Posted Oct 17 2011 - 06:18 PM
Trial of Iron(Review)By Iro______________________________________________________________ Prologue There was nothing, no one around. Yet, the being knew that he was not alone. Two elliptical spheres of sickly yellow light flickered to life. Immediately, he felt weakening effects taking hold of him. He realized the nature of this snare, and almost chuckled. It was clever indeed. He could not escape, not so long as the one who had created this bondage lived. This would change. All things would change. She may have bound my body and my essence, he thought, but she can never contain the full extent of my power. The entity reached out with his mind and contacted his servant on the surface. This one was weak-minded, effortlessly influenced by the simplest of things. He was smart enough to be of use, but not intelligent enough that he would ever manage to be a threat on his own. He was a loner, perhaps even treacherous by certain being’s standards, but he was perfect for what he was needed. This was an embarrassing setback for the dark one. Those that had dared oppose him would be crushed, as so many others had been. It was curious, however, that these Murtuans, as they were called, had actually defeated him. He had accepted the fact that he had been bested, but could not bring himself to accept his defeaters so easily. They were so weak compared to the others he had faced, not even with numbers on their side. They were a divided people, but they still overcame seemingly impossible odds. Never again shall I underestimate these people of Murtua. My own arrogance was my downfall. They are, as a whole, too strong-willed and dense to surrender to their superiors. So shall it be that I resort to conquest in order to claim this last world. For now, however, I must wait. It is only a matter of time... ______________________________________________________________ The man was in his mid-thirties, standing a little over six feet in height. He was wearing a black business suit with bits of silver armor covering his torso, shoulders, elbows, and knees. He was light-skinned with mid-length brown hair over his head and a short beard on his chin. His eyes were hazel, weathered with experience. He was walking through a forest in the area designated “the Green Region”. The enormous continent of the west, Uteara, was divided into seven of these regions, five inhabited by the native Murtuans. The furthest north was the Ice Region, containing one of Murtua’s two poles, and the least populous. South of it was a giant desert, the Great Barren. Below it was the City Sector, comprised of the Central and Industry Cities. The remaining land was split into the dreary Storm Sector to the southwest, the Green Region, and the Volcanic Sector in the southeast. Along the western coast was a territory that spanned for hundreds of miles that was comprised of bare land – appropriately nicknamed the “Deadlands”. Nothing lived there, no flora or fauna. There were great cliffs grafted of black rock directly west of the Central City, upon which rested Castle Pravús, and the remains of a small village, but otherwise, there was nothing in sight. His name was Netruhl. He was exhausted from hours of patrolling the area. It was a necessary evil, he knew, but he was bored and rapidly fatiguing. Despite the fact that two of his friends – Bakovu and Harveil – had disappeared, he found himself preferring to take the fight to the enemy as opposed to continue with this peacekeeping. He sighed. No, this wasn’t the way to think right now. He would talk to Ujama before doing something rash. After all, he was an Alio, the first Earth Alio on planet Murtua. He knew the responsibility of having such power. He decided to stay on patrol for another fifteen minutes before heading back to base. There he would talk to Ujama about a new strategy. Surely, there had to be a better plan than simply allowing them to pick off the Alio one by one. “And there is,” a voice said, a grating metallic sound. The speaker remained unseen, but Netruhl was almost sure he knew to whom it belonged. “Truly, little Alio, there is no sport in hunting prey that does not even run away.” “Pravús,” Netruhl spat, looking around. He would not let his enemy have the satisfaction of seeing fear in him, but he had to admit to himself that he more frightened now of this menace than ever before. Given that his comrades had “disappeared” at the hands of these dark warriors, he fear was justified. “So you’ve finally come for me.” “I have. I do not suppose you are surprised by my presence. It was inevitable.” “Can’t say I am... You’re Vraal, right?” “Ah, I see you recognize my voice. Let us see if you are able to recognize my handiwork.” A rustling sounded behind Netruhl. Something was falling through the trees. He walked over to the spot before it hit the ground. It was the corpse of Tesia, the Lightning Alio, and a very close friend of Netruhl’s. Her neck had been snapped and her right shoulder was barely attached to her torso. The entirety of her body featured burn marks and scars. Her face was contorted in an expression of agony, her eyes wide as though she were still alive. “You- you monster...” he whispered, falling to his knees. He was incapable of saying much else. “Oh, but Netruhl, it was not I that killed your friend. I do not mutilate those I murder. No, no, this was the work of Krevt. How unfortunate – if you had deduced that it was not I, I may have let you live.” Vraal appeared in front of the two Alio. He and his kind were unlike any other Murtuan. Instead of being creatures of flesh and blood, the Pravús were comprised of metal bodies and a cloud of greenish black energy that piloted the empty shell. Vraal was about eight feet tall, primarily red in color with bits of metallic grey over his shoulders, chest, hands, and feet. His arms ended in sharp beastly claws. Over his body was a long black cloak, a customary garment amongst a number of his kind. Lastly, he had a mask that was fused to his head, a diamond-shaped object with small slanted slits for his dark blood red eyes. Its “mouth” was a thin hexagonal shape with small mandibles inside. In his right hand, he carried a long bladed staff. “Of course, this is not the case,” he continued. “Have you any last words, Netruhl?” The Earth Alio said nothing. He glanced upwards at the monstrosity before him. It was a creature of no mercy, no remorse. It was a creature with no conscience, no sense of justice. It lived to kill and conquer, driven only by hatred and greed. The words it spoke were formal and almost polite, but they made no effort to hide the true darkness that was the Pravús. He spat at his executioner’s feet, his final act now committed. “I see,” Vraal said at last. “Very well, then... goodbye, little one.” The head of his staff surged forward, his arm swiftly guiding it into Netruhl’s heart. The Pravús removed the weapon from the body. It slumped over instantly. “Perhaps in another time and place you would have lived. However, this world is not fair. If it were, we would not exist.” He shut his eyes and reached out with his mind until he contacted another. Methenor, I have eliminated Netruhl, his mind-voice reported. I am returning to the Deadlands. I commend you, Vraal, was the almost-hesitant reply. Tara has told me that Wheicr has left to dispatch of the rest. That leaves only three more Alio to oppose us – Inquer, Lasi, and Ujama. Inquer, you say? She must be kept alive, for obvious reasons. If she were to be killed, then the Alio would be the least of our problems. I am aware. I have told Krevt and Wheicr not to lay a claw on her. If any of us is to confront her, it should be I. I understand. What of Ujama? I ask. Should we bother to kill him? Krevt will if we feel the need to do so. I await your return, brother. It marks the dawn of a new era for Murtua. We Pravús shall take our rightful place as rulers of this world! Vraal nodded and gave something close to a smile. Long live the Pravús! ______________________________________________________________ Chapter I “You truly are a piece of trash, Wheicr,” Ujama muttered. The Green Alio dodged a barrage of shadow bolts from his attacker. He glanced at the Pravús warily. “We’ve fought before, I think.” He focused his powers over all plant life, allowing the grass to wrap around his enemy’s legs and force him to the ground. “Oh, yeah. I remember you.” “And I you, Alio,” Wheicr spat. His form faded away from view, appearing in the air above Ujama. He landed a solid kick to the Alio’s back, knocking him down. “You are the arrogant misfit façade for your kind. You are the head of the dragon and I am the knight in shining armor come to take you as a trophy.” Ujama eyed his opponent as he made it to his feet. Wheicr was a tall skeletal being, a structure of black and yellow-orange armor with dull red stains on his limbs. His mask looked like some twisted interpretation of a stingray fused with a skull. It had a massive grinning maw, something that would have come from some ancient legend. He also sported a long red tail. It had no purpose, but the Pravús were never ones to try to mimic the appearances of the common Murtuan. The Green Alio had not started his day thinking about being the target of a Pravús. He had been more concerned with trying to find Tesia, who had disappeared in the last five hours. Since then, he was told that Netruhl had also gone missing, and that the eternal enemies of the Alio had been spotted in the Green Region. He found his mind wandering back to the past, remembering all that had happened. The Alio were created by the one called Deccius to act as peacekeepers and order enforcers. After a number of years, everything started to go wrong. Alio were dying; Deccius had left his planet behind him; and the dark shapeshifters had begun to make their presence known. All they wanted, it seemed, was to be given the position of Murtua’s rulers. That was all they lived for, all they desired. When the Murtuan people refused to accept these strange beings as their rulers, the Pravús declared war. The Alio were sent to battle them and ever since the two species had been locked in combat. Now there were only six Alio left and the entirety of the Pravús species to fight. The odds were horrible, but Ujama firmly believed that the universe would set everything right, even if he wouldn’t be alive to see it. “It appears we’ve reached an impasse,” Ujama said at last. He sighed and set his machete weapon at his side. Wheicr made no move to attack. “There’s too many of you to beat, but too few of us for you to find.” “What you believe to be an impasse we call a near-victory. Once your pitiful race has been extinguished, we shall at long last reign as kings and queens!” His expression suddenly became distant, as if he were listening to someone from afar. “Oh, and I have been informed that there are only four Alio remaining. The tides have turned, Ujama. It is only a matter of time before you and Lasi are nothing but shattered corpses.” “So why don’t you kill me now, Wheicr? You’ve got the power. You’ve got the white-hot hatred for me and my kind. What’s holding you back?” Wheicr chuckled. “I know that it is not my duty to kill you... only to provide you with a sliver of hope.” He paused, dissecting Ujama’s confused expression. “There is a larger plot to this story, Alio. No matter how it ends, however... I will be triumphant.” “Now you’re just gloating. What, have you decided to be on the Alio’s side if we start to put up more of a fight?” “I can never be on your side, little one. However, you assume there are only two players in this game. For now, you are correct, but you ignore the observers that watch every one of us from afar.” “So this is a warning.” “It is a courtesy. Understand that I come here on my own will and not because of my brothers’ suggestions. Oh, I long for the day your kind dares to be less narrow-minded. Unfortunately, you will all be gone by then.” Wheicr faded from view, leaving Ujama behind. The Green Alio scratched the back of his head. He knew that even the densest Pravús was far more intelligent than any other being on Murtua. They were not intended to fail in their pursuits of conquest. One day, he thought, they’ll slip up. One day they’ll know what it is to face loss after loss. One day... ______________________________________________________________ He walked through the hallways of Castle Pravús like an ancient spirit, a sight enough to send chills through the spines of the dead. His build was hunched, as though he were some sort of elder among his kind. He was made of black and ghastly orange armor and had two dark red eyes that never glowed. It was impossible to tell if he was actually looking at a being, or if he was staring at something else entirely. Most conspicuous of the Pravús was his mask. It was a large octagonal shape with fang-like teeth resting in its mouth that always appeared to be in the shape of a maddened smile. The slits for the eyes were rather large, resulting in a very unnatural, almost demonic appearance. He was Methenor, the eldest Pravús on the planet. He was the first to have been created as a gaseous energy, unlike his predecessor Justac who was comprised of flesh and bone. Infamous for his conniving, manipulative nature, he was never really trusted by any of his brothers. However, he was well-reputed for his intellect and wisdom, and as such was considered one of the chief Pravús. Today had not gone according to plan. Wheicr had gone off on some maverick mission to eliminate Ujama and had likely failed, walking away with his tail between his legs. Krevt was threatening mutiny, and Tara was becoming restless. Patience was a virtue, one that his brothers and sister lacked. He could have chosen to work with the likes of Darcai or Lâkarÿy, but he was simply redirected to Krevt, Tara, Vraal, and Wheicr. They were already forming a group, he was told. They had their preferable traits. They are all inept fools, he thought bitterly. One is too bloodthirsty, one too restive, one too naïve, and one too dismal. I truly wish Antaa or Mersirax were near Uteara so that I may have competent allies as opposed to the wretches I have been forced to befriend. “Is the bitter old man angered?” Krevt asked sardonically. He had appeared in Methenor’s path, arms crossed. He was a hulking maroon and lime-armored biped with clawed hands that occasionally dripped acid. His helmet was considered to be masterfully crafted by his brothers, an elliptical and spiked shape with a vertically-positioned maw. “You can only contain the fires for so long, Methenor. What shall you ever do should they threaten to consume you?” “I shall fetch a pail of water. Have you anything else to say?” “I have seen Wheicr walking about. He has said that Ujama still lives. Only a child should be surprised.” “Do you wish to discipline him?” “If you feel that it is necessary, then I do.” “Then go, but before you do so know this: I sense a disturbance, some presence unknown in this world. I feel that is vaguely familiar, yet I cannot comprehend what it could be. Tell our brothers here and those scattered throughout the world that we must remain united. The night is darkest before the dawn, and I fear we have yet to see of what our eternal enemies are fully capable.” “You are feeling paranoia.” “I am making you aware of a possible counter to all that we have done. We are too close, Krevt, too close to the victory so rightfully ours to allow it all to go to waste.” Krevt had never cared for Methenor, believing the elder to be an ancient relic and a symbol at most. He was also a being incapable of feeling much other than hatred, bloodlust, and satisfaction and could not understand such concepts as fear or tranquility. Despite this, he gave a sincere nod at his leader and departed. There would be no loss for the Pravús. They had worked too hard, waited for too long. He would send the message. He would also be among his brothers standing as the planet burned. ______________________________________________________________ Chapter IIUjama had moved along quickly to his small hut in the Green Region. There he would rendezvous with Lasi and Inquer to discuss what their next course of action would be. If Wheicr were to be believed, Netruhl and Tesia had already been killed or otherwise been rendered useless. Most beings would feel some need for revenge, would wish to memorialize their fallen comrades. Ujama was not most beings; he had witnessed enough death and destruction to know that he could not afford to do such things. His main goal was survival.Aside from that, though, I’ve no idea what we’re going to do.It was a question up in the air. There were only four Alio left – himself, Lasi, Inquer, and Clyvæus – the latter of which was transformed into a mutated freak and stripped of his acid-based powers. The only feasible advantage the Alio had was Inquer, who controlled light, one of the few things Pravús couldn’t withstand. Even with her power, however, the dark shapeshifters had the numbers and element of surprise. It would only be a matter of time before they came after her.He entered his hut and closed the door behind him. Lasi and Inquer were already there. “Netruhl and Tesia have been killed,” he murmured. “We’re all that’s left.” He gave a heavy sigh, his head bowing to face the floor dejectedly. “We have to move. The Pravús know where we are. We can try and hitch a boat to Deax to the northwest. From there maybe we can see if...” His voice trailed off. There were no more Alio, no brothers or sisters in the distant lands. There were sixteen to start off with, and now there were four remaining.Lasi placed a hand on his shoulder. “We’ll be all right, Ujama,” she said softly. “We’ll figure everything out.”The Green Alio shrugged her off. “No, we won’t be all right! I’ve failed you, Lasi... and you, Inquer. I sent the others off on missions they never came back from. I let them die. I- I’ve made too many bad decisions as the leader of this group... and now look where we’ve ended up.”The moment of silence was broke by Inquer’s, “Well, if we’re going to go, then we might as well head off now. There’s nothing left for us here.”______________________________________________________________His name was Iro, a kid in his early twenties. He was about six feet tall with a long dark brown hair and blue eyes that were the same shade as the late evening sky. For much of his life, he had lived in Uteara’s Central City, working as a blacksmith and carpenter. The Utearan people were well renowned for keeping their home running smoothly, with most every citizen contributing to society.Yesterday, he had made a discovery. For whatever reason, he could manipulate any metallic substance. This was not normal. Murtuans were never known to have some sort of mystical superpowers. Sure, there were plenty of different beings some could consider atypical and strange, but powered ones was a stretch. With all that in mind, Iro decided to call in sick and remain in his house today.He fiddled around with a small coin as he sat on his cot, using his newfound abilities to keep it floating in the air. Narrowing his eyes, he willed it to part in half. The two pieces fell to the ground as Iro rose to his feet. He had heard a knock at his door. Opening it revealed the figure of his best friend, Juthron.Juthron was an eccentric one, running a small bar for a living. He was just under six feet with a lean and slender build. He had indigo-colored eyes and shaggy light blue hair the likes of which no Murtuan had seen before. While usually a calm and collected individual, the look on his face was one of concern and distress.“Something happened,” he said, pushing his way past his friend to allow himself in. “All right, watch this,” he continued, turning to face Iro. He reached out with his left arm and Iro suddenly began to float upward. After a couple of seconds, Juthron placed his arm at his side and his friend fell. “That’s not normal, is it?”“What happened to you?” Iro asked. “How did you do that?”“Beats me,” Juthron replied. “Never seen anything like that before, though.”Iro willed the coin halves off of the floor and placed them in Juthron’s hand. “Well, this is weird.” He scratched the back of his head. “What do we do?”“We can’t tell anyone. You know how this could end up. Most people’ll just flip out when they find out we have powers. We’ll be cast out. Maybe we should just skip town and head for the Green Region or something.”“And what would we do there?”“I don’t know. You come up with something.”“Maybe there are others with these kinds of powers. Maybe we should try and find them?”“All right. Do you know anyone with powers?” Iro shook his head. “This might take a while, then...”______________________________________________________________Wheicr hit the ground hard and face-first. He tried to lift himself up, but was stomped back down by Krevt’s left foot. This beating came with no prior warning other than the hulking Pravús’ warped smile and cracking knuckles. Of course, being Krevt’s punching bag was nothing new per say, but it surely wasn’t appreciated.“What have I done this time, you oaf?” Wheicr spat. It was a legitimate question. All he had done since his return to Castle Pravús was wander the exterior aimlessly after briefly speaking to Krevt.“You could have killed Ujama, Wheicr. You had, as you claimed, ‘a perfect opportunity,’ yet you reported that he was left alive. Tell me, you irksome tool, why that is.”“I thought it was best that you or Methenor be dispatched to go after the leader of the Alio race. It would be more symbolic or some such nonsense.” He felt himself grasped by the spine and hauled up into the air. In an instant, he was sent flying into a large stone pillar.“It is too tempting to break you into many pieces for the Meior to clean up. However... Methenor has stated time and time again that I must learn that not all beings are meant to be shattered. I suppose it is never too late to follow his advice.”Wheicr picked himself up, looking at Krevt with resentment the entire time. His gaze shifted to the presence of Vraal and Methenor. The two looked concerned and annoyed.“There are more Alio,” Methenor growled. “Somehow... someway there are Alio we have not found.”“I know we were told there were sixteen,” Vraal continued, “and that our kind has killed twelve of them.”“Then how are there more?” Krevt snarled. “How are we not sure they are not just the same four we have yet to destroy?”“We are sure they are not the same Alio, Krevt,” Methenor said, his tone daunting, “for we have detected five of them.”______________________________________________________________ Chapter IIIThe dark one was pleased. He had wondered if he could count on the Pravús to destroy that which need to be destroyed, and it would seem that they would carry out their mission. He knew that the next generation of Alio was beginning to be aware of their powers, but if the Pravús were to murder them before they could become a threat, all would be well. That said, he needed another, a failsafe individual that would carry out his orders if the Pravús were to fail. The question was “who?” Who on this young planet would be willing to follow orders from an entity unseen? Who had no hope, no will to live, and would be loyal to someone that could offer an escape from all of life’s ugliness.He reached out with his mind, making miniscule contact everyone on the continent of Uteara. After several moments, he found who he was looking for. This one was perfect. This one’s life was one nightmare after another, but his need for vengeance kept him alive. All he did was wander in the charred ruins of his village in the Volcanic Sector, contemplating his revenge against a being he could not touch. The dark one wasted no time, sending the first message to his future accomplice.______________________________________________________________Methenor turned and glanced at a figure that had appeared behind him, one of about seven and a half feet in height. It wore a long black cloak over a set of navy blue and ebony armor. Its shoulders were decorated in short silver spikes. The lower left arm was replaced by a silver pincer type of weapon, while the right hand ended in sharp black fingertips. Most noticeable, however, was the being’s mask. It was dark blue, streaked with silver, matching the shape of a lioness’ head, complete with a set of fangs. The eyes behind the mask were identical to a predator’s, small crimson orbs that glowed with malice among other similar qualities.The elder Pravús’ mask shifted into some sort of smile. His only words had the sound of an ominous wind. “Tara, my dear... kill them all.”______________________________________________________________Zha-xar lived a desolate life. He was an Atreu, which didn’t mean much to the average Murtuan. That particular species had been wiped off the face of the planet years ago by the maddened titan named Yzaa, an event that somehow went unnoticed by every other being.He was a lean and strong creature. Around his torso and upper limbs was a black suit of armor, covering his scarlet skin. His lower arms and legs were covered in reptilian scales and his feet and hands ended in clawed digits. His head was a solid black crocodilian shape with dark red eyes on each side, like on a number of animals, and his mouth was a gaping maw of razor-sharp grey teeth. He was unwelcome in society for his freakish appearance, but his looks didn’t reflect the true Zha-xar.Once, long ago, he was a scholar and a warrior. He was born “Zha” to a scholar-class mother and a warrior-class father. Initially, he had wanted to join the warrior class, but time had sharpened his mind and he also enrolled to become a scholar. There were very few Atreu that became both and earned the suffix “-xar,” but Zha was nothing if not one of the most formidable of his kind.That meant nothing now. He was dying of starvation, and the deserts of the Volcanic Sector offered nothing for him to eat. His body was designed to be carnivorous, requiring the nutrients acquired by the consumption of meat, and the closest source of food was a day’s walk away in the Green Region. It was questionable if one as malnourished as he could survive the journey.For whatever reason, he decided to test himself. To the west he would head, perhaps to find some small creature to hunt and make a meal of. He armed himself with a spiked mace and began his walk.Many minutes had passed and the village of the Atreu was now a silhouette behind him. A strange feeling came over him as he traveled. It was as if some alien presence was now all around him, trying to get his attention. As a scholar, however, he was trained to resist such things. His mental powers allowed him to push back and attempt to find the source of the probing, but came up empty.I see your powers are greater than I had thought, little one, a rumbling mind-voice said. I sense your anger and your frustration, Zha-xar. It saddens me that such injustice has been done to you.Who are you to meddle through my business? Zha-xar replied. I reject your entry into my mind, yet attempt to overpower me.I must, my friend. You see, your mind is shielded by your years of training, unlike others whose minds provide no resistance. As for my identity, I can simply say that I am a multiversal singularity and that I have come upon a sort of hindrance in this world. I am trapped in a place from which there is no escape. If I can offer some sort of reward, would you be willing to assist in my flight?You imply that there is something you can offer that would satisfy me.I know what Yzaa has done to you. I am able to right the wrongs committed against you. I will allow you to exact your revenge.Perhaps I do not know you so well. I sense great power in you, greater than anything I have known. Yet, I know nothing of you. Is that to say that I am to trust you?Of course it is not. It is only to say, Zha-xar, that if you find and kill the individual named Inquer, you will be able to destroy Yzaa.Why have you gone after me? I am but a warrior-scholar with little to live for.However, I am able to know what you live for, and I offer you an opportunity you would not dare to resist. Do not tell me that you would not kill Yzaa if I were to bring him to you.Zha-xar didn’t need to think. He sensed the raw power of this being and somehow knew that it was not lying when it said it could bring Yzaa to justice. I need your name, he said.I am Ulreq, the Harbinger of Darkness. The world around the Atreu blurred, the desert around him fading. When his vision cleared, he was in a forest. Here and there, a deer would scamper about, no doubt some sort of enticement from this Ulreq. I welcome you to our new alliance.
Edited by Iro: Espiritu de Hierro, Oct 17 2011 - 06:21 PM.