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The Knights of Terankos


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This place sure went to the blazes, didn’t it?


A lone warrior clad in black armor wandered through the stone region of the island of Okoto. With both his mask and armor, it would be easy to mistake him for being a black dragon, a mythical creature knowing for dwelling in the shadows. The warrior had traveled long and far to get to where this island, intent on fulfilling a personal duty he upheld with up most importance. Once, a magnificent paradise, now the island was stricken by darkness.


This weather… this atmosphere… This sure does take me back. It makes me think of that day. The moment when…


Lightning flashed brightly in the sky, followed by the roar of tremendous thunder. The dark skies and rain plagued the land, and the overall landscape appeared to be broken and shattered. Of course, he secretly coveted this darkness, as he was born from this darkness, or so he believed. He took a moment to look to the faded insignia on his armor.


This symbol… This was once a badge of honor. It stood for so much. Now it just serves as a grim reminder…


He continued on, eventually coming to what he believed was the right path. The lightning continued to flash brightly in the sky, enough to scare off some of the smaller creatures unfortunate enough to be in this storm. It would be easy to get lost in a place so unfamiliar, and yet something deep down told him that the path he was taking would lead him to the one he was searching for.


This island has seen better days. Something transpired here. Whatever that may be, it matters not to me. Once I’ve found him, I won’t be seeing this place for much longer.


Okoto had seen better days indeed, as it was once a glorious paradise for the villagers and creatures that lived there. That was before a great darkness pervaded the land, brought about by a mask maker and his wicked creation.


Pathetic… Truly pathetic, if you ask me. To think this island was devastated by some pretender born from the light truly disgusts me.


As he proceeded down a valley, he thought he heard something scuttling behind him. He paused and looked behind him. There was a moment of silence before he heard the sound again. It seemed like not all of the roaming creatures were scared by the atmosphere of the storm. He slowly backed himself up against the face of a cliff before using the power of his mask to conceal himself from his possible attacker.


The Marauder’s mask… my oldest friend and ally aside from my fellow knights… former fellow knights.


The moment he vanished, that was when his followers made themselves known. They were relatively small insects with four legs, a tail, and most notably a body in the shape of a skull. The warrior overheard some villagers refer to creatures resembling these as “Skull Spiders,” when he was scouring the island while avoiding detection for reconnaissance. As the spiders drew closer, he reached behind him to grab his lance. As the spiders continued to gather to where they last saw their prey, the warrior chose to reveal himself. When the lightning flashed once more, he deactivated the powers of his mask and took to the air in a swift motion, leaping into the air with both hands gripping the lance. It was too late for most of the spiders to react, as he plunged the lance into the ground, destroying a good number of spiders on contact and unleashing a growing radius of shadow energy around him to take down more of them.


When he took his lance out from the ground, more of the surviving spiders quickly rushed for him. With his swift movements, he swept a number of the spiders with his lance, defeating them with ease. A few more were heading for him from behind, believing their prey would be caught off guard. This was far from the truth, as in no time he pulled a secondary weapon from his hip, a powerful hand axe, and with one swipe he managed to defeat the rest.


Child’s play. Nothing but mere child’s play. If this is what plagues the island of Okoto, these villagers have no hope. If a mere infestation is enough to keep them at bay, I can’t help but laugh at the thought of something much larger terrorizing the island and how they handle it.


As he was sheathing his weapons, something else caught his eye. Not too far away, he noticed something else had been watching him. However, it was not a Skull Spider. This was something he recognized, as he had seen these a few times before. It was a Shadow Trap, eyeing him from afar. It was beginning to back away, but before it could take a few more steps, the warrior had already leapt into the air and landed just inches away.


“Umarak…” he spoke. “I know you are out there. I will find you.”


If Umarak was nearby, he was not showing himself. No, he was nowhere near this exact location. This Shadow Trap was merely a scout for him, in search of something the hunter was after. The warrior looked right into the single eye of the trap, which start to shake and back away again.


“I know your master is here. I know he is out there. I want him to know that I have come for him. I want him to know that Volchior, former Knight of Terankos, is here for him.”



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  • 4 weeks later...

Chapter 1



Well, time to report back to our fearless leader…


Atheron stepped through the doors of the dark fortress he and many others called “home,” located in what some might consider a desolate wasteland. To him, it was merely the island of Nirek.


As someone dedicated to Terankos and those willing to serve in his name, he was at times reluctant about the leader and founder of their group. Some could argue their leader was a genius with intelligence at an incomprehensible level while others might argue he was a lunatic with insane ideas desperately in need of being locked away. Atheron felt he was somewhere in the middle.


Lately, he seems to be so… obsessive and vague. I worry for him, sometimes.


The highly-ranked knight proceeded through the corridors, acknowledging others he passed, who in turn paid their respects to him. Very few knights were ever given such honor, so much that those in the lower ranks had to not only acknowledge, but properly pay respects to a such a warrior when in their presence.


After climbing a few flights of stairs and proceeding down a long, dark corridor, he made it to their leader’s private chambers. Atheron approached the door with caution and was about to knock on the door when a voice from within the room startled him.




Despite being a master of battle tactics, Atheron was still unable to figure out how exactly to approach their leader. He once made the rookie mistake of entering the room without knocking, which led to him facing an uncontrollable rage he had never seen before. After learning from that experience, he began knocking, although again he was met with reprimanding as he was being “too loud.”


Has our leader become…?


He opened the door, stepping in as it creaked loudly. The room was dark, save for some light from a few dimly lit candles and a single window looking out at sea where a thunderstorm was brewing. In front of the window was a large throne looking out toward the view. From the armrests, two cloaked arms were visible, with one of the sleeves revealing a gold gauntlet with pointed fingertips.


“Atheron… I hope that my trusted tactician has come to bring me the news I wish to hear?”


“Yes, Lord Almatas,” Atheron nervously stammered. “We have found the being you spoke of and we have brought him into custody.”


“Can I assume you encountered no problems?”






“On our voyage at sea, we encountered a band of pirates, but it was nothing we couldn’t handle.”


The being known as Almatas gave a shallow and cold laugh, twirling the fingers of the visible golden gauntlet.


“Skull Raiders… such a nuisance. They ought to be put in their place. Anything else to report?”


Atheron became a little hesitant to answer back. Almatas spoke again, breaking his train of thought.


“Do not forget, my tactician, even if you withhold information from me, I do have ways to make you talk…”


“No, no! Only… it appears you were not the only one interested in the target. When we arrived, we were met by three unknown warriors. One was a rather sullen warrior who wielded a large axe. The second was a rather arrogant swordsman who wasted no time in challenging us. The final one… he was very large and tall in stature… and his face… looked like something described in the legends of Karzahni.”


“Is that so? Interesting…”


Almatas rose from his throne and began to walk towards Atheron. His entire body was hidden in a hooded cloak. All that was visible were his gauntlets, one gold on his left hand and one red on his right hand, and two very long, bone-like horns protruding from his hood. He then rested his red gauntlet on Atheron’s shoulder before turning to speak to him. Atheron briefly caught a glance at their leader’s bright, crimson eyes glaring right at him.


“Allow me to greet our new guest.”




Almatas made his way with Atheron to the dungeon area, just below the ground level of their fortress. As they made their way underground, many knights immediately dropped to their knees to bow before their great leader. As the proceeded, neither of them spoke to one another, keeping a very grim silence throughout.


Eventually, Atheron led him to the cell door that kept their target captive. Atheron opened the door and just as he was about to go in, Almatas held his gold gauntlet in front of him to stop him.


“Remain here. I will go in by myself.”


Almatas stepped inside the cell and Atheron slammed the door behind him, standing by the door just as he was ordered.


Inside the cell, a formidable-looking warrior kneeled, chained and battered. His black armor was cracked in various places and he himself looked as if he didn’t have the strength to stand up on his own two legs. He had a very lean and lank body build, as well as two very large, almost bone-like horns protruding from his head. He wore a mask Almatas recognized as the Hunter’s Mask, one that gave the user some control and guidance of the shadows.


Special chains were ordered to restrain him for that reason. While Alamtas condemned the power of light, this warrior was too important to him to allow him to escape, so he wanted him to be imprisoned with chains and shackles infused with light elemental energy, just enough to restrain him and make sure he did nothing to escape.


As Almatas approached him, the warrior did not bother looking up at him. He remained silent and as though no one else was there with him.


“You’ve been busy, my friend…” the dark leader said.


The warrior still did not speak, nor did he even look in his direction, choosing to keep looking down at the ground.


“Tell me about yourself, desert dweller.”


At that moment, the warrior abruptly looked up, facing Almatas for the first time.




“How did I know?” Almatas began to pace around the holding cell. As he walked, the warrior’s gaze never left him, studying him closely.


“I know a lot about you. Your people were master weapon smiths. You hail from the desert land of Sergas. Your people were branded as social outcasts for having abilities associated with the darkness…”


At that moment, Almatas stopped, approaching the warrior directly.


“You needed to survive. You became a wanderer. You did whatever you needed to in order to survive, no matter the costs.”


The crimson eyes of Almatas narrowed as he spoke those words, looking right into the crimson eyes of his captive and guest, whose eyes showed a look of question and anger. For a while, neither of them spoke. Almatas began again.


“That is precisely why I’ve brought you here, as my honored guest, you see.”


“Some way to treat your guests,” the warrior spat.


Almatas momentarily stopped before continuing.


“Yes… I wasn’t quite sure you would accept my most generous offer, and I had suspicions others would be coming for you as well. I’ve personally seen the extermination of some of these legendary weapon smiths at the hands of those who did not understand them. However, I do… That is why I’ve brought you here. I want… Nay! I need you.”


“Need me for what?”


“We here are outcasts, as well, my friend. For some reason or another, we reject the will of the light and the accursed Mata Nui in favor of embracing the shadows and finding peace in the darkness of one’s heart. I think you would be very welcome here.”


“And just where exactly is ‘here?’ You’re speaking in riddles.”


“Oh, my apologies. I haven’t even told you. This is the island of Nirek, and we are the Knights of Terankos, dedicated to all that matters to him and that shadows he commands.”


“Terankos?” The warrior sounded genuinely surprised. “The great god of shadows Terankos? Was he not…?”


“Yes…” The Knights’ leader became very somber. “I am aware of his ultimate fate. I’m pleasantly surprised you know, seeing as anything mentioning him or Karzahni the Chaos Bringer is strictly taboo in this society. It matters not, you see. Dreams and ideals never truly die. We may take them with us to the grave, but anyone inspired by those same dreams and ideals can carry on that legacy and see that they live on.”


“So while Terankos himself is not around anymore, you still see to do things you think he would approve of?”


“I do not think he would approve… I am sure of it. That is precisely my point.”


“How in blazes would you even know that?!” The warrior was truly outraged at what he was hearing.


Almatas became silent and he turned his head to listen.


“Can you even hear what you are saying right now? Are you aware of how much of a lunatic you sound like right now? Unless you have direct contact with the god of shadows himself, I don’t see how you can say you are doing as he tells you! I fight only for myself! I belong to nobody! And even if I did, I would never join any sort of pathetic band of fools led by an even larger fool such as yourself!”


When he finished, Almatas began to laugh softly, then laugh loudly in a manner most unpleasant. The room echoed with the sound of his cold, maniacal laughter, to the point Atheron could swear it was ringing through the hallway of the holding cells in this blockade.


When he finished laughing, he turned to face the warrior once more, who now had a disgusted look on his face. Almatas approached him menacingly, holding out his gold gauntlet in front his face with his fist clenched.


“Care to repeat that?”


Before the warrior could even respond, Almatas presented an open palm to his captive and immediately he began writhing, screaming out in pain. Almatas began to slowly curl his fingers, intensifying the torture of his captive, who was begging him to stop and pleading for mercy. The mental torture he felt was excruciating and indescribable, and it only got worse as the leader intensified his attack on him. The warrior looked up at him briefly, seeing his eyes glowing brightly with a look of triumph and determination, bordering on insanity.


He could feel his body starting to go numb and he was slowly feeling his mind tear itself apart. There were two ways he would make it out of this ordeal… Dead or alive as one of these so-called knights. He had his pride of being a lone hunter who did as he pleased and answered to no one. However, his very life was on the line because of his pride. In the end, he felt as though he had no choice.


A few seconds later, the Knight leader relinquished his grip on him and the warrior slumped down to the floor, gasping for breath. Almatas laughed softly to himself at the sight of the broken warrior at his feet.


It was a few minutes before the warrior spoke again, his voice hoarse and raspy, having gotten weak from his intense screaming in pain.


“I… will… do… whatever you…ask…” he grudgingly croaked.


“Good… Tell me, what is your name?”


“I… have none…”


“I see. I suppose one such as yourself would have no need for a name in such a society. I, too, have long forgotten my own name.”


Almatas stood over the body of the formerly lone hunter, holding out his hand with the red gauntlet in an open palm.


“Henceforth, you shall now be known as…”


Almatas paused, studying his new recruit. It was not often he had to rename his knights, as they either submitted to him fully as they were, or in rare cases they wished to abandon their old identities. Atheron was once case where he fully submitted to him. This new recruit needed a name that was most fitting to the kind of being he was and the sort of knight he would become. Almatas sensed great strength and potential in him. It was then that he knew the perfect name for him.


“Umarak! The hunter.”


“Thank… you…” croaked the newly anointed Umarak.




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  • 3 months later...

Chapter 2



Not much time passed before the door opened and the hooded figure of Almatas stepped out from the room. He only took a few steps before his piercing gaze turned to Atheron.


“Take our new friend to have his wounds treated. I expect this will be no problem for that younger sister of yours…”


As the hooded figure began to ascend the staircase, Atheron looked back into the room to catch a glimpse at the warrior now known as Umarak. He then looked back over at the staircase, only to see the oddly-shaped shadow of Almatas becoming distant. His words before his departure felt toxic to the tactician.




Her name and face immediately came to his mind, almost making him fall into anxiety, but then he regained his composure and made his way into the cell. There was no time to waste when it came to a direct order from the supreme leader.


Umarak was limp and unconscious, his body sprawled out over the floor. Atheron received a key from Almatas just before they reached the dungeon area. Initially he wasn’t sure what it was for, but now seemed like a good a time as any to use it. He carefully placed the key into the lock, making sure to avoid touching the chains.


A being of shadow touching pure light is like having a death wish.


Eventually, Umarak was free from his bindings and ready to take upstairs. Atheron carefully lifted his body in his arms and then placed him over his left shoulder. He took one last look back at the cell and the chains before walking out and closing the door behind him.


For both our sakes, let’s hope Merith can do something to help our new friend here…




Oh no, I’m so late! I’ve gotta hurry!


Volchior was racing through the corridors, barely even taking a moment to catch his breath.


This is going to be a very bad first impression for my first training session!


As a recently promoted knight, Volchior was assigned a mentor that would be in charge of his training. Overcome with anxiety, the young warrior hardly slept at all and in the end, overslept after he did finally manage to get some rest. He wasn’t actually sure who his mentor was, but whoever it was, he was afraid of the consequences that would follow if he did not make it to his session on time.


Just as he reached the entrance to a training area, his face was met with crimson and black armor, sending him falling back and falling flat on the floor. Panicking, he immediately got back up to his feet, keeping his eyes closed from the embarrassment.


“Please, forgive, I’m so very sorry!”


He was cut short by a playful giggle. He finally opened his eyes to come face to face with a female clad in crimson and black armor that had a gold trim.


“Ah, you’re a cute little thing,” she said playfully.


“L-L-Lady Norenka? Please, I’m very--“


She giggled once again. “Please, there is no need for such formalities around me, especially considering our relationship.”


Volchior immediately became flustered. “R-R-Relationship?!”


“Yes. Didn’t you know? I’ve been assigned to be your mentor by Lord Almatas himself.”


“You mean…? You’ll be handling my training?”


“Why, yes. Is that a problem?”


The black-armored warrior shook his head. “No, it’s not that! It’s just… you’re… so amazing-- I mean, so highly ranked. I’ve only heard stories about you and your skill in battle.”


Norenka smiled and put her hand on top of his head. “There’s no reason to be intimidated by me. I want you to feel calm around me. You and I are not all that different from each other. Now then, you’re just in time for our training session. From my understanding, you are skilled with a lance, correct?”


Volchior nodded as Norenka took her hand away.


“Excellent. Then things should go just as smooth as I hoped for. I, too, take the lance as my weapon of choice. Never the less, it is always a good idea to be skilled with multiple arms. Diversity and skill with weapons are important to one’s victory in battle.”


Norenka turned around and began walking out into the open training area in front of them. She stopped only briefly to look back over to her potential protégé.


“This way, please.”


The footsteps of Norenka’s heeled boots echoed through the hallway as Volchior followed her, still nervous about what sort of training he was in for.


I never dreamed I would not only get to meet her, but train with her…! This is going to be interesting…




Umarak awoke atop a stone slab. He had no idea where he was or how he got here. That’s when he tried to think back as hard as he could. He was living as a bandit before. Then he found himself attacked by three warriors claiming to fight in the name of light. He was nearly beaten within an inch of his life before being rescued by another faction of warriors.


Then he found himself taken prisoner and interrogated by that psychopath in the hooded cloak. That’s when he was given a new name.




Having lost his home and his previous life, he had long forgotten his own name over the passage of time, as anyone who could have even known his name was long gone and most likely exterminated.


That’s how it had been for as long as I could remember.


Umarak tried to get up to get a different look at his surrounding, but just as he did, he felt a sharp pain in his right side and his back, like daggers were penetrating his body. He cried out in pain before laying back down.


“Hold on there,” said a voice outside of the room.


Umarak looked to his left to see a being clad in emerald and ebony armor with a gold trim. He was standing in the doorway, looking on at him. Umarak wasn’t sure who he was, but remembering the name of “Knights of Terankos,” he could only assume it was one of those so-called knights he heard about.


The being approached slowly to his side.


“You’ve been through quite a lot these last few weeks. You need to rest.”


“Who… are you?”


“You may call me Atheron, and I was one of the ones who rescued you.”


Umarak couldn’t entirely recall meeting him. That entire fight had become a hazy memory.


“It’s quite all right if you don’t remember me,” he replied, as if reading his thoughts. “You were nearly unconscious when he found you.”


“So you brought me here?”


Atheron nodded. “I swear you have Karzahni’s own luck. I was almost unsure if we were going to make it to you in time.”




“We were ordered to by our leader. He has taken an interest to you and your species in particular. He refused to allow another of your kind to be hunted down.”


“The demon in the hood?”


“Yes…” Atheron replied sheepishly. “For your sake, you might not want to refer to him like that. The last one who made a similar barb like that ended up having their windpipe crushed.”


“Then please, tell me of our master’s name,” Umarak insisted.


“You may refer to him as Lord Almatas.”


“’Almatas?’ As in…?”


Atheron nodded. “That’s right. I’m almost surprised you caught on. But perhaps I shouldn’t, seeing how closely associated with the darkness your people were. In ancient tongue, ‘Mata Nui’ translated roughly to ‘Great Spirit.’ As such, ‘Almatas’ would roughly translate to ‘Bad Spirit,’ or in some cases, ‘Demon’ even.”  


Before Umarak could ask another question, Atheron held up his hand a whispered quietly, “I can explain more to you later, but now is not a good time.”


There was a silence in the air until a voice came from another room.


“Big Bro-theeeeer!”


“Over here!” Atheron called out.


Atheron looked over to his left once more to see a female clad in armor of ebony and ivory with a golden trim. She was of a shorter stature compared to Atheron, and she gave off a very bright and positive aura. She happily walked in and approached the two of them.


“Yay! I see our new friend has made a recovery!” she exclaimed.


“Yes, Merith, he has, but I think he’s still feeling a bit sore,” Atheron added.


“Well, that’s no problem at all!” She held out a long staff and held it over Umarak’s chest.


Umarak had a look of uncertainty, to which Atheron flashed a look of reassurance to him.


“Now, hold still. This might tickle a little bit.”


Merith’s staff began to glow and suddenly envelop Umarak in a yellow aura. He indeed felt a tingling sensation throughout his body, which was painful at first, but then it started to fade away. Then in a matter of seconds, the pain he was in was no more.


With a smile, Merith took back her staff, which stopped glowing.


“How do you feel now?” she asked.


“I… feel fine,” Umarak replied.


“Good. I haven’t met anyone I couldn’t help out!”


“Merith, allow me to introduce you to our newest recruit, Umarak. And Umarak, this is my younger sister Merith.”


“A pleasure,” Umarak said. He held out his hand, but he suddenly found himself being embraced by Merith instead.


“Welcome to our family, Umarak! I hope we get to know each other more… I mean, outside of me having to patch you up, of course.”


“Like…wise…” Umarak said, unsure of what to make of Merith’s hug.


“I think he’s had enough excite for now, Merith.”


“Oops! Sorry.” The flustered Merith slowly let go of the newly anointed hunter and walked over to Atheron’s side.


“Take a few moments to rest up if you’d like. Then whenever you’re ready, come find me in our library area. There’s a few things I’d like to discuss with you. Some of which I’ll need to go into specific detail about…”



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Chapter 3



“No, no, this won’t do at all. I need you to show me all you’ve got!”


Volchior struggled with his initial training with Norenka. He wanted to show her the best he could do, and yet he simply couldn’t bring his best efforts forward, so more often than not he ended up being thrown around whenever his mentor struck.


“I heard you had so much promise, Volchior. Tell me, what is the problem?”


“Um, nothing! Nothing is the problem!”


“Do you take me for a fool…?”


“N-n-no! That’s not it!”


Norenka struck her lance into the ground and made her way over to him slowly.


“You know, as a mentor and protégé, our relationship is built entirely upon communication first, only followed by my advice and training. If you can’t bring yourself to communicate with me…”


She paused, turning away slightly.


Volchior was at a loss for words. He was not sure if with his failure to impress her, he had somehow hurt Norenka. He never once thought of someone with her fierce reputation to have a soft heart deep down.


“It’s not that at all! It’s just…”


“Are you intimidated by me?” she asked suddenly.


The knight in training was startled by her words. Norenka nodded understandingly.


“Tell me, young one. What reason do you have to be intimidated by me?”


At that moment, the knight in training realized he would not be able to hide anything from his mentor anymore.


“Yes, Norenka, you’re right. When I’m around you, I have this sense of hesitation and worry, but only because you have such a great reputation and you are an appointed knight of a high rank by Lord Almatas himself.”


“I see,” Norenka replied. “It makes sense now. Do you remember what I told you when we first met?”


“There would be no need for formalities.”


“And do you know why I said that?”


Volchior fell silent. He wasn’t entirely sure about that. Seeing his hesitation, Norenka stepped in.


“I don’t want to have any barriers around us. From now on, I want you to stop seeing me on some pedestal high above you. We are on equal footing. We are both warriors. On the battle field, rank means nothing. What matters the most is skill, courage, and determination. Rank is nothing but a meaningless label, just to boost one’s reputation and in some cases one’s ego.”


Norenka began to walk around Volchior, eying him up and down as she did so. Her footsteps sounded loudly with each step she took.


“Fear and hesitation will keep you from reaching your full potential. You can accomplish great things, but only when you let go of your fears, face them head on, and allow that determination to drive you. When you hesitate, you are only holding yourself back. The more you hold yourself back, the further behind you will stay.”


Norenka finally stopped and let out a deep sigh.


“We are done for today,” she said. “I want you to take time to reflect on what I’ve told you today. I want to see you again tomorrow, and I hope that when you face me again in training, it will be as equals.”


“Yes, Norenka,” the black armored warrior nodded in agreement.


As he grabbed his lance from his feet, Norenka held her hand up once more.


“One last thing, Volchior. Would you mind if I asked you about the style of your armor?”


Volchior took a look at himself and his black and silver armor, styled after the black dragons of legend.


“That will be a story for another day,” he said with a slight smirk on his face. To Norenka’s chagrin, Volchior then went on his way. As she watched him leave, she had one final thought before she also left the training area.


This young one could be a fine knight someday. But only if he allows himself to be.




Umarak wandered through some of the various corridors for what seemed to be days to him. He had no idea where anything was or even the layout of this location. He wasn’t even sure where he was to begin with, and yet he was expected to simply navigate he way to find a library he wasn’t sure existed.


Eventually, that’s when he made his way to the lower part of the facility, and eventually he found himself outside a large room that contained volumes of information. Carvings, stone tablets, scrolls, and even books upon many shelves were all present in his immediate point of view. As he continued to gaze upon the large collection of information, he eventually came face to face with the being known as Atheron once more.


There was no mistaking his ebon and emerald armor as he stood near one of the shelves with a book in his hand. He looked up once he sensed that he was no longer alone.


“Ah, so you’ve made it here,” he said in a welcoming tone.


“It would’ve helped if I at least knew my way around here,” the hunter spat.


“The leader doesn’t see much point in making any sort of map,” he explained. “I mean, if it fell into the wrong hands, our fortress would be compromised very easily. So, he sees it as safety outweighing convenience.”


He turned around and signaled Umarak to come close. As he did so, Atheron lowered his voice somewhat when he next spoke.


“I also don’t like to make this particular room all that known to everyone… especially not to Almatas.”


“Why do you say that?” Umarak asked softly.


Atheron’s tone shifted to being more somber, as if he was grieving for someone.


“As you guessed it, there is more to Almatas than you might think. The way he gave you your new name, so too did he give himself his. I doubt anyone who ever knew his real name and face is even alive to recall such information anymore.”


“You’re saying no one has seen his true face?” Umarak was dumbstruck by how absurd it sounded, but Atheron simply nodded.


“He wears that hooded cloak all the time. Not once in my years of serving him have I ever seen him without it. All I’ve ever seen of him are his horns, his gauntlet-covered hands, and his clawed feet. And of course, those piercing red eyes that I almost feel can cut right through me with one simple gaze alone.”


“Sound suspicious that you willingly work for someone who refers to himself as a demon and never even shows his true face.”


At that moment, Atheron’s face became completely solemn. It was then that the hunter realized he chose his words poorly.


“Willingly?” Atheron stammered. “You think I willingly chose this for my sister and myself?”


The hunter became silent as the tactician began to speak again.


“I was forced to,” he continued. “It was either be slain by that wretched monster serving the so-called Great Spirit, or serve Almatas and live on. I had no choice in the matter.”


“You mean--?”


“Yes. Merith and I come from a small tribe that reveled in the power of the shadows. We were viewed as outcasts, but we existed in a small community away from most other beings. Things seemed peaceful and we were able to study the shadows and contain our rituals however we pleased. That all changed one day…”


Atheron closed the book he had been reading and looked at the front cover with a sense of sadness.


“A band of warriors claiming to serve the will of Mata Nui attacked our village. Our best men were no match for them. One of their number… I know not his name, but his face is something I will never forget. Piercing orange eyes with no sense of mercy. A large maw filled with what seemed like many rows of sharp teeth. He wore no such mask on his face. I feel like his face alone could have been of something out of the Shadow Realm, and yet he served Mata Nui.”


Atheron made his way over to the large double doors of the library, closing them and then making his way back over to Umarak.


“My father managed to get us as far as he could from our village. It was him, me, my sister, and my mother. It was then that we met that horrendous beast of a warrior. I was paralyzed with fear, as was my sister. My father stepped in front of us, turned to face me, and shoved a tome into my arms, the very one I have with me right now. He ordered my mother to take us and run. Tearfully, she did that as he ran and faced that accursed monster. That was the last I ever saw of my father. Although, that wasn’t the last I saw of that imposing warrior, as he was present when we rescued you.”


“You mean to say…?”


“Yes. I believe the destruction of our village and the treatment of your race are all linked by these misguided crusaders. These ‘servants to Mata Nui’ are on a mission to eradicate anyone associated with the shadows.”


“So what happened to you afterwards?”


“Mother eventually became ill. I did my best to treat her, but her condition worsened. She could not walk as well as she used to. Before long, she could not even get out of the bed we made for her because the pain was too excruciating. Finally, she passed away in her sleep on night. Merith and I were all on our own. All we had were our masks, tools, and my father’s tome of shadows. It was not long before I crossed paths with Almatas. My sister and I tried to find sanctuary wherever we could, but we were met with harshness and backlash. It wasn’t long before our mysterious crusader friends found us again, this time only sending in warrior who called himself Trinuma. I ordered Merith to hide as I faced him alone. I had trouble holding my own against him as he fought with what seemed to be pure energy of no elemental origin, which proved effective against my limited power of shadow. It was then that Almatas appeared before the both of us. In a swift ferocity I had never seen, he took down Trinuma with just two swipes from two swords he carried. With him out of the way, he faced me and told me he had a use for me and that I needed to join his cause immediately to survive.”


To Umarak, it sounded almost identical to what Alamtas told him when he was being interrogated. It seemed as though the Knight leader used similar tactics to get whatever he wanted.


“At first, I refused. I wanted my sister and I to live in peace among the inhabitants of our world. Alamtas laughed and said the peace I desired was nothing more than a mere fairy tale that did not exist. Then…”


Atheron paused, trying to keep his composure but clearly struggling to do so.


“Then he told me that if I did not join his cause, then he would do away with the both of us where we stood, starting with my sister so I could have time to feel the agony of losing her. It was then that I begged him to spare her and convince him how she could be of service to him with her powers of healing and reanimation. Then, I pledged myself to him on the condition that he would take in the both of us, and that Merith would not be harmed. To my disbelief, he accepted.”


Atheron faced Umarak once more, having regained his composure.


“The fact I possess the Tactician’s mask makes me a valuable asset. While two of these masks exist in the world, a great tactician is of a great importance to anyone leading an army. It is natural that he wanted to have someone who could ensure victory. He agreed to keep us both on the condition I do what he wanted and assured him victory on every mission I would take part in. Even so, he still blackmails me, taunting me with my sister’s name and threatening to do away with her if either of us act out of line or fail in in any sort of manner…”


“He’s even more insane that I thought he was!” Umarak thought out loud.


Atheron gave a very sour laugh.


“Well, my friend, that’s actually before he went insane.”




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Chapter 4



“Wait a minute. Before he went insane?”


Umarak the Hunter stared back at the tactician as if he himself had gone insane.


“Sadly, yes. And that is why I’m even discussing this with you. I overheard some of the things he told you in the holding cell, and I could immediately see some parallels between both of our situations. I’m kind of worried about him… No, I should rephrase that. I’m worried about what he can do. I’m worried about what he possibly plans to do.”


“Clearly, he’s building an army. And he forcibly enlisted us to be in it.”


“That much is clear. But why build an army? For what purpose would he want to have us here?”


“How are you even keeping this from him?”


Atheron sighed. “It’s not easy. Luckily for me, he granted me permission to have this library constructed with the main idea being that every piece of art and literature considered taboo or forbidden be taken and relocated here. Since he didn’t care about where I put it and since he never even sets foot in here, this is my safe haven. At least, for now.”


“What is he capable of? What did he do to me?”


“I wish I had an answer for you. I don’t know much about the full extent of his abilities. I only know that he is a master swordsman and that he has a set of mind powers that he can use however he pleases. You experienced excruciating pain while he spoke to you, did he not?”


Umarak nodded grimly.


“That is a taste of what he’s capable of. Although one thing I’m not sure is…”




“Is it him? Or is it that golden gauntlet he wears? Think about it. He raised that hand when he delivered his punishment to you. And I’ve seen him do similar things to past victims when he raised that hand.”


Atheron took the moment to go over to a particular bookshelf and take a book from it. He sat down across Umarak and started flipping through pages.


“And you have no clues to what he’s up to?” the hunter asked.


“It’s not easy,” the tactician explained. “Spying on him is nearly impossible now. I was barely outside his door when he called out for me to enter. I can’t help but fear that he somehow he is omniscient and aware of everything we might be saying or doing. In which case, I may have just doomed you, me, and my sister just by me telling you all this.”


At that moment, he stopped turning pages and took a breath, as if expecting Almatas himself to burst through the doors at that instant. A few moments passed and there was no sound.


“However…” the tactician said, breaking the silence. “Before he did become seemingly aware of everything going on around him, I overheard him talking one night.”


“To who?”


Atheron was almost hesitant to answer. He looked up to the hunter, a look of fear in his eyes.


“There was nobody there. He was alone in his quarters.”


Umarak’s eyes widened, on the verge of fear as well.


The tactician continued. “I was near his door when I heard him laughing. I got close to the door without making a sound. Luckily I have excellent hearing, so I was able to pick up on the conversation. Just to make sure, however, I knelt down to try and look under the door. For the duration I was there, I could only hear his voice and saw only him. Aside from me, hardly anyone else is allowed in his private quarters. While he was talking, he mentioned something about this object right here.”


Atheron pointed to an ink sketch in the book he grabbed earlier of an interesting-looking staff. Umarak looked at the page and then at the name that was written in bold lettering.


“The Staff of Artakha?”


Atheron nodded. “From what I’ve read about it, this is quite an incredible piece of craftsmanship. It has the capability to fix and create whatever the holder wishes for, so long as it is within the staff’s power. He claimed that he would have a power that would rival the Staff of Artakha, so given what I’ve read here and given the way he is… I fear he is mad enough to do whatever he can so that can be as powerful as an object named in honor of the Bringer of Order himself.”


“Not necessarily…”


Atheron looked up at the hunter.


“If he wants to rival it, he wouldn’t want to create. He would want to destroy. And where there is order, there is chaos.”


“Karzahni the Chaos Bringer… Of course! But there aren’t any objects associated with him.”


“Not yet. He could be planning something big. We just don’t know it for sure.”


“No, at this point it’s all merely speculation. But I feel we’re on the right path. For now, though, we must act ignorant of any of this, as to not bring attention or stir an outcry among those here. If you have anything at all you want to talk about, please seek me out here. As I’ve said, this is my sanctuary and hardly anyone else ever comes around here. When I’m surrounded by knowledge, I feel a sense of serenity and peace.”


“So then, what do you suggest we do now?”


“Oh, I nearly forgot. I was so wrapped up in our discussion I didn’t realize time had gone by so quickly.”


Atheron glanced over at Umarak, who was still wearing his battled-damaged armor.


“ Well, first off, we need to get you fitted for some new armor. Before that, however, I think I ought to take you by our armory and weapons cache.”




Umarak couldn’t help but be amazed at the large collection of weapons that were stowed away in a single chamber. As a former crafter of weapons, he couldn’t help but look over each one the two of them passed. Atheron told him he was free to take whichever weapons he so desired, as these weapons were merely stolen from fallen warriors or “donations” from various weapon cache missions.


As Atheron continued talking about the armory, Umarak went on ahead of him and set his eyes on a very large bow weapon. The hunter reached out for it and began to inspect it from many angles.


“I see you’ve taken a liking to that one. We acquired that one from a run in with the Skull Raiders. Are you sure you’d like that one?”


“I have a preference for ranged combat. Plus, I feel like I can make a few adjustments to this one to make it suit my needs.”


Atheron shrugged his shoulders. “Very well then. Like I said before, you’re free to take whatever you want from here.”


After taking up a blade and a long glaive, Umarak nodded to the tactician and confirmed he had seen all he wanted to for the time being. At that point, Atheron led the hunter through another corridor and into a room that had various pieces of armor on display.


“This one will be for you,” he said as he indicated a set of armor to the left of them.


Umarak walked over to inspect the armor closely. He looked down at himself at his damaged armor, which had already become dull, rusted, and old from many years of living as a fugitive on the run. He looked over to this new armor, which had a bit of a skeletal motif to it.


He then noted the colors and how they mimicked those of the Hunter’s mask perfectly, as if he and that mask were meant for this armor. Umarak also noticed some red curved spikes in the armor, as well as some other small red accents.


“Any particular reason for the red?”


Atheron simply shrugged. “I like the color red. Plus, it was actually our leader who ordered the specifications of the armor. Merith merely took your measurements and followed his directions as best as she could.”


“Your sister made this on her own?”


The tactician nodded. “Merith and I had own our set of responsibilities when he still had our own lives. Designing armor and clothing is a simple task for her.”


“I’m amazed she even got it to match my mask so well.”


“I heard Almatas refer to it as the Hunter’s mask,” the tactician said. “Tell me, is it as powerful as what my research states?”


“Not sure what your research say, but it gives me some control over the power of the shadows. There are some abilities it has that I’ve yet to try out, but in time I intend to make the most of them. Now then, what about yours?”


The hunter indicated the mask the tactician wore, which oddly enough had a very familiar shape to it.


“Curious, aren’t you? The Tactician’s mask, which ironically mimics the look of the so-called legendary Mask of Fire, is one of my greatest allies in battle. Being a tactician, you are responsible for making the right decisions at just the right time in whatever circumstances you and your army encounter.”


Atheron took a small pause before continuing.


“Such a task might prove to be stressful for those who can’t think quickly on their feet or consider very viable option when entering the field of battle. With this mask, however, that all becomes a lot easier. When I tap into the mask’s power, it allows me to see and think of many different strategies all at once so I’m able to quickly make good decisions to ensure victory and maximize our efforts.”


“Wouldn’t something like that be…?” Umarak said, somewhat astonished.


“For some, it can prove to be stressful in itself having to have a mask show you so many things all at once. I’ve trained myself in keeping my composure and my sanity, and so far nothing has happened to take me out of commission.”


“And you said earlier there are two of those masks known to exist?”


“Ah, yes, how astute of you to remember,” the tactician said, pleased at the hunter’s listening skills. “Indeed there are. I’ve never seen the other mask for myself. However, my father told me long ago about it, and likewise I have done some research on it as well. While I don’t know where the other mask is or who owns it at this point, I do know that if I were to cross paths with that mask and anyone possibly wearing it, it would prove to be rather challenging, to say the least. I would consider that user to be my biggest threat and rival.”


Atheron walked over to the doorway and indicated Umarak to follow.


“I’ll go ahead and show you to your quarters. Starting tomorrow, you are going to be a promoted knight, as ordered by Almatas.”


“And that means…?”


“You will be ranked more or less in the same class as me and a few of our other members. This means Almatas will be more likely to assign you on missions that are of the utmost importance. I did however request that I would have a hand in observing you and possibly training you as needed. He agreed to it and said that I will be your mentor, but only whenever you need me.”


“I’ve held my own against all odds before.”


“I’m very sure you have. Although, I still would like to observe your fighting style and get to know you more. Plus, if you are at least assigned with me, I feel things will turn out better given our new alliance.”


Umarak nodded. “Very well. However, I’ve typically worked alone.”


“Which is fine and I know you’ve been used to being on the run by yourself for so long. However, now that you’re with us, things are going to change. I only wish to help ease you along so Almatas can fully trust you and at the very least, we can report back to each other if either of us learns anything else about him.”


Without saying another word, Atheron led Umarak to a small room with a bed in the corner and some various shelves and racks for weapons and belongings. Umarak set down his new weapons and then made his way over to the bed. Before Atheron left the room, he turned back to face Umarak once more time.


“Rest up for tomorrow. Whenever you’re ready, you and I are going to have our own little ‘training session,’ so I can get to know you and your abilities more.”


“All right. See you tomorrow… ‘Master.’”


“Very funny.”


With that, the ebon and emerald figure that was Atheron vanished from sight once the door was closed. Umarak began to lie down on the bed and slowly close his eyes.


What have I been dragged into? This whole thing sound so suspicious. Whoever this Almatas is, I need to keep my eyes on him, unless I want to end up like that Trinuma I heard so much about…




As the tactician walked through the corridor to his own quarters, he could hear footsteps coming from behind him. He knew whose footsteps those were and he turned around.


“Hello, Norenka.”


“Ah, you’re still as sharp as ever,” Norenka cooed as she made her way over to him. She held out her arms and embraced him once she was close enough.


“How’ve things been with you?” Atheron asked.


Norenka released him and gave him a warm smile. “Not really much to go on. I spent a good part of my day training with my new protégé of a knight.”


“Ah, yes, I heard about him,” he replied. “How was it?”


Norenka’s smile was replaced with a look of concern. “He seems to be intimidated by me. I was hoping to see him at his full potential, but the whole time he was holding back.”


“You know,” Atheron began, “I seem to remember someone just like that. She was so happy when she became a knight with her new important rank and so eager to show what she was made of. Then she met her mentor and remembered how important he was and she felt so nervous about making a good impression on him because he was so amazing. Does that remind you of anyone?”


Norenka playfully shoved Atheron away.


“You stop that!” she replied, clearly embarrassed. “I was so young and inexperienced at the time.”


“Which proves my point,” Atheron declared. “He is young. He will learn. Were you really that much different back then compared to how he is right now? Zartross told me a lot about how your sessions went and how you improved over time… once you stopped being so nervous around him. Give the young one a chance, and he might just surprise you.”


Atheron then hugged her tightly, surprising Norenka greatly.


“Stop being so hard on yourself and him, all right?”


When he let go, Norenka tried her best to hide her blushing face.


“This is new for the both of you,” he continued. “Just remember that you two are a team. You are in this together. In time, he will learn. In turn, you need to remain confident for both his sake and for yours.”


“Th-thank you…” Norenka said. “I, um…”




Norenka seemed to be hesitant with her next words.


“I… thank you for the advice. I’m really glad to have you always there for me… as a friend, of course.”


“Any time, Norenka. If you ever need me, you know just where to find me.”


With that, the tactician continued on his way, not aware that Norenka was still looking over at him until he vanished in the distance.


Norenka then began to go down another corridor to her private quarters, her thoughts racing in her head as she did so.


I almost don’t know what I’d do without him. He was the first one I ever spoke to when I first got here. He was my first friend. He’s helped me along so much and he’s always been there for me. I really am so grateful for him. Ugh, but why did he have to remind me of how I used to be?? So embarrassing…







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Chapter 5



The sound of clanging weapons rang through the air of the training area. Twin lances sang and whistled at the clashed and swung through the air.


“You’re improving, Volchior,” Norenka said. “Your technique could still use some work, but otherwise I can see you’ve let go of some of that hesitation.”


“Thank you, Norenka,” Volchior said as he dodged and parried Norenka’s attacks.


Volchior spent most of the night pondering on Norenka’s words, driven by them and unable to put his mind at ease. Upon calming himself down, he began to understand what it meant to ignore what rank meant, especially when it came down to being on the opposite end of a weapon. In nature alone, there was no such thing as a ranking system. It boiled down to the survival of the fittest and the abilities and strengths one could use against their opponent.


It’s like she said. In battle, rank means nothing. And yet, being around her still makes me feel… off somehow…


Volchior sensed an opening in Norenka’s attack, in which he used to knock her back. As she stumbled back slightly, the black armor-clad warrior leapt into the air with his lance in hand. He let out a yell as he aimed the head of his lance at Norenka. He thought in this situation, he would have had her, but then Norenka regained her composure and used her lance to immediately knock him back down to the ground.


Volchior tumbled and rolled on the ground, his lance clanging at his feet shortly after. As he tried to get to his feet, his ears rang with Norenka’s footsteps approaching him.


“You seem to have a bit of a daring nature in you,” she said. “I like that.”


She extended her hand to Volchior, who graciously took her hand as she helped him back to his feet.


“Now, what exactly was that move you just attempted?”


“It was… just something I practiced on in my days fighting in the Gladiator pits,” he replied reluctantly.


“Oh, that’s right, I’d nearly forgotten you used to fight for sport.”


Norenka only knew a brief history of her potential protégé, only knowing he was forced into becoming a gladiator against his will, literally fighting for his survival. It stayed that way until his fighting skill and dormant shadow abilities caught the eye of Almatas, who was convinced that he wanted him for his ranks.


After “persuading” the ring leader behind the gladiator fights to let go of this rising star of a warrior, Almatas immediately took him back to Nirek as soon as he could. Shortly after, it was around that time Almatas personally approached Norenka and told her how she would be his trainer and mentor, as he was confident in her skill and knowledge in battle.


“It was more than mere sport,” Volchior replied bitterly.


“Oh! No! It’s not-- I mean…”


“It’s okay. I understand what you meant.”


As Volchior picked up his lance, Norenka approached him and put a hand on his shoulder. Caught off guard, Volchior turned around suddenly.


“No,” she said, “it’s not okay. I should have chosen my words better. Out of anyone, I should know…”


“Wait, what are you talking about?”


Norenka took him by the shoulder again.


“I hope you have a clear day, young one.”


“I hardly have anything else to do aside from my time with you,” he said.


Norenka led him over to some benches and then indicated for him to sit down. As he sat down, Norenka sat down next to him, immediately making him feel flustered inside.


“Not a lot of people really know this about me. If I tell you, then I better not hear that you’re talking about me behind my back.”


“No, no, not at all!” the warrior replied nervously.


“Very well then,” Norenka began. “I might seem like some kind of fierce and intimidating warrior to you, but I wasn’t always like that. Would you believe I was an abandoned child of a harsh shadow clan?”


Volchior shook his head in disbelief.


“I don’t really know what happened to my family. The only thing I can even remember was a large being shrouded in a green aura with only his orange eyes being a distinct feature. I can only imagine he had to do something with why my mother and father were gone. Without them, I was left alone. The survivors didn’t want anything to do with me. The clan leader took me in, but only to be a personal servant to him. I don’t know how many years I spent, but it felt like an eternity. I missed my family dearly, but there was nothing I could do and nowhere I could go. I was already afraid of what my clan would do if they found me trying to escape…”


Norenka stifled back tears that she felt trying to escape.


“Then there was the matter of those wretched servant dogs to the Great Spirit trying to eradicate anything having to do with darkness. One of our best knights and tactician, Atheron, has encountered them before in his life several times. He refers to them as the ‘Crusaders,’ due to their nature in traveling in the name of their mission. I had no way out. That was until the Knights of Terankos made themselves known.”


“They found you?”


Norenka nodded. “Almatas goes wherever the shadows may be. Or at least, so he says. It was that day I met him and Atheron and I watched in amazement at how they took down the members of my clan who shunned me. Almatas himself, I can’t even describe how he moved around, almost as if he could fly. I was definitely mesmerized by Atheron’s skill with both a blade and a tome. I felt a personal satisfaction when Almatas took down our clan leader, taking him down with only once swipe of his blade.”


Volchior could see her smile through her tears. In these few moments, he felt like he really got to know Norenka more than most of the other knights present, and like he could feel a connection with her. He put a hand on her shoulder, reassuring her things were fine now.”


“Thank you.”


“So I take it from there, you became a knight and rose through the ranks?”


“Well…” she said hesitantly, “That’s not exactly how it went…”


Norenka hesitated once more, conflicted on what her next words should be.


“Absolutely no one must know this, understand?”


“Of course.”


Norenka sighed. “Upon joining, I was a total mess. I had raw talent, as Almatas told me he arrived that day because he sensed great potential with me. I was eventually assigned a mentor, just as you were. His name was Zartross, and he was one of the best knights at the time. He still is, as a matter of fact. I was intimidated by him. His reputation. His skill. The sound of his voice.”


Volchior heard of Zartross as well. In fact, he knew about most of the high-ranked knights. Although, to hear Norenka was at one point intimidated by Zartross the way he was intimidated by her, it felt relieving to him. His thoughts were interrupted when his mentor spoke again.


“Trust me. If you were intimidated by me, then you wouldn’t have lasted with him. But despite his fearsome reputation, he did have his moments. He was the one who taught me what it meant to be a warrior and to not be held back by hesitation or doubt. Compared to him, I’m going easy on you… in fact, too easy.”


“Wait, are you saying--?”


“Norenka-aaaa!!” a voice called out from the entrance. It was a small female of a smaller stature clad in armor of black and white.


Norenka waved her arm. “Over here, Merith!”


Volchior looked back and forth between the two of them.


“Lady Merith?” he asked.


“Yup, that’s me!” she chimed happily. “But please, don’t call me ‘Lady’ or anything like that. It makes me feel like I’m old.”


“You’ve got it… Merith,” Volchior replied meekly.


“How’s the training been going for you two?” Merith asked.


“We’ve been making progress,” Norenka said. “We were just about to call it a session when we were just sitting here discussing techniques.”


“Um… yeah,” Volchior nervously added, “I was just listening to her advice on how to improve my form for defending.”


“Well, that’s great! I’m glad to hear that!”


Merith eyed Volchior, almost inspecting him from all angles.


“You seem to look okay…” she said to herself. Then she looked him in the eye.


“He’s not hurt, but I think he might be a little bit tired,” Norenka said.


“If you say so,” Merith replied nonchalantly. “Take good care of him, Norenka! I’ve got a feeling he’s going to be a keeper!”


Volchior could feel himself blush beneath his mask as Merith walked away. Norenka giggled softly.


“Don’t mind her,” she said. “She’s just teasing. It’s great knowing there’s someone around here who looks out for everyone.”


“She has the power to heal, is that right?”


“Yes… and a little bit more. But hopefully you won’t have to see that anytime soon,” Norenka said in a somber tone.


As Volchior got up from the bench, Norenka stopped him once again.


“Now, Volchior,” she began, “I know I’ve asked you already, but I really want an answer. I’ve told you more than enough about me. Now, tell me… what inspired the look of your armor?”


Volchior turned back around, looking Norenka in the eye.


“When I was younger, my father would tell me stories about the legendary black dragons, born from the very shadows of Terankos. They were a symbol of strength and power, revered by many of those who followed Terankos. When I became a gladiator, I made my armor to mimic the very look of one of those dragons. Sounds kind of ridiculous, but that is my reason.”


Norenka gave him a bright smile. “No, I don’t think that sound ridiculous at all. Now then, that’s all for today. Go ahead and have the rest of the day to yourself.”


“Yes, Norenka,” replied the warrior in training as he stowed his lance on his back and walked away.


Norenka couldn’t help but look at him with a sense of pride.


Maybe now that he knows the warrior in the armor, he won’t be as intimidated by me and I’ll finally start making him the best knight that he can be.



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  • 4 weeks later...

Chapter 6



Anyone passing by the corridor that led outside to the training grounds would most likely hear the sound of two blades clashing. What they wouldn’t know would be the owners of those blades were none other than Atheron and Umarak.


Two weeks went by since the newly anointed shadow hunter had joined the Knights of Terankos, and as his “understudy,” Umarak trained almost daily with Almatas’ most trusted tactician to sharpen and hone his fighting skills.


As a bandit, Umarak knew only how to fight in order to escape and stay alive on a life on the run. As he soon learned, skills like that only to get by in life were not enough against the likes of what Atheron called “the Crusaders,” who succeeded in in besting him and nearly took him captive.


I cannot let these pathetic fools get the best of me, the hunter thought to himself as he made several strikes at the tactician, only for Atheron to dodge and parry each one.


“Don’t be predictable with your strikes!” he shouted. “Use the unorthodox!”


“For someone who’s so skilled with a book, I’m surprised you’re able to use a sword so well,” retorted the hunter.


“Don’t let first impressions and appearances misguide you, my friend,” the tactician said with a coy look in his eye.


As the hunter began to push forward and lead the duel in his favor, the tactician spotted an opening and swiftly disarmed him and delivered a kick to his lower shin, sending the hunter to the ground. As he looked up, his gaze was met with Atheron’s gaze. After a few moments, the emerald-clad tactician lowered his sword and extended his free hand. The hunter begrudgingly took his hand as he was lifted back up to his feet.


“That is what happens when your attacks become too predictable,” Atheron said in a somewhat mocking tone.


“Close combat isn’t really my thing anyway,” the hunter retorted sarcastically.


“You skill with a bow are remarkable, there’s no doubt about that,” Atheron began. “However, you can’t always be hiding in the shadows to strike down your opponents as you might be used to…”


As he spoke, Umarak made his way to the bench area of the field, sheathing his blade in a scabbard at his hip and taking up his modified bow and mounting it on his back.


“It’s a good idea to have some experience with a secondary weapon, just in case you need it and you’re in a complicated position.”


“Like you and your sword?” Umarak questioned.


“Precisely so, my friend,” he responded. “While there are knights who are trained in one specific style of combat, there are those of us who expand our reach beyond that and are skilled with multiple arms.”


As Umarak walked back over to him, Atheron gave him a light smile and put a hand on his shoulder.


“My apologies if I sound too harsh, but I only do so because I wish to see your succeed. After all, seeing as our leader gave you such a quick promotion, you’ll be expected to be at a certain level. And while your skill with your bow are unmatched by any other I’ve seen, I still want to make sure you meet said expectations.”


“Thanks for looking out for me,” the hunter muttered under his breath.


“What was that?”


“Nothing important,” Umarak retorted.


Their conversation was cut short by the sound of footsteps caused by two heeled boots. Atheron and Umarak looked over in the direction of the sound to see a female figure clad in black and red approaching in the distance, followed by a slightly shorter figure clad in black and silver armor.


“Who are they?” asked Umarak.


“I was wondering when we’d encounter each other like this,” Atheron said, seemingly ignoring Umarak.e what it meant going to run into themme of their mission."tered them before in his life several times. He refers to them a


Atheron slowly made his way over to the two and Umarak followed behind him, unsure of what was going on. Soon enough, Atheron and the female warrior met just a few feet away from each other. She gave a small giggle as she looked over at the hunter.


“Ah, I was wondering when I would finally get to meet this mysterious hunter for myself,” she said in a playful tone.


“Well, Norenka, I could say the same about your protégé,” Atheron replied.


Norenka took a few steps over to Umarak and looked him over from a few different angles.


“Fascinating,” she said. “So this is what a legendary Sergacite looks like. I’ve heard so much about your kind, and I must say I’m deeply honored to meet you.”


Umarak only looked at her with a confused and slightly annoyed gaze. She took note of his sour look and simply smiled and laughed to herself.


“I’m so sorry, where are my manners even? I am Norenka. And you are Umarak, correct?”


Umarak nodded slowly, his eyes not leaving her gaze.


“So this is the hunter I’ve heard so much about?” rang the voice of Norenka’s so-called protégé.


No sooner did the warrior make his way to Umarak, giving him a look over for himself, but not with the same look of awe and interest as Norenka. This seemed a bit more hostile and judgmental.


“I don’t see what’s so special about him where he got promoted so quickly,” he sneered.


“There’s no need to be so quick to conclusions, Volchior,” Norenka said in the same playful tone as before.


“Well, if you ask me, I don’t get why he gets an instant easy pass onto true knighthood while the rest of us had to work to where we are!” the young warrior replied in a condescending tone.


“Easy pass?” Umarak finally spoke. “Nothing about my being here was ‘easy’ to begin with!”


“So, the hunter speaks,” Volchior sneered, clearly unimpressed. “I’d say being hand delivered to Lord Almatas and immediately being taken in is easy enough! I was lucky just to be noticed fighting for my life in the gladiator pits of Artidax!”


Umarak gave a cold laugh. “Gladiator pits? That’s cute. At least you weren’t living like a fugitive on the run, forced to leave your home after some crazed being with a mace threatens your people with death and incarceration!”


At that moment, Volchior snapped and charged at Umarak with his lance at the ready. However, Umarak was ready and quickly drew out his blade and clashed with the lance to block him. At that moment, Atheron and Norenka immediately grew concerned as Volchior began to duel Umarak out of blind rage. Before either of them could make a move, a heavy voice called from behind the two young warriors.


“Enough!” rang the voice. Out of nowhere, a very powerful-looking being clad in black and azure armor leapt into the air, landing just behind Volchior and Umarak. He immediately grabbed the quarreling pair by the necks and lifted them up to look them in the eye.


The two warriors looked on in shock at their new arrival. His frame was very large and intimidating, and his armor very bulky and thick. There were many scratches on his armor, which also appeared to be somewhat worn. This warrior had lived and breathed for battle, based on first impression alone. What intimidated them the most was this intimidating new arrival’s mask, as it had a telescopic eyepiece placed over his right eye, the red eye of which was darting between the two of them while his other eye remained stationary.


When he spoke again, his voice, deep and booming, revealed he had a peculiar way of speaking, as he if normally spoke in a different dialect.


“So, young ones,” he began, “why is it that you are being so hostile to one another?”


Both were still in shock to really speak aloud, but finally Volchior spoke.


“W-w-well, it’s unfair for someone of the likes of him to be--“


At that remark, the older warrior slammed both of their heads together and proceeded to throw them to the floor like mere dolls.


“Enough of this bad talk!” he boomed. “It does not matter, the way one reaches knighthood. What matters most is warrior’s skill and warrior’s heart! Without either, then that is not knight, but a pretender in knight armor.”


The veteran knight looked over at Umarak, specifically with his eye with the telescopic lens.


“There is good potential in the hunter as much as there is in you, marauder. Circumstances that bring us together do not matter. What we do with it is what matters most.”


Norenka quickly ran over to the both of them, helping the both of them back up.


“S-sir Zartross,” she stammered nervously. “I-I-I didn’t know--“


“What is this ‘Sir Zatross,’ Norenka? What has Zartross told you? Only ‘Zatross’ when we talk, now that you are full knight!” The being called Zartross let out a hearty laugh and gave a slap in the back to Atheron as he made his way over to them.


At that moment, Volchior was starting to make some connections between his conversation with Norenka and this conversation between her and Zartross.


“You’re the one who trained Norenka!” he blurted out.


Zartross gave another laugh. “Very astute thinking! Yes, young one. Zartross has trained many knights throughout years past. None quite as special as young Norenka, when she was just young fledgling knight who got nervous around Zartross.”


He made his way over to the three of them, slamming both hands on the shoulders of Volchior and Umarak.


“Please be having apologies of mine for rough housing you. Was necessary to stop the hostility.”


“No problem, sir,” Volchior replied meekly.


“Again with this ‘sir’ business? No, no, only ‘Zartross’ when we talk. We are all on same side, and no need for formalities.”


“Very well, Zartross,” Umarak said at last. “No harm done.”


Volchior and Umarak still could not help but exchange nasty looks after accepting the veteran knight’s apology.


Atheron sighed and shook his head in displeasure.


“Why do I get the feeling those two just might be the death of me someday?” he muttered to himself.



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Chapter 7



“You wanted to see me Norenka?”


“Yes, my young protégé, please come this way with me.”


The footsteps of Norenka’s heeled boots echoed through the corridors of the Nirek fortress as she led Volchior to one of the doors leading out back to the fortress grounds.


“You know,” Volchior began, “I’ve never really been to this area of the island before?”


“Oh?” Norenka suddenly said in slight delight. “Then let us go on ahead. I thought I’d go ahead and show you something.”


As Norenka pushed open the large double doors, a gust of wind greeted the young knight’s face, nearly catching him off guard. When he opened his eyes, he looked out to see the dark skies that surrounded the island, followed by the gray clouds that hovered just above them. He took a few steps outside when suddenly a flash of lightning lit the sky, giving him a small startle. Norenka gave a small giggle upon seeing his face, only annoying the young knight.


“What? It’s not like I’m afraid of lightning or anything, you know?” he spouted in a flustered tone.


“Never mind that,” she replied soothingly. “Now then, let’s press forward.”


Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve had a good look at the island ever since I arrived here, Volchior thought to himself.


The terrain was very rough, sharp, and rocky with no real sign of any foliage to be seen as far as the eye could see. The black, jagged rocks were only highlighted by the flashes of lightning making them visibly distinctive from one another. As the wind continues to howl, the ocean’s gray waves slammed against the shores of the island, which in itself was high above the waters that surrounded it.


Volchior took a look behind at the fortress, only to see it blended in all too well with the black rock it rested upon, as if it were a mountain rising above and overlooking the island. He looked to his left to see several ports out by the sore with various boats and transports docked. Further ahead, he saw what looked like a hangar bay with several small airships resting inside. He looked straight ahead and saw that Norenka was heading towards a large mountain with several opening strewn across it and a long winding path that went right to the top.


“Are we heading towards that large, spiraling mountain?” he asked, very much unsure of what his mentor had in mind of showing him.


“Precisely,” she said, turning her head to smile at him before looking forward again.


If Lord Almatas wanted his base to be in the most foreboding place he could find, he definitely succeeded, the young knight thought to himself.


The pair began to walk up the mountain, following the spiraling path that encircled the mountain. As they passed by one of the openings Volchior saw earlier, he could swear he heard the growls of some creature from inside. Nervous, he reached for his lance to defend himself from whatever was making that sound.


These aren’t just openings. These are caves.


“Put that thing away, my young protégé,” Norenka said in an almost commanding tone. “There won’t be a need for that here.”


“But… the creature,” he said.


“Fellow companions and servants to our cause,” she said nonchalantly. “As long as you’re calm, they will be calm as well. If you show you’re afraid, then they will sense that as well.”


“You sure know a lot about animals,” Volchior said as he sheathed his lance on his back.


“I ought to, considering I’m the one who took them into our care,” she said.


“How did you manage that??”


The crimson-armored warrior tapped a finger to her mask.


“The Tamer’s Mask, my dear protégé,” she replied confidently. “Even without it though, it is easy for one to befriend any of these creatures, so long as you know what to do and how to treat our fellow companions. This mask just makes it easier on me. Now then, come along.”


It wasn’t much longer before they made it near the top of the mountain and near the last cave. Volchior was ready to brace himself for whatever he saw, but Norenka calmly walked passed him, happily and calm.


She held her arms out and called out in a lighthearted tone.


“Nivara…? Where are you…?”


A loud, thundering roar rang through the walls of the cave. What the young knight saw next was something he would never forget. From the depths of the dark cave, he saw a pair of glaring red eyes, followed by a pair of large, sharp teeth. The creature began to move forward, its steps making his footing rumble beneath him. Before he knew it, he found himself face to face with a large, black dragon, the very symbol of power and courage he was familiar with from the tales passed down in his family. The very creature he sought to emulate through the motif of his armor.


The dragon gave another roar to the skies, throwing back its wings. Then to his surprise, the dragon lowered its head and Norenka nuzzled her face against it.


“There’s my adorable little Nivara,” she said, almost coddling her draconic friend.


“Y-Y-You…” Volchior stammered in disbelief.


Norenka giggled. “Yes, Volchior. When you told me the other day, I just knew I had to introduce the two of you. Nivara is my faithful companion and sometimes my mount in battle.”


“But I never heard much about you riding a dragon into battle!”


“Only on certain occasions, do I choose to do so. After all, I have to keep my little Nivara in tip top shape and looking good. After all, nothing is too good for her.”


Norenka went around to Nivara’s left flank and then signaled for Volchior to follow.


“Would you like to take a ride with me on her, Volchior?”


“Me?!” Volchior was in utter shock at the thought of riding on a creature only spoken about in great lengths by his father. It was like a lifelong dream having been brought to reality.


“Of course. I mean, why not?”


Norenka approached him, took him by the hand, and proceeded to shove him up onto Nivara’s back. Nivara made a small sound as Volchior landed on her.


“Now, now, Nivara, this is the nice, young knight I was telling you about. He’s a friend, and I want you both to get along.”


Nivara turned to face a nervous Volchior looking right back at him. They both stared at each other in silence for what seemed to be an eternity before Nivara opened her mouth and licked him across the face with her long, purple tongue. Nivara let out what seemed to be a happy sound as she nuzzled her head against Volchior’s chest. Without hesitation, Volchior wrapped his arms around her head and began to nuzzle his head against hers.


Norenka giggled as she got on Nivara herself. “I knew you two would hit it off nicely. Now, if you’ll be a dear and let me get ahead of you, Volchior?”


She scooted passed him and made her way closer to Nivara’s neck. After giving her a few pats on the neck, Norenka pointed out towards the outside of the cave.


“Now, Nivara, let’s fly!”


Nivara began to run out of the cave, readying her wings and it wasn’t long before the dragon was soaring through the air. Not used to the speed and force of the take-off, Volchior was gasping and screaming as Nivara gained altitude. Norenka was simply laughing as if she were having the time of her life.


“Isn’t this fun, my dear protégé?” she shouted over her shoulder.


“Oh, yeah,” the young knight gasped, “this is really great!”


Norenka laughed again. “I knew you’d love this! I just know you and Nivara are going to be the best of friends!”


As Volchior tried his best to calm himself, he looked over his surroundings. The rocks below looked so small, and they were moving so quickly. He then looked over to the ocean’s gray wave, looking beyond the horizon. There was no telling what was out there, waiting for him as a full-fledged Knight of Terankos. Soon, he forgot about being afraid of the speed and height they were at.


He was thrilled. Thrilled that he was riding atop such a noble, legendary creature with a female knight he looked up to and admired most. He was ready to face down any challenge that was ahead of him. He felt invincible.


Volchior threw his arms back and looked out ahead of him. He let out a few excited cheers before Norenka joined him.


“When you let go of your fears and hesitation,” Norenka began, “you are more ready and open for change and whatever you come up against! Pretty soon, your skills and your mind will be sharp and ready for whatever challenges the future holds for you!”



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Chapter 8


Almatas looked out his window at the cloudy skies that loomed overhead. His days in his fortress had been long, lonely ones, but none of that mattered to him. He looked up again, this time his eyes fixating on what looked like a black dragon flying through the sky.


He smirked to himself, knowing well that it had to have been none other than Norenka’s dragon. He walked away from his window, clutching his hand with his golden gauntlet. His hand was in pain ever since he began to wear it, and while he simply shrugged off the pain as if nothing, he felt like he could not bear it any longer. He looked around to see if no one else was around.


The dark master then slowly removed the gauntlet from his hand, which fell to his side. He then walked to the southern-most wall of the room, pulling back a tapestry with the insignia of Terankos and revealing a safe. Once it was unlocked, the dark master pulled out a gauntlet identical to the one he wore on his other hand. Sliding it back on, he then stored the gold gauntlet and locked it up.


The Hand of Karzahni, he thought to himself.


A valuable tool of such craftsmanship and power… and yet…


Out of rage, Almatas began slamming his good hand on the door of the safe as hard as he could.


Why?! Why?! Why?! Why can’t I use it without having to endure so much agony on my physical form?! I endure the pain for him, and yet I cannot bear it any longer! Must I look a fool in the eyes of the great Terankos if I cannot even use a tool such as this?!


As suddenly as he started, he stopped pounding his hand against the safe. He regained his composure and made his way back to the window he was looking out of earlier.


The only way to wield the power of a god would be if one were not bound to the mortal world. To become something greater and transcend mortality. To be rid of one’s physical form such as this.


He covered the opening of his hood with his bad hand, his fingers stretched out and twitching as he did so.


These tools are too much for the likes of us. The Hand of Karzahni. The Staff of Artakha. These were left behind as relics of the past, reminders of a time that had been so long ago. They were left behind in order to tempt those who felt they could use them for their own purposes. And yet, I carry out this sacred mission in the name of Terankos, and I find myself unable to fulfill that which he wants me to do.


He thrust both of his arms back and abruptly turned away from the window, his cloak billowing with his every move.


No, that can’t be. I live to serve Terankos. He knows everything I have done, I have done so for him. I’ve gathered an army, all in his name. I have set the pieces for his dangerous game. All that remains is to make the first move. The time will be right, and I will enact the first unspeakable act on behalf of his name. Soon, the rest will follow. Yes… the excruciating pain inflicted by the Hand of Karzahni is a minor setback, but not one that will forestall his great plan.


Almatas took one look outside the window again, this time catching the faces of Norenka and Volchior, two of his top knights and followers.


Soon, Great Terankos, you will see just what they are capable of achieving in your name. Then, you will once again grace us with your presence…




Is it just me, or is it windier than it usually is?


Merith was sitting out in one of the practice areas admiring the clouds when she saw the winged form of Nivara passing by overhead. Her eyes lit up and she waved up at the magnificent dragon, catching a glimpse of Norenka and Volchior.


“Hey, guys! Over here!” she shouted.


The young maiden waved both her arms vigorously, and sure enough she got a wave from Norenka, who was beaming with confidence.


What I wouldn’t give to be just like her someday.


Merith stopped waving and soon her smile faded once the three of them were further out. She slumped back into her seat and began to look down at the floor.


What I wouldn’t give to be so strong and capable the way she is. No one would have to worry about me or have me getting in the way so much. I wouldn’t have to make Big Brother worry so much about me…


Merith had been long aware of how Almatas used her as leverage to make her brother do his bidding, ever since the day she first saw him. In some cases, she had even been told herself by the mysterious leader how she only lived because of her usefulness and to be a bargaining chip with Atheron. It made her feel terrible inside knowing that her brother suffered just to keep her safe and alive. She loved Atheron so much and she would do anything for him, yet she felt so helpless inside.


To make sure he didn’t worry so much, she wore a brave face and smiled through everything. Everything she did, she did it with energy and enthusiasm, to make sure he didn’t worry about her or ever know how scared she felt through it all. Deep down, she knew she was fooling herself at times, trying to be happy and smile in times when she wanted to break down and cry. She couldn’t do that, not for her brother’s sake.


Big Brother is doing everything he can for me, so I have to do everything I can for him, too!


“What’s all the commotion about?”


Merith lost her train of thought when she turned to look at Umarak standing right behind her. Flustered, she let out a yelp upon seeing him.


“Am I really that scary?” he asked in a sarcastic tone.


“N-N-Nope, it’s just… I wasn’t expecting you there!” she quickly said.


“So, again, what is the commotion?” the hunter asked.


“Norenka is just out flying Nivara again. This time, looks like Volchior joined up with her.”


Merith saw Umarak’s glazed look in his eyes at the mention of Volchior’s name.


“Hey, now,” she snapped, “you two be nice to each other!”


“What for?”


“Because we’re a team, that’s why! And we should all get along!”


“You sure have such a bright, cheery outlook on everything. Quite the contrast to this whole place and how dark and dreary it is.”


“Just because my armor’s black doesn’t mean my heart should be as well.”


Umarak eyed the young maiden, as if he was studying her. Merith, seeing this, quickly hid her blushing face.


“W-W-Why are you looking at me like that?” she asked.


“You’re a strange one, Merith, that much I’ll say,” the hunter replied.


Hearing this, Merith pouted and crossed her arms.


“You’re so mean, Umarak!”


Umarak gave a laugh, only making Merith slightly more annoyed.


“What is it?”


“If I didn’t know any better, it’s like you were my little sister for a moment there.”


Merith’s demeanor changed upon hearing this. It was then she realized she didn’t know much about Umarak at all, other than whatever Atheron shared with her.


“Did you have any family, Umarak?”


“Yeah, I might’ve at some point,” he said in an uncaring tone.


“What do you mean?”


“I honestly don’t remember too much about my life before here. I know for sure I had a mother and a sister… And my father…”


The young maiden was surprised when Umarak suddenly burst out laughing at the mention of his father. He soon calmed down and then looked back at her.


“It was nothing,” he said, trying to ease her concerns.


“You don’t remember anything else?”


“No… It all happened so many years ago… When those crusaders came for my people. I don’t know if they’re the same ones, but these were led by some figure who wielded a mace and a shield. We had to escape with our lives before they could capture us or worse. I found myself on my own, living as a common bandit who had to steal and kill for his next meal. Eventually, I ended up here. From there, I think you know the rest of the story.”


“Wow… I never knew…”


“It’s fine,” the hunter said coldly, “It’s nothing to concern yourself with.”


“Come on, Umarak, don’t shut me out,” the maiden said.


Before she could speak, she caught notice of a small winged insect that flew past her. She held out her hand and sure enough, it landed on her fingertips.


“What’s that?” Umarak asked.


“It’s a Rama Dragonfly!” she said with delight. “I just love the way they look!”


Umarak neared his head over to her, and she held out her hand to allow him to have a better look.


“We had a few bugs just like this on my home,” he said.


“Really??” Merith beamed.


“We lived in a desert, so you might not think we had much going on, but for some odd reason, we always had a number of these things swarming every so often. Luckily for us, it’s not like they were harmful.”


The insect then left Merith’s fingers and landed on Umarak’s shoulder.


“I think she likes you,” she said teasingly.


Umarak put his hand to his shoulder pad and allowed the insect to crawl onto his hand. He then held out his hand and allowed it to fly away.


“My sister and I were fascinated by them, so she and I would often compete to see who could capture the most before the sun went down.”


Umarak began sharing whatever he could recall of his past life with Merith, who was hanging on his every word. From what he was saying, she felt she could understand him a little bit better.


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Chapter 9


Nearly a month had passed since Umarak was taken into to the island of Nirek as a newly anointed knight. Things had been somewhat calm for the most part since that time. He was weary over the fact he hadn’t been really ordered to do much of anything on behalf of the Knights of Terankos as Atheron said. Not to mention the fact their mysterious leader had not been seen for quite a while.


Nothing good ever comes from too much peace and quiet. Something has to be going on.


He mused to himself as he spent some time sharpening the dull blade of his spear. Umarak wasn’t one to sit around and do nothing. He had be doing something to keep his wits and skills sharp at the risk of growing too used to the calm they were experiencing. He also felt constantly on edge due to the recent isolation of Almatas, trying to be ready for the next time he would show himself. The last time he encountered the knight leader had not been a pleasant experience for him. Whatever else Almatas had in store for him, the hunter wanted to be ready at the risk of being caught off guard.


His train of thought was interrupted when Atheron suddenly burst through the door with a somewhat blank look on his face. Umarak stopped what he was doing and turned to look at him.


“I need you to report to our Grand Hall as soon as possible,” he said, nearly breathless.


“What’s going on now?” the hunter inquired.


“There’s no time for that now,” the tactician replied with a rushed tone. “Our best operatives need to gather over there. I will brief you all on what it is. All I can say now is this is something very big.”


Before Umarak could ask any further questions, the tactician hurried away, nearly slamming the door behind him.


What’s got his cape in a knot? Umarak thought to himself.


Deciding his spear was sharp enough, he stopped and made his way out the door. He hadn’t been into the Grand Hall very much, but luckily he knew where it was, so it wouldn’t take him that long to get there.




“Any idea why we’ve been summoned here like this?” Volchior asked his mentor.


Norenka shook her head. “I haven’t the faintest idea. I’ve never seen Atheron look so frenzied before. It’s as if he had seen a spirit.”


What was more puzzling was who he chose to gather at the Grand Hall. Norenka looked around to see of course Volchior, but also Umarak, Zartross, Merith, and a rather solitary knight she had only seen a few times by the name of Atoka. From what she knew about him, his skills with a sword apparently rivaled their leader’s own skill, and that he once worked a sell sword until he was recruited by Almatas. Aside from that, Atoka kept to himself and hardly ever said much of anything.


He had a rather lean build with an intriguing motif of his armor that consisted of black and teal hues. At his hip, he only had his single katana that was on his person at all times. On his face, he wore the Mercenary’s Mask, which granted him the ability to do amazing feats with enhanced speed and agility to make him a formidable warrior. He lived by a warrior’s code, which he upheld firmly. By his code, he did only what he was ordered to without hesitation or question, and as such he felt talking and words were pointless unless needed otherwise.


Norenka heard that he was not fearful of anything, so long as it did not hinder his mission or get in the way of him and his target. One strange rumor she did hear was that he grew uneasy in the presence of females, and so he kept his distance from any female knight he encountered.


The tension was building in the room as everyone kept silent, the unknown nature of why they were brought together becoming more and more of a mystery with an answer that would only be given by Atheron once he arrived.


After around fifteen minutes of silence, Atheron finally arrived through the double doors, nearly breaking them down as he made his entrance. He was out of breath, breathing heavily as he finally stopped before the gathered knights.


“What worry is there to be having?” Zartross asked, finally breaking the silence.


“We… we have a new mission straight from our leader,” Atheron gasped.


“Surely it can’t be as bad as you think it is,” Norenka replied.


Atheron merely shook his head. “No, it’s far more important.”


“What is it, Big Brother?” Merith asked in a concerned tone.


“Years ago, there was an island known as Artidax, which is said to keep some of the most powerful relics in history safely away from anyone who would dare misuse them for their own selfish desires. We are going to be heading to that very same island by this afternoon.”


There was collective murmuring in the room from everyone except for Atoka. At that moment, Atoka spoke in a deep, commanding tone, silencing everyone.


“What is our target?”


Atheron was still for a while until he finally gathered the words, which were some he never thought he would ever be saying.


“We’re going after the Nui Stone… and if possible, the Staff of Artakha.”




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Chapter 10


The airship ride to Artidax was a very solemn and silent one. This would be one of the most dangerous missions, if not the most dangerous, for everyone involved. Volchior and Umarak had not been out on an actual mission before since they were first brought into the organization.


Zartross on the other hand, as one of the oldest knights, had seen many missions in his lifetime, but none were as foreboding as this one. He stayed alive long enough thanks to his sharp wit and battle strength, but he also knew when something would be too much to handle.


Merith looked outside the window to see Norenka flying on top of Nivara. Her usual confident smile was absent in the duration she stared out at the sky. No one wanted to break the silence, out of fear it would only cause more tension for everyone aboard. Mostly everyone had heard tales of artifacts such as the Nui Stone and the Staff of Artakha, but never in their wildest dreams did anyone think they’d be off to steal them.


And why would he want me to come along, of all things? Merith thought to herself.


Usually in such missions, Merith was stationed at the fortress to be ready to treat any of the wounded operatives who returned. When Atheron told her she was to join them, something seemed a bit off about what was going on. Even for Almatas to demand ancient relics such as these was out of the question and bordering on complete madness.


“We’re here,” came the silent voice of the anxious tactician.


Sure enough, the large fortress was coming into view. Everyone looked out their windows to take a look at it. Never before had they seen a place has foreboding as this one, aside from Nirek. The fortress on Artidax was enclosed by some very high walls with only a single spire visibly peeking out. There was not much of an island to speak of, as the fortress took up the entirety of it, save for a few cliff faces getting hit by the ocean’s gray waves.


Just being in the mere sight of such a building was enough to give nearly everyone the chills, especially Merith. It had a very haunting presence that made one feel as though just having it in their line of vision would strike you dead within an instant.


As there was no place to really dock the airship, there was no choice but to suspend it above one of the nearest walls. The door opened and before anyone could step off, Atheron signaled everyone to stop. He then grabbed a loose bolt and tossed it onto the ridge of the wall. To his relief, nothing happened. He then signaled everyone that it was okay to set foot on it, and jumped down himself. Umarak then Volchior followed after until everyone who was to infiltrate the building got off. The driver remained seated as Nivara landed right next to the airship, allowing Norenka to dismount and join the rest of her team.


Atheron signaled everyone to gather around in formation as he nervously looked around, feeling as if he was signing away his own life just standing atop the walls. When the knights assembled before him, he reached into his pack to pull out some very weathered documents. He unfolded the largest one, which turned out to be a map of the fortress.


“This map is the only one of its kind, as very few are to even know the existence of this place. It took me a long while just to determine a route from Nirek to Artidax, as very few documents remain that even speak of it, let alone give away its exact location.”


Atheron looked over every knight who stood before him, and then he signaled to Umarak, Volchior, and Atoka. The three of them stepped forward, awaiting his next words.


“The Nui Stone is located on the seventeenth level of the inner fortress. We need a small team to successfully infiltrate the fortress inconspicuously, and I truly mean that. The fortress is guarded by numerous automatons that are set to capture and destroy anything it finds out of place. They will also alert its fellow automatons if there is a security breach. They need to be taken out swiftly and quickly in order for everyone else to proceed. You three has skills and abilities that will allow you to work as efficiently as possible at this. I will follow you three, only somewhat far behind.”


Atheron stopped to turn his attention to the remaining knights.


“The rest of you will remain here until ordered otherwise. Merith and I have established a mental link, so if there is trouble, I will call to her for help. From there, it will be her duty to relay my instructions to the rest of you. Now, as for the staff, it is located just below on the sixteenth level. To my understanding, the Nui Stone is our highest priority, so I see it best to work from the seventeenth level downward. Aside from the automatons, I know not what else there is within the fortress that may present any trouble. A number of spies died to obtain these documents on my behalf years ago. I can only imagine what else may lie ahead. With no further questions, let’s move out!”


Zartross. Norenka, and Merith walked back over to the airship while Atoka, Volchior, and Umarak walked over to the edge of the wall with Atheron following behind.


“Infiltrating a legendary fortress…” Volchior muttered. “I never thought I’d be doing this.”


“You had to be aware that some missions would force you to do things you wouldn’t willingly,” Umarak replied.


“No, not that, it’s just… How can the two of you even be so calm at a time like this?”


Umarak shrugged his shoulders. “Honestly, I have nothing to lose in this case.”


Atoka scoffed. “There is only me and my target. Anything else is just in my way and unnecessary.”


“Don’t get too familiar with this place, you three,” Atheron chimed in. “We have to be in and out of here before we get caught.”


Before he could say anymore, Atoka jumped off the edge of the wall, causing some concern with Volchior and Umarak until the saw him flawlessly jump between the face of the outer wall and the face of the inner fortress wall until he nimbly jumped through one of the windows.


“Well, he’s got the right idea,” Atheron mused to himself. “And how about you two?”


Umarak took his bow and aimed it at the edge. He fired three shots and from there, three metallic devices materialized.


“What are those?” Volchior asked in astonishment.


“Shadow Traps,” the hunter replied. “A little invention I’d been working on for quite a while. I figured one day I would need to call upon these specific ones.”


Further amazing the dragoon warrior, the traps fired some rope with hooks at the end of them while firmly planting their claw-like mandibles into the wall. The ropes hooked into the same window Atoka went through.


“Color me impressed,” the tactician said as he nodded.


Umarak took the shaft of his spear, hopped over the wall and quickly grabbed the spear around the rope, allowing him to slide down towards the window. Not to be outdone, Volchior took his spear and did the same thing. Soon enough, both knights were in through the window. When they wondered where Atheron was, they turned around to see him skidding down the rope on his feet before landing right before them.


“I had been wondering how we were going to get down here,” he mused.


“You mean you didn’t have a way?” Volchior questioned.


“No, I brought some rope and some climbing tools in the airship. But this way was a lot more fun.”


“Why didn’t you say anything?” the hunter questioned.


“Nobody asked me,” the tactician replied coyly.




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Chapter 11


As the hunter and marauder walked through the narrow corridors, they noticed a number of slashed and discarded armor pieces and robot parts littering the floor.


The tactician looked on and nodded to himself.


“Seems Atoka has really outdone himself this time,” he noted. “I wasn’t expecting him to take down so many automatons in such a short while. Then again, I guess that’s the benefit of the Mercenary’s mask.”


Atheron stepped forward, passing Umarak and Volchior before he stopped and turned to face them.


“The plans don’t exactly detail where the stone is located. There might still be some automatons wandering this floor of the facility as well. Be on your guard, and spread out to find that stone. I will remain in this sector, so if any of you find it, be sure to alert me.”


“And what of our sword-wielding friend?” Umarak asked annoyed.


“I’m sure he’ll get the picture once he’s run out of something to slash in half,” Atheron replied in a similar tone. “Now get going. I don’t know how long we’ll be able to stay here, even with the floor left unguarded.”


With that in mind, Volchior veered to the left without saying anything further. Umarak shrugged his shoulders and began to head to the right with no question.


Things are going smoothly, Atheron thought to himself. Almost too smoothly… Something doesn’t feel right. We need to at least get that stone and get out of here. I don’t think our smooth sailing is going to last us much longer. I feel we’re not alone…




Volchior walked quietly through the halls, making sure his footsteps didn’t alert any possible guardian automaton of his presence.


Who in their right mind creates a place like this anyway?


He looked all around him and noted various artifacts and tools kept behind locked casings. Beneath the glass openings, there were letters written, giving a name to each of them.


“Spear of Fusion… Scythe of Essence… Piercing Seismic Staff… What sort of collection is this even? And who in their right mind brings them altogether like this?” he wondered aloud.


He stopped when he heard some metallic clanking not too far away. He quickly activated his Marauder’s mask to conceal himself, and then hid behind a corner. It wasn’t long before he caught a glimpse at one of the guardian automatons he heard so much about. This one had a large frame, carrying two swords, sporting very thick armor, and emitting bright light from its two angular eyes. The guardian stopped momentarily and looked in his direction. Volchior felt himself becoming more and more anxious as the two beacons of light were inching closer and closer to him. While he would not cast a shadow so long as his mask was active, there was no telling what this automaton was capable of seeing or doing.


To his relief, the automaton stopped just short of his feet before turning back around to continue marching. That’s when Volchior spotted what looked like a weak spot in the back of its armor. Rushing around to the guardian’s back, he plunged his lance right through it and immediately the imposing figure slumped forward and fell to pieces as the armor hit and robotic parts the floor.


This… this is nothing but armor! Armor and a bunch of strange components. So then… something must be enchanting them to be able to move around like this. That has to be how they’re powered. The question is what?


Before he could think further, he caught a glimpse of another beacon of light, this time from an automaton that was floating above the floor, having no legs whatsoever and only two long arms.


Seems Atoka did in fact miss a few. How in blazes did he manage to take down so many of them anyway? Oh. Right. The Mercenary’s mask. Even so, I still don’t understand.


He quickly concealed himself and began to walk along the wall, just out of the guardian’s line of sight. If what he learned from his first attempt proved true here, then it was just a matter of studying them for a weak point.




The corridors in Umarak’s sector were very quiet to say the least. He hadn’t seen any automatons wandering around, nor did he hear anything aside from his own breathing.


He was surrounded by so many different tools and artifacts that he had never heard of or had any idea of what their purpose was. As he walked, something he found disturbing was a broken glass case right in front of him. He read the lettering below it and he nearly stumbled and fell back upon reading it.


“The Hand of Karzahni?”


That was something he heard of at some point, but he knew little of. What he did know was that it was said to be a gauntlet capable or enhancing destructive powers while being able to do terrible things on its own as well. Tales were told of how this gauntlet was crafted to honor the Chaos Bringer Karzahni and his powers of destruction. However, it had been sealed away in shadow by the tribe that created it, once they realized the danger of the gauntlet.


It was here? But now it’s gone! We weren’t the first ones to try and steal from this place. Who could’ve pulled this off?


His thoughts were cut short when he saw something glinting in the moonlight coming right for him. He quickly veered left and got his bow shooter ready. From the darkness came a female figure clad in black and red. She had two long daggers at her hips and some stiletto blades in between her fingers.


What struck him as very interesting was one of her arms looked completely mechanical and she looked as though she hailed from the same species as he did. What was more jarring was the fact she wore the Hunter’s mask on her face as well!


“You aren’t one of them… I will allow you to live.”


“One… of who?”


“Why, the Order of Mata Nui, of course. Have you not heard of them?”


Umarak glared at her, still keeping his guard up in case she did anything further. She began to walk closer to him.


“There is no need to be so tense around me. I already said I will not harm you. And I will not interfere with whatever business you have here either. I’ve already found what I’ve wanted.”


From one of the pouches at her hip, she pulled out a small sundial of mysterious origin.


“The Order of Mata Nui…” she began. “The ones responsible for the extermination of not only our kind, but so many other tribes of dark origins throughout our universe. They claim to be carrying out the will of Mata Nui. I say they are nothing more than a fading light in the dark, so full of corruption and arrogance.”


“The mace-wielder…”


The female nodded. “She is in fact the leader of the Order. She personally saw to what happened to our people, as she regarded our kind as dangerous for being weapon smiths for dark artifacts like the ones that surround us.”


“How do you know so much?”


“Aren’t you full of questions?” she asked in a mocking tone. “I was enlightened to this information by the one who took me in as a refugee. All you need to know is to beware of the Order and their intentions. They have ways of finding ones like us who thrive in the darkness. One of their number is said to be able to sense though who live in the shadows and be able to instantly travel right to that spot before mysteriously vanishing. His face alone is enough to give nightmares. The call him Botar.”


Before Umarak could ask any questions, she walked passed him to retrieve the blade she threw. She then turned around to face him again.


“Sergacites and hunters like us need to look out for one another. There are not too many of us left who can live peacefully.”


“Can I at least know who you are?”


She was walking towards a window before facing him again.


“You may call me Lariska. And you are…?”


“I am Umarak. Knight of Terankos… against my better judgement.”


Lariska frowned hearing those words. “Oh. I see. Be very careful of your ‘leader,’ Umarak. I don’t know too much on him, but what I do know is enough to make even me feel uneasy. Farewell.”


With that, she swung out the window and quickly vanished into the shadows before Umarak could say anything further.




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Chapter 12


There was an eerie calm just outside the fortress. Zartross, Norenka, and Merith waited, as ordered by their tactician, impatiently as time passed.


“I am not liking this waiting business one bit!’ Zartross exclaimed so suddenly. “I should be out there on front lines like warrior.”


“I’m sure things are going along just fine,” Merith replied in a sweet tone. “It’s my brother, after all. He knows a lot about this sort of stuff.”


“I hope you’re right, Merith,” Norenka muttered softly.


I hope I’m right, too, Merith thought to herself.


Normally, she never worried so much about Atheron. This time seemed different for some reason, but she couldn’t place why. Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of something brushing up against the walls.


The three knights looked over, only to briefly see something vanish into the shadows.


“Umarak?” Merith wondered aloud.


“No, that can’t be it,” Norenka said. “I think Umarak would know better than to abandon us. If he doesn’t… then he clearly doesn’t know what Almatas is capable of.”


“I am sure he is of sound mind to know his place with us,” Zartross affirmed to her as his telescoping lens adjusted itself. “Besides, that is not him. Is too small to be him.”


“Then they’re not alone in there…” Norenka muttered.


“Of course they’re not!” Merith said. “They’re in there with those robot thingies like my brother said, remember?”


“You know what I mean,” Norenka replied in a harsh tone.


Seeing that she offended Merith, she reached her hand out before Merith pushed it away.


“I’m only trying to make sure everyone stays calm and relaxed… but I guess I’m not even doing a good job of that.”




It wasn’t long before Volchior, Atoka, and the real Umarak had gathered at one lone display that held a red, triangular stone in the center. The stone has a golden chain attached to it and the only other notable thing was how reflective the deep crimson color of the stone was.


The knights were startled by some sudden footsteps coming within earshot. To their relief, it was only their tactician.


“You know, we would’ve gone back for you,” Umarak said, startled and annoyed at his sudden appearance.


“Yes, but I grew tired of waiting, and I figured I’d follow the wreckage,” he replied.


“Is this the real stone?” Volchior asked.


“There’s only one way to find out,” Atheron said.


To everyone’s surprise, he merely walked up to the display, smashed it with his gauntlet, and reached out for the stone. The three took a moment to look at each other, then back at Atheron.


“We could’ve done that!” Volchior exclaimed.


“Then why didn’t you?” the tactician retorted.


Atheron held out the stone and then he concentrated some of his power to manifest a small flame and held it next to the stone. To the surprise of the three knights, the stone began to glow and shine a symbol representing the legend of Mata Nui in the middle of it.


“That’s how you tell it’s real,” Atheron said. “Any fake stone would not be able to do that.”


“How are you able to use fire?” Umarak asked.


“My tome holds a number powers and abilities. Perhaps that is why those crusaders wanted us gone…”


“The Order of Mata Nui,” Umarak muttered.


“What was that?”




“No need to be so discrete, you know?” rang a voice from the halls.


“That voice!” Atheron said. “I know it!”


From the darkness stepped out two warriors, one clad in blue and gold with two swords and the other clad in red and silver with a large axe. The sword-wielder interestingly wore a Mercenary’s mask, just as Atoka did. The axe-wielder wore a mask of a different shape, but of an unknown ability to them.


“Not too many know of our names, so you gotta commend yourself for getting that info!” the sword-wielder shouted arrogantly.


“Come now, Brutaka, we’re not here to socialize,” the axe-wielder said calmly.


“Aw, you’re not fun, you old war dog,” complained the one named Brutaka.


“Just who are you?!” Atheron demanded.


“The Order of Mata Nui!” Umarak shouted. “They’re here! We’ve been compromised!”


The others didn’t have time to react to his words as a third figure stepped forth from the shadows, one who was clad in deep ebon and gold armor. He stood taller than the other two next to him, carrying a hand axe in his left hand and two wrist blades on his forearms. What was more unsettling was his face, which looked like they crawled out of the nightmares of even Karzahni if such a thing was even possible.


Atheron was frozen with fear, but then his fear gave way to rage. This was a side no one had really seen of him. Umarak remembered both the story of Atheron and Lariska’s warnings.


“Botar…” He said under his breath.


“That thing has a name?! And you know of it?!” Atheron demanded.


“In the name of the Order of Mata Nui, you are under arrest,” said the being known as Botar.




“We’ve got trouble!” Merith shouted suddenly, sensing her brother’s seething rage.


“Then let’s go!” Zartross shouted, getting his axe ready.


“Get onto Nivara!” Norenka shouted.


The three of them got onto the back of the large dragon, and Norenka quickly had Nivara break down a part of the wall ahead of them in what was estimated to be the correct floor with her sheer strength. Nivara then extended her neck into the hole as the three knights ran through the hole. Merith however broke off from the others to make her way to the left of the corridor.


“Just go! I’ll catch up!”


Unable to object, Zartross and Norenka continued running through the corridor where they eventually met with a small-scale battle between their comrades and some warriors they were opposing.


Atoka was fighting off against a sword-wielder, who also wore the Mercenary’s mask as he did. They exchanged blows in almost perfect rhythm with one another.


Umarak was firing at an axe-wielder, who blocked his poison arrows with his axe before throwing it right at the hunter. Umarak jumped out of the way in time and tried to fire again, only to see the axe-wielder extend his hand. To his surprise, the axe went right back into his hand as if his hand were a magnet.


The larger imposing figure stood there observing, while Atheron stood there in disbelief. Norenka recognized the larger warrior, and she herself was in shock and awe when she recognized him.


Zartross charged into battle, personally taking on the axe-wielder with Umarak.


“I see you are interested in the axe,” Zartross commented. “I too am quite fond of it. Tell me, what is your name?”


“My name is Axonn,” the Order agent said, “And the pleasantries end here!”


“That’s where you are wrong, my friend,” Zatross said coyly. His mask began to glow and he suddenly broke out into a fast motion with his axe, swinging it quick and strong, pushing back the warrior named Axonn right into a corner. Zartross almost had him when a bolt of lightning struck him. They turned around to see a warrior clad in red and gold, wielding a sword with a fire motif and a tome in his hand. He interestingly wore a Tactician’s mask, the very same as Atheron.


Atheron briefly snapped out his blind rage when he saw this warrior. “Who are you?!”


“My name is Lhikan,” said the opposing tactican, “and in the name of the Great Spirit, you are all under arrest.”




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Chapter 13


Atheron was already feeling white hot rage at the sight of Botar. He felt it even more with the very sight of Lhikan and his Tactician’s mask nonchalantly telling him he was under arrest. Without thinking, Atheron took his broadsword and fired a chain lightning attack at the opposing tactician, hoping to turn him to ash. To his dismay, Lhikan dodged, back flipping and then firing a lightning attack of his own from his blade.


As Lhikan and Atheron exchanged blows between their tomes and blades, Umarak helped Zartross get back up from the hit the former landed on him earlier.


“I am fine,” replied the veteran warrior, “but I and thinking it is time we depart. As much as I am in love with the thrill of battle, even the best of warriors must know when they should be calling it quits.”


“They’re surrounding us from every corner,” the hunter replied. “Even if it’s the best course of action, how will we get past them?”


“Ah, I am believing it is time for ace in the hole,” the veteran warrior fired back.


Unsure of what he was talking about, he simply helped Zatross to his feet and looked about the various battles taking place. Atheron was still fiercely locked in combat with his rival in Lhikan, Norenka took to fighting with Axonn herself despite being at a slight disadvantage in strength, and Brutaka and Atoka were locked in a dance of blades clashing and hitting almost perfectly in sync.


The being called Botar however simply stood in place, his facial expression blank and unmoving, as if he was not interested in taking part in any of these fights. That was when there was a loud crash followed by a flood of smoke and dust. From the dust, a large sword flew past Botar’s head, simply grazing the left side of his face.


As the dust settled, standing before them was a large automaton with six arms and each holding a sword. The machine slowly approached Botar, each step clanking and leaving an imprint in the floor.


Right behind it was none other than Merith, her mask glowing brightly, and two staves in her hand. One was her regular healing staff while the other heavily resembled the sketch Umarak was shown that night in the library. Merith had stolen the Staff of Artakha on her own!


“Come on!” she shouted. “We’ve gotta get out of here!”


Still taken aback, Umarak nodded and started running past the automaton. Norenka and Zartross followed behind, but Atheron and Atoka were still locked in combat with their rivals.


“Big brother, come on!” Merith shouted. “I know you said anyone with that mask is your enemy, but now’s not the time! We gotta get out of here alive!”


Begrudgingly, Atheron let out one fiery swipe of his blade, catching Lhikan off guard, and made a break for the others. Atoka took the distraction to his advantage and kicked the bewildered Brutaka in the stomach, causing him to retch and fall to his knees.


“Kneeling before me? I like that look on you.”


Atoka then ran away after adding insult to injury to the opposing swordsman, who could only look at him with a fire burning in his eyes. The biggest insult of all was how he was left alive to face his humiliation when his opponent could have easily taken him down and at least died with a sense of honor, or so he thought in his eyes.


Merith’s automaton raised its arms, swinging its swords at Lhikan, Axonn, and Botar, the former two of which tried to parry the attacks. Botar simply stood there in a menacing fashion, unfazed by what was going on. Without warning, Botar took his hand axe and threw it at the automaton, which managed to catch the attack in time and swipe the hand axe right back. At that point, Axonn threw his own axe at the monstrosity, trying to aim for its chest area. The axe brought down some debris from Axonn’s throw as it went through column after column. Axonn managed to land in a good shot, sending the automaton stumbling backward, but not defeated.


As the axe-wielder summoned his weapon back to him, Merith ordered the automaton to throw a sword at Axonn, who barely managed to deflect the sword when his axe only just returned to him. A second later would’ve spelled the end for him, which is what Merith was secretly hoping for.


Umarak stood back, spotting Volchior pinned down by some rubble from Axonn’s attack. Without hesitation, he ran towards him and quickly began to help him.


“What are you doing?” Volchior demanded.


“Getting you out of here. Being dead isn’t part of the mission.”


Once he was freed, the lance-wielder looked at the hunter, confused at first, but then he turned away, running towards the way they entered. Umarak slid into the shadows to arrive near Merith, who was still busy trying to control the automaton as best she could.


“That goes for you, too,” the hunter replied.


Surprised, Merith turned to see him looming over her. Hesitant, she held the Staff of Artakha, aiming it at the automaton. In a risky move, she dismantled it and sent all armor and weapons hurdling at the Order of Mata Nui members. Umarak grabbed Merith and started to make a run for it, not paying attention to Merith blushing face.




So far, no one seemed to be following them. Atheron took a look back and saw the shapes of Volchior and Umarak carrying Merith in the distance. He looked back to his own hands and made sure he still had the Nui Stone. Sure enough, he still had it in his grasp despite the sudden intrusion of what Umarak called the Order of Mata Nui.


How does he know who they are? he thought to himself. There wasn’t much time to ponder on it as he saw the large opening in the wall where Nivara rested. Soon they’d be out of here and back safe with the rest of the knights. Atheron was sure he would have to tell their great leader of the surprises and setbacks they encountered.


As Norenka got on Nivara, their sense of security turned to fear with the sound of some footsteps not too far away. From the darkness stepped out a lone figure clad in blue and gold armor, rusted and pitted from many battles. On her hip, she had a scabbard with a sword. In her arms, she carried a shield and a mace.


Umarak was immediately overcome with rage, putting down Merith and facing this newcomer. He knew her all too well. She was the reason he had to live as a bandit without a home. She was the one who started the extermination of his kind.


“You!” Umarak roared.


He took his bow and began firing his poison arrows at the newcomer, who simply walked through as if nothing. She faltered, but she did not stop approaching him. The hunter switched between his poison arrows and his shadow traps that attempted to ensnare her in nets, only to be swatted away by her mace and by lightning attacks she fired from it.


“Come on!” Atheron shouted. “We have to get back to the airship!”


“Not until the light leaves her eyes!” Umarak snarled. “It’s her fault I’m in this predicament in the first place! She took my home, my family, everything I knew! I want her to know what true suffering is!”


Merith could only look on in sadness, seeing the anguish in Umarak’s eyes as every poison arrow hit but didn’t stop their attacker. She was caught off guard when the warrior threw her mace right in her direction. Seeing the danger, Umarak stopped and quickly shielded her from it, taking the mace full force in his back and sending him to the ground.


The warrior held out her hand and quickly summoned the mace right back to her side. Atheron, taken back by what he just saw, ran back and from his blade, he summoned a shadow fire attack, engulfing her inside.


“Let’s get out of here!” he shouted, fully back to his senses now.


Merith only nodded and looked at Umarak. Without exchanging words, Atheron took Umarak and put him over his shoulders. He then gave him to Norenka.


“Watch out for him,” he said. “Merith, ride with Norenka for this one. See what you can do for him. I’ll take the staff now.”




She handed him the staff and got onto Nivara. Norenka made sure she had a firm hold on both the reins and Umarak. Before she could give the okay, Atheron held up his hand.


“There’s no time for me to climb this rope. I’ll need to get back up there fast!”


Nivara held out her neck, allowing the tactician to get onto her head. As Nivara flew out of the hole, Atheron jumped off and landed next to the airship. He ran right in and shouted to the driver to get them away.


From there, both the airship and the dragon departed the island fortress of Artidax, never to see it again. The knights completed their mission, one that seemed easy at first until the sudden appearance of this new faction. This made Atheron wonder more about this mysterious Order of Mata Nui, the lone figure, and how it was they seemingly knew they would be there.






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Chapter 14



“Status report, Lhikan,” came the voice of the lone warrior staring out into the sky.


The being known as Lhikan approached her from behind.


“There were no casualties among our ranks. There are some injuries among a few of us, namely Axonn, Botar, and Brutaka. Brutaka’s ego being the most bruised. Everyone fought excellently, although we failed to prevent them from stealing from these vaults and furthermore from escaping.”


“Thank you,” she said. “Naho, what can you tell me about what was stolen?”


A warrior clad in blue and silver, wearing a Clairvoyant’s mask, and carrying a purple tome approached the warrior. She nervously looked into her eyes.


“From what intelligence I’ve gathered, there are a few things missing from these halls. Namely, the Staff of Artakha, the Nui Stone, a sundial of unknown origin, and… the Hand of Karzahni.”


The being named Naho then bowed her head nervously and turned to one of her colleagues clad in emerald and silver, wearing a Marauder’s mask and wielding a scythe.


“What are you planning on doing?” he asked.


“Patience, Nidhiki, we already risked exposing our organization to them. The Sergacite who identified us has been silenced for now. However, given what they’ve seen here and what they’ve stolen, I can only surmise we will need to act in the near future.”


She turned to face the other members of the Order, her eyes landing on another warrior clad in blue and silver, wielding a barbed broadsword.


“Your knowledge has served us well, Tuyet. I hope that we will be able to put an end to these heretics and their evil plans.”


The other warrior looked at her and smiled. “Thank you, Lady Helryx. I will not fail you.”







“Well met, my dear tactician,” came the voice of Almatas from his throne.


Atheron hung his head down, partially to pay respect to their leader and partially because he felt guilt and shame over how things transpired.


It was a long ride back to Nirek with both of their treasures in tow, but with the ambush from the Order of Mata Nui, Umarak sustained injuries while protecting his sister at the hands of an ancient warrior. Atheron was almost hesitant to even say anything about it, but he knew that he had to, or else risk their leader’s wrath.


“I assume there were no difficulties with your mission?” asked their leader, as if peering into Atheron’s mind.


Hesitant, Atheron finally spoke. “We had some… difficulties in the fortress.”


“Is that so? Tell me, what proved to be so difficult?”


“We weren’t alone in there.”


“Of course not. I already told you about the guardian automatons roaming the fortress!”


“No…” Atheron took a breath. “No, there was someone else there. Someone Umarak identified as the Order of Mata Nui.”


At that moment, Almatas became silent and he closed his glowing red eyes that peered from beneath his hooded cloak. The dead silence became more ominous with each passing moment. Atheron was unsure of what to expect until their leader finally spoke.


“So… they do exist.”


“What, sir?”


“I have heard rumors of a group of fools serving the will of Mata Nui, and I even guessed that those crusaders were in league with them. Now, low and behold, I come to find they are one and the same. Not only that, but it would seem as though they are aware of us as well. Impressive that Umarak was able to identify them, let alone have knowledge of such a secret organization. Tell me, where is he so that I may commend him?”


Atheron hung his head lower, closing his eyes.


“Need I remind you of what will happen if you withhold any information from me that I so desire from you, my dear tactician?”


“Umarak confronted a lone warrior wielding a mace!” the tactician blurted out. “He fell to this warrior’s power when trying to defend my sister. As we speak, she is now tending to him but he remains comatose!”


“What?!” roared Almatas. “Tell me, was there anything distinctive about this warrior? Tell me now!”


“It was a female warrior. She had on blue and gold armor that was rusted. She carried a scabbard with a sword and a shield in addition to the mace. She wore a mask I had never seen in person before as well. If my texts are correct, it appeared to the Mask of Psychometry.”


“Hmm…” Almatas was calm now, resting his arms on top of the Nui Stone and Staff of Artakha in his lap.


The tactician nervously raised his head up, looking at their leader, who had once again became silent. He felt as though his eyes alone were tearing right through him with each second that went by.


“Very well,” he said at last. “You’ve done well. Make sure your sister continues to tend to Umarak as you say, otherwise I fear a terrible fate may befall her if she does not.”


Shocked, Atheron almost wanted to talk back to him, as she had nothing to do with the matter, but he stopped himself, knowing he would only further doom her and himself.


“Now leave,” Almatas commanded.


The tactician quickly left the room and slammed the door right behind him, afraid of what Almatas would do if he remained in the room any longer. With him gone, Almatas rose from his throne and took the Nui Stone in his hand while letting the Staff of Artakha fall to the ground. He then rushed to his hidden corner where he opened the safe that contained the Hand of Karzahni. The wicked leader then slammed the gauntlet over his own and then slid the Nui Stone into place near the knuckles. He turned to the staff on the floor, taking it with the Hand of Karzahni and then throwing it into the safe.


Turning over to a lone fireplace in the adjacent corner, Almatas stretched out the Hand of Karzahni, creating shadow flames in the fireplace. He then gazed into the flames.


“Report!” he suddenly shouted.


From the flames, two yellow eyes appeared and a female voice sounded.


“What is your bidding, my Lord Almatas?”


The leader then held out the gold gauntlet towards the fire, clenching his fingers. The female voice began to cry out in agony.


“Why… why do you… torture me?!”


“How dare you betray me, after all I have done for you!”


“You… got… the objects!”


“You sold me out! Now one of my best knights is out of commission, and they are aware of us now!”


He relinquished his grip and the voice gasped in relief, panting.


“I stationed you there so you could keep an eye on those fools and make sure they stay out of my affairs. You’ve failed me yet again, my dear double agent.”


“They forced me to speak, they know of--“


“Silence! They only know about your treachery because you most likely were foolish enough to give yourself away. I have the right mind to shred yours to bits!”


“No! No, no, no! Please! They forced me to speak against my will! What would you do in my position?!”


“Lies! Lies lies lies lies lies lies lies lies lies!” roared Almatas, extending the Hand once more, causing her more mental torture, this time turning up the intensity.


As she screamed with agony, the fire began to expand, revealing a sickening smile across the dark leader’s face.


“The Nui Stone works wonder, don’t you think?” Almatas mused to her. “Without it, my power would not even be able to reach you from here.”


As she continued to scream, Almatas let out a most sickening laugh, hunching over the fireplace.


“You’ve failed me for the last time, my dear Tuyet. Farewell!”


He turned up the intensity once more until her screams of pain turned into shrieks of laughter and then dead silence. The flames died out and Almatas stood up straight, turning away to the window.


“Failure and betrayal are things I do not tolerate one bit, especially among my most trusted agents.”


Lord Almatas.


There was a voice inside his head. He quickly knelt to the ground and bowed his head.


“My Lord Terankos…”


You have served me well, my loyal knight. The time draws near for the plan to reach its climax. You have done well you gather the strongest of warriors to serve in my name.


“I serve to please you, your greatness. I am not worthy of such praise from you.”




Almatas stood up on his two feet and looked up at the ceiling, gazing at a pair of glowing red eyes shrouded in darkness.


You did well to take care of your treacherous minion who valued only herself. We must be swift, as I feel her actions will be the catalyst to the final task. Trust in me, and you will be rewarded most handsomely.


“Thank you, my Lord Terankos! Soon, you shall grace us with your presence yet again!”






Review Topic here: http://www.bzpower.com/board/topic/23802-review-the-knights-of-terankos/

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