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BZP's GAME OF THRONES: SEASON 3

BZPGOT Voltex Onaku Okoto

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#201 Offline Lucina

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Posted Mar 01 2018 - 06:47 PM

I'm officially ending Episode 3: Shadow of the Storm here.

 

The following PMs with me can continue:

-Rassilon

 

If you're with Onaku, you'll need to wait for him to inform you as to whether you'll continue or not.


  • 7

OF GODS AND MEN

-ONE-


#202 Offline Lucina

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Posted Mar 06 2018 - 11:59 AM

Here's a teaser for Episode 3: Shadow of the Storm, while I continue to work on the episode.

 

Jed, Isniel, and Tex learn some of the unwritten history of Okoto as they follow Metus beneath the Barren, and find Okoto's ancient enemy....

 

-

 

-The Barren-

-Jed Corruich-

IC: Jed, Tex, Isniel

 

“I’ll take the lead from here,” Metus said as they all stepped out onto the Barren. “I… I know the way.”

 

The Protector of Ice sounded hesitant, and nervous, as he led them into the wasteland.

 

“You do?” Jed couldn’t help but ask, genuinely surprised.

 

What secrets has Metus been hiding from us?

 

“I haven’t been entirely truthful,” Metus admitted. “I… I know what lies beneath the Barren. Sahmad showed me.”

 

“Sahmad?”

 

“A Mask Maker,” Metus said. “He’s been working to try and delay or stop the Great War – as well as help Okoto to prepare for it.”

 

“I see,” Jed replied, though he didn’t. “Why didn’t you let us know of him sooner? We would have been happy to work with him to prevent any further catastrophe.”

 

“Because what you’re going to see, what you’re going to do…” Metus trailed off, shaking his head. “It’s going to go against everything you think you know.”

 

At those ominous words, Jed fell silent, sharing a worried look with Tex.

 

“That sounds… foreboding,” Isniel said slowly. “I mean, we might see whatever you’re describing anyway, right? In the Barren?”

 

Metus ignored him. The ground beneath the group trembled as they approached what appeared to be some sort of cave. Metus reached into his pack and pulled out several white crystals, handing one to each member of the group and keeping one for himself.

 

“Lightstones,” he said. “An invention of the Mask Makers. They’ll allow us to see beneath the surface.”

 

“Thank you,” Isniel said, holding his own lightstone up against the darkness of the cave. “What could be resting in the depths?”

 

“He’s a Titan,” Metus explained, leading the way into the cave, which seemed to stretch down deeper than it had any right to. “You’ve all read the lore by now. There were once six Titans on Okoto – Umarak, Kulta, Eankbut, Angonce, Heremus, and Annona. Kulta killed Eankbut, as well as Heremus, whose essence became the Elemental Creatures. Annona led the Mask Makers away to a new home long ago, and Angonce split his own essence into the six Toa. Umarak still lives.”

 

“Wherever he is,” Tex murmured.

 

“They weren’t the only Titans, however,” Metus continued. “They were the Titans of Light, given life by the goddess Ma… and Ata, the god of destruction… he created Titans of his own.”

 

“I’m going to assume that this Titan, unlike the others, wishes to harm the island,” Isniel said.

 

“As you might expect, the Dark Titans, being creations of Ata, at first wished only to destroy,” Metus explained, leading them further into the darkness. Only the lightstones lit their path now. “The Dark Energy that powered Kulta – that’s Ata, or at least, his essence. It corrupts everyone and everything it touches, if certain precautions-” he shook his lightstone “-aren’t taken. The Dark Titans were created with the Dark Energy.”

 

“So where are they?” Tex asked.

 

Metus frowned. “It… gets a bit fuzzy, here. Okoto has no records, or anything. It’s just what I’ve learned from Sahmad. But at some point, the Dark Titans turned against the Dark Energy. They decided that they would rather rule over life, instead of destroying it. Only one disagreed – their leader. So he struck out once more against Okoto.”

 

“…and he was imprisoned down here,” Jed realized.

 

“He was. The other Dark Titans turned on him, and with the help of the Okoto Titans, imprisoned him deep beneath the island,” Metus said. “The prison itself was built and locked using the magics of the Okoto Titans – but it has been weakening for the past twenty years. With five of them dead and the other gone, there’s nothing left to hold it together.”

 

Now, Metus smiled. “I won’t pretend that he’s always kind. But… an eternity down here, by himself, must have changed his mind at least a little. If he finds Okoto worthy, he will help us in the Great War.”

 

“Let’s hope he does,” Jed murmured.

 

“So we’re going to see the Dark Titan leader himself?” Isniel asked. “How can he help us, anyway?”

 

“What we’re going to be fighting is more powerful than the Titans ever will be,” Metus said. “We’re going to need all the power on our side that we can get.”

 

“Well, I hope he’ll cooperate despite being sealed in this prion alone,” Isniel said, sounding worried. “Who knows how much his mind might have changed?”

 

Jed hummed in agreement. “Let’s just pray that being down here for however long he has hasn’t driven him to madness.”

 

Before them, the darkness felt like it was getting colder. More solid. Even with the lightstone in his hand, Jed could barely make out Metus and Isniel in front of him.

 

And then….

 

“We’re here,” Metus breathed, stopping. “Last chance for anybody who wants to stay back.”

 

After a short pause, Jed stepped forward. “I’m willing to meet him,” he said, turning to the two Knights bringing up the rear. “Both of you stay here. If we don’t return… warn Okoto.”

 

Nodding to Metus, Tex, and Isniel, Jed stepped into the shadows, the others close behind.

 

The darkness was so solid that he couldn’t see the others anymore. The chill seeped into his bones. The sound of his footsteps had become muffled, and the air was thick; it was quickly becoming a struggle to breathe. He could still feel the presence of the others, but even that was rapidly being drowned out with every step that he took.

 

And then, before he had any hope of reacting, a dark presence surrounded him entirely.

 

Two gleaming red eyes slowly opened in the shadows before him, but when the presence spoke, its voice echoed all around, a malevolent whisper in his ears.

 

“I cannot decide,” it said, sounding contemplative, “whether it is bravery that has drawn you here without knowing who I am… or foolishness.”

 

The presence fell silent for a long moment, seeming to mull over its next words. Jed tried to speak, but each attempt failed as he choked on the shadows. They now felt as thick as sludge.

 

“I suppose it matters not. I am told that all records of me have been lost to time… and even if you knew who I was, what I am capable of… you would still be forced to confront me. It is your duty… and your destiny.”

 

The darkness coiled around him, and Jed felt it beginning to gently squeeze, threatening to crush him into less than nothing in an instant.

 

“I am of Ata, of the great darkness, made to destroy the world,” the presence continued. “I fought long ago to erase this island, to wipe it clean. Now, my prison breaks. Soon I will be free, to complete my task.”

 

Now it felt as though the presence was leaning in, its voice rumbling directly into Jed’s ears, a great hand clenching at his skull.

 

“Sahmad asks me to spare you all. He brings claims of a prophecy older than even myself, tidings of the Great War. He has tried to convince me that my efforts would be better spent helping you, guiding you in the war to come. To help you destroy that which has never been destroyed before.”

 

Just as suddenly as it had surrounded him, the presence seemed to withdraw, until all that he could make of it were the two gleaming red eyes.

 

“I care not,” it said, sounding tired. “I have spent an eternity in this cage. My rage has cooled, my loyalty has wavered. The great Ata would have me destroy you all… but I am willing to reconsider. So…”

 

And then it was back, all around him, poised to strike.

 

Convince me.”

 

Taking a deep breath, Jed slowly stepped forward. “Titan of Ata, my name is Jed Corruich. I am the Kingslayer, and Lord Commander for the Knights of Ekimu. I have lived for 52 years on Okoto. In my time I have seen the island change, and seen many threats to its peace. The greatest threat, I thought, was that of Kulta and the Faith of the Skulls. The fear I felt when I met her was the greatest I have ever felt. She seemed unstoppable; she convinced half the island to fight for her cause. It took the rest of us uniting together to stop her, and even then, we lost many good men. Close friends. Even in defeat, she threatened us, for we spiralled into a six year war which tore the island apart more than she ever had. I thought there was no being more powerful than her.”

 

He felt a hand resting on his shoulder in solidarity – from Tex, no doubt.

 

“I realize now that I was mistaken,” he continued. “the aura of darkness which you exude now is enough to prove this. I have no doubt that you could destroy this island single-handedly, and we would be powerless to stop you. But I must plead that you do not. We need your power, as Sahmad has surely explained. If what he says is true, whatever comes to destroy Okoto is more powerful even than you, and we cannot fight it on our own. We need your help.”

 

He could feel the presence of the Titan. It was curious.

 

“I do not know what you want,” Jed admitted. “I cannot see into you mind. But whatever it is, if you do not help us, you will never find it. There will not be an island to destroy or to rule, no island to live on in peace. But if you lend us your strength, and your powers, then maybe, just maybe, we can succeed against this enemy. And I promise to accommodate whatever it is that you wish if it is within my power.”

 

“There is nothing that I want, nothing that I seek,” the presence said. “My name is all I have. You may call me Teridax.”

 

“Well then… Teridax,” Isniel said slowly, from somewhere off to the right, “another threat is brewing and Okoto needs all the help it can get. Thousands of lives will be lost, and the whole island destroyed. Life might never flourish again. Will you not help your home island?”

 

“My home is far from here,” Teridax said. “An island called Destral, home to the Dark Realms.”

 

“Do you not want to be free, to return home?” Jed asked.

 

“I will be free soon regardless,” the Dark Titan said. “But my home… no. My brethren turned against me. They were right to do so… but I do not know that there will be a place for me there. It has been too long.”

 

He sounded almost… wistful.

 

He does want something, Jed realized. He wants a home. He wants to belong. It doesn’t matter where.

 

“I don’t know how the rest of Okoto will react,” he said, “but we can help you to belong.”

 

The Titan laughed, and Jed could feel the cave walls rumbling with it. “I tried to destroy Okoto. Where could your people possibly allow me to call home?”

 

“I’m sure that we can allow you to stay in Rollor’s Reach. If anybody would be willing to offer you a home, it would be us,” Jed promised. “The Knights study Okoto’s history, and act in the island’s defense. If you help us in the war to come, many will become more hospitable to you, and you would soon earn your place there.”

 

“Rollor’s Reach… the city named for the highest of the divine gods,” Teridax mused. “Very well, Kingslayer.”

 

The darkness pulled back, allowing Jed to see Metus, Tex and Isniel once more. Tex’s hand slid away from his shoulder as a figure as tall as Kulta and Umarak stepped into view. He wore a black mask with an ancient yet simple design. Highlights of bright red could be seen all along his gunmetal armor, which was of a simpler, rounder design than Jed was used to. The Titan held a long staff with two blades at its end in one hand.

 

“Thank you for deciding to help us, Teridax,” Jed said, inclining his head respectfully before turning to the others. “We should head back to the Reach as soon as possible. Who knows what may have happened while we’ve been away?”

 

“Follow me,” Teridax said. “There has been a battle atop the Barren. We will stop there first.”


  • 11

OF GODS AND MEN

-ONE-


#203 Offline Rassilon (TTL)

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Posted Mar 08 2018 - 01:44 PM

Nice teaser.
You know it's bad when Teridax is helping save the world.

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The Tide Comes in this Summer


#204 Offline Lucina

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Posted Mar 16 2018 - 08:28 PM

 

EPISODE THREE

“Shadow of the Storm”

(Part I)

 

-The North-

-Nato Greavesey-

IC: Nato, Krosht, ShadowVezon-

 

Nato frowned as they approached the border of Rollor’s Reach, sharing a worried look with Kazi beside him.

 

“That’s ShadowVezon,” Hahli murmured from behind them. “He’s supposed to be imprisoned in Kamuk, isn’t he?”

 

Krosht pushed his way to the front of their party, calling up to the Knights on the wall: “What’s going on? Does Quad Roka no longer command you? Who does?”

 

“More importantly,” Nato said, glaring up at ShadowVezon, “what are you doing here?”

 

“How very welcoming of you, Nato,” ShadowVezon drawled. “To answer your question, I have been given command here.”

 

Next to Nato, Krosht narrowed his eyes, suspicious. “By who?”

 

“A Mask Maker,” the former Stone King said. “The same one who negotiated my release from prison.”

 

“A Mask Maker? Typical. They enjoy messing with things,” Krosht grumbled. “I hope for your sake that it is not the same one that gave us Stonescale.”

 

“Would this Mask Maker happen to be named Sahmad?” Nato growled, watching the faces of ShadowVezon and the Stone Protector next to him.

 

The Stone Protector shook his head, but Nato saw through the action with ease – as did Krosht.

 

“Answer Lord Nato truthfully, or I will kill you both,” Krosht said.

 

“Knights of Ekimu,” Nato called, turning his attention to the other Knights stationed along the wall, “I have no words to express how truly disappointed I am in all of you. After all the troubles that your predecessors caused for Okoto, once the Battle for the Dawn was over I wished to see you disbanded. Instead, I gave you a second chance. I allowed you to occupy my familial lands, gave you the freedom to operate without supervision or oversight… and this is how I am repaid? You subject yourselves to the rule of a war criminal – one who collaborated openly with Kulta – who has been placed in this position by a Mask Maker he dares not name?”

 

ShadowVezon chuckled, seemingly amused. “As usual, you act as if the entire world must revolve around your every whim. The Knights are not your servants, and are entitled to make their own decisions. You should be grateful Dekar or myself are willing to speak at all, after such a greeting.”

 

“You live on the North’s land,” Krosht growled. “You use our resources! Yet you act like the Knights have free reign?! Rollor’s Reach exists because of Lord Nato!”

 

“And?” ShadowVezon prompted. “What makes me worse than any other leader?”

 

“You were put in place by an enemy of the state!”

 

“Rollor’s Reach has been independent of the North since the War of Five Kings,” the Stone Protector next to ShadowVezon – who must be Dekar – noted.

 

“Dekar speaks truly,” another Knight (this one a Protector of Ice) said. “You do not command us.”

 

“You still live on land given to you by Lord Nato,” said Krosht. “Do as you see fit with it – but afford the Khan some respect.”

 

“You know nothing,” the Knight replied. “Tell the commander your purpose here, or be gone. Your politics are meaningless to us.”

 

Krosht turned to Nato. “My lord?”

 

“This isn’t about politics,” Nato said. “This is about the fact that you’ve submitted yourselves to the rule of a man who was once your enemy. One who was brought here, I suspect, by the roge Mask Maker who poisoned the North and intends to subject Okoto to the despotic rule of an ancient Titan. If you must know, I came here to ask if you’d made any progress in learning about the Stone Plague or the man who caused it… but I already have my answer.”

 

“There were no mentions of Sahmad or Stonescale in the histories,” the Knight replied. “Stonescale is new – Sahmad, however, was struck from the histories by Voltex. They knew each other before the Mask Makers ever came to Okoto.”

 

“Why was he removed from history?” asked Krosht.

 

“I can think of plenty of reasons,” Nato muttered.

 

The Knight shrugged. “If you will take Sahmad’s word for it, there was a calamity that destroyed their homeland. Rather than flee with the Council of Twelve, Sahmad instead led a band of other Mask Makers to join under the banner of a Dark Titan named Mutran, to serve him instead.”

 

“And you’ll take the word of a Mask Maker who openly admits to serving someone with the word ‘Dark’ in their title?” Nato asked, dumbfounded. “In all of Okoto’s history, when has anything related to darkness ever been good news?”

 

“The Great War is almost upon us,” said the Knight. “Sahmad seeks to stop it.”

 

“And I seek to stop Sahmad,” Nato declared. “He invaded my home, and poisoned my people. Attacking civilians without provocation or justification… those are not the actions of a man trying to stop a war.”

 

Dekar stepped forward, nudging the Knight back. “If you’ll permit me to, perhaps I can show you why Sahmad might have done what he did,” he said. “Commander ShadowVezon as well. I can’t promise it will convince you, or that you’ll agree with his reasons. But you might, at least, find an explanation.”

 

“Please,” Nato said, opening his arms. “Enlighten me.”

 

“It will require a journey into the North,” Dekar said. “You and your companions, plus myself and the Commander, if he agrees.”

 

“We are infected with Stonescale,” said Nato. “Travelling with us would infect you as well.”

 

“That will be no issue,” Dekar said. “We’ll have weeks before it takes our minds – and by then, the cure will be available.”

 

“You have an awful amount of faith in that,” Krosht said, scoffing.

 

“Sahmad himself will give out the cure if the other Mask Maker isn’t found,” Dekar said.

 

“To everyone?” Krosht asked. “Or just the Knights?”

 

“Everyone.”

 

“I doubt that very much, from someone who serves a ‘Dark Titan’,” Krosht grumbled.

 

Dekar shrugged. “Believe me or not; you already have the plague, and I am offering to show you why.”

 

Nato felt more than saw Krosht glancing at him again, as the other Protector asked, “my lord? It’s your decision.”

 

Frowning, Nato sighed. “Fine. I’ll play – let’s see your ‘explanation’.”

 

“Dekar turned to ShadowVezon. “Commander?”

 

“I’ll come as well,” ShadowVezon said. “I’d appreciate the chance to learn more about our current state of affairs.”

 

Within moments, the two Stone Protectors had joined Nato’s group. Dekar turned to Nato. “The strange weather patterns in the North. The storms; do you know where the last one was located?”

 

“Somewhere between here and Grave’s Peak.”

 

Dekar nodded, swallowing, seeming nervous. “Alright. Off we go, then.”

 

-The South: Southern Coast-

-Reisen Tyde-

IC: Reisen

 

Reisen sat at the end of a table in a large room. He was still on board the ship of the marauders, now tied to a chair. All around him, either sitting at his table or another or simply standing around, the marauders were celebrating.

 

Further back in the room, sitting at the center of the head table of the celebratory feast, was the being he had exchanged words with earlier. They were a large, brutish specimen with four arms, wearing ornate black armor with silver engravings and a black helmet of similar make. Two characteristic horns sprouted from the helmet’s chin and curved along its jawline; underneath the mask were four red-orange eyes. Sitting with the leader were several other beings, each wearing armor of a similarly superfluous design.

 

Sitting closest to Reisen was a rather skinny being, who also wore black armor – though this one exhibited a black coloration underneath his armor too. Their dark red eyes looked upon the food with little interest, though theirs looked far more palatable than Reisen’s bowl of stew. Reisen took a long, hard look at his stew before offering the being similar scrutiny.

 

“I don’t suppose that I’ve been captured to become the new chef?”

 

“I wouldn’t put it past our ‘great and glorious leader’,” the being said, poking at the food on their plate.

 

Reisen scoffed. “I doubt they’d let me, bad as the need may be. They’d expect that I would poison their food… and they’d be correct.”

 

“I can’t blame you,” the being said, letting their fork drop with a clatter and sighing.

 

The celebrating among the other marauders had turned to full on cheering, and their leader now stood, with a surprisingly genuine grin on his face.

 

“Speech! Speech! Speech!”

 

“When we first found this island, I wasn’t sure what we’d find here,” the leader began. “From far away, it doesn’t promise much – but today we saw different! Today, we saw what these Okotoans truly possess! If they have ships of this calibre, then what more could they have to offer? Today, we celebrate not only our victory over these puny islanders, but the confirmation of the wealth this island possesses! Today is only the beginning – and it’s all thanks to our navigator, right here!”

 

The leader pointed directly at the being that Reisen had been conversing with. “Well Shady, don’t be shy, get up here!”

 

‘Shady’ spared Reisen a brief apologetic glance before he turned and made his way to the head table. Once there he began his speech, clearly reluctant.

 

“Thank you, gracious Lord Darkness. My fellow Dark Hunters… I can only say that right now, everyone gets what they deserve. Today is the day that the Dark Hunters reveal their true colors! For the Hunt!”

 

“For the Hunt!” the rest called.

 

Lord Darkness smiled, patting ‘Shady’ on the shoulder before gesturing for him to stand in the back. He took a drink from one of the servants – which Reisen noticed was a Protector of Water in a trance-like state, wearing tattered black clothing. “Drink heartily, men!” Lord Darkness called, before drinking from his goblet and taking his seat once more.

 

For the briefest of instances, Reisen noticed ‘Shady’ glaring at Lord Darkness, before he turned his gaze across the rest of the room. There was now a palpable tension in the air, and Reisen had a nasty feeling that ‘Shady’ was at the heart of it.

 

Suddenly, one of the marauders coughed and fell over, his fellow marauders cheering as he hit the floor.

 

But then another fell – and another.

 

Lord Darkness first watched with amusement, but as more of his men began to collapse, an expression of concern spread on his features. He stood, only to catch himself on the table as his legs threatened to give out.

 

“W-what… what the….” The leader trailed off, coughing up blood – and then there was a dagger up against his throat, held by none other than ‘Shady’.

 

“I’m afraid this is the end of the line for you,” ‘Shady’ said, “and for your disgusting misappropriation of the Dark Hunter name.”

 

“Sh-Shady?!”

 

‘Shady’s’ expression turned to anger. “For the last time, I am not and have never been ‘Shady’!”

 

Without hesitation, he slit the throat of Lord Darkness, before releasing his dying leader to fall to the floor.

 

“I am the Shadowed One.”

 

-

 

When all was said and done, half of the marauders in the room lay dying on the floor. Most of the commanding officers shared their fate.

 

The Shadowed One wasted no time in addressing the remaining Dark Hunters.

 

“My friends, the time has come. I have come to trust each of you over the years, and confided in you the truth of the Dark Hunters. You all agreed to follow me if I made my move… and that is why you still stand. These wretches could not see the bigger picture – but you… you all know the truth.”

 

Reisen remained seated. Now did not seem like an appropriate time to interject… and yet, he felt his bindings loosening.

 

A hand fell on his shoulder, and he felt someone’s mouth speak close to his ear in a hushed whisper.

 

“Come with me if you want off this boat alive.”

 

Reisen glanced over his shoulder, finding a being like the Shadowed One. This one was broader in the shoulders, with blue apparent beneath his armor.

 

As the Shadowed One continued his speech, Reisen wordlessly followed the being who had freed him. The Water Protectors from earlier – along with others – followed too, still in a trance-like state. The being led them to a large hatch in the side of the ship and opened it up, gesturing to a boat floating just below with several pairs of oars on board.

 

“Take this, and sail back to your island. You have time enough to save your crippled ships before they sink.”

 

The other Water Protectors all stepped back, climbing down into the boat in an orderly fashion.

 

“Thank you,” Reisen said. “Give my thanks to the Shadowed One.”

 

“If ever we meet again, I am Ancient,” the being said, shaking their head. “But it is not the Shadowed One you should thank. Your Titan, Umarak, sends his regards.”

 

The hatch closed as Reisen descended onto the boat, and Reisen seized the backmost pair of oars, taking control of the boat. Thankfully, they weren’t too far off the coast, and they were soon reuniting with several of Reisen’s soldiers as the Protectors with Reisen slowly regained lucidity.

 

“Commander Reisen, it’s good to see you,” one of his Captains said warmly, smiling at him. “We thought you were a goner – how did you escape?”

 

“There was a coup among the pirates,” Reisen said. “One freed me in the name of Umarak.”

 

“Umarak? After all this time?” she asked, sounding curious. “We’ll have to think about it later. There are still men trapped on the ships – we have to save them!”

 

-

 

Reisen had just finished his approach to the last of the ships – which was now steadily sinking – when one of the personnel onboard spotted them.

 

“Someone’s trapped on the lower decks!” she called down to them. “We can’t get him!”

 

Reisen frowned, glancing over the ship quickly as the Protectors on the deck of the ship began to lower themselves onto the life boats with rope ladders. Finding nothing on the hull, he climbed up one of the rope ladders himself, joining the Protector.

 

“Where is he?” he asked her, recognizing her as Captain Idris. “Closest estimate.”

 

“Starboard side. I’ll lead you to him!”

 

Followed by a few other sailors, they made their way down into the bowels of the ship. They found a Protector trapped under a collapsed bulkhead, with two others desperately trying to pull him out. Water was steadily rushing in to fill the compartment.

 

Reisen rushed to assist with his men alongside, and with great effort, they all tried to life the bulkhead off the sailor. After a long, tense moment the bulkhead finally gave, and the sailor managed to wriggle out, though as he lay gasping on the floor, Reisen realized he wouldn’t be in any shape to walk himself. Hauling the man to his feet, Reisen and Idris both supported the man as the group began making their way through the rapidly flooding ship.

 

As Reisen and Idris slowly made their way, the rest of the group vanished one by one, too caught up in the panic of escaping a watery grave to remember waiting for them. Soon enough they were alone, hauling the injured man between them. The ship creaked unnervingly, and it was becoming harder and harder to wade through the water as it rose.

 

“Sir, we need to move faster,” Idris huffed. “The ship’s about to-”

 

Suddenly the full force of the ocean rushed in, catching them off guard despite Idris’s warning. Idris managed to latch onto a bulkhead, keeping herself and the injured sailor safe, but Reisen lost his grip, and was soon carried off by the roaring water into the dark abyss. Flailing widly, Reisen tried to grab onto an obtrusion he could, but in the deep cold dark, there was nothing to grasp.

 

Without air and light, and without hope, he soon passed out into the dark of the sea.

 

-Karamu-

-Rassilon Oak-

IC: Rassilon

 

Rassilon slowly awoken to find himself lying on his back on the jungle floor. He felt… strange, like a coil of rope that had been stretched beyond its limits and re-sewn. He tried to stand, and after a few fumbling attempts succeeded – only to smack his head on a branch that he was certain hadn’t been there before.

 

What the?

 

A quick check revealed that he was much taller than before – if he had to guess, he would have said that he was as tall as Toa Lewa now.

 

Explains the stretchy feeling, I guess.

 

Still somewhat confused, however, he drew one of his swords out of its sheathe, trying to use its polished surface as a mirror. He couldn’t make out much thanks to how thin the blade was, but it looked like the Creature of Jungle had, for lack of a better term, merged with him.

 

I need to get back to Hinterhall, he thought. Who knows what might be happening there? Perhaps they might have some records I can check… I’d really rather not have to travel all the way to Rollor’s Reach.

 

He turned toward Hinterhall, but froze in place as he suddenly got the sense that Hinterhall, as much trouble as it might be in, wasn’t the place to be.

 

That same, strange sense seemed to be trying to direct him further south.

 

Is this a part of being a Toa, or is it the Creature of Jungle at work? He wondered. Can I… ignore it?

 

“I promise to go south, Creature of Jungle, but I must tell my comrades that I am alright first,” he said aloud, deciding to be safe. “They must be worried about my disappearance. Once they know that I am a Toa… or, well, something… anyway, once they know, I’ll go south.” 

 

There was no response, but he found it easy enough to avoid the sense as he made his way to Hinterhall.

 

He found the city in chaos.

 

Acid was still strewn everywhere from Lerahk, slowly eating through anything it came into contact with. Rassilon could see Protectors looting, raiding and rioting, with the soldiers present desperately trying and failing to re-gain order, seeming to lack any command.

 

Lerahk probably killed the ranking officers first, if it had any intelligence.

 

Standing before him, staring at all of the chaos in silence, was the familiar rusted navy form of Sahmad.

 

“Care to explain, Mask Maker?” Rassilon asked, moving to stand next to Sahmad.

 

Sahmad turned to him and frowned. “Rassilon?”

 

“Yes. I’ve changed a bit since we last met,” he said. “So – how can we stop the acid from destroying the city? I’m guessing some very strong base could slow it, but I’m not sure. You have come to help, haven’t you?”

 

“You need to go,” Sahmad said, sounding somewhat distracted. “I’m guessing you managed to unite with the Creature of Jungle – good for you. But seeing another Toa right now is the last thing this city needs while Lewa’s still going mad. I’ll try and find whoever is in charge, and help them to re-establish order.”

 

“The leaders might be worried that I’ve gone missing,” Rassilon said, extending his hand to the Mask Maker. “Promise me that you’ll tell them I’m alive and well.”

 

“I will.” Sahmad shook his hand before turning away. “I’d suggest you go to Arcadia – Keetongu was last sighted in the jungle around it, and… I have a feeling you might find Lewa there as well.”

 

Perhaps my new sixth sense knows what it’s doing after all, Rassilon realized. It was pointing me south before – but to Keetongu, or to Lewa, or simply to where I am needed?

 

-

 

He had just reached the outskirts of Arcadia when a giant yellow figure with one eye crashed through the trees up ahead, rolling to a stop against the city walls. Rassilon could hear the shouting of soldiers, and watched as the figure – who he realized must be Keetongu – irritably batted away several arrows fired by Jungle Protectors. Vines wrapped around Keetongu’s ankles, but it ripped those away too.

 

Lewa, it seemed, was near – and he was, for now, fighting alongside Arcadia.

 

Pulling out his dual swords, Rassilon headed toward the Spirit of the Wild, before hestitating.

 

If I am a Toa, I must have my own elemental powers….

 

“Creature, what abilities do we have?” he asked.

 

The lack of a response was deafening, and Rassilon sighed, a strange sense of melancholy falling over him. No doubt he did have abilities – but the Creature of Jungle as he’d known it existed no longer.

 

Before him, Keetongu used a long blade attached to its left wrist to deflect a series of blows from Lewa’s axes, before a set of rotating saw blades held in its right hand began to spin, slicing a Protector of Jungle in half.

 

Rassilon slowly snuck through the trees until he was behind the Spirit of the Wild. It didn’t appear any weaker in the back than the front, but an ambush was always more effective than a regular attack – and so he made his move. Lunging forward, he swung one of his swords, managing to slice open Keetongu’s back on the right side. Keetongu roared, kicking him away into a pile of nearby Jungle Protectors.

 

The Protectors seemed both shocked and confused at the sight of Rassilon, but Lewa ignored them all, continuing to press the attack.

 

“Oh, my head,” Rassilon groaned, rubbing it as he stood, helping a few of the Protectors back to their feet. “Tell the rest that I’m on your side. I’m Rassilon Oak… and… well, I’ll explain everything to you later. I managed to cut just beneath its shoulder, you should focus your fire there.”

 

Keetongu tossed Lewa past all of them, and the Toa slammed into a tree. At Rassilon’s signal, several of the Protectors fired arrows at Keetongu from all directions. Several landed in the wound that he had created, and the Spirit of the Wild roared again, infuriated, before charging at him.

 

“Keep firing and help Lewa!” he called, diving to the side and barely managing to catch Keetongu’s spinning saw blades with his swords. Keetongu pressed down upon him, and Rassilon quickly began to crumble under its superior strength – but a vine wrapped around Keetongu’s throat and yanked it back, sending it sprawling into the dirt.

 

Seizing the opportunity, Rassilon dove forward, slashing at Keetongu’s ankles. He managed to slice both open, and the Spirit of the Wild screamed as it fought its way back to its feet, only to collapse again. The temperature around it started to chill, as a shadowy aura began to form.

 

“It’s calling the Dark Energy!” one of the Protectors warned.

 

“STOP IT!” another yelled. “FIRE!!”

 

Finding himself now behind Keetongu, Rassilon ran up and thrust his blades into Keetongu’s back, aiming for its heart. Despite his success, the injury seemed to only enrage Keetongu further; it reached back with one hand and easily tossed Rassilon into a tree several feet away, with both of his swords stuck in its back.

 

He slowly stood, his body aching all over. Stumbling over to one of the archers, he pointed at Keetongu’s eye. “Shoot there! It’s eye! Blind it!”

 

Rassilon grabbed a bow from one of the dead Protectors and made to follow his own advice – only for the bow to snap apart in his hands, clearly not designed for the strength of a Toa.

 

He was forced to retreat toward the city walls as Keetongu stalked forward. The Spirit of the Wild seemed like an impenetrable wall as it approached, and Rassilon fell back further, until he was crouched next to Lewa, who seemed to be in tremendous pain.

 

“What’s wrong? Lewa?” he asked. “Medic! I need a medic!”

 

No medic showed – though he did spot the dead body of one a few feet away. A second later, however, Lewa grunted, managing to speak through gritted teeth: “My mind. The Hordika… it’s fighting me. I’m going to lose my mind soon.”

 

One arrow caught Keetongu in its eye, and it screamed, before blindly hacking its way through the nearest Protectors.

 

“Remember who you are,” Rassilon said. “You’re no beast, no monster. You are a Toa, of Okoto. Remember what makes you you.”

 

Noticing the other Toa’s axes, an idea began to form in his eyes.

 

“Can I use one of your axes?”

 

Lewa grinned, handing him one. “I’m right behind you.”

 

Together, they snuck around behind Keetongu.

 

“Aim for the neck,” Rassilon said. “You get the left… I’ve got the right.”

 

Several Protectors realized what they were doing as both Toa moved in, and they all tackled Keetongu, grabbing onto it. As Keetongu stumbled, distracted, he and Lewa both swung their axes –

 

-and met in the middle.

 

Keetongu’s head slowly toppled to the jungle floor, before his body followed with a thundering crash.

 

-Qendroj City-

-Efandril Aodh-

IC: Efandril, Jed(B.Exit), Tex(B.Exit), Isniel(B.Exit), Jakura(Meeting), Bartok(Meeting)

 

Seething with silent fury, Efandril waited for Nuhrii to return from taking the Knights away, hoping that the Captain’s display of intense ignorance would earn her some sympathy later when she was forced to free the group with fervent apologies.

 

Fate, it seemed, was conspiring against her – for Nuhrii had barely rounded the nearest corner before she overheard his next, fatally overconfident words.

 

“Try to enjoy these next few moments, Knights. They’ll be your last.”

 

You godforsaken buffoon, she thought.

 

“Hold!” she shouted, charging to pursue the group, with Elittra at her heels. Relief rushed through her as she rounded the corner to find that the soldiers she had inserted among Nuhrii’s had already forced everyone to halt. “We cannot execute the Knights!”

 

“Watch me,” Nuhrii said, grabbing the nearest Knight – and then slitting their throat, scowling at her. “That’s what you get, for trying to steal my command!”

 

A sharp gesture of her hand was enough for her own soldiers to unsheathe their weapons, each of their blades resting against the neck of one of Nuhrii’s soldiers. Efandril slowly unsheathed her own sword, stepping toward Nuhrii and thrusting it at his throat.

 

Nuhrii dodged it – or rather, shoved the quickly dying Knight into the path of the blade.

 

He wasn’t as prepared for Elittra’s dagger to bury itself in his side.

 

Knowing that allowing Nuhrii to live would only get her locked into the exhausting process of a trial – one that would undoubtedly carry the risk of Nuhrii calling for a Trial by Combat – and out of patience, Efandril moved to behead the deposed captain. His head hit the floor a second later, rolling to a stop against the foot of Isniel Lasang.

 

“I suppose that’s that,” Elittra said after a moment, staring down at the body.

 

Tex spoke next, sounding hesitant. “My lady… we do have business in the Barren. We… would appreciate it if we could complete our task.”

 

Kicking Nuhrii’s head away from him, Isniel grumbled something about the dead Knight having deserved a better fate before glancing up at her. “He’s right. We request permission to exit the city, and enter the Barren.”

 

Will wonders never cease? If any Protector of Fire or member of Aodh were to make friends with a Jungle Protector, it’d be Tex, she thought, observing the two and continuing to breathe heavily, before signalling for a cloth to wipe off her blade.

 

“Of course,” she said, accepting a rag from one of her soldiers and running it along the blade of her sword. “You have my sincerest apologies for all of this. I should have killed him earlier, and I take full responsibility for your fallen comrade. I will front the costs for any funeral rites out of my own pocket.”

 

Having finished wiping down her blade, Efandril sheathed it before gesturing toward the passage leading to the Barren Gate. “As for your quest… by all means, please leave at your leisure. If it makes any difference to you, please know that the leadership of Aodhiim would never order such thoughtless brutality. Nuhrii acted of his own accord, without any orders from above – as far as I know.”

 

The Kingslayer appeared unconvinced, but remained silent as he turned down the path that she had noted. Efandril stepped aside, Elittra and her soldiers following suit, though as Tex passed, she set a hand on his shoulder.

 

“I apologize to you most of all,” she said quietly. “This… fiasco will no doubt present an added degree of difficulty for you, considering your… unique duality of office.”

 

Tex frowned, looking uneasily at Elittra before he shrugged. “It won’t matter for long if we can’t stop the Great War.” 

 

-

 

With the Knights gone on their way, Efandril and Elittra made their way to the Council Chambers in the center of the city, where Okoto’s Kings had once sat with their Small Council. Although it no longer saw as much use, it remained one of the most secure and private locations in the city.

 

“I doubt you’ll need much help taking on the task of ruling this city,” Efandril said, once it was clear that they were alone. “You’ve always been resourceful. I must be on my way before long, though I’ll speak with the Imperator and Bartok before I go. Once I return to Vakama City, I’ll instruct Takua to supply you with some… ordnance. It will strengthen our defensive garrison here, and will make for a nice reserve later. I’d like you to keep it as secret as possible, however. Handle the manifests personally, and waive as many inspections of the incoming carts as you can.”

 

Elittra nodded. “The vaults beneath the city?”

 

“Luroka undoubtedly emptied them and gave everything to the Knights, but search them anyway,” she said. “Who knows? Perhaps there were things he felt even the Knights shouldn’t know.”

 

She quickly filled Elittra in on the other numerous details of the position, before preparing to depart from the chamber. “Do you have any questions, before I go?”

 

“Only one, my lady,” Elittra said softly. “Voltex Aodh… I know that he is the only member of House Aodh that you hold any true fondness for, and he is not a fighter. But his political influence is, perhaps, more vast than even he knows. What do you intend for him, when the time comes?”

 

“I will do as I must,” Efandril said. “I hope I can maneuver him to be away from Aodhiim, but I must not allow weakness to keep me from my destiny.”

 

With that, she threw on her cloak. “Good day, and good luck, Captain Elittra,” she said with a wink, before leaving.

 

-

 

She ran into Balta on her way to Bartok’s chambers, and as they approached, they could hear Jakura speaking, the Imperator clearly irate: “If you can’t do this simple task, what can you do?!”

 

Exchanging a worried glance with Balta, Efandril pushed open the door and entered with a bow. “My apologies if I intrude, your grace. Shall I wait outside while you finish?”

 

Jakura glanced over his shoulder at Efandril and Balta. Two guards flanked him, though they now stepped aside, and Efandril could see Bartok seated on his bed, appearing expressionless – except for his eyes, which revealed the Diplomat’s frustration.

 

“No,” the Imperator said, sighing and regaining his composure with ease. “In fact, it’s rather convenient that you’ve arrived. I’ve been questioning Bartok about his mission in Burned Harbor – his failed mission,” he added, his cold eyes slowly slipping back to meet the Diplomat’s.

 

Efandril eyed Bartok with a mixture of derision and pity, before turning her gaze back toward the Imperator. “How badly did he fail?”

 

“A good question – the answer depends entirely on your point of view,” said Jakura. “On the one hand, Gavla Lurrun turned him away without a definitive answer. On the other hand… it sounds like she isn’t so much opposed to the idea of annexation as she is to Bartok’s incompetent efforts to convince her. If nothing else, she must be insulted by this. But I don’t believe that the opportunity has been lost quite yet.”

 

The ideal follow-up out to be apparent, Efandril thought, remaining silent.

 

Jakura gave her an inquisitive look. “You wish to go in Bartok’s stead?”

 

“Do I wish to? Certainly not; I would be indescribably happier had he managed to get the job done himself. However, I think we both want that territory under the flag of Aodhiim, and of the four people we could send to secure it… one has failed. Another is in the Barren, and a third has a nation to run.” She gestured widely with her arms. “I am the only realistic choice, and I expect you know that already.”

 

The Imperator said nothing at first, his face clouding over briefly with some strange sense of frustration or longing – it was hard to be sure, and it was gone almost as soon as it had surfaced. Jakura folded his arms behind his back and glanced over at Bartok, who was fittingly silent, before looking back to her. “Very well. But you’ll take Bartok with you. Perhaps he can learn some competence from watching you work.”

 

“As you wish,” Efandril said, sparing the Diplomat a bored-seeming wayward glance. “Before I head to the South, however, I intended to make a brief stop-off in Vakama City. It was my thinking that, given its sturdy construction, Qendroj City might make a great location to store some of our darkfire – not to mention the defensive boost it would give our garrison. I planned to instruct my Pyromancers to have some shipped here.”

 

“How much, exactly?”

 

“Enough to carry the city through any attack it may suffer – spirit forbid – and enough to serve as the emergency store that we have sorely needed. Some small fraction of the vast quantities beneath Vakama City.”

 

“So long as you can maintain a safe transfer, then proceed,” said Jakura. “For too long the darkfire has remained in one place. You have my permission.”

 

“Wonderful. I’ve already arranged for its transfer on this end,” Efandril said, before grimacing as she remembered the former captain. “Ah, with the… new Captain of Qendroj City. Has anyone apprised you of the details?”

 

“I was just about to ask you, actually. How is Nuhrii faring?”

 

“He’s not.” Her face soured at the mention of the idiot’s name. “He took the ‘promotion’ poorly enough to commit high treason, so… rather poorly. It’s unfortunate that he forced my hand in such a manner, but he made enough of a spectacle defying direct orders that I doubt his death will draw any sympathy. Particularly since he killed a man in cold blood.”

 

There was nothing but silence from the Imperator for several moments, his icy gaze piercing the shadows where he stood.

 

“Whom, pray tell, did he kill?”

 

“A Knight of Ekimu.”

 

Deafening silence descended once more, broken only by the slight uncomfortable shifting of Jakura’s guards.

 

“Where is the envoy?” the Imperator finally asked.

 

“I allowed them to pass. I couldn’t detain them any longer after that – and, well, Tex was among them,” she said. “I’ve had very few viable options on how to proceed since entering the city; the whole scenario went rather badly, but I should like to think that it could have turned out much worse.”

 

“It’s unfortunate that he was killed so quickly,” Jakura murmured. “I should have had the writhing little ferret imprisoned when I had the chance. But what’s done is done – let Tex sort this out with the Knights; we have other priorities. Go to Vakama City with Bartok, and then visit Gavla.”

 

“Thank you,” she said with her characteristic bow, as Bartok exited the room. “Good day, Imperator.”

 

“Spirit be with you,” Jakura said to her somewhat distractedly, seeming to speak more to himself than to her. “Be safe.”

 

To Be Continued in Part II.

 

-For those unaware, I've been extremely busy (and then quite sick) in the midst of writing this episode, so Parts II and III still need to be completed. Since the wait has been so long, however, Part 1 of Episode 3 is here for you now.

 

With any luck, Part II should be up sometime this weekend.


Edited by Lucina, Mar 16 2018 - 08:29 PM.

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OF GODS AND MEN

-ONE-


#205 Offline Rassilon (TTL)

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Posted Mar 18 2018 - 08:54 PM

While we wait for Voltex to feel better I'm starting a Mafia game called The Last Verse
Go check it out and maybe join in the fun.

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The Tide Comes in this Summer


#206 Offline Lucina

Lucina
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Posted Mar 20 2018 - 11:56 AM

EPISODE THREE

“Shadow of the Storm”

(Part II)

 

-The North-

-Rilgivi Nivis-

IC: Rilgivi

 

In the North, keeping your directions could be difficult – and for Rilgivi, the thick clouds covering the sun weren’t helping. She remained mostly certain that the direction she and her few surviving soldiers were headed was east, toward the sea, until Macku gasped beside her. A second later, she too saw it.

 

A tall mountain, stretching into the sky from the flat snowy tundra surrounding them. She knew it shouldn’t be there – couldn’t be there, not if they had gone east as intended… though, on second thought, she didn’t recognize this area at all.

 

Perhaps we’re more lost than I originally thought, she mused.

 

She was disappointed, but knew that the mountain could be used to their advantage. The advantage of higher ground would be useful in surveying the surrounding area, and they might be able to lose Kurahk on the climb.

 

“To the mountain,” she decided, and toward it they all marched.

 

Through the snow they marched, their visibility slowly obscured as the snowfall worsened. They made it to the base of the mountain unchallenged, but the climb had only just begun where they heard a deep screeching sound from behind them, one that sent a chill through their bones.

 

“It’s here,” one of her soldiers whimpered.

 

Ahead of them, from higher on the mountain, came an animalistic bellowing roar. Fear seized Rilgivi’s heart in its fist.

 

We have barely survived against one creature. We cannot hope to survive against two… especially if it’s Kopaka.

 

“Stand firm and ready your weapons!” she ordered. “Keep your backs to the mountain, move into phalanx formation!”

 

We’ll make our stand here, pay the price for what we did. Redeem ourselves, through victory, or through death.

 

With her eyes fixed above them, higher up the mountain, Rilgivi was the first to see the unmistakable form of Kopaka emerging from the storm. The Toa’s armor was rugged and weather-worn; he resembled a beast more than a Toa. He stared down at Rilgivi and her small group, the rage and madness of the beast – and something else, almost forlorn – dancing in his eyes. She tightened her grip on her weapon, but the Toa’s gaze shifted further down the mountain, to where Kurahk was now visible, and his eyes narrowed.

 

Before anyone could react, the Toa of Ice charged and leaped over Rilgivi’s group, diving at Kurahk. He slammed into the Rahkshi with all his strength, and the two tumbled out of view, wrestling with each other as they disappeared into the storm.

 

“The sky,” one soldier said, sounding confused and pointing up. “At the peak!”

 

Pushing Kopaka and Kurahk from her mind, Rilgivi turned her attention to the peak of the mountain – where, in the middle of the swirling storm, she could see a vibrant blue sky.

 

“Commander,” Macku said, “perhaps we should continue the climb?”

 

“Yes, we continue the climb.”

 

They began their ascent, and in what felt like no time at all, managed to scale halfway to the peak. The air felt strange, like it was crackling with power, almost alive; disturbed by the sensation, Rilgivi glanced away from the mountain, gasping in surprise. She could see far into the distance, looking far above the clouds.

 

“This is so strange,” Macku said, just as bewildered as she was. “How did we get up here so fast?! I think I can see the border with Kamuk!”

 

“There’s a cave not too far away,” one of the other soldiers said, pointing ahead of them.

 

“We go there,” Rilgivi decided. “Something is definitely off… hopefully it’ll be safer there than walking the side of the mountain.”

 

-

 

The cave was lit with intricately crafted torches, embedded with glowing crystals instead of carrying a flame. The cavern itself seemed to take on a more artificial shape the deeper they went, becoming smoother and more geometrical, until finally they came to the foot of a staircase leading up, carved into the rock.

 

Listening closely, Rilgivi could hear a faint chatter coming from above. Sharing a glance with Macku, Rilgivi silently signalled for everyone to ready their weapons, before she and Macku led the way up the stairs. As they climbed higher, closer to the sound, Rilgivi could soon make out voices – and then distinct words, which sounded as though spoken by an alien tongue.

 

“-not our responsibility. We should have turned it away when it arrived!” A high pitched and strangely harmonious voice said.

 

Another voice spoke, deeper and heavier, rumbling like thunder. “We couldn’t let it bleed out. It is a creature of the elements… surely you have empathy for our kin?”

 

Creature of the elements? Rilgivi thought to herself, intrigued.

 

“It is entirely unprecedented! Thousands of winters we have tended to this temple, and not once has a corporeal construct been allowed inside – elementally aligned or not!” the first voice was clearly peeved.

 

The second sighed. “Times are changing. You heard what the messenger said – the twilight brood is making their move. They’ll soon be here, and then neither side will be safe. We may be separate, but we are still reliant upon each other. This creature has its part to play in the war to come, just as we will.”

 

A third voice now chimed in, this one sounding like a voice making itself heard through a heavy wind, and strangely emotionless. “We will allow it to recuperate to a stable condition, but after, it must go. There are preparations to be made, and this gash has been open for long enough as-is. We already have to powerful Corporeals fighting down at the base of the mountain – who knows what else may stumble upon us?”

 

Rilgivi suddenly felt a gust of wind pass her by, rushing up the stairs. Up ahead, she could hear what sounded like loud winds blowing, but it was strangely melodic, almost as if the work of something sentient – and then the sounds stopped.

 

The third voice spoke again, unchanged in its detachment. “It seems that we have some guests.”

 

Rilgivi felt a chill on her back, and after another silent exchange with Macku, she emerged from the stairwell with the others right behind her. The sight before her was truly breath-taking; a marvellous room, intricately hewn out of the mountain’s stone. In the center sat a stone table, upon which a white bear-like creature – the Elemental Creature of Ice, Melum, she realized – lay. At the far end of the room was a large throne, built from aqua hued gemstones and the mountain’s rock.

 

The rest was… harder for her to comprehend. There appeared to be three beings in the room – two standing at the table, and one standing before the throne, that much she could tell. But one seemed to be composed of storm clouds, with bursts of lightning crackling in its form. She had the sense that it was looking at her, but its face – if that was what it was – was just a swirling teal vortex of clouds.

 

The second being was odder. It resembled a humanoid form, but was a cloud of what she could only assume were snowflakes, dancing in harmony throughout the being’s form.  A solid mask of ice hovered where its face ought to be, the mask’s shape jagged and crystalline.

 

The final being, standing before the throne, was stranger still. She could barely even see it, winds flowing into and through and out of it in an erratic and oddly rhythmic fashion. The only thing that really made it visible at all was the dust carried within it.

 

“So,” the final being said, the owner of the emotionless third voice. “Destiny sees fit to bring you to our temple. What are your names?”

 

“I am Rilgivi of House Nivis, Land Commander of Agua Hielo,” Rilgivi said, stepping forward and gesturing to Macku and the others. “My primary companion, Captain Macku of House Greavesey. The others are soldiers under our command. We recently fought a creature of anger with over a thousand men, but it turned our rage against us, and caused us to slaughter each other. We fled to this mountain, where Toa Kopaka attacked the creature whilst we made the climb, and here we are.”

 

After taking a moment to catch her breath, she bowed. If these are gods – and they must be, for I can barely comprehend them…. Respect is good.

 

“Interesting,” the storm cloud said, revealing itself as the second voice. “You describe the dark creature, no? The one fighting this creature’s taller counterpart?”

 

Her attention drawn to Melum, she saw that it was bleeding from a nasty gash in its side. “Yes. It’s name is Kurahk, the dark creature. It fights Toa Kopaka. What happened?”

 

“I found it outside, clinging to life. This Malum creature is in very bad shape,” the storm cloud said. “It needs rest.”

 

“Melum,” the snowflakes corrected.

 

“Yes, Malum, that is what I said,” the storm cloud said, sounding exasperated. “You need not correct me every time I speak, Hielgal.”

 

“We cannot allow you to stay long,” the winds said. “Should the Corporeals outside reach our temple, the results could be catastrophic.” It moved to her now, as if floating on the wind. “Rilgivi of House Nivis, you and your companions brought this… ‘Kurahk’ to our doorstep. You must ensure neither it nor Kopaka bring harm to this place.”

 

A few flashes of lightning went off in the storm cloud’s form. “What if we cut off the Spirit Gash now?”

 

The snowflakes within Hielgal seemed to gain speed, becoming more erratic. “These Corporeals would cross over onto the Spirit Side entirely! That’s madness!” It retorted, sounding angrier than earlier.

 

“Better that they stay, before the other two get in!” the storm cloud thundered back.

 

“Stur! Hielgal! Control yourselves!” the wind boomed, its voice like a fog horn in a storm. Rilgivi couldn’t really tell, but she felt as though its attention now turned back to her. “It seems you have a choice. You can do your part to prevent those outside from entering… or you may remain as we close the gash. But doing so you will be stuck on our side until the next gash opens… and none of us can be certain when that might happen.”

 

Just looking at them is giving me a headache. What’s a Spirit Gash?

 

“The Kurahk alone indirectly slaughtered over a thousand of us,” she said. “Now Kopaka is there as well. If we go back, we will be no match – they’ll kill us in seconds. I am no coward, but between certain death and survival, I choose to survive. We will remain here.”

 

“And your companions?” the wind asked.

 

“We’re with her,” Macku said, and the others all nodded. “We’re staying by her side.”

 

“So be it,” the wind responded.

 

She could vaguely tell as it moved back to the throne and sat, the other two beings moving to stand on either side. The gems in the throne began to glow brightly, and soon, the entire room was bathed in a bright aquamarine glow.

 

When it subsided, Rilgivi found herself and her companions in the same room – and watched as it rapidly shifted, the walls separating from the intricate patterns carved in them. The patterns remained as windows to the outside, where she could see massive chunks of stone flying around, rearranging themselves. Then the patterns themselves took leave of the chamber, and pillars of rock arranged themselves around the now open room, the roof ascended and changing. The patterns connected with it, merging to form an ornate domed roof.

 

“Macku,” she said, eyeing the still ongoing transformation with wide eyes, “I’ve a feeling we’re not in Okoto anymore.”

 

-Kamuk, New Makuta City Outskirts-

-Quin Galum-

IC: Quin, Vinheim

 

At the end of a canyon outside New Makuta City, Quin and Pouks found their target – Ketar, the Elemental Creature of Stone. The small scorpion-like creature had scuttled onto a large boulder at their approach, but seemed otherwise content to watch them.

 

Unfortunately, they soon found that they weren’t alone.

 

“Boss…” Pouks said, trailing off as he glanced behind them.

 

He turned to the sight of Vinheim, flanked by at least a hundred soldiers – and a quick glance up revealed nearly as many archers, all ready to fire.

 

“You could have fled Kamuk,” Vinheim said, when it became clear that both Quin and Pouks would remain silent. “You could have sought safety with the Knights… and yet here I find you, trying to steal from Kamuk again. Look at you – you’ve cornered the Creature of Stone, as if it were some ordinary beast!” He shook his head, affecting a disappointed expression. “Then again… the way you looked at Pohatu… why am I even surprised?”

 

“Fleeing Kamuk was never my intention, not while you sit on the throne. As for Ketar…” Quin glanced back at it. “Letting it fall into your hands would be one of the worst things I could do.”

 

“Do you even know why I seek the Creature of Stone?” Vinheim asked, seeming strangely calm. “I seek it to save Toa Pohatu, so that we might have a chance of surviving the war to come.” He turned his attention to Pouks. “You, Petros by. Why are you fighting? What do you fight for?”

 

Quin protectively blocked Pouks with his arm, frowning. He wants the Creature of Stone for the same reasons I do, he thought.

 

“Do you know where Pohatu is?” he asked.

 

“Let the boy speak,” Vinheim said. “You’ve forced him to become a murderer, forced him against his nation, and against his people. Let him speak, unless you are afraid of what he might say, or what he might feel.”

 

The King gestured up toward the archers. “I’m being incredibly merciful, Quin. Just as I was to ShadowVezon – who now serves the Knights of Ekimu. If I tell them to fire, you will not survive. Speak truly.”

 

“I didn’t force him to do anything, he saved my life!” Quin spat, his anger temporarily taking control. “I wasn’t intending to kill anyone, but since you sent psychopaths and zealots down to the tunnels, I was forced to kill my own soldiers!”

 

He sighed, closing his eyes and forcing his anger down. There was only one way this situation could pan out, and they both knew it. There was no use in another long-winded argument.

 

Vinheim took a breath of his own, as Pouks fell back, crouching next to the Creature of Stone.

 

“I don’t really know what to fight for,” the rookie admitted. “I don’t like your politics, any of you. I don’t like how Kamuk is run right now, but I don’t know how to do it better. All I can do is fight for what is right. All I can do is endure, no matter the odds.”

 

“Nobody likes politics boy, but they are a necessary evil.”

 

Quin glanced back at Pouks, and then back to Vinheim. “How can I trust that you won’t kill him as soon as I surrender?”

 

Pouks patted the Creature of Stone. Ketar allowed it for a few seconds before scuttling over to Quin, seeming inquisitive. He tried to ignore the creature in favor of staring Vinheim down, but it stretched out first one leg and then another, resting them against his leg. It seemed to be wondering if it could climb him – or if he would be worth doing so.

 

“I could have killed you both already. Instead I give you a choice.”

 

“I’m old… but he is young. I don’t want to waste his life for my own failed cause.”

 

“Then you have my word as King, that I shall allow Pouks to flee Kamuk unhindered.”

 

Patting Ketar’s head – and shaking his own at the Creature – Quin carefully undid his sword straps, before throwing the weapon to the ground. Ketar titled its head before seeming to shrug, and hopped down. Pouks stepped forward to stand beside him as the Creature of Stone scuttled over to Vinheim, observing the King.

 

Quin sighed, stepping toward the shackles offered to him.

 

Vinheim dipped his head. “Do not give up hope entirely. You have willingly surrendered, and another war looms on the horizon. We might make use of you, yet.”

 

As the soldier shackled Quin’s hands behind his back, Vinheim turned his attention to Ketar, kneeling before the Creature of Stone. It stared into his eyes, seeming almost hesitant. Quin watched as Vinheim frowned, before placing his right hand upon Ketar’s head.

 

“Time is running out,” the King said. “Provide me with your power, and I will do what is best.”

 

The world seemed to slow as Quin watched the Creature crawl onto Vinheim’s back, and then attach itself to the King.

 

Vinheim screamed. The sound echoed throughout the canyon as he collapsed, twitching madly, clawing at the dirt, shrieking at the top of his lungs. Blood dripped out of the Protector’s ears, and he foamed at the mouth as he began to grow in size, his arms and legs snapping and cracking as they stretched. His eyes rolled back in his head and he gave one last violent shudder before falling still, and it was only by the rapid rise and fall of his chest that Quin knew that Vinheim still lived.

 

“Get the prisoners back to the city,” one of the soldiers said, sounding shaken. “Help me with the King.”

 

-The Barren-

-Virndrung Vatten-

IC: Virndrung, Toru, Gikayok, Unit, Luroka, Quad Roka

 

“Forget it,” Father Urot said, standing next to Virndrung. “I’m not even shocked anymore.”

 

Virndrung kept his own features calm, though he was fighting panic inside. The Brotherhood had marched straight into an armed force led by General Unit Ember and Captain Narmoto Aodh… one that had been joined by Luroka Qendroj and Toa Onua.

 

This is going to get out of hand very, very quickly.

 

The Toa of Earth stepped forward, shoving a Stone Protector standing next to him back. The fury on the Toa’s face was obvious.

 

“TORU SEVOI!” Onua’s voice boomed into the air, heard by everyone – and it was directed at Father Urot, standing less than a foot away from Virndrung. “I would recognize you anywhere, you treacherous worm!”

 

“Ah, Onua,” Urot drawled, mocking the Toa. “How awful it is to see you again. And me? Treacherous? Have you looked in the mirror lately?”

 

No. Urot… Toru… Virnrdrung thought, turning to the leader of the Brotherhood, his mind racing. I should have seen it. I have been a fool.

 

“Father,” he said. “Perhaps I can mediate, before this escalates?”

 

“You can certainly try,” the Fire – Earth? – Protector said, not sounding very bothered about the rapidly rising tensions. “They’re all idiots, but you can try.”

 

“You betray your own kind and this very island,” Onua said before Virndrung could speak again, taking a deep breath. “You have allowed your rage and lust for vengeance to consume you… but it will cease here, today.”

 

Toru’s voice took on a whiny, child-like tone. “’You betray you own kind and this very island’! That’s you. That’s what you sound like.”

 

“Urot… Toru, whatever you prefer to be called, don’t escalate this. Don’t start a fight you can’t win,” Virndrung said, still trying to process the revelation.

 

He’d been working with Toru. The Toru, Toru Sevoi, this whole time. Masquerading among the ranks of his followers, associating with him… the worst of the worst. The Protector who had brought Kulta to the surface of Okoto, turned the island against itself, brought down his father’s rule before it could truly begin.

 

“The Knights allow my region to burn, Terrorsaur Rayne poisons Stone, Burnmad Aodh burns down the Jungle twice,” Toru listed, oblivious to Virndrung’s own slowly heating anger. “But I try and turn us all into blessed undying, and then ‘oh no’, it’s wrong!”

 

“Protectors have made mistakes,” Onua said. “It is in their nature. But you side even still with an abomination, and seek the destruction of everything. You must be stopped.”

 

“Oh really? I suppose your friend there-” Toru pointed at Unit – “conveniently left out the fact that he also worked for that abomination!”

 

The attempt at sowing discord didn’t faze Onua. “He has left those ways behind, and assisted in rebuilding his nation since Kulta’s fall. You have only sunk deeper.”

 

Virndrung slowly fell back past Gikayok, finding the Prophet. If things were about to go south as much as he thought they were, then there wouldn’t be a better way to convince Onua to let him live than turning on the Brotherhood.

 

I planned to do this eventually, he thought, as the Prophet eyed him warily. So it might be earlier than the boss would have liked… he’ll understand. Politics is all about adjusting on the fly.

 

“You could have joined us,” Onua was saying. “There was nothing in the Barren to build a civilization with. We started anew.”

 

“I’m sure the survivors of House Sevoi and House Zemlja would agree,” Toru said. “Of course, they couldn’t help you, seeing as you slaughtered them.”

 

Onua did not respond, but Toru’s words clearly infuriated the other four Earth Protectors with him, and they each drew their weapons. Virndrung’s hand flew to the knife at his hip and his muscles tensed, ready to spring into action.

 

“Calm down Onua,” said Luroka. The Commander of Qendroj City slowly stepped forward, holding an ornate staff of ancient make in his hand, which seemed to almost shimmer in the air. “It is unbecoming to lose your composure like this.”

 

It can’t be, Virndrung wondered, eyes narrowing as he stared at the Staff. Is it…?

 

“While it displeases me to see you again,” Luroka continued, turning now to Toru, “I have no business with you or your associates, and we have other priorities at hand. For the time being, I think it would be best for us to go our separate ways.”

 

Virndrung winced. Wrong move.

 

The four Earth Protectors with Luroka pushed past him, eyes blazing.

 

“He killed us all by serving Kulta,” one of them said. “I’m gonna gut him!”

 

“Get behind me now!” Luroka snapped. “We do not have the time for this nonsense!”

 

Onua stepped forward, glaring at the Brotherhood. “We do now.”

 

Oh, fu-

 

The Toa smashed his fist into the ground, and the earth trembled beneath their feet. Virndrung stumbled into Gikayok as the shaking increased – before the ground began to split apart right beneath them. Cursing, he dove to the side, crashing to the dirt at the edge of the rapidly growing fissure right next to the Prophet.

 

“That was close,” the Prophet said, eyes wide.

 

Scowling, Virndrung lunged at them, planting his hands on their chest and pushing with all his might, sending the Prophet tumbling into the abyss. All around him, other unfortunate Protectors suffered the same fate, screaming as they fell.

 

One down. He slowly stood, spotting Toru standing only a little way away. Two to go.

 

“Careful now,” Toru called, taking off the Mask of Fire and holding it over the abyss. “People who die have the unfortunate tendency to drop whatever they’re holding.”

 

“Onua, stop this madness!” the Stone Protector from earlier yelled.

 

“It is not madness, Quad Roka,” Onua said, his eyes fixed on Toru. “Only resolve.”

 

Quad Roka… wait, the Knight. The spy in the Reach. Virndrung frowned. But… why is he all the way down here?

 

“The Knight is correct,” he called, shoving his confusion aside. “Vorahk roams the Barren! It will be drawn to the sound of a battle. You two are going to get all of us killed!”

 

“There will be no battle,” Onua promised. “Drop the mask, Toru Sevoi, and it will be a slaughter.”

 

All around Virndrung, the remaining members of the Brotherhood were pulling out their weapons – and behind Onua, Captain Narmoto nodded once. A sizeable chunk of the Aodhiim forces stepped forward, preparing to meet the Brotherhood head-on.

 

“Onua! STAND DOWN!” Luroka roared.

 

“You threaten a death cult with death?” Toru taunted. “Try again, Toa.”

 

“What are you even accomplishing here?!” Virndrung snapped, scowling at Toru, allowing his irritation to be free. “If you won’t defuse the situation, I will! Give me the mask before your bickering kills us all!”

 

“The son of Pulse Vatten is telling me what to do?!” Toru laughed manically, shaking his head. “It must be a day that ends in ‘y’. Very well then – impress me!”

 

Virndrung caught the Mask of Fire as Toru tossed it to him. “You continue to impress me with how foolish you can be.” He turned to General Unit, throwing the mask over to him before turning back to Toru. “You know, maybe-”

 

He was interrupted by the ground trembling underneath them again, throwing everyone off balance. More of the Brotherhood tumbled to their deaths; he saw Unit fall to one knee, while Luroka, using the Staff, stayed on both feet. Before him, Toru cried out in alarm as he lurched backwards, tumbling into the pit – only to grab onto the ledge at the last second, handing onto it for dear life.

 

“Someone help me!” he cried. “If you value any success, you’ll save me!”

 

Virndrung whipped out his knife and stalked forward, intending to end Toru then and there, only to tumble to the dirt as the ground trembled again. He caught himself on his hands and knees, and started to push himself back up – only to scream in pain and rage as his left hand was tabbed through by the blade of a sword. He glanced up to find Gikayok holding onto its hilt, using it to keep his balance as he inched toward Toru….

 

Not… today!

 

His left hand was already ruined, he’d never use it again. Knowing this, Virndrung reached up and grabbed the hilt of the sword with his right hand and wrenched it to the side, pulling Gikayok off balance. The Jungle Protector let go of the sword and stumbled toward the edge of the fissure, made one last, fumbling attempt to grab Toru – and then fell, vanishing into the depths.

 

-Kamuk, Fort Patrus-

-Anuhea Petros-

IC: Anuhea

 

Feeling the immense power of the Torch of Ma rushing through his veins, Anuhea raced through the streets of Fort Patrus, hoping to reach his personal quarters as quickly as possible. Nilkuu was right beside him the entire way, managing to match his pace.

 

“Where do you plan to hide it, my lord?”

 

“I don’t know…” he said. “There aren’t many good places to hide anything, let alone this. I thought perhaps my dwelling would be safest… though now that I think about it, the hidden chambers in Velika’s hut might offer better protection.”

 

“I doubt he’d refuse,” Nilkuu pointed out. “And that basement probably isn’t the only hidden chamber in his home.”

 

His mind set, Anuhea changed course, hurrying to the Mask Maker’s hut. They arrived without issue, albeit somewhat out of breath; trying to seem as natural as possible, he entered the home, Nilkuu right behind. Wasting no time, he descended into the basement once more.

 

“There,” Nilkuu said, pointing to what appeared to be a trapdoor in the center of the room.

 

He pulled it open to reveal a small empty compartment – one just large enough to hold the Torch. Anuhea dropped it in and shut the trapdoor, sighing with relief as the heat of its energies washed away.

 

“So….” Nilkuu trailed off, uncertain. “Now what?”

 

“It’s safe now, so we should return to the campaign,” Anuhea said, turning his attention to the rest of the room. “However… I’d like to look around here a little bit. Velika was always an odd type, and now that we know more about him… perhaps he’s held something useful all these years.”

 

“Is there anything in particular I should search for?”

 

“Anything that catches your attention, I suppose.”

 

Nilkuu walked over to the Wall of History, but Anuhea found his attention drawn by an old, worn out leather book sitting on one of the workshop tables nearby. It had a green cover with a strange design. Intrigued, he made his way over, shoving a few bits and pieces of miscellaneous projects out of the way before opening it to a random page.

 

It flipped open to an entry from three months before:

 

Long range communication remains impossible on Okoto. I suspect Vinheim Maran has managed to maintain Kamuk’s communication capabilities, but I cannot prove this, nor do I have any hypotheses for how he has managed this.

 

Sahmad has grown more active in recent weeks. Whatever his plan is… he will enact it soon. Whatever Voltex’s suspicions of him were, however, I believe he may have been mistaken. Sahmad is by no means a good person; but he does seem to be working, in this instance, toward the greater good.

 

What horrors might push someone like Sahmad to do so… I am scared to know.

 

On Voltex, there is nothing new. He and Ekimu remain out of contact. All I can do is pray that this does not mean they have failed in their task….

 

I sense something on the horizon. Okoto is on the cusp of calamity, I can feel it. I shall have to research more thoroughly, and look back through my notes….

 

The entry ended there.

 

“Sahmad… another Mask Maker, I presume…” he mused, flipping back to earlier in Velika’s journal, hoping for more information. Nilkuu joined him as he flipped back to an entry dated from the year 326 AE – twenty-one years ago, around a year before the infamous Battle for the Dawn.

 

My cover within the Earth Region has finally been blown. I suspect Kulta has known I was a Mask Maker from the start, but my efforts to avoid direct contact prevented her from uncovering my history and my future until now. I wish I could stay. Without my presence, much of Earth will likely succumb entirely to her manipulations, and I will be unable to prevent the Skull Warriors in the Ancient City from negatively influencing Pulse Vatten.

 

Voltex, Vatten and Umarak have already been hard at work, stealing Masks of Power from all over the island. When they learn of this, the Protectors will undoubtedly be furious… but Voltex said – and I agree – that it is a necessary evil. I have found Kulta’s Skull Warriors skulking all over the island in my travels, hunting down even the faintest whispers of masks. If we do not take them… she will.

 

I wish I could reveal myself to the island, but the situation is not yet dire enough to require such drastic action. I must establish a new identity for myself, and begin gaining influence. If it comes to a second Long Nihgt… perhaps I can repeat the success of Vakama City….

 

The entry ended there.

 

“This must have been when he first re-took on the name of Velika,” Anuhea thought aloud. “Vinheim was the one who originally spread the word that Dallior was a traitor, correct?”

 

“I think so,” Nilkuu said, confirming his thoughts. “Kulta spread it first, but Vinheim later came forward with ‘evidence’ of it.”

 

“Perhaps we could prove that rumor false with this,” Anuhea suggested. “We know now that Velika has repeatedly worked in favor of Okoto’s well-being. The claim that he was a traitor is absurd. It might be twenty years too late to really matter, but it should call into question Vinheim’s evidence, and by extension, Vinheim himself.”

 

“I don’t think it would work,” Nilkuu said slowly, seeming to come to some sort of realization. “I think that Velika decided to help you gain influence, rather than do it himself. But that means most won’t know who he is. Vinheim could easily claim that you lie.”

 

“That’s true… still, there must be something that we could use,” Anuhea said, tapping the journal idly. “Vinheim, as smarmy as he is, is far better a negotiator than I, and he has the advantage of being far more prevalent politically. The only way for me to gain a greater advantage, as I see it, would be to provide definitive proof of him actively misleading the people of Kamuk. That… or evidence of him working against the nation’s well-being. Even then, those aren’t guarantees.”

 

“What do the latest entries say?” Nilkuu asked. “I think our best chance would be to prove that King ShadowVezon and General Quin were falsely imprisoned, and work from there. Perhaps Velika knows if the charges were true?”

 

“Let’s see,” Anuhea said, flipping to the final entry, which appeared to be from just a few days before.

 

I have, to the best of my abilities, uncovered Sahmad’s plots across the island. I know that he has agents placed in Okoto’s highest ranks working for him – or with him – all over the island. In Kamuk, I have discovered that Ahkmou Umrik works with him, albeit very reluctantly. Ahkmou himself seems to be more loyal to Vinheim… and to a far darker master. In the Knights, Sahmad has stationed Metus Crustallus, and I have reason to suspect that Gavla Lurrun, in the South, works with him as well. Of Aodhiim and Karamu, I know that he has allies, though I have yet to determine their identities.

 

Sahmad has caused a plague to spread like wildfire through the North. It seems designed to keep them busy and occupied… and in their homes. Distracted. But from what? Nato Greavesey would undoubtedly try to stop Sahmad from raising the one imprisoned beneath the Barren, but Sahmad in turn could easily stop him….

 

The strange, hostile weather patterns in the North continue. They are of a magical origin, stronger and older than I. I suspect whatever lies at their heart might be the true reason for Sahmad to spread the plague… what might he go to such desperate lengths to prevent the Protectors from seeing?

 

Kamuk, as always, remains complicated. I have finally deduced that some of Vinheim’s accusations toward ShadowVezon Raqmu were true; ShadowVezon did indeed kill Zatth Raqmu to take over the region himself. But these nebulous ‘war crimes’ from the Battle for the Dawn and the War of Five Kings… I can find no evidence of them. Quin Galum, at least, seems to have been imprisoned simply because he could have threatened Vinheim’s rule. ShadowVezon, perhaps, deserved his own imprisonment – if only for kinslaying….

 

Of Voltex, there is still no word.

 

I suspect that the Knights will soon arrive in Fort Patrus, seeking the Mask of Time. I will depart with them, and hopefully, find the answer to stopping the Great War….

 

The final entry ended there.

 

“That’s a start,” Anuhea muttered to himself. “So the only allegations he believes are true are those of murdering Zatth.” He flipped through the journal, skimming it for any other mentions of ShadowVezon; he found some through the years, but nothing significant.

 

“Nothing else on the King?” Nilkuu asked. “What about the General?”

 

He found a few more notes on Quin here and there in the journal. It seemed that Velika had, at one point, considered trying to turn Quin to the Knights to serve Okoto – but the Mask Maker had determined that the General was ultimately out for himself and for Kamuk. Velika had felt that trying to turn the General to another cause would be too much trouble to be worth it.

 

Closing the journal, Anuhea sighed. “I guess that’s all the information we’ll get from this. It’ll at least give us a general direction that we can focus, but there isn’t much that we can actually use against Vinheim, not for the time being.”

 

Taking some time to think, he finally said, “I think the easiest to disprove would be these ‘war crimes’. There hasn’t been any clarification into what they were, which I find to be suspicious. If they are clarified, one would expect there to be physical evidence to back them up. As far as I know, Vinheim hasn’t bothered to explain them.”

 

“Agreed,” Nilkuu said. “Do we risk a trip to Daggerfall, or do we wait here and send messengers out.”

 

“…send messengers,” Anuhea said. “I’d rather not be falsely accused and imprisoned myself.”

 

Nilkuu nodded. “I’ll have it done right away, my lord.”

 

Their business completed, they left Velika’s home. Nilkuu rushed off to fulfil his orders, while Anuhea strolled through the streets in the direction of his own home, observing the city. Fort Patrus appeared fine for now, as usual. It typically ran itself without needing his direct influence.

 

The Torch of Ma… he thought as he walked, if I remember correctly, it will protect whoever bears it, but only once. It’s certainly a valuable asset to have… if Vinheim decides to send his soldiers after me for inquiring about ShadowVezon, however, I may have to use it. I should thank Quin for delivering it to me if the chance arises.

 

“Good day to you, my lord,” said a patrolling guardsman.

 

Anuhea nodded to them distractedly, still lost in his thoughts. Velika being a Mask Maker… I mean, I did know that he wasn’t a true member of House Petros, but to think that he has played such roles throughout history… his reign as Okoto’s King was the most peaceful in the island’s history, and it was his rule that saw Fire survive the Long Night so effectively. And to think that he was Archean... I can’t help but wonder why he decided to support me, rather than go for the throne himself. He certainly could have done so if he wanted to.

 

Arriving at his home, he stepped inside, making his way to the kitchen, where he began to poured himself a small cup of wine. Maybe he was just tired… still, his notes were useful. I now know that Ahkmou serves Sahmad as well as Vinheim… whoever Sahmad might be. If I manage to claim my place on the throne, I should look into him.

 

He sat down by the window, looking out onto the street, sipping his wine. For now, however, I must wait.

 

To Be Continued in Part III.

 

-With any luck, Part III will be finished by the weekend. I'm probably going to need to split this episode into an additional Part IV (and maybe even Part V), although the final chunk of the episode has already been written, so it will hopefully not take too long.

 

Episode 04 is definitely not going to be this big, this is too much. :P


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-ONE-


#207 Offline Finch

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Posted Mar 25 2018 - 06:43 PM

I feel like a buffer post might be good...maybe.


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#208 Offline Lucina

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Posted Mar 25 2018 - 06:45 PM

EPISODE 03

“Shadow of the Storm”

(Part III)

 

-Aodhiim, Vakama City-

-Efandril Aodh-

IC: Efandril, Bartok

 

They arrived at Vakama City without issue, and found Takua waiting for them at the gates. Efandril greeted him warmly.

 

“I’ve arranged for some of the darkfire to be transferred to Qendroj City,” she said, stepping back. “Ship it as soon as possible. If we can move a third of the darkfire out of Vakama City, I’ll be happy, but settle for a quarter if you think it’s too dangerous.”

 

“Of course, my lady,” Takua said, leading her, Bartok, and the ten soldiers accompanying them into the city. “I received a report from Captain Kapura. I’m meant to pass it onto the Imperator, but… perhaps you could do so? He says that he found RG II in Arcadia, but was forced to kill him when he became hostile.”

 

This news seemed to pique Bartok’s interest, but Efandril ignored it for now, allowing sympathy to show on her face. “Of course, Takua. I will inform the Imperator of the bad news.”

 

It’s regrettable, I know,” Takua said. “Kapura is resting for now, if you’d like to meet with him. If not… is there anything else I can assist you with?”

 

“I’ll have a word with him,” she said, sensing that Bartok wished to speak with Takua in private – as if Takua wouldn’t report everything they spoke about to her anyway. “You two can keep each other company in the meantime. Just point me to where he’s resting.”

 

-

 

She found the hostel where Kapura was staying, and was allowed inside. She thanked the Protector who had led her to his room before pushing the door open and stepping inside. “Captain Kapura?”

 

“Lady Efandril,” Kapura said. He was standing over a table with a map of Okoto, no doubt running mock military scenarios. His current game seemed to involve Aodhiim and the Brotherhood being forced to ally against enemies from the South. “How can I help you?”

 

She shut the door behind her, before speaking in a low tone. “I simply wanted to offer you my… condolences for the happenings in Karamu. Truly a… tragedy.”

 

Kapura nodded, looking solemn. “A tragedy indeed, for such an idol of Aodhiim to have fallen so far. I’m afraid he never did share his reasons for hiding in the jungle with anyone. Unfortunate.”

 

Efandril considered the words for a moment, a look of contentment on her face. “Shame. And how are you holding up from this ruinous venture?”

 

“I’m taking some time for myself, and for my squad,” Kapura said. “I’m going to be gathering all of my loyal soldiers and travelling to Silodas soon, to hold a funeral.”

 

Neither mentioned that doing so would, conveniently, remove said loyal troops out of harm’s way.

 

“Good luck,” she replied, “and may the spirit rest his soul.” At this, she stepped forward, holding the Captain in a half-embrace and pushing her forehead to that of her comrade. She spoke in a whisper, despite the apparent security of their position. “After the funeral… put the idea in someone’s head to hold a feast in the Imperator’s name.”

 

She broke away, and turned to leave, speaking aloud once more. “Good day, soldier.”

 

“You too, my lady.”

 

-

 

It took her no time at all to recollect Bartok and the rest of their travelling companions, and they were soon on their way. Little of note happened during their travels, and a few short days later they were entering Burned Harbor. As was usual for the city, the streets were crowded on the verge of being over-stuffed, flowing with trade and commerce.

 

The city guard would have been nearly invisible to the average Protector’s eyes, though Efandril had long since trained herself to notice even the most miniscule of details. She could see them milling in the crowds and up on building roofs, acting casual as they surveyed the crowds for any hostilities.

 

“You were just here,” she said, gesturing to Bartok. “Make yourself useful. Lead the way.”

 

Bartok led them to the offices of Gavla Lurrun, where one of the few obvious guards of the city stood. The guard appeared to recognize Bartok, and sneered at him. “What do you want?”

 

Efandril stepped forward. “I would like to speak with the esteemed head of House Lurrun.”

 

The guard laughed, scoffing at Bartok. “He already got himself kicked out once for bein’ weak. Maybe you’ll do better.” He stepped aside and opened the door to allow them through.

 

It would be difficult to do worse, she thought sourly, gesturing for Bartok to follow, their guards remaining outside. “Watch and listen closely. Speak only if addressed, and only so much as the address in question warrants.” Her tone was stern, but not malicious – somewhere deep down, she wanted the Diplomat to learn how to do his job, if only so that she didn’t have to.

 

They were led into the office of Gavla Lurrun, who scoffed at the sight of Bartok. “What’s he here for?”

 

“He is here to observe, and hopefully learn something,” Efandril responded, bowing slightly. “But it would be best if we pretended he were not here at all. I am Lady Efandril – it is my pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

 

“I can’t say I share the pleasure,” Gavla said, sitting back in her chair – and notably failing to offer seats to either of them. “What’s the point of a Diplomat who can’t do his job? I know your old one vanished awhile back… is this weakling truly the best that Aodhiim has been able to scrounge up since then? He’d be just as good to you dead.”

 

“Perhaps,” Efandril replied. “But then we’d have to find a new one.”

 

Gavla snorted. “Anyone would be better than him. I always thought your nation valued strength. I admired you for it; House Lurrun has always valued it as well. It’s why Burned Harbor remains independent from the rest of the South in all but name. But him?” she flapped her hand at Bartok, sneering. “You keep him on your Council of Fire, keep him as your Diplomat… and it makes you look weak. You aren’t a pillar of strength; you’re just pretending to be one.”

 

Efandril opened her mouth to reply, but was beaten to the punch by Bartok.

 

“Well I’m apparently the best we’ve got, so consider yourself lucky we’ve managed to get you a Diplomat to talk to,” he said. “My points from my last attempt to reach thorugh to you as to what we can do still stand, at least, as Efandril can confirm. Militarily, we are at least still a ‘pillar of strength’, as you put it.

 

Efandril scowled, reaching over and backhanding Bartok. The Diplomat was sent sprawling into the wall, and he yelped out a single “sorry!” as he rubbed his face, looking nervous and startled.

 

“Silence yourself,” Gavla said to him, “and let the grown ups speak.”

 

Never mind the fact that he’s the same age as I am, Efandril thought, taking a moment to calm herself before saying what she had intended.

 

“To tell you the truth, Lady Gavla, I believe you are correct.” She pointed to the scolded, decidedly-former Diplomat hunched in the corner. “Were it my choice, I would have had the man stripped of his titled, flogged, and banished for far less of a display than you were forced to endure. For such a display of incompetence, I can imagine no punishment other than death. And yet… Jakura-” she spat the name – “insisted that while I do his job for him, I also teach it to him.”

 

She began to slowly approach Bartok, a hard look on her face. She spared a glance to Gavla as she shifted her coat to reveal a dagger at her hip. “But I have been working for a long time to make it my choice. Do you think now is the time, Lady Gavla? You say you have respected Aodhiim’s strength in times past; I will restore that strength, and restore it tenfold.”

 

“I value strength above all,” Gavla said, slowly standing. “Aodhiim has grown weak – but if you can restore it, grow beyond it, then I will follow you. All I need is proof. Proof that you are capable – that you can, and will, fulfill your claims.”

 

Efandril turned her gaze back toward Bartok, her hand drifting to her dagger to draw it. She took a step, closing the distance between them.

 

Bartok’s eyes went wide, and he opened his mouth. “MURDER! MURDER!”

 

“An attempt to draw the guards,” Gavla murmured. “But mine despise you just as I do… and if her grace has any intelligence at all, your guards are the same.”

 

Her words rang with truth, and were backed up by the silence outside the room. Nobody was coming to save Bartok. The Diplomat sucked in a single breath before lunging at Efandril, grasping for the knife; but she smoothly stepped to the side, avoiding him entirely, before thrusting it into his back. Bartok cried as she tore it out, stumbling over and collapsing onto Gavla’s desk.

 

“Don’t dirty the property of your betters,” she said, calm and composed, as she grabbed him by the neck with her free hand and hauled him off the desk, throwing him back into the corner.

 

The Diplomat slumped down the wall, leaving a streak of blood upon it behind him. He twitched, staring at her with wide eyes, shining with betrayal. Efandril stared down at him impassively as the light in his eyes slowly faded away into the dull blank stare of the dead, the poison coating the blade of her dagger acting faster to kill him than the wound itself.

 

It was Gavla who finally broke the silence, a few long moments later. “I’m impressed.”

 

Efandril turned to her, turning the dagger idly in her hand.

 

“You have my support, my Queen,” Gavla continued, falling to one knee. “By the time you leave this city, Burned Harbor will fly the flag of Aodhiim.”

 

-The South: Northern Border-

-Anahera Abissm-

IC: Anahera, Terrorsaur

 

At the border between the North and the South, Anahera and Terrorsaur looked out to the northern tundra, accompanied by several guards.

 

“Is there any information about any Mask Makers in the South?” Anahera asked. “Or the reliability of these claims?”

 

“We’ve received no such information on this from Khan Nato,” one of the guards said, shrugging. “I’m afraid the rumors are all we know.”

 

She glanced to Terrorsaur briefly. “And you heard this… directly from Khan Nato?”

 

“It’s being passed along the border,” the guard responded. “We didn’t hear it from the Khan, but out information comes from a reliable messenger with proper identification! If Khan Nato says there is a Mask Maker in the South, then I believe there is good reason to look into it!”

 

Anahera hummed thoughtfully, a serene smile on her face. “Ah. Thank you, guard, for the clarification. And apologies; we can’t be too careful these days, now, can we?”

 

She turned to Terrorsaur, asking softly so that the guards couldn’t hear, “what do you think, Khan?”

 

“I’d trust Nato with my life and everything of mine,” Terrorsaur said firmly – or as firmly as he could as he simultaneously wobbled in place. “Now there’s a man who knows what he’s doing. If they say the message is from him, it is. He’s go no time or tolerance for liars and schemers, no sir.”

 

“Very well. What do you suggest we do about this Mask Maker?” she asked. “With no information or leads, it’ll be quite hard to find them – and time consuming. If we weren’t certain this message was from Khan Nato, I’d worry someone might have passed false information along simply to waste our time.” She smiled. “But we’re absolutely sure, aren’t we? The messengers had the proper authority, and I trust these guards. I worry too much, I suppose. So what to do?”

 

“Hard to say…” Terrorsaur trailed off, fumbling at his side and frowning when he didn’t find it. “If mem’ry serves, Mask Makers are the secretive type. Puttin’ out a big notice that we’re looking for one won’t do us any favors. But we’re runnin’ on a short schedule.”

 

Anahera nodded, smiling patiently. “A good point. Let’s put together what we know. We do not know who they are, or where they are – but there are reports of magic near Burned Harbor. That might be the proper place to start. Even if there is no Mask Maker there, we can perhaps take two birds down with one stone.”

 

“That sounds like a plan. You’re very clever,” Terrorsaur said. “We’ll head back to the city, get something together….”

 

“If I could be so bold,” Anahera said slowly, now appearing hesitant, “perhaps I could save you significant time and effort. If I were to use your mask, I could travel to the affected area in better time and begin an investigation. After all, a single person with a powerful mask can act more quickly and more discreetly. It will give the Mask Maker less time to hide or run, if they are so inclined.” She sighed. “I do hope they’re keen to help. But I am told I can be very persuasive. In my… points and proposals, that is. Ha ha.”

 

“Very well, very well….” Terrorsaur rather unceremoniously removed the Mask of Water from his face, replacing it with his own. He then held the Mask of Power out to her. “Please take care of it, and be safe. This mask holds more for me than just its power.”

 

She accepted the mask, reverent, awed. She could barely pull her eyes away from it to say, with the utmost sincerity: “Thank you. I’ll… I’ll take care of the mask. You have my word. Thank you.”

 

Anahera felt her heart hammering in her chest. Holding the Mask of Water… it felt like too much power to bear. But she did not move to hand it back, nor did any doubt waver her judgement. This was her fate. She was meant to hold this mask. To wear it. Use its power.

 

She removed her own mask, and carefully, as though afraid it would crumble to dust if held incorrectly, placed the Mask of Water on her face.

 

It was as if seeing through new eyes.

 

Her senses felt like they suddenly stretched far beyond her, all around her. Flowing, ebbing, ready to moved, just like any other part of her body. Her blood sang.

 

She could sense the puddles on the ground and the vapor in the air, like extensions of herself. Muscles that she could flex on instinct, like parts of her that had been missing all this time.

 

It was more than just seeing, it was feeling, sensing, knowing. She could have lost her mind, exposed to these new and all-encompassing senses, but she held firm, processing them, sorting the information and filing it away. She was destined to have this power; she would control it.

 

Wondrously, she moved her arm through the air, and felt the water vapor move with her. Everything that moved, that lived, all around her, tiny particles causing ripples and all moving so beautifully. Tears came to her eyes, and she felt them, too.

 

“Thank you,” she whispered again. She stared at Terrorsaur, the eyeholes of the mask at once foreign and naturally familiar. The Khan too looked both the same and yet different; she could see… feel… sense something, beneath his skin. Just below the surface of everyone around her, even herself.

 

Life.

 

Life in its most pure and symbolic form, pulsing in an intricate tapestry throughout their bodies. Moving as one, a spiderweb of cracks in broken glass, filled with an elixir that called to her more than any other source. She saw how it moved, knew its movements intimately, first seen in diagrams and in opened bodies but now before her in its natural state, a source of life so pure and powerful that she could not look away.

 

She saw patients saved, patients lost, life restored and ended and transferred and removed and added and altered and diluted and concentrated and

 

And

 

And

 

 

A patient came through her doors, wounded. Ma had seen what they did. Anahera preserved life, as Ma wanted. They would never do wrong again. They couldn’t, not when their frontal lobe was severed and

 

And it was beautiful.

 

She hesitated, not being fond of touch, but clasped Terrorsaur’s hand in both of her own anyway. Life thrummed under her fingertips, inside them, even.

 

“I’m going to Burned Harbor. I will prove myself worthy of bearing this mask. I will do whatever I can to ensure unity and life are protected here, and I will never forget your kindness. If you require anything of me, you need only ask.”

 

She smiled, her eyes gleaming with pure, genuine benevolence. For she was benevolent and good.

 

Terrorsaur looked at her with something between awe and confusion, too drunk and far from used to this kind of interaction with anyone. He nodded after a moment’s pause. “I’ll keep that ‘n mind. You best be off then, and I’ll head back to Ignika. Maybe somethin’ happened while we were gone.”

 

“Of… of course.” Something ached at the back of her mind; a noise that wasn’t a noise, the vibrations of so many drums thundering just under the realm of hearing. It wasn’t maddening. Barely distracting, even, but it was there and it wouldn’t be going away.

 

She released his hand and bowed her head respectfully, her mask – her mask, feeling so familiar though she had only just received it, as if it had always been meant for her – gleaming in the light.

 

“Farewell, Khan Terrorsaur,” she said, her smile serene, her mind clear. “I do hope our paths cross again.”

 

There was no point delaying. She reached out, and she felt something reach back. A barrel of rainwater exploded, its contents spilling and racing to her, lifting her up. She pointed, and it carried her away, the drums fading – all but one, which grew faster and faster as she went.

 

-Kamuk, New Makuta City-

-Vinheim Maran-

IC: Vinheim, Quin(A. Entrance)

 

He woke slowly. The light of the torches hurt his eyes, and a migraine was pounding at his skull. It took him three tries to sit up, but as he did, he noticed that his left arm did nothing more than flop uselessly at his side. His thoughts were scattered, drifting from one to another.

 

He tried to concentrate on his current location. It appeared to be a bedroom of some kind; very sparse, most likely kept for guests.

 

He pushed himself off the bed to stand and look for a mirror, but immediately fell to the floor, his right leg crumpling underneath him. It was responding, at least, unlike his left arm, but it still felt extraordinarily weak.

 

At the sound of him hitting the floor, the door flew open. A Protector of Stone who was vaguely familiar to him rushed inside, crouching next to him; a second stood in the open doorway.

 

“Your grace?” the one crouching next to him asked. “Are you okay?”

 

Vinheim had the terrible feeling that he should know the Protector’s name, that he recognized them from somewhere, but for the life of him, he could not remember.

 

“No… I am not okay,” Vinheim mumbled, trying to stand to his feet, gesturing to the Protector. “But I am alive, at least. Help me stand. I wish to see myself in the mirror.”

 

“As you wish, your grace,” the Protector said, helping him to his feet.

 

The first thing he noticed as they helped him to stand was that he was apparently taller than them. Vinheim was forced to lean down so that they could assist him. Once he was in front of the mirror, he found that physically, he seemed uninjured – though it was only his face that he recognized, for the rest of his body had grown and stretched. Had he not known Pohatu, he would have found the form entirely alien to him.

 

“Now as horrible as I was expecting,” he muttered, turning to the Protector in the doorway. “Gather Daggerfall’s best doctors, and have them report here.” He then turned to look down at the familiar Protector. “We are in Daggerfall, correct?”

 

“Daggerfall?” the familiar Protector asked, shaking their head. “No, sir. We’re in New Makuta City. In the prison, to be exact. It was the safest location to hold you until you could recover.”

 

“The best doctors in New Makuta City, then, with a missive sent forward to Daggerfall for Ahkmou Umrik,” Vinheim corrected. “What is your name, by the way? Your face rings bells in my memory, but I’m afraid stress has stripped your name from my mind’s records.”

 

The Protector frowned, looking up at him worriedly. “I’m the Warden, sir. Hafu Archean. You’ve got some prisoners awaiting transfer to Daggerfall, I think.”

 

The Protector in the doorway disappeared, soon returning with another in tow. The newcomer held what appeared to be a wooden walking stick in their arms.

 

“That’s why you look familiar,” Vinheim mused distractedly, eyeing the newcomer. “Hopefully there were no negative side effects from your encounter with Sahmad?”

 

“None.”

 

Vinheim limped toward the newcomer with Hafu’s aid. “How long was I out for? How far has knowledge of my accident gone? Has Ahkmou been informed?”

 

“Nobody outside of those present for the accident – and myself – knows anything,” the Warden promised, as the newcomer handed Vinheim the walking stick.

 

“You’ll need this,” the newcomer said. “You won’t be walking on your own for quite some time, and I doubt you’ll use your arm ever again. Whatever you did out there… it has damaged pathways in your mind. If you’ll forgive me any offense, your mind isn’t going to be what it used to be. I’m sorry I can’t be of more use to you.”

 

There was a moment of silence, as Vinheim contemplated the situation he now found himself in. “Well… those are the risks one must take to ensure the safety of their people. Luckily it wasn’t my right arm, given my penchant for using it. Would have hated to need to train myself all over again with my off-hand.” He chuckled, turning back to the Warden. “You mentioned prisoners? I presume Quin and Pouks did not prove to be a hassle? And again, how long have I been out for?”

 

“They haven’t been a hassle,” Hafu said. “You’ve been out for two days.”

 

Vinheim shook his head, sighing. “Have them ready for transfer to Daggerfall. My forces are still within the city?”

 

He took a few slow steps, using the walking stick to support himself as he exited the room.

 

The Warden followed. “Your forces are outside the city. The Rahkshi was sighted nearby, so they’ve gone to prevent it from reaching us.”

 

“Rahkshi?” Vinheim asked, the word meaning nothing to him. “What is that? And are the soldiers having any luck?”

 

The Warden gave him a strange look, but shrugged. “Can’t say. They left only a few hours ago – we won’t receive another report for awhile yet, I imagine.”

 

They arrived at the cells of Quin and Pouks minutes later. The two had been placed in separate cells across from each other. The Warden looked to him expectantly, but Vinheim only frowned as he stared at Quin, unable to recall why Quin was his prisoner. No matter how hard he tried, the details remained out of reach, like an object on a high shelf.

 

Think, Vinheim, think. Why did you keep Quin alive? You had to have something in mind to not outright kill him? Why bother with such tactics? He looked over both prisoners, noting that they seemed uninjured. They came willingly. I must have offered something to get him to lay down his arms… but what did I offer? What would make Quin agree to re-imprisonment? Gah!

 

“…you’re not in great shape, huh?” Quin asked.

 

“Such is the hardship that comes with being King,” Vinheim commented, staring down at the General. “Though you seem remarkably well, all things considered. I admit, I’m curious… do you know why you are in this cell? I would hope you’d know, but sometimes our perception of reality makes a fool of us, and we find injustices where there are none.”

 

Quin didn’t seem fooled in the slightest, though the General also didn’t appear to have any idea about what was truly wrong. “The guards brought me in when you collapsed. But Pouks shouldn’t be here. We had an agreement.”

 

Vinheim turned to regard Pouks, looking the rookie over. “I remember.”

 

I don’t, but he doesn’t need to know that.

 

“It was a very stressful situation for all involved,” he continued. “I’m sure my soldiers were just acting on protocol, given that their King had just collapsed. As per our arrangement, however, Pouks Petros will be provided what was promised. Do you know what that means for you?”

 

The General looked grim. “I’m getting old, Vinheim. A shorter lifetime means nothing. Just let the rookie live.”

 

Seems I promised him the boy’s freedom in return for his own execution… I still don’t know why I wanted him executed, but at least I know he did something to warrant my ire. And criminal charges.

 

“He will live, don’t worry about that. However… you might have some use still. Executing you for your crimes would be too simple. No…” he trailed off, before making his decision. “You will join me in my journey to save Toa Pohatu. You will risk your life for the people of Kamuk. You may die, or you may live, but if you do perish… at least it will be with honor, and your name redeemed.”

 

“I see,” Quin said slowly, sounding confused. “Do you have any other leads regarding a cure for the Toa’s condition?”

 

“I know a location; but we will speak further in Daggerfall.” Vinheim turned to Pouks. “As for you… the agreement still stands, but I offer you a choice. Will you join Quin and myself in a quest for the betterment of Kamuk, and perhaps even redemption? Or will you escape with your life?”

 

Pouks glanced between the two of them before seeming to decide. “I’m coming with you,” he said firmly.

 

“…are you sure?” Quin asked.

 

“I’m with you,” the rookie said. “Exile can wait.”

 

“Alright then, soldier.”

 

“With that out of the way, you shall both remain shackled until we reach Daggerfall,” Vinheim said, looking to the Warden. “Get these two ready for transport, and prepare a small security detail for me. My soldiers might be busy for quite some time.”

 

The Warden bowed. “As you wish, your grace.”

 

-The South-

-Reisen Tyde-

IC: Reisen, Pythia (A. Entrance)

 

Reisen came to on the familiar beaches of the South – but far from its southern shores. He found himself instead further north, near the border. Standing over him with a concerned look on her face was a Protector of Water that he couldn’t quite place.

 

“Are you alright?” they asked.

 

His first reaction was to roll over onto his hands and knees, coughing up what felt like a lung full of seawater. He winced at the bitter taste it left in his mouth, pounding his chest as he continued to cough, before finally retching one last bit of seawater. Reisen took a long, slow breath before releasing it, continuing to breathe raggedly for several moments, lungs on fire, before groaning.

 

“I’m not dead,” he finally answered.

 

“That’s good to hear,” the Protector said, offering a hand to him. “I was worried when I dragged you out of the water. Part of me thought you were a goner. What’s your name?”

 

“Reisen Tyde, Naval Commander,” he said, rising on his own before shaking her hand. “Where are we?”

 

“Close to the border. Consider yourself lucky you didn’t wash up in the North – they’re in full quarantine now.”

 

Reisen looked worriedly to the north, before turning back to her. “We must be near Ignika City then. I need to get back there.”

 

“We’re pretty close,” she said, shrugging. “I could use a favor, though, if you’re interested in helping me out?”

 

“You saved my life. Whatever you desire, should it be within my ability to grant it to you, I shall,” Reisen promised.

 

“I want you to help me find my father,” the woman responded. “Help me find Onaku Greavesey.”

 

Reisen gave her a second, closer look – and he knew his surprise showed on his face. “I… cannot promise results, but I’ll do my best. Have you any leads?”

 

Marah Vatten, come south at last. Will wonders never cease?

 

“Only fragments,” she said, “but I’ve heard there might be a Mask Maker in the South, and I’ve heard of some trouble with magical talismans in Burned Harbor. I only have suspicions, but it might be worth looking into.”

 

Reisen considered it for a moment, the talismans having piqued his interest. “…I believe one of my compatriots has already begun investigating Burned Harbor. I’ll check on their progress as soon as I’m able.”

 

“I’m headed there myself,” Marah said. “If my father is there, then it’s where I need to be. We can go to Ignika City to gather some supplies, and head to Burned Harbor from there – if you still wish to carry out your favor.”

 

“Right. Supplies… and I need to let my men know I’m alive.” A beat passed, before Reisen added: “Again.”

 

-

 

Many of his men had already returned to the southern capital, and those who knew what had happened looked very relieved to see him alive. He spotted Idris among the crowds, a look of shock on her face, and she hurried over.

 

“I hope this won’t become a habit, Commander.”

 

“I’m not much a fan of it either,” he said drily. “I need to sail for Burned Harbor. Ready me a vessel, would you?”

 

Idris nodded. “At once, Commander.” She glanced momentarily at Marah, but then moved on to carry out his orders.

 

Marah raised an eyebrow. “A habit?”

 

“I… had a long experience prior to washing out to sea,” he explained. “After which I returned to my crew, who had thought me lost. Then I nearly drowned.”

 

“Sounds like you’ve had a ###### few days,” Marah remarked.

 

“You could say that.”

 

-

 

Thankfully, the voyage down to Burned Harbor was less exciting than his recent travels had been. Once the ship was docked, he stepped from the gangplank, Marah and Idris right behind him, and recognized Pythia Rayne nearby, discussing something with one of the fishermen.

 

“Pythia!” He called. “I’d heard you were on the case around these parts! I’ve got someone who might be of interest to you!”

 

“Good to see you as well,” Pythia said as they approached, saying goodbye to the fisherman before focusing on them. “Any word from my uncle?” The Loremaster jumped as Marah stepped into view before grinning. “How did you find her?”

 

“No word from Khan Terrorsaur as of late,” Reisen replied. “I’ve been embroiled in another conflict. Which is how I found Ms. Vatten. She… was the one to drag me out of the water at the end of my latest fiasco.”

 

“I see,” Pythia murmured, nodding. “I’m searching for the source of the cursed talismans. My last lead was a merchant named Handric Sayle, who was distributing them, but he claims that the actually come from Oarsong. They’re the creations of a drunkard, apparently.”

 

“I find that somewhat hard to believe,” Reisen said slowly. “Convenient that Oarson is half a day’s sailing from here, as well. Plenty of time for this merchant to vanish into the wild.”

 

Marah shook her head, placing a hand on his arm before he could turn to order a search. “My father… for him to have vanished for this long without sharing word… I doubt he’s in his right state of mind. I don’t wish to find him a drunkard, but it’s possible that it is him – and if it isn’t, these talismans must come from our Mask Maker.”

 

Reisen sighed. “Very well. Come with us, Pythia. My ship will get us to Oarsong in no time.”

 

-

 

They soon arrived at the shores of Oarsong Island. It was a small island with little more than a humble fishing village, its docks so small that they had to anchor out in the bay and paddle in with a lifeboat. Reisen was off the lifeboat practically the moment it touched the docks.

 

To the tavern, he decided. Best place to find a drunk.

 

“Where to?” Pythia asked, as she and Marah joined him.

 

“The tavern.”

 

They made their way to the run-down, dilapidated tavern. As they approached, the sea shanties from inside turned to a more somber sounding song, although the lyrics were a bit unclear.

 

“Look,” Marah said, pointing down an alley to the side of the building. “Another entrance.”

 

They watched as the side entrance opened up and a drunkard in armor so filthy that Reisen couldn’t make out is original coloring stumbled out, singing the somber song with a slurred speech.

 

“I’ll come back home to me lover,

The sea shan’t keep me from home,

I’ll come back home to me daughter,

To them I’ll never… be… gone….”

 

The Protector slumped against the wall of the tavern, sliding down to the muck in a sobbing heap.

 

“Oh, no,” Marah and Pythia murmured at the same time.

 

Reisen sighed at the sight, closing his eyes, wishing he didn’t have to continue forward, wishing he didn’t know, wishing this wasn’t necessary.

 

The pathetic drunken heap in the dirty back alley of a cheap tavern in a back-water town in the middle of nowhere was Onaku Greavesey, the Hero of Dawn.

 

-Qendroj City-

-Jakura Aodh-

IC: Jakura

 

Once Efandril and Bartok were gone, Jakura shot a frustrated look at Balta. “Efandril didn’t seem surprised to find me here.”

 

“I believe she was informed of our arrival,” Balta said, sounding equally frustrated. “She was already heading over to speak with Bartok when I ran into her. The guards at the gates no doubt reported it to her.”

 

“Oh, of course,” Jakura sighed, taking a seat at the small table before him and gesturing for Balta to take the other. “Please forgive my paranoia, Balta. It is… starting to impact my judgement. But between the knowledge of a traitor, an incumbent power play, a Knight murdered by our hands, Bartok’s failure… and Sil, of course… I’m at my wit’s end, it seems.” He chuckled uneasily, before his face straightened and he rubbed his eyes in exasperation. “Did you happen to see or hear anything before you joined Efandril?”

 

“Only that she was extremely frustrated,” Balta said. “Nuhrii was… less than ideal.”

 

“Understandable, if not unhelpful,” Jakura admitted. “So she spoke the truth regarding what went down with the former captain, and the envoy?”

 

“It appears so.”

 

“Mm… any news from General Unit in the Barren?”

 

“None.”

 

Jakura ran a hand down his face. “That’s not encouraging. What about Kapura and his investigation? Any word from them?”

 

“Not yet, though I imagine we’ll hear back soon.”

 

“Alright. Do we have any new reports in from Karamu at all.”

 

“Nope,” Balta said, popping the ‘p’.

 

“Okay, that's also not encouraging. Hm.” Jakura stood from the table. “Enough time wasted, I think. I have another task for you, Balta – a few, actually. First, I want you to arrange for a banquet to be held in the hall of Silodas. Once I’m done here, we’ll invite Karamu to our capital for discussions of diplomacy. It’s high time we established that we’re willing to make our peace with the Jungle Protectors for the good of this nation – and for Okoto.”

 

“Yes, sir.”

 

“Once you’ve done that, travel to the Barren and check in on Unit. Investigate his progress, and report back to me in Silodas once you’ve finished.”

 

“I’ll do so,” Balta said. “If you don’t mind my asking, where will you be going?”

 

“To find Ikir. The latest reports are placing him back around Silodas, or so I’ve heard. I might be out of the capital for awhile.”

 

-

 

As he made his way south, a quick stop to Vakama City had Takua Pyre informing him that Captain Kapura had returned from Karamu – with RG II slain after becoming hostile. Distraught by the news, but with little he could do about it, Jakura pushed on toward Silodas, where Takua claimed that Kapura planned to hold a funeral for the former Diplomat.

 

In Silodas, he arrived at the tail-end of said funeral, just as Captain Kapura was finishing a speech. As the many guests began to mingle, Jakura recognized Korgot in the crowd. Exhausted by his travels and still weary over the news of RG II’s death, he found himself touched by a strange sense of reassuring familiarity at the sight of Korgot in the bustle of the funeral crowd. Nodding his head in greeting to the few individuals that offered polite bows as he passed, he approached her with a hand outstretched in greeting.

 

“Welcome,” he said by way of greeting. “Quite a turn out for a person you said wasn’t close to many.”

 

“Most these people are soldiers who have served with Captain Kapura,” she said. “He explained everything in his speech. How he found RG II, and how he couldn’t live with himself if he allowed those final moments to be RG’s legacy.”

 

“Ah. Unfortunate that I missed it,” he said. “How did he find RG II?”

 

“I’m no military expect,” she said, lips curling into a hint of a sneer. “How could I possible be expected to know?”

 

She was clearly still a little sour over his attitude toward her during their previous meeting.

 

“That’s not what I… oh, never mind.” He sighed, his tone softening a bit. “I apologize if I offended you the last time we spoke. It wasn’t my intention. I was… overconfident at the time. Overconfident and foolish. I paid for it, in a way. Maybe if I’d gone after RG II myself… maybe things might have ended differently.”

 

“It’s dangerous to be overconfident,” Korgot said softly. “Anyone who becomes overconfident… they always lose. Lord Burnmad felt that way, and they say he was killed within his own walls.”

 

Jakura pulled his cloak closer to his body, its edges flapping gently in the warm breeze. “Perhaps that is to be House Aodh’s fate. To burn the brightest with the fire of our people, only to find ourselves inevitably engulfed by the very thing which strengthened us the most. Crushed, in the end, by destiny.”

 

“Don’t fret too much,” Korgot said, resting a hand on his arm. “I have heard that a banquet is being prepared in your honor. Invitations are being sent out across Aodhiim as we speak, or so I’ve gathered.”

 

Jakura tried not to let his surprise at the news show. “Oh? That’s… quite the coincidence.”

 

Who could the host be?

 

“Coincidence?” Korgot asked.

 

“Politics,” he said. “Aodhiim is set to host a meeting of diplomacy within the next few weeks.”

 

“Ah.” Korgot shrugged. “I didn’t know that you planned to host any diplomatic banquets, but then, you have only just arrived. I know that the banquet wasn’t Kapura’s idea, but… he seems to have been saddled with organizing it now that it’s happening. It might be wise to speak with him. Why have two banquets when you could have one that is even more extravagant?”

 

“You’re not wrong,” he said, rubbing his chin. “Hm. I’ll talk to the Captain. Thanks for the chat, Korgot. I hope I’ll see you at the banquet.”

 

Shaking her hand, Jakura began making his way through the crowd toward Kapura. The Captain finished speaking with someone wearing the armor of the Pyromancers as he approached.

 

“Hello Captain,” he said, nodding toward the departing Protector. “Who was that?”

 

“Some no name Pyromancer,” Kapura said, shrugging. “Just giving Efandril and Takua’s regards since neither could make it to the funeral.”

 

“It’s quite unfortunate what happened in Arcadia,” Jakura murmured. “Sounds like RG II wasn’t in his right mind.”

 

“He was paranoid,” Kapura said, looking regretful. “Didn’t even give us time to explain why we were there. He just… attacked.”

 

“How easily did you take him out?” Jakura asked, accepting a glass of wine from a nearby server and sipping at it. “Were there any physical signs of disease or corruption on the body?”

 

Kapura shook his head, accepting his own glass and clinking it with Jakura’s. “Physically, he seemed fine. It was harder than you would have expected; he cut down three of my soldiers before we managed to take him down.”

 

Jakura grimaced. “Was there anything of note on his person?”

 

“Nothing. Nothing in his home, either.”

 

“And he was just… wandering around Arcadia? Alone?” He found that rather hard to believe.

 

“Not wandering, sir. Hiding.”

 

“But from what?” Jakura muttered, more to himself than to Kapura. He shook his head in frustration. “Not that I doubt your ability, Captain, but I think you and I will be headed into Arcadia again soon. First, let’s settle this banquet business.” He gave Kapura an inquisitive look. “I’m honored by the notion, but it comes as a bit of a surprise.”

 

Kapura grimaced. “I still don’t know whose idea it was. All I know is that one moment it was just the funeral, and the next moment it seemed like everyone thought I had announced a banquet in your honor. Not that you don’t deserve one, but… well, as you said. It was a bit of a surprise.”

 

“Indeed. Well, at the very least, it comes as something of a convenience,” Jakura said. “I had plans to invite the Makani and her Diplomats from Karamu to a formal political banquet of my own. Would you be able to arrange for a combined event, and have invitations sent to the Jungle as soon as possible?”

 

“I can send messengers into Karamu,” Kapura said slowly, “but I can’t promise that the invitations will make it to their destination. Keetongu was spotted near Arcadia as we were leaving.”

 

A hint of intrigue flashed in Jakura’s mind, and undoubtedly on his face too. “Is that so? Hmm… perhaps you could send the messengers up through Qendroj City and along Karamu’s border with the South, toward Hinterhall. It may take longer, but you should be able to travel unchallenged.”

 

Kapura thought it over for a moment before nodding. “Best to be safe. I’ll do both.”

 

“Thank you, Captain,” Jakura said, clinking their glasses once more before finishing his off and turning away. “I’ll look forward to sharing another drink with you at the banquet.”

 

To Be Continued in Part IV.

 

-Part IV (and Part V, if necessary) will be up within the next few days. Can't give an exact date as I'm a bit busy finding a place to live, but there isn't too much more to be written.


  • 9

OF GODS AND MEN

-ONE-


#209 Offline Rahkshi Guurahk

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Posted Mar 25 2018 - 09:07 PM

This chapter is nice!
I'm going to give you filler.
Also rip every character I've played in BZPGoT now, although my namesake Guurahk lives.
Also hope you deal with the place to live stuff quickly and that all goes well, Tex...

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-Rahkshi Guurahk
GENERATION 3: The first time you see this, copy it into your sig on any forum and add 1 to the generation. Social experiment.
If I actually tried putting all the stuff I like on here, the sig would burst.

 

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(This banner is created by http://www.bzpower.c...er/59020-onaku/ )


#210 Offline Rassilon (TTL)

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Posted Mar 25 2018 - 10:08 PM

Wow this is getting good.
Also I wish you good luck in finding a home.
Take your time we can wait.

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The Tide Comes in this Summer


#211 Offline Lucina

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Posted Mar 28 2018 - 05:08 PM

EPISODE 03

“Shadow of the Storm”

(Part IV)

 

-The Barren-

-Virndrung Vatten-

IC: Virndrung, Luroka, Toru, Unit, Quad Roka

 

In the chaos of the battle, lying in the dirt, a sword sticking out of his ruined hand, Virndrung’s world narrowed to one hateful sight: Toru Sevoi, still clinging to the edge of the abyss. He heard Luroka and Quad Roka both yelling at Toa Onua, but ignored them, gripping the hilt of the sword with his remaining hand and ripping it out before throwing it at Toru. The Earth Protector ducked his head, and the sword plummeted into the depths.

 

The tremors finally stopped as Onua marched forward, his hammer in hand, the other four Earth Protectors in his party joining him. Captain Narmoto and several of the Fire soldiers stood with them, advancing on the Brotherhood.

 

“Not impressed, Lunatic the Third,” Toru taunted.

 

Virndrung grabbed at a nearby rock with his ruined left hand, flinging it at Toru, but missed widely. A wall of earth rose up before Onua as Luroka screamed at him, but it barely made it to Onua’s knees before crumbling under the Toa’s power.

 

“You’re a failure, just like your father!” Toru called.

 

Growling, his vision red with rage, Virndrung shoved himself to his feet and stomped on Toru’s hand. The Brotherhood leader flinched and released the ledge – but then grabbed onto Virndrung’s ankle with his other hand, yanking him back to the dirt and slowly dragging him toward the fissure.

 

Luroka’s Staff glowed with magic as another wall rose – only for Onua to plow through it a second late, flattening three Brotherhood members with a swing of his hammer. Hands erupted from the earth next, grabbing the Toa’s legs, but Onua easily broke free.

 

Virndrung pulled out his dagger and turned, stabbing Toru in the shoulder. As he twisted the blade, Toru howled in pain, and the ground shook once more as Luroka opened the ground beneath Onua – and Toru let go, plunging into the darkness. Virndrung turned back, scrambling to his feet in time to see both Onua and Narmoto narrowly avoid falling into the new gap.

 

“Onua!” he yelled. “Toru Sevoi is dead!”

 

The world tilted then and he stumbled, nearly collapsing again as shouts rose from the back ranks of the Aodhiim forces. A tall, serpentine figure in black armor with a dual-bladed spear had struck from behind.

 

Vorahk.

 

“Everyone be alert,” Luroka yelled, turning to the Rahkshi. “There’s our quarry!”

 

Onua, Narmoto and their forces had clearly heard, but were forced to keep their attention on the hundreds of Brotherhood members who still lived. One Protector charged at Virndrung, and he danced to the side, pushing them over the edge.

 

Could be worse. Could be better, but it could still be worse, he thought to himself. Toru is dead.

 

He leaned down, snagging a sword that had been abandoned, and began making his way toward Unit. Luroka’s Staff glowed again as a spike of earth rose up and struck Vorahk in the distance, but the earth was too weak, and it crumbled on impact. The Fire soldiers around the Rahkshi were rapidly slowing, seeming more exhausted by the second – and a quick glance back at Onua revealed that the Brotherhood forces, despite their lack of discipline, were quickly beginning to overwhelm the Toa.

 

Spikes rose from the earth, targeting the Brotherhood, but did nothing except momentarily impede the next wave.

 

Virndrung reached Luroka as Quad Roka charged at Vorahk, swinging an oversized sword at the Rahkshi. The Rahkshi met the blow with its staff; on impact, flames hetted out of the sword toward it. Vorahk stumbled back, its armor scorched but otherwise unharmed. Shaking its head, the Rahkshi batted Quad Roka aside, before turning and slaying seven exhausted Fire soldiers, cutting through them as though they were butter.

 

Luroka grimaced, and another wall of earth rose around the Brotherhood, stretching into the sky before collapsing and burying a third of their forces alive. Virndrung flinched at the sight, but Onua and Narmoto ruthlessly pushed forward as a small black, ape-like creature clambered over the collapsed wall, leaping at the nearest Brotherhood member with a snarl.

 

“What do we do?” Virndrung asked, turning to Luroka.

 

Quad Roka tried and failed to stand as Vorahk kicked him to the side, ripping the oversized sword out of his hands.

 

Luroka frowned, concentrating on Onua.

 

Virndrung watched, horror flooding through him as the Staff glowed and Onua suddenly collapsed, his left arm rapidly swelling in size before it burst. Shreds of skin, muscle and armor rained down on the Brotherhood as blood poured from the Toa’s shoulder; Onua howled in pain, swinging his hammer blindly with his remaining hand.

 

“You need to stop,” Virndrung whispered hoarsely, but he knew Luroka hadn’t heard.

 

The Staff flashed in Luroka’s hands, and a resounding crack echoed across the battlefield.

 

Everyone froze. There was absolute silence for a long, drawn out moment-

 

-and then the screaming began. All four of the Earth Protectors with Onua, Narmoto, at least half the Brotherhood and half the Aodhiim forces screamed as their minds snapped and were ripped to pieces, rendered into little more than animals. Vorahk reeled, its face plate opening to reveal a slug-like creature that screeched, twitching madly within its armor in tortured pain. So too did the ape-like creature, which ripped into the nearest Protector in a frenzy – and Quad Roka, who clutched at his head, nails digging in and drawing blood, his eyes wide and wild and blank and empty all at the same time.

 

Virndrung stared at it all, confused and horrified. He had seen this before – a mind being ripped to shreds. It was all too familiar. “What have you done?” he managed, his throat dry.

 

“I solved the problem,” Luroka said.

 

Purple flames shot into the sky from among the Aodhiim forces.

 

Oh no… they were carrying darkfiree.

 

The cloud of purple flame consumed one soldier – and then another, and another, as it spread through the ranks, the other bottles of darkfire set off as well –

 

-and then everything exploded, darkfire shooting in all directions.

 

The slug-like creature squirmed out of its armor just as the darkfire chain reaction went off. In the instant before the world vanished into fire, Virndrung saw the Rahkshi armor disintegrate into thin air as the slug-like creature was cooked.

 

Then he was flying through the air, ears ringing, head pounding, hitting the ground with a thud and staring up at the sky.

 

After a long moment, he struggled to his feet, his ruined hand pulsing steadily with pain – but he distantly realized that he wasn’t burning. He slowly gazed around the battlefield, squinting against the smoke and ash. Luroka was several feet away, his left arm and left leg scorched – and still burning, as his armor melted and fused to his boiling skin.

 

The Staff was at Virndrung’s feet. He slowly crouched and picked it up.

 

Quad Roka was stumbling toward him – no, shambling was more accurate. He didn’t seem injured from the explosion, but his eyes were as blank as the dead’s. His mind was gone.

 

Onua had fallen to his knees, his shoulder still bleeding, though the Toa had managed to escape the brunt of the blast. His hammer lay forgotten at his side as he clutched at his wound.

 

The same couldn’t be said for Unit. The General’s right leg was gone, and darkfire continued to burn his back and the entire right side of his body, including his face. Virndrung winced, knowing that Unit’s mask and armor were already melting and fusing to his skin.

 

Narmoto and the entirety of the Aodhiim forces were gone. Of the Brotherhood, Virndrung was too dazed to count – but it looked like less than a hundred remained, and those still sane were now distracted, forced to defend themselves against those who were little more than beasts.

 

His attention was drawn back to Unit as the General roared, ripping his mask away; the right side of his face was nothing more than one giant, grotesque burn. Ignoring his burned hands, the General fumbled with the dirt in front of him before grabbing the Mask of Fire – only to drop it, his fingers flexing and his lip bleeding from how hard he bit it.

 

He glanced back down at the Staff in his hand.

 

The Staff of Annona, he realized. The source of all magic… extinguish the darkfire….

 

He pushed all of his resolve into the thought, into the mental command – and, surprisingly, found it entirely successful. A gentle breeze swept through the air, scattering away the smoke and cooling any burns as the darkfire flickered and died.

 

Not again, he decided, fighting the urge to try something new. I’ve seen what happens when it’s used too frequently.

 

He warily approached Luroka, holding out the Staff as the Earth Protector stood. “As I told you before… I will not repeat my father’s mistakes.”

 

Luroka nodded and accepted it before making his way over to Onua. The Staff glowed faintly, but nothing happened.

 

It’s easier to destroy than it is to create, Virndrung thought.

 

“You,” the Toa managed to spit. He sounded even more enraged than he had before, and tired, and pained. “You… have misused that Staff!”

 

Keeping his eye on the two, Virndrung made his way over to Quad Roka, catching the Knight as he fell. “Can you remember your name?”

 

There was no response – but even if there had been, his attention was fixed on Luroka and Onua.

 

“You forced my hand, Onua,” Luroka spat. “What else was I to do? Come on. We have to get you fixed, big guy.”

 

Onua smacked the Protector’s hand away, stumbling several steps before collapsing heavily to the earth, gasping.

 

Luroka moved to help him up again. “Onua, come on, get up. We have to get you some help!”

 

He’ll never accept it from you, Virndrung thought, but he carefully kept the thought to himself. I doubt he’ll ever recognize your authority again.

 

The Toa’s hand fumbled blindly before grasping around the handle of his hammer, and he swung it at Luroka, missing by less than an inch. “BEGONE!”

 

Luroka snarled before stalking away toward Unit. Virndrung sighed, half-dragging Quad Roka with him as he slowly approached the Toa, before slumping down to sit beside him and closing his eyes.

 

-Karamu, Hinterhall-

-Reyna Saryian-

IC: Reyna, Lan, Tekulo

 

Reyna stood on the steps of the palace with Nidhiki by her side, listening to the sounds of rioting from all over the city. Tekulo and Lan both stood nearby, deep in thought, and a few assorted guards and civilians – all worried – were scattered about the area.

 

“I’ve got an idea of sorts,” Lan said, fingering his chin. “If you would, try and gather the populace around here. I know a way to rally them and reduce the chaos a little.”

 

“I could always offer happy hour at Purple,” Tekulo said. “That could calm them down.”

 

In some bizarre attempt to prove his point, Tekulo chucked a bottle of whiskey at Lan’s back. To his credit, Lan merely scowled at Tekulo before turning back to Reyna, who reluctantly nodded and led them to the central plaza.

 

They had no sooner arrived than the guards with them were forced to fight off several rioting Protectors, and soon, Reyna drew her weapon as well. Nidhiki and Lan did the same.

 

“This is an insulting new level of embarrassing,” Nidhiki muttered.

 

The plaza looked like it had exploded – but Reyna knew it was entirely the fault of the rioting Protectors. Listening to the crowd, she still couldn’t figure out what it was that they were mad about, exactly. It seemed that Lerahk had simply been the final straw.

 

Lan took a deep breath before screaming “HEY!” at the top of his lungs.

 

The rioters turned to them as one.

 

Oh boy.

 

“Hey, it’s the Diplomat!” one Protector yelled.

 

“That’s Reyna Saryian,” said another.

 

“Is that Tekulo? His drinks are the best in the city!”

 

“GET THEM!”

 

The rioters – some armed with actual weapons, others with simple utensils, or metal pots, or other miscellaneous items, started marching toward their group.

 

“Are you kidding me right now?” Lan mumbled, before shouting again, waving one arm for emphasis, while his other hand went to his knife: “Stop! I have important news! Put down your weapons and listen!”

 

“You don’t tell us what to do!”

 

“Yeah, we don’t follow you anymore!”

 

“No! It’s Makani Chloe you don’t follow anymore!” Lan said. “She’s dead! She can’t bring madness to this land anymore!”

 

This isn’t helping, Reyna thought, stepping past Lan to address the rioters herself, making no move to draw a weapon. “Enough! This is not the time to be fighting among ourselves! W-” She was interrupted by cheers erupting from the rioters.

 

“Yay!”

 

“The Makani is dead!”

 

“Death to the Makani!”

 

“We’re free!”

 

“Proud and free! Proud and free!”

 

The rioters continued to march toward them, now chanting the words of Karamu. Reyna fell back as Nidhiki stepped up behind her, whispering into her ear.

 

“I have some bad news about Lan.”

 

Eyeing both Lan and the rioters, she nodded subtly.

 

“He’s going to get us killed,” Nidhiki hissed in her ear. “He’s working for Vinheim.”

 

“What?!”

 

“I found some scrolls in his office,” Nidhiki said, pulling her back behind Lan. “Messages between the two. I don’t know how, but they’re still in contact. Vinheim promised him Karamu, so long as Lan pledges Karamu to him.”

 

Lan yelled at the crowd again before she could reply. “Cease your advancing at once! Is that any way to herald your new Makani?!”

 

She turned her gaze toward Lan with a piercing stare, cold realization flooding through her. “It was you,” she said quietly.

 

Lan scowled at her. “I told you, decapitation is a sword job. Do I look like the kind of schmuck to go around carrying a sword?”

 

The rioters halted in place. One, who seemed to be their leader, stepped forward.

 

“Who is this new Makani?” they asked. “And why should we listen to them?”

 

“Because I will do what the old Makani could not,” Lan said. “I will keep the peace in Karamu.”

 

“Do not listen to him!” Reyna cut in sharply. “This man is a traitor, and a liar! His idea of peace is not what you think it is!”

 

Lan tried to kick her as the rioter asked him, “how do we know that you can keep the peace?”

 

“I’m a Diplomat. It’s kind of my job,” Lan said, gesturing at her. “And this woman is the one you shouldn’t listen to. Her mother was the mad Makani Chloe.”

 

“You would protect us by selling us out!” Reyna snapped, stepping away from Lan as she directed her next words to the crowd. “You want to be proud and free? You won’t be if he’s in charge.”

 

She paused, hesitating, glancing over her shoulder back at Nidhiki, who nodded encouragingly.

 

She turned back to the rioters. “Parents don’t need to influence how a person acts. Do you think I wish to see any of these horrors continue? We are a breath away from inciting war just by living. I want to prevent that. Lan wishes to sell you to a dictator.”

 

The rioters mumbled among themselves, and Reyna grew worried. They aren’t convinced.

 

“Shut your mouth, woman,” Lan spat.

 

She scowled, glaring at him. “I have a name.”

 

“Look, you need proof that I can lead us to peace?” Lan said, ignoring her in favor of the crowd. “I’ll give you all the proof you need. Put me in charge, and I’ll put action behind my words. You’ve heard that Makani Chloe was mobilizing our armies to destroy our fragile relationship with the other nations. I’ll end that mobilization, and launch a campaign to restore our relations to a state unlike anything during the old Makani’s reign.”

 

“By selling us out to Vinheim Maran,” Reyna cut in again, pointing a finger at him. “I want the exact same thing, except by keeping our proper freedom! Do you really believe a rule under the general thumb of a dictator is the way to freedom? Is that not why we went into our own nations to begin with?” She shook her head, narrowing her eyes. “I don’t know what happened, but Lan was arrested before the Lerahk incident – he somehow escaped before I discovered him. Does that not seem suspicious to anyone?”

 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I would never sell us out to Vinheim – that stone-headed monster can go rot in the Barren for all I care,” Lan said, but the denial rang false to Reyna’s ears. “I was arrested trying to warn the Makani about this mess! Lerahk’s rampage was due to her cowardice! Her unwillingness to hear the warnings of her own administration! You should blame her for her actions, not make false accusations against me!”

 

“I blame my mother for a lot of things,” Reyna snapped back. “For getting us into this mess of tension, for one.” She took a deep breath to calm herself before she continued speaking. “However, there is nobody still alive to confirm your claims about why you were locked up. The palace guards were dead. The Makani herself is dead. And you claim that you were sleeping the entire time, in a coincidence that leads to you being freed and your goal now in sight, so conveniently placed for you to try and assume control over the entire nation. I don’t believe in coincidences that intertwine this much.”

 

“Believe it.”

 

“Despite the fact that there are scrolls confirming your correspondence with Vinehim?” she asked.

 

“Prove it,” Lan challenged. “You make such spurious claims! Prove them! Where are these scrolls? Where are they? Produce them!”

 

Nidhiki stepped forward, hopefully intending to do just that – or at least point them all in the right direction, as Reyna truly had no idea where the scrolls would be now.

 

Unfortunately, the rioters chose that moment to begin chanting once more, continuing their march.

 

Neither she nor Lan had convinced them, and they had fallen back on their hostilities.

 

“Er… we can argue later,” Lan said hurriedly. “Right now we need to quell this situation, and fast.”

 

He was already too late – the first wave of rioters was upon them. Reyna flinched as one swung a sword at her, only to fall to the ground as Tekulo shoved her away. The sword missed its intended target – her stomach – but did slash across her left eye, and Reyna cried out in pain and shock. She clutched at her eye (or rather, where her eye had been) as blood ran down her face. With her remaining eye she saw a pitchfork stab through Tekulo’s shoulder.

 

“Don’t just lie there!” Nidhiki snapped, yanking her to her feet and pushing her behind him. He swore as his arm was slashed open from wrist to elbow on the outside, and over his shoulder, Reyna watched as Lan collapsed entirely, having been stabbed in his stomach, shoulder, thigh, and even through one of his hands.

 

“Screw you, Tekulo!” The Diplomat screeched. “Fall back to the palace! Fall back!”

 

“He’s just mad ‘cause he got stabbed,” Tekulo muttered, stumbling over to help her stand.

 

“Kill them all!” the lead rioter shouted. “Kill them-”

 

He was cut off as a dagger flew from behind Reyna and buried itself into his throat up to the hilt. The lead rioter toppled back into the crowd, choking on his own blood.

 

“Neat,” said Tekulo.

 

It was Nidhiki who turned first, the crowd having momentarily stilled, to notice who had thrown the dagger at the rioters. Reyna turned as well, a little dizzy, and found a Protector wearing rusted navy armor.

 

Against all odds, Lan managed to stumble over to them. “We have to go now. They’re distracted. Get to the palace….” He trailed off, coughing up blood.

 

The Diplomat collapsed to his knees. Nidhiki, scowling down at him, kicked him in the chest back toward the crowd of rioters – who burst back into motion as Lan fell toward them. The Diplomat vanished in seconds, and Reyna doubted that he had survived the experience.

 

“Come on,” Nidhiki ordered, clutching at his bloody arm and stalking toward the navy armored figure.

 

“Right…” Reyna mumbled to herself as Tekulo half-dragged her toward the figure.

 

 

"Right..." Reyna mumbled half to herself, before she grabbed for Tekulo's arm, to help drag him out of the crowd and back to the palace.

 

As they reached the newcomer, the world around them vanished – before they found themselves and their three surviving guards back in the throne room. Reyna swayed, and would have fallen if not for Tekulo catching her.

 

“Sort yourselves out,” the figure ordered, appearing mildly panicked and clutching a transparent crystal in one of his hands. “I don’t have time to stay – I’m being called to the North. You need to put someone in charge and re-establish order in the city. Your Loremaster is in Arcadia right now, helping to defeat Keetongu… if he’s successful, Lewa should re-gain his sanity.”

 

He took a deep breath, before disappearing.

 

“Wha…” she trailed off again as the figure vanished, before frowning. “I don’t….”

 

“That’s Sahmad for you,” Nidhiki said. “But he’s right. We have lots to do.”

 

-The Earth Region-

-Ehksidian Glacies-

IC: Ehks, Dallior(A. Entrance)

 

She stumbled out of the fog, still screaming in both surprise and terror. Velika, Piruk and Photok all stumbled out after her, as if the four of them were tethered together by an invisible rope.

 

They were still in the Barren – or rather, she quickly realized, the Earth Region, hundreds of years in the past. There was no doubt in Ehks’s mind that Kulta had pulled them into the Long Night.

 

Oh no. Oh no oh no oh no….

 

Ehks glanced around in a panic, trying to take stock of their situation. They were the exact opposite of safe; Photok stood only because Piruk was now practically carrying him, and Kulta stood before her.

 

“Ehksidian Glacies,” the Titan said, crouching before Ehks and leaning to stare into her eyes. “You seek to break the bonds of time….”

 

I-I seek to f-find what was lost to history. T-to stop the Great War from d-destroying Okoto,” Ehks stammered. Simply being this close to Kulta was utterly terrifying; the sheer vile energy emanating from the Tian was almost palpable.

 

Surprisingly, the mention of the Great War seemed to distract Kulta. It was only for a split second – but her gaze seemed to clear, as though a veil had, at least temporarily, been lifted.

 

“The Great War,” Kulta said slowly, curiosity lacing her tone. “It is the end of everything. The end of the universe. The prophecies tell that everything before it is just a prelude… but I have no heard it mentioned in centuries. How did you come to know of its coming?”

 

The Titan reeled suddenly before Ehks could respond, now seeming confused. “But wait… we have spoken of this before….”

 

Ehks shook her head, her thoughts cloudy. “I do not recall speaking of this to you before. Or any… other meetings like this.”

 

“We spoke centuries ago,” Kulta said, sounding dazed. “You wished to know of the Great War, and how to stop it. I looked… I looked, and I saw naught but destruction. The world’s inevitable fate. It was the spark that began my mission. It pushed me down the path, to achieve Okoto’s destiny.”

 

“A future past,” Velika murmured beside her.

 

“…I see,” Ehks muttered, growing worried. “Was this within the Temple of Histories?”

 

Kulta’s eyes seemed to dim for a moment, before gleaming more brightly. “I look only forward. There is only the end. Okoto’s end.”

 

The Titan’s attention – and Ehks’s – was momentarily derailed, as several Skull Warriors and Undead gathered around them struck at an Earth Protector who had managed to infiltrate their ranks. Before the Earth Protector died, however, she threw a jar onto the dirt. There was an explosion of purple flames – darkfile, Ehks realized – as Undead and Skull Warriors alike both burned.

 

With the sudden distraction, Ehks stepped back to check up on Photok, and see if Velika could re-activate the Mask of Time. The Mask Maker was trying; Piruk was now kneeling, Photok laying against him. The Stone Protector’s breaths were labored.

 

She turned back to Kulta.

 

“They seek to distract me with only six Protectors,” Kulta murmured to herself, eyes fixed on the Western Wall, which, Ehks noted, wasn’t too far away – close enough that she could make out five more Protectors standing atop it. “They will block the path.”

 

Taking off her cloak and handing it to Piruk to form a makeshift bandage for Photok, Ehks watched as four of the Earth Protectors charged into the horde of Undead and Skull Warriors. Behind them, the Western Wall blew up in a huge ball of purple fire – one that continued to burn even as the Earth Protectors found themselves not killed, but instead shunted into the center of the horde with Ehks and her companions.

 

One of them seemed to recognize Velika, though the idea seemed to simultaneously confuse him.

 

Kulta loomed over them all.

 

“Interesting,” Kulta said, as the Undead and Skull Warriors all fell still. “The paths for five of you lead you back to me, centuries ago… but three of you end here.”

 

Three. Three deaths. Ehks stiffened. She was still panicked, and yet, a part of her was calm. She wasn’t going to die here… but the others might. She fell to the ground at Photok’s side, helping to bandage him up.

 

“You’ll make it,” she whispered. “It’ll be fine. You’ll be fine.”

 

Kulta’s gaze swept over Velika, and returned to her. “You do not die here. You will continue on, and set me on my rightful path.” The Titan turned to the leader of the Earth Protectors. “Your companions, however, will not.”

 

Adrenaline still pumped through her body, but Ehks was feeling less panicked now. Photok, hopefully, would survive. She shot a glance at the new arrivals, but they were remarkably calm.

 

“That’s what you think, freak,” their leader said. “Voltex warned me this would be a suicide mission, but I don’t have to accept it. Men, support the wounded.”

 

Two of the leader’s companions rushed to cover Photok, one jumping into a defensive position while the other took over the bandaging. The third remained by their leader, a jar of darkfire gripped in his hand.

 

“You are a fool,” Kulta said. “You cannot stop destiny.”

 

As one, three Skull Warriors stepped forward, impaling the three Earth Protectors with their swords. Ehks flinched as the blood of the one next to Photok splattered over herself and the Stone Protector.

 

The leader’s closest companion dropped his jar of darkfire, but Kulta caught it, staring down at them all as the Mask of Time began to glow once more on Velika’s face. The fogs of time swirled around them once more before they shot into the past, and Ehks shivered as Kulta, unmoving, stared at them until the Titan, too, had disappeared.

 

“I’m sorry,” she muttered half-heartedly toward the remaining Earth Protector. “This is my fault. All of it.”

 

“Don’t be – it was our choice to interfere. At least we have a chance to escape alive. It’s just a shame Lord Vohon didn’t give us more darkfire,” the Earth Protector said, kneeling across from her and picking up where his compatriot left off. “Here, let me help. I’m Dallior, by the way. Dallior Qendroj.”

 

Wait, Ehks thought, sharing a glance with Piruk, remembering Velika’s Wall of History. Like Velika’s name during the War for the Throne?

 

A quick glance to the Mask Maker had him nodding – his identity during the rule of Voxumo Ash and Pulse Vatten had been based upon the Earth Protector with them now.”

 

Velika met Dallior as Lord Vohon Aodh, she realized, remembering that the Fire Ruler during the Long Night had been another of Velika’s many assumed identities. Dallior’s willingness to sacrifice his life for the greater good must have impressed him.

 

Dallior clearly noticed the looks, and turned to Velika. “Hey now, what’s all that? Is there something about me you know that I don’t? Because I’d sure like to know it.”

 

“We just recognize you,” Ehks said quietly. “That’s all.”

 

The Earth Protector was still suspicious, but seemed to accept the answer. He shrugged. “Seems like a good excuse. Who could forget this handsome mask?”

 

“Yes, yes. Of course,” Ehks said, glancing back down at Photok. “I hope he makes it.”

 

“I’m sure he will. We all will,” Dallior said, sounding more like he was trying to convince himself than her. “Kulta is a blind fool. Besides, I’ve still got a jar of darkfire with her name on it.”

 

Ehks sighed. “I would… recommend against using it when we arrive at our destination. It won’t be a good idea to attack her.”

 

“Sage advice,” Dallior said. “I’d best just save it to take down more of the wall.”

 

“…about that,” Piruk said.

 

Ehks spoke slowly, and carefully. “We’re not going somewhere. We’re going… somewhen.”

 

“We’re what?! So what did I just send all of my companions to die for? Karz… when Voltex and Ekimu said this was a suicide mission, they darn well meant it.”

 

“Calm yourselves, and get ready,” Piruk interrupted, before the Earth Protector could really get into his rant. “The images in the fog – they’re starting to slow down.”

 

“Oh, I’m ready alright,” Dallior muttered, turning to Photok. “Are you going to… oh. He’s passed out.”

 

Ehks took a deep breath. “He’ll need help. He’s stable for now, but….”

 

“I can carry him if needs be,” Dallior said. “But it’d be best if we find allies in the area who can take him somewhere safe. You… do have allies in the area, right?”

 

“I have no idea,” Ehks admitted.

 

“Well… this will be fun.”

 

Around them, the fog slowly dissipated and the world reappeared. It was a sunny day, warm and bright, without a cloud in the sky. The air felt… different, somehow. Fresh, and crisp.

 

There was something else in the air, too. The world around them seemed to hum, almost as if it were alive. She could feel her aches and pains receding.

 

It was a wondrous feeling.

 

She stood, looking around. It was… strange, to see the Earth Region in such a peaceful, wonderful state.

 

“We’re here,” she whispered, and the words seemed to dance, a musical tone to them. “Are we… in the right place?”

 

“Time before time,” Velika said, his voice as musical as hers, though he still sounded dazed and out of breath. The Mask Maker stood, swaying in place.

 

She reached over to steady him. “You must be exhausted. Just rest a bit, okay? And thank you.” She took in a deep breath, a buzz running through her as she did, and slowly exhaled. “Okay. We’re in the right time, so we just need to find the Temple itself. Dallior, Piruk, can you two carry Photok? I doubt I’m strong enough to carry him myself.”

 

“Temple?” Dallior asked. “What have I gotten myself wrapped up in?”

 

Ehks opened her mouth to answer, only to gasp as Piruk reached out to pick up Photok… only for the Stone Protector to float into his arms before her eyes.

 

“…what.”

 

“Whoa,” Dallior said, stumbling back, an incredulous look on his face. “First this guy can time travel-” he waved at Velika “-now we have a telepath? What’s next, are you going to sprout wings and fly away?”

 

“This is as surprising to you as it is to me,” Ehks retorted. “I don’t have any magic. We might have the Mask of Time, but… that was all I thought we had.” She turned to Piruk. “How are you doing that?”

 

“I… I don’t know,” Piruk said, sounding stunned. “It just… happened.”

 

“Velika?” she tried, turning to the Mask Maker. “Do you know why?”

 

“Life,” Velika said, still sounding dazed. “Magic.”

 

“…magic all around,” Ehks said, nodding. “Well… in that case, we should get moving. Can you move, Velika, or do you need rest?”

 

The Mask Maker pointed into the distance, at a tower that stretched high into the sky, gleaming white. The Temple of Histories. He began to walk.

 

She nodded, motioning to both Dallior and Piruk. “Let’s go. Time is of the essence.”

 

To her surprise – and Piruk’s – the Jungle Protector began to float along at walking speed, still holding Photok in his arms. Seeing this, Velika was soon doing the same.

 

I… wonder if I can do that too?

 

Not sure what to do, she decided to try focus on floating – and while it didn’t quite work, she found herself effortlessly skating along an ever-growing patch of ice. Dallior followed, carried by the earth itself, which moved like a never-ending ocean wave.

 

“That must be what’s in the air,” Ehks said aloud, grinning despite the situation. “You can feel the magic. Okoto must be bursting with it in this time.”

 

Her grin faltered. I hope what we’re about to do isn’t what brings ruin to all of this.

 

“So… when are we?” Dallior asked with amazement.

 

“Long, long ago,” Ehks said. “Well before either of us were born.”

 

“Time before time,” said Velika. “The histories of history.”

 

“And… why are we here? Did you overshoot when you were trying to get us out of certain death, or is there a specific purpose to coming back this far?”

 

“To stop an even bigger catastrophe than the Long Night,” Ehks said. “It’s… after your time. It’s supposed to make the Long Night look like a squabble between children.”

 

Nobody felt much like speaking after that.

 

-

 

An hour later, they found themselves standing outside the Temple of Histories. Its majesty was unlike anything else she had ever seen; Ehks had thought before that the Citadel or Vakama City or Arcadia were revolutionary in their craft, but the Temple of Histories put everything else she’d seen to shame.

 

Its walls shone brightly under the light of the sun. She could see Protectors milling around outside; they all wore silver and gray armor, an unfamiliar combination. If she had to guess, she’d say they were members of the Tribe of Metal, from before they had become the Mask Makers and vanished from Okoto’s shores.

 

“I thought they wandered with Annona,” she whispered. “Didn’t they?”

 

Velika shrugged, and it was Piruk who answered: “perhaps they’re just visiting.”

 

Ehks nodded. “Gods… this is incredible…” she whispered, staring up at the building. For a few moments, she was entranced, before her gaze snapped forward to the entrance, where she could see both Umarak and Kulta standing.

 

I came here with a purpose. It must be fulfilled.

 

She began approaching the two Titans, dreading what she was about to do. It was the only way to stop the war to come. Both turned as she approached, with the others close behind.

 

“Interesting,” Kulta murmured. Her eyes, Ehks noted, were gold in color, and the air felt warm around her; safe. “A Protector of Earth, a Protector of Ice, a Protector of Stone, a Protector of Jungle, and…” she trailed off, staring at Velika curiously before continuing, “…something else. What brings you to the Temple of Histories today?”

 

“We…” Ehks began, before stopping, hesitating.

 

Is this right? To do this to her? To bring about the Long Night?

 

“The future is past,” Velika quietly reminded her, placing a gentle hand on her shoulder, his voice filled with regret. “The past is already written; the ink is dry.”

 

She took in a deep breath. “We’re here to… learn about something specific. An event that will occur, far in the future.”

 

“That is a dangerous question to ask, young one,” Kulta said, before frowning at Photok and waving Umarak over. “Umarak, this one is hurt.”

 

Umarak knelt before Piruk, resting his hand on Photok. Photok seemed to glow as his wound healed, before sleepily opening his eyes.

 

“Wuzzgoinon?”

 

“Thank you for healing my friend,” Ehks said quietly. “And yes… it is dangerous.”

 

She glanced to Velika, who nodded, and back to Kulta, her terror mounting. “I… I’m sorry. We’ve travelled from far in the future. We came here to… to learn if there’s a way to stop the Great War.”

 

Both Titans froze. Umarak turned, shaking his head at Kulta and resting a hand on her shoulder.

 

“Look in the Temple of Histories,” he said, and the command was clear. “The Temple will guide you to what you seek. If, after, you still must ask us… we will be here.”

 

Ehks nodded. “Thank you.”

 

Piruk and Photok remained with the Titans, but Dallior and Velika both followed her into the Temple. As Umarak claimed, the Temple did guide them in a certain direction, and she followed the pull of the magic, seeing no need to resist. She turned to Velika as they walked. “I’m terrified of what we’ll find. Terrified of what will happen to Kulta.”

 

“As am I,” Velika said softly, speaking plainly now, sounding tired and full of regret. “I have spent the last thousand years on Okoto, trying to help it. Now, I learn that my path has been leading to this moment. I shall be responsible for all of the atrocities that Kulta committed; it might even be what ultimately causes the Great War.”

 

Ehks nodded, sighing. “We travelled back to stop it, and yet… we caused it. We caused the Long Night. All of it.”

 

“It’s dangerous to mess with time,” Dallior said quietly.

 

She sighed again. “It’s too late now. We can’t just turn back. The damage is done – or it will be.”

 

“There might be a way,” Velika said, his gaze turning to the bookshelves that stretched up as high as the eye could see. “The Staff of Annona, the source of all magic. Perhaps… but no, let us discuss it another time.”

 

They reached the end of an aisle, and found a wooden table with a single book resting on its surface. Following the magic’s pull, Ehks looked down, took a deep breath, and opened the book.

 

It flipped open to the beginning of a chapter, marked ‘the Seventh Toa’.

 

To Be Continued in Part V.


  • 7

OF GODS AND MEN

-ONE-


#212 Offline Finch

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Posted Mar 28 2018 - 05:10 PM

jim needs a buff.


  • 1

1Ydp0mg.jpg

Steam name: Ehksidian


#213 Offline Lucina

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Posted Mar 28 2018 - 05:12 PM

EPISODE 03

“Shadow of the Storm”

(Part V)

 

-The Barren-

-Jed Corruich-

IC: Jed, Tex, Isniel

 

“I’ll take the lead from here,” Metus said as they all stepped out onto the Barren. “I… I know the way.”

 

The Protector of Ice sounded hesitant, and nervous, as he led them into the wasteland.

 

“You do?” Jed couldn’t help but ask, genuinely surprised.

 

What secrets has Metus been hiding from us?

 

“I haven’t been entirely truthful,” Metus admitted. “I… I know what lies beneath the Barren. Sahmad showed me.”

 

“Sahmad?”

 

“A Mask Maker,” Metus said. “He’s been working to try and delay or stop the Great War – as well as help Okoto to prepare for it.”

 

“I see,” Jed replied, though he didn’t. “Why didn’t you let us know of him sooner? We would have been happy to work with him to prevent any further catastrophe.”

 

“Because what you’re going to see, what you’re going to do…” Metus trailed off, shaking his head. “It’s going to go against everything you think you know.”

 

At those ominous words, Jed fell silent, sharing a worried look with Tex.

 

“That sounds… foreboding,” Isniel said slowly. “I mean, we might see whatever you’re describing anyway, right? In the Barren?”

 

Metus ignored him. The ground beneath the group trembled as they approached what appeared to be some sort of cave. Metus reached into his pack and pulled out several white crystals, handing one to each member of the group and keeping one for himself.

 

“Lightstones,” he said. “An invention of the Mask Makers. They’ll allow us to see beneath the surface.”

 

“Thank you,” Isniel said, holding his own lightstone up against the darkness of the cave. “What could be resting in the depths?”

 

“He’s a Titan,” Metus explained, leading the way into the cave, which seemed to stretch down deeper than it had any right to. “You’ve all read the lore by now. There were once six Titans on Okoto – Umarak, Kulta, Eankbut, Angonce, Heremus, and Annona. Kulta killed Eankbut, as well as Heremus, whose essence became the Elemental Creatures. Annona led the Mask Makers away to a new home long ago, and Angonce split his own essence into the six Toa. Umarak still lives.”

 

“Wherever he is,” Tex murmured.

 

“They weren’t the only Titans, however,” Metus continued. “They were the Titans of Light, given life by the goddess Ma… and Ata, the god of destruction… he created Titans of his own.”

 

“I’m going to assume that this Titan, unlike the others, wishes to harm the island,” Isniel said.

 

“As you might expect, the Dark Titans, being creations of Ata, at first wished only to destroy,” Metus explained, leading them further into the darkness. Only the lightstones lit their path now. “The Dark Energy that powered Kulta – that’s Ata, or at least, his essence. It corrupts everyone and everything it touches, if certain precautions-” he shook his lightstone “-aren’t taken. The Dark Titans were created with the Dark Energy.”

 

“So where are they?” Tex asked.

 

Metus frowned. “It… gets a bit fuzzy, here. Okoto has no records, or anything. It’s just what I’ve learned from Sahmad. But at some point, the Dark Titans turned against the Dark Energy. They decided that they would rather rule over life, instead of destroying it. Only one disagreed – their leader. So he struck out once more against Okoto.”

 

“…and he was imprisoned down here,” Jed realized.

 

“He was. The other Dark Titans turned on him, and with the help of the Okoto Titans, imprisoned him deep beneath the island,” Metus said. “The prison itself was built and locked using the magics of the Okoto Titans – but it has been weakening for the past twenty years. With five of them dead and the other gone, there’s nothing left to hold it together.”

 

Now, Metus smiled. “I won’t pretend that he’s always kind. But… an eternity down here, by himself, must have changed his mind at least a little. If he finds Okoto worthy, he will help us in the Great War.”

 

“Let’s hope he does,” Jed murmured.

 

“So we’re going to see the Dark Titan leader himself?” Isniel asked. “How can he help us, anyway?”

 

“What we’re going to be fighting is more powerful than the Titans ever will be,” Metus said. “We’re going to need all the power on our side that we can get.”

 

“Well, I hope he’ll cooperate despite being sealed in this prion alone,” Isniel said, sounding worried. “Who knows how much his mind might have changed?”

 

Jed hummed in agreement. “Let’s just pray that being down here for however long he has hasn’t driven him to madness.”

 

Before them, the darkness felt like it was getting colder. More solid. Even with the lightstone in his hand, Jed could barely make out Metus and Isniel in front of him.

 

And then….

 

“We’re here,” Metus breathed, stopping. “Last chance for anybody who wants to stay back.”

 

After a short pause, Jed stepped forward. “I’m willing to meet him,” he said, turning to the two Knights bringing up the rear. “Both of you stay here. If we don’t return… warn Okoto.”

 

Nodding to Metus, Tex, and Isniel, Jed stepped into the shadows, the others close behind.

 

The darkness was so solid that he couldn’t see the others anymore. The chill seeped into his bones. The sound of his footsteps had become muffled, and the air was thick; it was quickly becoming a struggle to breathe. He could still feel the presence of the others, but even that was rapidly being drowned out with every step that he took.

 

And then, before he had any hope of reacting, a dark presence surrounded him entirely.

 

Two gleaming red eyes slowly opened in the shadows before him, but when the presence spoke, its voice echoed all around, a malevolent whisper in his ears.

 

“I cannot decide,” it said, sounding contemplative, “whether it is bravery that has drawn you here without knowing who I am… or foolishness.”

 

The presence fell silent for a long moment, seeming to mull over its next words. Jed tried to speak, but each attempt failed as he choked on the shadows. They now felt as thick as sludge.

 

“I suppose it matters not. I am told that all records of me have been lost to time… and even if you knew who I was, what I am capable of… you would still be forced to confront me. It is your duty… and your destiny.”

 

The darkness coiled around him, and Jed felt it beginning to gently squeeze, threatening to crush him into less than nothing in an instant.

 

“I am of Ata, of the great darkness, made to destroy the world,” the presence continued. “I fought long ago to erase this island, to wipe it clean. Now, my prison breaks. Soon I will be free, to complete my task.”

 

Now it felt as though the presence was leaning in, its voice rumbling directly into Jed’s ears, a great hand clenching at his skull.

 

“Sahmad asks me to spare you all. He brings claims of a prophecy older than even myself, tidings of the Great War. He has tried to convince me that my efforts would be better spent helping you, guiding you in the war to come. To help you destroy that which has never been destroyed before.”

 

Just as suddenly as it had surrounded him, the presence seemed to withdraw, until all that he could make of it were the two gleaming red eyes.

 

“I care not,” it said, sounding tired. “I have spent an eternity in this cage. My rage has cooled, my loyalty has wavered. The great Ata would have me destroy you all… but I am willing to reconsider. So…”

 

And then it was back, all around him, poised to strike.

 

Convince me.”

 

Taking a deep breath, Jed slowly stepped forward. “Titan of Ata, my name is Jed Corruich. I am the Kingslayer, and Lord Commander for the Knights of Ekimu. I have lived for 52 years on Okoto. In my time I have seen the island change, and seen many threats to its peace. The greatest threat, I thought, was that of Kulta and the Faith of the Skulls. The fear I felt when I met her was the greatest I have ever felt. She seemed unstoppable; she convinced half the island to fight for her cause. It took the rest of us uniting together to stop her, and even then, we lost many good men. Close friends. Even in defeat, she threatened us, for we spiralled into a six year war which tore the island apart more than she ever had. I thought there was no being more powerful than her.”

 

He felt a hand resting on his shoulder in solidarity – from Tex, no doubt.

 

“I realize now that I was mistaken,” he continued. “the aura of darkness which you exude now is enough to prove this. I have no doubt that you could destroy this island single-handedly, and we would be powerless to stop you. But I must plead that you do not. We need your power, as Sahmad has surely explained. If what he says is true, whatever comes to destroy Okoto is more powerful even than you, and we cannot fight it on our own. We need your help.”

 

He could feel the presence of the Titan. It was curious.

 

“I do not know what you want,” Jed admitted. “I cannot see into you mind. But whatever it is, if you do not help us, you will never find it. There will not be an island to destroy or to rule, no island to live on in peace. But if you lend us your strength, and your powers, then maybe, just maybe, we can succeed against this enemy. And I promise to accommodate whatever it is that you wish if it is within my power.”

 

“There is nothing that I want, nothing that I seek,” the presence said. “My name is all I have. You may call me Teridax.”

 

“Well then… Teridax,” Isniel said slowly, from somewhere off to the right, “another threat is brewing and Okoto needs all the help it can get. Thousands of lives will be lost, and the whole island destroyed. Life might never flourish again. Will you not help your home island?”

 

“My home is far from here,” Teridax said. “An island called Destral, home to the Dark Realms.”

 

“Do you not want to be free, to return home?” Jed asked.

 

“I will be free soon regardless,” the Dark Titan said. “But my home… no. My brethren turned against me. They were right to do so… but I do not know that there will be a place for me there. It has been too long.”

 

He sounded almost… wistful.

 

He does want something, Jed realized. He wants a home. He wants to belong. It doesn’t matter where.

 

“I don’t know how the rest of Okoto will react,” he said, “but we can help you to belong.”

 

The Titan laughed, and Jed could feel the cave walls rumbling with it. “I tried to destroy Okoto. Where could your people possibly allow me to call home?”

 

“I’m sure that we can allow you to stay in Rollor’s Reach. If anybody would be willing to offer you a home, it would be us,” Jed promised. “The Knights study Okoto’s history, and act in the island’s defense. If you help us in the war to come, many will become more hospitable to you, and you would soon earn your place there.”

 

“Rollor’s Reach… the city named for the highest of the divine gods,” Teridax mused. “Very well, Kingslayer.”

 

The darkness pulled back, allowing Jed to see Metus, Tex and Isniel once more. Tex’s hand slid away from his shoulder as a figure as tall as Kulta and Umarak stepped into view. He wore a black mask with an ancient yet simple design. Highlights of bright red could be seen all along his gunmetal armor, which was of a simpler, rounder design than Jed was used to. The Titan held a long staff with two blades at its end in one hand.

 

“Thank you for deciding to help us, Teridax,” Jed said, inclining his head respectfully before turning to the others. “We should head back to the Reach as soon as possible. Who knows what may have happened while we’ve been away?”

 

“Follow me,” Teridax said. “There has been a battle atop the Barren. We will stop there first.”

 

-The North-

-Nato Greavesey-

IC: Nato, Krosht, ShadowVezon-

 

As they travelled through the North, they found themselves slowly approaching one of the storms that had become infamous as of late. They were large, monstrous things, locking away massive areas of land at any given time.

 

First the temperature began to drop, so low that even to Nato, Kazi and Krosht, the air felt frigid. Then the winds began to pick up, and the snow began to blow, until Nato found his vision so obscured that he could scarcely make out the form of Dekar three feet in front of him.

 

He could hear thunder rumbling ominously overhead, and lightning flashed in the distance.

 

Fragments of hail – and then stone – joined the snow, and the air seemed to crackle around them.

 

The further into the storm they got, the more frightened Dekar seemed, as he nervously fidgeted with a transparent crystal in his hands. Both Hahli and ShadowVezon spared their guide worried glances, but said nothing.

 

Then, with the next flash of lightning, Nato spotted a shadowy shape up ahead. It was headed right for them.

 

Krosht stepped in front of him, grabbing Dekar’s shoulder and gripping tight in an attempt to stop the group as he spoke to Nato: “My lord… this is dangerous.” He paused as there was an audible crunch from his foot hitting the snow – and when the Ice Protector lifted his foot up, it revealed the caved-in chest of a long-dead Protector.

 

“…very dangerous,” Krosht added.

 

“That’s never stopped me before,” Nato declared, stepping around his Diplomat and trying to avoid any other corpses. Yelling, he directed his next words to the shadowy form: “Who goes there?”

 

His voice was sucked away by the wind. He could have sworn that he heard something call back to him, but the wind swept away whatever they said too.

 

Hahli cursed, shivering beside him. “This place is a graveyard.”

 

Despite the lack of visibility, it quickly became clear that she was correct. One frozen corpse seemed to lead to another. Some were scorched, some ripped apart, and some had no signs of any injuries at all.

 

“My lord, I do not wish to see you hurt by whatever this beast is,” Krosht yelled, his voice now hardly carrying over the storm. “But I will trust your judgement!”

 

“Has this always been here?” Nato asked.

 

After all the explorations, all the wars… how has a mass grave like this gone unnoticed for so long?

 

Keeping an eye out for the shadowy shape, he addressed Dekar. “Explain yourself! What is this?! What do you know?”

 

Dekar answered, but Nato heard nothing over the storm. Seeming frustrated and scared, Dekar made his way over to him to speak directly into Nato’s ear: “Protectors travel all the time – and they go missing all the time. You would notice if your commander vanished, or the ruler of a city… but a small-time merchant? The homeless, or some travelling orphan? It’s not your fault that you don’t notice… but sometimes, Protectors are foolhardy, more than they should be. Too curious. They act before they think. The storm should have scared them off… but they did not let it.”

 

Dekar leaned back, shouting now so that the others, who had all crowded around, could hear. “I’ve called for Protection, should you wish to continue… but I will beg you to turn back.”

 

“Protection? From who? And can it even protect us from whatever is causing this storm?” Krosht asked, eyeing the various desecrated corpses with unease. “Burnt, and yet… the storm is ice. What is this?!”

 

“It’s killing our people, whatever it is,” Nato said, drawing his cryosteel blade. “Retreat if you must. I won’t hold it against any of you… but I need to see, to understand. I need to know what we’re up against.”

 

“I’m with you until the end of the line,” Kazi promised, and Hahli nodded next to him.

 

Krosht nodded as well. “I am with you, my lord.”

 

ShadowVezon shuddered, rubbing his arms in a futile attempt to re-gain some warmth. “I shall stay too.”

 

“Then you’re a braver man than I first thought,” Nato said to the former King, before directing a grateful smile to his remaining companions. “Thank you for your loyalty. Now… let’s find out what Dekar’s promised ‘explanation’ truly is.”

 

With that, Nato pressed forward into the snowstorm, advancing cautiously toward where he had last seen the shadowy figure. The storm grew worse as he approached them, and they in turn approached him. As he drew near, the figure seemed to shrink, until it was clear that they were no taller than the average Protector.

 

Lightning spiked into the snow only a dozen feet away, scorching the ground. In the brief flash, Nato recognized the rusted navy armor of Sahmad.

 

“My lord… is that…?” Krosht trailed off.

 

“He’s my protection,” Dekar said. “Or rather, ours.”

 

Krosht stared at the Stone Protector. “So he is not the one causing this storm?”

 

“No,” Dekar said. “He has a powerful ally who has loaned him their power as of late, but a storm like this is still far beyond him.”

 

That explains how Sahmad has been appearing all over Okoto so frequently, Nato thought. He clutched his sword with numb fingers, choosing to remain silent for now. He was starting to like this situation less and less. Lightning in a snowstorm… Sahmad appearing out of nowhere….

 

For a moment, Nato briefly considered the possibility that this could be an elaborate trap, but quickly cast the thought aside. It would have been far easier for Dekar and ShadowVezon to kill him in Rollor’s Reach.

 

He must be telling the truth, he decided, albeit reluctantly.

 

He could feel his blood boiling at the thought of Sahmad, but now was not the time to strike out recklessly. There was still too much he didn’t know – about Sahmad, about the storm….

 

If Dekar continues talking and Sahmad loves the sound of his own voice as much as I think he does, perhaps one of them will give something away. Something we can use against them.

 

Krosht glanced over to him. “My lord?”

 

“I’ll play along for now.”

 

“Understood, sir.”

 

Sahmad stopped a few steps away from him. The Mask Maker rested one hand on the hilt of a sword at his hip, but made no move to draw it; he waved the other, and around them, the sound of the storm disappeared.

 

“You’ve seen the bodies,” Sahmad said. “Travel in the North has been the lowest in history with the quarantine in place… and still, dozens of your people are finding their way here and dying. You aren’t going to like what you find, and it isn’t going to make you like me any more than you do now.” Sahmad glanced over his shoulder and closed his eyes, taking a deep breath. “Last chance, Traveler. Spare yourself. I can’t promise that we’ll all make it back alive.”

 

“Funny,” Nato said, tightening his grip on his sword. “I was about to say the same thing. Let’s go.”

 

Sahmad turned away from him fully now, staring deeper into the storm. The Mask Maker’s grip tightened on the hilt of his sword, and his head bowed; his eyes remained closed. Nato watched as Sahmad took another deep, shuddering breath, before shakily releasing it. The Mask Maker’s fingers flexed around his sword’s hilt before he slowly drew it, holding it out before him. He took a hesitant step forward, and as he did, the sound of the storm rushed back.

 

Tempting as it was to plunge his own cryosteel blade into Sahmad’s spine while the Mask Maker’s back was turned, Nato stayed his blade, and followed him. On either side of him, the others did the same.

 

-

 

As they pushed further into the storm, it became more dangerous. Nato found himself saved from a blast of lightning at the last second by Sahmad’s reflexes alone, and less than a minute later the Mask Maker did the same for ShadowVezon, saving the former King from what Nato could only guess was a giant boulder. Nato watched as the energy shields that Sahmad had created flickered and died.

 

The next lightning blast spiked down right between Dekar and Kazi. Dekar was fast enough to dive away, but Kazi was within the blast radius, and Nato flinched as Kazi was violently thrown into Krosht. Sahmad cursed, turning toward them, but was too slow to stop the third blast.

 

They all watched the third blast of lightning strike a tree behind Hahli – and watched as the massive, flaming tree collapsed, impaling the Protector of Water from behind.

 

“He knows we’re here,” Sahmad said, staring at Hahli’s corpse with a look of resignation. “He’s… he’s near.”

 

Who is near?” Krosht asked, grunting as he helped Kazi to his feet.

 

“Stay close to Sahmad!” Nato yelled, before turning and snarling, “who?!

 

Sahmad either didn’t hear him or ignored him, leading them to the top of a ridge, one that Nato knew overlooked a valley somewhere north of Grave’s Peak. As they reached the top of the ridge, the storm seemed to suddenly die off.

 

They were in its heart; the eye of the storm.

 

Nato looked down to the valley, and in its center, he saw a massive emerald lump. If he had to judge its size, he would have said it looked to be the size of a castle – at least as large as the Citadel in Rollor’s Reach. He narrowed his eyes, trying to make out the details. It seemed almost… scaly, and metallic, by the way the light of the lightning reflected off it.

 

One large swathe of the object, however, seemed to be more reminiscent of translucent leather, and he also noticed a long line of spikes sticking straight into the sky.

 

“What is it?” Krosht breathed.

 

As Nato stared, the object appeared to expand and contract… almost as if it were breathing.

 

He turned to Sahmad. “We came all this way… Hahli gave her life… for that?” he hissed. “Start explaining!”

 

No

 

The word literally boomed inside his mind, sending Nato reeling as a wave of pain slammed into his mind. Both Dekar and Kazi crashed down to their knees, though the rest of them managed to keep their footing despite the mental assault.

 

We had an ARRANGEMENT. I give you five years, SAHMAD. In return, I am not DISTURBED.

 

Next to Nato, Krosht clutched at his head, groaning in pain. “What… is… this?!” the Diplomat hissed, staring down at the pulsing green mass in the valley.

 

Grimacing, Sahmad waved his free hand toward them, and Nato felt the pain recede, becoming a dull ache. “They… needed… proof,” Sahmad spat toward the valley, the words sounding labored. “Proof… of the threat that they face!”

 

“An arrangement?!” Nato’s vision went red, his pain feeding directly into his rage, and ignoring Sahmad’s words he struck out with his blade, slashing at the back of the Mask Maker’s legs. “Enough of your lies and your secrets! TALK!”

 

Dekar drew his sword and dove to block Nato’s attack but, clearly still dazed from the mental beating, the Stone Protector mis-judged. Nato’s sword slashed across Dekar’s stomach, and the Stone Protector collapsed onto the snow, coughing up blood and bleeding out quickly.

 

PROOF?

 

Down in the valley, the emerald lump began to shift. What was now clearly a tail slowly unravelled, and two powerful legs stomped the ground, causing the ridge to tremble underneath them. Two massive wings stretched out and unfurled, and an angular head, covering in bone-like spikes, swiveled to face them.

 

Krosht, Kazi and ShadowVezon stared in awed terror at the mighty beast. Kazi fell back to his knees, and Krosht stumbled back a step.

 

Nato, however, awestruck though he was, remained focused in on Sahmad, his rage all-consuming. “The only threat I face is you, Sahmad!” He spat. “Spreading plagues and lies, usurping leaders, replacing them with traitors of your own choosing, hiding vital truths-” he pointed toward the wyvern with his free hand. “You should have told me from the start! Let me help you! But no! You chose to make me your enemy!”

 

By the end his voice had risen to a yell, and Sahmad staggered, sounding hoarse and ragged when he spoke, pointing at the massive wyvern himself. “I am all that stands between that and you! You have no idea what is coming, and do not lie, you would never have believed me! But perhaps you’ll believe me now!”

 

Insects. The word was once more spoken into all of their minds, no doubt by the wyvern. Your eternal squabbles are pathetic. You have disturbed my silence.

 

“My lord, your rage is justified,” Krosht said, placing a hand on Nato’s shoulder as he shuddered with terror. “But that beast is more pressing. We can deal with Sahmad later!”

 

Nato shrugged him off. “I learned a long time ago that one man standing alone is never enough,” he said to Sahmad. “You Mask Makers are all the same! For all your years of life, all your successes and failures, all your power and knowledge, you never learn! Your era ended long ago! Your ways don’t work anymore! It’s our time now!”

 

He plunged his sword toward Sahmad’s chest. The Mask Maker swung his own sword to deflect the attack, but still stumbled back, retreating toward the edge of the ridge.

 

In the distance, the wyvern slowly approached, seeming almost cat-like in how it prowled toward them. Someone whimpered.

 

“My lord, I urge you, please,” Krosht said, his voice fallen to a hushed whisper. “We’re not safe!”

 

“If we let him live, if we let him leave, he’ll just come back and make things worse,” Nato snarled. “I failed to stop Voxumo, I failed to stop Kulta – I refuse to fail again!”

 

Concentrating with all of his will, strengthened by his adrenaline and his rage, Nato unleashed a blast of ice at the Mask Maker using the power of his cryosteel blade. A wave of fire from Sahmad’s free hand counteracted the attack, though the pressure on everyone’s mind increased back to migraine levels as he did so. Nato grunted, ignoring the pain as he stepped forward, even as Sahmad stumbled back another few steps, until the Mask Maker was standing on the very edge of the ridge.

 

The snow was beginning to swirl around them again, the wind whipping at them. Lightning stabbed down from the sky all around them, and the wyvern prowled ever closer, its eyes fixed upon them all.

 

Krosht groaned, involuntarily grabbing Nato’s shoulder and gripping it tightly, trying to pull him back. “M-my lord. He has wronged us… but I do not think he is lying. About holding the beast back.”

 

The words pierced through his rage, and Nato blinked through the haze of pain and rage. ShadowVezon had fallen to one knee, panting, and Kazi was huddled in the snow, clutching at his head, mumbling under his breath, a maddened look in his eyes.

 

“Please reconsider,” Krosht begged.

 

He hesitated, his eyes finding Dekar’s corpse, before turning to his sword, and he stared at the Stone Protector’s blood as it dripped from the blade.

 

Here I am berating Sahmad for ignoring others and working to fulfil his will alone… all while I’m doing the same thing, he realized, filled with a sickened sense of horror as his sword slowly fell to his side, his eyes meeting Dekar’s vacant gaze, before he shook his head, his iron will hardening. No, no. Lesser evil he might be, but Sahmad is still evil.

 

“You lost one of yours, I lost one of mine,” he said, wavering in place, and blinking away tears as the pain in his head rose to a crescendo. “Let’s call it even.”

 

Sahmad’s sword fell from his hand, tumbling over the edge behind him. The Mask Maker sunk to his hands and knees in the bloodied snow, his breathing ragged, as the pressure on their minds once again receded. ShadowVezon shuddered, and Kazi stilled, but still the wyvern prowled closer.

 

I am altering the deal, the voice, ancient and more powerful than anything he had ever heard before, spoke again. These insects know nothing. They are weak, power hungry, and self-absorbed. They will not unite to save themselves. Five years no more.

 

“Unite us?! This weasel was doing everything he could to keep us divided!” Nato shouted to the beast, laughing, the sound echoing around them, half-mad. “He told us nothing, poisoned us against each other, with plagues and lies!”

 

What do you know of uniting? The voice asked, the question rolling around in his mind, over and over and over. Every action you have taken has driven your island further apart. You know less of unity than even Sahmad.

 

Despite its words, the voice was almost disturbingly emotionless, and Nato had the terrible sense that it deigned to speak to him out of idle curiosity and boredom – nothing more.

 

“There’s no unity to be found in blindly accepting one man as a self-proclaimed messiah,” Nato declared, ignoring Krosht’s resigned mutterings as he gestured to Sahmad. “Unlike him, I don’t pretend to know better than everyone else, so I’ll be frank with you. I don’t understand what’s going on, or what you are, or why Sahmad did what he did. I was told that if I came here, I would find an explanation – but so far all I’ve gotten is belittlement and insults. You entities are all the same – you speak to us with riddles and ridicule, and then demean us for not understanding your cryptic instructions! If you want something, speak plainly!”

 

You wish for me to speak plainly? Very well.

 

The wyvern prowled closer, the ground underneath them shaking with every step it took, and Sahmad screamed as he threw one hand to the sky, an energy shield forming around the ridge just in time to deflect no less than seven lightning strikes. ShadowVezon crawled over, supporting the Mask Maker.

 

My kind were created to restore order, the wyvern said, each word pounded into their minds like a hammer, punctuated with a new blast of lightning. Always, the universe fails. It falls into anarchy, and chaos. We wipe the slate clean. We destroy it all, so that the gods might begin again.

 

It was close enough, now, that its head loomed over them. Its shadow caused the entire ridge to become as dark as night.

 

This iteration has reached its end. It is time for a new dawn. This Mask Maker thought to save it, by proving your island could unite under a common cause. But I grow tired and weary of allowing him to play his games, and my brethren tire of your other Mask Makers and their tricks.

 

Distantly, Nato realized that the other Mask Makers it spoke of must be Voltex and Ekimu.

 

It is time to wipe the slate clean, it repeated. My brethren will join me here soon. Until then, know that it is Baranus, Scourge of the Skies, who shall return you to order.

 

“Your arrangement with Sahmad… you gave him five years?” Nato shouted, his thoughts racing as fast as they could amid the pain crashing over and over in his mind. “I ask for five days! Five days to undo the damage Sahmad caused! Five days to bury the past, to unite Okoto!

 

I think not. The prelude has ended. Goodbye.

 

The wyvern – Baranus – opened its mouth, and he could see down its throat, which was glowing orange, brighter and brighter – until a stream of fire shot down toward the ridge. Sahmad let out another raged scream as the fire hit the shield around them and surrounded it, the flames coiling, flickering in place, as the temperature began to rise, and the snow on the ridge began to steam.

 

Barely able to even think, Nato blindly plunged his sword into the ground at his feet, willing the cryosteel to expand and reshape the frozen water in the earth, widening the cracks, weakening the foundation….

 

His sword crumbled apart in his hands under the strain, and then the ridge collapsed under them all, and they plunged down into the shadows.

 

End of Episode 03.

 

Let's not waste any time.

 

EPISODE 04: OF GODS AND MEN BEGINS NOW!!!


  • 7

OF GODS AND MEN

-ONE-


#214 Offline Lucina

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Posted Apr 15 2018 - 07:08 PM

Apologies for delays. I've been moving this week and such, so my priorities have been elsewhere. It'll be at least a few days before the episode is ready, but here's a short teaser with Efandril:

 

-

 

Efandril found Elittra waiting for her at the gate to Qendroj City.

 

“Greetings,” she called, smiling warmly as she approached.

 

Elittra didn’t return it. “You’ll want to see what I found in the vaults.”

 

Efandril’s smile disappeared from her face, suddenly apprehensive as she took the final few steps forward to stand with Elittra. “You’re right on that. I do want to see. Show me.”

 

Elittra led her into the city, where to her surprise, Efandril found an Earth Protector waiting for them – Garan Qendroj. Luroka’s second in command (or former second in command, now), who had been imprisoned during Nuhrii’s takeover. He looked exhausted.

 

She turned a confused glance to Elittra. “Luroka’s lieutenant?”

 

“I needed explanations,” Elittra explained. “He had them, in exchange for his… freedom.”

 

“I see,” Efandril responded. “And what explanations did he have to offer?”

 

Elittra didn’t respond, instead leading her down to the vaults. Garan followed, limping slightly, though Efandril put it out of her mind.

 

She had always suspected that Elittra could be somewhat overzealous. So long as she didn’t know for certain, however, she didn’t need to intervene – which was helpful, since Elittra had yet to let her down.

 

They arrived at the nearest of the vaults a few minutes later, and gesturing for the guards to step aside, Elittra led them in. Laying on a table in the center of the vault were two objects. The first, a Staff, was unremarkable beyond its rather ornate design. But the second… it was clearly the fragment of a mask, and Efandril could already feel the Dark Energy leaking out of it into the room.


  • 5

OF GODS AND MEN

-ONE-


#215 Offline Lucina

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Posted Apr 21 2018 - 11:14 AM

 

EPISODE 04

“Of Gods and Men”

(Part I)

 

-Qendroj City-

-Efandril Aodh-

IC: Efandril

 

Efandril found Elittra waiting for her at the gate to Qendroj City.

 

“Greetings,” she called, smiling warmly as she approached.

 

Elittra didn’t return it. “You’ll want to see what I found in the vaults.”

 

Efandril’s smile disappeared from her face, suddenly apprehensive as she took the final few steps forward to stand with Elittra. “You’re right on that. I do want to see. Show me.”

 

Elittra led her into the city, where to her surprise, Efandril found an Earth Protector waiting for them – Garan Qendroj. Luroka’s second in command (or former second in command, now), who had been imprisoned during Nuhrii’s takeover. He looked exhausted.

 

She turned a confused glance to Elittra. “Luroka’s lieutenant?”

 

“I needed explanations,” Elittra explained. “He had them, in exchange for his… freedom.”

 

“I see,” Efandril responded. “And what explanations did he have to offer?”

 

Elittra didn’t respond, instead leading her down to the vaults. Garan followed, limping slightly, though Efandril put it out of her mind.

 

She had always suspected that Elittra could be somewhat overzealous. So long as she didn’t know for certain, however, she didn’t need to intervene – which was helpful, since Elittra had yet to let her down.

 

They arrived at the nearest of the vaults a few minutes later, and gesturing for the guards to step aside, Elittra led them in. Laying on a table in the center of the vault were two objects. The first, a Staff, was unremarkable beyond its rather ornate design. But the second… it was clearly the fragment of a mask, and Efandril could already feel the Dark Energy leaking out of it into the room.

 

She furrowed her brow at the sight. “Do we know anything about either of these items?”

 

“The Staff is designed to look like the Staff of Annona,” Elittra said. “But… very bad news on that front.”

 

“The true Staff is held by Luroka,” Garan said quietly, his voice sounding hoarse. The Earth Protector gingerly rubbed his throat as he continued, “he took it with him out into the Barren. I am… very worried. The Staff… it’s the source of all magic. It’s not designed to be wielded by us Protectors. If he has tried to use it – particularly against any enemies – it’s likely he has instead caused a disaster.”

 

“Not great on that front,” Elittra admitted. “The shard is a more immediate concern. It’s from the Mask of Ultimate Power.”

 

Efandril inhaled sharply and deeply. To be in the same room as a fragment of the Mask of Ultimate Power….

 

“I figured it was something like that,” she murmured. “This room is suffused with its power. Do we have any leads on where the others might be?”

 

“We suspect one in each region,” Garan answered, after a sharp look from Elittra. “It’s likely the Brotherhood holds one. They would be drawn to its aura more than most.”

 

She kept her eyes fixed on it as she responded. “Do you think the other nations might be holding any? Or are they yet hidden?”

 

Could there be one in Aodhiim? What if Jakura is hiding it?

 

“My best guess is that the mask shattered during or shortly after the Battle for the Dawn,” Garan said. “The pieces didn’t scatter on their own – someone in the Knights probably hid a different piece in every region of Okoto. It’s what I would have done. Makes reuniting them extremely hard, but still easier than other options to keep track of. It’s not the kind of mask you could just melt down.”

 

“Would it be possible to destroy it at all?” Efandril asked, now turning her gaze fully to the Earth Protector. “Could a Mask Maker do it?”

 

“If they could, I think they would have.”

 

She pondered the thought for a moment. “I suppose you’re right.” Her eyes then fixed upon the replica Staff of Annona. “What about the Staff?”

 

Garan shrugged, looking wary. “What about it?”

 

“Could it destroy the fragments of the mask?”

 

“I have no idea. Luroka never tried; I would be scared to.”

 

“…perhaps he could be persuaded to try. I do have quite the bargaining chip.” She opened her arms and gestured upward, to the city.

 

Garan sighed and shrugged again. “Maybe.”

 

Efandril fell silent, deep in thought. With the Great War on the horizon, it was difficult to reconcile all her different plans and desires with one another. She wanted the Mask of Fire, and she wanted to find Ikir. More than anything, she wanted Aodhiim. But now the Mask of Ultimate Power was literally on the table (or at least, part of it was), and with it, the great threat that it represented.

 

And, she dared admit, the perhaps greater boon.

 

As if that were not enough, Luroka held the Staff of Annona.

 

It was a lot to consider.

 

“Well, I can only thank you for the knowledge you’ve shared with us. I will do my very best to ensure that the fragment remains safe and secure.”

 

“Do what you will,” Garan said, sounding too tired to care.

 

She offered the man a glance that was equal parts sympathizing and pitying. In the absence of any further development, she turned and exited the room. Elittra and Garan followed.

 

“Make sure there are at least four guards posted outside at all times,” Efandril ordered, directing the words to Elittra. “Only you or I enter, on threat of death.”

 

Elittra nodded. “As you say, my lady.”

 

-

 

Her business in Qendroj City completed, she continued her travels. Now alone aside from her guards (whom, unlike Bartok, could match her quick pace), she soon found herself in Vakama City. Takua greeted her at the gates again, having clearly been awaiting her return.

 

They greeted each other warmly before, understanding the need for privacy, Takua took her to his home on the outskirts of the city. There was a momentary close call where the head of House Kindle attempted to speak with them, but thankfully, Takua was able to quickly brush them off.

 

Once they were inside, they settled in Takua’s office. As Takua poured them each a glass of wine, Efandril began to speak. “How have things been while I was away?”

 

“Just as I was hoping,” Takua said. “We shipped the darkfire you wanted to Qendroj City. Captain Kapura and the Imperator are organizing a banquet in Silodas. There’s still no word from General Unit, however.”

 

“That last point is worrying… but, it does not prevent us from moving forward,” she said. “It’s nearly time.”

 

“Should I come with you to the banquet?” Takua asked quietly, sipping his wine as she accepted hers. “I’d personally prefer to remain here. I know what the consequences might be, but… it’s better, sometimes, to just do it yourself.”

 

“There are far better men to fall the plunger than my closest confidante,” Efandril replied, somewhat exasperated. “And besides, I may need you. I think the Imperator grows suspicious.”

 

“Who else would you trust here?” Takua asked. “Elittra is in Qendroj; you’ll have Kapura and Korgot in Silodas.”

 

Efandril grimaced as he pointed it out. “It’s not like they’re the only members of our clan. We’ve numerous other men and women who would fight each other for the right to usher in our new age.” As confident as her wording was, however, she knew her intonation was shaky and unsure.

 

“You’re right,” he said, setting his wine down and resting his hand on her arm. “But how many of them are as subtle as we are? How many of them are so skilled that they have lived for years – decades, even – in the public eye without faltering once?”

 

“It’s not surgery,” she replied. “We just need someone who can see the others out and tip over a jar. Any lack of subtlety will be erased when this place goes sky high.”

 

She knew he was right, deep in her heart, but nonetheless continued: “And can I expect Korgot or Kapura to handle Balta, or poison a glass of wine, without arousing suspicion?”

 

“Korgot is well placed, I think. Kapura can do the job in a pinch if she can’t,” Takua said.

 

Efandril inhaled sharply, gritting her teeth and saying nothing.

 

“Every victory has its cost,” Takua reminded her. “Sacrifices must be made.”

 

“Fine,” she said, finally, her unhappiness clear on her face and in her tone. “You’ll do it then. I’ll have the Pyromancers prepare to evacuate. The banquet is two nights from now… the time will be then.”

 

“Understood.” Takua held out his hand. “If I make it, I’ll find you. But if not… remember. You’re the spark that will light the inferno.”

 

Finding herself too choked up for words, Efandril merely nodded, setting down her own glass before shaking his hand and departing.

 

The end was near. It was time to see everything through.

 

-Spirit Side-

-Rilgivi Nivis-

IC: Rilgivi

 

As the transformation completed itself before Rilgivi’s eyes, the open outside now shone its ethereal light upon her and her men. The room was bathed in otherworldly hues, and when her eyes finally adjusted to the brightness, the sight her gaze met was nearly indescribable. She stood now at the top of a massive tower, itself standing on top of a mountain that she suspected was as big as Okoto itself – if not bigger. Rivers of silver and light flowed from alcoves in the sides of the tower, breaking into a tapestry of rivers and waterfalls upon the mountainside. The staircase she had ascended earlier had transformed into a spiral staircase, snaking around the outside of the tower.

 

In the distance she saw not a sun, nor a horizon, but instead a multitude of islands floating just beyond where the horizon should be, each distinct and beautiful in their own way. What she had originally believed to be the sun was a bright light on top of another tower, one so far in the distance that Rilgivi found it incredible that she could even spot it. Its lands were surrounded in a red and orange hue, with rivers of golden magma permeating its landscape. Where the light that shone down upon her came from, however, was an ever-changing glow in the sky. It wasn’t the simple blue of her own world, but instead an ever-shifting pool of hues and patterns.

 

Looking back at the three beings who had transported her here, she now saw them growing. All three of them now loomed over her, at least three times her height; the wind being sat in the throne was nearly ten times her size, reaching the dome ceiling. Their appearances had become much less rigid (if they had had any true forms to them to begin with), losing the humanoid forms that had defined their masses before. The storm cloud looked like an actual storm cloud, and the snow being looked like mild snowfall centered around its mask. The wind being… was something else entirely.

 

“Welcome to the Spirit Side, Rilgivi Nivis,” the wind being uttered, and for the first time, she could almost hear amusement in its tone.

 

Overtaken by curiosity, she stuttered a bit. “D… does this place have a name? Are you… gods?”

 

“Gods? Dear me, no. We’re merely elemental spirits. We guard this temple in honor of the Lord of Storms, Tempestos. We are their descendants.” She felt as thought the wind being lowered itself, kneeling perhaps, down toward her and Macku. “In fact, it seems you too share a relation to an Element Lord – albeit incredibly distant. Hrimgrand, Lord of Frost. You all share an ancestry with Hielgal here… interesting.”

 

“Hrimgrand?”

 

“Ancestor to you, your companions, and Hielgal,” the wind being repeated, and she had the sensation that it had gestured somewhat vaguely to the cloud of snowflakes.

 

“I’m sorry, I’m just… overwhelmed by all of this,” she said, too awestruck at the sight of the Spirit Side to say much more. “Was this always separate from the… Corporeal Side?”

 

“No. In the beginning, the two were one. Built upon the celestial body of Atama, this world was forged and shaped by the Element Lords, each imparting their progeny upon it so that they could be guardians of the balance and caretakes of the beings that emerged from the worldflesh. Unfortunately, one half of the worldsoul, Ata, sought to conquer and destroy what the Element Lords had built. With help from Ma, we managed to stop this great evil – but at an equally great cost.” The wind being appeared to… hesitate, almost, before it continued. “Ma sacrificed themselves, and in doing so, separated the pure elementals from their demi-elemental offspring, leaving them to fend for themselves under the guidance of their new guardians – the six Titans of Ma, in the Corporeal Side.”

 

I can barely understand half of this, Rilgivi thought, and it was clear Macku was thinking the same.

 

“Since then, the Spirit Side has continued to drift away from the Corporeal Side. Its landscapes stretch and contort to suit us, its incorporeal inhabitants. Nowadays, we Elemental Spirits do little more than tend to the temples of our given Lords. This is but one temple to Tempestos, born of Boreas, born of Vastra. The other Element Lords have their own temples, including Hrimgrand.”

 

A chill had gone down Rilgivi’s spine at the mention of Ma and Ata – those, at least, were names that she recognized. “Ata? There is a Brotherhood, claiming themselves to be of Ata, in one of our regions. It is a desolate wasteland called the Barren. Does this side reflect the other, or have the two sides drifted too far apart?”

 

If the wind being had been solid and humanoid, she suspected it would have scratched its chin thoughtfully. “The temple of Tremond, Lord of Earth, adjacent to your Earth Region was recently abandoned, having fallen to Dark Energies. Although the two sides have drifted apart physically, they still affect each other on a deeper level. I’m not really the one to consult about it, though; I have little knowledge of happenings on your side. My responsibilities rarely extend beyond this temple.”

 

Stur spoke now, bolts of lightning flickering in the thundercloud. “The fact that beings on your side worship Ata, though… that is worrying.”

 

“May I see this Temple of Tremond?” Rilgivi asked. “Not to go inside, merely to look upon it. It might give us some idea if anything bad is going on in there, or on the Corporeal Side.”

 

The wind being considered this for a moment. “Perhaps. But we cannot take you there.”

 

Stur floated forward. “What about Ackar? He can take them there, can’t he?”

 

“Hmm… it is possible.”

 

“I mean not to enter it,” Rilgivi said. “That sounds like it would be the errand of a fool. I wish only to observe it.”

 

“Entering the temple won’t be any more dangerous than approaching the realm surrounding it,” the wind being said. “All of it radiates with Dark Energy, and it is roamed by twisted spirits. If anything, the temple is the safest point there… relatively speaking, that is.”

 

“Then may I meet this Ackar?” she asked. “We might be able to find something – or do something – to change things for the better on the Corporeal Side.”

 

“That… may be,” the wind being mused. “I’m not sure. For now, wait here. We shall call for Ackar, and hope he deems it worth his time to visit here twice in the same aye.”

 

The three Elemental Spirits turned from Rilgivi and moved to the throne once more, resuming their arrangement from earlier. The teal crystals lit up again, although this time Rilgivi noticed the energy being channeled upward – and looking up beyond the roof of the temple, she saw a teal beam shooting into the sky, before a glowing teal trail raced across it and into the distance.

 

-The Barren-

-Virndrung Vatten-

IC: Virndrung, Luroka, Unit, Quad Roka (Fix), Isniel (A. Arrival), Jed (A. Arrival)

 

Virndrung eyed Luroka warily. “Luroka… I’d like to try and use the Staff. You broke minds with it, even if I hope that it was unintentional. Let me see if that can’t be undone.”

 

“I can’t let you do that,” the Earth Protector said. “The result would undoubtedly make matters worse.”

 

“Would it?” Virndrung asked, remembering his own use of the Staff moments before and how it had, in fact, worked almost perfectly for him… though he also remembered what had happened when Luroka felt things weren’t going how he wanted. “Death is a mercy compared to the state of being mindless… but in the chances it does go wrong, I suppose you could be right.”

 

He glanced northwest, in the direction of Kamuk. “There is something else all here should know. Two things, of equal importance. First – everyone knows about the Mask of Ultimate Power, how it controlled and made my father, Pulse Vatten, a mindless monster. Its fragments are scattered around Okoto, and the Brotherhood wished to reunify them. Second, I know the approximate location of the Torch of Ma. A Protector in Kamuk wields it.”

 

Luroka didn’t seem as surprised by the first piece of information as Virndrung had expected. “Who else knows the location of the fragments? And what of the Torch, what is it?”

 

“The Brotherhood had one,” Virndrung said slowly. “There is one in each region, I believe. As for the Torch… it’s like the Staff, but different. Something might happen when one wields both.”

 

Luroka opened his mouth to respond, but was cut off as the ground beneath them all trembled once more.

 

What now? He warily thought to himself, trying to keep his balance and eyeing Onua – but the Toa clearly wasn’t responsible this time, not with the state he was in. We’ve already been through more than enough… and tremors are never a good sign.

 

“What is this?!” Luroka gripped the Staff tightly to keep upright, while Unit grimaced and fell to one knee.

 

The trembling increased, and a rapidly growing spiderweb of cracks appeared in the earth not too far away. Virndrung tried to keep his distance from the cracks, following Unit’s example and falling down to one knee for balance, mentally preparing himself for another battle.

 

Before their eyes, the earth exploded, and when everything settled, seven figures stepped out from under the Barren.

 

Virndrung recognized several of them. Jed Corruich, Tex Aodh, Isniel Lasang, and Metus Crustallus were all members of the Knights. The other two Protectors – a Protector of Water and a Protector of Stone – were likely Knights as well. But the final figure… shadows seemed to gather around them. They were similar to Kulta and Umarak in stature, and yet somehow darker than either.

 

A Dark Titan?

 

The newcomers all surveyed the landscape. Their expressions took on various states of distaste and horror at the sight of the battlefield filled with charred corpses, covered in blood and muck and, still some ways away, the remnants of the Brotherhood still actively slaughtering each other. Virndrung knew they weren’t missing the injuries to the survivors either – the seriouis burns down Luroka’s side, Unit’s own burns and missing mask, Onua’s missing arm, and the empty gaze of Quad Roka.

 

Jed… Knights… a Titan of Ata… no, no, now is not the time, Virndrung thought, his panic mounting rapidly before he forced it down. No, no, calm down. Think, don’t be an idiot. Why would Jed Corruich of all people ally with a Dark Titan? Does Jed know what I’ve done? I should tell him. Ask question. Hope for answers.

 

He cleared his throat and spoke quickly, wary and fearful of the Titan and addressing Jed. “Jed Corruich, I know you. Knight of Ekimu, Kingslayer, friend and advisor to my father, Pulse Vatten. I’m not sure how much you know of me. I’m Virndrung Vatten, and today I have avenged my father and helped to destroy the Brotherhood. Any information that says I’m a member of the Brotherhood is out of date, and wrong. Now, I think all of us would like to know why you’re here, and who your company is?”

 

The group remained silent, and none moved except for the Titan, who approached but walked past everyone in silence, kneeling before Onua. The Toa’s wound sealed shut with a wave of the Titan’s hand, and the Titan fixed his eyes upon Virndrung and Quad Roka as he helped Onua to his feet, supporting the Toa with one arm.

 

“You said your name is Virndrung,” the Titan said, his voice a deep rumble. “That Stone Okotoan… what has happened to him?”

 

“I would like to know that as well,” Jed said. “Quad Roka was left in command of Rollor’s Reach. Why is he here?”

 

Not wanting to draw the ire of the Titan or the Knights, Virndrung spoke quickly and without hesitation. “His mind is gone. Destroyed, I think. A terrible fate, but… his mind is not the only one that was shattered.”

 

“Give me that Staff,” the Titan said, gesturing to the Staff of Annona in Luroka’s hands. “With it, I can heal his mind.”

 

“You can do that?” Luroka asked, seeming skeptical, and gesturing toward Quad Roka and Onua. “It is my understanding that it is much more difficult to create than it is to destroy.”

 

“You are only an Okotoan,” the Titan said. “That Staff will never function for you as it will for me. It was gifted to aTitan, and crafted for a Titan. Only a Titan can truly wield its power with accuracy.”

 

“I hope you are right,” Luroka murmured, handing the Staff over.

 

The Titan accepted the Staff. It glowed as he pointed it at Onua, and the Toa seemed to straighten, re-energized. Appearing satisfied, the Titan made his way over to Virndrung and Quad Roka, kneeling before the Stone Protector. The Titan concentrated, cupping Quad Roka’s head with one hand, and resting the tip of the Staff between the Protector’s eyes.

 

After a long moment he stepped back, looking even more satisfied. “There we are.”

 

Quad Roka slowly sat up, gingerly touching his head. “Oh… wow. I… will never take the concept of moving my body for granted again.” He sounded weak, and looked it too, before he glanced up at the Titan. “Thank you.”

 

Isniel approached them. The rest of his group followed, until along with Unit and Luroka, they were all standing in one of the strangest circles that Virndrung had ever been apart of. “Quad Roka, good to see you’re alright, but… what are you doing here? Last we knew you were keeping guard at Rollor’s Reach.”

 

“Sahmad arrived,” Quad Roka said quietly, as Virndrung helped him to his feet. “We… got into an argument. Disagreed? He somehow teleported me out here, to the Barren. He… pointed out a direction for me to travel. Didn’t see any other options, so… I followed his advice. Ended up here. What were you doing underground?”

 

Isniel glanced to the hole in the ground before clearing his throat and explaining: “Remember how Jed and I went to investigate the disturbances in the Barren? We stumbled onto a cave and Metus led us inside. We met this Dark Titan at its end, deep beneath Okoto,” he said, gesturing to the Dark Titan.

 

“Missing a few details there, but fine,” Metus muttered.

 

“We made conversation, and struck up a partnership of sorts,” Isniel continued. “To cooperate against an oncoming threat.”

 

“That’s the gist of it, anyway,” Tex said.

 

“What sort of future threat?” Luroka asked.

 

“The war to come,” Isniel said. “The Great War.”

 

“In that case, you have access to whatever resources I have available to prevent it,” Luroka said. “We were just heading back to Qendroj City, if you’d like to accompany us?”

 

We? Virndrung thought. I’m not going anywhere with you. I’d be surprised if anyone else does after what you-

 

“I’ll go with you, if that’s alright,” Quad Roka said. “I’d like to get my bearings back a little bit before returning to the Reach.”

 

-never mind, then.

 

“I need to go to Kamuk,” he said aloud. “Are the Knights also searching for the Torch of Ma? It might be in your interest to accompany to Kamuk if so.”

 

“I’ll be returning to Aodhiim with General Unit for now,” Tex said, glancing to Unit and the Mask of Fire in his hands, and then to Isniel. “You’re welcome to join me.” 

 

“I will remain with the Kingslayer,” the Dark Titan said, standing with the Staff still in hand, staring down at it. “But this Staff… I would have one of you carry it for now. Only a Titan can truly wield it, but… I should not hold such temptation in my hand.”

 

“May I take it?” Virndrung asked, unsure if it was wise to ask, but also not able to let an opportunity like this pass him by. “I will try not to misuse it, and I wish to pair it with the Torch of Ma.”

 

“Whatever you do, don’t let anyone going with him take it,” Onua rasped, pointing at Luroka. “He shredded the minds of hundreds without a second thought.”

 

“You left me no choice, Onua!” Luroka sharply replied. “I will take it back. It belongs in Qendroj City. As it stands, it shouldn’t have been used to begin with, so I’ll ask you all to keep silent on the matter.”

 

Hypocrisy at its finest, Virndrung thought, wincing at Luroka’s suggestion after what the Earth Protector had done.

 

“What powers does the Staff have anyway?” Isniel asked, no doubt trying to defuse the situation.

 

“It is the source of all magic, with untold potential… and untold danger,” the Titan said, placing a hand on Onua’s shoulder to silence the Toa before levelling a glare at Luroka. “I think the Staff will not return with you. The Staff’s misuse was what drew me here in the first place. You have acted rashly with it.”

 

“If Onua wishes it not to be near Luroka, I’ll again ask to take it to Kamuk,” Virndrung said. “I can head straight there, or wherever destiny says it needs to be.”

 

“I wouldn’t trust Kamuk with it,” Tex said, looking worried. “I shudder to imagine what Vinheim might use it for. Heck, I’m not sure I’d trust Anuhea with it, either.”

 

There goes that, then.

 

“I think that it wasn’t a suggestion,” Luroka all but snarled, with a much sterner expression. “I will be taking the Staff back. I had no other recourse but to use it, despite the results. It belongs in Qendroj City, not with such another dangerous artifact as this Torch of Ma.”

 

Isniel and Jed shared a glance, before the Jungle Protector made an offer of his own. “What about Rollor’s Reach, then? That’s one place not suggested yet. Objections? Jed? Tex? Anyone?”

 

“I wouldn’t be opposed,” Luroka said, looking so reluctant that Virndrung doubted the truthfulness of his words. “I would trust the Knights with it… but the Staff belongs in Qendroj City.”

 

“I have no objections,” Virndrung said.

 

“The Reach is where the Mask Makers are most likely to go when they return,” Tex said. “If you take it with you, Isniel, I’d trust you.”

 

“We’re headed to Rollor’s Reach anyway,” Isniel said, shrugging. “Best that we take it with us.”

 

“It is decided, then,” the Titan said, handing the Staff to Isniel. “The best of luck to all of you on your journeys.”

 

To Be Continued in Part II.

 

-I've been working and adjusting to my new place (on top of moving), so I haven't had a whole lot of free time to write the episode, but here's Part I. It's a bit shorter than most parts just because I wanted to give you all something sooner rather than later; I'm hoping to have Part II finished for Monday.

-Part II will feature POVs from Nato, Reyna, and Jakura for sure.


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OF GODS AND MEN

-ONE-


#216 Offline Virndrung Vatten

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Posted Apr 21 2018 - 04:11 PM

Voltex wanted someone to post this here for you BZP-only folks:
 

If anybody has a particular endpoint (or possible endpoints) for their chars let me know ahead of time and I'll see of we can build up to them at all


Edited by Virndrung Vatten, Apr 21 2018 - 04:12 PM.

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On Bota Magna, everything is about to fall apart.

 


#217 Offline Rassilon (TTL)

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Posted Apr 21 2018 - 08:19 PM

What a great episode so far. I'm excited to see how it unfolds.


Voltex wanted someone to post this here for you BZP-only folks:

If anybody has a particular endpoint (or possible endpoints) for their chars let me know ahead of time and I'll see of we can build up to them at all

Thank you.

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The Tide Comes in this Summer


#218 Offline Lucina

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Posted Apr 22 2018 - 10:25 AM

Also:

Episode 5 will be the grand finale.

Episode 6 will be a playable epilogue for those who manage to survive the bloodbath that will be Episode 5.

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OF GODS AND MEN

-ONE-


#219 Offline Rassilon (TTL)

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Posted Apr 22 2018 - 08:10 PM

Episode 5 will be the grand finale.


BZPower's Clash of Kings is not ready yet. If anyone would like to host after BZPGOT 3 ends go right ahead.

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The Tide Comes in this Summer


#220 Offline Lucina

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Posted Apr 23 2018 - 09:48 PM

EPISODE 04

“Of Gods and Men”

(Part II)

 

-The North: Grave’s Peak-

-Nato Greavesey-

IC: Nato, Krosht, ShadowVezon

 

They fell.

 

Nato landed heavily, cursing, but found himself otherwise unharmed from the fall. Fortunately, it appeared Krosht was the same – and unfortunately, so was Sahmad. A few feet away, several audible snaps sounded from one of ShadowVezon’s arms as he landed upon it, but the former king ignored it in favor of rolling away from a spike of ice that stabbed where he had been lying a split second before.

 

“Watch out!”

 

Nato grunted as he was shoved to the side by Kazi – who then vanished in a whirlwind of snow, ice and stone, buried alive. Krosht stumbled toward him in the snow, panic in his eyes.

 

“My lord,” he said, a tinge of panic seeping into his voice. “We can’t… we can’t stay here! The dragon will kill us!”

 

“Shut it,” Nato hissed back, keeping his voice low. “We can’t outrun it, but if it thinks we died in the fall, perhaps it will move on and leave us be.”

 

Krosht merely nodded in response as Nato peered upwards, trying to discern what the dragon was doing. Sahmad emerged from behind both of them then, and before either could react, the Mask Maker grabbed them by the back of their necks and shoved them forward. Sahmad seemed almost in a mindless daze about the whole thing, until all three of them collided with ShadowVezon – and then the world disappeared around them, even as dragon fire swallowed the ridge.

 

They slowly reappeared, the world slowly fading in around them – the central square of Grave’s Peak. There was a rapidly growing crowd around its edges, all of them staring at you. Whatever teleportation magic Sahmad was working, it was taking far longer than usual.

 

Krosht glanced around. “My lord,” he murmured, “do you know what is happening?”

 

“Nothing good,” Nato replied cautiously. “But at least we’re away from Baranus.”

 

“Just… taking awhile,” Sahmad said, sounding exhausted. “Need to… make sure he won’t track us. Not instantly, at least.”

 

“Oh yes, take your time,” Nato drawled. “It’s not like we have anything better to do, like preparing a defence against the giant flying monster promising to destroy Okoto.”

 

Something in Sahmad seemed to snap at the words; the Mask Maker’s eyes hardened. “If that’s how you want it,” he said, and he straightened as the teleportation ended far more suddenly than it should have – whatever anti-tracking measure Sahmad had been attempting halted halfway through.

 

Sahmad opened his arms, gesturing to the gathered crowd. “Welcome home, Khan.”

 

Nato wasted no time. “GUARDS! To me!”

 

“For gods sake,” ShadowVezon muttered, but Nato ignored him, turning back to Sahmad.

 

“You can either help us,” he declared. “Or be executed here and now for your crimes against the North. If I were you, I’d start by curing these innocent people of the plague you needlessly inflicted on them.”

 

He frowned as Sahmad threw his head back and laughed for a long moment, even as five guards stepped forward through the crowd to stand at Nato’s side.

 

“Really?” Sahmad asked. “And I suppose you’ll let me walk free if I cure you all of this ‘plague’ of yours, then?”

 

“Of course not,” Nato said. “You know things – things that could be useful in defending against that monster, things that could help save lives. Not just here, but across Okoto. I’m giving you a choice – stay, help, and make amends for your mistakes… or die.”

 

“I’ve done nothing to harm the North,” Sahmad said. “You cannot execute me just because you don’t like me. What evidence do you have against me?”

 

“You… what?” Nato stammered, confused. What was Sahmad trying to play at? “You caused the Stone Plague! You walked into my office, threw a poisoned flower at me, and bragged about your plans. You think because Kazi’s dead, you can just pretend it didn’t happen?”

 

Sahmad shook his head, rubbing at his temples and sighing. “Nato, I’m a Mask Maker. Why on earth would I walk into your office and poison you? And if I did, why would I use a flower of all things to do it?”

 

The way he worded it, the tone of his voice – Sahmad was making the entire thing sound ridiculous, or attempting to… and it was clear that many in the crowd were buying it.

 

The Mask Maker had barely finished speaking when he seemed to catch sight of something overhead, and he then ducked underneath a crossbow bolt, which hit the street. Guards now lined the rooftops as per Nato’s orders, ready to fire.

 

“Wait, wait!” Nato shouted up to the guards. “Hold your fire!”

 

They did so, and next to him, both Krosht and ShadowVezon breathed sighs of relief. He turned back to Sahmad.

 

“I’m not doing this. I’m not playing your stupid game. I know what you did. My aides and guards all know what you did. The Knights and the South know, too. Discrediting me won’t work. Too many people know, people who know me, who know what I’ve done, the lives I’ve changed, the legacy I’ve left. So stop wasting our time. Help us save lives.”

 

“You would kill me just to satisfy your own spiteful wishes, without bothering to show evidence that I’ve done anything you accuse me of?” Sahmad asked, sounding incredulous and disappointed at the same time. “Not even a trial? Just a public lynching, right here on the streets?”

 

Many in the crowd were nodding along now. One even dared to call out: “if this guy is so bad, why weren’t we warned?!”

 

Overcome momentarily by blind rage at the Mask Maker’s audacity, Nato stalked forward and attempted to kick him between the legs – but Sahhmad was able to easily dodge away, and the sight of their leader so easily losing his temper had lost him significant points with the crowd. Some of the guards now also looked uncertain.

 

Scowling, he stared at Sahmad for several long moments, astounded by the Mask Maker’s arrogance.

 

I spared his life on the ridge, gave him every chance to cooperate with me, to help instead of hurt, and he spurns me at every turn. What kind of harsh, terrible upbringing could lead to a person with such purposeless, callous spite? The lives of everyone in the North, everyone on Okoto, are on the line… and he still chooses to waste what little time we have trying to sabotage me, instead of helping me.

 

“Please, Sahmad, for the sake of all the lives you’ve already ruined, don’t be this… petty, spiteful thing,” he said. “Cure the North of the plague you infected on it. Help us survive the storm you didn’t warn us about.”

 

“I haven’t ruined any lives,” Sahmad said. “Except for Dekar… whom you killed while trying to murder me. My fault for pulling him out of Kamuk, though. I should have known he wasn’t ready….”

 

He trailed off, falling silent for a moment as he bowed his head. Whether his moment of mourning for Dekar was true or false, Nato couldn’t say – but then Sahmad drew himself back up, staring at him defiantly. “I have the magic to do it, so I’ll cure the North of this ‘plague’,” he declared. “But then I demand a trial. By the laws of gods and men, I demand a trial by combat.”

 

“Cure first. Surviving Baranus second,” Nato said, sighing. “Then you can have your trial by combat.”

 

If I don’t kill you first.

 

“No. This ends right here, right now,” Sahmad said. “I give the cure. And then, when I prove myself by Okoto’s ancient laws, you will cease your hositilities towards me. Name your champion.”

 

Resisting the urge to hit Sahmad in the face, Nato resorted to glowering menacingly. “Me. I name me. That’s what you want, isn’t it?”

 

Sahmad shook his head, closing his eyes. “No. I don’t want this. But it’s clear I won’t get a fair shot at a regular trial with you, and this is faster. I don’t need to fight you, Nato. You can name someone else.”

 

Krosht stepped forward, until he stood in front of Nato. “My lord, I will fight in your stead. I hesistate to say this, but… you’re getting a bit too old to be fighting like this. I would rather not see you fall to Sahmad’s blade, especially after that fall.” Krosht’s gaze then snapped to Sahmad. “And as for you, Mask Maker… I will defeat you. You will cure the plague and apologize for lying about it – and then assist us with defeating Baranus. I am loathe to say it, but you are more useful alive than dead.”

 

Krosht crossed his arms. “Telling falsehoods only hurts the trust you could have built between others, Sahmad. If unity was your goal… you failed the moment you tried to keep the North occupied instead of telling us of the threat within our own borders.”

 

Sahmad shrugged, looking sorrowful. “I can only do what I can do. Give me your arm, if you will, and I’ll cure you.”

 

The Mask Maker gestured to Krosht’s right arm, which was visibly impacted with Stonescale. Krosht nodded, sticking the arm out and grimacing. Sahmad took the arm in one hand and waved the other over it. Before their eyes, the Stonescale faded away. Krosht flexed his fingers, examining his now-cured arm.

 

Sahmad stepped back, concentrating, before opening his arms – and if the rippling of the crowd was any indication, the crowd was now feeling the same, strange fuzzy effects that Nato could feel, as his own Stonescale vanished.

 

“I can’t cure all the North from here,” Sahmad said. “But everyone here no carries the cure with them. If you find someone with the plague, you’ll cure them on contact. Same way the plague spread.”

 

Then I don’t need you anymore, Nato thought, wordlessly gesturing for the guards on the rooftops to open fire. He knew the act would reflect poorly on him – but they would see. They’ll all see. Once they see Baranus. They’ll know. They’ll understand. Sometimes sacrifices have to be made.

 

“What are you doing?!” ShadowVezon hissed, grabbing at Nato with his uninjured hand. “If anyone knows how to defend against Baranus, it’s him!”

 

Sahmad’s eyes went wide, and the same shield he used to defend against Baranus appeared with a resounding crack, spreading far enough to cover Krosht, who was still right in front of him. The arrows reflected off the shield, but luckily, none yet deflected into the crowd.

 

The crowd themselves had frozen, terrified that the guards would open fire on them.

 

“If you kill him now, you’ll doom us all!” ShadowVezon spat, as the guards prepared to fire again. “Call them off!”

 

“We don’t have time for anymore of this nonsense!” he hissed back to ShadowVezon, but he nonetheless gestured for the guards to hold their fire before turning back to the crowd, raising his voice to be heard above their clamor. “A creature is coming to Grave’s Peak – a creature that this wretch-” he pointed at Sahmad “-struck a bargain with! It exists solely to destroy Okoto and its people, and it’s coming here, now, to kill us all. Every second of our time, your time, that Sahmad wastes puts your lives at further risk. This is a man who has no honor, who will not fight fair, who risks your lives just to spite me!”

 

The same Protector from before – apparently now the voice of the crowd – scoffed at his words. “You have no honor! You’re about to execute him in the street with no trial, and you’re clearly willing to kill our Diplomat and us to do it!”

 

Much of the crowd seemed to agree with him. The soldiers, however, hesitant though they might be, remained firm.

 

“I learned long ago that a trial by combat doesn’t prove who’s innocent – only who is more powerful. You see Sahmad and the power he wields! How is any lone Protector expected to defeat that?” Nato shook his head. “I don’t expect you all to understand. But everything I do, everything I’ve ever done, has been to protect the people of the North, first and foremost. Baranus is coming to slaughter us all, at Sahmad’s bequest. Those who are still loyal, who still have faith, I beseech you to gather what supplies you can and flee this place. Scatter to all corners of the North, and take the cure with you. The rest… take shelter, take up arms, I don’t care. Soon enough, you’ll see that my words are true.”

 

Some of the crowd was listening, and moved to follow his commands – until Krosht slowly turned, and broke their faith entirely.

 

“My lord, that nearly killed me.” His voice was cold. “Were you so preoccupied with your hatred that you would accept sacrificing me just to kill him?”

 

“If you fought him, you’d lose – as would I, and any other champion I’d name. He’s a Mask Maker.”

 

“I would assume if he wished for a trial by combat, he wouldn’t stoop so low as to utilize his magical abilities.”

 

Nato scowled. “There is no low he will not stoop to. He infected the North with a plague just to keep me out of play, and unleashed a monster within our borders.”

 

Krosht crossed his arms. “And now you have stooped so low as to attempt to kill a man in the street. I assumed you were better than this.”

 

“He is delaying us,” Nato said.

 

“Continuing to squabble only wastes more time,” ShadowVezon said, his voice ringing with authority. “Ignore him then, Khan.”

 

The crowd pressed forward on all of them, their dissatisfaction with the entire display beginning to boil over. Sahmad’s energy shield vanished, but he remained where he was – waiting.

 

“Enough!” Nato hollered at the crowd. “Spread the word, tell everyone to gather what they can and evacuate! Open up every entrance, and get to the other strongholds in the North!”

 

“I ain’t evacuating,” someone in the crowd yelled. “We still need the trial!”

 

“Neither am I!”

 

“Nor I!”

 

All in all, less than a fifth of the crowd moved to leave – and even those that did were shambling slowly, reluctant to go. Nato glared at them al.

 

“Suit yourselves,” he said, whirling around and stalking in the direction of the nearest city gate. “Come, Krosht. Let’s go.”

 

-Karamu: Hinterhall-

-Reyna Saryian-

IC: Reyna, Tekulo

 

They were exiting the palace and headed for the Temple of Time when several soldiers arrived, with two Fire Protectors among them.

 

“Who are you?” Reyna asked, sharing a wary glance with Nidhiki and wondering what Protectors of Fire could be doing in Hinterhall.

 

One of the two stepped forward. He looked rather worse for wear, but unharmed.

 

“Your people are a real piece of work,” he said, sounding aggravated. “When I say that I had to fight my way in, I’m being entirely serious. I’m Captain Kapura Coal – the Imperator sent me here to invite the Makani to Silodas for a diplomatic banquet. We were intending to set up a better relationship between our two nations, but….”

 

He trailed off, pointing his thumb over his shoulder back at Hinterhall. “I mean, come on.”

 

“Trust me,” she said, sighing, “I completely understand. She motioned to her own eye, and the others in the group, all with various injuries. “I would completely welcome attempting to set up better relationships. The problem is… Lerahk just attacked, and in the chaos, a group of our citizens decided that it was a brilliant time to try and revolt.”

 

“Lan didn’t help,” Nidhiki muttered.

 

“As acting Makani, I deeply apologize for the actions of those rioters,” she continued. “My name is Reyna Saryian. My intention was to calm the crowd, but our Diplomat turned out to be a traitor working for Vinheim Maran. It’s a long story.” She extended her empty sword hand with a smile. “If there is a way that I could regain the crowd’s support, I would be more than willing to attend the banquet. My wish is that our nations can one day soon live in peace.”

 

“You could leave Tekulo and myself in charge,” Nidhiki said slowly, frowning as he though it over. On his other side, Tekulo nodded. “Tekulo can promise them drinks to get them off the streets while I work behind the scenes to prepare everything for your return.”

 

Kapura crossed his arms. “I’m not staying here any longer than I need to. So if anybody is coming with me, say so now.”

 

Reyna turned to Tekulo. “You’re fine with this plan?”

 

Tekulo nodded. “Go for it.”

 

“Very well,” she said, turning to Kapura. “Lead the way.”

 

-Aodhiim: Silodas-

-Jakura Aodh-

IC: Jakura

 

In preparation for the banquet, Jakura stopped by his personal quarters to clean up and dress in a more formal attire than the ratty travelling cloak that he had grown accustomed to over the past few weeks. His trusty dagger – a gift from Sil – remained concealed at his side, as always.

 

Once he was finished, he headed toward the grand hall. The finishing touches for the event were still being set up for that evening. Locating Captain Mamuk Ash in the crowd, he pulled him aside.

 

“It is of the utmost importance that this event be well-guarded,” Jakura said quietly, so that only the Captain could hear. “Assign men at the entryways and exits, and assure that they will beware any suspicious attendants. I want disguised soldiers among the crowd, as well. Additionally, post two of our best archers in hidden spots among the rafters – one at the far side of the room, and one at the near side. If trouble arises, it must be dealt with swiftly and decisively… tonight may decide this nation’s fate among Okoto for decades to come. Understood?”

 

“Of course, your grace,” Mamuk said. “Captain Kapura gave us a list of some of his best by name. I can assign them to the tasks?”

 

“Let me see the list.”

 

Mamuk handed it to him; fifteen names had been written down on the parchment. Jakura recognized none beyond their surnames, though he knew that wasn’t unusual. These soldiers would be too low on the chain of command for him to know them by name… and yet, even still… his suspicions remained.

 

He folded the parchment and slipped it into one of his pockets. “I appreciate Kapura’s resourcefulness, but I want you to assign your own men. Preferably those who have worked closely with me or my late brother in the past. You’ve assured my safety through the years, Captain. I trust you to continue to do so without issue.”

 

The Captain seemed nervous, but nodded anyway. “As you command, sir.”

 

As Mamuk hurried away, Jakura spotted Korgot standing out on one of the balconies. She was leaning against the rail, chatting with a Protector in the garb of the Pyromancers.

 

Speaking of suspicions….

 

He casually walked past the two, maneuvering around some other Protectors loitering nearby to remain inconspicuous. He feigned surveying the scene before him while doing his best to eavesdrop on the conversation. With any luck, if Efandril or the Pyromancers were planning anything, he’d hear it now….

 

“So you’re saying it’s not possible?” Korgot asked.

 

“I’m not saying it’s not possible. Just… very unlikely,” the Pyromancer replied. “Darkfire is just so volatile.”

 

“I think it’s worth investigating further,” Korgot said. “Darkfire is dangerous, yes – but if we could find a way to give it more everyday uses… just think of the possibilities.”

 

“Don’t you think we have?” asked the Pyromancer. “Darkfire torches and hearths and cooking fires sound nice, I know. We just aren’t at a stage where we can consider them yet.”

 

Jakura smiled to himself with a sigh of relief and continued, now watching the preparations with genuine interest. His thoughts quickly fell to the likes of Balta and Kapura, and he couldn’t help but feel a tinge of concern for how both were faring in their respective missions. He hadn’t seen either in nearly two weeks.

 

“Your grace!”

 

It was Korgot. He turned, heart racing, but it did not appear as though he had been spotted listening in. Her gaze must have fallen on him as he was wandering; she gestured for him to join her and the Pyromancer on the balcony. Calmed by her friendly smile, he offered his own in return before approaching the two, offering a half-bow in greeting.

 

“Hello once again, Miss Coal. I’m surprised to see you here so soon; who is your friend?”

 

“Jakura, Otom Ash. Otom, the Imperator,” she said hurriedly, grabbing Jakura by the wrist and pulling him closer. “Otom and I have been debating the possible uses of darkfire. Specifically it’s possible uses outside of battle.”

 

Otom sighed. “She’s eager.”

 

“I can see that,” Jakura replied with a laugh. “I can’t say I blame her. If darkfire wasn’t as unstable as it is, Aodhiim would rule all Okoto by now.”

 

“Think of what it could be used for, though,” Korgot said almost breathlessly. Her grip on his wrist tightened, but she didn’t seem to realize she was even holding it. “Ever burning torches and cooking fires and hearths. Eternal beacons to guide travellers.”

 

“Endless fuel for work machinery and vehicles, ammunition and energy sources for large scale weaponry… large-scale mask forges like the ones of old,” Jakura added, tapping Korgot’s hand to remind her he hadn’t forgotten about her pursuits.

 

She let him go, flushing and looking away. “Sorry,” she muttered. “Darkfire’s just exciting, when you think about what we could be using it for.”

 

Jakura smiled awkwardly, rubbing at his neck. “Well, you obviously have plenty of good ideas. I’d wager you have theories on how to implement them, too. So why not reapply for the Pyromancers?” He glanced at Otom. “I know you’re always looking for sharp new recruits.”

 

Korgot held up her other hand, and even now, he could make out the tremble. “I have many ideas for how to advance darkfire, but I can never be directly involved in its handling again,” she said sadly.

 

“You don’t have to be,” Jakura replied, gently taking her hand and lowering it. His own hand was cool and smooth in contrast to her work-roughened palm. “Sign on as a consultant. The Pyromancers can assign an assistant to you to physically handle the darkfire, to bring your ideas to fruition.”

 

Otom seemed interested by the idea. “It hasn’t really been done before,” he admitted, “but that doesn’t mean the position can’t be invented. Lady Efandril and Takua had to be focused on the war effort at first, and in the years after they needed to be ready for another war to break out at any moment. It’s only recently that they’ve been able to begin extending their focus elsewhere.”

 

“It’s actually been a fair while since I received a report on your progress,” Jakura remarked. “Have the Lady and her assistant broken any new ground, Otom?”

 

He scratched at his chin. “I know that they were transferring some of the darkfire to Qendroj City,” he said. “It should help with the defenses there, but there’s still far too much under Vakama City. But it’s a start.”

 

“It is. Should our occasional expansions outward continue to prove successful, I would like to see outlying darkfire depots set up accordingly. But it’s all a matter of time and resources.”

 

“I’ve heard rumors from some of the soldiers that we’re making another attempt to add Burned Harbor,” Korgot said, sounding curious. “Is that true?”

 

“We’ve held several conferences with Gavla Lurrun over a short period of time, but we’ve yet to see any real progress,” Jakura answered, somewhat indirectly.

 

“If we could secure Burned Harbor – really secure it…” Korgot trailed off. “They’re all that stops Karamu from monopolizing the food.”

 

Otom looked uncomfortably, and wasn’t afraid to admit why: “I don’t know enough to say anything, really. I was never very good at anything until Takua let me into the Pyromancers.”

 

Another charity case… Efandril and Takua appear to have a habit of taking them on.

 

“Regardless, if this banquet goes well, then Karamu will no longer be a concern. They have the potential to be our greatest ally and supplier, and in turn our military will ensure their safety – and the safety of their goods – from the other nations.” He couldn’t help but chuckle at the irony, and looked back to Otom with a smirk. “Do you know Takua well? I’ve never had the chance to really speak with him, despite how often we see each other. He seems the peculiar sort.”

 

“He keeps to himself,” Otom said. “He’s close with both Lady Efandril and Loremaster Tex, but beyond them he doesn’t really… like people. Elittra gets along with most, but even she finds it hard to interact with him.”

 

Korgot nodded. “He’s very smart, and very skilled. But beyond Tex and Efandril, he never really bothered getting to know anyone beyond polite acquaintance while I was there.”

 

Jakura nodded slowly. I feel like that more often than not, he thought, though the throne keeps me from remaining isolated. Even if it’s a responsibility I still remain uncertain that I truly want… or that belongs to me, familiar though it might now be.

 

He nearly scoffed aloud at his weakness, cursing himself. What would Sil think? His brother would spit upon them, no doubt.

 

Pushing the painful idea from his mind and reserving his self-loathing for another time, he glanced back up at the others. Realizing that an awkward silence had descended, he quickly spoke up. “Perhaps he’ll find the time to attend the banquet, and we can all get to know each other more there.”

 

“I’ll be surprised if he shows,” Korgot said. “He’s never very comfortable leaving Vakama City in the hands of anyone other than himself or Efandril. Doesn’t trust that something won’t go wrong.”

 

Jakura shrugged. “I can’t blame him.”

 

Otom held out his hand. “I’m afraid I need to get going,” he said. “If I see Lady Efandril, I can let her know where you are?”

 

Jakura nodded and shook the Pyromancer’s hand. “It’ll be hard to miss this, but sure.”

 

Otom departed, leaving him alone on the balcony with Korgot.

 

“So,” she said, turning to him once they were alone, “how are you?”

 

“I’m fine,” he replied, his typical response whenever asked that. “How are you?”

 

She leaned on the balcony rail, eyeing him. “I’m fine too,” she said, her mouth twitching into the ghost of a smile. He could hear the friendly challenge in her voice, and what it implied: for her to share, he would have to share first.

 

He looked away from her, out to the horizon, folding his arms. His eyes lost focus, wandering into the distance.

 

"The clock is always ticking. We all realize it and comprehend it, even if we're not consciously aware of its existence. But there comes a moment, somewhere near the end, where the ticking becomes painfully obvious, grows louder with each passing minute. And we're forced to look at that clock and watch the hands creep closer and closer towards the conclusion of the final hour. It's always been inescapable, but at that moment, we're fully aware of the inescapability... and for most of us, the realization is more horrifying than the end itself. The final darkness - the descent of silence - is a final, relieving gasp after the agonizing wait. After the last tick is heard, and the pendulum falls still, and the gong sounds one last time with its dying breath. There's a hideous beauty to the sudden peace... and a beautiful hideousness to the escape from chaos. From the ticking of the clock."

 

His gaze refocused, and he looked back to Korgot, his tired eyes meeting hers. “My clock is deafening.”

 

“You believe you are about to die?” she frowned. There was something in her eye, some emotion that he couldn’t identify.

 

“I believe the odds are against me.”

 

“Why?” Korgot stepped closer, her voice now soft. “Aodhiim grows stronger by the day. Maybe a war is coming, but have we not always emerged victorious?”

 

“Aodhiim’s greatest strength has always been itself, not its leader,” Jakura admitted with a gentle smile. “If there’s on thing I can find comfort in, it’s…” he trailed off, hit with a wave of confusion. “Did you say war?”

 

“You haven’t heard the rumors, then,” she murmured. “Tex and the Loremasters in particular think one is coming, and coming soon. The Great War, they’re calling it.”

 

“Hm,” he muttered, his upper lip twitching slightly. “I suppose we’ll have plenty to discuss when he returns, then, won’t we?”

 

Korgot seemed dissatisfied by the talk of war, and before Jakura could, changed the conversation. “What do you do, when you’re not busy with your politicking?”

 

“Well,” he said, sighing, “I spend a lot of time in the arts. Literature, painting, that sort of thing. I also dabble in the studies of lore, though I'm far from Tex's level of understanding. I'm greatly fascinated by the art of war, and General Unit has been teaching me to the best of his ability whenever he's free. I also enjoy combat training quite a bit, cause... well, it was the one thing Sil and I always had in common. He always bested me, though - maybe that's what encourages me to keep training," he added with a laugh. “What about you? What are your hobbies, besides forging?”

 

“History,” she said. “Any history. But particularly anything lesser known; anything that was thought lost to the ages.”

 

“I guess that’s something we have in common, then. I’d do anything to know all of Okoto’s secrets.” He looked at her with a smile that was part hopeful, part mischievous. “What secrets do you know?”

 

“I know why nobody from House Kindle sits on your Council of Fire, and why none have been invited to this banquet,” she said. “I know the origins of the silent feud between your houses.”

 

He was surprised by that. “Is that so?”

 

“It’s tied to the Darkfire Rebellion,” she explained. “House Aodh and House Ash defeated House Darkfire, and set about removing the insurgents entirely – but both houses were still weak, weaker than they had ever been. You were both weaker than you’ve been since, honestly. House Kindle decided to make a power play, and adopted the words of House Darkfire as their own. From a Spark, an Inferno.”

 

Jakura looked away, silent as he pondered those words. He hadn’t expected that sort of knowledge from Korgot; Efandril, perhaps. “How have you come by this information? How did you learn it?”

 

“Lady Efandril found it when she discovered the darkfire recipes,” Korgot said. “She hasn’t shared it with many. Takua, myself, Elittra… Tex might know.”

 

“She neglected to ever share that knowledge with me,” Jakura said, gripping the railing with frustration. “What of Kindle now, though? They’ve remained silent….”

 

“Neither house remembers,” Korgot said quietly. “I think it’s why Efandril has kept it so close to the chest. Eventually, it’ll just fade away, like everything else that has been forgotten.”

 

“Perhaps,” Jakura admitted. “Or perhaps our memories will fade while Kindle yet lingers… waiting for the opportune moment to rise again. Such things have happened before on this island, and they will happen again.”

 

“Kindle isn’t in any state to do anything right now. The Battle for the Dawn and the War of Five Kings ruined them; they’ve barely enough men to their name to watch over Vakama City.”

 

Jakura shrugged, turning back to peer over the balcony. “You’re probably right.”

 

Korgot smiled, and there was that emotion in her eyes again, the one he couldn’t identify. “More than you know.”

 

To Be Continued in Part III.


  • 5

OF GODS AND MEN

-ONE-


#221 Offline Lucina

Lucina
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Posted Apr 27 2018 - 08:02 PM

EPISODE 04

“Of Gods and Men”

(Part III)

 

-Kamuk: Daggerfall-

-Vinheim Maran-

IC: Vinheim, Quin (B. Exit)

 

Ahkmou was waiting for them at the gates of Daggerfall.

 

“It’s amazing how much can change in such a short time, isn’t it Ahkmou?” Vinheim asked once they were in earshot. “I trust everything has gone well for you?”

 

Ahkmou remained silent, looking worried, confused, and disgruntled all at once. His attention was fixed on the walking stick that Vinheim leaned on. “Er… before anything else, can I ask what happened to you, sir?”

 

“I figured you might ask,” Vinheim said with a dark chuckle. “I fused with the Creature of Stone, though there were… difficulties in the process. Perhaps if it hadn’t been stressed prior it might have gone better – thankfully, the phyisicians in New Makuta City assured me that I’ll be able to walk properly again with time and healing. Though my left arm, it seems, is as lost as can be.”

 

He moved to stand directly in front of Ahkmou, staring down at him. “Though that is the least of the events that has occurred. Let us head to the throne room.” He glanced over his shoulder at the guards escorting Quin and Pouks. “They will come too.”

 

“Sahmad stopped by a few days ago, said you’d met,” Ahkmou said as they walked through the streets, sounding annoyed by the fact. “He… told me to tell you that he ‘sends his regards’.”

 

The words were significant, but for the life of him, Vinheim couldn’t remember why. He knew that Sahmad had promised something about them… but nothing else.

 

In fact, now that he thought about it, his entire meeting with Sahmad was clouded; all that he could remember was allowing him to sign ShadowVezon and Dekar to the Knights.

 

He remained silent. Better to have Ahkmou believe the words meant nothing to him, than to risk showing off his newfound ignorance. Ahkmou led them past the throne room, and past his personal office, into a meeting room large enough for the four of them – and still small enough for privacy to be guaranteed.

 

Vinheim immediately took a much-needed seat, propping his cane against the table.

 

“Here’s the situation,” he began, looking around at Ahkmou, Quin, Pouks, and the guards. “From what I was told of the meeting with Sahmad, a creature by the name of Keetongu is the cause of Pohatu’s mental degradation. Keetongu is, apparently, in Karamu; I had planned on leading my soldiers into Karamu to take it on, but unfortunately, those plans have been derailed. The forces I took with me to New Makuta City are now engaging Panrahk, and with the Rahkshi now making its move, our priority must be to ensure the safety of Kamuk.”

 

He turned to Quin and Pouks. “I was told that you visited Fort Patrus, and had a strange weapon of sorts on your person at the time. Please elaborate – I would rather avoid unexpected issues while we’re dealing with two different threats, along with the war on the horizon.” Feeling himself getting riled up, he took a deep breath before continuing. “You may all think of me what you will – but I will not sit by and risk the progress Kamuk has made being swept away. We will make it through the coming storm, and we will stand victorious when it is over, stronger than ever. Kamuk set the example that every nation of Okoto has followed since. We must continue to do so.”

 

“That ‘weapon’ was the Torch,” Quin said. “Though it’s less a weapon and more of a… shield if anything. It’s a dangerous artifact, and unstable. I had trouble using it myself; I gave it to Lord Anuhea, in the worst-case scenario that you attempt to have him killed.”

 

“The best deaths are those you never see coming,” Vinheim murmured, tracing his finger along the table. “If I wanted to kill that Petros dog, I wouldn’t do so in his face. I kept the Torch of Ma hidden away for a reason – its benefits don’t outweigh the risk of wielding it. Besides… what damage could be done if the Torch fell into the wrong hands?”

 

Before Quin could even respond, Vinehim pressed on. “Do you truly believe Anuhea would give it back to you? The Rahkshi won’t go down easily, but if my army acts as a distraction, perhaps one wielding the Torch could strike it down from behind.” He turned to Ahkmou. “Do we have any intel on the Rahkshi we might be able to use? It’s combat methods, perhaps?”

 

“We’re not using the Torch,” Quin said firmly.

 

Vinheim ignored him – as did Ahkmou. “Both the Rahkshi and Pohatu were last sighted by Stoneworth, being tracked by a few hundred soldiers. They’re headed west. And Anuhea….” Ahkmou trailed off, mulling over his words before continuing. “He’s sent out messengers across Kamuk. He accuses you of falsely imprisoning your political enemies, and claims to have evidence proving it.”

 

Vinheim rubbed his thumb against his temple as he listened to Ahkmou, his eyes closing as the news piled on. “Leave it to a Petros to make matters worse,” he grumbled. “Has the Petros dog made any attempt to provide such evidence? I’m doubtful they have any and are likely fabricating it, using my absence as their chance to seize momentum.”

 

“His messengers made it clear that he found the evidence in the journal of a significant political advisor, and that anyone is free to visit Fort Patrus to see it themselves. He claims you would destroy the evidence if you had the chance.”

 

“And the people’s impression of these lies?”

 

“I can’t speak for everywhere else yet,” Ahkmou said, “but Daggerfall either hasn’t heard or doesn’t care; they’ve seen your rule at work directly.”

 

Quin glanced to Pouks. “Pouks, how much do you know about Anuhea?”

 

“He’s the current head of House Petros,” Pouks said. “Before long range communications died out, he frequently negotiated with other regions on trade matters. He had to keep them happy while simultaneously best serving the needs of Kamuk.”

 

“We are going to raise an army to take out the Rahkshi,” Vinheim said darkly, rising to his feet and grabbing his cane, his decision made. “Then, we will knock on Fort Patrus’s door and reclaim the Torch. The time for mercy is over. Ahkmou, I want you to mobilize our forces in Daggerfall and New Makuta City, and have Stoneworth alerted.”

 

“I recommend we split our forces,” Quin said. “They’ll be tired after a battle with the Rahkshi. I can try and talk some sense into Anuhea; he might have more respect for me than you.”

 

“No. I gave you a chance. You were adamant about not using the Torch; I will respect that, and not force it upon you.” Vinheim looked over the map in consideration, before pointing to a spot halfway between Daggerfall and Fort Patrus. “We’ll set up camp here. We march in a day’s time. Have our… guests escorted to their accomodations and keep them under guard until then.”

 

Quin sighed. “Once we retrieve the Torch, just to be clear – we aren’t using it?”

 

“I have no intention of it,” Vinheim said. “Its downsides outweigh its benefits. It shall be secured once more, somewhere no one would dare to go. It will never see the light of day again.”

 

He waved his arm, and the guards escorted Quin and Pouks away. A single look was enough to have Ahkmou closing and locking the door behind them before the Protector returned to his side.

 

“Something to be said in private?”

 

“I want Quin and his soldier killed,” Vinheim said, clenching his fist. “But I want them alive for the battle. Can we get our hands on a slow acting poison?”

 

“It’d be difficult to get ahold of,” Ahkmou said slowly. “Harder than usual – people might not believe Anuhea, but he has succeeded in making sure we’ll be watched more closely than before. And I’d be very surprised if Quin were to accept anything we give him blindly.”

 

“Not directly, just slipping it into his food. Though if we can’t secure poison… how about simply ensuring they don’t escape the battle alive?”

 

“Front lines,” Ahkmou said. “I’ve heard reports from Aodhiim Karamu and the North. Word is that Fire and Jungle both managed to kill the Rahkshi terrorizing them but paid for it in the blood of dozens. As for the North… rumors from the border say that a force more than a thousand Protectors strong went to hunt their Rahkshi. Not a single person has returned. Put Quin on the front line and I doubt he’ll walk away.”

 

“Hmm… it might work. Though even if it doesn’t, I’m sure we have a few soldiers in the ranks who would be willing to ensure Quin is struck down if it appears he’ll survive. Stray arrows are such hassles in large scale fights.” He tapped the table thoughtfully. “I believe that will be all for now. I’m going to retire to my quarters for now. Hopefully I can find myself a better cane than this glorified stick.”

 

-Karamu: Arcadia-

-Rassilon Oak-

IC: Rassilon

 

Rassilon stepped back from the headless corpse of Keetongu, dropping the axe in his hands. He glanced over to Lewa; the other Toa was standing still, staring down at the body. His eyes were wide, amazement written all over his face.

 

“Lewa? Do you feel better now?”

 

“… I do,” the Toa whispered.

 

“Sirs,” one of the Protectors said. “We should head back into the city. Lady Vizuna will want to know what’s happened.”

 

“Of course,” Rassilon said, nodding along. “We’ll need to send reinforcements to Hinterhall – when I left, the city was in chaos.”

 

He and Lewa were led through Arcadia. Even now, used to the city as he was, Arcada was a marvel to look at – one that took his breath away. To those unfamiliar, the architecture of the city would seem alien in nature compared to the rest of the island.

 

Speaking of architecture….

 

They were taken to a strange looking building, even by Arcadia’s standards – a giant cube balanced on one corner – and inside, were led to a large conference room. There, Lady Vizuna Boscage was holding council with several advisors.

 

She stood as they entered. “Toa Lewa and… Rassilon Oak? I’d know your face anywhere. You’ve changed.”

 

“It’s good to see you as well,” Rassilon said, inclining his head. “I recently united with the Creature of Jungle, though I still am unaware of exactly what I can do.”

 

Vizuna nodded, accepting the answer. She had always been more willing than most to accept things at face value – probably because Arcadia itself wasn’t something most of Okoto would consider possible, even now.

 

“Before whatever news you might have for me, I have some of my own,” she said. “Recently, a small squad of Aodhiim soldiers led by Captain Kapura Coal visited, on the orders of their Imperator. They were searching for their former Diplomat, RG II Coal. They found him and he became… hostile. They were forced to subdue him after he killed a few of their number, and several of our own.”

 

Rassilon frowned. “Oh my. Where is he now?”

 

“Dead,” she said. “Kapura has returned to Aodhiim to report it to the Imperator.”

 

“I wonder why he was in our nation to begin with,” Rassilon murmured, his curiosity piqued.

 

“He refused to share,” Vizuna said, leaning back in her seat. “So. What brings you here?”

 

“After I united with the Creature, I had an instinct that pulled me in this direction,” Rassilon explained. “I discovered Keetongu attempting to attack the city, and Lewa and I were able to slay the beast. I also bring news of Hinterhall.”

 

He was interrupted before he could continue by the arrival of a Protector of Fire, being led by several Jungle soldiers.

 

“Who do we have here?” he asked.

 

The Protector held out a scroll, which Lewa accepted. “The Imperator invites you to join him for a diplomatic banquet in Silodas.”

 

“Interesting,” Lewa said, gazing at the scroll.

 

Rassilon turned to Vizuna. “We should accept; I admit, I’ve been looking for a chance to meet with Loremaster Tex for some time and compare notes. What do you think?”

 

“Arcadia can survive without me for a little while,” she said slowly, frowning. “What of you, Toa Lewa?”

 

Lewa looked to Rassilon and shrugged. “I’ll let you decide where I’m needed most.”

 

“I think you should remain behind,” Rassilong said. “We shouldn’t leave the city without a leader, or it might collapse just as Hinterhall has.”

 

“I can remain here then,” Lewa agreed.

 

“Unless you two have any immediate business to attend to, I can lead you back to Aodhiim,” the Fire Protector said.

 

“Just a quick private matter with Vizuna and Lewa,” Rassilon said. “It won’t take long.”

 

“Very well. I’ll wait outside.”

 

Once everyone else had left the room, Rassilon turned back to Vizuna and Lewa. “We need to plan for the worst. Hinterhall has fallen to mass chaos, and I met with a Mask Maker named Sahmad. He claimed that Okoto has merely five years at best before its destruction.”

 

“Gods,” Lewa muttered.

 

“I suggest that we pre-emptively evacuate Karamu’s population to Ithaca,” Rassilon continued. “Back in my boyhood, I took part in one of the final Odyssey missions. I still have my notes from the journey and maps of the course we took. We rebuilt our civilization from the ground up after the War of Five Kings – with the help of myself and Lewa, I believe we can do it again. It’s why I want Lewa to remain behind. He can help organize our navy, and plan out the movement of the supplies that would be needed most. The people of Karamu will listen to him.”

 

“If this is true, I suggest we keep some of our land forces here,” Lewa said. “Let the navy defend the general populace if necessary. Keep the army here to fight whatever is coming.”

 

“If you think that’s best, then let it be done,” Rassilon said, shrugging. “I only suggest this plan for if all else fails. I don’t want to see our people suffer again.”

 

“The plan is sound,” Vizuna says. “Perhaps our people will find better fortunes on an island that only they can call home.”

 

“Then I guess it’s time to depart,” Rassilon said. “Let’s go.”

 

-The South: Burned Harbor-

-Anahera Abissm-

IC: Anahera

 

Anahera arrived at Burned Harbor to find it flying the distinctive red and gold banners of Aodhiim… and the entire city guard clearly mobilized. And yet, there was no sign of any Aodhiim soldiers, nor any signs of an attack. She suddenly found herself thankful that she had thought to disguise herself under a cloak.

 

Nevertheless, she was halted outside the gate – which was, rather unusually, barred. Two Protectors of Water stood outside it.

 

“State your name and business, traveler.”

 

Anahera slowed her approach, staring at the Protectors. She could sense the lifeblood flowing through them.

 

“I’m Anahera Abissm,” she said politely. “I came here to investigate rumors of magic amulets wreaking havoc. And… to speak with your leader about the… odd choice of decorations marring the walls.”

 

“Reisen Tyde and Pythia Rayne are already tracking the amulets for you,” one said. “The choice of ‘decorations’ as you put it, I think is obvious.”

 

“It is rather obvious why they’re there,” she said patiently, not rising to the bait. “I asked to see your leader about them. Not to admire the banners… simply to see who is behind them.”

 

The two guards shared a look, but it quickly became clear that neither could come up with any legitimate reasons to deny her entry. “I’ll take you to Lady Gavla,” one said.

 

“Thank you. I hope this can be resolved peacefully.” Anahera had practice with burying her true emotions, and this was no exception. No hint of her disgust and fury at these traitors could be seen.

 

“So,” she said idly, as she was led through the streets, “how do you feel about the situation, if you feel comfortable answering?”

 

“Burned Harbor is where it belongs, under the rule it has wanted for decades, if not longer,” the guard said. “Everyone who lives here is happy that Lady Gavla has finally united us to Fire.”

 

This wasn’t as suprising to her as she wished it could be. House Lurrun, Burned Harbor, and the lands all around them had long shared more in common with Aodhiim in their ideologies than the South.

 

“I see,” she said slowly. “And the entirety of the city is happy with this? I suppose anyone who wasn’t will have moved on by now.”

 

“Very few were unhappy enough to leave right away,” the guard said. “Mostly a couple traders from the South. Everyone else is either happy, or at least willing to give being under the rule of Aodhiim a fair shot.”

 

Traitors, Anahera thought with a mix of awe and gut-wrenching revulsion. Entirely full of traitors.

 

“As long as everyone is happy, I suppose,” she said with a friendly smile. “But I must still talk to Lady Gavla on the matter.”

 

It didn’t take them too long to reach the building where Gavla’s office was located. The guards allowed her through into a meeting room, where Gavla was speaking with her sister, Kirop Lurrun.

 

There was no doubt about it – the blood of both Protectors was tainted, corrupted. Even without the Mask of Water, Anahera was certain she could have sensed it. She was looking at patient zero, the twisted core of the problem.

 

She pulled her expression into a smile, though it was hidden behind her hood; her body language spoke of nothing but friendliness. “Hello,” she said. “I am Anahera Abissm. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

 

Gavla looked at her, seeming unimpressed – though if word was true, Gavla was never impressed at first.

 

“You want to know why we fly the flag of Aodhiim. You want to know why we have betrayed the South.”

 

“Well, yes,” Anahera said, nodding. “I thought it might be best to speak with you in person, rather than take any rash actions. Perhaps we can sort things out.”

 

“There is nothing to sort out,” Gavla said. “Aodhiim has proven their strength a hundred times over. My people have called for us to join them since before the War for the Throne. Now, they can finally be satisfied.”

 

“Of course there are things to sort out,” Anahera said with practiced patience, stepping further into the room. “You’ve abruptly severed ties with Agua Hielo – so abruptly that I was not informed. I was originally visiting to assit with reports of anomalies in the city… something that I hear has already been rectified. By agents from the South, if I am not mistaken.”

 

She stretched out her senses, and could feel the rushing blood of two guards just outside the room, as well as others nearby.

 

Gavla shrugged. “Your Loremaster began her investigations before our negotiations with Aodhiim were finalized. But we are an independent people – Aodhiim has promised strength, not to let us go cowering to them over every issue that might crop up.”

 

“I’m sure.” Anahera smiled. “And, as I have heard, everyone appears to be content with this change, despite how very sudden it is. Despite the political mess that will result….”

 

“Any political mess with be entirely with the South,” Gavla said. “The change is sudden only to you. We have been preparing for this for years – and if you somehow force Burned Harbor to re-join the South, we will only begin the process again.” She turned to Kirop, patting her on the shoulder twice. “You can leave us, sister.”

 

Anahera respectfully bowed her head as Kirop departed, before turning her attention back to Gavla. “I suppose you are right. Changing your minds simply will not work, hmm? Ha ha. There is no helping that.”

 

She considered her options. Her powers were great and her cause noble, but she couldn’t risk failure. Something had to be done, but it had to be done right….

 

“I had a second task,” she said slowly. “Something slightly more… secretive. I assure you, it has nothing to do with your own state of affairs whatsoever. I was wondering if you might provide any help with the matter. I would be able to leave sooner, at the very least. Ha ha.”

 

Gavla looked at her expectantly for several long seconds.

 

“Well, go on then,” she finally said, irritated.

 

Curious… she does not fear me. If anything, she’s comfortable…. It is either foolish or fearless to so carelessly be alone with the agent of a region one has betrayed. Perhaps both.

 

“I was sent by the Southern Khan-” she let her expression change slightly, to denote annoyance “-to chase rumors of a cure for the North’s plague. Perhaps you have heard of it – it is quite the predicament. From my understanding, only certain people can assist with the cure… magical persons. Mask Makers, perhaps. I’m sure someone else would have been more suited for this errand, but you know the Khan. Ha ha. I was within arm’s reach.”

 

Cut around the growth. See where the roots lie. Then begin extraction.

 

“The trail leads to Oarsong,” Gavla said. “Your Loremaster has gone there to investigate directly.”

 

Anahera extended her senses, but couldn’t sense any particular emotional response from Gavla at all. “My. I suppose the Khan simply forgot he’d already sent someone else… perhaps I am beginning to see your point.”

 

“He’s a drunk,” Gavla said shortly. “Once, maybe, he was worth following. His work during the War for the Throne was admirable, as was his cunning in keeping Pulse Vatten hidden until the opportune moment. But that was thirty years ago. Now he is little more than a waste of space.”

 

Anahera nodded. “He’s a good man, but perhaps being Khan is not the right place for him anymore. It pains me to say this, but I fear for his wellbeing – perhaps it is time for him to step down.”

 

“And have some other member of House Rayne step up?” Gavla scoffed, shaking her head. “No. House Rayne remains lost in the past, remembering the glory days when House Vatten ruled us all. The old ways don’t work, not anymore – but they would force us to abide them all the same.”

 

Anahera smiled behind her mask. “I may have some new ideas for a newer, better way to run things. Not directly – I’m no monarch – but, let’s say I desire a role as advisor to whomever steps in. They may or may not be from House Rayne; I doubt any one house could be certain to stay in power these days.”

 

She stretched out, feeling for the bloodsong of the guards outside. They were easy enough to sense, and she suspected a demonstration was needed. Gavla was listening, but seemed bored – not surprising. She had no doubt heard this whole spiel before.

 

Concentrating, she took the spinal fluid of the guards in her mind’s embrace and pulled.

 

Behind her, both guards screamed, spasming as they collapsed to the floor. Gavla raised one eyebrow, but her heartbeat remained steady – and that, in turn, was more than impressive. Anahera did, however, have her undivided attention.

 

She’s a tough nut to crack… but everyone cracks eventually.

 

Screams drew attention, but soon wore out their welcome. Anahera clenched her fist, and as she did, the pressure in the guard’s eyes, ears and chest increased, until she felt something give in all three places, and both guards fell silent.

 

“I am Ma’s servant, first and foremost,” she said to Gavla. “I do not end life – I grant wrongdoers mercy, and show them a choice. Live and learn from their mistakes… or squander their gift, and face punishment for their sins. Secondmost, I serve Agua Hielo. Khan Terrorsaur is unable to serve Agua Hielo or Ma. I cannot rule, but I can advise, and I can enforce. I do not know you well – but you are hard to shake, and you turned the entirety of Burned Harbor to your point of view. You know what a good leader must be like. I propose an alliance; I cannot harm you, not without drawing Aodhiim’s ire.”

 

“I do not wish to lead the South,” Gavla said after a long moment. “There must be someone else.”

 

“Then help me find them,” Anahera pressed.

 

“I’m ready to move on from the South,” Gavla said, beginning to sound disinterested once more. “It’s you who are trying to convince me that you could make returning worth my while.”

 

“I was offering the chance to choose the leader you would want for the South,” Anahera said. “If you’d rather I surprise you, then I can oblige. Your issue is with the current leadership. I am saying it will not be an issue in the near future.”

 

Gavla shrugged. “It’s not just me you need to convince; it is all of Burned Harbor.”

 

“I can be very convincing.”

 

“Then convince them. Find a leader that they and I will approve of.”

 

“That is the plan, yes.”

 

Gavla waved her hand dismissively. “Then we are done here.”

 

“…indeed,” Anahera said, nodding serenely. “It has been… informative, speaking with you today. If you wouldn’t mind, please keep my abilities to yourself… I’d hate to have to be concerned about Aodhiim getting any strange ideas. In exchange, I can take care of your guards, if a delay in me being escorted out of Burned Harbor can be arranged.”

 

“I see no reason to escort you,” Gavla said. “Either you’ll leave or you won’t – guards won’t stop you.”

 

Anahera laughed. “No, I suppose they won’t.”

 

She walked out, looking down at the guards. One had choked on their own blood, though surprisingly, the other wheezed, still grasping weakly at the floor.

 

“A pity,” she said, soft as a breath of wind.

 

With her powers, she drew the blood from the dead, using it to encircle the corpse and the living guard. Waving a final farewell to Gavla, she walked the congealing mass out of the building and into the nearest alley she could find.

 

There, she dropped her charge and opened a sewer grate, before kicking both the corpse and the feebly twitching survivor inside.

 

“Filth returns to filth.”

 

-

 

Later, as she made her way through Burned Harbor, she began to feel something strange. It was as though a part of her body had gone numb and was at the same time tugging at her – but impossible to tug back. If she concentrated, she could feel it pulling at her from just outside the city.

 

Anahera froze mid-step.

 

This was important. No one else could interfere.

 

She had to go.

 

As she went up and over the city walls, what she found was a strange fish-like being. It hovered in the air, surrounded in mist, and looked upon her warily.

 

Akida, Creature of Water, she realized, as she felt the strange sensation of something brushing against her mind.

 

The Creature of Water was beautiful. Life emanated from it, surrounded it, painting a masterpiece of light and beauty.

 

She silently beckoned it closer in her mind, ready for her destiny.

 

She felt its presence brush through her mind, picking memories seemingly at random before discarding each in less than the blink of an eye. It seemed to be searching for something – hunting, with a specific purpose in mind.

 

Wisdom, she realized. Future.

 

Anahera had never felt so prepared. Ma had shown her the beautiful, untainted future – a body free of sickness, free of malignance, free of twisted tissues, the planet healthy and whole and

 

There was blood spilling out, something was wrong, but it wasn’t her, couldn’t be her, she had done everything right everything perfect she had to do something she had to fix it but she had done it right she had done it

 

Perfect.

 

She gazed upon the future, free of suffering, life preserved and protected and her every breath, every step, all of it done only to bring it closer

 

Closer

 

Closer-

 

And then the creature moved forward with incredible speed, latching onto her back. Someone screamed, and it was a terrible, high pitched shriek of a sound, and great claws ripped down her spine and blood ran and dripped down her legs into the dirt and her vision flared red and there was just pain pain pain

 

And then black.

 

To Be Continued in Part IV.


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OF GODS AND MEN

-ONE-


#222 Offline Rassilon (TTL)

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Posted Apr 28 2018 - 09:19 PM

Dear Mata Nui!
These creature fusions are getting more terrifying as the game progresses.

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The Tide Comes in this Summer


#223 Online Efandril

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Posted Apr 28 2018 - 09:41 PM

Heh, just you wait.

 

- :burnmad:


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Lady Efandril Aodh, Grand Pyromancer of the great nation of Aodhiim

Sir Reisen Tyde, Admiral of Agua Hielo's navy

Avatar by Brickeens, banner by Onaku


#224 Offline Lucina

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Posted Apr 29 2018 - 01:47 PM

Dear Mata Nui!
These creature fusions are getting more terrifying as the game progresses.

 

just one more to go


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OF GODS AND MEN

-ONE-


#225 Offline Rassilon (TTL)

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Posted Apr 30 2018 - 08:25 AM


Dear Mata Nui!
These creature fusions are getting more terrifying as the game progresses.


just one more to go
That poor protector.

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#226 Offline Lucina

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Posted May 04 2018 - 12:33 PM

EPISODE 04

“Of Gods and Men”

(Part IV)

 

-Temple of Histories-

-Ehksidian Glacies-

IC: Ehks, Dallior, Virndrung (Arrival)

 

Inhaling sharply, Ehks leaned toward the ancient tome, and began to read.

 

Legend speaks of powerful figures, known as Toa, who shall serve as the guardians of Okoto in times to come. Born from the powers of the Titans, these six heroes will stand against the dark.

 

But there must only be six. Reading the stars is difficult, but one thing is clear - should a seventh Toa walk the surface of Okoto, then the end of times is near. Many events will signal the coming of what can only be called 'the Great War'. The birth of the Seventh Toa is one of them.

 

Once the first six Toa are born, the countdown shall begin. From that moment forth, the birth of the Seventh Toa must be avoided and delayed at all costs. There is no telling whether it will work. Okoto must eventually fight the Great War. But perhaps it can be delayed indefinitely...

 

Panicked impatience beginning to build up inside her, Ehks desperately scanned the rest of the page, searching for any further information. But there was nothing else.

 

If the words before her were true, then the legends of the Seventh Toa from her time - how the seventh would be a Toa of Light, how they would stand against a Dark Titan to save Okoto – were either false, or are the product of several different prophecies being merged together over millennia. If a seventh Toa walked Okoto's shores – any seventh Toa – then the Great War was close.

 

Sighing, she turned to the others. "It simply says that if a Seventh Toa arrives...the Great War is imminent. But that...that doesn't make sense. Not after all the stories."

 

She began to pace, back and forth, her fingertips tapping at her mask. "Not to mention how impossible it would be to stop them from appearing...for all we know, by the time we get back they might already be there." Her pacing slowed, her expression turning thoughtful "The legends we heard...of the seventh Toa facing a Dark Titan...that had to come from somewhere. But where?"

 

"A Dark Titan, an ancient enemy of Okoto, was sealed beneath the island by the powers of the Titans," Velika spoke up. "If they are all dead or gone, he might break free. Perhaps he seeks out this seventh Toa intentionally - or perhaps the Toa of Light."

 

"Perhaps...but...what will cause the Great War? Something tells me..." she glanced back towards the book, "…that the Dark Titan itself isn't the cause of the War. Only a sign."

 

"There's no way to know for certain until we return," urged Velika, "We must ask Kulta. The seventh toa might not be the key to preventing the war... but perhaps something else is."

 

“Maybe,” Ehks grimaced, “I'm not looking forwards to asking Kulta. I'm pretty sure that'll be what destroys this place." As she said the words, she felt the familiar pull of magic, tugging her back towards the exit. "Let's go."

 

Upon emerging from the temple, Ehksidian found Umarak, Kulta, Piruk and Photok exactly where she’d left them. A third Titan was walking away, all of the silver and gray Protectors following in their wake.

 

"...Who's that?"

 

"Our sister, Annona." Kulta answered.

 

Ehks noticed an ornate staff in Annona’s hand, one that was surprisingly familiar to her. It was the same Staff that Luroka Qendroj had used as a walking stick for the past several years.

 

"And that's...her staff?" Ehks asked, making a mental note to ask Luroka about the staff when she got back to her own time… if Luroka was still alive.

 

"The Staff of Annona, gifted to her by the goddess Ma," Umarak said. "It is the source of all magic; what the goddess used to first spread it across the land."

 

"I see. That's exactly what I thought it was, then." She cast her gaze back towards the tower and let out a sigh. "It was...not very fruitful, unfortunately."

 

"The search for knowledge often is," Kulta said, "unless you know the right questions to ask."

 

"Well then. Perhaps I should go and try and ask a better question...after all, I don't even know what it is specifically. That itself might provide some insight."

 

"I'm not sure we have the time," Piruk said, audibly uncomfortable. "However long we spend here... I think we can safely assume that we'll lose just that in our own time. Every delay could cost us."

"That...makes unfortunately too much sense. But knowing what we're up against is the only way to even think about what to do."

 

"Then you must ask your question," Kulta sid. "You wished to speak with me before."

 

"I know what will happen if I ask this question," Ehks muttered, "and it's not pretty."

 

"We must," Velika reminded her. "It is dangerous to mess with time. Stick with the disasters we have already conquered, and the threat that we know."

 

She nodded, and took in a deep breath. "Velika, please ready the Mask of time to take us back once this question is answered."

 

This was it. She knew what her next words would bring, knew how many innocent lives she was about to condemn to death… or worse. "I'm sorry. We need to know what the Great War is...and if there's any possible way to stop it," I say, addressing Kulta directly. "Anything and everything."

 

"You wish for me to look."

She hesitated, a mix of hope and doubt creeping into her mind for a solitary moment. Could she somehow change Okoto’s fate? No, she couldn’t. Velika was right. Messing with time was too risky.

 

"Yes.” She nodded. “I'm so sorry."

 

It felt strange, even in the moment, for just how... unremarkable it was.

 

This moment, she knew, was the catalyst for everything that Okoto would face… everything that it had already faced. Every triumph and every tragedy. The Long Night, the War for the Throne. The Mask Makers, the Undead, the Kings and Queens. All of it, it all boiled down to this moment, this desperate, selfish request.

 

But there was no buildup. No stirring in the air, no sudden shift in the wind.

 

Kulta simply blinked, and she looked, and she saw, and her eyes turned red, and then she turned to Piruk, a sad stare in her eyes. "I'm sorry. But your journey ends here."

 

And then Piruk was gone, dust scattering in the breeze.

 

"The Great War is the end of Okoto," Kulta continued, turning back to Ehks. "The Seventh Toa walks in the jungle. The dragon Baranus, Scourge of the Skies, brings his reckoning to Ice. The others fly to him. But do not worry. You will not face those horrors. You can find your destiny here and now, just like your friend."

 

"Destiny can be changed!” Ehks protested, "I know that. I will not die here. Velika! Activate the mask, now!"

 

The Mask of Time glowed, but then the glow faded, and Kulta shook her head. "I can't allow you to leave. I can't let you. It would be cruel, to let you see what is to come."

 

Umarak, having recovered from a bout of frozen shock, moved forward to place a hand on Kulta's shoulder, looking to you. "What year?" he asked. "What year are you from?"

 

Ehks felt her mouth go dry. "347 AE. Far in the future from here. I knew what would happen when I asked this. It already happened."

 

Umarak nodded solemnly. Kulta fought against him as he pushed her back, before her eyes turned gold again and she sank to the ground, horror on her face. Umarak closed his eyes and sighs. "If I still live, I will come to you. No matter where I might be, I will come."

 

The Mask of Time began to glow upon Velika's face once more, and the fogs of time obscured the world around them, as they were borne back to their own time. Ehksidian sunk to her knees, exhaling heavily. Piruk’s death hadn’t fully sunk in yet. It had been so sudden, so… absolute. There was nothing left of him but dust, trapped in the time before time.

 

"...All of that...for so little. We've already failed if what she said has happened," She whispered, eyes stinging. "I failed. All of this to find out a way to stop the Great War. And the only thing to go off of is stopping the Seventh Toa from appearing. Was causing the Long Night worth such little information?" Her hands trembled, her shoulders shaking. It was too much, all too much.

 

"She said the Seventh Toa already walks in the Jungle," Velika says, his tone and gaze dull. "And a dragon terrorizes the North. Baranus."

 

"There's nothing we can do, then. It's too late to stop it." She clenched her fists, "...But, maybe, it was always too late. Maybe we can keep it from destroying Okoto."

 

She couldn’t shake the image of Annona’s staff from her mind. It was the same staff Luroka had been using as a walking stick, she was sure of it. That couldn’t be a coincidence. There must've been more to it. "Luroka has Annona's staff. Has had it for a few years. We're not doomed yet. We might have failed to stop the war from happening,” a surge of determination forced her to rise to her feet, “but we aren't too late to stop Okoto's destruction."

 

Velika shook his head. "We have no idea where Luroka is. And Kulta said more of these dragons are on their way right now. It's hopeless."

 

"We can find him. Somehow. Giving up hope is the quickest way to ensure failure. I still have business to attend to in the North...before I left, I heard murmurings of a seventh Creature. The Creature of Light. I at least have to know if it's been found or not...it might be linked to the seventh Toa prowling the jungle."

 

"We need to warn people," Said Photok. "Most people know that something is coming. We need to warn them that the Great War has begun."

 

Ehks nodded. "We'll have to do that. There's f...four of us. Unless we're dropping Dallior back at his proper time, that is."

 

"Hey, I'm in the thick of this mess now." Dallior assured her. "I'll stick with you guys."

 

After a long period of silence - almost suffocating in its length - the world reappeared around the group, revealing the desolate wasteland of the Barren.

 

"Home again, home again." Dallior quipped. "Where to, Ehks?"

 

"We should...try and find Luroka. Not going to the ancient city...that's a bad idea."

 

However, after an age of wandering the expansive wastes, it wasn’t Luroka that they found, but Virndrung.

 

He stopped before them, one eyebrow raised in a quizzical expression, "Another group in the Barren? Odd. Fortunate that you picked now of all times to wander this place, I suppose."

 

"Why do you say that?" replied Ehks.

 

"You just missed a rather large battle, which resulted in the Brotherhood and the Vorahk more or less destroyed. Lots of casualties, including the Brotherhood's leaders. Toru Sevoi, Gikayok Shayd, the Prophet of the Brotherhood... I killed all three of them."

 

Photok gripped the hilt of his sword tightly, a look of unease on his face. Velika remained silent, staring at the ground, shoulders slumped and eyes dull.

 

"...Oh."

 

Virndrung rolled his eyes, "Despite rumours to the contrary, I am not with the Brotherhood. Any information that states so is outdated, and was wrong to begin with. Simply put, a very powerful individual on this island wanted someone to monitor the Brotherhood and help destroy them when the time was right. You can ask Luroka Qendroj or Unit Ember, they will also tell you I am not of the Brotherhood. I gave the latter the Mask of Fire, and used the Staff of Anonna to put out the fire that ensued after Luroka had misused it several times. And if I come as a little bit odd; which I assume I do; I'm sorry; I haven't exactly been in proper civilisation or among people I can trust for a while now. "

 

Now it was Ehks’ turn to raise an eyebrow, "The Staff of Annona was used? Where is it?"

 

"Jed the Kingslayer, a few other Knights, Onua, and a Titan are taking it to Rollor's Reach as we speak.”

 

"A Titan?" Velika asked quietly, some spark returning to his eyes. "Umarak?"

 

“Good.” Ehks relaxed, “The staff might be our only hope against the Great War. Now I don't have to search for it..."

 

"I wouldn't know, I have never met or seen Umarak. This titan never told us their name and erupted from the ground with the Knights, as strange as that might sound.”

 

"That is...very odd," she muttered. "If they came with the Knights, though, I assume they're on our side.” Another through occurred to her, “Have you heard word of...more Toa appearing?"

 

"No, I have not. I've been quite disconnected from the world outside the Barren."

 

"That's understandable." She sighed. "Well then. It would be best for me to return to Rollor's Reach, then. At least to catch up on what happened while I was...gone."

 

"Gone? How long have you been wandering the Barren?"

 

"Not the Barren," Velika said, tapping the Mask of Time on his face. "The past."

 

"The Mask of Time... You were in the past?" Virndrung made no effort to conceal his curiosity, "Are you collecting powerful artifacts like the Mask of Time and Staff of Annona? I know where the Torch of Ma is as well."

 

"That may prove useful. And...in a way, yes. We need everything we can get to stop the Great War from wiping out Okoto. Even after visiting the past and the Temple of Histories, I still have no idea what we're up against..." she shuddered, "...Kulta mentioned a 'Baranus' right after...she erased Piruk. A great beast that would plague the North, and that its siblings would be coming to the island. I doubt you've heard news of that."

 

"No, I haven't heard. But if you need everything you can get, then I can tell you about one more thing." Virndrung said carefully, "You're aware of the Mask of Ultimate Power, and how it was broken, right? Well, its pieces are scattered across Okoto. The Brotherhood wanted to collect and recreate the Mask. I don't think recreating it is a good idea, but perhaps the pieces still have power dormant within them." He paused. "Uh. Kulta? You met with Kulta in the past I presume? That... why would you visit Kulta? All those who visited her have never had a happy ending.”

 

"The first meeting was her grabbing me and pulling us all out of our travel." She pointed back towards Dallior, and added, "That's why he's here. The second meeting...was before Kulta went mad."

 

"Kulta can grab you through time...?" Virndrung grimaced.

 

"Grabbed us while we were travelling, yes. It was just as terrifying as you imagine."

 

"I'm so sorry. Well, if you need everything you can get. Why not head to Rollor's Reach via Kamuk, where on the way you can retrieve the Torch of Ma - I think a Protector of Stone has it?"

 

She nodded. “Kamuk would be the best path to take this time.”

 

"Well then, I might as well join you."

 

"Perhaps.” Ehksidian looked to her other companions, “Velika? Dallior? Photok? What do you think?"

 

"Any allies are better than no allies," Photok said.

 

"Well then. Let's head off, then."

 

"Indeed,” Dallior intoned, “Let's hit the road."

 

-Spirit Side-

-Rilgivi Nivis-

IC: Rilgivi, ShadowVezon (A. Entrance)

 

Rilgivi walked through the frozen and windy landscape of the temple world of Tempestos. It reminded her of home, until she looked up at the horizon, and then the sky. If the oversaturated brightly burning stars weren’t a dead giveaway, the three massive stellar bodies most certainly were. At this point she’d lost track of how long she had been here.

A strange sensation hit her suddenly, a strange itch in the yet remarkably mild outbreaks of stonescale on her skin. And then she felt it. She could smell it. She hadn’t realized until now, but the Spirit Side inherently smelled differently than the Corporeal Side.

She could smell the Corporeal Side… Okoto. Home.

 

She then felt an odd sensation, before suddenly, the world felt like it changd in some indescribable way. In front of her, the air became distorted like some sort of heat mirage.

 

Rilgivi watched the air in front of her. She then had the following idea: that a Spirit Gash was opening right in front of her.  "STUR!" She yelled, to see if he was anywhere near.

 

Subsequently she heard thunder booming in the air all around her, and slowly but surely a storm cloud started accumulating next to her, before a lightning from above energized it, completing the formation of Stur. "Intriguing." They muttered.

 

"Please wait, Stur.” Rilgivi responded. “I'll gather the others."

 

But before she even began to leave, the mirage began to, as best she could describe, crystallize, solidify, and slowly but surely it began smoothing out to reveal what Rilgivi recognized to be the interior of Rollor's Reach. Therein, Rilgivi saw a Protector of Stone

 

"Stur, this is the corporeal side of the world... a Spirit Gash has opened! If possible, tell the others... You must be a Knight of Ekimu. I'm Commander Rilgivi Nivis of Agua Hielo's land forces. What's gone on here in my absence?"

 

"My name is ShadowVezon Raqmu,” The Protector replied, “and I'm afraid things are looking grave here. A massive dragon named Baranus has begun devastating the North, and it plans to wipe out every living thing on Okoto. We're preparing to evaculate as many civilians as possible, but we only have so long before Baranus reaches us and at present we have no way to stop him from slaughtering us."

 

Rilgivi could hear ShadowVezon, but it was as if he was speaking from behind a pane of glass.

 

"The Dragons are already here? Then the world is ending now! I think I know a place where the citizens can be safe for the time being, with a very important precaution taken." She looked at Stur. "Is it feasible? Getting a large amount of people through a gash like this?"

 

"I'm not sure it is... nor am I certain this is a gash we can cross through." Stur replied, a bit worried.

 

"Not after all this time, no, I'm not going to let this opportunity pass us by. Either we return to the corporeal world, or we save my people by puling them through." Rilgivi quickly and brashly extended a hand toward ShadowVezon. "Grab my hand. We will make this gash one we can pass through!"

 

Unfortunately, as she extended her hand, she hit it upon what felt like a solid surface. Her hand could not pass through.

 

"Try from your side, ShadowVezon! You may be able to pass through, perhaps that is the issue."

 

ShadowVezon stepped up to the gash and reached for Rilgivi's hand. His hand very nearly touched Rilgivi's... before he too hit upon what felt like a solid surface.

 

As the two of them touched upon the surface, however, they could feel the world start to shift around once more, until suddenly, Rilgivi and Stur were both in the same room as ShadowVezon, and looking around once more, they saw that the strange window between worlds was gone.

Stur diminished slightly upon being in the corporeal world, and their wild stormy cloud form became a little more rigid, taking on the more humanoid form Rilgivi remembered from when she first met them.

 

Behind them, she felt the Spirit Gash close.

 

Macku, Melum, the others… they’re all still on the other side… I must find a way to return.

 

But there was no time to begin making rescue plans yet – for as soon as she and Stur crossed, several figures slammed into existence around them and ShadowVezon with a devastating crack.

One figure wore the Mask of Creation - Ekimu - and another wore the Mask of Life, who must have been Voltex. The other six wore the armor of the Tribe of Time. All of them appeared weary, with pitted and damaged armor.

 

"Ekimu?!" Rilgivi uttered in disbelief.

 

"Yes... that's me..." Ekimu managed, stumbling.

 

"Are you here because the world's ending?" Rilgivi inquired.

 

"The Great War has reached Okoto's shores," Ekimu said, still breathing heavily. "We can delay the enemy no longer."

 

"What do we do?" Asked Rilgivi.

 

"The same that you always do," Voltex responded grimly. "Prepare for war."

 

"How do you plan to win a war that cannot be won?” Rilgivi asked. “Spirit Gashes are already opening... that's how I and Stur are here."

 

Neither of the Mask Makers seemed to recognize the term, nor did they recognize Stur. Voltex did, however, have an answer. "We have to believe that the war can be won - and we have to try."

 

"Then what do we do?" Rilgivi responded.

 

"This enemy you speak of... it is the Twilight Brood?" Stur asked in their characteristically thundering voice.

 

Voltex shook his head. "I don't know about any twilight brood. We speak of the Dragons; the scourges of the world."

 

"Dragons... scourges of the world you say?” Stur mulled this over. “Sounds like the twilight brood to me."

 

Voltex shrugged. "Perhaps."

 

"ShadowVezon,” Rilgivi now turned to the Stone Protector, “didn't you say one was coming here?"

 

"That's right.” ShadowVezon replied. “He called himself Baranus, Scourge of the Skies."

 

Ekimu and Voltex shared a loaded glance. "He's the one," Ekimu said.

Voltex frowned. "But why was he here? Why wasn't he with the others?"

 

"Sahmad made a bargain with him to give us more time,” ShadowVezon responded, “perhaps the absence of the others was part of the deal?"

 

Rage flickered across Voltex's face before fading into distaste.

"Did you say Sahmad?"

 

"Give us more time?” Rilgivi asked incredulously. “Sahmad spread a plague throughout this land, and as a result he is to be killed on sight. He is not a friend of Agua Hielo, he is an enemy. And if you say he made a bargain with a dragon, then he is an enemy of existence."

 

"Unfortunately,” ShadowVezon replied, “while Sahmad may be lethally incompetent, he's been the only help we've had. If any of you have a plan which might actually do something positive, I'd be eager to give you my support."

 

Voltex said nothing, and Ekimu glanced among the group - to Voltex, to their six companions, to Rilgivi, to Stur, and then back to ShadowVezon before speaking: "If one of the dragons is already on Okoto, then none of our plans will work. We need to evacuate anyone who can't fight, and prepare anyone who can.” He fixed his gaze on Voltex. “We will need to put all of our quarrels aside until the Great War is over… I just hope that Umarak will have more time to prepare than us.”

 

-The South: Ignika-

-Krosht Treml-

IC: Krosht, Terrorsaur

 

"My lord," Krosht muttered, "Where should we go? Where would we be safe from Baranus?"

 

"I'm not sure that anywhere will be safe from a creature like that," Nato replied grimly, "We need to lift the quarantine, on every border, otherwise our people will be boxed in with Baranus. One of us should head to the South, while the other should travel to Kamuk. They both need to know what's coming."

 

"I shall head to the South, and let them know."

 

"Very well. Good luck, Krosht."

 

"Thank you, my lord."

 

Now, after a long, tedious journey, Krosht approached the drunken leader of the South, and couldn’t stop himself from letting out a sigh. "Khan Terrorsaur," he announced, "I come bearing news."

 

He didn't bother waiting for a response, or acknowledgement.

 

"A great beast has set its sights on the North. It is poised to attack at any moment, and as such the North is being evacuated by my lord's command. The quarantine Hahli and I set up is no longer in effect… and, unfortunately, that beast...killed Hahli."

 

"What sort of beast is this?" Terrorsaur asked, maybe a little more loudly than necessary. "Should we prepare soldiers here, or ready boats instead?"
 

He made no acknowledgment of the last part of the message, willingly so.

 

"Boats, if at all possible. I do not think we can defeat what is, essentially, a flying mountain that can breathe fire." Krosht seemed deadly serious.

 

He was about to comment further when a nearby commotion caught his attention. Citizens screaming. Guards shouting. A figure came into view, tall and blue, with spines running down its hunched back. Its armour shimmered strangely, somehow shifting continuously in both hue and consistency.

 

Guurahk had arrived.

 

Before anyone could react, three of Terrorsaur’s guards were cut down where they stood, their wailing bodies slowly disintegrating upon contact with the creature's double-headed spear. And then, in a practiced, predatory motion, the Rahkshi flung its spear directly into Terrorsaur. He was flung backwards, but never quite reached the ground - the head of the spear plunged into the ground, suspending Terrorsaur’s impaled form.

 

The Rahkshi strutted forward to retrieve its weapon, swatting aside an unfortunate guard with such force that his bones audibly cracked.

 

In his last moments, Terrorsaur tried to speak, but his final words evaporated into meaningless gurgles as his throat – along with the rest of his body – dissolved.

 

-Aodhiim: Silodas-

-Efandril Aodh-

IC: Efandril, Jakura (B. Exit), Unit (A. Arrival)

 

Silodas was bustling more than usual when Efandril arrived, due to the banquet preparations. She soon came across the Captain of the Guard, Mamuk Ash, barking orders. The sight was a rather unfortunate one; despite his abysmal failure in protecting Sil, Mamuk remained steadfastly loyal to Jakura and House Aodh. It appeared that in his absence, whether purposefully or not, Kapura's suggestions had been sidestepped.

 

After a moment longer of gazing at the adverse sight, Efrandril was approached by Otom Ash, one of the pyromancers. Unlike Mamuk, Otom's loyalties lay primarily with the Pyromancers; he’d had no real place in the world until Efandril had given him one.

 

"Hello, Otom," She greeted her suborindate, "How go things?"

 

"As well as one could hope, I suppose," Otom replied. He'd never been very politically minded; while he knew of her schemes, as all the pyromancers did. Otom had never been actively involved in Efandril’s plans… but he did have other uses. "The Imperator is in the banquet hall at the moment. Last I saw him, he and Korgot were chatting."

 

"Ah, good to know," she replied. "I heard Ikir was in these parts, any news on that front?"

He shook his head. "Last I heard, it was headed toward Madacus. Nobody can get closer than sight distance before it flees. Those that do get closer... well, some are still alive."

 

"I see. Well, thank you for the news. Enjoy the festivities. Oh, and is Kapura here?"

 

"Still out in Karamu," Otom says. "I doubt he'll remain long."

 

"I see. See you around, then." With that, she left towards the banquet hall. With a final wave, Otom departed.

 

Efandril parted the double doors leading into the banquet hall, and took a step into the room before stopping and surveying the people gathered within. Her eyes settled upon the sight of Jakura and Korgot, chatting up on a balcony. She advanced towards the pair, bowing slightly, as she announced her presence by clearing her throat.

 

Startled by Efandril’s arrival, Korgot’s bow was flustered. "Lady Efandril! Hello!"

 

Jakura’s bow was more dignified. "Welcome back, Efandril. I wasn't expecting your return so soon."

 

"Pleasure to see you again, I hope you've been well." She smiled at Korgot, then turned to Jakura, "To be truthful, neither did I. Gavla was unexpectedly easy to convince, given Bartok's apparent difficulty."

 

"Splendid to hear. And what of Bartok?"

 

She arched an eyebrow. "Have you not seen him? We parted ways in Qendroj, while I stopped off in Vakama City. He was to have come here."

 

"Peculiar. I've not seen him since Qendroj. Kapura made no mention of him, either. I'd hate to hear something happened to him during his travels."

 

She pondered for a moment. "Indeed. But, how have things been going here?"

 

"Well enough. If you weren't already aware, we're organizing a banquet in preparation for a talk of diplomacy with Karamu, should they accept our invitation. It was being arranged beforehand as an event in my honor, coincidentally enough," a noticeable tinge of dissatisfaction wormed its way into Jakura’s tone, "but fortunately it should turn out something more significant now."

 

"Not a fan of self-aggrandizement, I see?"

 

"It's Aodhiim as a nation that deserves to be aggrandized, not I alone. Not any of us alone."

 

"I'm in agreement.”

 

"Good to hear."

 

"So, Karamu?" Efandril asked. "Lofty goal. Do you think they'll be receptive?"

 

"I believe so. If only because they have few other options. With our acquisition of both Qendroj and Burned Harbor, we surround them on all land borders. It would be far wiser to accept our offer of alliance and reap the benefits than make themselves our enemies - or even remain neutral, what with the rumors of an impending war.”

 

"That is all true, but it's important to consider, when discussing basic logic and elemental strategy, that this is Karamu we're talking about."

 

"Indeed. They may require a demonstration of our willingness to honor an alliance, or they may outright refuse the offer. If I better knew the current political state of Karamu, I could offer a more educated guess. In either case, their answer will dictate our response. We'll know soon enough."

 

"True enough... I hope they see reason, of course, but it seems like it would be a first."

 

"Kapura went directly to Hinterhall," Korgot interjected. "He might know exactly what their political climate is like."

 

Efandril’s expression twisted into a sly grin, "Hopefully he's keeping an eye out. In the most innocent of ways, of course."

 

"He should be returning soon, or at least sending word if he isn't," Jakura nodded, "Kapura can handle himself better than most."

 

Efandril looked around the room as the group collectively falls silent, pondering Jakura's most recent words. She certainly hoped that was right, it simply wouldn't do to have the Captain go missing in the land of Aodhiim's greatest foes. She turned back to Jakura, "When did you send him off?"

 

Before Jakura could compose a reply, a group of newcomers made their way into the banquet hall. Efandril quickly recognised Mamuk Ash, with Tex Aodh and Balta Ash behind them. At the front of the group stood Unit Ember. In his hands he held the Mask of Fire, but his face was bare, and his body bore the marks of horrible burns.

 

"Unit! Are you alright?” Efandril gasped, “Sit down, you look as if you're about to keel over."

 

"It was just a few days… great spirit!" Jakura exclaimed at the sight of Unit. He rushed to the general's side, guiding him towards a nearby chair, before kneeling beside him. "What happened to you?”

 

Despite his obvious pain, Unit’s face bore the closest approximation to a triumphant smiled that his injuries would allow. Only after bowing respectfully did he allow himself to be helped into the waiting chair. “That does not matter. What does is that we fought and won on the strength of Fire and Blood. The Brotherhood of Ata and the Rahkshi Vorahk are destroyed. We have reclaimed the Mask of Fire, and the Barren is ours for the taking."

 

Jakura grinned widely at Unit, his eyes filled with sympathy for the General’s disfigured condition, "Well done, my friend. I'm proud of you."

 

"Don't be," Tex mumbled.

 

"Is there something more to be said, Voltex?" Jakura rose from his position at Unit's side, his gaze sweeping from one newcomer to the next.

Tex shook his head, a vaguely horrified expression twisting his features. "It wasn't a battle. It was a massacre... and not just of the Brotherhood."

 

Unit nodded grimly, "Nearly two hundred of our soldiers perished with Captain Narmoto. I will ensure that they are honored.”

 

"Losses are... To be expected," Efandril chimed in. "Let us be glad more were not lost, for all that we have gained."

 

“It was a hefty price to pay, but Efandril is correct.” Jakura nodded, “Nevertheless, it seems obvious who truly deserves the recognition at this banquet." He gestured towards the weary group. "Take the time to yourselves that you need. Spirit knows you deserve it. And I'll see about getting you a new mask as soon as possible, Unit."

 

Tex’s bitter expression betrayed his dissatisfaction with the responses he’d been given, but Efandril wasn’t surprised. Voltex and his attitudes had never quite meshed with the rest of Aodhiim. There was a reason he was the only Loremaster to have come from their nation.

 

Jakura noted Tex's dissatisfaction, but refrained from addressing it at the moment. Efandril, however, walked up and set her hand on Tex's shoulder, saying nothing.

 

Tex shrugged her off, stalking away - and before anyone could try to go after him, Captain Kapura entered the hall. He looked... frustrated, to say the least.

 

"Kapura?" Jakura made no effort to hide his surprise at the captain’s sudden arrival.

 

"Captain!" Efandril called out. "What news?"

 

Kapura ignored their calls, taking a detour to down no less than four glasses of wine before finally joining the group. "Let it not be said that I never make sacrifices for the greater good," he proclaims. "Because my lord, if I ever have to step foot into Hinterhall again, I think I will stab myself."

 

"Well, sounds like things went swimmingly," Jakura quipped, though his expression was sour.

 

Efandril winced.

 

"Whatever you're imagining, I promise you, it's even crazier," Kapura replied.

 

"Please elaborate, Captain," Unit instructed, his voice calm.

 

"Makani Chloe is dead," he says bluntly. "The citizens of Hinterhall have risen up in rebellion, and are trashing the place. They don't care who they hurt or who they kill. They don't even seem to have a particular cause they're fighting for." "My best guess is that Lan Lasang is dead as well. I found Reyna Saryian acting as Makani in their palace - not that she was doing a great job of it - with Nidhiki and Tekulo Briar. Managed to convince Reyna to come, but... by the sounds of it, they still don't know who killed Chloe, so...."

 

"Sounds like a disaster," Efandril said. "Not surprising that Reyna's doing a poor job leading. She's not enough of a loon to rule those degenerates." She cocked her head. "When will Reyna arrive?"

"Already has. Same with Lady Vizuna and their Loremaster buddy, Rassilon. He's... had a bit of a growth spurt."

 

Efandril’s head cocked further.

 

"I'd say he just looks like a Toa, but, well," Kapura inspected his fingers, plucking some dirt out from under a nail and flicking it at Unit. "Let's be honest. He's probably a Toa.”

 

“Ugh.” Efandril’s countenance became one of distaste, and a twinge of annoyance crept into her voice, "When are they showing up? I need to know when to stop speaking ill of them."

 

"I left them with Otom Ash, with strict orders not to let them roam until somebody with more authority than myself came to grab them," Kapura smirked. "Don't worry."

 

Jakura pressed his fingertips together, grimacing. "None of that sounds particularly good for us, though I'd be lying if I said I mourn Chloe in the slightest. I'm frankly surprised they agreed to come."

 

"Perhaps we can offer some help in stopping the riots?" Unit suggested.

 

"I spoke with Lady Vizuna very briefly during my trip to Arcadia," said Kapura. "She seemed to be a reasonable sort - or rather, as reasonable as someone from Jungle can be. And Rassilon has never been one for politics. He's probably here hoping to speak with Tex."

 

"We can discuss such things after they've accepted our offer of alliance," Jakura replied, "But it is a benefit they'll have to consider." He turned back to Kapura. "We're just about ready for the banquet. I'll escort our guests in personally once it's time."

 

"I'll come with you," said Korgot, looking and sounding uncertain, "I doubt I'm needed here...?"

 

Jakura gave her an appreciative nod, before addressing Unit, "Have the mask stored somewhere secure for the time being.”

 

"Well," Efandril said, "Would you like some company, General?"

 

"I would," Unit replied, rising slowly from his seat. "Let us go together to store this mask. Karamu has no need to know that we have it."

 

"That much is certain," Efandril agreed. "Let us walk together, then." As she finished speaking, she gestured towards one of the room's exits.

 

Kapura rose to join you, holding his hand out to Unit. "I can hold the Mask if you'd like. Looks like your hands are burned too. That... can't be a nice sensation."

 

"It stings a little, Captain, but I do not mind.” Unit assured him, “I will personally see this Mask to its first resting place in Aodhiim."

 

Efandril led the group towards the exit, and after a brief journey, they soon found themselves in a set of private offices, typically used to maintain records.

 

"This'll do." Efandril stopped, bringing the party to a halt.

 

"For now.” Unit said, “After the banquet, we must move it to a more secured location." After a swift inspection of their surrounds, he carefully placed the mask in one of the cabinets, removing the papers within and placing them over the top of the mask to conceal it.

 

Kapura, who’d been idly combing through the contents of one of the drawers, closed the cabinet he’d been sifting through and turned back to the rest of the group.

 

"Best we can do until we can take it to the palace." Unit said, glancing over to Kapura, "Find anything interesting?"

 

"Sure didn't look it." Said Efandril, who’d been watching Kapura. She nodded towards a door which would lead them further into this complex. "Let's keep moving. Don't want anyone to see us in here."

 

"That we don't.” Unit agreed, “But why not go back to the hall so we can welcome our guests? Even if we're not fond of them."

 

"She's right," Kapura said. "If we've been followed or seen, the deeper we go, the farther they'll need to search."

 

"That's true," Unit conceded. "Off we go, then." He set off through the door.

 

Efandril stopped to mutter something to Kapura, then followed Unit, her guards in tow. It wasn’t until two rooms later that Unit realised that Kapura was no longer with them.

Unit (Unit Ember) - 04/04/2018

 

"Efandril, Kapura is gone. Let's go back to check on him." He turned around and started heading back without waiting for a response.

 

"I sent him away," she said. "I was hoping we could have a private chat." As Unit reached for the door handle, Efandril placed a hand on the door itself.

 

"Certainly. What bothers you?" Unit replied, relaxing slightly.

 

"Before I get to the meat of it all," she opened, "I just want to say how much I respect you. Even before your most recent - and rousing - success, you have always been someone who I would look to, and say to myself, 'Now, there is a person who is perfect for their job’. You are the very image of a good general. You are resourceful, and dynamic; dedicated, and tenacious. And loyal. Perhaps more than anything else."

 

"Thank you. You flatter me; I cannot speak for all of those traits. I can say that I strive to honor loyalty and integrity above all else. But please do not think I am perfect or beyond fault."

 

She nodded. "I like to think I am exceedingly loyal, as well. Of course, a person proclaiming that they are loyal begs the question: What, or whom, are you loyal to? And often, people will answer in one of several ways interchangeably, never realizing that, if push comes to shove, they can only be truly, fully loyal, to but one of those things."

 

"And you think that push has come to shove?"

Her eyes sparkled in appreciation of his having completed her thought. "I think the push will shove imminently. And it makes me curious. Considering all other options to be in mutual exclusivity: To who - or what - are you loyal, before anything and everything else?"

 

Unit straightened his back. "I am loyal to Aodhiim, her people, and her strength above all.”

 

Efandril smiled warmly. "I'm glad to hear. Especially the strength bit. I've felt for a while... ever since the Jungle Region - excuse me, 'Karamu' - got out from under our heel, that our strength has been on the decline. It really started to show during the War of Five Kings. We let those damnable Earth Protectors walk all over us, let the Toa turn our own Darkfire against us and our allies. And in the end, we lay down and took it, like the rest of the nations." She stared him in the eyes. "Didn't that just boil your blood?"

 

"I was disappointed at the time." he said, meeting her gaze. "But we are recovering rapidly. Qendroj City can be seized at any time. The political situation in Karamu is ripe for exploitation, the Barren has been conquered, and the Mask of Fire is ours. Our people have food on their tables and sleep without fear of attack. One could hardly ask for a better turn of events."

 

"And yet, if you think about it... What, but for the Barren victory that you seized with your own hands, did we really do for ourselves? Nuhrii, dullard that he was in every other aspect, recognized that Qendroj was ripe for the taking. It practically fell into our lap, and Jakura had to be convinced not to pull out. Karamu, we've done nothing to cause, and mark my words; if nothing changes, we'll do nothing to exploit it. They'll maybe go through a couple leaders, eventually recover, and it'll be status quo again. And looming on the horizon... The War. Dwarfing our pitiful achievements like pebbles before a blood red sun. Nothing good will fall into our lap during the War. We'll have a hard enough time surviving it, even with a leader who's willing to make the hard choices, do what needs done-- take what's his."

 

"We were soft, but I believe that Rollor has smiled upon us. Even my scouting expedition only became a conquest because the circumstances were right. Let us use the opportunities we've been given, and become proactive in creating new ones. If the War looms, then we have all the more reason to start immediately." A subtle smile appeared on his face. "I believe Karamu needs help calming their people. Perhaps we could station a few soldiers there. 'Temporarily', of course. And I hear that Kamuk holds a powerful relic. If it vanished, who would think to search the Barren for the thief?"

 

"Good ideas, both," Efandril replied. "I, for one, would make sure they could be seen through."

 

"Indeed. Those details will be worked out. More importantly, we have  reassured each other that we will not let Aodhiim's might falter as long as we breathe. Let us go to the banquet now, and show Karamu what that means. Unless you have other concerns?"

 

Efandril cocked her head, then extended her hand to shake. "None."

 

"Good." Unit smiled and gave a good handshake, firm but not overpowering.

 

As they walked back to the hall, Unit spoke up again, "My lady, I assume you destroyed the Turahk successfully?"

 

Efandril stopped for a moment, having forgotten that Unit had been absent since before that had occurred. "Aye," she said. "I suppose no one's caught you up on that."

"I haven't heard much news since my return. Congratulations! Now, Karamu doesn't need to know I was in the Barren. As far as they know, I was with you, and got burned fighting the demon."

 

She smiled as they reached the banquet hall, setting her hand upon the door, in preparation of opening it. "You were in the Barren? 'Tis news to me."

 

Unit only grinned in response, then assumed a more neutral expression as he prepared to meet the dignitaries from Karamu. Tex re-joined the pair as they opened the door, aiming a curt nod to each of them.

 

Efandril directed a worried look in his direction, but nonetheless nodded back. Unit also nodded, before turning away and stepping through into the hall.

 

To Be Continued in Part V.


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#227 Offline Lucina

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Posted May 13 2018 - 11:04 AM

So a small announcement:

 

It's officially become far more effort than it's worth to type these things out, so for the time being I will not be writing the rest of Episode 04, nor will I write out Episode 05 or Episode 06. They're too long, take too much time, and not many people actually read them anyway, so I'll be directing that time and energy elsewhere.

 

Maybe somewhere down the line I'll write them out proper but I'm kinda over it, tbh.

 

With that said, Episode 05 has technically begun. My plan for it has been to go location by location, to give each part of the finale the attention it deserved, but I'm kinda over that as well, go figure. I'll stick to it for now and make a final decision on how Episode 05 will go down tonight.

 

I'll try and post a quick bullet point write-up for the rest of Ep 4, and I will do the same for Ep 5 once it ends. After Ep 5, we'll roll into the epilogue (AKA Ep 6).


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#228 Offline Rassilon (TTL)

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Posted May 13 2018 - 08:19 PM

That is understandable.
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#229 Offline Lucina

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Posted May 13 2018 - 09:10 PM

As it stands right now, I will go location-by-location for Episode 05, in this order:

 

1-Kamuk

2-The South

3-Aodhiim

4-Rollor's Reach


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#230 Offline Lucina

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Posted May 20 2018 - 12:51 AM

Kamuk has emerged victorious - Axalara, Scourge of Time, is dead.

 

Kamuk suffered heavy losses; Fort Patrus is destroyed. Vinheim, Dallior, Nilkuu, Saoco, and Kerato were killed. Of the 12, 500 soldiers present for the battle, only 200 survived, and very few of the civilians in Fort Patrus still live. Kopaka, Velika, Pohatu and Virndrung all suffered serious injuries during the battle.

 

But Ehks, Nato, Virndrung, Quin, Pouks, Photok, Pohatu, Velika, Ahkmou, Panrahk, and Kopaka all live, along with 200 of their soldiers.

-

We will begin with the South and with Aodhiim tomorrow night.


Edited by Lucina, May 20 2018 - 09:20 AM.

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