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-ICONOX-

-Voltex-

IC: Onaku (All), Smoke Monster (All); FF (All); Toru (All); RG (All); Voltex (All); Luroka (All)

 

Luroka has clearly gone mad, Voltex thought upon seeing Nato’s unconscious body hit the floor, aiming his already-loaded thornax launcher at Luroka’s feet - for to aim at the feet was more likely to strike than a shot at the hit.

 

He missed, the thornax somehow going straight between Luroka’s legs and into a Skrall behind him, four Skrall moving to accompany Luroka, who picked up a shield and sword from a fallen Skrall. Luroka gritted his teeth, glaring at Voltex. “For the crime of murder, you will pay in blood, Voltex.” Luroka lunged forward, trying to behead Voltex, but found the Skrall blade somewhat awkward to wield and only found himself slashing the air.

 

Voltex backed away toward Onaku and Smoke Monster, taken aback at Luroka’s seemingly divine luck, loading another shot in this thornax launcher. “I recommend targeting the disgrace to Iron Agori everywhere. He is a mad dog. If we can kill him, you might be able to restore some semblance of proper control here.” He fired again.

 

And then Luroka was missing the lower half of the arm wielding the Skrall’s blade.

 

“Men, attack Luroka and any Skrall that still seeks to defend him! His intentions are obviously not in the interest of Roxtus!” Onaku shouted. “Skrall of Roxtus, do not stand between me and Luroka. You serve Tuma, not the settlers of squabbles between Agori, and who among us wishes to explain to Tuma why those of the Rock Tribe have died? He will punish us all.” Onaku finishes, urging the Skrall not to interfere as he dives at Luroka, slashing the Iron Agori’s anke - and then Onaku’s own ankle was slashed as the Skrall Shield Luroka wielded came down upon his own ankle.

 

“Onaku lies. Do not be deceived. Ten Skrall, surround me! All others, attack Voltex!” Luroka ordered, before being blown back by the last of Voltex’s thornax, worsening the wound in his ankle.

 

“Ehrye, your prey is Luroka! Hunt him down!” Voltex whistled sharply, while Onaku leapt back up, making a series of feints toward Luroka, eventually going in for a slash across Luroka’s back, dashing backward then forward to slash Luroka’s remaining hand as Luroka tried to counter. Then - a white flash from above, and the sound of growling as Luroka found an Iron Wolf biting deeply into his already-wounded ankle.

 

Luroka tried to decapitate the Iron Wolf - but the Iron Wolf disappeared in a flash. “Retrieve Nato, we retreat!” he commanded, the Skrall moving to pick Nato up, with what little remained of the Ice Agori accompanying him was quickly dispatched or scared off. Another Skrall picked Luroka up, noticing his wounds. Sixteen of the Skrall, Luroka, and the unconscious Nato began marching down the cliff to Iconox’s exit, showing Nato’s body to anyone who dared approach, leaving behind the corpses of eight Skrall and five Skrall with Onaku and Smoke Monster.

 

They soon found that Onaku had followed them, with his Rock Agori, rallying them to attack Luroka, and the Skrall carrying Nato. Onaku himself tackled the Skrall carrying Nato, tripping them and sending Nato falling to the floor. The Rock Agori tried to charge - but soon changed their minds once they saw the Skrall begin to surround Onaku, blades pointed at him.

 

“Do not interfere. The Ice Agori is a known criminal and has been ordered to be captured to serve the will of Tuma.”

 

“If anyone here is to serve the will of Tuma, it certainly won’t be Luroka. I’m taking Nato as my prisoner. Either way, Nato will be delivered, but I will not have Luroka use us to further his own selfish means.”

 

“It matters not who brings the prisoner, just that the prisoner s brought to Tuma. Your squabbles are petty, but I dare not be present when Tuma finds out either of you is dead.” The Skrall spat, annoyed by the squabble between Luroka and Onaku.

 

“It’s beginning to look more and more like you are a traitor to the Rock Tribe. You don’t want whats best for Roxtus. You intend to stall Lord Tuma! Lord Tuma will be most displeased to hear this!” Luroka accused, frustrated with Onaku.

 

Onaku growled at Luroka. “Save it, Luroka. You betrayed your own tribe the moment you got the chance. You’re not here to serve Lord Tuma out of loyalty to Roxtus, you’re here as an opportunist, taking advantage of Tuma’s graciousness for your selfish desire to gain more power. I can’t believe I ever associated with you. I should have seen you for what you were the moment you stepped in my office.” Onaku looked at the Skrall around, hoping to convince them that Luroka was an opportunist who would soon betray the Rock Tribe as he had his own - but a Skrall asked, how could an Agori without a tribe betray a tribe they don’t have? “He had a tribe. Voltex was his tribe. Sahmad, whatever happened to him, was his tribe. The moment he saw an opportunity, he turned on them. This does not show me loyalty to Roxtus… To Tuma. This shows disloyalty and an opportunistic disposition toward everything. The first chance he gets, he would turn his back on us just as he did his own kind. He will betray us, just as he did Voltex and Sahmad.”

 

Unfortunately for Onaku, the Skrall knew something he did not. “Sahmad killed a Skrall and fought against Tuma in the Arena Magna for his life. He lost. He was not betrayed. The Iron Agori here has not betrayed anyone, he is serving the glory of Tuma! He has been given a contract to bring the criminal Nato alive, and the criminal Voltex in any state. And what would you know of betrayal, Agori? What was that back there, if not bordering on betrayal of the Skrall?”

 

Onaku despaired. “Sahmad was an Iron Agori. Luroka was an Iron Agori. The fact that Luroka has been given charge of you shows that Tuma has entrusted him more than just a contract. He’s entrusted him a high ranking position within the Rock Tribe. Within our Rock Tribe. Why would Tuma do that after Sahmad killed a Skrall? Why would he trust him? I know why. Because Luroka forsook his brothers and pledged ‘loyalty’ to our leader. His attitude toward Voltex earlier shows just how little he cares for his former comrades. He’s turned his back on them, yes, but again, that does not show loyalty to us. It shows that he took the path he considered the most bountiful. He turned on his allies and claimed a position of power with us. The moment the opportunity arises, he will turn on us and claim more power. I will not let that happen.”

 

The Skrall laughed and spat in Onaku’s face. “He abandoned his futureless tribe to join us! We will give him a future. I would be quiet, Agori… your words ring more true for you than for the Iron Agori. You only object because you wish you were in his place instead. We will report your misgivings to Tuma.”

 

“And what if we were in their position?! What if we were to fall on hard times, and our enemies were to advance on us?! Would you trust him not to betray us to our enemies?! I have fought for Roxtus my entire life!! Even now, when you refuse to see the truth, I will fight for my home!! Luroka is not our ally!” Onaku yelled, increasingly frustrated with the Skrall.

 

The Skrall raised their thornax launchers. “They did not betray their tribe out of opportunity. They joined it because they saw something in the Skrall and the Rock Tribe that their tribe could not give them. If you are so concerned about this, tell Mighty Leader Tuma yourself instead of wasting our time here.”

 

“That is the definition of opportunity! Luroka will only be on our side for as long as he feels we are the winning side. If we ever cease to be that winning side, he will abandon us, just as he abandoned his own. True loyalty is not saying with the strongest. True loyalty is to stick to your allies even when all seems lost. I will not abandon Roxtus to Luroka’s schemes.” Onaku paused to breath, glaring at Luroka.  “If I must die, so be it. But I will not allow Luroka to twist our tribe into a haven for opportunists and gold diggers. Our tribe is strong because we are all loyal to the cause, not the strength we’ve accumulated behind it!”

 

“I did not join Roxtus for some opportunity to betray my former allies for more power. I left the Iron Tribe because I saw Sahmad and Voltex for the treacherous murderers they are, and you are looking steadily more like one. Out. Of. Our. Way!” Luroka screamed, irritated with Onaku and wishing he could kill them.

 

The Skrall were at last convinced by Onaku’s words, and turned to Luroka. “Do you understand, and are you loyal to, our cause? Are you in it for more than the power? Or are you of the same corruption that destroyed the last world?”

 

“Of course I am of our cause? Are you insinuating our Mighty Leader was mistaken?” Luroka said, his eyes piercing the Skrall who asked the question.

 

“No, Agori. If there is a squabble between you, we will not acknowledge it for now.” The Skrall pointed at Onaku. “You and the Iron Agori will settle your squabble before Tuma, in his chamber. Move, and you dare not try anything treasonous.”

 

“Treasonous to who? To Tuma, or to Luroka? I only answer to one.” Onaku snapped back.

 

“To Tuma. The Iron Agori serves Tuma as you do.”

 

The group - with its squabble between Luroka and Onaku - tried to leave Iconox, only to find eight Ice Agori in their way. At the forefront - Toru, Glatorian of the Ice Tribe. The Skrall point their blades forward at Toru.

 

“Now, let’s discuss why you are taking our diplomat, shall we?” Toru suggested, sarcastically as the Skrall swung their blades at him. “Or you can be difficult about it.” Surprisingly, Toru managed to block a few of their blades with his own. He, and the soldiers with him, were the only thing in the group’s way.

 

He barely held his blade in place as the Skrall pushed their own against him, and the seven soldiers with him. The Skrall were getting impatient. They kicked at Toru’s legs.

 

Toru kicked in kind, and both a Skrall and an Agori fell. Unfortunately, that was just one Skrall out of sixteen. Who wasn’t dead, and already getting back up, as four of the sixteen Skrall broke off from the group and ran toward Iconox’s exit, as two Ice Agori fled while another had been killed. Toru now faced two Skrall.

 

Then, FF charged forward with three Ice Agori, having prepared an ambush. Luroka heard the sound of rapid footsteps, trying to alert the Skrall and prepare to evade - but instead, he found he had gained another wound. “KILL HIM! CRUSH THE BELLIGERENT!” Luroka raged in pain.  FF found three Skrall facing him, tired of giving warnings and about to bring their blades down.

 

FF saw Toru get overwhelmed, blades pointed at both his chest and back, and saw him surrender, dropping his weapons. FF wanted to keep fighting - but seeing the situation, he jumped back. “Fine. We’ll surrender and retreat from here. You win… this time.” He said, reluctantly, and retreated - thankfully, the Skrall wanted to leave more than they wanted to pursue.

 

The Skrall turned their heads to Luroka, asking him what to do with Toru. “What do we do? Take him prisoner, or execute the Agori?”

 

“Bring him to Tuma. We take our leave, NOW.” Luroka commanded.

 

And with that - the small group of Skrall finally left Iconox, with two prisoners.

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-VULCANUS

-Burnmad-

IC: Burnmad (All); Underscore (All); Revenant Great Being (All)


A strange one-armed Agori rushed into Vulcanus, wishing to speak with Burnmad urgently, apparently speaking quite hurriedly and worriedly. Or so Burnmad was told by his guards. Burnmad opted to admit them, though with a few more guards than usual - after all, he did not even know who the stranger was.


The strange Agori rushed into Burnmad’s hut, darting their eyes around the room until they settled on Burnmad after finally having noticed them. “I must inquire about something very important. Have you seen a mask? No… pieces of a broken mask? It is very important.” They stammered, speaking to another individual for the first time in aeons.


Burnmad sat, stony-faced, thinking back to what Quin and Terrorsaur had told - and shown - him. “I have. But before I share anything else, I would first know who asks, and why.”


The strange Agori did not take any time to open their mouth. “A Great Being asks. As for why, it is my duty to repair broken objects.” They sat down - having not already done so, staring at Burnmad without blinking.


Eyeing the stranger warily, Burnmad decided to ask for something to convince him of this. “A Great Being? That is… quite a claim to make. Though times call for men to easily believe the extraordinary, I must ask that you offer something to convince me what you say is true. Do this, and I will share what little I know.”


The strange Agori - or Great Being - stared at Burnmad for a few seconds before speaking. “Right… so, across this barren desert, pieces of a mask would have landed recently, or been scattered about - I am not sure how they came to be this way. These pieces, well, they are pieces of a Mask, like I’ve already said. But not just any mask. A Mask of Life. This mask - it can alter life. Destroy life. Even create life from nothing. I’m sure its pieces have already started going somewhat wild where they came to be. This mask was integral to a...  very important plan. It relates to Spherus Magna - the world before this one. It was integral to reforming Spherus Magna. I can’t explain how a Mask of Life would make those two moons in the sky one with Bara Magna again, but I can tell you this: repairing this Mask is important to making the future brighter.” They stopped, hoping that Burnmad was following along.


“For everyone.” They added.

“...On Bara Magna. I am not so sure about Aqua Magna or Bota Magna. But I can add one more thing, if what I already said is not enough: you see the moons in the sky. You think them out of reach. You would be wrong. There is a way… but you must truly desire to go there.” They added again, knowing they were making a claim perhaps too extreme for any Agori to believe.


The leader of Vulcanus had listened intently to the one-armed Agori’s monologue, unsure of what to make of the tale. The ‘Great Being’ certainly knew a great deal more about the shards than a random Agori off the street. The rest of the information, however, he could not tell whether it was fact or fiction. He weighed the possibilities in his mind. For the mask to be a Mask of Life is in line with what we have seen the shards to do - bringing to life plants and sand, he thought. And they seem to have alluded to the fact they may have so behaved, in and of itself, He decided, thus, that the Mask being of Life must be true, and that the being was familiar with it, as they had claimed. What he didn’t know was whether the one-armed Agori was truly a Great Being, or simply a servant masquerading as a Great Being for the sake of authority, though that seemed irrelevant. What did not seem irrelevant, and which Burnmad could also not determine, was the veracity of the Agori’s claim that repairing the mask - and, apparently, subsequently reuniting Bara Magna with its moons - would be good for the people living in the desert. The only way he could think of rejoining a body with its moons involved killing everyone on them, an outcome surely undesirable to all residents. Nonetheless, he filed away these thoughts for a moment, as continuing to speculate without the introduction of further information could help no one. He had one more question to ask, and then he would make the decision to trust the self-styled Great Being. “You say that one can get to the moons. How?”


The ‘Great Being’ pointed to the north with their only arm. “To the north, beyond the Black Spike Mountains, beyond the Forest of Blades and the River Dormus, there is an ancient structure. It is called ‘Spirit’s Wish’. It will take you to the destination you desire the most. Until very recently, I was… present in that region, and I am only here in the south of Bara Magna because I utilised it. If one so desired to go the moons, they could utilise Spirit’s Wish for such a purpose. But, it must be added, I am not sure if there is a way to return from the moons.” If you can even get to the north without exposing yourself to the many dangers there, they thought, opting not to tell Burnmad about them.


Convenient that it’s a one-way trip, Burnmad thought. Still, everything the Agori said struck him alarming him with an eerie sense of plausibility. He decided to co-operate with the apparent Great Being, at least for the duration as of that moment. “A while back, my General came upon the crater where had landed one of the shards you seek. He said it was surrounded by plant life, though it lay in the middle of the desert, and that when he touched it, he felt as if his life was being drained. When he came to me with the news - this, of course, being the first time I’d heard of them - I told him to set up a camp around it, to guard it, study it, and hide it.”


“I do not know of its current status, but that he came to me while I was meeting with foreign dignitaries, wishing to to consult with me on a matter to which he seemed to not want the others to be privy. I sent him off with my blessing to act autonomously, not fearing until later that the matter he wished to discuss may have been related to the shard… Yet, that is now what I fear, though he has yet to return to confirm or deny such fears.” He to breath


“As it would turn out, those same foreign dignitaries I had been meeting with, soon revealed to me that they had recovered a shard of their own - and, more surprisingly, that they had brought it with them on one of their persons. They said that it had brought the very sand to life in one instant, slaying many, and that its touch killed a mighty sand beast in the next. I confided in them what I have just confided in you. They later left for Atero and the Great Tournament; I did what I could, and supplemented their escort with my own troops.” Burnmad did not say he was finished, but rather allowed the silence and totality of his disclosure to say as much.


The ‘Great Being’ sat for a while, thinking. The General Burnmad had mentioned - they had not yet returned nor had Burnmad mentioned where they had gone, so going after them was not entirely wise. But the others Burnmad had mentioned -the foreign dignitaries - they were heading to Atero, and had apparently recovered a shard. “Right, then… I will be going to Atero, then, seeking out this being with a shard. I hope they still have it. Coming from a stranger, this might be a bit much, but may I requisition one of your Thornatus for my travels? As long as I do not die - and I hope I do not - I will try to return it. It is hard to travel and defend oneself with only one arm, and it is much easier to avoid trouble in such a vehicle.”


“You ask much,” Burnmad replied, not fond of the idea of lending out one of Vulcanus’ precious Thornatus. “I would rather someone went with you in a second Thornatus, yet, I have recently lost my diplomat to the dunes, and both my General and my Glatorian are predisposed…”

 

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-LOCATION-

-Player-

In Character: Player, NPC. NPC

 

Nato awakened. No, he wasn’t awake. He could tell. He was dreaming, having awakened in the familiar landscape of Iconox.

 

He was everywhere and nowhere in Iconox. He saw it from above, but also in front of him. He saw Skrall marching in its streets. Thousands of Ice Agori lined up, bowing. The Skrall decapitated the Ice Agori all at once. Their heads rolled off, their bodies instantly disappearing.

 

Their heads floated up, forming one gargantuan head made up of many smaller heads. All heads spoke at Nato. “You did this.” Nato tried to back away, into a wall that should not have been there. The wall crumbled away into heads, all of which joined the gargantuan head.

 

And then they disappeared. He saw Iconox, but there were no more Skrall. Just many graves, overseen by a crippled hermit and his pack of wolves.

 

A Skrall appeared before him, and demanded Nato come to Roxtus. Nato was dumbstruck, and could do little more than follow the Skrall.

 

The journey to Roxtus was long, but not arduous, and geographically impossible.

 

He passed through Tajun, where he saw a large cave, its doors open for the first time in over a hundred millenia. Within, he saw a strange one-armed Agori, forging together some strange shards. And then they, and all of Tajun, died, leaving only a strange glowing mask.

 

In Tesara, he saw one village, next to another partially-burnt village. He saw their leader exiled - or killed, he could not tell. They were replaced with their General, and an almost strange devotion to a religion he’d never heard of. And then increasing amounts of Skrall representatives, turned away each time until the Skrall themselves came. Tesara’s green isntantly changed to a grey, its religious folk executed for blasphemy against Tuma.

 

In Vulcanus, he saw nothing.

 

In Atero, he saw Agori of all tribes. Watching the tournament. Interrupted by Bone Hunters, who blocked his view. And then they left, leaving Atero as a broken, cracked shell of its former self, with not a single being left alive. And then all of Bara Magna was in chaos, living in fear of the Bone Hunters - and the Skrall.

 

And then he arrived in Roxtus, where he found himself inside Tuma’s chamber instantly, where he saw Tuma - and Luroka - and himself. Tuma was ten times larger than he should have been.

 

Then, ‘Tuma’ offered him the best meal he’d ever seen.

 

“What is this?” he finally managed to stammer. “This… these images… they aren’t mine.” He was right. They weren’t.

 

“This? This is… this is the worst place you can be.” A voice called out to Nato - strangely familiar, yet alien.

 

‘Tuma’ leaned forward toward Nato. “Eat the meal, or die.” Behind him, he saw ‘Luroka’ poised to strike.

 

“I’m already going to die.” Nato Spat back, perhaps forgetting he was dreaming. “What difference does it make if I eat it or not?”

 

‘Tuma’ reached for his sword, standing up. As he tried to leap toward Nato, he fell over, blood pooling out of his back. No doubt the meal would have been the worst he’d ever tasted, and no doubt the dream was inaccurately portraying how easy it was to kill Tuma.

 

‘Luroka’ was standing behind the dead body of Tuma, a dagger in his hands. All the Skrall poured into the chamber, but immediately turned away when they saw ‘Luroka’ standing upon Tuma’s corpse. Then, he saw ‘Onaku’ run in, followed by ‘Smoke Monster’ and ‘Voltex’. They all freeze as thousands of Rock Agori join them. Luroka does as the Skrall did in Iconox. Only ‘Voltex’ and ‘Onaku’ escaped.

 

“That you are not dead but here is something shocking in itself.” The familiar voice called out once more. “I am dead and this… this is more than a dream.”

 

“If this isn’t a dream, what is it?” Nato demanded, whirling around for the source of the voice. “Why am I here? Where is here?”

 

“Once, there was a terrible being who fed upon the dreams of the Iron Tribe. I was one of the only survivors. I thought, foolishly, that it was over, that it did not affect me.” Nato saw the entire Iron Tribe on Spherus Magna, dropping dead one by one.

 

“I was wrong. I still dreamt, but that did not mean I was safe. No, it meant they had changed their strategy. When your method leaves all who dream dead, there will be left to consume. So, instead, they make people dream when they shouldn’t. When you’re unconscious. When you’re dead. And this place, this place is their own world, constructed by the dreams of those who should not dream. A dream for them to consume, slowly being built. A dream to serve as their food, and a dream to spread their influence through the unconscious living.” Nato saw an Iron Agori materialise before his eyes. His name was Sahmad, but his face was horribly squished and he had no eyes.

 

“Oh gods… Sahmad… what happened to you?” He was having difficulty recognising the grotesque mess before him with the Agori he’d met a few short days ago.

 

“I died. I made the mistake of fighting Tuma one on one, without even trying to run away. I lost when he squished my head with his foot.” The area around Nato shifted to a sandy, but somewhat mountainous area. There was a Thornatus, a Jungle Agori within being pulled out by Skrall without even being given a chance to react.

 

“I don’t know how many others experience… whatever this is. I have only seen a very satisfied Jungle Agori here, without much in the way of a head. And as you are living, it may decide your life isn’t interesting enough with all that drama.”

 

“I’m sorry.” Nato closed his eyes, unable to shake the certainty that Tuma had a similar fate for him as he did for Sahmad. “So this… all of the things I’ve been shown… is it the actual future, or just a twisted culmination of everyone else’s hopes and dreams?”

 

“I don’t know, but I would say - and try to kill me if I’m wrong - but, I think it’s predictions based upon everyone’s hopes and fears…”

 

Sahmad suddenly trailed off, disappearing. All suddenly became dark around Nato. And then?

S E R V E   M E, the dream spoke.

 

Nato laughed, the sheer absurdity of the situation getting to him. “Why me? Why not Tuma, or Burnmad, or someone else more successful and influential? You went through all of this effort to bring me here, let me see all of this, and for what? If you’ve seen my dreams, then you know I want to rule, not serve.”

 

Then, Nato saw the world of Bara Magna grow up around him. It took him to Roxtus, where he saw Luroka poised to strike Tuma again, with himself in the room. Except, this time, Nato struck Tuma first. All the Skrall poured into the chamber, and execute Luroka - the apparent killer. In their deaths, Nato found himself on Tuma’s throne. He did not know why - it seemed too convenient that the Skrall would just accept him.

 

Y O U   W I L L   R U L E   B Y   S E R V I N G   M E

 

The dream then answered his questions of ‘why him’ by showing him Burnmad - sitting in Vulcanus, given power. Yet, he does nothing with it, opting to remain. It then showed him Tuma, sitting on the throne Nato just saw himself sitting on, portrayed as too inflexible and unsubtle in his methods - either a diplomatic offering worded more like a threat, or a direct attack on others.

 

The dream thought that Nato was the Agori best suited to fulfilling its interests - whatever those were.

 

“Tempting, but I manipulate people for a living, so I know there’s always a catch. What’s yours?”

 

S P R E A D   T H E   D R E A M

 

“Sahmad told me what happened to his people, so I’m going to need you to be very clear about what that means before I agree to anything. I don’t want to be the ruler of a pile of corpses.”

 

Fortunately, the dream did not desire corpses right now. It had been a long time since it had influenced the living, waking world.

 

I N T E R A C T

 

D O N ‘ T   K I L L

 

L I V I N G   B O D I E S   R E Q U I R E D

 

“Alright, I’m game. On two conditions. Firstly, leave the surviving Iron Agori out of this, they’ve already suffered enough. Secondly, once this is done, let Sahmad’s… ghost, or whatever, go f ree from this place.

 

U N D E R S T O O D

 

And then Nato awoke, in an unnaturally cold sweat.

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-ICONOX-

-Smoke Monster-

IC: Smoke Monster (All); FF (All); RG (All); Voltex (Before Exit)

 

He, after much searching with 21 other Rock Agori, found FF - who was accompanied with twelve Ice Agori, one of whom was carrying the wounded Rahkshi Guurahk.

 

Laying his eyes upon RG, he could only feel that the situation in Iconox so far had been a mess - their leader, wounded. Their diplomat and Glatorian, taken prisoner. A rift forming between members of the Rock Tribe. The fighting seemed to have died down significantly since Nato and Toru had been taken prisoner - now it was mostly Skrall instigating against Agori.

 

“Smoke Monster… hmm. The situation has gotten out of hand,” FF spoke, slightly startling Smoke Monster and interrupted his train of thought. “I don’t know who trust anymore.”

 

“I can say the same thing, but I think it’s in the best interests of everyone to get the fighting to stop. There will be no victors here if it keeps up.” He knew the likely victory - for either side - would at best be a pyrrhic victory.

 

“Then, can you call off the remaining Skrall troops and have them retreat?” FF was making a big request of Smoke Monster - perhaps too big. But he wanted him to try. “I mean, that’s what Iconox - most of Iconox - is fighting for.” He, for a moment, tried to forget that Agori had fought Agori, and were still fighting Agori, in this civil war.

 

“I don’t know if  the Skrall will listen to me, as I’m a diplomat, but I’ll give it a shot.” Smoke Monster turned, leaving to find a vantage point where his voice would be heard across Iconox. Where all would listen.

 

And he spoke. “Skrall of Roxtus… I beg you to please stand down. I beg you to stop for this will be a slaughter, and while we might achieve victory, any result will make it much harder for us to spread our influence elsewhere. If we win, this will look like a massacre. If we lose, this will make us look weak. We want neither of that. I want to make it known - that further fighting will not be tolerated, and that if we are to fight, it will be on Tuma’s orders, not because an angry Agori kicked you. I beg you, please stand down.”

 

For a moment, Smoke Monster feared his words would not be heard. But then, many Skrall stopped fighting. He was, after all, the Agori that got the Skrall into Iconox in the first place. He returned to FF, the wounded RG, where he also saw Voltex - and an Iron Wolf.

 

“Now, that things seemed to have calmed down a bit, perhaps it’s a good time for us to go after Luroka.” FF suggested, seeing that the fighting had calmed down significantly.

 

“Send me with a Baranus,” Voltex spoke. “With a wolf at my side, I would be best suited for a rescue mission - and if it goes awry, you both do not lose more troops, and can blame it on the Iron Tribe stealing your vehicle.”

 

“Fine. I’ll give you a Baranus so you can rescue Nato and Toru for us, but are you sure don’t want any of us accompanying you?” FF asked, concerned for his fellow Ice Agori.

 

Voltex frowned. “Backup might be nice… but hidden, if possible. I’d like to avoid conflict if possible; my plan is to flee if I can’t easily rescue at least one of them.”

 

“Hmm. Okay then. I guess I can follow you a bit later once Iconox is a bit more secured.” FF led Voltex to a Baranus chariot.

 

“Send backup quickly, for I will outpace them significantly. Ehrye, come!” Voltex climbed up onto the Baranus, and began to ride for Roxtus, at a pace at which Ehrye could keep up, hoping to intercept Luroka.

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-TESARA-

-Lan-

IC: Lan (All); Andekas (After Entrance)

 

Lan pushed forward against a chunk of metal with the help of one of Tesara’s guards, creating an opening into the middle of a burning cluster of huts. Around him, he could feel the heat of the encroaching fire, the direness of the situation not lost on him.

 

But he had hope. For while the cluster of huts around him burned, much of the village he was in did not. And, he was in the process of saving a few trapped Agori - who were being led to the opening by another guard. He had helped save a few otherwise doomed Agori. Fire is damaging, but even moreso when you let it get to your morale. Lan didn’t, as he walked out, keeping a wide berth between him and fire.

 

His hope paid off when he saw an influx of Tesaran soldiers, immediately working to douse the flames that encompassed the village. He had his suspicions as to where they had come from - had Hyethut or Andekas returned? He got his answer when, in the distance, he saw Andekas on a chariot, accompanied by a soldier.

 

Where Timelord had abandoned Tesara in its time of need, Lan had remained, Andekas had come back.

 

And the fires of Tesara would soon burn no more. Rather than a burning village; a collapsed, smouldering ruin;  or a charred reminder of what was; would instead stand a half-burnt village, defying its fate and still standing.

 

And for that, Lan and Andekas would forever be hailed as ‘The Saviours of Tesara’.

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-CREEP CANYON-

-Quin-

IC: Quin (All)

 

Quin arrived at the edge of Creep Canyon, not far from where he found the crater. He told his men to be careful and to proceed with caution, since it was possible the Bone Hunters had sent up camp in the area ever since stealing the shard. Most of his men were already  busy setting up camp, securing any routes along to it with traps.

 

His scouts were cautious, noting no signs of Bone Hunter activity, but they did find the canyon in which a trap was laid, several limbs poking out from under the rubble, the flesh picked clean by scavengers. They returned to Quin, and advised finding another route to the crater, as if they needed to escape, the rubble would provide an issue. They headed off once more, seeking out alternative and suitable paths to the crater.

 

The scouts returned hours laters, informing him of a ‘safer’ but longer route, further than the previous route but not involving climbing over rubble. He followed the route his scouts suggested, noticing that it was quiet. There was seemingly no sign of the Bone Hunters that were there but a few days ago, and as he made it to the crater, he saw the shard was no longer present, the ring of plantlife around it having been stomped upon.

 

He ordered his men to search around, while he continued on through Creep Canyon. The wind had not been friendly to the crater, yet he was able to make faint tracks - not of Bone Hunters themselves, but their Rock Steeds. He followed them, coming upon the withered husk of a Rock Steed.

 

“Possibly that shard’s doing…” he muttered to himself, continuing to follow the tracks, finding himself coming out of the canyon and into relatively flat land, yet the tracks became indistinguishable due to the desert winds, while the sun was starting to dip on the horizon.

 

He turned around, heading back to camp for the night.

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-ICONOX-

-FF-

IC: FF (All); Smoke Monster (All); RG (All)

 

“So, what’s this thing you wanted to discuss with me and Guurahk?” FF asked, meeting Smoke Monster and RG in private, in the room of the hospital where RG was recovering from his wounds. He’d just finished directing his troops - and some Rock Agori with Smoke Monster’s permission - to find and gather the wounded, as well as to repair Iconox.

 

“Alright, now that we are in private, I wanted to talk to the two of you about helping me overthrow Tuma.” Smoke Monster waited for the request to sink in before continuing. “I know might sound odd, especially coming from me. But I ask that you hear me out on this.”

 

“... And just how are you going to do that?” FF asked, skeptical. Overthrowing Tuma was certainly not an easy task, and definitely not the kind of request one gets every day.

 

“Well, I confess I don’t have a plan completely set in place yet. I did want to start, though, with seeing who from the other villages would be willing to help out. That’s why we’re talking now. If we can get enough people and resources together, we might be able to take him out.”

 

“Forgive my suspicions, but before I agree to this, how can we be sure you aren’t planning to sell us out or betray us?” There had been enough betrayal recently - and one who betrays their own is one who will betray you.

 

“I suspected you might be suspicious of me, as I haven’t really given you a reason to trust me. But I assure that my interests are for what’s best for the Rock Agori. And I’ve seen recently that having Tuma rule over us will only lead my people - as well as yours - in servitude to a tyrant.” Smoke Monster thought about what he had seen: An Iron Agori given command of Skrall before even any Rock Agori - did Tuma really respect the Rock Agori, or seek to use them as tools? “He must be stopped.”

 

“Fine. I trust you. Don’t do anything that will make me have to kill you though.” FF nodded, still a bit skeptical of Smoke Monster. “Now then. Where should we be off? Maybe we should start with Tesara, seeing as it’s the closest village. Twin villages. Whatever.”

 

RG nodded, having avoided trying to speak while recovering - even if his injury across his shoulder had nothing to do with his voice.

 

“I hope I prove myself worthy of your trust.” Smoke Monster nodded back at FF and RG. “As for where we should start, I agree that Tesara would be a good place to start. Though, I should note that I actually went to Tesara before coming here and offered them the same deal as Iconox. They were undecided at the time, but Pahrak, Roxtus’ other diplomat, was sent there when I was first sent here to convince them to take it. I haven’t heard anything about Tesara’s decision on this since.” He also wondered - what did Pahrak think of the Skrall? Would he be in for overthrowign Tuma? “I would still be okay with going there first though. I just felt like you both should be aware of what I’ve done in the past.”

 

“I would go with you, were it not for this shoulder injury I have, but I wish you luck.” RG replied, resting.

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-GATHERER’S RIDGE-

-Hyethut-

IC: Hyethut (All)

 

Before Hyethut could even leave the crater - the site of his confrontation with the Bone Hunters - one of his soldiers stopped to inspect something at their feet, calling their general over, gesturing toward a black, powdery substance. While there was not in its more conventional form, there was no denying what they saw was exsidian - the very thing they’d came to Gatherer’s Ridge to find. No doubt the mysterious shard not only created the crater they were standing in, but exposed a potential vein of exsidian. Where exactly it was, they couldn’t be certain - but it was somewhere there.

 

He couldn’t help but grin as he rushed over to the soldier. “Grunkhar be praised, I knew this trip would bear blessing.” Hyethut shouted to his shoulders, “Thhis land indeed be holy! First the heavens send forth treasure, and by its impact and the watering of by the noble blood of Tesarans it is revealed to us that the treasure we had sought had been here to begin with! What a twist of providence!”

 

He then ordered that camp be made on the western side of the crater, further ordering the soldiers to begin digging around the vein, splitting his soldiers up into two groups: one to to set up camp then defences around it with what little supplies they had, another to begin digging, and a third group to stand guard. He had ideas of building a base here, but before getting ahead of himself wanted to make sure if there was an ample supply there as be partook in the digging.

 

The preparations and digging went uninihibited, confirming that the vein did run deeper, though any further mining would require proper mining equipment in an extensive set up, something that could not happen overnight.  Though, as Hyethut was assisting in the digging, a senior soldier approached. “General, if I may speak to you in private?”

 

“Sure, son.” The two Agori retreated yards away, the General asking, “So, what did you want to say, soldier?”

 

The soldier, Boreas, began to speak, his tone soft. “General, I fear for Tesara. I had my doubts before but seeing the Glatorian order his men to kill a downed enemy, who was no threat to anyone… it worries me greatly. That type of response is not something Grunkhar would approve of.” Boreas shook his head, taking a deep breath to calm himself. “I fear for Tesara under that bloodline. Our cities remain divided under them, yet the people embrace you, General, from both sides. If nothing is done, Tesara will destroy itself.”

 

Hyethut looked at Boreas in the eyes, then stared past him as he mentally assembled his response, the solidification of a stray thought that had been moved aside out of honour. He spoke, his first words accompanied by nods. “I will say to you what I said to our cheiftain years prior in my oath upon becoming general. I swore to Tesara that I will serve her, and as the ruler of a most blessed city, serve Timelord and his Sonork dynasty so long as the enlightenment of Grunkhar was present in his rule, but also said to him that if such light sways from his heart that I will do what is necessary to protect the holy city. I think he glossed over that which I spoke as a simple pomp, but my words are true. Leaders make mistakes as we are but imperfect dim-gray torches before the gleaming white sun, but if it is apparent that he he has numbed himself to such guidance completely and that he he has become nothing but a tyrant, the open palms of Grunkhar closed at request, then I will serve Tesara dutifully. Take that as you will, but from what I know so far, my destiny is to merely lead soldiers, not citizens.”

 

He smirked briefly, honoured that such an idea would be brought before him by an underling, patting Boreas a few times on the shoulders. “Our industry out here cannot go further without better equipment for mining and supplies for fortification. I would like it if you and fifteen others could go back to Tesara and come back with tools and wood. Bring back chariots if you like, just makes sure they are pulled by rock steeds and not those slow skrall-inspired spikits. And while you are there, come back and update me on the city. Lots of things have been going on in this river valley, and it is dangerous to stay out of the loop.

 

Boreas took a breath, and nodded toward Hyethut. “I understand, sir.” He truly believed his general’s words.

 

The two Agori went back to the group, asking which fifteen soldiers would like to head back to Tesara to acquire proper equipment, assigning Boreas as their captain, getting fifteen soldiers who had spent most of their time mining swiftly volunteering.

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-ATERO-

-Terrorsaur-

IC: Terrorsaur (All); Flaredrick (All); Manducus (All);

 

If I’m going to die, there’s no better place for me than here, Terrorsaur thought, unable to wrench himself for a few seconds from the shock of seeing Bone Hunters approach Atero.

 

But once he did, he ran to Flaredrick. “There are Bone Hunters coming for Atero. I’m going to try and gather my people. Will you do the same for yours?”  he asked, a hint of desperation within his voice.

 

“I shall rally the might of Vulcanus! No one shall breach these walls while the tribes are gathered here united!” Flaredrick proclaimed, proudly and with no fear. He rushed to Manducus - who seemed a bit dazed by it all. “We will need to delay our fight. Gather your men! Bone Hunters dare besiege the walls of Atero!”

 

Terrorsaur, and Flaredrick, began to gather as much Agori as they could of their respective tribes, among those willing to fight. According to their count, they had four hundred and thirty men total, with one hundred and sixty Fire Agori civilians, one hundred and twenty Water Agori civilians, alongside the fifty Fire Agori soldiers lent to them by Burnmad as an escort.

 

“Agori of Vulcanus! Agori of Tajun! And all Agori of Bara Magna! We are faced with an imminent threat, not only to our own wellbeing but to an important aspect of Bara Magnan society!” Terrorsaur bellowed, taking a quick glance at the approaching radiers. “I urge you, disregard your prejudices and biases for or against the other tribes of the land and let us stand together against these savages who would rip down everything we stand for! We must meet these Bone Hunters and teach them that Agori will not be beaten down by barbarians! That Agori will stand by their principles to the end! And that Agori will not be defeated by anyone but other Agori! After all, what is the Arena Magna but a place to show who is the strongest?!”

 

The crowd - no, makeshift army, cheered, poising themselves for battle, and just in time, for as Terrorsaur looked out into the sands of Bara Magna, he could see the Bone Hunters beginning to arrive, already firing their thornax into what little huts populated Atero.

 

“If anyone has a thornax, now is the time to use it! No doubt they are more prepared for a battle than us, so aim for those hunters with launchers before they can get too many shots off. Stay behind the rest of us, we’ll hold back the close range fighters.” As Terrorsaur spoke, he drew his own weapon, and felt a rift inside himself - he knew it could not fall to the Bone Hunters. But at the same time, it was his duty to defend Atero with his life. He was part of Atero’s Fellowship, a secret group dedicated to the defense of Atero, formerly headed by the Fire Agori Raanu with the Iron Agori Luroka, Ice Agori Toru, and himself as members.

 

He could see - and hear - the first Bone Hunters cross the threshold into Atero proper, and yet… they immediately ignored him, running past him and with the apparent intention of destroying the huts entirely. He found it curious, as huts could be rebuilt, and was thankful his army wasn’t run down in an instant. He could already hear the screams as most non-fighting civilian Agori ran into the Arena Magna for protection. He knew he couldn’t have noncombatants running around in the middle of the raid. “Anyone who doesn’t plan on fighting, leave now!”

 

He commanded to his makeshift army; “I say again, if you’ve got a thornax, I recommend using it while they’re not focused on us. Aim right where the Hunter is mounted, it’ll harm both beast and rider.”

 

As his army loaded what little thornax they had into the fewer launchers they had, he saw a Rock Steed run into a hut, knocking it down, the Bone Hunter upon the steed looking for something. He saw a Water Agori try to run out of Atero, only to be struck down by a Bone Hunter coming into Atero, laughing about it. His makeshift army fired their launches, trying to aim it at the hunters and steeds.

Many missed, and even the successful hits were not in the right places: a Bone Hunter with an exploded leg, a Rock Steed with an injured arm. The downside of a makeshift army was apparent - many were not trained to use thornax launchers like soldiers were. Though, the Fire Agori soldiers that had accompanied him did manage to hit the right targets - one sent off their steed, another recoiling to the side. The third Bone Hunter turned to him, beginning to charge in a pained, primal rage.

 

“Incoming! Everyone out of the way! Split up!” he commanded, as he run out of the way as did most of his army. He hard one of his Fire Agori soldiers yell that the army needed a lot more spears as they grazed the Rock Steed with their sword. The Rock Steed then fell over, blood stripping out from a few spear wounds, one straight to its heart. The rider jumped off, but shattered their legs due to the thornax impact earlier. His army wasted no time in dispatching of the crippled hunter.

 

And, Terrorsaur found that thornax were beginning to fly over his head - from both within Atero and out. A new plan appeared in his head - he could use the thornax to his army’s advantage. “Everyone with a thornax launcher, scatter. Get the steeds to chase you. The rest of us will slice at their legs as they run by. And if they get too close to you, jump out of the way or shoot at them.” He thought that spreading his forces thin was the only way to win - if he grouped everyone together, they might kill a hunter or two before being ran down.

 

His forces spread thin as commanded, the few with thornax launchers scattering away to try and get the attention of Bone Hunters, while most overhead thornax missed, colliding into some hunters, killing two and injuring a third while their Rock Steeds remained unharmed.

 

A Fire Agori, the same from earlier, added that their location was Atero, and thus there should be two armories full of weapons intended for use by Glatorian in arena matches somewhere. Terrorsaur’s mind, however, was more distracted by a particular Bone Hunter and Rock Steed riding toward him, both wrapped entirely in cloth, and instead of the usual sword they appeared to have a flail. He spoke quickly, eyeing what he presumed to be the leader of the Bone Hunters. “See if you can find these armories. If you do, get our men armed one at a time. We can’t have a big group crowded in their all at once. They’ll be run down. Go!” He ordered, as he turned to face the Hunter fully as two detachments of four Fire Agori went off in search of the armories.

 

He saw the presumed leader of the Bone Hunters charge forward into a few Agori, striking a few with their ‘flail’ - which he saw was, in reality, a shard of metal attached to a chain, somehow. As it struck two Agori, they instantly withered away into dust. He’d seen this happen before, but not to an Agori. But to Zesk. He looked around desperately for a thornax launcher, or a soldier wielding one - he needed to disable the flail.

 

After a few long seconds, he grabbed a thornax launcher from one of his soldiers, while he saw an Agori wielding a thornax launcher run past him, chased by a Rock Steed, as he had intended. He saw the cloth-covered Bone Hunter turn their attention to him. “Water-dweller! You soon die!”

 

“Soon isn’t soon enough!” Terrorsaur yelled back, taking aim and firing his thornax launcher, hoping he could land a shot on the chest of the Bone Hunter like he did on the thing outside Tajun. The Bone Hunter had been knocked off the Rock Steed, falling to the ground but still alive and slightly wounded while a Fire Agori found themselves touched by the flail, turning to dust.

 

His army, upon seeing the strange magic of the flail weaponised, was quickly losing morale. How could they fight a weapon that could instantly kill whatever it touches? And he was not doing much better - he had a headache, between the screams from Atero, the stomping sounds of Rock Steeds, and the explosions of thornax.

 

He took a deep breath, and another. All he needed to was stop the cloth-covered hunter and they wouldn’t need to worry about the shard-flail.

 

He desperately searched around for another thornax, only to find none.

 

The injured, cloth-covered Bone Hunter started to approach him, striking a few Agori for laughts. Terrorsaur felt a strange tingling through his satchel.

 

His makeshift army was not holding up well, though it appeared a detachment of Fire Agori had returned with as much weapons as they could carry while they could still run- mostly spears and other weapons good against cavalry, and is quickly trying to disperse them among the army. It wasn’t much, but it might be the boost his army needed. Terrorsaur made a desperate run toward the Fire Agori -he needed a spear. He couldn’t get close enough to use his sword without chances of withering away. Yet he almost fumbled before grabbing a spear, then turned to the cloth-covered hunter again.

 

He noticed that they were frighteningly close to him, most Agori trying to give them a wide berth. “You ready-die, Water-dweller?” they spoke, mockingly, while he heard the sound of a Rock Steed trampling over seven Agori behind him while the strange tingling in his satchel got stronger.  He took several steps back.

 

“Probably not. But I doubt you’re going to give me a choice.” Terrorsaur responded, clenching his fist around the spear and taking aim, throwing with all his might to hit the Bone Hunter in their centre.

 

The spear flew straight into the Bone Hunter, sending them stumbling back in both pain and surprise as the spear pierced straight through one of their lungs. “You… fight good, Water-dweller…”

 

The problem was, that, even if indisposed, they were now shouting, or screeching. Terrorsaur couldn’t tell - it definitely wasn’t a sound Agori were capable of making, and it was a noise that filled him with dread.

 

Because while before the Bone Hunters were raiding Atero and occasionally confronting his army, he’d just severely injured and just about killed the one with the priceless artifact they’d only recently gained. He could hear Bone Hunters almost instantly divert from raiding Atero and put most of their focus onto slowly killing most of his army as they tried to kill them in kind.  And then, the tingling feeling in his satchel was stronger than ever, the shard within dimly glowing through.

 

He looked around carefully, trying to get an idea of who had more troops and which way the battle was tipping, while keeping a wary eye on the downed cloth-covered hunter, waiting for them to die so that he could retrieve the shard. But between the sounds of Rock Steeds, battle, and the forces spread thin, he was having a hard time getting a clear idea of what was going on besides both sides having lost a few of their members.

 

He saw the speared hunter sputtering and coughing up blood on the ground, while hearing the worst banging he’d ever heard in his hand. No, not his head. Unnervingly close to him, then he heard the sound of a Rock Steed dying as a few of his soldiers wounded it with spears. He heard, and saw, the other detachment of Fire Agori return, now only three from their initial four - and then two as one of the Fire Agori found their head cleaved through by a Bone Hunter’s sword.

 

He stepped forward, placing his foot on the Bone Hunter’s arm to prevent them attacking in their final minutes, then put his hands on the spear through their body and drove it deeper into the hunter to finish the job, killing them instantly. “You fought good, mountain-dweller.” He said, with a weary smirk as he tried to wrest the flail from their clutch, picking up.

 

And then he saw the foot of a Rock Steed stomp down upon the dead bone Hunter’s legs. Around him, most of his army was preoccupied with fending off other Bone Hunters and Rock Steeds. He tensed up, ready to run if he had to, and put the flail to the test, adjusting it in his hands to ensure it was held properly, swinging it at the steed. It struck, and the Rock Steed withered into dust, the Bone Hunter atop it falling to the ground, surprised. “That our magic! You steal, no!” For what was perhaps the first time ever on Bara Magna, he heard fear in a Bone Hunter’s voice as the Bone Hunter tried to run.

 

“This is Atero! I won it in combat!” He yelled, opting not to chase the fleeing Hunter and checking for a shift in the tide of the battle.  From what he could tell, he’d lost one hundred and ten of his four hundred and thirty ‘soldiers’ - the consequences of most of them being civilians beginning to show, while the Bone Hunters… thirty-one remained, with thirty-four Rock Steeds.

 

And then he tried to check on Manducus.

 

The problem was, bits of the Glatorian were all around him, just barely recognisable as the being that had once been Manducus.

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-WILDERNESS-

-Luroka-

IC: Luroka (All); Toru (All); Timelord (All); Nato (After Awakening); Voltex (After Entrance); Stronius (After Entrance)

 

They moved through the desert, the peaks of the White Quartz Mountains and the Black Spike Mountains both in view. Nato and Toru were their prisoners, their leader Luroka. They were the Skrall, and their journey had slowed down upon seeing five Baranus Chariots on the horizon, their riders Jungle Agori. One, more than just a Jungle Agori - Timelord, leader of Tesara.

 

Luroka decided to try and leave them alone, hoping they would not interfere with him and his Skrall. He felt a great pain in both his body and mind, for he was quite wounded, and it didn’t help he was ignoring the insults of the captured Toru.

 

“Well, of course. The Skrall don’t fight unless the odds are massively in their favour, do they?” Toru spoke, giving an example of one such insult as a Skrall threatened to give him a deep cut with a blade.

 

Unfortunately for Luroka, the Jungle Agori decided they would interfere, firing their thornax launchers - one from each Baranus, hitting four of the Skrall and injuring them in various parts of their body. Perhaps because of this, or perhaps by coincidence, Nato awoke in an unnaturally cold sweat, his eyes looking even more unnatural.

 

“Pick up the pace, and defend yourselves from the thornax.” Luroka ordered, as the Skrall raised their shields and moved into a testudo formation around the Agori with what little Skrall they had, trying to block any further thornax and marching at a brisk pace, their own swords with built-in-thornax launchers poking through the gaps.

 

The Jungle Agori fired more thornax - five again, yet this time they missed or went straight into the Skrall’s shields. Then, four of the Jungle Agori’s baranus chariots charged forward, attempting to ram the Skrall. Without flinching, the Skrall fired their own thornax with precision rarely seen in Agori, two fired at each spikit pulling the four chariots. One chariot swerved to the side, its spikit losing a leg. Another spikit lost both of its heads, stopping it in its tracks as the chariot it was pulling collides with it. A third spikit tumbled on its side, pained but not dead, stopping the chariot it pulled. The fourth spikit  - not hit, but the chains connecting it to the chariot were, and it tried to flee. Four chariots, put out of commission. The ten guards upon them, not, although ten Agori guards should be no match for sixteen Skrall, or so the Skrall and Luroka thought.

 

“Jungle Agori. Stand down or be destroyed.” Luroka stated, regarding his opponents as a mere bump, as the group of Skrall came within hearing distance of the Jungle Agori.

 

“Guards - defend the last chariot.” Timelord commanded, his guards going into the same formation as the Skrall. “Why did you kidnap your allies? I could only assume that you are traitors to Tuma for doing so.” Timelord asked, misinterpreting Onaku’s presence - albeit perhaps an interpretation not entirely that far from the truth.

 

Before Luroka could answer, Nato lurched upward, attempting to gouge out the eyes of the Skrall holding him. But instead of the eyes, Nato found his fingers in the Skrall’s mouth, and yet the Skrall did not bite as Luroka bashed Nato in the face, causing him to fall out of the Skrall’s hold and giving him a concussion, but not knocking him unconscious. Though, Luroka himself did not feel entirely too good - he was light-headed, and his vision starting to blur, yet it seemed to blur more when he looked at Nato. Things got worse when an Iron Wolf suddenly appeared within the group, alerting Luroka that Voltex had apparently arrived nearby. “Skrall! Kill the beast! Bring me its pelt!” He yelled, in anger, watching as a Skrall slashed the side of the Iron Wolf as it whimpered in pain, then disappeared.

 

Perhaps bizarrely, given that Onaku had not attacked him, Luroka slashed wildly at Onaku with his shield, wounding Onaku across his right side, all the while Nato tried to punch Luroka in the face, missing by inches. And then he saw Onaku counter-attacking his wild slashing with a sword - the last thing he ever saw as he tried to parry, his head separated from his body. Toru did as Nato died, yet soon found he was punching a headless corpse.

 

And then the Skrall broke their formation, looking inward at the scene.”Traitor!” They yelled at Onaku, firing their thornax into the air - a call for back-up from Roxtus in the distance, while the Skrall who had formerly carried the wounded Luroka leapt toward Onaku, with the intent of giving him the same fate that had befallen Luroka - beheading him.

 

Onaku managed to block the Skrall, though after stumbling by trying to dodge and instinctively raising his shield, while another Skrall tried to get behind him. “You have acted against the Skrall and all of the Rock Tribe.” In the distance, while searching for words to say to the Skrall, Onaku saw Toru pick up the shield that briefly belonged to Luroka, and his helmet, then having a blade pointed at his back. Finally - he found the words he wanted to say. “Luroka attacked me during the commotion.” He said, turning to show the recent wound on his right side. “All I did was strike back. I am no more traitor than he was.” He also pointed out that Luroka had lost a lot of blood, and perhaps was acting in a strange haze, attacking him out of nowhere.  The two Skrall lowered their blades, turned around without responding and putting their eyes on the Jungle Agori. Onaku was relieved - for a few moments there, he thought he might have ended up like Luroka.

 

-Nato-

 

He saw an opening between the Skrall, a thornax having collided with one of the injured Skrall and exploding them into pieces. An opportunity to escape - and just in time, too, for he saw two Baranus on the horizon, their riders Skrall - one of which, an Elite Skrall. He also recognised the figure responsible for the opening in the distance - Voltex, on a Baranus. Despite his concussion, Nato decided to dash for the Baranus through the opening recently created, before he was restrained once more. Although, he had a Skrall chasing him.

 

Worse, one of the Skrall’s baranus was moving to intercept him. And even though he was running away, he could hear the booming voice of the Elite Skrall - apparently named Stronius - as Stronius addressed the Skrall.

 

“Report on the situation leading up to this point. Quickly.”

 

Nato saw Voltex urging his Baranus forward, seemingly intending to retrieve him as he saw Voltex arm his thornax launcher. He dashed to the Baranus with extra speed upon hearing the heavy footfalls of a Skrall behind him, trying to clamber up onto it but losing his grip and unable to focus thanks to his concussion. It did not help that he could still hear Stronius.

 

“Put the prisoner and the Agori alongside the injured three of you whelps. Take them to Roxtus, and inform them that the Mighty Tuma that Iconox and Tesara have begun to act aggressively and contrary to Skrall interests. Do not fail.” Nato looked back while Stronius spoke, realising Toru was still a prisoner. “This mess, I will sort it out… We are warriors. We are Skrall. We fight. We win. We do not lose. We kill those who oppose us. Henceforth, your orders are to exterminate all assailants, priority given to the leader of Tesara. The Mighty Leader Tuma’s favour will henceforth fall upon the Skrall who brings him their head!” He saw the Skrall begin marching toward the Jungle Agori, their morale frighteningly high and their posture imposing. Under Luroka, they had seemed like his personal thugs. Under Stronius… they inspired dread in those who saw them.

 

Taking his mind off the Skrall, Nato tried to climb upon the Baranus once more, hoping that Voltex would help haul him on board. He found that Voltex did - by reaching out with his arm, while seeing him kill the Skrall once chasing him, now attacking the chariot with a thornax. He managed to climb up upon the Baranus incredibly quickly with the help, despite his concussion, and overheard Timelord, who was on another Baranus surrounded by ten guards.

 

“Voltex, we need to go Gatherer’s Ridge. I have an army’s worth of reinforcements there. They will have better medical supplies to aid your pet and Nato.” Before Voltex or Nato could respond, Timelord and his guards were already leaving - pursued by possibly the most relentless Skrall in all of Bara Magna. It did not help they saw Timelord fire a parting shot at Stronius, which did not seem to do much but tear off his massive right pauldron.

 

Finally on the Baranus completely, he looked around and wheezed, eyeing an injured Iron Wolf with its wounds bandaged.  “Thanks for the rescue.” Nato said thankfully, tumbling into the back of the Baranus.

 

Where do we go from here? Following Timelord is inadvisable - he’s just drawn the ire of the Skrall. Tajun is possible, but Luroka was involved in negotiations there, so their promise of asylum… might not be one to trust. Returning to Iconox might not be advisable until I know the outcome of the battle… not to mention, Voltex and his… wolf? Clearly, Nato had a lot of catching up to do.

 

With Tajun and Iconox uncertain, Nato determined that Atero was the best option - even if the Skrall already had a presence there, to his knowledge, but it was neutral territory, and he found there to be irony in returning to the place Tuma had once asked him to change. “Take us to Atero.” He suggested to Voltex, turning to look behind for pursuers. “Please.”

 

He did not see any pursuers, but he did see Toru, Onaku, two Rock Agori, and three injured Skrall cramped in a Baranus, heading for Roxtus. He hoped Toru would find a way to escape.

 

But even with that hope, a feeling of dread could not escape him.

 

A feeling of dread that this altercation, this event he’d just been a part of, signified that the Skrall would soon drop all their pretences of diplomacy and offers.

 

A feeling that the Skrall would soon declare overt war against one of the tribes of Bara Magna.

 

Because now, it was not an if.

 

It was a when.

 

And that when looked to be very, very soon.

 

END OF EPISODE SIX!

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