated with the rest of its armor,” Efandril said, shifting her weight between her feet. “If that’s all you wanted to know, I’ll go prepare for the trip to Qendroj City.”

 

“Go ahead,” Jakura said. “Spirit be with you.”

 

He was about to turn his attention back to Balta, but paused.

 

“Oh, and…. Thank you for the information and for your counsel, Lady Efandril. This nation owes much to you and your loyalty, especially after Turahk’s defeat. I will see you repaid in no small capacity.”

 

Efandril gave him a bow as she backed out of the room, Takua in tow. “Thank you, Imperator.”

 

Once the doors to the Council Chambers had closed, Jakura turned to Balta. “Do you trust her, Balta? She is of my house… but I can’t say that’s a reassuring fact.”

 

“House Aodh has always stood together,” Balta said, sounding hesitant. “And House Ash with them. If anything, I’d be worried about Voltex, sir, with his loyalties to the Knights. But I can keep an eye on the Pyromancers if you want me to.”

 

“Your opinion is noted,” Jakura said distractedly. “I want you to tail Efandril, and don’t let her know of your presence until necessary. She’ll expect you in Qendroj City regardless, so I trust you can accomplish this without raising too much suspicion. Assist her with the envoy if the need arises.”

 

“Of course.”

 

“Send word for Captain Kapura to continue the investigation into Karamu in my stead,” Jakura continued with some unease. Though he desperately wanted to pursue the mission himself, the report on Turahk had brought another thought to his mind. “The battle with Turahk scared off the Creature of Fire, I presume. Any idea where it might have fled to?”

 

“Latest reports have placed the Creature of Fire north, near Qendroj City,” Balta said.

 

“How… coincidental,” Jakura said. “I suppose, then, that we’re both headed north.”

 

Continued in Part II.


  • 9

OF GODS AND MEN

-ONE-


#186 Offline Onaku

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Posted Feb 24 2018 - 04:31 PM

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#187 Offline Lucina

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Posted Feb 24 2018 - 04:32 PM

Episode Two

“Divided We Fall”

(Part II)

 

-The North, Grave’s Peak-

-Nato Greavesey-

IC: Nato, Krosht

 

Nato had retreated into his office with Kazi to wait out a snowstorm to the north when Krosht and Hahli returned.

 

“Greetings Krosht, Hahli,” he said, as Kazi allowed them to enter the room. “I trust that you were successful in your efforts to inform our allies in the South of our… situation?”

 

“Yes,” Krosht said, bowing his head. “We have established quarantine as you instructed, Khan Nato.”

 

“Excellent news,” Nato said, nodding grimly, suppressing a flicker of frustration as he scratched at his wrist, which had hardened. “I wish my own quest had been as successful as yours. The Knights believe that there is a Mask Maker in the South, and if what Sahmad said was true, then this Mask Maker may hold the key to a cure.

 

Assuming the word of a coward like Metus can be trusted.

 

“Unfortunately,” he continued, “with the quarantine in place, we can’t go looking for this Mask Maker ourselves.”

 

“It may be possible for us to get a message across in some capacity without breaking quarantine,” Krosht grunted. “Difficult, but possible.”

 

“I’ve already informed one of the border patrols and asked them to pass the information over,” Nato said. “All I can do now is trust that they’ll do so, and trust the South to find this Mask Maker for us.”

 

Krosht nodded. “It presents a threat to the whole nation, not just the North.”

 

“Indeed.”

 

“Is there anything else, my lord? My duties cannot be fulfilled until a cure is in effect, aside from ensuring nobody sees this as a sign of weakness on your part.”

 

“I don’t think so,” Nato said wearily, shaking his head. “Until a cure is found, there’s little I can do either. Sahmad is out there doing who knows what, and we’re all stuck here, unable to stop him.”

 

“Of course,” Krosht said, his eyes lighting up. “If I see that man, I will take pleasure in crushing his skull with my own two hands.”

 

“As would I,” Nato admitted, recallin a memory of a rock and a jungle. “But we need answers from him first. In my experience, people like Sahmad never work alone.”

 

Krosht grunted again. “Always. You went to the Knights already? Maybe they have new information.”

 

“I did ask them to scour their records and find out what they could regarding the first Stone Plague, and Sahmad himself,” Nato mused. “Perhaps you’re right, and they have discovered something.”

 

“We should set out then. I will come with you. There is a blizzard on the way.”

 

“I’ll come too,” Kazi said. “Where you go, I go.”

 

“I certainly won’t refuse company,” Nato admitted, turning his attention to the final Protector in the room. “What of you, Hahli?”

 

“I’ll accompany you as well. I can’t return South due to the quarantine, so I’ll do my best to help here in the North as long as I can.”

 

“Excellent,” Nato said, standing and grabbing his cryosteel sword. “Then let us depart.”

 

-Karamu-

-Rassilon Oak-

IC: Rassilon

 

Once Sahmad had vanished, Rassilon decided to head into the Temple of Time, to see if there was anything he might be able to learn. The streets of Hinterhall, when he stepped out, were in chaos, and despite his best efforts, he was unable to find anyone willing to take a message to Lan, who had apparently been imprisoned for inciting panic.

 

It was in the middle of this conversation that he spotted a small green shape taking to the skies from near the palace. He watched as it flew off into the jungle.

 

Toa Lewa, or the Creature of Jungle? He wondered. Only one way to find out….

 

As he followed the creature, he overheard chatter that Reyna Saryian and Toa Lewa had slain the Rahkshi. Hinterhall itself was still in chaos, thanks in no small part to the fact that Makani Chloe had apparently done nothing at all since before the attack. But the Makani’s approach to ruling wasn’t Rassilon’s business right now, and as he made it to the outskirts of the city, he saw the creature dive into the trees not too far away.

 

Thank you, Bota, he thought, before frowning. Or Ma? Whatever.

 

Curious to see the Creature of Jungle, and wondering if it had broken free of the Mask of Control’s influence, Rassilon crept further into the jungle. He made sure to stay hidden in the bushes as he made his approach, his armor blending into the landscape, and he had his twin blades at his sides, just in case the encounter turned into a hostile one.

 

After a few moments, he spotted the Creature of Jungle up ahead, perched on the branch of a tree. Taking a deep breath, he stepped out into the open, carefully making his way toward the creature. Its wings shone in the sunlight, brighter than the finest emerald, and he took a moment to appreciate how majestic the creature truly was before speaking.

 

“Hello, Uxar,” he said, keeping his voice soft to avoid frightening the creature, which was now staring down at him, its eyes shining with intelligence once more. “I’m glad to see you free, and back in your element. Don’t be frightened. I want to help Okoto, keep it safe from people like those who controlled you. I’m here as a friend.”

 

He bowed respectfully to the creature. A few seconds later, Uxar fluttered down to a lower branch so that it was eye level with him. Its head tilted curiously, and Rassilon felt a strange sensation, as though someone were brushing their hand gently across his mind. It was a rather surreal experience.

 

Confused, yet certain that this was something of Uxar’s doing, Rassilon spoke again. “I’ve lived a long life, full of other people’s conflicts. Noble Creature of Jungle, I know you are key to stopping the Great War… but I can’t let them control you again.”

 

The feeling in his mind intensified as Uxar’s eyes fixed on his own, almost as if it was searching for something. Rassilong felt the words of Karamu called to his mind; Proud and Free.

 

“I’m not proud of Makani Chloe,” he said. “But I’m trying my best to stop her, and free Karamu from her influence. I know we’re a people to be proud of, and I know we can be proud of ourselves again. I know that we can keep our freedom through peace, not war. Maybe we can’t live up to those words yet… but one day, I know we can.”

 

He had a feeling that Uxar seemed to agree – and then the Creature of Jungle lunged at him, latching onto his back.

 

Rassilon screamed as he felt a terrible, terrible pain… and then everything went black.

 

-Rollor’s Reach, Citadel-

-Quad Roka Maran-

IC: Quad Roka

 

Quad Roka scowled, his fists clenched at his sides as he stalked through the halls of the Citadel. The Loremasters had found absolutely nothing of use so far; all that they had managed to find was that Ekimu had used his magic to cure the Stone Plague, which had originated from a plant… no new information. They would have to assume that Sahmad had been telling the truth about Stonescale – a worrying thought.

 

On Sahmad himself, there was nothing. Nor was there anything on the Rahkshi; whatever they were, they were from before the Mask Maker Voltex had stepped foot on Okoto, and before the histories that he had recorded.

 

Nothing but dead ends, he thought, scowling. The King won’t be happy… and neither will the Khan. What’s the point of the histories if they don’t contain any of the information we need?

 

“Sir?”

 

He paused, turning to the speaker. “What is it?”

 

“There’s a Protector of Water in your office,” the Knight said, seeming nervous. “They wish to speak with you.”

 

“Take me to them.”

 

The Knight led him to his office, where they bowed before hurrying away. Frowning, Quad Roka stepped inside – and found a Protector in rusted, navy armor waiting. They leaned against the wall, their arms crossed over their chest.

 

“Sahmad, I presume?” Quad Roka asked the stranger, seeing that they met the description of Sahmad that Nato had given him. He entered the room slowly, keeping his distance from the stranger.

 

“I am. The Northern Khan has visited you.”

 

“Northern Khan? Who do you speak of, if I may ask?”

 

“If you’re going to play stupid, I will kill you and find a Knight who has better common sense than to try mind games with a Mask Maker,” Sahmad said, clearly displeased. “Try again.”

 

“I’m not playing mind games,” Quad Roka said. “I just want clarification. But I digress… why have you paid me this visit, Mask Maker?”

 

“You need clarification on who the ruler of the North is?” Sahmad asked, sounding appalled.

 

“Miscommunication can be very dangerous during these times, even if it’s intentional,” Quad Roka said. “I guess you speak of Nato, correct?”

 

He could almost feel the disappointment radiating off the newcomer, as Sahmad simply stared at him.

 

“I’ll ask again,” Quad Roka said, when it became clear that Sahmad would not break the silence. “Why are you here?”

 

“I was here in the hopes that we could come to an arrangement,” Sahmad said, pushing himself off the wall, “but I’m afraid you’re going to have to give me a good reason not to just kill you and take command of the Knights myself. I can’t afford to leave Rollor’s Reach under the control of a fool.”

 

“I don’t make arrangements with beings who start plagues, even if they’re Mask Makers,” Quad Roka said, scowling. “So you can attempt to kill me… or, you can leave the way you came in.”

 

“Perhaps you’d like to know why I started the plague,” Sahmad said, sitting behind Quad Roka’s desk in his chair, and gesturing for the Knight to sit himself in the chair typically reserved for guests. “Please, sit.”

 

Quad Roka felt a pressure around his neck that slowly began to squeeze, as though someone invisible were wrapping their hands around it.

 

“Sure,” he managed, sitting down.

 

The pressure decreased once he was sitting, but he could still feel it there, waiting. Sahmad, strangely, appeared to feel no exertion from the display of magic, even though Quad Roka knew that such finely tuned control should have been beyond a Mask Maker.

 

“Nato dislikes the Mask Makers,” Sahmad said, tapping his fingers on the desk. “Were you alive for the Battle for the Dawn, twenty years ago?”

 

“No.”

 

“You’ve heard of the Mask Makers involved, however,” Sahmad said. “Voltex, Ekimu, Vatten. How they forged the Mask of Life and fought Kulta themselves, so that Onaku Greavesey could use the mask to destroy Kulta and save the day.”

 

“I’ve heard, yes.”

 

“Nato did his best to avoid assisting them in this task,” Sahmad said. “He fought them every inch of the way, and when the time came to fight Kulta, he instead fled back to his own region. He claims it was to prevent the North’s destruction, but his battle ended long before the battle with Kulta. He allowed his dislike of the Mask Makers to nearly doom Okoto; I could not risk the same thing happening to me, and so I decided on an easier route… to remove him from the equation entirely.”

 

Sahmad leaned forward. “The only problem is that for the past thirty years, Nato’s actions haven’t just shaped the North – they have shaped all of Okoto. Short of simply killing him, I needed something big. Something truly challenging, to remove him from play until he could not stop me. Hence the plague. If Nato fails, I will share the cure to it myself… but I am hoping he will instead be able to pull Onaku Greavesey back into the fold.”

 

“A dangerous method to get the results you seek,” Quad Roka said after a moment. “How long do you plan to wait? Because the longer it’s active, the more Protectors will suffer from it.”

 

“They have weeks,” Sahmad said. “They will survive until the cure is given.”

 

“Okay,” Quad Roka said. “So… where do we go from here?”

 

“As I recall, you have yet to give me any reason to leave you alive,” Sahmad said, leaning back in his chair as the pressure began to increase around Quad Roka’s throat once more – though not so much that he could not speak, not yet.

 

“My death would only inspire my fellow Knights to rally against you. Especially the one I truly serve.”

 

Sahmad laughed. “Vinheim already sees me as the enemy, and I’m sure your fellow Knights will be very happy to hear that I prevented his spy from continuing to leak their secrets.”

 

“Then I guess we’re done here,” Quad Roka croaked. “Do what you came here to do or get out. I won’t beg.”

 

Sahmad stared at him impassively for several seconds, during which, despite himself, Quad Roka slowly felt his panic mounting at his inability to breathe. Before he could slip and reveal his fear, however, the Mask Maker smirked. “You know what? I have a better idea.” Sahmad lunged forward, grabbing Quad Roka’s arm – and then the room around them faded to black, before the Knight found himself toppling to the ground in the middle of a desolate wasteland. The pressure around his throat vanished.

 

“What… in the name of…” he managed, coughing hoarsely.

 

“Welcome to the Barren,” Sahmad said, opening his arms.

 

Crud.

 

“I want you to remember that I was willing to work out an arrangement with you, one where we could have both suggested our own terms,” Sahmad said, looking down upon him, deadly serious. “And I want you to remember that you live because I have decided to let you.”

 

He turned away, pointing in a direction that Quad Roka thought might be south.

 

“You should be able to find the Brotherhood of Ata in that direction,” Sahmad said. “I’m not suggesting you join them, but I am suggesting you at least meet with them. They’ll be less than a day’s journey, the closest possible civilization. If you don’t stay with them, there are some who remain sane among them who can at least point you in the right direction.”

 

Without another word, Sahmad disappeared. Still wondering how the Mask Maker had the ability to teleport such great distances with ease, Quad Roka slowly stood. A quick scan of the land around him revealed no distinguishing landmarks; the Barren was aptly named.

 

As much as I hate to take advice from him… I don’t have any other choice, he thought to himself. If Sahmad truly wanted me dead, I would be.

 

He took his first step south.

 

-The South-

-Reisen Tyde-

IC: Reisen

 

Soon enough they came upon a skirmish with thirty strange, black clad beings, all almost the size of Toa, fighting eighteen of Reisen’s Protectors. Seven other Protectors already lay dead. Some of the beings noticed their arrival and turned to face them; three raised strange weapons at the group and fired, harpoons flying forward and impaling three of Reisen’s men.

 

“Send up another flare!” Reisen barked at one of his sailors, as he and the rest sprinted toward the marauders.

 

As he got closer, he was able to make out more details of the beings. They weren’t all of the same species; some had digitigrade legs, some had multiple arms or legs, and other seemed rather insectoid, even sporting wings. All were clad in black armor, though many had different hues visible underneath.

 

As a flare shot into the sky, one of the scouts fell back as three soldiers took her place, and she ran over, clearly agitated. “Commander! There were more with this group, but they went further southwest! They had prisoners!”

 

“Take another soldier and head south,” Reisen ordered. “Flag down one of our ships, tell them to position themselves along the coast southwest of here, keeping a lookout for the group.”

 

Without waiting for a response, he continued his charge. The marauders were clearly skilled in battle, and he watched five more of his men get cut down. The largest of the group, a bipedal two armed being, picked up two soldiers and smashed their heads together. Another Protector stabbed at the being’s abdomen, but the being barely seemed fazed, dropping the two dead soldiers and clapping his hands on his assailant’s head, crushing it. A wicked smile twisted onto the being’s features as he met Reisen’s gaze.

 

“Is this the best your pathetic island has to offer?” he asked, a strange accent to his deep booming voice.

 

Reisen approached, his sword drawn. “Not quite.”

 

The being’s smile widened. “Ah, perhaps I won’t be disappointed today. Unlikely, but we shall see!”

 

The being raised a fist and swung it with alarming speed. Reisen dodged out of the way and slashed at the outstretched limb. He managed to cut almost halfway through the being’s lower bicep, although as he withdrew his sword, it became clear that the being’s armor did not treat the weapon well. The being roared in pain and spat words Reisen didn’t understand. Now, faster than before, it ducked down and went for a sweeping kick at his feet. Reisen cursed as he was knocked down, and he rolled away as the being tried to stomp on his head, pulling a signal flare from his belt and firing it at the being’s face.

 

The flare struck true, setting the being’s face on fire. He roared loudly, slapping at his face in an attempt to put out the fire. Reisen sprung to his feet and bounded behind the being, planting his feet and using the intact edge of his blade to cleave through the back of one of the being’s knees. The being collapsed back on himself, roaring in even more pain than before, spouting curses in a foreign language.

 

Leaving his ruined sword in the being’s knee, Reisen drew a combat knife and brought it down on the being’s skull – but the being brought one hand up to block the dagger, the blade burying deep into his palm. The being closed his hand around Reisen’s, though he could not grip tightly enough to crush it.

 

“You think you can stand against the Dark Hunters?! Even if you kill me, it will not end here!” the being finally removed the flare from his face. His features were mangled, one of his eyes entirely gone.

 

Reisen jammed a finger into the being’s remaining eye before wrenching his knife free and stabbing it down. The figure went limp as the blade entered his skull, and Reisen rose, breathing heavily. Spotting a sword sheathed at the being’s waist, Reisen pulled it free before turning his attention to the battlefield. Spotting a fallen harpoon gun, he dropped the sword in favor of the harpoon gun, grunting at its weight. He fired at one of the marauders, and the harpoon shot across the battlefield to impale its target in the shoulder – before yanking Reisen with it. He dove to the side, releasing the gun, as the soldiers fighting the marauder managed to slice it down.

 

The rest of the marauders, having witnessed two of their number felled, clearly had second thoughts. Several fled, and one surrendered; the rest, now both outnumbered and overpowered, were quickly slain.

 

“Take the prisoner back to camp,” Reisen ordered, signalling to five of the soldiers. “The rest of you with me. Let’s catch the rest.”

 

They continued southwest, finding a gently sloped elevation that dominated the southwestern-most part of the horizon. Reuniting with the other scouting parties, Reisen led the way to the top of the elevation, where they spotted the other nine men-of-war in a heavy firefight with a massive black warship.

 

“Commander Reisen. Your order?”

 

“Get back to the ship,” Reisen said. “I have a plan.”

 

-

 

He woke up with a start. The first thing Reisen noticed as he gathered his surroundings was a large humanoid individual standing over him.

 

Flashes of how he’d gotten here swirled in his mind, but Reisen found himself unable to concentrate on them enough to determine what, exactly, had gone awry – only that the plan had failed.

 

The next thing he noticed was his lack of weaponry and gear.

 

A bad situation gets worse, he thought.

 

The third thing he noticed was that he was in the brig of a ship. Judging by everything else, he assumed it was the brig of the warship that he’d seen before. The being standing over him, albeit with the bars of a cell between them, smirked as it noticed him waking up.

 

“How is our guest feeling today?” it asked, its voice slick and chilling to the bone.

 

Reisen stared wordlessly at the being, his hatred apparent on his face. The being simply stood there, waiting for an answer.

 

“I killed about twenty of your friends,” Reisen finally said.

 

The being simply laughed. “Yes, and I’m sure you’re quite proud. I, meanwhile, sank three of your ships and sent all aboard them to the ocean abyss. So… you can see that trying to boast how many of my men you’ve killed is ineffective.” The being leaned closer, a sinister grin on their lips. “Now, I’ve disabled the rest of your ships, so don’t expect any to come to your rescue. In light of this victory, I’ve scheduled a celebratory feast for my crew this evening… and you, my dear captive, will be the guest of honor.”

 

-Kamuk, Fort Patrus-

-Anuhea Petros-

IC: Anuhea, Virndrung (Until Exit), Quin (Entrance)

 

Feeling somewhat lost after the departure of the Knights and Velika, Anuhea made his way to the gates of Fort Patrus with Nilkuu at his side. There, he found Virndrung Vatten – the infamous son of Pulse Vatten, who now served the Brotherhood of Ata – awaiting entrance into the city.

 

“What is this ‘problem’ that my guards have mentioned, Vatten?” he asked, staring down at the Protector of Water.

 

“I was sent here to offer King Vinheim Maran an offer of assistance,” Virndrung replied. “The Brotherhood would assist Kamuk, and Kamuk would assist us. Only, to my surprise… he rejected our offer. Thus, Lord Anuhea, I find myself seeking you. As I understand it, you oppose Vinheim, do you not?”

 

“I do.”

 

“Then Lord Anuhea Petros of Kamuk, I extend to you the same offer that Vinheim rejected: the Brotherhood will lend you its assistance, and you in turn will aid us.”

 

“I am not fond of the Brotherhood, nor is it likely that I will accept your offer,” Anuhea said, sharing a glance with Nilkuu. “That said… you may enter, and I will hear you out. But you will be accompanied by guards at all times. Do you understand?”

 

The Protector of Water nodded. “I understand.”

 

Anuhea and Nilkuu made their way down with two guards as the gate opened – and, much to his surprise, he found that Virndrung had been joined by none other than General Quin Galum and another Stone Protector. The General had the Torch of Ma in hand, and Anuhea could feel its divine energies crackling in the air.

 

“On second thought, I think I should be leaving,” Virndrung said, eyeing the Torch worriedly. “If you already know that you will refuse my offer, then a proper meeting is pointless.”

 

With a hurried bow, Virndrung retreated into the desert. Anuhea watched him go in silence until the Protector of Water was out of sight before finally turning back to Quin.

 

“Hello there, General Quin. What brings you to Fort Patrus?”

 

“Many things, my lord,” Quin said, sharing a look with his companion, who nodded. “I understand that you’re attempting to run against Vinheim Maran?”

 

“That is correct.”

 

“You won’t win,” the General said, looking worried and breathing heavier.

 

“That’s most likely, yes,” Anuhea admitted. “But that won’t deter me. I’ll run regardless.”

 

Quin nodded. “I can’t stay here long. I was told that Velika is around here?”

 

“I’m surprised you know of him,” Anuhea said, sharing a startled glance with Nilkuu. “He was here, but he departed a little while ago.”

 

Quin paused. “Where to?”

 

“I’m not entirely sure myself,” Anuhea said. “He’s… difficult to understand, at best. But I believe he was headed for the Barren.”

 

“I see,” Quin said, starting to look pained as he considered the Torch. “My lord… how determined are you to beat Vinheim?”

 

“I would do anything,” Anuhea said, resisting the urge to clench his fists. “I will reclaim the rightful place of House Petros.”

 

Quin looked at his companion for a long moment before looking back at Anuhea and nodding. “Then I have something you’ll need.”

 

Quin seemed tense, and soon, Anuhea started to realize why. The General’s armor – no, Quin himself – was beginning to smoke.

 

“Are you alright? You appear to be… smoldering…?”

 

“I… I don’t know,” Quin said, close to hyperventilating as he tossed the Torch of Ma to the sand – though it didn’t appear to help at all. “Take it. Take the Torch. Hide it. Vinheim can’t find it, or use it. If the time comes… use it. Protect yourself.”

 

Although he didn’t really understand, Anuhea nodded. He stepped forward and leaned down, picking up the Torch. He gasped upon contact, immediately feeling energized like he never had before. It was as though energy was literally flooding his limbs; Quin, meanwhile, had ceased smoking.

 

“Hide it, and quickly,” Quin said. “It energizes you, but it’ll harm you if you don’t hide it away soon.”

 

“Then it’s goodbye for now,” Anuhea said, turning back to the city. “I have a Torch to hide.”

 

-The Barren-

-Urot Coal-

IC: Urot, Gikayok, Virndrung (After Battle)

 

“Father Urot.”

 

He startled, turning to Gikayok Shayd. “What?!”

 

“The Vorahk, Father. Should we try and starve it?”

 

He scoffed. “Starving the creature would only make it more aggressive. Luroka’s force, while ridiculously undermanned, will be enough to keep its attention away from us for now.”

 

“Of course.”

 

He snapped his fingers. “You should be in Karamu, Brother Gikayok. “That hag, Makani Chloe, is her own worst enemy. We will use the people’s fear of her, and turn them against one another.”

“As you wish, Father. But I am no silver tongue. By what means do you believe I can take to form discourse against her?”

 

Urot scowled. “Unbelievable. What am I, made of wisdom?! Bring me the Prophet. Perhaps she has the answer.”

 

Without waiting for Gikayok to inevitably fail to find the prophet, Urot stood to search for her himself. He found the Prophet, as usual, perched upon a leaning rock spire just beyond the camp, overlooking the Barren. She seemed deep in thought.

 

“Do you see anything?” Urot called.

 

The Prophet seemed, for a brief moment, to have not heard him – or, more likely, to simply be ignoring him. Then, slowly, she turned her head, looking upon him from atop the spire. With one hand she gestured for him to climb up and join her.

 

“The things I put up with for the apocalypse,” Urot grumbled, clambering up the spire to sit beside her.

 

“I see a great many things, Father Urot,” the Prophet said once he was seated. “Though I doubt that is why you have come up here. What is on your mind?”

 

“Anger. Frustration. Disbelief. Why must you come up here all the time?”

 

“This is a peaceful place,” the Prophet said. “A quiet spot for me to focus upon the voice of the one who guides us.”

 

“Have they told you anything of Karamu?”

 

“No… I have heard little of Jungle or Fire, or indeed any region. The voice of Ata is scarce upon my ears now, but they still wait. Watching. Guiding us, though we might not know it.” The Prophet turned and looked directly at him. “I can see them in you, Father. There is a reason you are the one to lead us.”

 

She placed a hand upon his head, her thumb resting on his forehead. “You may not hear them, but Ata is always there, guiding you. Believe in the wrath of the destroyer, Father. Believe in our dark destiny. Know that it is just. And above all else, believe in your hate, for that hatred is Ata’s gift to you. That hatred is Ata.”

 

Finally, she removed her hand from his head, and returned to gazing across the Barren. “Have no fear. Ata’s voice will return to me soon; this I know.”

 

Unsettled – and angry – he left without a word, deciding to practice using the Mask of Fire.

 

-

 

The Mask of Fire did nothing, despite his best efforts.

 

“Useless hunk of metal!” he spat. “If it wasn’t for the Pyromancers I would have thrown you back to Fire years ago! Not even a spark!”

 

One of the many Brothers – no doubt drawn by his shouting – approached. “Father?”

 

“It seems that the mask’s power was drained by the Magical Crisis,” he said, making up the fact on the spot. “I think that you might understand my fury, all things considered.”

 

The other Protector opened their mouth to reply – only for an arrow to lodge itself through their head, having flown over Urot’s shoulder. He turned to see a band of Undead shambling toward the Brotherhood camp, all of them wearing rusted and battered armor identifying them as Protectors of Earth. One held a bow that appeared to be in remarkably functional condition, and it slowly reached for another arrow.

 

Wonderful.

 

“Grab your weapons!” He yelled. “We’re under attack!”

 

Soon enough, he and his men had managed to cut down the Undead, with only nine casualties – though with the Brotherhood somewhat scattered as it was, even nine missing bodies left a notable gap.

 

As usual, Virndrung returned soon after the action had concluded. The Protector of Water eyed the scattered corpses with an air of distaste as he approached Urot.

 

“Father, I have returned. Kamuk has rejected our offer of support… as least, publicly.”

 

“Explain,” he said, scowling.

 

“King Vinheim offered his support in private,” Virndrung elaborated. “In secret.”

 

“Of course it’s secret if it isn’t public! What’s wrong with you?!”

 

“He still accepted, Father. This is good news.”

 

Urot scoffed. “Whatever. Next time don’t word your news in a way that invites me to hang you with your own entrails. We were just attacked by some of the Undead, so we’re moving north.”

 

Virndrung inclined his head. “I have no objections, Father.”

 

“Good, because I didn’t ask for them. We leave at once – pack everything.”

 

-Karamu, Hinterhall-

-Reyna Saryian-

IC: Reyna, Lan, Tekulo

 

Reyna closed her eyes tightly for a moment to try and regain her composure, and then snapped them open as she dashed off after the Rahkshi. She and her remaining guards passed by the Purple Oasis – which had now been abandoned – and spotted Lerahk on the next street. She ran closer, trying to get its attention.

 

“Hey Slug Face!” she called. “You’re going to answer for what you did!”

 

Lerahk turned at the sound of her voice – and then, on a rooftop behind it, she saw a familiar figure wearing the Mask of Control.

 

Oh no.

 

She pointed the crossbow at Lerahk with a grim look on her face. “What are you waiting for?”

 

Lerahk moved to lunge at her – only to be yanked back as several vines wrapped around its arms and legs. Toa Lewa stepped out onto the street, his eyes still strangely blank. He was, curiously, back to his old form, from before he had united with the Creature of Jungle. Reyna glanced back up to the roof. The figure had not moved, though they seemed fixated on Lerahk and Lewa. Lerahk, meanwhile, had snapped two of the vines, and now swung its staff at Lewa, who ducked.

 

Biting her lip, Reyna kept the crossbow pointed at Lerahk, trying to wait for the opportunity to freeze it again. A vine ripped away Lerahk’s staff, and the Rahkshi opened its faceplate to screech at Lewa.

 

Without hesitating, she fired. The crossbow immediately fell apart in her hands, but it worked – the bolt of time energy flew until it struck Lerahk, who froze.

 

“Now!” she yelled. “That’s it’s weak point!”

 

Lewa reached in and grabbed the slug-like creature, ripping it out of what was a mere suit of armor. The Toa’s hand turned black upon contact with the creature. Reyna’s guards raced forward, each chopping down with their swords and slicing the creature into three pieces as it hit the pavement. As soon as the creature died, its armor began to rust and flake away in the breeze as the time freeze failed.

 

Reyna glanced back up at the figure on the roof, only to find that they had vanished – and when she turned her attention back to the street, Lewa was gone too.

 

What the…? She frowned. “Where did Lewa go?”

 

“He just left,” one of the guards said, sounding as confused as she felt. “Not sure why. Or where.”

 

Something felt off about the whole situation. “Let’s get back to the palace,” she said.

 

How was he back in his original form? She thought as they made their way to the palace. Why did mother step in?

 

-

 

When they arrived, they found the palace oddly silent… and suspiciously empty.

 

“Be on your guard,” Reyna said, drawing her sword as the three Protectors with her did the same. “I don’t like the look of this…”

 

They progressed through the halls of the palace cautiously but quickly, and soon, surprisingly, came across Lan Lasang, Diplomat of Karamu.

 

“Lan?” Reyna asked, startled. “What’s going on?”

 

“I have no idea,” the Diplomat said, scowling. “I’ve been in a cell for the past… who knows how long.”

 

“How did you get out? And what did you do? I only heard vague mentions from Nidhiki before…” she trailed off and closed her eyes, pushing the memory of Tanma’s horrified face out of her mind. “Nevermind. Let’s go. Something really doesn’t feel right here.”

 

With Lan in tow, she made her way as quickly as she could to the throne room. Its doors were shut once more, but both of its guards were slumped on the floor. Each now sat in a puddle of their own blood, their throats slit open. Her heart racing, Reyna pushed the doors open, avoiding the two guards.

 

She immediately spotted her mother. Makani Chloe was seated in her throne, staring at them down the hall. Toa Lewa was nowhere to be seen, and the Mask of Control sat on the floor before the throne. Reyna cautiously stepped forward. “Mother?”

 

The Makani did not respond.

 

Gripping her sword tightly, she walked toward the Mask of Control, and toward Chloe. As she neared them, she noticed something… off about the mask, and about Chloe. Ignoring the mask for the moment, Reyna reached out and poked her mother. Chloe didn’t react at all… except for her head to fall off her torso.

 

Reyna shrieked as she recoiled, her gaze snapping away from the corpse in the throne and the head now resting in its lap. Swallowing thickly, and trembling, she retreated and knelt by the Mask of Control. As she did so, she accidentally nudged the mask – which was enough for the Mask of Control to split into two pieces.

 

Someone had killed her mother. Someone had broken the Mask of Control, so that it could never be used again.

 

A chill ran down her spine, and suddenly, Reyna found herself wondering if it had really been her mother who had just helped her to slay Lerahk… or the killer. She shakily pushed herself to her feet, her thoughts scattered, as she looked to Lan. Lan simply stared at the headless body of her mother, and in that moment, she watched as the Diplomat’s sullenness vanished, replaced with something resembling joy.

 

Reyna closed her eyes for a moment, overwhelmed.

 

So much death.

 

“We need to find out who did this,” she said, opening her eyes again. “We need to know their motives, and where Rassilon has vanished to. Lan, will you help me?”

 

“Yeah, sure,” Lan said distractedly, still staring at the body of her mother.

 

She shared an uneasy glance with one of the guards. “Um… I know this is a big moment, but… could you not stare? Please?”

 

Lan shook his head, turning to her. “Of course, sorry. Where do we look first?”

 

“We need to get our allies together, and more soldiers,” Reyna said. “We don’t know when the killer might strike again, and we need to search for them.”

 

-

 

They exited the palace with the three guards to find both Tekulo and Nidhiki waiting just outside the entrance, along with a few other miscellaneous civilians; all of them looked rather worse for wear. In the distance, Reyna could hear something that sounded suspiciously similar to a riot in the streets, but she was distracted by a flood of relief at the sight of her two friends.

 

“Nidhiki?! You’re alive?”

 

“Reyna!” Nidhiki lunged forward, wrapping his arms around her and squeezing before leaning back. “Gods, I thought you were doomed! What happened?!”

 

“I thought you…” She trailed off and took a deep breath before continuing. “Tanma pushed me out of the way, but… well. I couldn’t see you after that; I followed Lerahk, and Lewa and I killed it using the crossbow.”

 

She turned away. “I came back here after. I just found my mother…” her voice wavered. “Well. We won’t be worrying about her dooming Karamu anymore.”

 

Nidhiki stepped back, frowning. “Wait, what do you mean?”

 

“She’s dead. Her guards too. The Mask of Control is broken.”

 

What?”

 

She nodded.

 

“Any sign of Rassilon?”

 

She shook her head.

 

Nidhiki grimaced, shaking his head. “So the Makani is dead, the Mask of Control is destroyed, both Lewa and our Loremaster are missing….”

 

“We don’t know who killed her,” Reyna whispered. “I thought I saw her, during the fight with Lerahk, but….”

 

“That’s unlike her,” Nidhiki muttered, before seeming to shake it off. “First things first, before we move any further – we need to control the situation. Hinterhall is in chaos; the population needs to be calmed, and repairs need to begin. Our army is still mobilizing, unless Rassilon convinced Chloe to call them off before she died. Somebody needs to take command.

 

He turned to Lan, looking uncertain. “Lan, Chloe took over almost every typical governing position except for yours. It would make sense to place Karamu under your command…”

 

“I can try,” Reyna said. “I feel like it would be expected.”

 

“Officially, you’re only a civilian yourself,” Nidhiki said, though she noticed that he hadn’t disagreed.

 

One of the civilians, however, did. “Diplomat Lan should take command! He knows how to rule!”

 

“And you believe that I do not?” Reyna asked. “My mother beat the basics of ruling into my head. If our Diplomat takes over, we lose out on diplomacy. Placing me in charge would help us keep our country strong.”

 

One of the guards that had slain Lerahk with her nodded, glaring at Lan. “Yeah. How do we know he didn’t kill the Makani, anyway?”

 

“Personally, I’m in favor of Reyna taking command,” Tekulo said quietly.

 

“Lady Reyna,” one of the other guards murmured, looking uneasily at Nidhiki, Lan and Tekulo. “I really do hate to point this out… but for all we know, any of these three could have killed the Makani.”

 

She stayed silent for a moment, before nodding. “I want everyone’s stories on what happened. Make it quick.”

 

Nidhiki spoke up first. “I got separated from you when we attacked Lerahk. Ended up in the building across the street with acid bringing down the walls, had to go around the back trying to return to you. By the time I did, you and the Rahkshi were gone. I hoped I could find you here, and ran into Tekulo along the way.”

 

A quick glance at Tekulo was enough to corroborate it. “Before I bumped into Nidhiki I was headed deeper into the city,” Tekulo told her. “The Rahkshi was getting close to Purple Oasis, so I was a bit antsy.”

 

Reyna nodded as she took the information in, considering it, before she turned back to Lan. “You were locked up, if I recall. How did you get out?”

 

“Somebody came by while I was sleeping, killed the guards, and left my cell door open.”

 

Everybody froze, and Reyna looked at Lan incredulously. “Do explain more. Including why you decided not to mention this before now.”

 

“I can’t explain more,” Lan said, back to being sullen. “I just said, I was sleeping. I didn’t see what happened.”

 

Reyna sighed, very audibly. “We’re not going to get anywhere like this. Nidhiki, Tekulo, how do you think the Makani was killed?”

 

Nidhiki shrugged. “The Rahkshi attack would have been about as good a distraction as the killer could hope for. I can’t make any guesses to the kill method without seeing the body.”

 

“I don’t like to make rash decisions,” Reyna said slowly, mindful of the look on Lan’s face when he’d seen the Makani earlier. “Something is off about this whole situation. Lan, if you would remain in your cell for now….”

 

“No. I’m not going back in that cell,” Lan said. “I want to do something with my life.”

 

“Does that something include killing the Makani?” Nidhiki asked quietly, looking disturbed.

 

“No. I’m not that crazy.”

 

Reyna sighed. It was a poor idea, but she lacked the authority to force Nidhiki, Lan, or Tekulo to do anything. Her best shot was to keep them close. “We should search for Rassilon, get his take on things.”

 

“Then I’d suggest we start at Arcadia,” Lan said. “It’s where he resides. We might find some clues there.”

 

"That sounds like a great idea," Nidhiki drawled. "Let's just all of us, the primary suspects for this murder, leave Hinterhall to hunt down the Loremaster. That won't go wrong in a thousand different ways at all."

 

Continued in Part III.


  • 10

OF GODS AND MEN

-ONE-


#188 Offline Finch

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Posted Feb 24 2018 - 04:33 PM

wow jim, how come your chapters get to have THREE separate posts?


  • 1

1Ydp0mg.jpg

Steam name: Ehksidian


#189 Offline Lucina

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Posted Feb 24 2018 - 04:35 PM

Episode Two

“Divided We Fall”

(Part III)

 

-Kamuk, New Makuta City: Prison-

-Vinheim Maran-

IC: Vinheim, ShadowVezon (Found)

 

Leaving Ahkmou in charge of Daggerfall, Vinheim had taken 305 soldiers with him to New Makuta City. With Quin having finally revealed his true colors, Vinheim wanted to waste no time in preventing ShadowVezon from doing the same.

 

Upon arrival at the prison, Vinheim signalled for twenty of his soldiers to accompany him, while the rest remained on guard. Inside he was greeted by the Warden almost immediately, who looked both terrified and relieved.

 

“Your grace, thank the gods,” he said. “The traitor – he’s missing from his cell, and his guard is gone. We haven’t raised the alarm, but the only way out is the way you came in, so they’re still inside somewhere.”

 

Vinheim closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “I’ve already blocked the exit. Did anyone else of importance arrive before me? Any figures in navy armor?”

 

“No, your grace.”

 

“Good… then lead me to the cell.”

 

The Warden did just that, but Vinheim was disappointed to discover that there was nothing out of the ordinary. Except, of course, for the lack of its prisoner.

 

“How long ago did you notice he was missing?” Vinheim asked.

 

“An hour. He hasn’t been missing for much longer than that, patrols come through every fifteen minutes. Still, if his guard is assisting him then they might be anywhere in the prison.”

 

“And there are no other exits?”

 

“None. Best way to keep the building secure.”

 

“I agree. Have the guards checked the lower sections of the prison?” Vinheim asked as his right hand drifted toward his chin in thought. “And why has the alarm not been raised?”

 

“A quiet lockdown helps to prevent both panicked and interested crowds outside,” the Warden said. “If, by some miracle, none of our guards have been mouthy idiots… then it’s possible the traitor is unaware that the lockdown is even in place.” He shrugged. “I wouldn’t count on that last one. As for the search, we’ve swept everywhere and will continue to do so.”

 

“My guards are not idiots, Warden,” Vinheim said coldly, turning to face him. “Do you know what I’ve had to go through recently? It’s a rhetorical question. Our General has betrayed the nation. He killed several soldiers and attempted to steal a valuable treasure. I gave him mercy and was repaid with betrayal – so I came here to silence the other traitor, only to find out that he is also running free! It’s too convenient, that both of them have decided to enact such plans now.”

 

“Convenient isn’t the word I’d use,” the Warden said, his voice going just as cold as Vinheim’s. “And your guards aren’t the ones I was complaining about, your grace. Nor are they the ones that have failed to find their quarry.”

 

“Let us return to the main hall,” Vinheim said briskly, deciding to ignore the sudden tension his outburst had caused. “I believe the smell in here is affecting my mind. Tell me of ShadowVezon’s guard.”

 

“Dekar Stalac,” the Warden said, leading him back toward the surface. “About thirty years old. Not particularly ambitious – or at least, he didn’t used to be. He’s good with a sword – you need to be, to be a guard here – but not great. Nothing to suggest that he would be a traitor… which, in hindsight, should have been a sign itself.”

 

“ShadowVezon is cunning…” Vinheim momentarily trailed off, remembering how ShadowVezon had originally come to power, before continuing, “there was a reason he ruled Kamuk for as long as he did. In the future, we shall have to rotate the guards for high profile prisoners. Leave anyone alone with someone for too long, and one of two things will happen. One will kill the other, or they’ll find common ground.”

 

“As you command, your grace.”

 

As they neared the main hall, with guards checking in the rooms up ahead, Vinheim continued, “it doesn’t help that I’ve heard of a navy armored Protector lurking around, appearing in cells suddenly. ShadowVezon has been imprisoned for over ten years and never attempted to escape until now… it reeks of outside interference. Though at least he should be weak from his extended imprisonment.”

 

Before the Warden could respond, they heard several guards shout out from one of the offices up ahead. A moment later the guards returned to the hallway, dragging Dekar Stalac and ShadowVezon with them. The latter, surprisingly, looked as healthy as one could hope to be; pushing the observation to the back of his mind and allowing himself a congratulatory smirk, Vinheim gestured for the guards to take the prisoners to the main lobby, where his elite soldiers and many other guards remained gathered.

 

Once he arrived, Vinheim paced in front of the prisoners, ordering the guards to force the former King and the disgraced guard into kneeling positions.

 

“I came here today to have you properly executed, due to the actions of the former General Quin,” Vinheim said, drawing his rapier and gently placing the tip of the blade under Dekar’s chin as he stared at ShadowVezon. “At least such an execution will be easier to justify now, though it’s a shame you dragged another into your fight. Why bother, ShadowVezon? Why now? You’ve been rotting in here for ten years, while I have worked to ensure Kamuk heals and prospers.”

 

“You think that I chose to remain imprisoned in the nightmare you left me in?” ShadowVezon asked, incredulous. “You think I chose to cower in the dark while you defiled the kingdom I dedicated my life toward restoring? I bothered because even after every piece of abuse you put me through, I still see a brighter future for Kamuk. One above the smokescreen of your lies, and others see the same.”

 

Defiled?” Vinheim spat. “That is laughable. Kamuk has prospered under my rule, under democracy. You relied on a legion that would have been Okoto’s doom to rebuild Kamuk. I did not.”

 

He pushed the tip of his rapier into Dekar’s chin, just enough to nick it, and watched as a bead of blood fell to the floor.

 

“Yet I notice you did not answer my question,” he continued. “Why now? Or perhaps… how? You seem surprisingly fit for someone who was imprisoned for ten years. Could it be, perhaps, that you’ve had help? Assistance from a Mask Maker?”

 

At that, a crystal in Dekar’s hand began to glow. Vinheim withdrew his rapier as several Protectors in the crowd around them gasped, many of the soldiers and guards dropping into battle stances.

 

“I have to hand it to you, Dekar,” a voice said from behind Vinheim. “This does indeed count as an emergency.”

 

Vinheim exhaled sharply, sheathing his rapier as he turned to face the speaker – a figure in rusted navy armor. An amused sort of chuckle escaped him. “Sahmad, I presume?”

 

The figure bowed to him. “King Vinheim Maran. So lovely to meet you at last.”

 

“You could have met me far sooner, Mask Maker, but you seemed to avoid me at all costs.” Vinheim tapped his chin and pouted, his tone turning mocking. “Perhaps if I had the cooks bake cookies you might have come.”

 

Sahmad shrugged, not looking bothered beyond a glint in his eyes. “I’ll be frank with you. A… co-worker and I had a bet, you see. They bet on you to lead Kamuk through the Great War. I decided that I would champion the underdog.” Of losing said bet, Sahmad seemed calm and unbothered. “Clearly, I lost. But I’m sure my co-worker will be quite pleased that their efforts were not in vain.”

 

“If ShadowVezon was your underdog, you chose poorly. Even if he had succeeded in escaping, the work he’d need to do to get back into the people’s favor would be larger than he is capable of,” Vinheim said. “You’d have been better off taking a Petros as your underdog… or perhaps you did? It would explain Anuhea’s sudden rise in popularity.”

 

“Lord Anuhea has been a surprise to all of us,” Sahmad said. “I can admit when I was wrong, and I clearly misjudged ShadowVezon. But… as I have been called, I would like to offer an arrangement.”

 

“Go on.”

 

“Allow ShadowVezon to live,” Sahmad said, opening his arms. “As it currently stands, the Knights of Ekimu are under my command. Have him pledge to the Knights, and say their oaths. In doing so, he will give up any and all rights he has to Kamuk. He can prove himself useful to the Knights in the war to come, and the throne of Kamuk remains yours.” He smirked. “If you accept, I’ll also give you the location of your spy in the Knights. He had to leave Rollor’s Reach quite… suddenly.”

 

Vinheim had no doubt that Sahmad was directly responsible for said departure. Shoving down a flash of frustration, he asked, “you would allow someone who was loyal to the enemy of the Knights within your ranks? That is incredibly foolish.”

 

Sahmad merely raised an eyebrow in response.

 

“You are going to have to offer more if you have any hopes of my accepting this offer,” Vinheim continued, lacing his hands behind his back. “ShadowVezon is no threat to my throne. He threatens only my life, and I can take care of that threat permanently, here and now. I’ll execute him for treason, and Dekar too, for attempting to escape. Both executable offenses. As for my contact… while it’d be helpful if he were to remain alive, you’ve already compromised him. No doubt there are Knights or informants in this very room listening to us.”

 

Sahmad grinned, seeming amused. “The Knights have no informants in Kamuk, though I won’t expect you to believe that. They believe you would turn any spies of theirs to your side. It’s why they have also failed to lend you a Loremaster.” He clapped his hands together. “What is it that you want, Vinheim? What would you like me to offer? Tell me, and we shall see if it is something that I can give you.”

 

“Do not take me for an idiot, Mask Maker,” Vinheim spat. “Kamuk is large, and there are cells of individuals who do not like my rule. Give me information. I desire to know how to cure Pohatu of whatever afflicts him. Think of me what you will, but I will not leave him to die, not like the Protectors of Water did to Gali. Provide me with that knowledge, and knowledge of my informant, and you can take both prisoners with all limbs attached. Though neither of them are to ever enter Kamuk again, lest they be killed on sight.”

 

“Pohatu’s madness was caused by Keetongu,” Sahmad said. “Last I heard, Keetongu still wanders the jungles of Karamu. As for your informant… they are in the Barren.”

 

“And I presume there is no way to cure Pohatu of said madness, other than dealing with this Keetongu?” Vinheim asked.

 

“You’d presume correctly,” said Sahmad. “Killing Keetongu would certainly get the job done. I expect there must be some way to cure Keetongu himself, and then through them, the Toa, but… well, that might be more trouble than you’ll think is worth.”

 

Vinheim opened his mouth, a loud and angry rant on the tip of his tongue at the Mask Maker’s cheek – or rather, what he saw as the Mask Maker’s cheek – but a quick glance at the gathered crowd caused the words to die on his tongue. “Very well. You may have the prisoners. But neither of them may step foot within Kamuk again. Understood?”

 

“As you say,” Sahmad said, holding out his hand. “Shall we shake on it?”

 

“No,” Vinheim said, his voice going cold, unable to withhold his anger and disdain any longer. “I am still suspicious of you, Sahmad. I’ve had plenty of political opponents try to poison me with a handshake. But before you go… I must ask one thing. If I pursue the cure for Keetongu, might I presume that you would be willing to offer the assistance of the Knights, should I call upon them for such a task?”

 

Sahmad’s hand dropped to his side, and for the first time, the only emotion that Vinheim could see on the Mask Maker’s face was anger. No, not just anger – rage, seething rage, one boiling so hot with such a tight lid that it had frozen over.

 

He began to have second thoughts as at least a third of the guards and the soldiers – even those most loyal to him – started glaring at him as well.

 

“I see,” Sahmad said softly. “Let’s ignore the fact that I am aware that poisoning by hand shakes has never occurred in the history of Okoto. I would absolutely be willing to provide you with assistance. In fact-” if possible, the Mask Maker’s voice got even colder, and Vinheim could have sworn the temperature in the room dropped – “it just so happens that you have three Knights in this room right now, your grace.”

 

Vinheim rolled his eyes at Sahmad, scoffing. “Don’t act like the victim here. You’ve brought this caution upon yourself, Sahmad. I know all about your meeting with Khan Nato, and what you did to the North. You spread a plague among its people, just to keep its leader out of your way. We learn from history, and it is clear you will go to extreme lengths to ensure your plans go as intended. I would not have survived as long as I have if I did not ere on the side of caution.”

 

“Ere on the side of caution indeed,” Sahmad said. “And yet, you make wild accusation, threaten me, and speak above your station.”

 

The Mask Maker snapped his fingers, and next to Vinheim, the Warden dropped to the floor.

 

“Try again,” Sahmad said, “and do be careful to ‘ere on the side of caution’.”

 

“Mask Maker, you do not scare me,” Vinheim said, standing his ground. “Kulta scared me, as was reasonable.”

 

“Bad mistake,” Dekar muttered behind him.

 

“Now,” Vinheim continued, ignoring the traitor, “we can both stand here and puff our chests like stone apes, or we can go our separate ways with the agreement as-is. I have things to do, and you have things to do… besides whatever you did to the Warden, which doesn’t help your case.”

 

“I don’t need or want you to be scared of me, Vinheim,” Sahmad said, his expression grim. “But you should be scared… because I am all that stands in between you and something far, far worse than Kulta ever was.”

 

The Mask Maker stepped around Vinheim to stand between ShadowVezon and Dekar, placing a hand on the shoulder of each.

 

“Your Warden is merely asleep,” he continued, smirking. “Farewell for now, Vinheim. I’ll tell my co-worker to give you my regards.”

 

Before Vinheim could respond, Sahmad vanished – with ShadowVezon and Dekar in tow.

 

-The North-

-Voltex Aodh-

IC: Jed, Isniel, Efandril (Entrance)

 

Tex retreated toward Jed and the other three Knights as Isniel picked up a rock and threw it at Kopaka, yelling the Toa’s name. The Toa of Ice continued stalking toward Isniel, not flinching as the rock missed him by an inch.

 

You’ve got this, Isniel.

 

Tex stumbled into the trees, finding Jed immediately. “He’s coming.”

 

Together, they watched as Isniel slowly broke off into a run for the grove. Kopaka followed behind the Jungle Knight, and the Toa’s animalistic growls drifted to them in the wind.

 

“Come on, Kopaka!” Isniel yelled, getting closer to the trees. “I’ve got something to show you!”

 

Next to Tex, Jed turned to the others. “Be ready to topple the trees when the Toa gets near! I’ll wave my hand to signal when you should do it!”

 

Sharing a glance with Tex, the Kingslayer then moved to get a better view of Isniel and Kopaka. Tex followed, cringing when they spotted the two once more. Kopaka was much taller than Isniel, and it was showing – he’d be upon Isniel before the Jungle Protector could reach the trees.

 

“No, Isniel, come on-”

 

He watched as Isniel turned to see Kopaka looming over him, and then-

 

“TAKE THIS!”

 

-with a furious cry that echoed into the skies above, Metus dove out of nowhere, grabbing onto Kopaka’s neck. He threw a loop of rope around the Toa’s neck and yanked it, choking Kopaka, before pulling out a dagger and stabbing the Toa of Ice in the shoulder. Kopaka roared, grabbing Metus by the mask and tossing him into the snow at Isniel’s feet. The Jungle Protector helped Metus to his feet, gesturing to the trees.

 

“Storm’s getting worse,” Tex said to Jed. “It’s not Kopaka, but whatever’s causing it, they’re close.”

 

Jed remained silent, his attention locked onto Kopaka.

 

The Toa of Ice charged after both Isniel and Metus, but the two Knights made it into the safety of the grove. Without wasting a second, Jed signalled to the rest of the Knights just as Kopaka entered the treeline. The trees fell with perfect timing, crushing the Toa beneath their weight – only, they could see Kopaka’s face, and he was clearly very alive… and very angry.

 

“I… am going to suggest we run the rest of the way to Qendroj City,” Tex said.

 

-

 

They found the gate into Qendroj City manned only by Fire Protectors, which was an immediate red flag.

 

“Voltex Aodh? Is that you?” one called.

 

Tex frowned. “Captian Nuhrii?”

 

“In the flesh,” the other Fire Protector said. “Tell me… what is your business in Qendroj City today?”

 

Where are the Earth Protectors?

 

“We don’t have much business in the city itself,” Jed replied. “We’re simply hoping to pass through.”

 

“Oh?” Tex heard a curious note in Nuhrii’s voice, one that set him on edge. “And where would this… ‘business’ of yours be, Knights?”

 

Uh oh.

 

“The Barren,” Jed answered, oblivious to Tex’s worries. “We’re investigating the recent tremors that have been occurring.”

 

“Really?” Nuhrii asked, drawing the word out as he nodded along. “You know, you aren’t the first group of Knights that we’ve had trying to access the Barren… so come on in.”

 

The gates slowly opened.

 

“Sir,” Tex said, keeping his voice to a whisper, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this. There aren’t any Earth Protectors up there….”

 

“I’ve noticed,” the Kingslayer murmured. “But there’s not much we can do right now. We need to get to the Barren, and this is the fastest option to do so. At least we won’t have to worry about Kopaka anymore.”

 

No, Tex thought. Just the small-thinking, power-hungry morons my nation put in charge here.

 

As they entered, Jed turned his attention back to Nuhrii. “I’m surprised to hear that there were more Knights who came through.”

 

“Who were they?” Isniel asked.

 

“Perhaps we can compare notes,” Nuhrii said, as the gates shut behind the Knights and several Fire soldiers began to surround them.

 

I knew it.

 

“Hail!”

 

Relief flooded through Tex at the sound of Efandril’s voice. The Head Pyromancer approached briskly with several soldiers in tow, and Tex watched as she rapidly made and discarded plans on the spot before she spoke again.

 

“Captain Nuhrii Coal, by order of the Imperator, I have been sent here to sort out the new acquisition,” she said. “Let’s have a short conversation in another room, shall we, while these visitors rest their feet?”

 

“Lady Pyromancer,” Nuhrii said, smiling and bowing low. “Welcome to Qendroj City. I’m afraid we will have to delay our meeting until these so-called ‘Knights’ have been escorted to the holding cells. They are the second group claiming to have business in the Barrens, and the first group quickly became… hostile.”

 

The Captain’s expression soured for an instant, before being replaced by another smile. Efandril smiled back at him, just as broadly and insincerely.

 

“I’m sure your soldiers can escort this bunch on their own, especially with my own to reinforce them,” she said, gesturing to her soldiers. “In the meantime, I have urgent orders from the Imperator. They relate to your acquisition of the city – the first of which, I expect, will be of quite some interest to you.”

 

Here, Efandril winked. Tex cringed at the sight, but Nuhrii ate it up, basking in her attention before turning to one of his soldiers with a dirty look.

 

“I’d rather be safe than sorry,” the Captain said. “I trusted lackeys to take the first group to their cells, and that group wasted no time in escaping. If you want it done right, do it yourself.”

 

Most wouldn’t recognize what Efandril was feeling – in fact, Tex was certain nobody except for him noticed. Being forced to travel all over Okoto and navigate its various cultures may not have given him any sort of combat skills, but it had given him the ability to read people with extreme accuracy, and Efandril was exasperated.

 

“There are 1800 reinforcements filing into this city and learning their new posts as we speak,” she said. “Even if these Knights manage to slip the group with us right now, I don’t give them a snowball’s odds in Silodas of escaping. The Imperator is pleased with this acquisition; let’s ensure he remains so, and go about following his orders as quickly as we can.”

 

“I’m going with them,” Nuhrii said stubbornly, either ignoring or not noticing Efandril’s tone. “Qendroj City is under my command, Lady Efandril. I will do as I wish.”

 

“Not sure what’s going on,” Isniel whispered, leaning over to Tex, “but I’m uneasy about all this.”

 

“I… think that Aodhiim has taken over the city,” Tex admitted, whispering as well. “But it wasn’t planned. Nuhrii’s an idiot, but he’s probably being sincere right now. It’s… probably either going to save his life, or cost it.”

 

“About that,” Efandril said, her left hand resting on her hip.

 

Ohhh gods no.

 

“The Imperator has ordered that you be promoted to the office of Oversee of Qendroj City,” Efandril continued. “You no longer need to burden yourself with commanding the troops; you’ve bigger fish to fry. With 2000 soldiers stationed here now, you’ll want someone else serving as Captain for you.”

 

Please not her, please not her, please not her-

 

Efandril gestured to her troops, and from the group emerged a tall, confident looking woman. She bowed to Efandril and Nuhrii in turn, and then winked at Tex.

 

“This is Elittra Ember,” Efandril said. “I’m sure she’ll be a perfect fit for the postion.”

 

Kill me now.

 

-The Barren-

-Ehksidian Glacies-

IC: Ehks

 

It wasn’t until they were a decent distance from Qendroj City – far enough that it would take the guards at least an hour to catch up with them – that Ehks deactivated the Mask of Time… or rather, she tried.

 

It was with a slowly dawning sense of terror that she realized she didn’t have the power or the skills to stop the mask. She would need to hope that the mask would deactivate on its own.

 

On the bright side, it was allowing for the group to cross the Barren with startling speed. On the other hand… the temperature was rapidly rising.

 

“I can’t… turn it off,” she managed. “Velika. If I take it off… what will happen?”

 

The Mask Maker skidded to a stop several steps ahead. She, Piruk and Photok did the same as Velika reached up and removed the mask on his face. Without wasting a second the Mask Maker stepped over to her and ripped off the Mask of Time, replacing her own mask back on her face before slamming the Mask of Time onto his. He then wavered in place as the heat slowly began to recede, panting.

 

“Thank you,” she gasped, resting her hands on her knees. “That could have been… disastrous.”

 

As she straightened up, she glanced around. They had neared the southern coastline of the Barren, and had almost certainly left any guards pursuing them far behind. However, they had drawn the attention of a rather large group of Undead and Skull Warriors – one larger than she would have thought possible, after Kulta’s destruction.

 

“That does not look great,” Photok said.

 

“Not at all,” she said, turning to Velika. “Are we in the spot?”

 

The Mask Maker shook his head, looking tired. He pulled a small cube out of his cloak, taking a bite out of it and shuddering with revulsion as he seemed to become re-energized. Without speaking a word, he handed the cube off to Piruk, who warily took a small bite out of the remaining half.

 

Whoa,” the old Jungle Protector said, his eyes going wide as he shivered. “That has a kick to it.”

 

Piruk tossed the cube to Photok, who also took a bite before tossing the last of it to her. Ehks looked at the cube before finishing it off, bracing herself for whatever vile taste it had.

 

It didn’t seem to have any taste beyond being overwhelmingly bitter, but the real discomfort came a split second later. She felt energy rushing through her, her tired body being revitalized on the spot.

 

“Whatever that stuff is, it’s good,” Photok said, as the Undead and Skull Warriors approached, “but… I think this is still as far as we’re getting.”

 

“It might be,” Ehks agreed, brandishing her spear. “We can’t kill all of them. We can fend them off, but… I don’t know if I could take us back right now. I couldn’t even disable to the mask once I activated it.”

 

As if in response, Velika hunkered down on the ground, the Mask of Time beginning to glow as he concentrated, closing his eyes.

 

“Forward and back,” he said.

 

Ehks nodded. “Everyone, protect Velika, and stay close. We just need to buy ourselves some time. That’s all we need.”

 

Piruk fell back to defend Velika directly – and then the Undead were upon them. Photok cut one down beside her, while two Undead charged in from her left, both swinging swords. She shifted her speak to block both blows before shoving both Undead to the ground – but before she could follow up another two Undead were upon her, shields held in front of them. She swept her spear low to knock them down, but the first two Undead were now back on their feet – and a Skull Warrior loomed over her.

 

She jabbed her spear upwards, toward the Skull Warrior’s head. It caught the Skull Warrior in its eye, but now all four of the Undead were on her, and more were beginning to push in. Photok had become separated, and was doing his best to fight his way back to her; to her left, she could see Piruk rapidly tiring as he fended off several Undead targeting Velika.

 

She tried to push back the four Undead, swiping and stabbing as she fought her way back to Photok. Her spear caught in one of the corpses along the way and she abandoned it as she reached the Stone Protector, leaving her with only her dagger. She brandished it, eyes darting around the horde.

 

“Back to back,” she said. “Let’s move. Piruk needs us.”

 

As she spoke, Photok lost his sword and pulled out his own dagger, moving to stand back to back with her.

 

The Undead rushed in.

 

She swept low, knocking as many Undead to the ground as she could before she thrust her dagger down at each of their heads. One limped forward with her spear in its hands, and she wrestled the weapon out of its grip.

 

Photok let out a pained yell just as she re-gained it. He collapsed against her with a bloody wound in his side, driving his dagger into the head of the Skull Warrior responsible for the wound before yanking it out and stabbing an Undead, swaying in place as blood ran down his side and his leg. Ehks tensed, preparing to help him, but two Skull Warriors now approached her.

 

Oh no.

 

She once more attempted to knock down the Skull Warriors, but her tactics had clearly grown too predictable. Both were unaffected, and one easily disarmed her, snapping her spear like a twig in the process. With her dagger in one hand, she grabbed onto Photok with the other, her heart racing as she dragged him back toward Piruk and Velika as the Undead and Skull Warriors pressed in closer….

 

Unable to do much else, Ehks brandished her dagger, stabbing any Undead that got close.

 

No easy way to push them back, no way to easily slay the Skull Warriors.

 

All she knew was terror. Utter, total terror. She risked a look back to Velika, hoping against hope that he was almost ready….

 

“Any time now, Velika!” Piruk yelled, cutting down an Undead nearly upon the Mask Maker before stabbing his sword through another that Photok was trying and failing to kick away.

 

Ehks turned to find herself face to face with the two Skull Warriors. Their swords swung down, and in that last moment, the world seemed to slow-

 

-and then, all around her, the world was replaced with a wall of gray fog.

 

“Oh gods, oh gods,” she muttered, her hands shaking.

 

Through the fog, she watched as the battle they had just fought played out in reverse. She let out a sigh of pure relief.

 

“That… was frighteningly close.”

 

She turned to Photok to investigate his wound; as she did so, the time reversal sped up. First it was minutes going by, then hours, then days, and then weeks, all in the blink of an eye.

 

As she looked over Photok, it quickly became apparent that the Stone Protector would need medical attention as soon as possible. She glanced to Piruk, who had stabbed his sword into the dirt and was now leaning heavily on it, and opened her mouth to speak, only to be interrupted by something else.

 

A voice, hoarse and chilling to the bone, whispered in the wind.

 

“I see you.”

 

A shiver ran down her spine. “Did… did any of you hear that?”

 

Photok was too out of it to notice.

 

But both Piruk and Velika had frozen in fear.

 

“I see your fates….”

 

Ehks slowly turned toward the awful, terrible, all-too-familiar voice, and found herself face to face with gleaming red eyes, and a horrifyingly familiar grinning skull.

 

And then Kulta reached through the fog, and pulled her through.

 

END OF EPISODE TWO.

 

and EPISODE 3 BEGINS NOW!!!


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OF GODS AND MEN

-ONE-


#190 Offline Finch

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Posted Feb 24 2018 - 04:36 PM

SOMEONE HELP ME KULTA IS TOUCHING ME


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Steam name: Ehksidian


#191 Offline Toru Nui

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Posted Feb 24 2018 - 04:41 PM

What is dead may never die.


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NOT READING THIS IN THE MATORAN FONT ARE WE

WELL THAT CAN EASILY BE REMEDIED

http://www.fonts2u.com/matoran.font

 

:infected:


#192 Offline Nato The Traveler

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Posted Feb 24 2018 - 08:10 PM

Sahmad is remarkably good at making enemies. 


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#193 Offline Terrorsaur: Drunken Khan

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Posted Feb 24 2018 - 08:41 PM

That Pythia scene was so very RPG.
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#194 Offline Rassilon (TTL)

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Posted Feb 24 2018 - 09:49 PM

That Pythia scene was so very RPG.

Thank you? I think?

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The Tide Comes in this Summer


#195 Offline Toa Smoke Monster

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Posted Feb 25 2018 - 02:39 PM

Another good chapter. :)


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Everyone is one choice away from being the bad guy in another person's story.

 

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#196 Offline Lucina

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Posted Feb 27 2018 - 12:18 PM

I will begin ending Episode 3 later today for certain players. The round itself will likely continue for another day or two.


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-ONE-


#197 Offline Lucina

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Posted Feb 27 2018 - 08:26 PM

I will begin ending Episode 3 later today for certain players. The round itself will likely continue for another day or two.

 

And it turns out that we're on the edge of several cliffhangers but haven't quite made it, so nothing ends today after all. Woo!


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#198 Offline Nato The Traveler

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Posted Feb 27 2018 - 08:34 PM

I've finally done something worthy of being included in an episode. 


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#199 Offline Scrubbish

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Posted Feb 27 2018 - 09:11 PM

I think I did something noteworthy this time, too, though how well it turns out for me I don't know yet.
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#200 Offline Rassilon (TTL)

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Posted Feb 27 2018 - 09:42 PM

I think I did something noteworthy this time, too, though how well it turns out for me I don't know yet.

I basically just ran around the jungle till I just went home.
Also Sahmad from a OOC perspective is giving off many mixed signals. Its almost like he wants only certain parts of Okoto to survive.

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