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-ATERO-

-Voltex-

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

 

Their thoughts were interrupted by the sound of engines - the sound of the engines of a vehicle not like the Thornatus, and the sound of the engines of a vehicle exactly like the Thornatus, they realised, as they saw the unmistakable bolts of a force blaster knock three of the Bone Hunters charging them clean off their steeds, followed by a blur of blue, which then became two and darting through Rock Steeds and Bone Hunters until it finally become one instantly recognisable vehicle driven by two Water Agori, stopping near them and delivering grave news to Terrorsaur.

 

“Sir. You’re needed back in Tajun. Jed’s dead, and Manducus and Underscore were last seen with you.  Tajun needs a leader. We’ve been ordered to find you and bring you back, utilising vehicles to make it quick, but…” The Water Agori looked around, noting the current state of Atero. “It doesn’t look like you will be able to return to Tajun soon. There’s seventy-five of us, we’ve brought the Kaxium, two Thornatuses, and two Baranuses. We’re awaiting orders, sir.”

 

“The whole of high command… dead?” For Terrorsaur, today had been a series of punches to the gut - although that was better than getting a sword there instead. “I need Baranus to collect the Ice Agori and Iron Agori over there. The ones with the bag.” Terrorsaur gestured to Nato and Voltex. “They have a vital mission to complete. Have the other Baranus cut circle the edge of the battl- no, have the other Baranus head to Vulcanus and let them know what’s happening here. Help would be appreciated, but if no-one comes at least they are aware. Have the Thornatuses circle the edge of the battle and pick off straggler steeds and hunters. That should slowly consolidate our forces as we move inwards.” The last thing Voltex heard from Terrorsaur as he climbed onto the Baranus was, “Is the Kaxium easy to drive?”

 

“Wait for my ice friend.” Voltex said, pointing to the thornatus parked in the distance. “Then take us to them. They are the first step.”

 

The four - Voltex, Ehrye, Nato, and the Water Agori with them, named Dalu, approached the parked Thornatus rapidly, where they saw an Iron Agori, missing an arm, in its driver’s seat.

 

“I would not recommend approaching any further,” they heard from the one-armed Iron Agori.

 

Voltex frowned - an Iron Agori he did not recognise? “Who are you?” he asked. “You carry one of the fragments, do you not? I would have us be allies in this fight.”

 

“I am Ionia, and you will not believe me, but I am a Great Being,” The Iron Agori spoke, quickly. “A fight against what? I am solely concerned with reforging the ‘fragments’ you refer to to, into the Mask of Life.”

 

“Your ‘mask of life’ brings only death, as far as I can tell.” Nato said, a suspicious glance cast at Ionia.

 

“I also aim to reforge them. What my companion means is that he saw the process of reforging the mask wiping out an entire village. We’re hoping to use this to our advantage against the Skrall, and free Bara Magna from their tyranny.” Voltex frowned, having looked around. “This isn’t the best place to speak. Perhaps we could head south or west a ways, so that we’re free of the fighting here?”

 

“If it has brought death already, that is merely another reason the mask must be fixed.” Her voice became flat, already expecting a remark from the Ice Agori. “The Mask of Life is meant to create, benefit, and secure life, not destroy it - this barren waste could become a lively jungle in its entirety.” She pauses. “I came from Vulcanus, this Thornatus is theirs.  It is much more quiet there.”

 

“I’m not talking about the death the pieces have already brought. I’m talking about the death the completed mask will bring.  I’ve seen the future - a future where you reforge the mask in a cavern beneath Tajun. The mask kills you, and everyone else in the city.” Letting his inner rage boil over, Nato decided that Ionia was insane. “That thing isn’t a Mask of Life. It’s a weapon of death. And we’re going to use it to tend this war. Hand it over, or you’ll find yourself losing a few more of your limbs.”

 

Voltex frowned, holding up a hand. “Careful, Nato. No need for hostilities. We can, perhaps, test her claim about being a Great Being at a later time. As for these shards bringing life instead of death… well, what is one without the other? Perhaps it can be both.” He then shook his head regarding Ionia’s request for Vulcanus. “I’m afraid my relationship with Vulcanus is… well, poor at best. Perhaps Tajun? Terrorsaur hails from there, and as much as I loathe the why of it, it will make good neutral ground, so long as we do not prove Nato’s vision true.”

 

“What happened with Vulcanus? I am sure that if I explained things, their leader would understand - he is of the rational, understanding sort, the kind that thinks before they run their mouth.” Ionia said, shooting an irritated glance at Nato. “Tajun would also be a decent place to go, and likely the best. There is a secret there that has hopefully gone undiscovered.”

 

Voltex shot Nato a glance, trying to read him. He too did not believe that Ionia was a Great Being, nor her claim about the shards, but she was of Iron, and that was enough to buy her time to convince him. “What went down between Vulcanus ad I… is better left unsaid,” Voltex grimaced. “To Tajun, then, though we’ll need to find the sixth shard at some point.” Voltex considered asking her to hand over the fifth shard, deciding that it was a gamble worth taking - right now, their objectives were the same, unless Bara Magna’s situation changes - though it would take a miracle for that, and none of Bara Magna’s tribe save perhaps Vulcanus had the strength to possibly  repel the Skrall right now anyway, with all of Tajun’s high command dead. “Perhaps you could hand over that shard first, though, I have four shards with me right now - I have lost friends and companions to this quest to gather them together, and would give my life to keep them out of the wrong hands. An act of trust and faith, if you will - one that might keep my friend here quiet until you’re able to provide him with more proof of your claims.”

 

Nato did not bother protesting, instead fixing Ionia with a cold glare. “If you try anything, you will die.”

 

Ionia exited their Thornatus, walking up to the side of the Thornatus Voltex and Nato were in, then placed her arm on the ground. “I might die from this.” Ionia yelps, a shard having apparently been embedded in their left arm, now free, and Ionia still alive. She then picked up the shard with surprisingly no trouble, and held it out to Voltex.

 

Voltex double checked against picking up the shard to make sure his hand was still wrapped, then took the shard and placed it in his bag with the others. “Let’s roll out.”

 

Just one more to go.

 

And then, they left for Tajun.

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-CREEP CANYON-

-Quin-

IC: Quin (All)

 

He resumed following the tracks he had found - the faint tracks of Rock Steeds, likely those of Bone Hunters. Faint, but not impossible to follow given his skills.

 

Quin and his men found themselves travelling for some time, with the occasional Vorox and Sand Bat corpse aiding in their tracking. On the horizon, he saw the faintest signs of canvas and movements, yet he could not be certain he was hallucinating. He kept going, telling his men to be prepared in case of a trap, who became more and more uncertain as the tracks became more evident, with Rock Steed and Agori-like footprints littering the area. Quin’s second-in-command motioned for the soldiers to stop, and turned toward him. “Sir, we can’t keep going down this path. It’s clear we are walking into some kind of Bone Hunter Camp. To walk up to their perimeter would be suicide.” The soldier warned strongly, indicating he would not allow his fellow soldiers to walk into such danger without preparation.

 

Quin stopped for a moment. “You, take most of the men and set up camp again. Give me fifteen good men and some torches,” he said. “We’re going to get that shard back if it means slaughtering the entirety of that base.”

 

“Sir, if  we set up camp, I’d very much advise to do so quite a distance away, or somewhere where we have stone cover of some sort. Right now, if we so much as made a fire, the enemies would likely spot it.”

 

Quin sighed. “Fine. See if there is a high point somewhere we can set up camp at.”

 

His scouts were quick with their work, managing to find a relatively high dune, though it was far away enough that ambush would seen be in advance. His soldiers  were quick to set up a temporary camp, thankful to have some protection against the sands of Bara Magna. One of his scouts approached him, holding a sand-coloured bit of cloth. “General, with your permission, I’d like to test a new method I and the scouting division have been devising. Our hopes is that by using a cloak close to the same colour as the desert sands, we can approach the encampment without being seen as easily.”

 

“Good idea- you have my permission.” Quin said. “We’ll get a closer look at the hunters at dawn.”

 

As dawn came around, Quin was met by an eager scout. “Sir, our mission was a success. From what we gathered, it seems ten hunters are within the camp, and six rock steeds. We were also able to find what we assume to be where they are keeping the shard, though it is heavily guarded.”

 

“...They’re raiding someone else.” Quin realised. “We move soon, prepare yourselves.  If we don’t move quickly, the rest of them will return and I don’t think we can handle that many hunters at once.”

 

His second-in-command approached him once again. “Sir, if I may, I would suggest we figure out what our priorities are. If we simply wish to secure the shard, I suggest a diversionary plan. Though if we do intend on killing all those Hunters, well, a plan would still be advisable.”

 

“The shard is our number one priority, but I believe we can quickly take out these guards and walk out with that shard easily. Which brings me to the next point - DO NOT touch the shard with your hands. Keep it in any sort of bag, but do not touch it.” Quin unsheathed his weapon. “I’m going to need seventeen of you.”

 

“Understood, sir. What about the rest of us? Are we a tactical secondary wave that will catch the enemy by surprise?”

 

Behind him, Quin could feel many soldiers preparing their weapon, intent on getting back what was Vulcanus’.

 

“Correct. But time is of the essence. Let’s move.”

 

Upon the advice of a strategist, Quin and his first squad of soldiers circled the Hunter Camp, intending to attack from the north, with their own camp in the south. As the Bone Hunters spot the wall of shields coming at them from the north, they are quick to get ready for battle. At a signal from their strategist, Quin’s soldiers back at the camp take aim, angling their shots so that they act as artillery fire.  With the attention of the Bone Hunters on Quin and his wall of shields, the initial barrage was successful, successfully taking out four Bone Hunters and two Rock Steeds, along with setting many of their tents on fire. The remaining Bone Hunters were quick to mount the remaining four Rock Steeds, two heading north to the wall of shields, and two heading south to Quin’s camp.

 

Quin took his own aim at the steeds, firing his thornax, though it did not help much - the Rock Steed swerving at the last second, shrapnel from rock flying upward and piercing the Rock Steed’s thigh - it was slower, but not dead. “BRACE!” Quin yelled, lockiing into the shield-wall, bracing for impact.

 

As the Rock Steeds rammed into the shield-wall, Quin’s soldiers were able to keep it standing, though Quin soon found that the two Hunters who had been mounted atop one of the steeds jumped off mid-impact, coming to land behind his soldiers, killing two of them while the rest attempted to keep the two Rock Steeds at bay. Quin broke away from the shield wall to engage the two Bone Hunters, slashing at them with his shortsword, piercing through the ribs of one Bone Hunter, slumping dead from the attack, the other enraged, lunging at Quin, preparing to strike him down. Quin deflected the blade of the Bone Hunter of his own, but was too late to deliver a counter-attack as the Bone Hunter dodged back, as he heard and felt his soldiers kill one of the Rock Steeds. Quin went in for his own strong slash, aiming for the Hunter’s neck - the Hunter attempted to dodge, but they were unprepared for the ferocity of his slash, and Quin’s blade sliced clean through their neck, decapitating them while his men succeeded in downing the final Rock Steed.

 

“Investigate the hut that contains the shard.” Quin said, relieved he finally would have the opportunity to regain what had been stolen.

 

As he investigated the suspected hut with his soldiers, he found that the Bone Hunters had managed to place the shard in some kind of chest, with two handholds on either side. For all intents and purposes, it seemed the chest prevented the adverse effects of the shard. He instructed one of his men to pick up the chest, and finally ordered as he gathered his forces together, “Let’s go home.”

 

He had finally regained the shard.

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-ROXTUS-

-Onaku-

IC: Onaku (All); Nato (All)

 

Onaku sat down on the floor, opposite a strange Rock Agori - a strange Rock Agori who seemed to be not quite there and speaking about dreams, something that seemingly had only happened after Toru had been imprisoned. This Rock Agori had two strong-willed guards on either side of them in case something strange happened. Hopefully, something strange wouldn’t happen.

 

“What is the dream?” Onaku asked, curious as to why such a fascination with dreams had emerged.

 

“Dreams are blessings.” The Rock Agori stated, no emotion, no movement from their face but that of their mouth.

 

“What is your name?” Onaku asked.

 

“Your name is Onaku.”

 

“That is not what I asked.” Onaku replied, certainly not the answer he had been expecting. “You are not me.”

 

“We are Agori.” The Rock Agori flatly said, drawing attention to a similarity between the physical forms of the two.

 

“But we are also distinct,” added Onaku, slightly uncomfortable with the response.

 

“We are Agori. Onaku is an Agori. Agori are the same.”

 

“No. Each Agori is distinct. Some are similar, like us Rock Agori. But each of us is still different in some way.” For Onaku, it was like trying to educate a child - a child that only half-listened.

 

“All Agori are personally distinct, but all are the same compared to the scale of the Great Dreamer.”

 

“Who is the Great Dreamer?” Onaku asked, with interest.

 

“The Great Dreamer is the one who has returned after countless millennia, the one who has blessed us all by stripping the barriers between our dreams, blessing us by letting us focus as one.”

 

“And in exchange for this… blessing, what does the Great Dreamer want in return?” Was this really a blessing? Or just some curse? Onaku couldn’t help but think as such.

 

“Service. To them, to spread influence. To help them, and to help the ones like the Agori named Nato.”

 

A name, familiar to Onaku. “Nato? What does he have to do with this?”

 

“Nato is the prime servant, the one whose presence blesses the others on the behalf of the Great Dreamer.”

 

“So he spreads this…. Dream, to other people around him?” Onaku stroked his chin. “What is the name of the Great Dreamer?”

 

“The name of the Great Dreamer is known to the blessed as the Annona.”

 

“Annona… you say they’ve returned. Returned from what?” A moment of thought brought to mind the very thing that brought the Iron Tribe to its knees, and Onaku had a epiphany. “The dream plague… the Iron Tribe… that was Annona?”

 

“The Iron Tribe fought back, and their dreams are bitter. But they will not join the new dream like all other tribes will. The one named Nato forbade it.”

 

“What power does Nato have over this dream, though? How can Nato forbid it?”

 

“Nato was the first servant. For their service, the Great Dreamer had to make amends. The presence of Nato awakens others to the dream wherever they go, and the Agori travels often.”
 

“And how did Nato find Annona?” Onaku asked, wondering how an Ice Agori could find… whatever Annona was.

 

“Nato began dreaming.”

 

Onaku paused for a moment. “When he was knocked unconscious… is that it?” Onaku did not wait for a response, giving an expression toward the guards.

 

“You will dream,” spoke the Rock Agori, with a voice almost not their own, a voice almost alien and incomprehensible, a voice never meant to be heard, smiling just a bit too much. The guards soon took the Rock Agori, and began escorting them back to the Isolation Hut where they had been kept prior.

 

“I know,” Onaku said.

 

And then Onaku had a nap - a nap in which he began to   d r e a m

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-ATERO-

-Terrorsaur-

IC: Terrorsaur (All)

 

Attack. Defend. Attack. Defend. Attack. Defend. Kill. Attack. Defend. Die. Attack. Defend. Defend. Defend. Attack.

 

These were the thoughts going through Terrorsaur’s mind as he lay in the sand, his mind going over what had happened and wondering if it was still happening. He’d lost track of time, and until recently, the only thing keeping him awake - and in some cases, alive - was to fight. Atero could not be allowed to fall, unless it was desired for the Bone Hunters to become even more vicious, confident, and frequent in their raids.

 

He recalled how, after Nato and Voltex had left, he had expressed an interest in driving the Kaxium, the motorcycle that could split itself into two separate cycles, both out of excitement and as an excuse to rest his own tired legs. He recalled how soon after, Bone Hunters had breached the Arena Magna’s walls while charging through much of his own forces, and slaughtered many civilians within as they tried to escape. He recalled how he had tried to prevent that with tactical use of vehicles - particularly the force blasters on the Thornatuses and tiny force blasters mounted onto the sides of the main Kaxium cycle, and how he had separated the Kaxium in two, relying on his co-driver, Scodonius, to flank the Boen Hunters - he also recalled how this had drained one of the Thornatuses of its engine power, causing it to stop and stall.

 

He recalled how he had given up the little luxury provided to his legs by the Kaxium to personally fight several Bone Hunters, with a three-pronged spear, hurling at any stragglers he could see; while the Kaxium went off to bring his soldiers more weapons. He recalled how he had tried to inspire his soldiers to fight with renewed vigor as both his own forces and that of the Bone Hunters became four times as small as what either had started out with, how there was no distinction between the soldiers in his makeshift army and the soldiers who had been trained - the battle had seen to that, and they would be the same for the rest of their lives.

 

He recalled how he continued fighting, even as he grew lethargic, his vision blurring and his movements uncoordinated. Wash, rinse, repeat.

 

Wash, rinse, repeat.

 

Wash, rinse, repeat.

 

Wash, rinse, repeat. Attack, defend, attack, defend, kill, attack, defend, defend, defend

 

And then he remembered, as he felt himself being picked up, that one half of the Kaxium, covered in sand and somewhat damaged,  had approached him, Scodonius driving. “Sir,” and what Scodonius had said to him.

 

“The battle’s over, sir. The Bone Hunters are retreating. They’ve done their damage, and we’ve done ours. Flaredrick was killed in battle, and we lost many others.”

 

Terrorsaur felt himself be relieved all over again, although  this time he could not collapse into the sand.

 

This time, however, hhe could not fall over. He heard the word “General?!” as he was picked up, and through hazed vision, he saw Atero, war-torn and crumbling, but not destroyed, with Bone Hunters far in the distance, retreating, whittled down to a small force. Or perhaps they were not retreating, but running away, in fear, of the Scourge of Bone Hunters, Terrorsaur of Tajun.

 

And then, he felt himself drifting to sleep, during which he had a hazy dream of Nato, beneath Tajun, going through a strange machine.

 

He would later awaken at Tajun, having been successful in defending Atero from the Bone Hunters.

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-ROXTUS-

-Toru-

IC: Toru (All), Nato (All)

 

Toru peeked out of his unlocked prison, trying to spot any vehicles to steal. Unfortunately, there were no vehicles, but instead a group of Rock Agori sitting in a circle - including the Rock Agori who had threw him prison in the first place.

 

This is the worst security I’ve ever seen - no wonder the Rock Tribe needs the Skrall, Toru thought. He turned to Berix. “Follow me.”

 

“Where are we going? Do you thing we can enter the big Tuma chamber thingy?” Berix asked, wanting to see Tuma’s throne.

 

“Not unless you enjoy your life flashing before your eyes and screaming for mercy - and mercy is a foreign concept here.” Toru replied. They must have vehicles somewhere.

While focusing on his thoughts, Toru accidentally tripped over a rock, the group of Rock Agori standing up and staring at him - unblinkingly, with blank expressions.

 

“You saw nothing.” Toru said, getting back up without trouble.

 

The Rock Agori did not react to the words, but instead… they spoke as one voice, with many mouths.

 

T O R U .   H E L L O .

 

“...So you forgot to lock the door to our cell, but had the time to rehearse one simultaneous speech?” Toru asked, slightly taken aback at the Rock Agori.

 

D R E A M   W I T H   U S ,   T O R U

 

“How about you point us to the nearest vehicle, and I’ll considering doing… whatever it is you just asked.” This is getting weird, thought Toru.

 

Y O U R   B O D Y   I S   A   V E H I C L E ?   W A L K

 

This is definitely getting weird. Toru thought, as a Rock Agori approached - but unfortunately, this one was ‘normal’. “PRISONER!” yelled the Rock Agori.

 

Toru charged the Rock Agori, restraining them to the ground. As he did so, he saw a group of rather confused Rock Agori approach, having not noticed him, and point at the group of ‘weird’ Rock Agori, overhearing that the confused Rock Agori had been sent to round up groups of strangely-acting Rock Agori.

 

Whispering the Rock Agori below him, Toru began, “Now let’s discuss this calmly. You’re going to take us quietly and discretely to where you stockpile your vehicles. Give us bad directions or lead us into a patrol, and you’ll never eat solid food again.”

 

Suddenly, the Rock Agori’s response was interrupted by the group of confused Rock Agori being told ‘ D O   N O T   D I S M I S S   T H E   D  R E A M E R ,’ and that despite his whispering, the strange group of Rock Agori had apparently heard him as if he was shouting, the image of a ‘ T H O R N A T U S’ fading into Toru’s mind, followed by an image of Nato and something he could not comprehend, while the Rock Agori he was restraining slipped out of his grasp and began to babble about dreams.

 

“You idiot, I need a physical Thornatus, not a magic vision of one!” Toru sighed, and began to wander in a random direction, until finally, he came upon Roxtus’ vehicle bay - several Baranus Chariots and a few Thornatus visible, though they were being guarded by - unfortunately - several ‘normal’ Rock Agori.

 

Toru briefly had an idea, telling Berix to stay where he was while backtracking to find weird Agori - something he had no luck with, the strange Agori having apparently been rounded up and isolated - apparently, Onaku gave the order to round them up.

 

“Well, I was unable to find any decoys. New plan: I’ll distract them, and you… no, that’s why I’m here in the first place. OK, on the count of three, we run to the nearest vehicle like our lives depend on it. Because they do. Ready?” Toru spoke, to Berix.

 

The two Agori ran to and clambered into a Thornatus, starting up its engines while the guards patrolling around began to yell in surprise.

 

“Thanks for the hospitality, gentlemen!” Toru yelled in response, as he fired the force blasters at the gates of Roxtus, blasting his way through, deciding to head to Tajun - the last time he’d been in Iconox, it had Skrall fighting in it. Roxtus? It had strange Agori. But Tajun had an associate - General Terrorsaur, and a fellow member of Atero’s Fellowship.

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-TESARA-

-Timelord-

IC: Timelord (All); Andekas (All); Lan (All); Hyethut (All); Smoke Monster (All); FF (All); Tuma (All); Stronius (All)

 

Timelord felt himself being shoved forward, and given his recent lack of lower arms, there was not much he could do about being shoved by Stronius, an Elite Skrall who had been following him ever since he had came across a group of Skrall in his north, and then, at Gatherer’s Ridge, Stronius had caught him, because Tesara’s own General had more or less denounced him.

 

He still had hope, however, upon seeing the walls of Tesara. The last time he’d been in Tesara, Tesarus had been burning - but there was no fire to see this time. Instead, a massive army of Skrall. I need to get away from these idiots before they kill me. If I can get to the northern gate, maybe the guards will recognise me and let me in. I need to escape, he thought to himself, trying to survey the surroundings for a possible escape route.

 

His train of thought was interrupted when he felt himself being shoved by Stronius, Timelord stumbling forward. “Mighty Leader Tuma, I present to you a coward.” When he steadied himself, he saw the Skrall Leader, Tuma, before his eyes. “He was once the leader of Tesara. Now, he is nothing.”

 

Tuma grinned malevolently, mockingly crouching down to Timelord. “Agori, do you wish to see your tribe annihilated before your very eyes?”

 

Timelord gazed at Tuma, trying to conceal his fright, but failing. “Go ahead. If they want to abandon me, I will abandon them.”

 

The leader who had abandoned his tribe while one of its villages burned. The leader who abandoned his tribe to save a single Agori from a different tribe. The leader who had been turned over to the Skrall by his own General.

 

Tuma smiled, speaking with a booming voice to make sure all of Tesara heard it. “Your leader, Tesara, agrees that you should be annihilated! Even now, he is helping us destroy Tesara!” He crouched back down to Timelord, with a threatening stare. “How do these gates operate, Agori? You have lost your arms, do not make us remove your legs.”

 

Stronius stepped forward, glancing at Timelord as if to warn him not to speak while he was. “Lord Tuma, it is unwise to have all our Skrall gathered outside one of their gates. I request permission to lead a hundred Skrall to attack the southern village, Tesarix, and make sure reinforcements cannot surprise us.”

 

“Permission granted, Stronius.”

 

Timelord quickly spoke once Stronius had left with a hundred of the five-hundred and five Skrall gathered outside Tesara. “The gates can only be operated from the inside. However, there is a secret entrance only big enough for an Agori to fit in but a smaller Skrall might just about fit, though they may need to remove their armour to do so. They would also need someone to show them how to open the gate and where to find one of the master keys.” Timelord thought he was being clever. “Allow me to show the Skrall in, and you will not be disappointed, mighty Tuma.”

 

“Branar. Follow this Agori while we remain here. All Elite Skrall - bring down this gate.” As Tuma spoke, a regular Skrall, apparently named Branar came forward. And then, all Elite Skrall minus Stronius stepped forward, readying their clubs to bash on the northern gates of Tesara - Tesarus’ gates. Timelord knew the gates would likely not hold for long against such force - Tesara’s gates and walls were made of wood, after all.

 

Timelord looked at Branar. “You’ll fit. Follow me quickly,” he spoke as he led Branar away from the gates, Tuma, and the rest of the Skrall.  He then saw it - the watchtower with the secret entrance, approached it, then used his feet to find and feel the vines that blocked its entrance, finding a small opening and ran in. Not checking to see if Branar was behind him, he commanded to the guards present as he emerged, “Guards, there is a Skrall behind me! Shoot him!”

 

This had been incredibly risky -if Branar survived, he had just let the Skrall to a secret entrance. Unfortunately, while Tesara was not fond of the Skrall, it was also not quite fond of Timelord, either.

 

Because as he emerged, he heard “Traitor! First you cause the Skrall to war us, now you bring a Skrall with you after having the gall to return?!” And then, Timelord saw one of the guard leaping at him, the other firing a thornax through the opening that was the secret entrance - and missing Branar, while Branar loaded his own thornax, exploding the opening and making it wide enough for a regular Skrall without squeezing. Timelord had messed up.

 

“Traitor! I tried to escape from those beasts to warn you that they are about to strike the southern village!” Timelord yelled as he shoved past the tackling Agori despite his lack of arms, and decided to run toward Lan’s hut. Out of everyone here, besides my brother, he’ll listen to me. As he looked back, he saw that Branar heading out of the watchtower and out of Tesara - presumably to tell Tuma, while the guard he shoved past was chasing him. He also saw many Jungle Agori rushing about to try and help Tesara in any way they could, especially soldiers, and even some civilians forming a militia, apparently at Hyethut’s request. They were mobilising at the northern and southern gates, building barricades, digging potholes for their enemies to trip over, hauling rubble to the tops of roofs to throw at Skrall, and most revoltingly, gathering waste. And it wasn’t just Jungle Agori - but Fire Agori, too. Every now and then, he would hear the northern gates be bashed, as the Skrall tried to breach it.

 

Running into Lan’s hut, Timelord breathed a sigh of relief, coming to a stop, almost tripping over the waking body of Smoke Monster. “Lan, you have to listen to me, I had to get back to our villages in order to warn you that Stronius is leading an attack on Tesarix. I never wanted any of this. I never would betray Tesara. Never would.”

 

Lan turned to hear Timelord’s cry, and observed the guard that had been chasing him run in and prepare to apprehend the former leader, stepping out and raising a hand. “Halt, guardsman! I will take it from here. Return to the fray! Tesara needs you!”

 

Timelord bowed his head in appreciation. “Thank you, Lan. I would give you Tesaran salute, but as you can see…” Sending the guard away was not a gesture of kindness - but Timelord did not know that. “As I said, the Skrall - Stronius - is going to strike Tesarix while Tuma strikes Tesarus. I saw some Fire Agori on the way here, so I’m guessing they’re here to help Tesara.” He waited a second before continuing. “It’s obvious I’m unwanted here. If I could get new arms and a chariot, I could go to Tajun or Iconox and bring some much needed help.”

 

In a sudden move, Lan grabbed Timelord and slammed him against the outer wall of the hut, putting the blade of his knife against Timelord’s neck. “Explain, Leader Timelord,” he said softly, spitting out the word leader as if it were a curse, “Why does General Hyethut tell me you betrayed Tesara?”

 

“As you know, during the fire, I left to go search for Hyethut and my brother. I thought something had happened that prevented them from returning home on a normal route, and then I bumped into a strange prison caravan, led by an Iron Agori slaver and two Ice Agori imprisoned, I believe it was their diplomat and glatorian. I helped free them.” He stopped, catching his breath. “I was then chased into Gatherer’s Ridge, where I told Hyethut the same thing. Stronius then shouted that I was a coward who declared war upon the Skrall for freeing the Ice Agori and told them about the fire before I could. Hyethut was very upset with my actions, and left me to the will of the Skrall.” Timelord paused. “I only came back to help, I’ve always been loyal to Tesara.” Timelord stated, stressing the word ‘loyal’.  He took a deep breath, and finished, “If I knew any of this were to transpire, I never would have left that night. I only did what I thought was the right thing when I rescued that Ice Diplomat. I will admit I used poor judgement and made foolish mistakes, but I have never betrayed Tesara.”

 

Lan’s response was interrupted by the extremely loud sound of Tesara’s northern gates breaking, falling, and Tuma’s loud, booming voice. “Tesara needs only accept the inevitable.” And then, both Timelord and Lan - and everyone else in Tesara - could feel the ground shuddering as the Skrall marching in through the northern gates, with the sound of hundreds of thornax launchers being fired at the north gate by Tesara’s soldiers.

 

Timelord spoke again, trying to fight off a growing feeling of dread. “Lan, we’ve been friends for so long. You probably know me better than anyone else besides Andekas. Why would I betray you and Tesara?”

 

Lan lowered his blade from Timelord’s neck. “I… do not know,” he said. “I will choose to believe your story for now, if only because other matters need my immediate attention.” Lan helped Timelord to his feet, then gave Timelord the Tesaran salute. “It is good to have you back, Leader Timelord.” Lan turned to the newly awaken Smoke Monster. “Hail,  Smoke Monster. I am glad to see you have recovered. I require the aid of a fellow diplomat. Since you are a Rock Agori, you stand in better favour with Tuma than I, even though you are against him at the moment. At least, I hope you are. Will you help me get Tuma to initiate a ceasefire so that we may resolve our situation without further violence? I know it may not work, but it is worth a try.”

 

“I think we are well beyond words at this point. If Tuma has brought this many Skrall here to destroy Tesara, then I doubt we can negotiate with him. He’s the head of a monstrous snake, and we’re going to have to cut it off if we’re to save this village.” Smoke Monster responded. “Also, do you know where I could find another weapon? I feel I’d be more useful in battle with more than just my dagger.”

 

“Very well. As I said, it was just an idea. I will get you a better weapon.” Lan replied, reaching a for a thornax launcher and several thornax. “I never did like using this,” he said as he presented them to Smoke Monster. “What would you suggest we do, Leader Timelord? Or you, Smoke Monster? I am honestly at a loss right now.” Lan’s expertise was diplomacy and negotiation - not destruction and war.

 

“Thank you for the weapon, Lan. I appreciate them. As for what we do, I say we find Tuma, and put him down once and for all.” Smoke Monster suggested.

 

“Thank you, Lan, for believing me. I agree that Tuma must fall, but Stronius would continue to lead the invasion. The Skrall are not a snake, but a sand-hydra.” Timelord looked outside, to the north, where soldiers were fighting the Skrall, and to the south, where the gate was still holding, “Right now, we are in stalemate, even with troops from Vulcanus. We need more help. I know where to get it - Tajun. There was a reason I had you add a military support article in the Tajun trading alliance. With their help, we can push the Skrall out of Tesara.” He looked Lan in the eyes. “Right now, Tesara sees me as a traitor. I do not believe my presence will help here, allow me to go to Tajun to get help. My injuries should prove evidence enough.

 

Both Lan and Smoke Monster glared at Timelord, at his suggestion of leaving.

 

“I don’t think leaving your village as it is in the middle of a battle would be the best idea. Even if you do find replacements for your arms somehow, you could and would still be easily targeted by Bone Hunters and Vorox in the dunes. I would recommend sending a couple of messengers in your stead to ask for help from Tajun. That being said, this is not my village. I’m but a visitor here, and if you think leaving for Tajun to get help is the best idea on the table, I won’t stand in your way. I’m just giving my thoughts, if they are worth anything to you.” Smoke Monster finished, looking at Lan. “Now, unless either of you have something for me to do, I’m going to go find Tuma and see what he’s up to.”

 

“I would strongly advise against leaving in the heat of battle, Leader Timelord. The last time you did so, things went poorly for you.” Lan turned to Smoke Monster. “You have given me an idea. Could you manage to sneak behind enemy lines and scout out any weaknesses in Tuma’s defenses? That would help us immensely in our fight.”

 

“Sounds like a plan. I’ll sneak around to see what I can find.” Smoke Monster stated, leaving the hut.

 

“Then we need to send word to Tajun. Lan, send two guards to the fastest chariot we have. They must not fall.” Timelord paced a few steps. “The watchtowers have barrels of lantern oil. If we could coat the Skrall in it, we could set them on fire. I’ll head over to the southern gate in Tesarix and tell them my plan, if they will even listen to me.

 

And then Timelord left Lan’s hut, approaching the southern gate, seeing a barrage of thornax fired by the Skrall almost cover the sky and land down upon Tesara, the Agori soldiers at the northern gate raising their shields in a testudo formation, the Skrall slowly pushing forward.

 

As he approached the southern gates, they flung open, revealing Stronius and a hundred Skrall, Stronius locking eyes with Timelord.

 

“Thank you for weakening Tesara, like we asked,” began Stronius, a delighted smile spreading across his face, concealed by his helmet.

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-TAJUN-

-Terrorsaur-

IC: Terrorsaur (All); Toru (All)

 

Terrorsaur woke up, the sight of Tajun before his eyes. The fact that he was finally home, after a victorious battle no less, went a long way to invigorating him more than he would have been otherwise. Telling the Agori carrying him to put him down, he looked around, taking care to thank the Agori he had fought with, many of those who were not of the Water Tribe only having come to see Terrorsaur home. “If you’ll excuse me for a moment. You’re all free to do as you wish. Go back to your tribes, if you’d like, or stay here. Tajun is open to all who seek peace from the Skrall and Bone Hunters.”

Looking around, Tajun was simultaneously not as he remembered it, and exactly as he remembered it. It was the village of Tajun - but while he was relieved, Jed was dead, Manducus had been killed, and Underscore had died. To be here in Tajun was quite bittersweet for Terrorsaur.

 

Unusually, though, there was a large group of Ice Agori soldiers, led by two Jungle Agori in a Baranus. They seemed quite unhappy with their predicament - apparently, while it was without a leader, Tajun had prevented them from leaving until Terrorsaur returned.  Terrorsaur asked why exactly they had come to Tajun, of all places, instead of somewhere like Atero. Additionally, there was a Thornatus, parked by an Ice Agori Terrorsaur recognised - Toru of Iconox, a fellow member of Atero’s Fellowship. Not that it meant much now, after the battle at Atero had ended.

 

“Sir Je… Sir Terrorsaur, leader of Tajun, Tesara requests aid. We have been sent by our leader Timelord from Gatherer’s Ridge to gather forces from Iconox and Tajun to help fight back before the Skrall reach Tesara!”

 

Something told Terrorsaur the  Skrall were already at Tesara, and that these Agori were hopelessly late. I should have known there was another fight brewing. “I will come with you, with a hundred and seventy five of our troops. I need to leaves some here to guard the place, and I can’t ask everyone that came with me to fight again so soon. They’re exhausted.”

 

Terrorsaur quickly walked back to the party that had hauled him to Tajun, informing them of the situation. “Of course, you are welcome to come if you want. But I won’t force you to march another battle. We’re gathering by those Ice Agori.”

 

He almost left, before he instinctually stopped at the uttering of his name.

 

“Terrorsaur, I’m afraid I have a rather long string of bad news to tell you,” spoke the familiar voice of Toru.

 

Terrorsaur turned around, and couldn’t help but give a small grin. At least one of his allies, and friends, was still alive. “As do I, old friend. With a little good mixed in. Please, tell me yours first.”

 

“Where to start? Iconox has probably been overrun at this point, Luroka has betrayed us and then died, Tuma is marching toward Tesara with ALL of the Skrall and, uh… you haven’t seen or heard anything strange recently? About… dreams?” Toru was still mystified by the strange circumstances regarding his entire time in Roxtus - what had happened there, and why?

 

Terrorsaur’s expression did not change much, if at all. “That’s how you know the news is awful, huh? When it spreads around quickly. I heard about Iconox and Luroka while I was in Atero. Bone Hunters disrupted the tournament before it could even start, but those brave soldiers over there held them off. Those Tesarans over there told me about the situation with the Skrall, but I was not aware it was ALL of them and Tuma on their way. Where have you been? How did you learn of these things? As for dreams… I did have a strange vision earlier. For a brief moment.”

 

Toru tried to speak as plainly as he could. “I was taken away to Roxtus by the Skrall in the middle of the battle and imprisoned there. Except not really, because they left the Rock Agori to guard me and, well, they forgot to lock the door.” Toru still couldn’t believe it. “I’m serious.”

 

“Well, that alone gives me confidence that fighting forces from Roxtus won’t be too hard.” Terrorsaur gave a small smile.

 

“They did however confiscate my weapons, so it wasn’t exactly a cakewalk, even with all the strangeness going on there. By the way, do you have any spare weapons?”

 

“There should be some in the armory. Help yourself. Do you plan on going to Tesara?” Terrorsaur asked, also signalling to a guard that he had given Toru permission to grab a weapon.

 

“Can’t think of a reason not to.” Toru replied, heading off to grab a sword and thornax launcher, then returned, saddling up in a Baranus.

 

And then Terrorsaur, Toru, one-hundred and seventy-five Water Agori soldiers, fifty-five Ice Agori soldiers, and two Jungle Agori in a Baranus left for Tesara.

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-TESARA-

-All-

IC: Timelord (All); Andekas (All); Lan (All); Hyethut (All); Smoke Monster (All); FF (All); Quin (After Entrance); Tuma (All); Stronius (All)

 

For a pair of villages where one had been half-burned down not more than a few days ago, Tesara was putting up an admirable defense in the face of a stronger force.

 

Much of the strategies used in this defense, of course, were on the command of General Hyethut - makeshift barriers built of burnt or excess wood to help shield soldiers; forming a civilian militia; rubble hoarded and taken to roofs to pelt at the Skrall, creating a minor but not ignorable annoyance; potholes dug at Tesara’s southern gate to trip the Skrall, taking advantage of fruiting Cabolo trees - Cabolo being a distant relative of the thornax that exploded into a severely acidic juice instead - to burn through the armour and weapons of Skrall; most novel of all, taking advantage of citizens’ waste to mix together and preparedly pour upon the Skrall; and most lethally of all - getting a botanist to make a poisonous, lethal powder, with even a code-word so that the Agori forces knew to hold their nose when it was shouted.

 

Whether Tesara would win or lose this battle, General Hyethut would be remembered fondly as a military genius. It was he that rained a barrage of thornax down upon the Skrall as they entered Tesara for the first time - damaging them more effectively than he could have hoped, it was he who had given the order to lock into a testudo formation and rain down Cabolo ‘kursetu’ when the Skrall responded in kind. It was he who had caused the agori soldiers to lock in a stalemate of sorts with the vastly more powerful Skrall, in a lethal game of rock, paper, scissors - the Agori would bash their shields forward, thrust their swords forward, then defend, a strategy that proved astonishingly effective the first time it was applied - but then soon proved less effective when the Skrall adopted the same strategy.

 

But Tesara was not putting up a good defense solely because of the General - others fought. Such as FF, who was valiantly defending against Skrall coming in from the apparently ‘secret’ entrance of Tesara Timelord had utilised, even going so far as to collapse the watchtower it was connected to to try and damage the Skrall there. Even another General - Quin - had arrived at the behest of Burnmad with thirty or so more of Vulcanus’ soldiers, because Tesara was where most of Vulcanus’ soldiers were. And with him, he had brought the shard in the chest.

 

Timelord, in particular, had been witness to seeing Stronius and the first ten or so of the Skrall he was leading  trip over potholes at the southern gate, shortly after Stronius had entered with his force, during which Timelord gave the order to fire thornax - while soldiers brought oil, as Timelord had planned. Initially, there was friction between Timelord and the soldiers - but a traitor does not stare their doom in the face. He saw how the oil had been brought to the walls and poured down it, much of it slicking into the potholes but covering the tripped-over Skrall nonethelesss - including Stronius, who Timelord saw get up - and leap straight at him. Stronius, he knew, was absolutely curse-bent on seeing Timelord die.

 

Timelord knew what he was doing, perhaps for the first time in a while. He gave the order to light the oil on fire by any means necessary - while ordering a shield-spear formation like the one he saw Hyethut use at Gatherer’s Ridge. The oil began to blaze - and so did the Skrall within it, losing their concentration as they tried to fight the pain. Even Stronius had been set on fire - except Stronius leapt over the shield, and landed before Timelord, literally flaming both on the outside and within, ready to finish the job he had started at Gatherer’s Ridge.

 

Timelord stepped back, giving the order to to take down Stronius with spears and thornax - which, against all odds, worked. Stronius collapsed, dying - but not dead.

 

Not dead, until Timelord awkwardly drove a spear down through Stronius’ helmet and head as best as he could. Stronius’ last act was to pathetically grab at Timelord’s heels - but Timelord had finally killed the Skrall that had hounded him for a while.

 

Timelord was definitely not a traitor to Tesara. While his decisions had been controversial, he had made it known that he was not the kind to betray his tribe.

 

Timelord’s brother, Andekas, was in far more danger, for he was fighting far more than any Skrall. More than any Elite Skrall. He had the misfortune - or fortune - of fighting Tuma himself. This is not something he had planned - Tuma had charged at him at the start of the battle, to which Andekas reacted to by leaping upwards, unsheathing his blade, and trying to slash at the giant’s neck.

 

It did not work, as Tuma countered with his own giant blade, and Andekas felt the sheer force of it clashing with his own blade in his arms, Tuma proceeding to let out a sweeping kick, intended to knock Andeka to the ground. Andekas tried to reach for his shield, trying to block the kick - but the force of it was so strong it sent him tumbling on the ground, and saw Tuma charging forward to bring the giant blade down upon Andekas. Andekas tried to roll out of the way, trying to get back to his feet - but did not roll quite enough, soon finding that he had lost his left hand. He heard Tuma laughing, and saw Tuma prepare to crush his body with his feet. Andekas used his feet to push himself away from the giant Skrall, sliding himself across the ground, screaming in agony at the loss of his left hand. He got to his feet, stumbling, insulted Tuma, and leapt upon a nearby roof, sheathing his sword and running away from Tuma, reaching for the thornax launcher on his back. He turned around, and carefully aimed his thornax launcher at Tuma’s back.

 

Imrukii was not the only one to be aiming a thornax launcher at Tuma - Smoke Monster had found his way to a tall building, from the top of which he could see most of Tesara. Most importantly, Smoke Monster could see Tuma. And he had begun firing his own thornax - one of which had hit Tuma, causing the giant Skrall to recoil and scream in pain and anger, rage and surprise.

 

This one thornax was more important than Smoke Monster knew, because it had changed the battle considerably.

 

Tuma had decided in his seething rage that if Tesara was going to fight to the death, then he would let their village die before the Jungle Tribe did. “SKRALL! RETREAT, AND BLOCK ALL EXITS! WE RAZE TESARA TO THE GROUND WITH FIRE AND THORNAX! LET THEM BURN THEMSELVES TO DEATH! IF THEY ARE INVOLVING THE FIRE TRIBE, THEN WE WILL INVOLVE FIRE ITSELF! LET THE FIRE FINISH WHAT THE FIRE HAD STARTED!” Tuma yelled, louder than he had ever done so before - and the Skrall began to ‘retreat’, poising to block both the northern and southern gates with their shields, blades and bodies. At the southern gate, the Skrall at the back line facing Quin and his own force of thirty soldiers, who had tried to pull off a surprise attack, only to merely alert the Skrall to their presence.

 

In reaction to Tuma’s words, General Hyethut became outraged, ordering Tesara’s militia to grab buckets of sand and water. “You hear that?! The cowards run at our might! But rather than take us down with honour, the worms will let their torches do their work for them! We’ve already conquered one fire! By shield wall, force your way forward and gut any torch-bearers you find! You ranks in the back, get on the roofs and shoot any torch-wielders you see with your launchers!” He glanced toward the broken northern gate of Tesara, and gave a new order specifically to three soldiers on the roof he was currently on - orders to spread words of a code word among the Agori, for the time to use the poison powder he held was soon. Upon hearing it, all were to yell it themselves, pinch their nostrils, and shut tight their mouths.

 

Andekas, meanwhile, fired his own thornax upon hearing Tuma’s words, and heard Tuma scream in pain as he saw two of the blades mounted on Tuma’s back snap off. “DESTROY TESARA! FIRE ALL THORNAX AND THROW ALL TORCHES!”

 

And then, the Skrall began throwing makeshift torches and flaming thornax over the walls of Tesara, firing  thornax up into the air, hoping to burn Tesara once more, the sky starting to look like a deadly spectacle.

 

But the sky was not the only thing looking like a deadly spectacle, as Tesara began to burn once more. And this time, it was not just Tesarus.

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-BENEATH TAJUN-

-Nato-

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

 

Nato, Voltex, Dalu, and Ehrye had been led to a cliff-face in a Tajun, a cliff-face with an almost imperceptible line running down through it. Initially, the reception in Tajun had been cold due to the presence of Voltex and Ionia, before Dalu had reminded them that Luroka had struck a deal on the behalf of Iron Agori.

 

“Through this door lies lies the means to reforge the mask,” Ionia pointed, and mumbled “ :m_o: :m_p: :e: :n: . ”

 

Within an instant, the almost imperceptible line became a visible door, opening up to reveal a cavern, its walls covered in engravings of a language only Ionia recognised.

 

“This is the cavern from my dream…” Nato trailed off, circling Ionia. “I told you what happened in my vision! Why would you bring us here?” He was referring to the dream he had, in which he saw the Mask of Life reforged beneath Tajun and kill everyone in it, including Ionia. This dream had also accurately predicted the Bone Hunters raiding Atero, and inclined him to trust the dream.

 

“This is the lab of the Great Beings. That is why I brought you here, and I would like to know why you think I would believe you when to me, you sound like a madman, raving about dreams.” Ionia glared at Nato, irritated, then turned to Voltex. “Now, follow me carefully. There are walls here that aren’t actually walls.” Ionia proceeded to walk into a wall and disappeared - or walked straight through it.

 

“You’re a crippled outcast claiming to be a Great Being, and I’m the insane one?” Nato snapped back, doing his best to not be phased by the bizarre not-wall.  He wasn’t buying her excuse - he’d known what she looks like hours before he met her, he’d known she’d had a shard without seeing it, he’d known about the secret cavern before he’d set foot inside it. There was more to Nato’s dream than the ramblings of a madman. Either she is trying to discredit me, or she is too focused on her own goals to care. Whatever Ionia’s intentions, Nato had no intention of letting her get her hands on the shards again.

 

Nato took a deep breath, attempting to stride through the wall, followed by Voltex, Ehrye, and Dalu. Through the wall, he saw raised podium with the same engravings as on the walls, and a strange, raised part of the wall on which an unfamiliar alphabet soon appeared.  To his left and right were long hallways, with many strange diagrams and preserved specimens - like a specimen similar to Ehrye, only without the mechanical parts, next to what he now knew was an Iron Wolf. Most interestingly, there was a diagram of a mask - apparently with the image of  a giant construct engraved upon it, Ionia standing by it.

 

“That is the Mask of Life’s initial appearance,” began Ionia. Nato would go along for now, until some other ridiculous lie was told. “That is in several shards is alarming, but the fact that it is here on Bara Magna, and not in the giant construct, is even more alarming. Something has happened to it, so the mask will have to be used here, on Bara Magna.” Nato rolled his eyes, the sheer far-fetchedness of a giant construct having a mask of life inside it - why exactly did it need it, and even if giant constructs were possible, what kind of poor design made a life-destroying mask necessary?  “We have five shards, we’re only missing one. Then the mask can be reforged, and it will function as intended. The problem is finding this last shard, but I believe the tools in this lab can help us find it - and possibly take us straight to it.” Nato saw Voltex glance over at him, with an expectant stare. “Furthermore, when the mask is reforged, I will die. To the left, there is a long hallway. There is a prototype version of a machine we built far in the north to protect something, the machine serving two purposes: defence and travel. If you really desire the shards, the machine will hopefully take you to the last one - and then it can be reforged, with tools that should be somewhere around here.”

 

Nato had enough of Ionia’s words - this was too convenient, too quick, and too shady. “Let’s say, for a moment, that you’re telling the truth about all of this. You are a Great Being, this is your lab, and the mask was designed to bring life.” He thought back to the vision he had been shown, of Spherus Magna shattering, being told that Great Beings doomed all worlds. “That would mean you and your kind were responsible for the desolation of this planet. Why would we trust you after that?”

 

Ionia likewise had enough of Nato’s words. “We did not destroy Spherus Magna! The actions of the Earth Tribe did! We did not fight in the Core War, we tried to stop it… we were too late. And too early. We even had a contingency plan. Do you see the plans for a giant construct? That is the contingency! And to the best of my knowledge, and lack of knowledge to otherwise, it was working until the mask somehow ended up here! The giant construct, Mata Nui, would go out and study other worlds, eventually returning here to meld the three fragments of Spherus Magna back into one! If the Mask of Life is here, something very bad has happened to that giant construct. I want to fix this world, not destroy it!”

 

“Your kind had their chance. You’ve had… I don’t even know how many thousands of years… to try to fix the problem, and you haven’t. You failed, and this is the world you left us with.” Nato took a step closer, clenching his hands into fists. “This isn’t your planet any more, Ionia. It’s ours. You don’t get to order us around, or demean us, or try to lecture us on our own history.” Their history that she had been absent from for thousands of years, no less.

 

Ionia stepped back, suddenly snapping. “How are we meant to fix a world when we are missing in action - or dead? I have been dead for thousands of years until very recently. Fixing a world that shattered into three isn’t easy alone, and it isn’t easy in a group. Thinking it can be done quickly is insane - because if you did, you would end up killing the people on all three of the worlds. I am trying to help all of you Agori - but evidently, your time on Bara Magna has regressed you all into thinking like barbarians that put more stock into dreams than the people trying to fix your world. If that is the case, I will ignore the lot of you!”

 

“As far as most people around here are concerned, the Great Beings are nothing but a myth. You belittle me for putting my faith in a dream, when to everyone else, your entire existence is a fantasy.” And his own dreams had spoken to him - his own dreams had told him that despite the reforging of the mask apparently killing everyone around it, something would happen to prevent that.

 

“I exist, unlike dreams.” Ionia stated, frustrated and irritated with Nato.

 

“You exist… as a dessicated, crippled, walking corpse.” Before Nato could continue, Voltex stepped forward, interrupting him by placing a firm hand on his shoulder.

 

“Ignore my friend, Ionia,” Voltex stepped past Nato, offering Ionia his good hand. “I haven’t introduced myself properly yet, but I am Voltex - an Iron Agori. Leader of them, technically, though there isn’t much left to really lead at all. Do not worry about Nato, the shards are mine. This quest to retrieve them is my only mission. If re-forging them can save Bara Magna, my only home, then I am in. Show us to the machine, and together, we will all claim the final shard. Nato may disagree, but he and I will be loyal to each other to the end. The safest hands for these shards are our own.”

 

“Well, Voltex. Follow me.” Ionia shook Voltex’s hand quickly, leading him  - and by extension, Nato, Dalu, and Ehrye - down the left hallway, toward a tall mechanical archway, seemingly mundane. “This archway here will take you to whatever you desire the most. And for you and I, it’s the last shard. This is a prototype, however, so it may not be spot on - it may malfunction by taking you close but not close enough, or by simply not working. In the worst case scenario, it may take one half of you somewhere else while the other half remains here, almost certainly killing you.” She began to walk off. “I will search for and retrieve the tools required to fix the mask.”

 

Voltex turned to Nato, Dalu, and Ehrye. “One of you should stay here with Ehrye while the other goes with me,” he said. “I’d suggest you come, Nato, if only so that your dreams might, perhaps, benefit us some?”

 

“As I understand it, many of the other shards have been protected, or weaponised.” He thought to how he had briefly saw Terrorsaur wielding one of the shards like a flail, withering Bone Hunters to death. “I don’t suppose there are any weapons in this place? Even a simple sword would suffice.”

 

Voltex shrugged. “If you have any thornax on you, I might lend you mine. I’ve always been better at aiming than swinging a sword, and that was before losing one of my hands. Though if we’re leaving Dalu here, perhaps she could lend us hers? She shouldn’t need much to protect herself while in here.”

 

Nato was skeptical of that claim.

 

Then, Voltex drew his sword. “On second thought, let me test something,” he said, eyeing Dalu out of the corner of his eye. With his wrapped and ruined hand, he grabbed the Iconox Shard out of his bag. “When I found this, it multiplied worms that came into contact with it. Perhaps it will work with a sword, too?” He touched the shard to the blade, and…

 

No results. Dalu instead held their blade out to Nato, and then… Voltex touched the shard to Dalu.

 

Within an instant, there was a tangled thing, the best way to describe the gruesome sight before them - limbs broadly in the ‘correct’ places, one head and half a head disappeared into the first head… it looked as if there were two instances of the Agori known as Dalu, except they had begun to exist in the same space - to lethal results, as Dalu sat there, dead or dying - it was hard to tell.

 

Voltex slowly placed the shard back into the bag, remaining silent for a long while, before interrupting it with a cough. “Well, there goes the help.”

 

Ionia returned, carrying few strange-looking tools that were best described as nothing more than  pair of tongs.  “I’ll clean… them… up later. Take these tools, I imagine you do not wish to have me accompany you.”  She quietly muttered an insulting word for Ice Agori beneath her breath.

 

Nato finally spoke after a few long moments. He bent over to pick up Dalu’s sword, glowered at Voltex, then took the glorified tongs Ionia was offering. “I think it’s time for us to go, Voltex.”

 

“Of course. Ehrye, stay.” Voltex stepped into the machine, already having moved past his accidental murder - to him, Dalu was just another unimportant Water Agori, and meaningless in the end. A little bit cruel, thought Nato, but perhaps such sacrifices were necessary.

 

Only one shard remained. And they had means to repair the Mask of Life.

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-TESARA-

-All-

IC: Timelord (All); Andekas (All); Lan (All);  Hyethut (All); Smoke Monster (All); FF (All); Quin (All); Terrorsaur (All); Toru (All); Nato (All); Voltex (All); Tuma (All)

 

The two Agori suddenly found themselves appearing in the midst of Tesara. To the north and the south, they could just barely see the Skrall army beyond Tesara’s own forces - and those of Vulcanus’. The sky had been darkened by the Skrall’s thornax, then lit up again by makeshift torches, thrown over the walls of Tesara - it was clear this was no ordinary attack. This was an attack meant to destroy Tesara, and many parts of Tesara were already burning.

Even more bizarrely, from the north and eventually the south, they heard the word ‘GRAPES!’ being screamed by many Agori, the General of Tesara, Hyethut, riding upon a Rock Steed nearby, throwing out a bag of yellowish and apparently deadly powder, the Agori who heard it pinching their nostrils and covering their mouths.

 

To the south, beyond even the Skrall, was a small force of Fire Agori, fighting the back lines of the Skrall - and most interestingly, they were carrying a chest - a chest glowing extremely brightly.

 

Voltex did not need to look down at his own bag to notice it was also glowing extremely brightly - brighter than ever before.

 

Bara Magna was about to change forever.

 

END OF EPISODE EIGHT!

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