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EPISODE ONE THE SOUNDS OF SAND -ROXTUS- -Pahrak- IC:, Smoke Monster (All), Tuma (All), Pahrak (After entrance) Smoke Monster entered the chamber of the Mighty Leader Tuma. As usual, it was dark inside of Tuma’s Chamber, the only light shining down upon Tuma, reclining on his throne. Smoke Monster did not dare speak first, not until Tuma directly addressed him. “Agori. You are one of our representatives to the others; Smoke Monster. Welcome to my chamber. I command your devotion to your duties, delivering our offer to the Jungle Tribe. I did not call for you alone, but I will wait. I know that my own subjects would not be so insolent as to deny my summons. While we wait - tell me, what do you think of the current status of Tesara?” “Thank you, Mighty Tuma,” Indeed, it was Smoke Monster that had delivered the Rock Tribe’s offer to the Jungle Tribe, and had seen how the Jungle Tribe had decided to initially react to it. “I believe that Tesara is divided on whether or not to accept our proposal. Its leader, Timelord, hesitated to give me an answer right away when I made the offer, and I believe this is because he does not want to anger his people. I couldn’t help notice the relationship between the two villages is unsteady at best. Our deal could cause them to turn on each other, if circumstances don’t change.” Tuma paused to think, almost failing to hide a sly smile. “It has split their people? I hope, as do we all, that they accept. For if they don’t, we may have to change their minds by any means necessary. Wouldn’t you say that is not befitting of the Skrall? We are doing them something kind, something benevolent. We are the greatest power Bara Magna has ever seen.” “I agree, that would be befitting of the Skrall, great Tuma.” Smoke Monster had made a mistake. Tuma suddenly growled, his voice beginning to echo within his chamber. “Were you listening? I said that it is not befitting of the Skrall to force them to accept. It does not befit our Skrall to fight Agori! They would not even get a good fight, merely a slaughter. Slaughters are good, but only when they take effort. Listen, or you will lose your ears.” Tuma reclined backwards, trying to calm himself down, and motioning for a Skrall to close the windows. “Do you plan to return to Tesara, and convince them to accept our most generous offer?” Smoke Monster took a few steps backwards, but did not cower. “My apologies, Great Tuma. I misunderstood you. It will not happen again. I will go to Tesara, if that is what you want me to do. And I will convince them to accept our offer. Would there be anything else you want me to do while I was there?” Smoke Monster could hear Tuma breathing, no doubt as a result of his recent anger. “You may go where you please - there are two of you for a reason, but we are not done until the other one of you enters. Stay until then. It regards Iconox.” A mere few minutes later, Pahrak of Roxtus entered the chamber, accompanied by a Skrall. “Agori. It is about time you joined. I have already inquired about Tesara with Smoke Monster. I am giving you a task: make Tesara accept the offer we generously gave them. Convince them. But, before you go, we must first talk about Iconox. Iconox will be the next village to receive an offer from us,” Tuma smiled, somewhat maliciously. “They will almost certainly accept, for a reason they will never expect. The offer simply needs to be delivered, and once it is done, it will only be a matter of time before our empire widens. Unlike Tesara, they will not even think twice when faced with the Glory of the Skrall!” Pahrak bowed, listening to Tuma’s perhaps overconfident spiel. “Of course, Mighty Leader. I shall depart at once for Tesara. If I may, might I request merely two Skrall to accompany me? I’m afraid an Agori such as myself would look a bit vulnerable to any Vorox or Hunters lying in wait, but surely a glimpse of the invulnerable Skrall would deter them and ensure the message is delivered.” Tuma motioned to the two Skrall in his chamber, pointing them toward Pahrak, as if telling them to accompany him. “While you three are there, I want at least one of you to fight in the arena. Show them the might of the Skrall first-hand, and remind them we have an entire army.” “It will be done, Mighty Leader. And thank you for your generosity - I assure you, I will make the most out of what you have given me. Is there anything more you wish for me to know, or shall I take my leave now?” Smoke Monster spoke up. “I will then head to Iconox to deliver our offer, if that is what you wish, Great Tuma. I also ask that a couple of Skrall go with me as well, for the same reasons as Pahrak stated.” Tuma called to the entrance of his chamber, and not long after, two more Skrall entered. Tuma gestured to Smoke Monster. “You will accompany this Agori to Iconox - he will give them an offer. One of you will fight in their arena to display the might of the Skrall. Do not disappoint us.” Tuma stood from his throne, and looked around his chamber. “You may now all leave for your destinations.” --- -ICONOX- -Nato- IC: Nato (All), Rahkshi Guurahk (All), FF (All), Toru (All) Nato entered the dwelling of the Ice Tribe’s leader, Rahkshi Guurahk. He’d called a meeting - about an issue he considered very important to the future of Bara Magna. “Toru’s latest failure has served to reinforce a belief that I’ve had for quite some time - the system with which we conduct trade and settle disputes is barbaric, and broken. Why should the fate of entire villages - settlements with hundreds, if not thousands of inhabitants - be settled by unbalanced cage matches?” Nato’s eyes darted around the room, between FF, Toru, and finally stopping on Rahkshi Guurahk, “I beseech you, my lord, to allow me to travel to the other settlements to discuss the prospect of establishing trade with them. Real trade, where e exchange necessities of equal value on a regular basis, not this ridiculous bloodsport we subscribe to now. We’re not Vorox or Bone Hunters, we’re civilised beings, and I truly believe we’re capable of far more than this simple, animalistic savagery.” Toru rolled his eyes, but did not speak up, to which Nato simply gave a look of contempt. Toru, after all, was a Glatorian, a very part of the system Nato so despised. Nato looked donwards. “Should you be willing to acquiesce this request, I’d also like for a small accompaniment of General FF’s guards to travel with me as I journey to Roxtus, Vulcanus, Tajun, and Tesara. We would gain nothing were I to be devoured by scavengers on route.” FF nodded. “Now, I support your idea, and I’m willing to send some guards to accompany you. All we might need is a back-up plan for this if you were killed or taken prisoner.” “Surely, no one in the other villages would be foolish enough to try something like that? An attack on a Diplomat would demonstrate a profound disregard for peaceful communications. It’d be tantamount to declaring war on all the villages of Bara Magna.” Despite his disdain for the current gladiatorial system of Bara Magna, perhaps Nato had overestimated how the other villages would react to such an act. Rahkshi Guurahk also nodded in agreement. “I’ll allow both of those things; especially as I agree with you. However, I do agree with FF’s idea of having a back-up plan, in case this some goes awry, and it might not come from a village if that were to happen, it could be from a Bone Hunter or something else.” Nato gave a small smile. “Well, our exsidian is prized across Bara Magna, is it not? Should I be taken captive by another village, refuse to trade them any more metal until I’m released. And if I should be captured by scavengers or slavers, offer an open bounty of exsidian to whoever finds and rescues me. Should it come to that, you can cut my pay, or even empty out my savings, to cover said pay. Whatever it takes to ensure the safe return of myself and the guards escorting me.” “I suppose that will work.” Rahksi Guurahk agreed, though hoped it would not come to that. With that, Nato left, and set out for his first destination: Roxtus. -VULCANUS- -Quin- IC: Quin (All), Burnmad (Start and End), Flaredrick (Start) Burnmad, leader of the Fire Tribe, stood in his hut, addressing two others - Quin and Flaredrick. “Hail, men of Vulcanus!” Burnmad bowed to greet both. “I seek only what is best for my people, and I believe that to be a ruler whom all remark to be honourable, fair, and slow to take up arms against the other nations of Bara Magna. My hope, above all else, is that the people of our planet come to know the Fire Tribe as one which does not war with or take advantage of others. To that end, I must ask that each of you commit to the same goal. As the highest officials of our nation’s government, we not only shape the view of Vulcanus held by the other tribes, we also shape the view that our people hold of themselves. A man is more like to be honourable and do honourable things if he is born from what he believes to be honourable stock.” Burnmad paced back and forth in front of Quin and Flaredrick. “Therefore, I require from each of you a continual dedication toward conducting yourselves as models of honour and fairness.” He walked over to Flaredrick. “For Flaredrick, that will mean you will fight every arena battle you enter fairly, even if you suspect your opponent is not. I know the urge to rig things in your favour will sometimes be strong, and that being fair at all times may impact your win rate; however, I would ask you to remember that goods and riches may always be traded for. Our honour, however, cannot be bought.” He walked over to Quin. “Quin: I must ask you to gather everything which you have taken from the people of Tesara, and return it to them alongside an official and public apology. It won’t do to have our General, whom our people - our soldiers especially - look up to, labelled a thief. Nor will it do to have such a cloud hanging over our relations with the government of Tesara. You may refuse. However, in doing so, you would force me to compensate the Jungle Tribe with either currency or with our own weapons, as well as apologising for you. To boot, this would reflect poorly on you, with the added bonus of dragging the rest of us through the mud.” He turned around. “For the moment, I do not have any important orders for either of you. That is all for now.” -ATERO- -Luroka- IC: Luroka (All), Voltex (Before exit), Sahmad (After entrance) Voltex eyed the sparkling comet trails in the sky as each one spiralled down to a different point on the horizon. At least, he thought they were comets. With a put-upon sigh, he turned to his companion, Luroka. “I must make my journey to Roxtus, sooner rather than later, if we are to begin implementing the plan. Would you prefer to wait here for Sahmad, or join me?” Luroka looked down. “I’ll wait here for Sahmad. We’ll catch up later.” “You’ll know what needs to be to done best,” Voltex said as he gathered his supplies. One might have thought he would have preferred to wait until the morning sun had risen, but life as outcast had taught him time was money - and, in these days especially, none in the Iron Tribe could afford to waste a single second - and also that the morning sun was far more than simply insufferably hot while travelling. “I hope to arrange allegiance with Iconox during my travels. You might wish to see if there’s something useful in Atero or Tajun for us, or perhaps you could see if the political situation of Tesara could be used to our advantage. I leave it up to you. Safe travels, brother.” Having said his piece, and with faith that Luroka - and, if he deigned to grace Luroka with his presence, Sahmad - would continue to move their plans forward in his absence, Voltex began his journey north to Roxtus. A few hours later, once the morning sun had began to rise, Luroka saw an orange and black figure on the horizon - with no Baranus, thankfully. Eventually, the figure sat down before Luroka. His name was Sahmad. “Why here? Why meet here, in this false monument to a false hope and a false peace?” Sahmad was not too fond of Bara Magna, or any of its systems - but being an outcast will do that to one such as him. “Because soon, we shall put truth to the empty promises of this monument. To that end, I’d much like you to travel with me to Tajun - I’ll be speaking to their diplomat.” Sahmad looked at Luroka, skeptical of his words, spitting as he began to talk. “Whatever you’re planning, it won’t work. Tajun, and the other Agori villages won’t let you in, pretend you don’t exist. Or worse, they’ll greet you by knocking you out and locking you up until you starve to death, claiming you were planning on pillaging their trades. There isn’t a place for us in this world, and they want us to know it. No, Luroka. I will not join you.” Luroka simply left Atero, heading for Tajun, shaking his head. -CREEP CANYON- -Quin- IC: Quin (All) Quin looked up at the sky as he told his men to return his goods to Tesara - without an apology. Not too long ago, he had seen what seemed to be a falling star, well, fall from the sky - perhaps, he could find it. He asked around, including some of his own guards, none able to provide a clear location - except one had pointed out they’d lost track of its course somewhere in the southern section of the Creep Canyons - somewhere in the wilderness of Bara Magna, outside of Vulcanus. He couldn’t take a vehicle without permission from Burnmad, and he couldn’t go alone - he wasn’t that foolish. Instead, he took a few of his own men to accompany him while he searched for what seemed like entire days. Eventually, he arrived at the edge of a crater in one of the wider canyons. At first, there did not seem to be anything unusual, asides from the crater. But, as he took a closer look, he saw that within the crater was a small, golden object, giving off an unusual glow. Around it, there were small bits of vegetation - something that should not be possible, especially in this part of Bara Magna. Quin ordered his men not to touch it, but walked closer to the object - and saw that the vegetation formed a ring around the shard-like object. But within that ring, was an even thinner ring - devoid of life, separating the shard and the vegetation. Quin decided to try and reach out, and pick it up. He did not feel anything… for the first few seconds. Then, he felt like the hand that picked up was dying, its muscles tensing up. He dropped it before anything more fatal began to happen, fortunately for him. He did feel a bit more light-headed and sudden fatigue. The shard, though, as it landed on the plants, they withered away into dust, the shard glowing brighter. Quin thought to himself that if that’s a shard of what he saw in the sky, that there was reason to believe others may be nearby. He ordered his men to search nearby craters, if there were any - but there were none. Once he had been informed of this, he decided to head back to Vulcanus. -TAJUN- -Terrorsaur- IC: Terrorsaur (All), Underscore (All except battle), Jed (After entrance), Manducus (All except battle) Terrorsaur rushed outside the hut, following the lead of Underscore. They had stopped to chat about Tajun’s problems with trades and the need for more security, yet their conversation had been cut short by a very sudden commotion in the streets of Tajun - and not the kind of commotion that is nice to hear. Even worse to see, for beyond a crowd of Water Agori, both Terrorsaur and Underscore could see two more Water Agori lying on the ground, heavily wounded and bleeding profusely enough to have created a trail of blood from the desert. Underscore, thinking quickly, pushed his way through the crowd, trying to identify signs of life - and demanding to know what happened. Unfortunately, one of the Agori was already dead, the other well on their way to doing so, yet they tried to communicate regardless - with gestures, and single words slowly uttered. From what people saw and heard, it was clear - the two agori had been attacked on the way back from Vulcanus, alarmingly close to Tajun. Terrorsaur pushed through the crowd, stopping by Underscore. Underscore shot Terrorsaur a grim look. “That one over there is already dead, and the other one is in need of medical attention. From what they’re saying, it seems like they were attacked on their way back from Vulcanus, very close to here. Maybe, once they’ve recovered, they can tell us more details.” Underscore looked around at the crowd. “Where can we get them medical attention?” Terrorsaur cast a suspicious glance toward the trail of blood. “The hospital is a few streets over. Can you get them there? I’d like to check the border unless you need help moving them.” “I’ll try and get them there. When you’re done, come there so we can talk.” Underscore attempted to pick up the unnamed agori, rushing toward the hospital, almost dropping them as he rushed to the hospital. Terrorsaur followed the trail of blood. It did not go on far, but it went a fair distance - he was just barely outside Tajun by a few feet. Here, though, was possibly the last thing he - and most people in Tajun - wanted to see. Four dead Fire Agori, and a broken blade in the middle. A Zesk happened to be feasting upon one of their corpses, yet upon noticing Terrorsaur, buried beneath the sand. Terrorsaur ran from Fire Agori to Fire Agori, kneeling down by each to make sure they were dead - apart from the one that had become a Zesk’s lunch, for they were surely dead. Two others were dead for certain, but one… one was fatally injured and unconscious, merely seeming dead - but almost certainly on the brink of death. Terrorsaur attempted to gently shake them into consciousness, yet realised that by doing so, he almost killed them. He wondered to himself who to get - besides Underscore, who was no doubt getting the other injured Agori to the hospital. He decided not to touch the injured Fire Agori again, at least not until he had help, and inspected the broken blade, careful not to touch or disturb it. It seemed distinctly familiar, missing its hilt and part of its blade, and lied upon a strange and unfamiliar rock. How odd. Something bigger than a tribal dispute going on here. Terrorsaur took another look around, surveying his surroundings, hoping to find the rest of the blade. Nearby, he spotted a boulder - except he could see legs outstretched from behind, and a hilt nearby to said legs. Terrorsaur squinted, and began to approach cautiously - very cautiously. The legs did not move, and Terrorsaur began to see that there was not one, but two figures behind the boulder. More worrying was that if they were alive, they would have reacted to his approach by now. Terrorsaur relaxed - or, as much as he could, and calmly walked past the boulder, wondering what kind of corpses he’d find - a question almost immediately answered. Bone Hunters. Something was off about them. They were simply sitting behind the boulder, with no visible injuries, both wielding thornax launchers, one clutching a weapon, the hilt and broken blade presumably belonging to the other. It seemed as if they planned to ambush the Agori, yet… they were dead. As if they just suddenly lost all life. Suddenly, Terrorsaur heard the sounds of sand… moving? Hopefully a Zesk, that same one returning and disturbing the evidence. Terrorsaur whirled around to face the cadavers he’d previously inspected. It was the Zesk, feasting on the same agori it had feasted on initially. Terrorsaur sighed, which then turned into a gasp as the Zesk suddenly stopped and slumped over, as if it had died. Behind the Zesk, the broken blade rose, sand whirling around the strange stone, forming a sand-made imitation of an Agori, wielding the broken blade. Far to the left, Terrorsaur saw Jed approach. This is far more than a simple tribal dispute. “Commander Jed! Get back inside!” Terrorsaur called to Jed. “Whatever this thing is, I doubt it’s friendly. If it can make a Zesk die without even laying a finger on it. And I’m not going to get that close to it.” Terrorsaur proceeded to curse under his breath, having left his weapons inside, as he had assumed the disturbance was much tamer when he first heard the commotion. He dove toward the corpses of one of the Bone Hunters, and reluctantly grabbed one of their thornax launchers. He regretted disturbing the evidence, yet defending Jed was more important. The strange construct of sand leapt at Terrorsaur, broken blade in its mockery of hands. Terrorsaur winced, aiming the thornax launcher at the thing’s ‘chest’, hoping to split it apart. He fired. Bang. It hit the thing, straight in its chest, splitting it apart exactly as he predicted, broken blade dropping to the ground. All that remained was the strange stone, now glowing and briefly giving off a strange energy before it seemingly turned inert and stopped. Jed ran over to meet Terrorsaur, with a crowd of Agori now trailing behind him - the same crowd. “Thank you for protecting me, General Terrorsaur.” Jed focused on the broken blade, and the strange stone, trying to recognise them. Terrorsaur sighed, dropping the thornax launcher next to the corpse he’d taken it from. “All clear. But I would advise everyone not to touch anything!” He knelt down, squinting at the strange stone. What are you? He nodded to Jed. “Just doing my job. Don’t worry about it.” As Jed and Terrorsaur focused on the strange stone, they realised that it was not actually a stone. It was more like… a shard, broken off a helmet. It was very odd, for it was unlike any part of any helmet either of the two had seen. The broken blade nearby, however, merely seemed to be part of a Bone Hunter’s sword- something the strange ‘living sand’ had taken after killing the Bone Hunters - but this also confirmed one more thing: Bone Hunters were; at the very least; partially responsible for Tajun’s trade troubles. Terrorsaur looked around, once more surveying the scene. “Bone Hunters, Agori from Vulcanus, and our own people. All dead. The question is… who killed who?” Hopefully I’m wrong and they aren’t all dead. We need to get this story straight - I’d like to say it was that thing, but I can’t know for certain... “Commander, one of those Agori over there stirred a little earlier. We need to get them inside and figure out exactly what happened.” “I agree… I’ll have the Agori I brought with me take them to the hospital when we head back.” Jed turned to the pile of sand that was once animated. “We should take the shard. We don’t exactly know what it is, but for that reason we should keep it with us… whatever it is.” “Commander, it killed a Zesk without even touching it. Allow me to carry it. I wouldn’t want any harm to come to you.” Terrorsaur looked at the object, then asked one of the Agori in the crowd Jed had brought to give him some string, a cloth, and a long tool, with which he created a small bag, connected to a tool and tied shut by string containing the object, careful not to touch it directly, wary of its power, then ran after Jed - who’d gone back to Tajun, carrying the Agori with the help of the crowd. Underscore sat outside of the hospital. He’d just barely got the injured Water Agori to the hospital, though not without trouble - he’d been forced to lie them down and call for help carrying them, for any mistake could have killed them. He looked up at Jed, who was coming with another injured Agori - this one of the Fire Tribe. “Commander? What’s going on?” “It seems that Bone Hunters have been at least one of the parties behind our troubled trades, Underscore. This Fire Agori is the only survivor of something else entirely - if only barely. They - that thing - also killed several other Fire Agori and that Water Agori over there.” Jed paused. “There is something else I would like to talk to you and General Terrorsaur about in private, Diplomat. Come with me to my hut once we’ve put this Agori in the hospital.” Terrorsaur caught up to Jed, panting as he did so. “Commander? What shall be done with the bodies? They could be important evidence, but leaving them out where Zesk can get them is unwise.” -VULCANUS- -Quin- IC: Quin (All), Burnmad (All) Quin entered Burnmad’s hut, after sending a messenger to ask for an audience. He sat down on a chair, and sighed. “Sir, you are aware of the object that fell from the sky recently, yes?” Burnmad looked at him with much skepticism. “...Operating under the assumption you did not come here to tell me a joke, I was not apprised. But, I presume you will now rectify that?” Quin retorted, slightly annoyed. “It was not a joke at all. Something… a star, I thought it had fell from space. I assumed you saw it.” “I have not been much on my terrace as of late. A great deal of paperwork came with the new position… Did it make it to the ground? And if so, was the point of impact seen?” “That’s what I came to talk to you about, we found it, or at least part of it.” Burnmad shifted in his seat. “What is the nature of this object, then?” “It was a golden, glowing shard stuck in a crater. It felt… wrong. Grass and plantlife surrounded part of it… but they just stopped after a small perimeter around it.” Quin stood up from his chair. “I reached out… and touched it. And I only held it for a second, but I felt something… drain out of me. I dropped it, and that’s why I don’t have it with me right now, I had a feeling if I held it for longer it would kill me.” Quin paced around, before looking at Burnmad. “We have to find the rest of the object. I don’t care how annoyed Tesara are at my little stunt, that thing wasn’t right.” Burnmad was visibly unsettled. “I see. Do we know anything about where the other pieces might be? If any are within our territory, we have to seize them before they wind up outside of it. I wonder whether we may be able to co-operate with any of the other villages in this…” Burnmad was silent for a moment, his thoughts moving beyond where his words had stopped, before snapping back to reality. “But, of course, the first step, the obvious first step is to secure the piece we already know of. Attempt to have it moved to a secure location - with long tools. No one should step within at least twice as many meters as equal to the radius of the perimeter you mentioned, where plant life ceased to grow. If that proves impossible, set up a camp around it.” Burnmad settled back in his seat. “Is there anything else?” Quin shook his head. “No. That was it. I’ll try and send some of my men to secure it.” [CONTINUED IN COMMENTS]