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-TESARA-

 

Relief.

 

Relief is the word to describe the feeling that permeated all of Tesara. Tesara had been through a lot in the past few days, from the fire of Tesarus to the battle against the Skrall to the strange incomprehensible mass of red flesh briefly present. Most would think no village could conquer any one of those, let alone all three of them.

 

But Tesara’s continued existence would prove them wrong. Tesara still exists, victorious over the fire, the Skrall, and the dreamer’s disease spread by the mass of flesh.

 

Of particular note is General Hyethut, whose actions stopped the mass of flesh with the Mask of Life - or Grunkhar’s Gift, as some now call it. Grunkharism has exploded in popularity among Tesara, now accounting for almost eighty percent of Tesara’s population. Grunkhar, through Hyethut, had saved Tesara from both the Skrall and whatever it was that had came after.

 

Damages to the twin villages were already being seen to, but that did not mean there no current issues.

 

Timelord, former leader of Tesara, and the reason the Skrall came. Some wished to see him punished for his actions by either exile or execution. Others, however, wishes for Tesara to forgive him - as there are eyewitness accounts of him landing the killing blow on Stronius despite his lack of arms. The former group decries this - saying that someone without arms cannot possibly have killed Stronius, much to the latter group’s frustration.

 

Timelord himself breathed a sigh of relief, for his home, Tesara, was safe at last.  

 

But he did not know that his own fate had yet to be determined.

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-VULCANUS-

 

Burnmad and Quin returned to Vulcanus with their troops and vehicles, weary of what they had seen. A day ago, they had seen sights many would consider impossible - the Skrall having been defeated, the tribes of Bara Magna standing together, united. Tuma had fallen, and then something incomprehensible had happened - something about an incomprehensible red and fleshy being, dreams, and the explosion of a strange mask. Then, all had returned to normal.

 

Vulcanus had been somewhat on edge since both its General and its Leader had left, a feeling relaxed at the news of the Skrall’s defeat then slightly heightened by news of the other tribes almost turning on it.

In his absence, it had been wondering what to do with Pahrak of Roxtus, their prisoner who had told them about the Skrall’s march on Tesara and the deliverer of the severed head of their former leader. Some had suggested that Pahrak was to be celebratorily executed, with Pahrak representing the Skrall. Pahrak, of course, objected to this, at least once he woke up after having a strange dream in which he may or may not have spoken to Onaku.

 

Pahrak was soon released from custody, however, and allowed to journey back to Roxtus.

 

Quin felt responsible for what had happened in Tesara - that it was his job to keep the shards apart - and yet he had failed. He did take solace in the fact that others had the sense to destroy whatever it was that had manifested at Tesara - but he felt that if he had been more competent, such a thing would never have manifested.

 

Burnmad, however, had unfinished business. A strange Iron Agori claiming to be a Great Being had mentioned a structure called ‘Spirit’s Wish’, and had then left in a hurry. Another Iron Agori had shot a thornax at the Cendox - and knocked him off of it. Perhaps they were related - both seemed to want the shards. Beyond that, Vulcanus wanted its Thornatus back.

 

Then, Burnmad left Vulcanus, with twenty soldiers, leaving Quin in charge.

 

Vulcanus would never see him again.

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-ICONOX-

 

Iconox could finally rest once more. It had effectively been conquered by the Skrall, and then it had experienced a civil war. But Iconox still stood, however damaged, enduring onward into the future. Iconox would not fall, not as easily as the Skrall had once desired it to.

 

Smoke Monster, the diplomat of Roxtus responsible for the Skrall presence in Iconox, had arrived back at Iconox with General FF, having returned from Tesara. Once, he had supported the Skrall. But he had fought against them - even striking Tuma with his thornax.

 

He did not completely understand what had went down in Tesara after the death of Tuma, but he did know what with Tuma gone and the Skrall severely weakened, Bara Magna would be a safer region.

 

He had met with FF and Rahkshi Guurahk, though only to say his goodbyes. “Unless you guys need me and the Rock Agori still in Iconox for anything else, I feel that its time for us to return to Roxtus. With the Skrall gone, I feel that there will be a power transition in leadership with the Rock Agori. I should probably be there for that."

 

“It certainly sounds so…” Rahkshi Guurahk admitted. “That sounds rather complex. I hope that Iconox is going to have better relations with Roxtus now that you're under newer and hopefully better leadership. Let's hope we both can rebuild our respective homes.”

 

“Let’s finish the last of the city repairs first. We’ll talk about Iconox’s future hopefully soon to the public.” FF added.

 

“I, too, hope that the relationship between our villages will continue, and be better off now that the Skrall are not in charge. I would definitely like for our villages to stay allies. Once I see how Roxtus is doing, I will plan to return here to discuss this further with you both, or with whoever may be in charge when that time comes. But until then, I thank you for lending me your trust for these last few days, and I wish Iconox a speedy recovery with its remaining repairs.”

 

“Goodbye, Smoke Monster. Thank you for your help, and may we meet again.” FF said

 

“I’ll see you in the future. Best of luck,” added Rahkshi Guurahk.

 

And with that, Smoke Monster finally returned to Roxtus, after a long absence.

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-ROXTUS-

 

Roxtus was silent. Tuma had been killed, the Skrall defeated at Tesara, and then something happened. Something that the few Skrall who had returned to Roxtus would refuse to speak of - for most Skrall did not return to Roxtus, and never would. There was a suspicion that it related to the strange behaviour of some Rock Agori, yet the suspicion was never confirmed - it had completely subsided by the time the few Skrall returned.

 

After a long absence, the diplomats Smoke Monster and Pahrak finally returned. Roxtus was not the same place as when they had initially left it.

 

Pahrak sat on a bench near the main gate of Roxtus, struggling to process all of the new information he had just received.  There was no doubt that Roxtus was in a far more precarious position now: the Skrall had been their primary resource, and now they had only a few left—worse, there was no way they would be as valued as before.  Still, there were many positives to consider.  Tuma’s death left the Rock Tribe free to better emphasize more peaceful goals, and at least some Skrall had felt compelled to return.  They still had access to water and black exsidian to sell.

 

I suppose, Pahrak thought, Roxtus’s future hinges entirely upon what the other villages think of us now.

 

Would it be remembered as the one responsible for the threat of the Skrall?  Would the other villages see this shift as Roxtus becoming a more equal ally, or a convenient target?  Would Roxtus be thought of only with hate and vengeance, or would they be allowed to move on?

 

…Perhaps we can improve the chances of that if we quickly show that we can move on.

 

Pahrak stood and walked inside, looking for ShadowVezon.  This was far from the future he had envisioned, but also far better than the one that almost occurred.  Whatever the cause, Tribes had begun to stand united for the first time in a very long time, which made the possibility of a peaceful Bara Magna more likely than ever.  That was a goal worth working toward.

 

He searched around for Smoke Monster and ShadowVezon and Onaku, until he finally found them. "Ah, there you are."  Pahrak approached the three of them, apparently preparing to discuss something.

 

"Hello, ShadowVezon; hello, Pahrak; hello, Onaku. It has been too long since I last saw you." Smoke Monster began.

 

"If you don't mind, I would like to talk to you about my recent travels. I feel you should hear what I have to say."

 

"Very well." ShadowVezon pushed his unfinished speech - a speech regarding Roxtus’ future to one side, and turned to Pahrak. "You have good timing, Pahrak. I assume you'll have something to tell as well."

 

"I was trying to think of ways to show the other villages we don't want any continuing ill will between us, and wanted to compare opinions," Pahrak said.  "The first thing I thought of was perhaps taking a few Agori to help repair the damage done to Tesara.  I would hope that would demonstrate our willingness to put Tuma's war nonsense behind us, but I can't be sure how they would take it..." After pausing a moment, he turned to Smoke Monster.  "You know...they'd be more likely to trust you than me, I think."

 

“If I am requested to return to Tesara to help out there, I will go. For now, though, let me share what I wanted tell. In case either of you didn't know, I escaped Tesara with FF, Iconox's general, when whatever happened to Nato happened to him. We got back to Iconox safely. There, I talked with FF and RG, Iconox's leader, before heading back here. I told them that once we got things settled in Roxtus, that I would return to talk to them about continuing our alliance. They didn't seen opposed to the idea, at least to me. If we could show everyone in Bara Magna that we can work with other villages by working with Iconox, it could help us to get into the society the Agori have set up." Smoke Monster took a moment to pause. "That's all I've got to report."

 

Hearing this, Pahrak brightened up.  "Oh!  That's excellent!  Well, I wish you the best of luck, then."

 

And then, Roxtus’ Agori began to lay the foundation for its future - a future that did not rely on the power of the Skrall, nor needed them. A future that did not require incredible amounts of aggression, a future that that was more co-operative with the other tribes. ShadowVezon would go on to make a speech to Roxtus, detailing how things would change - Roxtus would begin to function more similarly to the other villages, the Skrall under its command if they so wish but not tolerated aggression. Onaku would follow, making his own and taking command of what Skrall remained - helping guide them both.

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-TESARA-

 

Terrorsaur stepped into the chamber, the chamber at the top of a tower in Tesara after having been prompted to enter, and offered a small bow to each of the four members of Tesara’s high command - Hyethut, Andekas, Lan - who had fallen asleep… and Timelord, most of whom were surprised - Terrorsaur was clearly not who they expected. He’d already been waiting outside their chamber for hours - they were quite the talkative bunch.

 

Hyethut smiled, offering his hand forward. “I am Hyethut Adat, General of Tesara. I apologise, but I am not familiar with you. If you participated in yesterday’s…” Hyethut paused, careful not to let his anger break his composure. “...Then it must have been at the southern gate. I only went there once as the north needed my constant attention. May I have the pleasure of knowing you?”

 

Terrorsaur shook Hyethut’s hand, politely but firmly. “I am Terrorsaur, formerly the general of Tajun. Recently appointed leader. I was indeed here yesterday, near the south gate. I had been involved in the gathering of the shards that formed the mask and the conflict that came of it, but I will admit I ran from the… thing before you so nobly defeated it, explaining why he had not met before now. Speaking of, I must offer you my highest praises, as meaningless as they must be to one such as yourself. And I come with a proposition for all of you to consider.”

 

Timelord looked at Terrorsaur, not knowing if he still had the right to address him. “What type of proposal? We still have a peace and trade agreement between our people.”

 

The abomination flashed in Hyethut’s mind at Terrorsaur’s mention. He shook his head slightly before responding, ignoring Timelord’s words. “I thank you, but I will humbly give those thanks to Grunkhar. If not for Grunkhar then, I honestly would not haveh ad the will to do that… I honestly have trouble reconciling what occured with reality, it feels like a dream…” Hyethut wanted to cry, his eyes watering a little.

 

Terrorsaur nodded solemnly. "I would be interested in taking that treaty one step further. The Tesaran region is already home to the twin villages - why not join together with Tajun and unite three villages? Your land will surely need even more water in the process of rebuilding, and Tajun was recently raided by Bone Hunters again. We would not be averse to gaining more crops for our people.”

 

“Free movement between all three villages, better roads between our regions. A renaissance through cultural blending desperately needed in a new era of peace. Cooperative ruling between our lands; admittedly, I am a wartime commander with no one to fight. I will surely need assistance in the various details of politics with the other regions.”

 

For a moment, Terrorsaur wondered whether or not to keep his duty to Atero secret - though he’d already fought there with others, perhaps it would be not wise to conceal such a duty. “It is also my sworn duty to protect Atero, meaning that should another conflict ever unfortunately break out we would have yet another ally. Of course, if none of this is appealing to any of you, we can simply continue our current deal with no ill feelings.”

 

“I am actually okay with parts of this proposal,” Hyethut began. “However, our individual sovereignty will need to be respected, and this will need to be a gradual process. I suggest that if we are to look into this, that a written treatise will be recorded. Also, I have ideas on how to make more water for Tesara, so that idea is of little interest to me.”

 

Terrorsaur nodded. “Yes. Of course, ultimately the Tesaran peoples would still have control of themselves and you’d be free to back out at any time. I have no interest in seizing power I do not have a right to. This would really just be a way for us all to grow stronger.”

 

Timelord interjected with a suggestion - “Instead of unifying our tribes, what about a confederation? We could still remain independent from one another but we would all have the benefits of one united nation, and this would leave it open for the other villages to join if they so wished.”

 

Terrorsaur spoke again. “That sounds like a good idea.”Important thing to remember: this won’t happen all at once. We’d be allowed to pick and choose what we want to happen and when we want it to happen. Bringing the other tribes into a confederation as well could be helpful, although I think leaving Iconox and Roxtus out of any deals until they sort out their own issues would be a good idea.”

 

“Very true. Hints why a confederation would give more flexibility to its members. I have a feeling Iconox and Roxtus will need some time mending the fabric of their regions before they would be willing to join such a confederation - besides that our own regions need mending as well.” Timelord finished, and then remembered the Ice Agori - the Ice Agori who had somehow became the abomination. “And what should we do with what became of the Ice Agori, Nato their name I believe? Should we use cremation or bury him? I suggest to seal their corpse away, in case of reanimation, however unlikely.”

 

Hyethut’s anger quietly flared as he listened to Timelord speak, who had spoke as if he still had authority. He spoke calmly. “The works of our ancient king Neronikus are still around, scattered about the lower Skrall River, merely dried and ruined.” Hyethut turned to Terrorsaur. “I deeply apologise, I need to have a word with my fellow Tesarans. Please wait at the bottom of the staircase for you to be called back, esteemed lord of Tajun. He bowed to Terrorsaur, who promptly exited, then turned to Timelord.

 

“So, you still want me dead, I see?” Timelord accused. “Please don’t confuse my current mood to my feelings toward Grunkharism and my apology, those were truly genuine. But right now, I’m not quite pleased.”

 

"I have been told of your actions during the Battle of Tesara. I must say, I am impressed. People say that it is a lie, a fabrication to ensure you keep your rule. I however believe in miracles; Kursetu , I was witness to a couple yesterday.”  Hyethut’s tone shifted. “But your valiance in the storm of assault does not remedy why everything happened yesterday in the first place. When arresting you yesterday in ignorance to your part if the battle, you were to be executed for I gave you a chance to live. But I honorably cannot do that knowing what I know. Instead, I wish to see you exiled, and this time to never return. If you wish to make contact it will be by courier. You may of course take your personal non-royal belongings as well as family if they so wish."

 

A messenger entered the room, and then nodded at Hyethut, who glared at Timelord.

 

“If you so much as approach Tesara, you will be slain, understand me?” Hyethut was deadly serious. “Tajun is being friendly right now, so maybe we can have you live over there instead of wandering the wastes in certain death.”

 

Hyethut turned to everyone present in the chamber. “I have thought on this for a while, and have concluded it must be done.”

 

“I am taking control of Tesara.”

 

“My personal group of warriors and militia, the Order of the Palm, waits down below. Harm me and extreme measures will take place. Andekas, I know that you are set to succeed Timelord, but we both know that you would be a better warrior than king, please continue to fight for Tesara, I will even appoint a secondary glatorian so you will have more free time; contest me and I will either have you exiled, or take measures I will not enjoy reciting to Grunkhar. Lan, I have no qualm with you, please continue your duties under me and life will go on normally. In truth, there is only one person in Tesara I have a problem with, and I have stated what will be done.”

 

Timelord sat, mouth agape. “Hyethut, you cannot just claim power like that. During the fire, I gave power to Lan after Andekas. It was an order before I left, so IT STILL STANDS! A man of war cannot rule in a time of peace. Lan should be Tesara’s leader if I am to be exiled.”

 

“I am more than a man of war. I am a man of thought as well. Do not mistake my expertise in military matters for me being a savage, a brute. I have long thought on this, and it is what must be done for Tesara’s future. This matter is little up to discussion.” Hyethut’s patience with Timelord had been tested - he looked at his messenger, and commanded, “Layla, bring six of the Order of the Palm up here. They are to wait outside the door to receive our former leader and hold him until we prepare for his exile once these formalities are finished. I appreciate you and your services.” He bowed.

 

Little to discuss?! You’re talking about the complete reconstruction of leadership. But if you insist.” Timelord said, in disbelief. Timelord shoved through the door in disgust - only to find himself restrained by the six members of the Order of the Palm.

 

Andekas broke the awkward silence that ensured from Timelord’s attempt at leaving. "If I may interject, I do not believe it proper if Hyethut rules as his own, rather a council of us three, with I, Lan, and Hyethut ruling." Andekas looked to his brother through the door. "Brother, traitor as they claim you, I do not believe it fair nor even proper for your banishment to be perminant." He looked over to Hyethut, eyes glaring with both worry and mistrust. "General Hyethut, my brother may have started the war, but he played a key part in ending it too! Surely the will of the potter would permit mercy for such a reconciliation of his actions, mercy enough for a temporary banishment. Lest you become a monster like Tuma was through tyranny, the same monster that did this to me!" He pointed to his missing hand - the hand that had been cut off by Tuma."Hyethut, you were on that field of battle, as a voice of heroism and valor, not the voice of evil that you seem to be becoming." Andekas stuttered - perhaps he too would suffer exile for speaking in such a manner.

 

"Hyethut, I have no doubt in my mind that you would be a great leader, I just simply have to interject in defence of my birthright to rule our people. I have been assigned the leader of Tesara in the absence of my brother. However, you assuming total control, as you so seem to be implying, is intolerable. Must I speak to you the stories about the Element Lord?" spoke Andekas, referring to the tales of beings who controlled the elements around them.

 

"General Hyethut, be it as it may, though in my heart I highly doubt you to rule as a tyrant, a joint rule seriously in my opinion, be it humble, would be the best move. Lan's Silver Tongue, your Administrative and Military Leadership, and my personal ability to fight for Tesara. Though I am my birth right the one to rule, you would do a far greater job in many regards more than I. My Brother may have been foolish, actually tyrannical maybe, but if your intent is to force my brother to suffer in the wastes, then I must interject."

 

Timelord, relieved to hear his brother defending him through the door, tried to protest - but Order of the Palm mentioned that they would reconsider simply exiling him if he kept protesting. “Exile is not a condemnation. It is a mercy.”

 

“Is everything alright?” Terrorsaur asked, looking up the staircase at the sound of the commotion.

 

“Just holding the traitor. Please do not interfere until Leader Hyethut finishes the formalities with the others. His fate will involve you, so please stay around until then,” a member of the Order of the Palm stated.

 

Terrorsaur nodded, turning his head back to an intricate design on the wall. Traitor…?

 

Hyethut shook his head as he witnessed Timelord trying to walk out, and the commotion he had caused with the Order of the Palm and the confused Terrorsaur. He turned his attention back to Andekas.

 

"Honorable Andekas, I am no monster. He has made stupid decisions that have negatively affected our great nation. From running away in our time of need, to revealing a secret entrance to our very enemy while not having faith in his people. All I see is foolishness and selfishness in his pride. It is true that he showed valor while fighting the Skrall, but he must face punishment for the chaos his mistakes made. And I am being merciful, he is being thanked by his life being spared, receiving a formal farewell, and life by exile. I am going to ask Terrorsaur if he can take Timelord back to Tajun with him so him and his daughter may live a life safely without harming many civilians. If you wish to join your brother in Tajun, I will not stop you and you can return any time you like. But I must warn you, he will be exiled even if Terrorsaur does not wish him to be with him, and he can never return for either he will or others will use his former status as a means to attain power and then real tyranny will occur."

 

"I will be frank with you: I do not hold any weight in bloodline. The individual proves their worth, not the deeds of the related dead. My family on my mother's side, Adat, were the rulers of Atero long ago before history changed that and now they are but a tribe of folks in Atero, you do not see me boasting about them. I was born and raised in Tesara, raised by my soldier of a father while my mother was sent back to their people for an "official" arranged marriage with distant cousins of their own lot. I did not choose my lineage, but I do what I can while Grunkhar reveals the cards available. From a meager upbringing to today I worked for my positions, blessed be the Potter. By the way I see it, you have as equal of an opportunity to rule as I do, and I am more fit for the role. I will not be a tyrant, the pleas of all Tesarans, including your own voice Andekas, shall be for my ears and my agents, such as Lan if he so wishes to work with me. My philosophy and moral binding guide me with the power I am being forced to take, which is more than what most throughout history can claim. My authority and will shall be guided by a higher one, I am not the real supreme one. And Andekas, you stated that you too are a follower of Grunkhar, it is by spiritual equal peers such as yourself that will also keep me in check."

 

"To ensure only the best heirs are supplied, a school shall be constructed, the most capable children shall be asked to be enrolled in the Class of the Chosen and taught with Grunkharist values on enlightened despotism, and the 3 most capable pupils will be the considered heirs that will be chosen by a council. Any whiff of corruption by either party shall be met with dire punishment. My official title shall be Guardian, because my rule will be a service, but Guardians will be called King or Queen when in relation to personal speech. And while the School of Tesara will be educating any and all of our blessed minds, it is the Class of the Chosen that will be its primary focus.”

 

"By ideas and plans of mine, the moisture from the Tesaran Hot Springs and the exisdian from Gatherer's Ridge, coupled by our city's own natural advantages, shall start a new Golden Age for Tesara not seen since the days of King Neronikus, and Tesara will come to be the center of the region by our prestige, not by conquest like the barbarians often attempt. " Hyethut tired of all this explaining, but he had to put up with it. He was indeed the new leader of Tesara, and he had a vision - a vision he could not make reality if he refused to explain it.

 

"Unless there are more objections or questions, I think we might be done here. We can discuss these plans at length at a later time. For now, let us finish our talk with Terrorsaur and see off to Timelord, and Tesara can begin anew."

 

Lan suddenly woke up, having fallen asleep at the table Hyethut, Andekas, and until recently, Timelord, had been discussing the situation at.

 

Through the door, Timelord noticed this, and sighed in relief. He spoke, loud enough for Lan to hear. “Hyethut is hatching a takeover and exiling me to Tajun.”

 

“Good… morning, General Hyethut,” Lan replied hesitantly. “What does Leader Timelord mean, you are hatching a takeover?” Lan asked, confused.

 

Timelord spoke again. “Remember I gave you power over Tesara after Andekas. Don’t let him bully you out of that. I trust your judgement better than my own, you are Tesara’s rightful ruler, remember that!” Timelord then nodded his head, trying to indicate he was saluting Lan.

 

Timelord, however, had spoken too much too quickly - the six members of the Order of the Palm that had restrained him kicked him the legs, causing him to fall over before they forced him back up. “Be quiet, you wretch. You have performed traitorous actions, and you are speaking traitorous words. Do not appeal to the silver-tongued Lan or the honourable Andekas, their names will not be sullied by being associated with your dirted, dishonourable name. They will not answer to you as they once did, they have learned of your actions, and they hate you for it. Understand?! You are not welcome in Tesara!” Yelled one of the members, furious with Timelord.

 

Timelord, already recovered (a kick in the legs was nothing compared to what he had recently experienced), looked the Palm-Member in the eye, and said, “Is it traitorous if it’s true?”

 

“No! Stop! Do not strike him!” Lan yelled, and then turned to Hyethut. “General, I demand that you call off these Agori and release Leader Timelord. Now! He is no traitor! ...Is he?”

 

“Do not fear, I am serving my oath to Tesara. And hatching…? What is done is done.”

 

Hyethut smiled as he heard Timelord struck by the Order of the Palm members, then the humour on his face disappeared into serious as he looked out the door at the Order of the Palm members restraining Timelord. “As humorous as his lie is, do not strike him again unless he himself becomes violent. We are not Skrall. Do I make myself clear?” He turned back to Lan. "Lan, they are here for a reason. Timelord has shown himself to be a snake, momentarily crafty while in long-term causing pain with his gimmicks. I will not give him a chance to weasel his way out of this one, go out to the masses with half-truths and confuse them into renewing unneeded tensions. Let us recall the reports from yesterday: I think that during the battle, he went to the secret entrance at the gate to save his own skin and become the "savior" of our people as selfishness and pride deluded him, sacrificing his people for his own safety for a minute more of life, rather than dying for his people. He is truly a traitor, his actions speak louder than words. But despite his foolishness he still wanted to help, probably to make himself live longer, and he aided us greatly by miraculously slaying Stronius with the aid of noble Tesarans. However his prior acts still beckon punishment. Exile is a mercy he has deserved despite the rash muttering some civilians call for.

 

My brothers, please escort Timelord to this corner of the chamber, away from the door. I will not allow him to leave my presence until he has been sent off." Timelord was escorted from outside the door to the corner of the chamber as commanded.

 

Hyethut returned to Lan.

 

"These next things are not lowly boasts, but facts. I am the most qualified to lead Tesara by my balance and experience of skill, my deeds have boosted my popularity, and I have lead the glorious resurgence of the ancient truth that now is the most popular faith of the state.”

 

“You and Andekas both have served Tesara beautifully and are rightfully commended as the heroes you all are. However, I must point out that while you are a worthwhile regent, your lack of initiative during the Battle of Tesara gives me concern in case of another emergency. Andekas, you seem prone to... Distant distractions, and you seem to have a heart for freedom and wanderlust,which being monarch would feel most like a stressful imprisonment. Andekas, if you so wish I can appoint a secondary Glatorian to give you more freedom, a young but valiant soldier named Gresh who has more than proved himself both at Gatherer's Ridge and at yesterday's nightmare…”

 

Annona flashed in his mind once more. Hyethut grew worried about how when reminded of the monster he remembered the pain and terror he experienced when so close to it, and wondered if these flashbacks would affect his rule. He also wondered if the artifact of power exploding in front of him would affect him in the future as well. He would have to look into this once his power was consolidated. Except for a sudden brief blinking burst and a head shake to return to present matters, Hyethut appeared normal and waited for responses. Then he stated as a subtle reminder,

 

"I do hope Terrorsaur is not taking any offense to all this waiting..." Hyethut grew worried about the new leader's offer expiring.

 

Now in the corner of the chamber, Timelord stared at Hyethut. “What lie? You are trying to take power. I may no longer be worthy of leading Tesara, but neither are you. Lan is a man of peace, he is perfect to rule during a time of peace. You say I would bring tension back to Tesara? Oh, please, tell me how, and tell me how you aren’t bringing even more tension by trying to take over? Because I came back to defend this city, and if I had died at the northern gate there would have been nobody to protect the southern gate. Yes, I took a risk using the secret entrance but one Skrall is less of a threat than the second-in-command of the Skrall army.”

 

Hyethut did not turn to Timelord, still keeping his body in the direction of Andekas in case the Glatorian, the only one in the room capable of combating him, rejected his offers.

 

"You could not have known that you were going to slay Stronius by the end of that deed. Andekas sought to slay Tuma but that did not pan out well; I hope you are recovering well, prince, I cannot imagine such pain, I heard you holler and it pained me," Hyethut returned his attention to Timelord.

 

"Not only were you being selfish, you also did not have faith in your city. I listened to the distinct sounds of the earth shaking to the movement of a large group of heavy infantry. The skrall were attacking us so it had to be them, and the only reason for marching such a multitude away from your army rather than send messengers was for strategy, and by reasonable deduction the only likely place was the southern gate, which later our scouts from towers confirmed. In a desperate act to be our momentary savior you sacrificed our security and allowed 30-some skrall to slip in at an alternate side. These acts among others already repeated were completely foolish and risked our lives, and if I was not bound by morality and honor I swear I would cut you down right now right where you stand!"  The new Guardian of Tesara shouted at the armless short man before checking himself and closing his eyes for a couple seconds, then continued,

 

"...but I am not like that, and I am granting you the mercy you earned, life by exile, hopefully to Tajun if Terrorsaur has not abandoned us yet."

 

"Leader TimeLord's actions do not seem like treachery to me.  Some of them seem questionable, yes, but they have brought about wondrous results for our nation, and others.  We are no longer plagued by the Skrall, our villages are at peace, and we have new allies.  Surely in this instance, the good of his actions outweigh the bad?” Lan asked, very apprehensive of Hyethut’s attempt at taking over. "It is clear to me that you do not approve of Leader TimeLord's continued presence in Tesara, and that you wish to replace him.  But I cannot in good conscience support that.  Leader TimeLord is my friend, and I will not abandon him during his times of crisis."  Underneath his shoulder cape, Lan’s hand drifted toward the handle of his knife.  "Now, I am going to ask you to release Leader TimeLord."He strolled to the door and called down to Terrorsaur, "Please come in, esteemed friend.  I apologize for keeping you waiting.  Let us talk." Lan than returned to his seat.

 

Hyethut yelled at Lan as they walked to the door. “Close that door, Lan! Timelord must pay for all the death and irresponsibility he has caused! All those families down there demand to know why it all happened, why their home is wrecked and why their children and siblings died. It is either exile or death, and I do not wish to kill him. Now, don’t you dare raise that knife at me!”

 

"If you are so sure you are in the right, then why did you send Terrorsaur away? It looks to me as if you’re trying to hide something. After all, if he is to take me away, shouldn't he have a say in the matter?” Timelord asked.

 

"I sent Terrorsaur away because it would be rude to have him be witness to all of this. I will talk to him about it when we are done with all this talking. I am starting to get tired of repeating myself.” Hyethut’s anger flared quietly again once more. He was the leader of Tesara, the Guardian, and Lan and Andekas were being ungrateful of him from steering it away from disaster.

 

“Rude to have him witness simple internal politics? As new leader of Tajun, friend Terrorsaur will have to be witness to that each day!” Lan took his knife an inch out of its sheath, not hiding the fact he was threatening Hyethut. “I will say it again. Release. Leader. Timelord. He does not deserve death or exile.”

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-TAJUN-

 

Tajun, for the first time in several months, relaxed itself. Despite that, in its current state, it was quite militarised, having yet to adjust to the loss of its leaders. News of the Skrall’s defeat, and the way General Terrosaur had routed the Bone Hunters at Atero had brought much needed relaxation to the troubled village, as well as prestige - for it was doubtful that Tajun would have much trouble with Bone Hunters as long as Terrorsaur lived.

 

The vast majority of its forces returned from Tesara, though not with Terrorsaur, who had chosen to remain at Tesara for a short while before he himself returned.

 

Behind these forces arrived Voltex and Toru, who had tried to keep their distance, given Voltex’s actions at Tesara.

 

Voltex’s goal, vanquishing the Skrall, had come to fruition, yet at the cost of losing everyone. His friend, Sahmad, had been killed. His associate, Luroka, had betrayed him. His ally, Nato, had brought the very being that had been responsible for the dreaming plague into this world - and then it had almost immediately been vanquished by a Jungle Agori, or so it looked. Victory, followed by despair, followed by relief, however small.

 

A Water Agori Guard carried a message for Voltex - apparently, an Iron Agori waited for him in the former hut of Underscore.

 

Voltex was uneasy. Terrorsaur, who had betrayed him, did not join them, and the soldiers returning to Tajun might have been acting on his orders to lure Voltex into a false sense of security - and he was still wary of Toru, saving him had been an act of instinct alone, before the apparent destruction of Annona. Though, the Skrall had been taken care of, by Voltex himself no less, he needed to tread carefully - Toru still had a chance to prove his trustworthiness.

 

Besides - he was certain Annona was not gone. Vanished from this physical plane, its influence weakened, but not gone. No, it wasn’t going to be that simple. Not with a being like Annona. They would return eventually, and when they did, Toru would be an invaluable ally - Toru had resisted their control, and banished them from his mind.

 

The news of another Iron Agori was worrying, reeking of a trap, and Voltex hesitated, knowing he must call their bluff. “This Agori. Do they have one arm or two? And do they have any other… companions?” Voltex asked, carefully. Had Ionia betrayed him? Was there another Iron Agori who sought retribution for a slight from aeons ago?

 

“Maybe a little… headless?” Toru interjected, clearly implying that Luroka had somehow survived being beheaded.

 

“Two arms. No companions.  Weren’t too keen on conversing with us,” the guard said, not speaking with much respect for the Iron Agori - though from their tone, it was obvious they would not speak of the Iron Agori with respect regardless of conversation. “Hasn’t threatened violence, but you can never be sure with someone like that.” The guard sighed, shaking their head at Toru’s question.

 

“Lead us to them, then,” Voltex said, suspecting that it would be unwise not to agree to the meeting. Hopefully, he could count on Toru to back him up if it did turn out to be at trap, but he lowered his good hand to the hilt of his sword anyway, ready to draw it should the Iron Agori turn out to be hostile.

 

Voltex and Toru were led to what was once Underscore’s sight, and within, there was an unexpected sight - a face Voltex recognised. A face that should be dead.

 

“Voltex,” they began. “You tried to KILL me. Where’s Luroka? He’s not innocent. No, not innocent at all. None of you are. What does the word ‘Iron Tribe’ mean to anyone? I thought, the Iron Tribe would be the last to betray me out of the long lines out there just waiting to betray me. It is such a good feeling to be proven wrong again.” Telluris sighed, noticing Toru. “It is for your fortune that I am not going to kill you. If I kill you, you get another reason to try to kill me.”

Voltex was not surprised. Instead, he felt more dead inside. He gripped the hilt of his sword more tightly, prepared for hostility despite Telluris’ words. He’d thought Telluris dead, by his own hand no less, with Luroka by his side - how had they both missed that Telluris still lived? Did Telluris deserve to die? Had Telluris betrayed them, or had it been Luroka whispering into his ear? “How do you live?” Voltex asked.

 

“I crawled across the desert sands under the scorching sun until I was found by… enough with the grandiose talk. I was saved, against all odds, by some Vorox and a fire Agori who knew how to tend to severe wounds and conditions. We were outcasts both, me and Malum… but I don’t trust people who wallow in the filth of those beasts, so I left when I could.” Telluris sounded, and looked bitter, looking at the way Voltex had gripped the hilt of his sword. “If you are expecting me to attack you, we are in the middle of an Agori village. I have no advantage, and you have already almost killed me once. I am not that stupid, to attack you.”

 

Voltex grimaced, and shook his head. “I… betrayed you,” Voltex admitted, the words tasting like ash in his mouth. “But I have, in turn, found myself repeatedly betrayed as of late. Luroka turned his back on Sahmad and I; he left Sahmad to die at Tuma’s hands, and tried to kill me. He soon lost his head. My closest friend outside of our tribe, Nato, decided to serve the monster responsible for the Dream Plague that ruined our tribe. He was killed by that same monster. Terrorsaur, a supposed ally from here in Tajun, tried to murder me seconds after I had killed Tuma.” Voltex glanced uneasily over at Toru, before returning his attention to Telluris.

 

“I have no intention of fighting you, Telluris. I have learned what it is like to be betrayed, over and over and over again. I am sorry, Telluris. Luroka and I… we had plans. Foolish plans. Dreams. He whispered in my ear, told me that you would turn your back on us... and before you could, I turned my back on you.”

 

Voltex shrugged. “It is a weak excuse for trying to kill you. I do not expect your forgiveness. I wish you the best of fortune in the days to come. But if there is nothing else… then I’m afraid there is somewhere else I must be right now. The last thing on this planet waits for my return. I intend to gather them, and then take my leave of this desert.”

 

Telluris remained silent for a few seconds, vindicated at last - after millenia. “I offer you this: I will take you north, on the Skopio. Nobody will dare stand in its way, or against it. And maybe, I will forgive you, but I will always be on edge.”

 

Telluris took his leave of the hut, going off to start up the Skopio - a fair distance from Tajun, as such a vehicle would not be welcomed kindly in any village.

 

His conversation with Telluris over, Voltex returned to the lab Ionia had showed him.

 

The lab was much the same as it was before - except now, it was much darker beyond the initial cavern. There was very little light, and what had once glowed no longer did.

“Ehrye!” Voltex whistled out, and soon there was a familiar bark and the sound of four limbs running. Ehrye appeared through the not-wall, coming to a stop next to Voltex. Voltex kneeled down, petting Ehrye has Toru caught up. “The Great Being claimed she would die when the Mask was reformed. I… am not sure if the events in Tesara would have ended her life, but it was not this dark the last time I was here. I recommend swords out and to tread carefully, if we investigate further. There’s no telling what traps lay in store if the Great Being is dea-”

 

Voltex was interrupted by the sound of footsteps - many footsteps, coming from the entrance. Voltex stood, and drew his sword, just barely able to make out the newcomers beyond Toru - Fire Agori. Toru hadn’t led them here - this he knew, there hadn’t been time.

 

They’ve hunted me down, Voltex thought.

 

Then, Burnmad stepped forward, observing that the pair of Agori before him were alarmed. “Iron Agori. Ice Agori.” He said, addressing Voltex and Toru. “You have no need to worry; I have come only to talk.” Burnmad gestured. The Fire Agori, though apprehensive, obeyed, moving back to the entrance as a single unit and out of it. He was now alone with the two Agori, and not apparently armed.

 

“We’re not actually here, you know. We’re trauma induced figments of your imagination.” Toru spoke, making light of the situation.

 

Burnmad scoffed, pointing at his ‘imagination’ of Voltex. “That ‘figment of my imagination’ is an awfully good shot to knock me out of my Cendox at top speed.” He paused. “But that’s not why I’m here, nor do I hold any grudge - war is war, and war is… chaotic. I’m here because, from what I understand, you,” Burnmad pointed at Voltex, “had some involvement with the self-proclaimed Great Being to whom I lent one of my Thornatuses, and who mentioned something to me which rather piqued my curiosity.”

 

Voltex petted Ehrye with his ruined hand idly, not exactly relaxed and still on edge. “The Great Being is dead, if her claims are true. She told me she would die when the Mask was reformed. I came to test that theory. What is it that you want?”

 

Burnmad was perplexed - Ionia had mentioned she aimed to reform the mask, but why would she put so much effort into a task that would end with her demise? It was not the time for such curiosity, however. “My condolences, then. When she came to me to request the Thornatus, she happened to mention something to me… news of an ancient structure. She called it ‘Spirit’s Wish”, and claimed that it could instantly transport an individual to wherever they most desire to be… even if that place was one of our two moons.” Burnmad paused a moment. “I wondered if she had mentioned anything of the structure to you, and if not, whether you think she would have been truthful about it, or simply feeding me tall tales.” He looked back, gesturing at the entrance where his soldiers waited. “And, depending on your answer - or perhaps regardless of it - I wanted to travel to the north and seek it out for myself.”

 

Spirit’s Wish, thought Voltex. He remembered the prototype arch that had transported himself and Nato to Tesara. Fully functional, and so far north… I could leave this wasteland behind forever.

 

“She mentioned it, though not by name.” Voltex paused to consider his options. He strongly suspected that Ionia had indeed passed on - the lab felt dead itself, and if she were there, it was doubtless she would have showed her face by now. The Great Being was gone, and her dreams of reforming the planet with her. He already intended to travel north, hopefully to meet with Surel one last time, and beyond that, he had no plans. Perhaps he could stay with the hermit in isolation, perhaps he could attempt to journey further north.  If the Fire Agori intended to reach Spirit’s Wish, well, the road would be long, and dangerous - perhaps it would be less so with others by his side. He couldn’t trust them, but did it really matter? Ehrye was all he had, and Ehrye would sense if they intended to betray him.

 

“I will go with you,” Voltex decided aloud, glancing at Toru. “You’re welcome to join me, Toru. I will have to speak with Telluris before we leave, however. I know he promised me a ride north… but this journey might be farther north than he is comfortable with. And we will need to make a stop by Iconox - I have a friend there, in the mountains, with whom I would like to meet one last time.”

 

“Wherever you plan to go, I cannot follow. I will you join you for the journey to Iconox, but no further.” Toru stated.

 

“You will be welcome them, Iron Agori. As will you, Ice Agori, even if you only accompany us as far as Iconox.” Burnmad extended a hand. “But allow me to dispense with such identifiers. “I am Burnmad.”
 

Toru shook Burnmad’s hand. “I am Toru, Glatorian of Iconox.”

 

Voltex remained where he was, but inclined his head respectfully. “Voltex.”

 

Ehrye barked, wanting to join the introductions - sadly, he was an Iron Wolf and could not speak his own name.

 

Burnmad withdrew his hand, satisfied at having learned the names of his new travelling companions. “Well, we can make our way to Iconox, then. Unless you’ve unfinished business here?”

 

“Not anymore.” Voltex stated.

 

The three Agori exited the lab, and sought Telluris north of Tajun - and found the mecahnical monstrosity that was the Skopio XV-1 with him. It was significantly weathered, yet it was clear why Telluris did not take it straight to Tajun. He would take them north, close to Iconox - but that was as far as he would take them, and as far as he could take them - the Skopio had treads, but it was not built to climb mountains.

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-ICONOX-

 

Three Agori dismounted the Skopio, close to Iconox - Voltex, Burnmad, and Toru. Telluris could not take them closer, not that he would have wanted to - Telluris was not particularly fond of Iconox.

 

Toru sighed, entering Iconox and greeting Rahkshi Guurak and FF as if nothing had happened in the past few days. “Sorry for taking so long. I had to take a small detour.”

 

Burnmad followed Toru, bowing his head respectfully. “Esteemed officers of Iconox,” he greeted.

 

Voltex followed Burnmad, and opted not to speak.

 

“Welcome back to Iconox, Toru and… Voltex,” FF spoke, cautiously.  “And you must be Ruler Burnmad, of Vulcanus.” He gestured to the state of Iconox - in state of rebuilding, but not quite finished. “As you can see, Iconox is in a state of recovery and repair after its civil war. Now, what do you need?”

 

Voltex shrugged, holding his hand out to FF and Toru. “I’m here to wish you farewell, and good fortune in the days to come. I’m leaving, and whether I perish or succeed in my journey, I do not intend to step foot on Bara Magna again.”

 

“Where will you be heading, if I may know?” FF asked, as he shook Voltex’s hand, perhaps confused as to how one could not step foot on Bara Magna again.

 

“We are heading north. We have heard tell of a structure called Spirit’s Wish, which is said to instantly transport the user to whatever location they desire.” Burnmad answered, before Voltex could answer himself.

 

“Hmm. Sounds interesting. I guess you’re trying to find something that can’t be found in this realm?” And does it really exist? FF thought. “How do you know this can work out?”

 

“I don’t know, but if it has a chance of allowing us to find a better place to live than this godforsaken desert, it’s worth a shot.”

 

“Well, whatever happens, safe travels,” spoke FF.

 

Voltex turned to leave, opting not to offer any goodbyes - he cared nothing for these Agori, and for the trust and loyalty Nato had (and hadn’t) shown him through the years, he had told them his plan - that was more than enough. He called Ehrye to himself, and had one last stop to make before he joined Burnmad in his quest.

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-WHITE QUARTZ MOUNTAINS-

 

Voltex ascended the mountains beyond Iconox, seeking out a particular hermit. Surel.

 

Surel had already been observing his approach from afar, having already been watching Iconox with his own weary eyes. “You return.”

 

Voltex’s hand fell to Ehrye, as he nodded. "I do." Silence stretched for a moment as Voltex thought of what to say."The shards... are gone. I gathered them, and they gave the monster that decimated my tribe a physical form, before she and the Mask of Life were both destroyed. The Mask is no threat anymore, I don't think. The monster... well, she should not trouble anyone for awhile."

 

Voltex petted Ehrye, taking a deep breath.

 

"It cost me everything," he spoke, quietly. "I was betrayed by those I trusted every step of the way. Only Nato stood by my side, and even at the end, he chose to serve the monster over me." He swallowed, his next words hard to say - but he knew he must be honest about myself if he was to be honest to Surel. He did not know Surel well, his words likely meaningless to him - but Voltex felt that Surel deserved the truth.

 

"I lost myself somewhere along the way. The quest was all I had, and I let it change me. Became greedy for the power the shards could give me. Tried to kill anyone who stood in my way. I even killed Tuma, not to save Bara-Magna. Just because I could. Because I knew that the tribes would owe me for their freedom."

 

Voltex shrugged.

 

"There's nothing left for me here. I'd like to think that perhaps, saving the tribes from Tuma can redeem me of my sins. Maybe give what remains of my tribe a better life. But now... I intend to make the journey north. There is a device. Spirit's Wish, they call it. I intend to find it or die trying. I won't step foot in Bara-Magna again. This is my last stop; I came to say thank you, and goodbye."

 

Surel listened intently, showing no judgement. Voltex was not the first to lose themselves to power - Surel knew that all too well. "Perhaps it is for the best that you try to leave. With Tuma gone, the Skrall will be weakened significantly... and perhaps dangers north will move south at an increasing pace with the Skrall weakened - if the Skrall haven't already destroyed themselves."

 

"Spirit's Wish... The strange arch to the north? I have heard of it from... an associate, but have never made it far enough to lay me eyes upon it..." Surel paused. "It will be some while before you reach it, and the journey itself is very dangerous. Lay down your weapons, for otherwise you will not survive. Stick to the shadows and move as quickly as you can, for otherwise you will not survive.”

Voltex nodded - Surel was one of the few he trusted, his words giving him strength, and his warnings possibly keeping him alive. “Where I’m going, I suppose I’m already dead if I can’t trust my companions.” Voltex drew his sword, and laid it upon the ground. “Thank you again, Surel. I wish you well in the days to come.”

 

There was nothing more to say. Voltex turned, and left to return to Iconox, to share Surel’s warning with Burnmad - and then their journey could begin.

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-ICONOX-

 

With Voltex gone, Burnmad spoke with Rahkshi Guurahk, FF, and Toru.. “I’d like to discuss politics, gentlemen.” As he spoke, he glanced across the room, deliberately including Toru. “Even with the Skrall defeated, the dangers of the desert remain, and are no less dangerous to those who struggle on their own. Cooperation between the tribes is important as it has ever been, and indeed, it shall continue to be as important even should our mission meet with stunning success, and allow us to migrate en masse to a world of lush, green pastures. Before I leave your court today, then, I should like to reach some accord on how to best ensure the unity of our nations.”

 

RG was the first to respond, remembering how Nato argued against the Glatorian system. “Like has been proposed countless times, we should do away with the Glatorian system. It’s brutalistic, and can lead to monopolies from one tribe.” He deliberately ignored mentioned the times when Iconox had a monopoly on exsidian - now that Roxtus was known to have its own variety, and that Tesara had recently discovered its own, it wasn’t a smart decision to keep it hidden. “Perhaps we could arrange for a more equal and less dangerous way of exchanging goods and ending disputes? Maybe a sort of bartering system for the former?”

 

Toru glanced around, fearful for his position. “...You’re not firing me, are you?”

 

“You’re not fired yet, Toru. Perhaps we can establish some kind of separate elite Iconox soldier group and you can be the leader of it. How does that sound?” FF suggested, aware of Toru’s combat training.

 

“That sounds rather good, actually.”

“Alternatively,” interjected Burnmad, “you could simply continue to fight, though now it be for sport. I’ve no doubt that there will still be a market for the spectating of physical contests.”

 

“I can do both… just not at the same time.” Leading an elite soldier group would likely take his constant attention - but contests in the arena would also require a lot of time for training.

 

“I don’t doubt that either, although the choice of which to do would end up being your own.” Rahkshi Guurahk added.

 

“Well, my track record in the arena hasn’t been good lately, so I think I’ll switch to military matters.” Toru decided, although most of those battles had been against Skrall.

 

"In addition to ending the Glatorian system and improving the goods trade, perhaps we can, heh, offer protection contracts to each other." FF said, almost jokingly. "Only this time, we'll be dealing with someone more trustworthy."

 

“Good. Get another tribe or two to agree, and will no longer fight for our goods - instead, we will trade evenly. I think if we can continue to pay as much toward improving our interactions, then we can only thrive in this new political landscape.” Burnmad looked out, noting that Voltex had returned with Ehrye. “But, my expedition calls me away, and in the days to come, you will have to do so without me. I wish you all a good luck, and fairwell.”

 

“Safe travels, you two,” said FF as he waved goodbye.

 

Burnmad departed, joining Voltex.

 

Briefly, Voltex considered sharing what Surel had told him, but decided against it. His lack of weaponry would speak for itself, the conversation having to come from Burnmad. If he were in Burnmad’s position, he would not listen to someone telling him to leave his weapons behind.

 

“Did anything come of your business?” Burnmad asked.

 

Voltex shrugged, petting Ehrye. "He's a... kindred spirit, I suppose. Suffered like I have. In a way, I felt like he understood me better than anyone else has in a long time. I owed him the truth about recent events, and about what to watch for."

 

Voltex paused before continuing, "he... gave me a few warnings of his own. The Skrall... when they came south, they were fleeing from something. And he told me to leave all weapons behind, if I wished to avoid certain death."

 

Burnmad looked at Voltex with some skepticism, and reluctantly left his weapons behind at the news. It seemed ridiculous - but recently, strange things had happened on Bara Magna.

 

The two agori, of Iron and Fire, continued north. Awaiting them was a long and dangerous journey, but one they could likely manage regardless - or at least that is how it was known to Iconox, for they did not see Voltex or Burnmad again.

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-TESARA-

 

Hyethut sighed, shaking his head - Lan, he believed, had just threatened him. “Kill me and you will be causing your own deaths. If not by my noble Palms, of whom more are outside, then by my loyal soldiers and the masses of Tesara. I heard their words, though my humility made me uneasy about them as such declarations are worthy of only Grunkhar. You cannot win this. I will protect Tesara. If you want, you can join Timelord in exile, but such talent sent away will be sour news indeed."

 

"General, I have no intention of killing you, but despite the general opinion of diplomats, I am a man of action, and will not hesitate to do anything to defend Leader TimeLord.  If he must be displaced of his position, then do not send him into exile; rather, let him stay with me, here in Tesara.  But if his exile is non-negotiable, then I will follow him.  Friends do not abandon friends." Lan glanced over, and saw Terrorsaur now standing in the doorway.  "Ah, there you are, friend Terrorsaur.  Please, do come in."

 

"If it has to be that way, then I sadly accept your self-exile. You may return when you feel like it." Andekas’ disinterest in the stalemate between himself, and Lan and Timelord reassured Hyethut that he could not properly rule, that he himself was a much better fit.

The self-styled ‘Guardian’ saw Terrorsaur in the doorway, and welcomed Terrorsaur into the room politely, hoping it would make Lan feel awkward enough to stand down, facing the door but keeping Lan in his vision. "Terrorsaur, yes please do come in. I tried to be polite and hide this family affair from a guest, but Lan is right, you might as well get used to seeing such sights. I am the new head of Tesara, Timelord being deposed. If you want, we can continue our discussions. I would like to add that Timelord will be exiled, and I was wondering if you would like to take him with you to Tajun so he will not experience certain death out in the wastes. He must face punishment for crimes and misdeeds but I do not wish him executed, as some citizens call for. What do you say?"

 

"I will gladly take in Timelord if that is the decision that has been made. As long as he is able to gather his possessions and any who would come with him before leaving.” Terrorsaur replied, slightly uncomfortable with the situation. “Additionally, I would like to get him settled in now to ease this clearly tense situation. I will return as soon as possible to further discuss what we had brought up earlier."

 

“I was thinking the same thing. We will have to schedule a later diplomatic meeting to continue our fortunate discussions. I still need to take care of some small matters.” Hyethut brought out his hand to shake Terrorsaur, and spoke with a sincere smile."To a New Dawn."

 

“Of course, you are free to come too, diplomat.” Terrorsaur said, after shaking Hyethut’s hand.

 

“He will be staying with you.” Hyethut spoke, turning his head to Lan. “You are both being exiled, as you offered it, however you may return anytime. Lan, the Fighter of Flames, is welcome in Tesara with open arms. But he must go.And it is now Guardian, not General.”

 

“Lan, I thank you for your loyalty, but you don’t have to do this.” Timelord said, looking at Lan from the corner of the chamber. He then looked at Hyethut with disgust. “Watch your back, self-proclaimed ‘Guardian of Tesara’. Arrogance can topple giants - trust me, I know.  If we’re done here, I would like to collect my daughter and belongings.”

 

"I will take my remaining troops with me as a guard. Unless you would prefer they stay here and assist with reconstruction?" Terrorsaur asked Hyethut.

 

Lan's heart dropped. So this was how it was meant to be…, he thought. He turned to Timelord, and said, "I know I do not have to, but I will. Friends do not abandon friends." With as much dignity as he could muster, he returned his knife fully to its sheath, straightened his shoulder cape, looked Hyethut squarely in the eye as he said,  "I am disgusted with you. Do your oaths of loyalty to Leader TimeLord mean nothing anymore? Before this, you would have laid down your life for him, and now, you wish him outed, exiled because he took actions that you disagreed with. If this is what the leadership of Tesara has come to, then I will gladly leave by my friend's side. I will go gather my possessions and what little pride I have left, but do not expect my return. Next time we meet, it will be in Grunkhar's place for non-believers." He went to the door, turned around, and, still glaring at Hyethut, he said, as if uttering a curse, "May the sun never shine too harshly on you... Guardian Hyethut." He spat on the floor at Hyethut's feet, and walked away. May the sun always shine ever so slightly too harshly upon you. You have the gall to call Timelord a traitor while being a traitor yourself.

 

"My oath has always been toward Tesara, and I told Timelord that I would take him down if he were to fall to tyranny or foolishness. He must not have been listening to me, thinking my words naught but pomp. I meant every word. Bless you." He finished, heavy in heart. He then turned to Timelord, "I am a man of history, I know this all too well. Your brother here will keep me in check."

Hyethut placed a hand on his former lord's shoulder. “Your dynasty served us well, as did you early in your rule. But you should not have ruled.” He said no more on that subject, nothing more good to be said, retracting his hand, and not allowing Timelord to respond. "Yes, I think we are done here. If you want I can help you pack, but I should not let the people live in ignorance of the changes going on, they are deserving. ...Let me know of when you all leave, we will celebrate all your deeds and wish you farewell, and it is there I will tell everyone of the changes.” He turned to Terrorsaur. “You may take them back with you, your own city needs reconstruction.”

 

Terrorsaur nodded. "Until next time, then. Safety to you and your people."He gave a small bow, and then exited the room with Lan and Timelord.

 

"Grunkhar be with you, blessed ally." Hyethut turned to Andekas, saying, "You should go help him pack and say good bye. I once had a brother, still unknowing of his whereabouts. The loss is hard. ...At least you can say bye." He smiled slightly for a moment, then waited for the Glatorian prince to leave.

 

Terrorsaur led Timelord and Lan down the staircase, outside of the tower, and made conversation with Timelord. "I know of a man named Scodonius, Timelord. He is an engineer skilled with metal. He may be able to help you build new arms.”

 

"Thank you." Timelord responded, directing Terrorsaur to his former hut while Lan split off to say his goodbyes. Who does he think he is? If he wants power that badly, he can have it. Let the tyrant rule Tesara, but I'll be back when the rest of Tesara sees his true nature. I'll be back. I’ll be back.

 

He tried to gather all he needed, directing his daughter to assist him, and stood in his hut for the last time, saying not a word as he exited with his daughter and went out to prepare a Baranus Chariot, which he drove over to the southern gate, where Terrorsaur was waiting.

 

Terrorsaur kept quiet. For good or ill, there was a shift in the air of Tesara. A new, looming feeling that is hard to describe - everything still felt like a loss. The sight of a young child unable to hold her father’s hands - because he had none - did not help.

 

Timelord spoke as he approached Terrorsaur. “We’re still waiting on Lan, he’s saying his goodbyes.”

 

Terrorsaur nodded. “I do hope you'll stay out of trouble, Timelord. I don't know who's right or wrong in this situation as I was not present for the points of contention. I just hope you can find peace and something to do with your new life.”

 

Timelord looked over to his daughter, and spoke to ease her fears and calm her down. He looked over at Terrorsaur and said, "I don't know myself who's right but I fear for Tesara. It's a new age for Bara Magna I hope history is kind to us all."

 

"In the long run, history is worthless. All that matters is what you actually did in your time. If we had really learned anything from history, we wouldn't still be teaching it." Terrorsaur was cynical, to say the least.

 

Timelord turned, and saw Andekas approaching.

 

Andekas spoke. “Brother, though your actions may seperate us by land, we are still close by heart... Indeed we have both lost so much dear to us personally, you your arms and leadership, and me my hand and inheritance, I swear to you this much, Tesara will not become ruled by madness if the worst is to come of Hyethut. I have made my oath, but not only to Hyethut, moreover my oath stands with Tesara and our family. My oath is to Tesara and our family first and foremost.”

 

"It is good to hear Tesara still has one protector at least. Maybe I will be able to return one day -  doesn't hurt to wish, stranger things have happened. Goodbye, Brother, may our paths cross again." TimeLord then nudged his daughter gently into the chariot.

 

Lan finally approached the southern gate - he had not been saying his goodbyes, but rather a myriad of emotions had whirled through his head as he had taken what he required from his hut for the last time.  Anger.  Hyethut had refused to see the logic and benefits in keeping TimeLord the Leader.  Disgust.  The leadership of Tesara was now reduced to a dictatorship in all but name.  Shame.  He had failed his job as a diplomat to achieve the middle ground in the situation.  Sadness.  He was leaving the home that he had served and loved faithfully all of his years.  Regret.  He hadn't done more for Tesara. Positive feelings mingled with the negative.  Pride.  What he had done for Tesara was beyond anything he could have imagined when he first accepted the job of diplomat.  Loyalty.  His oaths bound him to TimeLord, and he would see those oaths out until the end of both of their days.  Hope.  Even though things seemed bad right now, there was always the chance that they would get better.

 

Arriving at the southern gate had taken time, as he had purposely gone as slow as possible, getting a last look at the villages he was about to leave forever. He saw TimeLord, Terrorsaur... and Andekas, one of the last people he had expected to see here.  He walked up to them, trying to put on a brave face, but failed. Tears dripped down his face.

 

Andekas looked down to the tearing Lan, with hope. Placing his right hand on the shoulder of Lan, Andekas exclaimed "At times as dark and uncertain as these, I was often told a story as a child. Long, long, long ago there lived a hero, clad in green, and with sword of flowing silver against a reign of darkness in time of primeval history. Oh how he traveled to the sun and convinced it to shine down light upon the darkened world, and how he slayed the king of the giants born of evil, tyrants who would not stutter to resist doing such unspeakable things to innocent people, that would make this look like a papercut." Andekas lifted up his left arm, missing a hand. "...And how that green-clad hero brought the severed head of the king of the giants to the sun, and brought solace upon a once blackened land," spoke Andekas to Lan. Andekas wrapped his right arm around Lan, then his left atop his right, allowing Lan to cry on his shoulder if need be.

 

Waiting for the time for Lan to finish whatever last goodbyes and emotion he had to get out, Andekas reached into his gore-spattered bag and took out a small black metal shard, and simply finished with saying "The Green-Clad one, slayer of Giants."

 

Terrorsaur frowned as he saw Lan tear up. "We'll... We'll need a new diplomat in Tajun. That should give you plenty of chances to interact with Tesara..." He offered, softly.

 

Lan cried a little more on Andekas' shoulder.  When he was done, he sniffled, wiping his nose.  "Thank you, friend Andekas," he said, his voice  had broke with emotion.  "Your story has given me hope, more than I could have managed to give myself on my own.  I will miss you, mighty Green-Clad One.  May you go forth and slay more giants." To Terrorsaur, he said, "I thank you for the offer, but decline.  If I must leave Tesara in this way, it would be dishonorable for me to even dream of coming back.  As of now, I am... giving up the life of a diplomat."  More tears dripped down his face.

 

TimeLord had been fighting back tears since he left the tower, yet the sight of Lan crying caused him to cry as well. He looked at Lan and said, "There is a old saying, in darkness we are revealed. Right now I see a light in you. You are truly a good friend." TimeLord extended what little remained of his arms to help Lan into the chariot.

 

Lan hopped in the chariot, TimeLord's words warming his heart.  "I have said it before, and I will say it again.  Friends do not abandon friends.  I would be a fool if I were to break my oaths of loyalty and not stay by your side."

 

And then Terrorsaur, Timelord, and Lan left Tesara. For Timelord and Lan, this was the final time - they would not return.

 

As they left, Hyethut approached the southern gate on a green-clad Rock Steed, explaining to gathering masses how Timelord had to be exiled, how Lan had opted to go with him, and how he was the new ‘Guardian’ of Tesara and the meaning behind the title. With Andekas, he took one last look to the leaving trio of Agori. "Farewell, and may Grunkhar bless you all! Praise be to Tajun! Praise be to all your praise-worthy deeds!"

 

Lan looked back at the retreating border of Tesara, at the gathering crowd of Agori he had had the pleasure of knowing, and made the Tesaran salute to them in farewell. Then he caught Hyethut's eye, and in a final gesture of dislike for his new regime, he removed his shoulder cape and held it up for him to see.

Painted upon it was the symbol of the Hands of the Potter in white, encircled and slashed through with red. He smirked. Lan returned the shoulder cape to its spot, turned around, and fixed his freshly teary eyes on the road ahead, in the direction of his and TimeLord's new home - Tajun.

 

And then Terrorsaur, Timelord, and Lan continued onward. Terrorsaur thought about the shards, about Underscore and Jed and Manducus, about Luroka and Toru, and about the Iron and Ice Agori he had met. He thought about friendship and betrayal and regrets and pride, about choices, and how good or bad they made us who we were and who we were was us and we were here.

 

He closed his eyes, and he didn't know if he was dreaming or not. All he knew was that he was here and now, and those were the two most important things.

 

And then some words came to him, words he had ironically heard in a dream long ago. He smiled mysteriously and then spoke them aloud,

 

"One story's end

Darker than night

Is where we begin

Glowing with light."

 

THE END

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Vulcanus would go on to be ruled by Quin after Burnmad remained absent for worryingly long - an absence he never returned from.


---

 

Tajun would go on to have a much stabler future, becoming one of the safest villages on Bara Magna - the Bone Hunters feared the wrath of the Terrorsaur. Tajun itself was boosted by the presence of Lan, Timelord, and his daughter, who would go on to form an elite force of soldiers called the ‘Steel Raiders’ that specialised in protecting trade caravans. Under the leadership of Terrorsaur, it would soon strike an extended deal with Tesara, in which it entered a confederation with Tesara’s village.

---

 

Iconox, after a successful period of rebuilding, would go on to discover a strange species of worm while mining for Exsidian - these worms were later discovered to be edible, and quick to produce. It was a new, revolutionary source of food  - one easy to farm for Iconox. FF and Toru would go on to form an elite soldier group made up of former Glatorian, after RG put forward talks with Roxtus to end the Glatorian system and peacefully trade and settle disputes.

---

 

Roxtus went on to lay the foundation for its future, with what little Skrall remained then acting as elite guards that answered to Onaku. While the remaining Skrall were initially unsure of the future, the Rock Agori had little troubles adjusting to the way of life more in line with the other villages, and soon entered talks with Iconox to end the Glatorian system - talks that, ultimately, ended up being successful. The two villages would then form a strong partnership, though Iconox never forgot the strife the Skrall occupation had caused.

---

 

Tesara, under Guardian Hyethut, prospered after it had fully recovered from the damages done. Its villages grew in size until they were separate no more, united under the faith of Grunkharism. Hyethut himself was said to suffer severe trauma from his actions at the battle of Tesara, the strange red flesh flashing in his mind from time to time, and his use of the Mask of Life - Grunkhar’s Gift - was also said to have made him ageless. Andekas served him and Tesara, though as time went on his enthusiasm dwindled as he kept thinking of his exiled brother and exiled friend. Eventually, he would leave to seek out his brother, leaving Hyethut behind. He was not the only one to leave Tesara - while the vast majority of Tesara followed Grunkharism, the few that did not became increasingly alienated as many became increasingly zealous, and thus left for other villages. Tesara would soon enter a confederation with Tajun, in which both villages kept their independence but had the benefits of being one nation.

---

 

Atero, half-destroyed by the Bone Hunters, was rebuilt, however slowly, but this time as a monument of peace than a monument of battle. Iconox and Roxtus had already paved the way for the removal of  the Glatorian system, and the Confederation of Tajun and Tesara soon followed - leaving Vulcanus no other choice but to follow suit. Atero remained a neutral ground, and despite being a monument to peace, it would still host battles - but rather than for goods or to settle disputes, it was for sport. All those who had died at the Battle of Tesara were buried at Atero in their memory, further solidifying Atero’s new position as a monument of peace.


---

 

The Skrall who did not return to Roxtus scattered across the sands of Bara Magna, some joining the Bone Hunters, others becoming exiles with varying fates and a few even joining other tribes as elite guards. Without the leadership of Tuma, the others who tried to return to the old ways soon faltered.

---

 

The Bone Hunters continued to raid, though they now feared Terrorsaur. With increasing amounts of agreements between tribes, it was harder to successfully raid a village - and thus their numbers began to dwindle.

---

 

Telluris continued to pilot the Skopio, though he kept a wide berth of any village. Voltex’s plans peaked his interest, however, and he eventually journeyed north - leaving the Skopio behind, something very difficult for him. The Skopio was later found by Timelord’s daughter - and became a key part of the Steel Raiders’ success.

---

 

Surel soon opted not to remain in the White Quartz Mountains. Old and weary,  he cast aside his walking staff and walked north with his pack of Iron Wolves, one goal in mind: he wished to see his home again. And so he would.


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