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-ROXTUS-

-Onaku-

IC: Onaku (All); Pahrak (All); ShadowVezon (All); Toru (All); Tuma (All)

 

He felt a drop of sweat run down his forehead as he saw Tuma order Pahrak to deliver a message to Vulcanus. Recently, he’d been part of an incident between the White Quartz and Black Spike Mountains, which had ended with Luroka’s death, Nato’s escape, and several Skrall chasing after the leader of Tesara. Now, news of this had reached Tuma - and Tuma was not happy. Onaku had been called into his chamber, as had Pahrak and ShadowVezon, as well a the one prisoner that did not escape - Toru.

 

Just then, Tuma stomped over to Toru. “He is not the one I asked for. I am very disappointed in the Iron Agori. Very, very disappointed.” It was clear he was referring to Luroka - and his less-than-stellar handling of the Skrall given to him. “Perhaps this one could be useful, however, even if he is not the one that tore down so much of Smoke Monster’s work. How loyal are you to Iconox, Agori?” He asked Toru a question, but it was clear it was a rhetorical one. Toru tried to hold back a scowl.

 

“I am moreso disappointed in Timelord and the tribe he leads. One should know better than to attack the Skrall. The leader of a tribe, surrounded by his own tribes… surely you all know what this is equivalent to?” Tuma’s voice slowly increased in anger.

 

“War.” Onaku said, simple, direct, to the point, and certainly what Tuma was talking about, for better or for worse - Onaku had become familiar with Tuma’s attitude to such things.

 

“War.” Tuma echoed. “A tribe’s leader, attacking a Skrall, is tantamount to war. Before we settle this…” Tuma handed Pahrak a small package, intended alongside a message. “Do not open the package, Agori, regardless of how it smells. You will go to Vulcanus and present it to their current leader.”

 

Tuma proceeded to walk outside of his chamber, expecting the various Agori to follow. “We have given Tesara every opportunity. Now, they have given their answer. It is time to make an announcement regarding our future, and theirs.” All present heard a horn blow, and the Skrall gathering as they followed Tuma outside. Pahrak, in particular, wondered how it had come to this.

 

Tuma began to speak, addressing all of Roxtus.

 

“A while ago, we of Roxtus extended toward Tesara a most kind and merciful offer, an offer for us to protect them, an offer not unlike the one the Ice Agori have desecrated. But this is not about the Ice Agori, nor is it about Iconox.

 

This is about Tesara, and the Jungle Tribe. We offered them our mercy, our diplomatic side, to much frustration from many of you. ‘Why wait when we could simply take it by force’? Because we are warriors, but we are not unintelligent warriors. Any direct aggression and we would have drawn the ire of the other tribes. Any direct aggression, and they would be justified in standing against us. Any direct aggression, and we would have to exterminate the Agori populace.

 

Tesara, however, has spat on our mercy, our diplomatic side. Its leader has attacked a Skrall. We gave them an offer - and they have given their answer: instead of a simple yes, or a simple no, they have done what is tantamount to the very thing many of you relish.

 

Today, we drop the pretense, of being diplomatic, of being merciful, of being patient. Today, we become the warriors we were. The warriors we are.

 

Today, we exact retribution upon Tesara’s insult.

 

Today, we show Tesara the true meaning of the Skrall Empire.

 

Today, we march to Tesara, led by the Mighty Tuma.

 

Today, the Skrall go to war. Those of us formerly in Iconox will regroup with us on the way there.

 

WE FIGHT.

 

WE WIN.

 

WE ARE SKRALL!”

 

The crowd of Skrall yelled out “We Fight. We Win. We are Skrall!” with Tuma, echoing throughout Roxtus. And then, all of Roxtus shuddered.

 

Tuma, finished, then turned to the Agori with him. “Diplomat,  you may leave for Vulcanus. ShadowVezon, you are given full command in the absence of myself and the entirety of the Skrall. General, you may remain here to guard Roxtus in our absence and store the prisoner somewhere, or you may accompany us and witness the full might of the Skrall.”

 

Pahrak nodded silently, and took his leave.

 

“I will stay and guard Roxtus while you march on Tesara, great leader. If I may ask, what forces will be left to guard our home?” Onaku asked, wondering who would protect Roxtus if every Skrall was leaving to fight at Tesara.

 

“Your Rock Agori. Do not let me down. I do not expect anything so flagrant as an attack on our home… not from the south.”

 

Tuma then left, and took his position at the front of the Skrall army, marching it toward Tesara.

 

Onaku just happened to wonder if Tuma had just made a mistake, putting him in charge of defense. After all, Tuma hadn’t done much to inspire his confidence in him recently.

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-WILDERNESS-

-Nato-

IC: Nato (All); Voltex (All)

 

He clutched his head, still suffering the effects of his unwelcome concussion, lying in the back of the Baranus Chariot besies the Iron Wolf apparently named Ehrye, and began to recount to Voltex what had happened his they had parted ways at Atero.

 

He told him of his dismal attempt to turn the people of Iconox against the Skrall, and the events of the Civil War that followed, especially in regards to Luroka’s presence, as well as the orders he had to take Nato alive. He did not forgot to mention that some of the Rock Agori stood against the Skrall, and that some of the Skrall stood with Onaku against Luroka.

 

With some reluctance, he then delved into the torrid tale of his twisted dream. First, the vision of Iconox’s eradication, with only the grizzled, aged Glatorian and his wolves remaining awake among mass graves. Then, the mysterious one-armed Agori beneath Tajun, and the way the entire village was wiped out the moment she reforged the mask shards. Next, the fate of Tesara - one half of the village already burned down, the other ultimately succumbing to the Skrall. After, the passive annihilation of Vulcanus by the Skrall, and the destruction of Atero at the hands of the Dreamseekers.

 

Then, he hesitated, unsure of how much more he should tell. He eventually decided to mention Luroka’s intention to betray the Skrall, the way he managed to strike down Tuma with a single blow to the back, and the tragic fate of Sahmad, killed in battle by Tuma himself. His ghost, or soul, trapped in a dream world that was created by the same creature that had wiped out his tribe aeons ago. For now, he decided not to mention the ‘conversation’ he had with the creature, or the deal he had made with it. He didn’t have many friends left, and he had little doubt Voltex would leave him to die in the desert if he told him he’d allied with the monster that exterminated his people.

 

Voltex, in turn, recounted his own tale, though there was less information to share and less to speak of. He told Nato of how he recovered one shard outside Atero, and found a second in the mountains north of Iconox, where he had met Surel and his Wolves - though it seemed Nato had dreamed of them - and how he made his way toward Roxtus to save him.

“We must find the other shards. This quest, in my mind, to gather them…” He paused, and petted Ehrye on the head, still recovering from their wounds. “Aside from you and Ehrye here, it is all I have left. Any who stand in my way shall perish, if they cannot kill me first.” He still had a question to ask Nato - the strange, possibly prophetic dream ringed of a deadly and familiar tone, for he still remembered the dreaming plague. “How did you awaken from that dream? You speak of it as if it might foretell what is to come, as though you spoke to Sahmad himself and truly discovered Tuma’s weakness. But one would not simply awaken from a dream like that. No… either it was a fever dream, and we can rely on nothing, or there is another power at play here.” Voltex was not certain he wanted to know the answer - if whatever was responsible for the dreaming plague had returned, then all of Bara Magna was doomed. And if it had its claws in Nato, then he might just give up entirely.

 

“I spoke with the… entity… in the dream. It wanted my help. It wants Tuma defeated as badly as we do. So… I did what I always do.” Nato broke off, shuffling away from Ehrye and ready to jump out of the Baranus should Voltex react violently. “I made a deal.”

 

Something inside Voltex broke. Nato was edging away from Ehrye, and was speaking carefully - more than enough to fill in the blanks. Sahmad was dead, Luroka was a traitor; those he worked with now under suspicion. Now Nato, serving for - or working with - whatever killed his tribe so long ago.

 

He should be angry, or furious. But instead, he just felt empty inside. His mind drifted back to Surel, living in isolation with his wolves. He had felt a sense of kinship toward him he had not felt in a long time. He had lost his home - like Voltex - but unlike Voltex, he had lost everyone and everything.

 

Perhaps Voltex was there too, now. His closest brothers had either betrayed him or been murdered, and his closest remaining ally and friend now worked for whatever had rained down ruin upon his tribe long ago. All he had left was Ehrye and the shards. He sighed, and thought about not bothering with gathering the shards, to abandon Bara Magna and let it burn, and perhaps journey north.

 

Even still… it did not feel right to give in so easily to despair. Perhaps he could gather the shards, perhaps it was worth it to continue helping Nato. Besides, he did owe that Jungle Agori, without who he would not have been able to escape the Skrall. Somewhere, he did have an ally, if he wasn’t already dead, even if they barely knew each other.

 

“Tell me about this deal, then.” He said, eyeing the horizon wearily. “What advantages have you gained, in exchange for your eventual doom?”

 

“I haven’t gained anything!” Nato snapped back, frustrated. “That creature sought me out, asked for my help. I could’ve demanded anything in return, but all I asked it to do was leave the remaining Iron Agori alone and set Sahmad’s spirit free from that dream.”

 

Voltex shrugged. “Thank you, then, assuming it can be trusted to keep its word.”

 

Voltex fell silent, contemplating the shards, and going over what each has done so far. Of the shard he found in the mountains, he had a few thoughts, though he was worried about testing them. But,  there would be time to properly test them after Atero.

 

“Voltex, the things I saw in that dream… Sahmad said they were based on people’s hopes, and fears.” Unnerved by the growing silence, Nato spoke up again. “In the vision, Tajun was completely wiped out when the shards were forged together into a mask. Which means either that someone is afraid that the mask will kill a whole lot of innocent people, or they hope it will. So, whatever it is you’re planning to do with those shards… just be careful.”

 

Voltex glanced down at Nato. The emptiness continued to spread through him, though Nato’s words had lit a spark, a dark fire within him. Vengeance. “This desert has taken everything from me.” Voltex spoke, so cold he almost sounded alien. “The Skrall most recently, but every village has done their fair share.” He turned away from Nato. “Perhaps Bara Magna should learn what it feels like to to have everything you’ve ever known and loved burn. Let’s unite these shards then, Nato, and the Skrall can be our test subjects.”

 

“You can test it on Iconox, for all I care. As long as this ends with Tuma dead, the means don’t matter to me anymore. If my tribe can’t rule Bara Magna, then I want to make sure the Skrall can’t, either.” Nato suggested, still somewhat nervous.

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-TAJUN-

-Jed-

IC: Jed (All)

 

He was trying to interview the now-healed Fire Agori and Water Agori from the incident outside Tajun a while ago, when he began to hear screams from the streets of Tajun. Not again, he thought to himself, and this time there wasn’t Manducus, Terrorsaur, or Underscore to help - just him, alone in Tajun.

 

As he made his way through the streets of Tajun to the source of the screams, his mood shifted, as a feeling of intense dread overcame him as he witnessed a group of five Bone Hunters charge through the streets, stopping to check - and destroy - huts every so often. Tajun’s military, unfortunately, responded ever too late, for the roofs of a few huts were not the only thing that dropped to the ground that hour - Jed’s head did, too.

 

In response, the military of Tajun, disorganised, ordered a force of 75 Soldiers to leave Tajun, and seek out Terrorsaur to bring him back as soon as possible, taking the Kaxium V3, two Thornatus, and two Baranus Chariots with them.

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-VULCANUS-

-Burnmad-

IC: Burnmad (All); Pahrak (After Entrance); Ionia (Before Exit); Underscore (Before Death)

 

The Great Being broke the long and awkward silence that had occurred after all eyes had fell on Underscore - and had noticed his face was blank. Not just devoid of any notable emotion, but almost devoid of awareness. “Is he okay?” the Great Being asked.

 

As if to give an answer, Underscore’s limbs suddenly started having spasms, as he fell out of his chair and lay on the floor, writhing, until all life left his body. The Great Being, her name apparently Ionia, was quick to clarify that it had nothing to do with her.

 

“Take the Thornatus.” Burnmad spoke, displeased at the corpse now in his hut.

 

“Thank you, sir…?” Before Burnmad could give his name, Ionia had already rushed off.

 

Burnmad had a feeling the strange Iron Agori and apparent Great Being, would not be the last visitor Vulcanus would have that day. His feeling was confirmed when soon after the Great Being had left, Pahrak of Roxtus entered Roxtus - apparently, with a package specifically for him.

 

He admitted Pahrak into his hut, ready to hear whatever Pahrak would have to say to him - no doubt relating to the Skrall.

 

Pahrak bowed, respectfully. “Please forgive the intrusion, esteemed leader of the Fire Tribe. The Mighty Tuma has ordered me to deliver this package to you.” He held the box forward, bowing as he did so, still unaware of its contents.

 

Burnmad motioned with his hands, and a guard stepped forward to receive and open the package. His expression did not shift, but behind it it was quite clear there was a rising anger, and a rage awoken, and a slight gasp.

 

Within the package, was the following letter:

 

A Suggestion For Vulcanus

 

In the coming days, weeks, and months, Bara Magna will change to our whims and demands. It will inevitably be bloody. But you, Agori of Vulcanus, should know that it does not have to be bloodier. You can act against us - and we will come to crush you, as we now do to Tesara, covering your village in the blood of its inhabitants.

 

Or, you can continue to watch from the sidelines, and when we eventually come, you will welcome us, and we will peacefully integrate you into the Empire of the Skrall.

 

Should you choose to act against us, simply look behind this message for a warning.

 

The letter itself was not the source of anger and rage, but what was beneath it: something lumpy. Something that smelled terrible. Something that definitely was not a thornax. Something that turned out to be the severed head of Vulcanus’ former leader: Raanu.

 

As Burnmad saw the severed head, two guards stepped in front of the hut’s exit, while two more stepped forward to grab Pahrak, who did not resist, simply thinking about what he was expecting.

 

“Find whether this Rock Agori arrived with an escort,” ordered the leader of Vulcanus, as the hut grew increasingly hectic, “And if he did, seize them as well. Take them by surprise, if you can, and put down any who will not submit to capture.” A guard left the hut to gather a force and accomplish the task given, while Burnmad pointed to another guard. “Announce to all who will hear it that I will an announcement in one hour’s time. Have them gather as many of their neighbours as they can, in the meantime.” The guard left, also carrying out the task given.

 

The hut grew calmer as a few of the guards left, while Burnmad turned to Pahrak, his rage only thinly concealed. “Were you aware of the contents of the package?” He would not likely believe a ‘no’ - severed heads stink.

 

Pahrak looked Burnmad in the eye. “I was not told what was inside the package, nor did I open it at any time. I had some suspicions, but… I wanted to be wrong.” He had hoped it was simply a particularly revolting thornax stew - but that had proven to not be the case. Glancing at the door, he spoke, with a slight delay, “Your guards don’t need to fret, I came alone.”

 

Nonetheless, Burnmad did not order his guards back, wary of the possibility that Pahrak might be lying - though if he was, it would be unwise, to say the least. “You came all the way from Roxtus, alone?” Burnmad asked, with slight disbelief.

 

“That is correct, yes.”

 

Burnmad, hearing this, took those in his hut outside, throwing Pahrak in prison under heavy guard - if he was lying and if he came with others, they were to be captured alive and executed before the crowd,  and began to speak. He would not let the diplomatic insult, or threat, stand.

 

And after an hour had passed, Vulcanus had declared war against Roxtus. He had ordered two-hundred of Vulcanus’ soldiers to be sent to Tesara, and fifty more to be sent to Iconox to support them and help re-establish their own army, with the remainder to stay to guard Vulcanus.

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-ATERO-

-Voltex-

IC: Terrorsaur (All); Flaredrick (All); Voltex (All); Nato (All); Ionia (All)

 

Voltex halted their Baranus as they took in the sight before them: Bone Hunters, raiding Atero, fighting against a makeshift army of civilians and soldiers alike, and neither gaining an advantage over the other, or so it looked at first glance.

 

“What do you think? Should we risk it?” Voltex asked, unsure if they should continue into Atero given its current predicament.

 

“Bone Hunters attacking Atero… just like in the dream.” Nato mumbled to himself. He hadn’t been sure before - not completely. Even after speaking with Sahmad’s ghost, and hearing Voltex mention meeting Surel, there was still a part of him that wondered if the whole vision had been one extremely vivid, extremely strange fever dream.

 

Now, seeing Atero, there was no denying it. The dream was real.

 

“If the Bone Hunters win here, nowhere is safe. They have to be stopped.” As Nato spoke, he realised he did not have his sword with him - likely, it was where Luroka had knocked him out on the cliff. “Try circling around. Perhaps there’s a direction we can enter the city from without having to get caught up immediately in the fighting.”

 

As Voltex circled around Atero at Nato’s suggestion, he observed a Water Agori, who was facing down a tailless Rock Steed charging at himself. Most interestingly, this Water Agori had a strange flail-like weapon, utilising it to hit the Rock Steed as he dodged out of its way, resulting in the Rock Steed visibly aging by the second. Voltex knew what the flail was instantly - there was no denying that such a thing was the work of the shards, weaponised.

 

Directing his Baranus toward the Water Agori, trying to take a route to avoid contact with Bone Hunters, he stated to Nato,“That Water Agori has one of the shards. Should we…”

 

Nato cut him off. “In my vision, the shards were brought together in Tajun, and killed everyone there.” He allowed himself a sly smile. “For their own safety, I think it would be best if we relieved the Water Agori of their shard.”

 

The Baranus approached the Water Agori, desperately trying to avoid the Bone Hunters. As they did, they noticed a strange glow from the Water Agori’s satchel, as well as Voltex feeling a faint tingling from the two shards he possessed. “Greetings,” spoke Voltex. “Couldn’t help but notice you’re in a spot of trouble here. I’m afraid we might not be much help - my companion here is suffering a concussion, and I myself am injured… but your weapon drew my attention.”

 

The Water Agori - Terrorsaur, turned to the newcomers, speaking as quickly as possible. “Oh? Yes. It is rather… alluring. Can I help you?”

 

“You’ve collected some of them, haven’t you? The fragments from the sky.”

 

“I have. I assume you have as well?” Terrorsaur asked in response, again quickly while peeking around for any approaching Bone Hunters.

 

Voltex scowled, and nodded. “Yes, though it ended up costing my closest friend his life.”

 

Terrorsaur frowned, and lowered his head. “My condolences for your loss… Is there any way I can immediately help you? We’re sort of busy down here.” Terrorsaur stated, dryly.

 

“Truthfully, my companion and I are hoping to gather all of the shards. We uncovered some information that implied of their destructive power if reunited and then forged together. We intend to destroy Tuma and the Skrall in a single stroke if we can.” Voltex took a gamble - mentioning the plans to destroy the Skrall would hopefully pay off, even as he glanced around the battlefield and winced. “I don’t think we’re in any shape to help you with this battle… but perhaps I could exchange you the location of a safe haven in the event that the Skrall are victorious and you must flee.”

 

“The Skrall? They’re a suspicious lot, that’s for sure. Have they done something horrible I haven’t heard about?” Terrorsaur took another look at Voltex, and had an epiphany. “Oh! You’re an Iron Agori, right? I talked to Luroka a while ago, he said your tribe was looking for refuge. That have something to do with it?”

 

Voltex froze, and when he spoke, his voice was cold. “You negotiated with Luroka? That was you?” He could see it now, Luroka’s plan - ally with Tajun, and send this Water Agori off to find shards for him. Then, send Voltex off while he allied himself under Tuma, with three or four shards already his, and by extension, the Skrall’s - though Voltex was not aware that Terrorsaur had already discovered one shard before he had even met Luroka, or that the second had been in the possession of Bone Hunters until recently.

 

Voltex drew his sword. “I give you one chance to survive, Agori, before I strike you down for allying with that disgusting, murdering, backstabbing excuse for a brother. Give me the shards, and allow me to complete my mission. Allow me to avenge Iconox and Tesara, and strike down the Skrall… or die.”

 

“Woah, woah, woah!” Terrorsaur exclaimed as he took a step back. “What do you mean, ‘backstabber’? I think we’re misunderstanding each other...” Terrorsaur gripped his flail tightly, astounded that someone would threaten him while we wielded such a weapon. “Luroka came to visit Tajun. He and I only exchanged a few words, his main audience was my commander, Jed. That was the last I heard from him.” Terrorsaur purposely neglected to mention that he, along with Toru of the Ice Tribe, was a member of Atero’s Fellowship alongside Luroka.

 

Voltex glared at him, knowing he was hiding something even if Terrorsaur mostly sounded truthful.

 

“Luroka is dead.” Nato spoke up. “Along with a good dozen of Skrall. Iconox is in the middle of a civil war. The leader of Tesara is being hunted by Stronius. Things are looking dire for all of Bara Magna right now. If the Skrall or Bone Hunters got their hands on these shards…” Nato did not bother to finish. Given the battle around the agori, Nato was certain Terrorsaur could infer the point he was making.

 

“Yes, it certainly would be bad.” Even as he spoke, Terrorsaur could feel the blow of Luroka’s death setting in, unaware of the circumstances leading to Luroka’s death. “I got this flail from the Hunters, in fact…” Terrorsaur shifted on his feet. “What happened to Luroka?” Terrorsaur thought - were they with some other faction? They’re against the Skrall and Bone Hunters, but the Iron Agori thinks Luroka was a traitor.

 

Voltex was quick to speak, his voice still cold. “He betrayed us to the Skrall.” Voltex was growing impatient with words, but held back the urge to strike for the time being. “Do not act like you know nothing. He delivered my closest friend to Tuma personally, and then led the Skrall in an assault on Iconox, hoping to kill me and capture Nato here. Luckily, he was not our only ally, and he soon lost his head for treachery.”

 

“Tuma still wants me alive, as far as I know. I’m hoping to there might be a way  we can use that to our advantage, but first…” Nato warily glanced at the flail, “...we need a way to kill him.”

 

Terrorsaur felt the wind knocked out of him. Luroka? A traitor? He must be lying… no, why would he lie? I was the one who brought up Luroka, not him… And he clearly doesn’t know me, anyway, so there’s no way he could be manipulating me… it must be true. My close associate… turned to the Skrall.

 

The Skrall.

 

Terrorsaur’s grip on the flail loosened. “I think we have reached an understanding.” Terrorsaur closed his eyes, taking a deep breath. “If Luroka betrayed you for the Skrall… then he betrayed me as well. I hold no hostility for you.”

 

Terroraur’s grip had loosened - but Voltex’s had not, though he did sheathe his sword. Voltex thought, If he is willing to peacefully hand over the shards, then I will take them.

 

“The shards, then. Give them to us, so that we can strike Tuma down, and prove your honest intentions… and I will honour my own offer, of a safe haven.” Of course, whether Terrorsaur could make it to Surel, or if Surel would accept Terrorsaur, was another matter, ignoring the possibility that Terrorsaur might die before even leaving Atero, but with the state of Nato, Ehrye and himself, it would be best for Voltex to not let his emotions  get the best of him quite yet.

 

Terrorsaur reached for his satchel - the shard within, he no longer had a use for, and better off in Voltex’s hands, especially if Voltex had collected other shards. He unhooked the satchel, stepping closer to the Baranus, and handed it to the Iron Agori.

 

Voltex double checked to make sure his own hand was wrapped, before taking the shard and dropping it into his own bag. “And the flail. Or, at the very least, the shard it holds.”

 

Terrorsaur hesitated. “Well… first… can I ask a favour of you?”

 

Voltex fought the urge to sneer, his anger boiling beneath the surface. “You’re free to ask.”

 

“All I ask is that you inform anyone you may come across of what is happening here.” Terrorsaur’s face darkened. “And if you come across a Bone Hunter on your way out of Atero, or anywhere else your travels… Ask them about Raanu for me.”

 

This was not the request Voltex was expecting. “Easily done.”

 

Nor was it the request Nato was expecting, and to him, somewhat perplexing too, though he nodded in agreement.

 

“Than you, then.” Terrorsaur held the flail for a moment later, then passed it to Voltex. “I wish you all the best of luck in your mission.” They had their job, and Terrorsaur had his. His was harder now, but he had made theirs achievable. They needed all the shards. “And if this all goes down the way you’re hoping, and you still need a home, head to Tajun and tell them that Terrorsaur wants you in.” Terrorsaur saluted the two Agori.

 

Though the two Agori would not so easily leave Atero, as they soon found out - a Baranus tends to stick out like a sore thumb, and as they urged the spikit to leave Atero, soon found that the spikit was panicking, thrashing about trying to avoid the thornax now being fired at it - the last thing it did as one of its heads exploded into a fleshy pulp, its legs crippled and its innards now spilling out onto the floor of Atero. Their Baranus, as a direct result, collided into the dead spikit, flipping over to the side, sending Voltex, Nato, and Ehrye tumbling out. As if to add insult to injury, the bag of shards tumbled just out of their reach, the Bone Hunters knowing full well what was inside it, having observed their conversation.

 

Nato scrambled toward the bag, his concussion receding. As he did, he saw the shards glow through the bag as Voltex picked it up.   Y O U   A R E   W A T C H E D   B Y   T H E   F I F T H .

 

Voltex stepped over to the bag, drawing his sword, picking the bag up

 

Terrorsaur, seeing this, searched around for a new weapon, and discovered a three-pronged spear on the floor, similar to one a Glatorian of Tajun once used - perhaps it had been Manducus’.

 

And then, they found that that they were being charged by six Bone Hunters, on six Rock Steeds, as the part of the walls of the Arena Magna crumbled behind them, a sizeable force upon it almost falling entirely as Bone Hunters fired thornax at a crack in retaliation for one of their own killed by another thornax.

 

Where’s the fifth shard? Nato thought, hoping to gain an answer, while Ehrye started growling in a particular direction.

 

And in the distance that Nato was now looking, Voltex saw a Thornatus, parked as if it were watching the three of them. Well, if that isn’t suspicious, I don’t know what is.

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-ROXTUS-

-Toru-

IC: Toru (All)

 

Earlier, he had been captured by the Skrall. Now, he was a prisoner. Once he had reached Roxtus, he had been taken by a Rock Agori and thrown into a hut, apparently a prison.

 

He looked around, and noted a living Water Agori in the hut with him, alongside the decomposing corpse of a headless Fire Agori, several bite marks visible. He winced.  

He turned around, and knocked the walls of the hut. He determined that the hut was made out of exsidian - he would know, being an Ice Agori

 

He turned to the Water Agori. “Hello, my good man. What did they put you in for?”
 

“Ah, I overheard a conversation I shouldn’t have, well, I didn’t really overhear, I just happened to be there, I didn’t intend to, but you know how the Skrall are, why are you here?” asked the Water Agori.

 

“I tried to resist the Skrall occupation of Iconox. It didn’t work out too well. Also, the Skrall now occupy Iconox, by the way, and from what I heard, they are going after Tesara next.” Toru stated.

 

“They’re already going after Atero, did you know that? Except it’s not them, but it’s still them. By them, I mean Bone Hunters. Did you know, it’s no coincidence they share the same style of blades and often the same style of helmet? I heard the big Tuma one yell at a Bone Hunter, he was promising a lot of things if they did as he asked.”

 

The Water Agori stood up, their emaciated figure almost trembling. “And that corpse there, that used to be Raanu. He accidentally gave the big Tuma one some information, and then got beheaded when he refused to speak any further. I’m Berix, do you want to escape, I want to escape, do you think the door’s open?”

 

Toru rolled his eyes. “Let me check,” he spoke, as he tried to open the door…

 

And the door opened, much to his surprise. “What.”

 

It seemed the Skrall had forgot to lock the door in their rush to march to Tesara, or forgot to properly word a command - Toru, after all, was to be stored somewhere, not to be imprisoned.

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-GATHERER’S RIDGE-

-Timelord-

IC: Timelord (All); Hyethut (Until Exit); Stronius (All)

 

He and his nine guards ran into Gatherer’s Ridge. Much to their dismay, Stronius and the Skrall he was leading had not given up pursuing them - no, he was still behind them, and at times, almost felt like he was simply holding back to taunt and terrify the Jungle Agori. On the horizon, Timelord swore he caught the familiar form of another Jungle Agori, who disappeared as quickly as Timelord saw them.

 

His resolve slightly strengthened, Timelord continued onwards, toward where the Jungle Agori had appeared, soon finding himself in a relatively flat area, with little in the way of foliage to obstruct his view - and in the distance, he he made out figures, who were carrying supplies down into some sort of crater. He did not have time to ponder, the Skrall still pursuing him.

 

As he continued forward, he loaded his thornax launcher with one of the last few thornax he had, driving to the crater’s edge where he saw a sight much needed - Jungle Agori in a pike-and-shot formation that soon shifted to a shield-wall formation, and Hyethut, General of the Jungle Tribe. Exactly the person who could help him the most right now, considering that he was being chased by Skrall - and here was a small force of Tesara’s military. Timelord, to say the lest, felt relieved. “Hyethut, Skrall are chasing us!” he shouted, down into the crater, as he ordered his Baranus to be drawn down into the crater, where it came to a slightly abrupt halt at the bottom, where he then jumped off and spoke. “Hyethut, I have a tall order and I make no apologies, for surely you see the predicament that has befallen me. We need to defeat these Skrall and return to Tesara fast, I believe the Skrall may be about to attack Tesara at full force.” He did not mention the fact that he had shot at a Skrall in the north, which had gotten more out of control than he could have anticipated.

 

His fears were confirmed when he felt a shaking in the ground. There were only two things on Bara Magna that could cause such a shaking: an angry Skopio, or the entire force of the Skrall marching somewhere. And Skopio were exceedingly rare.

 

Reacting quickly to the shaking, he ordered two of Hyethut’s soldiers to take his Baranus Chariot, and to go straight to Iconox, then Tajun, and finally Vulcanus, to ask for military aid from each village and to tell all that the Skrall were about to attack Tesara. A tall order, once again - but hopefully the tribes would not stand apart. Although, Timelord doubted himself within - he had already had trouble trying to unite his own tribes, so how could he unite the other tribes?

 

Without waiting for Hyethut’s permission - not that he needed, as Tesara’s leader - he commanded “Mighty protectors of Tesara, we must retreat to Tesara right now. Our holy city is under threat from Skrall invasion!”

 

The two troops he had ordered saluted him as they left in the Baranus, protected briefly by the shield-wall formation. They would be able to leave.

 

Timelord, however, found that his luck was quickly running out - the short time he had taken to make commands had allowed the Skrall pursuing to catch up. But, instead of moving forward, Stronius gave a signal for them to stop, as he began to speak.

 

“Respectable soldiers of Tesara, hand over your leader, Timelord, and there will be no bloodshed. We both know how this will play out, yet it can be easily negated by handing us over the coward.” Stronius stated, his gaze piercing as he looked between the soldiers. “Your leader attacked a Skrall without provocation, and then ran like a coward knowing he could not win the fight he started. Under him half your village already burned to the ground under Tesaran hands, and no doubt an army of Skrall now march on Tesara in retaliation for his act of war, an act of war he started on his own, yet is prepared to have Tesara fight on his behalf. Tesara will fail if it chooses to fight this war, as it is broken.”

 

Stronius gestured toward the troops with his right arm in a wide arc, his voice lowering. “If Tesara goes to war with the Skrall, hundreds, if not thousands of Tesarans will die, and for what? To protect a leader who is a coward and does not fight, but only flees? Hand him over, and there needs to be no war, no bloodshed. His crimes will be met with fitting punishment, as should be expected of any criminal. You have five minutes to decide the fate of your village.”

With that, Stronius and the squadron of Skrall with him moved away from the formation of Jungle Agori, though they took up positions near the crater, ready to strike if the wrong decision was made. And Stronius smiled, knowing that there would still be a war regardless of Timelord’s state - but it was always nice to convince your enemies to aid you under the belief they are aiding themselves.

 

Whispers began to spread among the soldiers, who had been in Gatherer’s Ridge for some time now. “Wait… half the village has burned down? What of my family?” voiced one soldier, as did many others, echoing similar thoughts, the soldiers unaware of Tesara’s fire.

 

Timelord spoke again, this time in a voice quiet enough for only his troops to hear -and perhaps an unwise one. “What he says is true - a Tesaran village did burn, Tesarus, but it was taken care of. There were no deaths to my knowledge, most survived and anyone not accounted for is missing in action, not dead. I ask you to listen - the Skrall had captured their own supposed allies in Iconox, and had one of the Iron Tribe slave gatherers with them when I saw them. I helped free Iconox’s diplomat because it was the right thing to do.” Timelord said, stressed and frustrated. “Now, if any of you have any launcher, bow, and the appropriate projectiles, I want you to fire at that large Skrall on my signal.” Stronius needs to die if I have any chance of escape. Timelord himself took aim - and then…

 

Hyethut found himself feeling somber as Stronius spoke, his heart falling upon hearing the deeds of Timelord, and what had occurred; and what was likely to occur; to his tribe, his city of twin villages - the love of his life. He had allowed Timelord to send for aid, but his eyes glowed with bewildered frustration when Timelord ordered his men to retaliate against the Skrall - a suicidal endeavour. A lord over others is to serve as an example for his people and think of their safety and preservation - and Timelord had shown that the last part of Hyethut’s oath all those years ago may have to be enacted. “NO!” Hyethut shouted, as he saw Timelord take aim at Stronius.

 

“What would stop them from killing you all the second they have me? Nothing.” Timelord stated, an understated mix of  anger, frustration, surprise and fear in his voice as he continued to aim at Stronius, trying to ignore Hyethut. “If they want a fight, we shall defend ourselves. Maintain defensive positions, troops.”

 

Hyethut walked up to Timelord, and spoke boldly. “Timelord Sonork, you have shamed Tesara. We have done naught, the danger about us and our tribe is your fault alone, prior they were only a possible threat. Not too long ago, I too made a terrible mistake and allowed a soldier to hit me hard to show that I care for justice, and here you are, willing to let everyone die because of what you have done.”

 

Hyethut’s voice rose in volume, and anger. “Men, this man has betrayed your families and home to foolishness and thus made vacant his position as leader of our great nation. I ask you to arrest this tyrant, disable him if need be, but he needs to face judgement in this world before he faces judgement in the Potter’s Palms. Hyethut stood in front of his former lord as he waited to see the judgement of the soldiers present, whether or not they would agree, his face visible behind his helmet, an expression of anger and regret, as he drew his sword from his scabbard, ready to be let loose and water the sands red as he saw the vast majority of soldiers present nod and mumble in agreement with him.

 

Timelord looked at the enraged Hyethut, and did not make any attempt to defend himself. He knew that Hyethut was right, that on some level he may very well have doomed Tesara. “My duty is, and always will be, to my people.” He dropped the thornax launcher he had, and dagger, and any other weapons he had, and began walking over the Skrall before being halted by Hyethut.

 

“You must answer for Tesara as well. We will take custody of you and we will speak with the Elite Skrall. Men, climb to the crater ridge with me.”

 

Hyethut clambered up the crater, with the arm of Timelord tightly in his grip, and shouted, “We have Timelord in our custody and are willing to give him to you. However, I would like to speak with you, commander to commander.”

 

Timelord spoke under his breath to Hyethut as they climbed further. “You’ve always wanted to rule, haven’t you? Why else would you create a religion, other than to get a taste of power? Well, I’ve got some news: I left Lan in control of Tesara when I left, and my brother is still around so you won’t get Tesara even if the Skrall kill me, traitor.”

 

Hyethut decided not to let the insult get the best of him, and spoke softly. “Sir, with all due respect, do not speak ill of Grunkhar; my conversion to the truth has nothing to do with what is transpiring right now. I have always been content with the position you gave me. But now, you have forced my hand. I am the traitor? You abandoned our people in the moment of need to help outlanders, starting war with the most immediate and biggest threat this land has seen since Neronikus defeated the terrible Bone Hunter Empire millenia ago, reducing them to the nomads we so despise today. I am going to ask Stronius if you can face punishment in Tesara rather than in some monstrosity in Roxtus, he and select other Skrall will be witness. If he refuses, then I will deliver you to his hands. It is the only choice you have of returning home.”

 

“I’m sorry for lashing out at you, but you can see why I am upset.” Timelord waited a second, then spoke up again. “I originally left Tesara to look for you in hope to stop the fire quicker. I thought you might have left Gatherer’s Ridge for some reason that prevented you from returning home on a normal route… I just happened to come across the Skrall and their prisoners. I will admit, I used poor judgement in the situation, and will have to live with the consequences as long as I live. You could say, it’s a fate worse than death…” Timelord spoke, hoping that he would simply exiled at worst, trying to avoid any execution if there was to be one.

 

Hyethut stopped the climb, letting go of Timelord while muttering to himself “...humility,” before looking back at Timelord “Hmmm. I am of mixed emotions right now… I will be honest with you and tell you what was to happen to you if you did not sway my mind: that I am downright appalled by your recent actions, and in pursuit of justice for Tesara I was going to have you publically executed for treason, doing this before the Skrall to sate their hate, and forcefully take over Tesara until it was on the right path before retiring to my studies; but despite your lack of leadership skills, showing how you were born into it rather than achieving it, you are a good person, just not meant for kingly matters. Should I have had gone ahead with my duties I no doubt would have gotten heavily with guilt down the line, the needles in my mind likewise being a fate worse than death.”

 

Hyethut walked behind Timelord, and looked down at the ground toward his soldiers, then spoke. “Go, then, and never return to Tesara. May Grunkhar be kind to you in regards to your just punishment. Goodbye, my friend.” Hyethut took one last look at Timelord, then began climbing back down into the crater, leaving Timelord to his fate. He thought, Knowing the dark heritage of the Skrall, their hearts may be too rockhard to be pierced by the light of Grunkhar. Nonetheless, I meant every word, bless you. Now let us hope Andekas and Lan are more worthy of Tesara, lest my holy duty beckons me once more. He called his soldiers to carry some of the exsidian they had dug up, bury the rest in loose soil, pack up, and head back to Tesara. “Come on. We’re going home - Tesara needs us.”

 

Though, as Hyethut decided to abandon Timelord to his fate, he found himself stopped by Stronius on his way out of the crater and back to Tesara. “While not the choice I gave you, General, I will accept it. Though I do warn you that should a Skrall ever give you a choice between two options in the future, you stick to the choices given. May save your life in Tesara.” Stronius gestured toward his men, of which they moved out of the way to allow Hyethut and his men to pass, but also made their way to surround the crater, attempting to cut off any escape Timelord might have attempted. “You may go freely, General, my squadron will not impede your travel.”

With that, Stronius walked over the lip of the crater, followed by his Skrall, preparing to deal with Timelord himself as Hyethut and his men left.

 

Timelord stood confidently as Stronius approached him and the Skrall surrounded him. “I’m guessing you’re ready to bring my head to Tuma? Well, go ahead! At this point, I have no life worth living. Death is a privilege right now, I just hope you don’t force me to live any longer by exiling me to the northern lands beyond the Agori villages.

 

Timelord’s attempt at convincing the Skrall to simply let him fall, instead of killing him, was met with some nods of approval, though Stronius shook his head. “No. You do not attack a Skrall without provocation and keep your life. I know what you are thinking, pretending you do not fear death, putting on a false bravado. You came to aid of people from Iconox, and if we let you go free without an escort to the north, you will just run to Iconox seeking asylum. You are not honourable, and would not keep the conditions of the exile. So no, you die, but not here. No. We will take you to Tuma, and you will be executed before him and all of Tesara. Your people have a right to know why they are going to die.”

 

Stronius marched up to Timelord, while four Skrall approached him from behind, attempting to wrestle him to the ground.

 

“No need to tackle me. I go willingly. May I ask, do the Skrall trade lives for information?” Timelord asked, clearly desperate for his life.

 

The Skrall did not heed his words, continuing to tackle and restrain him as Stronius loomed over. “Depends on the information. You will have to provide it first before we determine it’s enough to spare your life.” Stronius motioned over to a Skrall, who was quick to hand over their sword.

 

“What if I was to warn you of a certain Iron Agori’s plan and super weapon?” Timelord spoke, quickly.

 

“Tell us now, or you will die.” Stronius warned, the sword held at the ready.

 

“I see that peaked your interes… Now, for a Skrall, you seem very intelli… So you must know, you can’t kill me here - oryou’llneverknow how Voltex, an Iron Agori, can kill Tuma with ease. Such information is too dangerous to leave up to chance. I’ll tell you everything I know, so as long as I’m brought to Tuma alive!” Timelord spoke, the sword coming close to his neck several times he spoke without speaking anything useful to the Skrall.

 

A dark and malicious smile crept across Stronius’ face, partially obscured by his helmet. “Fine… you will be brought before Tuma alive.” Stronius motioned to four more Skrall, and they came to assist in holding down Timelord, particularly his shoulders.

 

Once Stronius was certain Timelord could not wiggle, he brought the sword down atop Timelord’s elbow, slicing the arm from the elbow down clean off. He then tossed the sword back to the Skrall he had borrowed it from, retrieving his club. “Wait an hour until after you’ve stopped the bleeding on that arm, and do the other. Can’t have him dying from blood loss or shock, as that would negate the agreement.” Stronius ordered smugly to his Skrall. “Make sure to strip him of his belongings. He will be presented to Tesara and his people in nothing but rags.”

 

It took all of Timelord’s power not to scream. Once the shock had set in, Timelord was quick to ask, “If you have to chop off a second appendage, could you make it a leg at least? You know what they say, an arm and a leg?”

 

There was a pause in Stronius’ step as he considered Timelord’s words, though a shake of head was his initial response. “No, we can’t have you presented to Mighty Lord Tuma unable to even stand before him on your own. Such would be disgraceful to our Lord.”

 

With a swift drop of Stronius’ hand, the Skrall proceeded to remove the other arm from the elbow down - and once they made sure Timelord would not bleed out, they prepared to move out to Tesara.

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-TESARA-

-Lan-

IC: Lan (All); Andekas (All); FF (All); Smoke Monster (Arrival); Tuma (War)

 

He took a look around, and saw the Jungle Agori of Tesarus praising and celebrating him and Andekas. But, Lan’s ears were deaf to the praise being given to him. Right now, he had more pressing matters, as the substitute leader of Tesara, and refused to waste time basking in praise. “Come, Andekas. I would like to hear of your mission.”

 

Andekas’ response was cut off by a sudden, faint shuddering.

 

A faint shuddering that soon grew less faint.

 

A Jungle Agori approached Lan and Andekas, running and with a fearful expression. “Sirs, I am sorry for interrupting, but th-th-there is an issue arising, and it is dire one. If you would look to the north, you would see it… a massive army of Skrall is approaching Tesara!”

 

Lan ran to the northern border of Tesarus, and looked intently. Sure enough, there was a large body of black-clad beings storming right for the twin villages of Tesara. “Good gods!” he exclaimed, then turned back and shouted toward Andekas, “On second thought, friend Andekas, tales of your mission can wait. I need you to gather up those soldiers you rode in with, and any more that you can find. I will try to avert them as best as I can, which will probably not be much, but I need you and the military ready when bad goes to worse. This is what you were bred for. I know you will not let me down.”

 

As if in response, all of Tesara soon found itself hearing Tuma’s booming voice, with the shuddering stopping as if the Skrall had stopped moving.

 

“Tesara. Tesarus. Tesarix. The full force of the Skrall Army now stands outside Tesara. Do you know what you have done to deserve such a punishment? Your leader has attacked a Skrall - nowhere near Tesara, between the White Quartz and Black Spike Mountains. Do you know what that means? That, Tesara, is a declaration of war.

 

We gave you an offer, and your leader has given us an answer.

 

We are very disappointed in you, Tesara.

 

For the actions of your leader, all of Tesara will suffer… even those of you that wish to serve and support us. Do you see how little your leader cares for you all?”

 

Tuma’s words did not bode well for Tesara - after Tesarus had burned, any words to try and instigate a civil war in Tesara was the last thing it needed.

 

“Lan! A visitor’s looking for you, I don’t know if it has anything to do with this!” yelled a Jungle Agori, next to the figure of an Ice Agori carrying an unconscious Rock Agori.

 

“Bring them over! I have something much more important to dom and cannot spare the time to meet visitors right now!” Lan said, exasperated, while trying to come up with ways to prevent the Skrall from engaging Tesara in battle, most of which involved reasoning - a skill he believed Skrall to be especially bad at, and if that were to fail, contingency plans and a worst-case scenario option, though he hoped it would not come to that.

 

Andekas finally spoke up, amidst the chaos ensuing. “We need to use overwhelming force, we need an upper hand if we are to defeat the Skrall. I say, if combat is to be had, then we fire upon them from the greatest of heights, in the greatest of numbers, with the greatest amount of overwhelming, engulfing, explosive power.” He knew that defeating the Skrall would be no easy feat. “Lan, if diplomacy will not work, then we will have to be left with our last option, whatever that be. The Skrall’s claims are outrageous, though I know not where my brother has gone off. I would not presume him to be one to strike at ones as strong as the Skrall, however, that Orkahm character, from what little I know, was, or is for all I know, a different story. It seems from all accounts to have been a trick to get the people of Tesara so up in arms so that the Skrall could come in and take over without a sweat, or that we’d be left weakened enough for such a thing to happen. That, I believe, is a greater reason for war, and honestly more believable, if all checks out in such regard. Tesara isn’t one to get itself into war, no, this has all been one huge plot by the Skrall from the beginning.  At least, that’s how I see it.” Andekas, of course, was unaware of his brother’s actions.

 

“I should hope that is not the case, but we cannot discount it as an option. Hopefully, we can get the true story of why they are here before we rush into battle. Do whatever you must to prepare, Andekas.” At this point, Lan had grown a slight bit more nervous.

 

Then, all of Tesara heard Tuma speak again.

 

“Do not be fools. Those of you have seen their home burn, should you leave Tesara to its fate now, you will find that Roxtus will welcome you.

 

Leave Tesara now, and you will be spared your annihilation. Leave Tesara now, and you will return to it unharmed. Or impress us, the Skrall, by staying and fighting with those you desire to protect you.”

 

The problem was, Tuma’s words were reaching a fair number of Jungle Agori, especially those who had lost their homes in the fire of Tesarus. Their homes had been burned, and they had just been offered a new one, under the protection they had desired for so long. Worse, Tuma was going one step further and appealing to their discontent with the rest of Tesara, suggesting that they fight with the Skrall.

 

Andekas looked down to himself, the words spoken by Tuma had echoed throughout the air, but they still echoed in his mind. If we were to evacuate Tesara, where would they go? Could the Jungle Agori build a new village? Many ideas fell through his head, ideas of people leaving but him staying behind, ideas of him convincing his people to stay put and fight from the upper ground, ideas of him going out as his people left, and challenging Tuma to a duel to decide Tesara’s fate, and one greatly fanciful  and unlikely idea of him riding out among a storm of fire upon the enemy and amidst the fighting after having managed to decapitate the Skrall leader. Then, one idea stuck in his mind: to ride out alone, flag-banner raised, displaying a sword embedded groundwards on a white backing, signifying a call for peace, not to fire upon him, then for a duel to possibly commence.  And what if he were to do that, while Lan were to traverse to Tajun or Vulcanus and ask for help, so that Lan could return with significant forces from either or both villages to just be able to defeat the Skrall, resulting a slaughter of the Skrall and not his people? Then, he looked over at Lan, seeing a Rock Agori carried forth by an Ice Agori approaching, and held his tongue.

 

“Welcome, esteemed friends. I am afraid you have caught us as a bad time, as you can see and hear. But I will try not to let that get in our way. What may we do for you?” Lan asked of the Ice Agori.

 

“I’ll try to keep this brief,” the Ice Agori started. “I am General FF of Iconox and the Rock Agori is the Diplomat Smoke Monster of Roxtus. We witnessed a civil war happen in Iconox after they nearly got conquered by the Skrall for accepting a ‘protection’ deal’.” FF paused, taking a short breath. “Iconox survived, as most of the Skrall retreated, apparently because it would look like they were ‘needlessly’ slaughtering civilians. We both saw the atrocities the Skrall were committing in their plan for conquest. So Smoke Monster here,” FF nudged the unconscious body he was carrying, “wanted none of that, and we both left Iconox to to start convincing other villages to join the fight against Tuma and his army, starting with Tesara since it had a previous issue with the Skrall.”

 

He recalled Tuma’s words to Tesara. “That was the original plan. Obviously, the Skrall are here and ready to remove this place from existence. We want to help you, since you can be considered a potential ally. We can attempt to give a speech convincing Tesarus to fight against the Skrall seeing as how there are two additional civil war survivors here,” FF gestured to himself, and Smoke Monster, “but I don’t know how much the army here can take after the fire.”

 

“Your help would be most welcome, General. Together, we can rally the people to stand strong and prepare for the worst. I believe it would be in our favour for them to hear from a survivor of the Skrall occupation of Iconox.” Lan paused, unsure about his next sentence. “I could also use your help  in trying to reason with Tuma and convince him that Tesara is not at fault, as he claim we are.”

 

Tesara heard Tuma speak, again.

 

“You are given one last chance, Jungle Agori. Remain, and you will be slaughtered like the others. Leave, or fight with us, and you will find honour.

 

Hundreds of Thornax Launchers are loaded, and ready to rain thornax down upon Tesara. I heavily suggest you take the wise option. Doom does not relent, even when you stare it in the face.”

 

Lan quaked in his boots at the statement - if Tesara tarried any longer, Tesara would surely be destroyed. “Change of plans, General,” he told FF. “You rally the Agori, and I will try to negotiate with Tuma alone.”

 

“What!? But… urgh… fine.” FF begrudgingly said, still carrying Smoke Monster and making his the largest gathering of Jungle Agori he could find.

 

Lan proceeded to leave Tesara, going beyond its gates and walls, and approached the mass of Skrall, appearing calm. Inside, though, his organs churned as he dropped to one knee, bowed his head, and shouted out, “Exalted Lord Tuma! Please, stay your fire! I wish to speak with you!”

 

Tuma eyed Lan with slight confusion and contempt. It appeared Tuma thought Lan was Timelord. “You have already made your decision, Jungle Agori.”

 

Lan then looked up, only to see a thornax flying toward his face, followed by the sound of a hundred more thornax being fired up into the air.

 

He tried to dodge.

 

He tripped.

 

He tripped in such a way that the thornax flying at him narrowly missed, and as he got back to his feet, he could hear the Skrall begin to march forward behind him.

 

And he hurried back into Tesarus, where he almost snapped upon seeing how the Jungle Agori had reacted to the Skrall’s approach - staunch supporters of the Skrall in Tesarus, now fighting against other Jungle Agori, or trying to leave, and thornax now landing within parts of Tesara. He saw FF try to calm the situation down.

 

“People of Tesara! I am General FF of Iconox, and this is Diplomat Smoke Monster of Roxtus! We are both survivors of a Skrall-occupied Iconox. A civil war broke out there, and it ended with the majority of the Skrall driven out. We have seen the Skrall butchering civilians, we have seen Skrall taking slaves, and we have seen them recruit criminals as mercenaries. Iconox survived because they fought to survive. Are you all going down without a fight, just flop over and die? Stand your ground, fight to survive! You can show that the Jungle is the fury!” FF tried to appeal to the Jungle Agori - particularly those who supported the Skrall, especially in Tesarus.

 

But they interpreted in the exact opposite way he’d hoped, his speech only resonating with those who had already made their minds to fight against the Skrall. “Our homes burned, our leader a coward, our tribe standing against us! We stand our ground, to fight to survive, for we have nothing left to lose! We are the fury of the ignored, the ones who stand against Timelord and his Sonork dynasty, we are the ones who stand with the Skrall! Let no saboteur of Tesarus stand uncrippled! Tesarix drags us down no longer!” yelled a Jungle Agori, to a cheer and an awkward clap.

 

Lan, taking the situation in, tried to give his own speech - he would not let his own tribe destroy itself. “Agori of Tesara! Look at yourselves! Tearing yourselves apart, and all for what? The Skrall are threatening to destroy your - our home, and slaughter our fellow Agori, with a massive force! The very same Skrall many of you wished to protect you? Does that remotely sound like protection? Does that not prove you were wrong, if they have brought so many Skrall? That their intention was not protection, but conquest? Set aside your squabbles! Stand and fight! Fight against this menace! Fight to protect your homes, your loved ones, your freedom! Fight as your ancestors once fought against menaces to their - our - great nation! Together! There is no Tesarus! There is no Tesarix! There is only Tesara, and as long as we live, Tesara will stand united!”

 

His speech, thankfully, began to resonate with those unsure of supporting the Skrall - a problem, partially averted before it had even begun. But as he finished his speech, he heard the sounds of heavy footsteps alarmingly close to Tesarus - the Skrall would soon enter Tesara’s twin villages.

 

And, to the south, outside Tesarix, another force approached its gates.

 

But this one was not hostile.

 

This force was a force of two-hundred Fire Agori, sent to aid Tesara by Burnmad of Vulcanus. Vulcanus, after all, had declared war on Roxtus.

 

And perhaps for the first time in many millenia, two tribes on Bara Magna stood united.

 

END OF EPISODE SEVEN!

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