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BZP's GAME OF THRONES: SEASON 3


Voltex

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poor sahmad isn't trusted by anybody

I wouldn't trust a man who set an entire sector of the island up for painful death via disease and insanity.

jokes on you because your character does trust him

Yes, well he doesn't know what Sahmad has done yet, does he? ;)

 

 

I would imagine he'd express some disbelief at the claim, since his experience with Sahmad so far has been Sahmad trying to wean him off of alcohol

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joke's on you again

 

TL has been the most competent of both his factions so far

 

joke's also on me, i said jokes when i meant joke's earlier

(curses to Bota for mobile being stupid)

Well I'm flattered then.

 

Also both my characters are competent?

Wow I'm being productive for once.

Hey I got a Flickr because I like making LEGO stuff.

https://www.flickr.com/people/toatimelord/
 

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As I recall, it was someone else who got to TTL 1's head. 

  • Upvote 2

BZPRPG Characters - Minnorak, Kain, T'harrak, Savis, Vazaria, Lash

BZPRPG Mercenary Group: The Outsiders - Description - History - Base

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Ghosts Of Bara Magna - The Ash Tribe - Precipere Village - Kehla, Somok, Skrall, Gayle

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EPISODE ONE

“End of the Beginning”

(Part I)

 

-Kamuk: Daggerfall-

-Quin Galum-

IC: Quin

 

He sat in his office, ruminating, his thoughts occupied by a voyage to a harsh, desolate island years before. He had spoken of what he encountered there to nobody, had not even bothered to remain in content with the surviving members of the crew. They had all been petty criminals and lowlifes anyway, who had not truly cared for the mission, or for what was at stake.

 

A knock on his door stole his attention, and he glanced up at the anxious Protector of Stone standing in the doorway.

 

“A message for you, sir. From the King.”

 

He silently accepted the scroll. The messenger bowed before hurrying away, wanting to keep out of the infamously grumpy presence of General Quin. He unravelled the scroll and glanced it over, rolling his eyes.

 

Pohatu and I never got along even on the best of days, he thought to himself, tearing the scroll in half. If Vinheim expects that I will willingly seek the Toa out now that his sanity is fraying, he is mistaken. Perhaps it is time to reclaim that which I am owed after all.

 

After a previous rival of Vinheim’s had attempted to blow up Daggerfall by setting off a cache of darkfire underneath the city, every entrance to the underground had been under guard. Vinheim had been careful about it, Quin knew; although, as General, the soldiers were nominally loyal to him, Vinheim had done his best to make sure that only those soldiers most loyal to their King had been selected for the task. If he was spotted entering the underground, Vinheim would soon know… it was the perfect place for the King to have hidden the Torch of Ma.

 

-

 

That evening, in an alleyway just off the path from a series of shops and one of Daggerfall’s barracks, Quin found the nearest entrance to the underground. As he approached, he found two guards in the standard garb of Kamuk’s army standing before the entrance, both wearing the sigil of House Maran. He resisted the urge to wince as both recognized him and waved, appearing pleased to see him; it wasn’t often that he visited regular soldiers.

 

“General Quin! Sir! It’s good to see you,” the younger of the two called.

 

Slowing to a stop before them, Quin coughed. “Good evening, men. Good to see that guard duty isn’t being neglected.”

 

The guard – who, judging by their excitement, was rather new – spoke again, saluting as they did so. “Of course, sir! We wouldn’t dream of it! Don’t want any enemies sneaking into the capital!”

 

“Good to hear. I’m sure Vinheim wouldn’t appreciate someone trying to blow him up again.” Quin had to fight the urge to gag at even speaking Vinheim’s name, though by now he was well-practiced in hiding it.

 

The elder of the two guards remained silent, having become stony faced after his initial excitement at seeing Quin wore off, but the rookie nodded eagerly. “Gotta say I almost wish someone would try, y’know? It’d be awesome to see the looks on their faces when they realize how impossible their plan is!”

 

“Careful there, son. Let’s not tempt Rollor too much,” Quin said, giving the elder soldier a quick glance. “I’m… actually here on business.”

 

“Of course, of course!” The rookie nodded frantically; Quin briefly wondered if he was trying to fling his head off his neck. “What can we help you with, General?”

 

“I’ve been told by Vinheim to inspect the tunnels below personally. Nothing bad, of course, but he seems to be somewhat… paranoid.”

 

For an instant, it looked like the rookie was about to nod and wave him through – but they had been placed with their partner for a reason. The elder soldier shut the rookie up with a hand on their shoulder that Quin suspected was doing its best to crush the rookie’s bones – and then the elder soldier spoke. “Got a summons for me, sir?”

 

I knew this one was going to be a problem, Quin thought. “He instructed me in person. He’s nervous about the note getting lost in delivery, or stolen. I can get him if you really need me to, though it’s somewhat concerning that you wouldn’t trust your own General, soldier.”

 

“You were in prison not too long ago, sir, and we never did get a real explanation for why they let you out,” the elder soldier said, scowling at him. “The King always gives us a physical summons for Daggerfall movements. That way the enemy can’t pretend they’re one of us.”

 

There’s no convincing him, Quin thought, eyeing both soldiers warily, but perhaps the rookie can be turned?

 

He turned his focus back to the rookie. “Vinheim is adamant that this is done as quickly as possible. Surely an exception can be made? I can provide private training, if you’d like?”

 

The rookie appeared interested, but the elder’s grip now dropped to grip the hilt of his sword. Seeing this, the rookie now looked uncertain. A series of curses flowed through Quin’s mind, though he remained silent.

 

“I’m going to have to as you to leave us, General,” the elder soldier said, glaring at him. “Come back with a physical summons from the King, and we’ll happily move.”

 

“Very well,” Quin mumbled, holding up his hands in surrender and turning to walk away.

 

He had only taken a single step before he heard footsteps crunching the sand on the pavement behind him, and the distinctive sound of a sword sliding out of its sheathe.

 

“H-hey, what are you doing?!” the rookie cried.

 

Quin spun around, drawing his own sword. “Stand down, soldier!”

 

“TRAITOR!”

 

The elder soldier ignored him, swinging his sword. Quin, in a familiar motion, easily blocked the blade with his own short sword.

 

“What are you doing?!”

 

“You have no summons!” the soldier spat, swinging again. “You’re undermining the King’s authority!”

 

Quin jumped backwards to dodge the blade, cursing as he did so. It clearly wasn’t the soldier’s first rodeo, though the fact that he was clearly near-fanatically loyal to Vinheim certainly wasn’t helping. He sliced at the soldier’s torso, but they deflected the blow easily and stabbed at him in turn.

 

“Not even bothering to defend yourself,” the soldier said. “Of course.”

 

Quin tried to dodge again, but this time the blade caught him a little. He coughed as blood soaked the soldier’s blade, his own sword falling to the sand as he clutched at the wound. Trying to buy himself time, he taunted the solder: “because you’re insane. I can’t reason with you.”

 

With no time to pick up his sword, Quin sent a punch flying toward the soldier’s face… only for the soldier to dodge the punch and shove him to the dirt. Grimacing, Quin began to stand, meeting the soldier’s eyes as they prepared to swing again. He could see the realization and satisfaction in the soldier’s eyes – they were going to win. He was going to die.

 

Then the soldier lurched toward him, arms falling to their sides, sword falling from their grip and landing next to his in the dirt, as a blood-soaked blade was rammed into his throat from behind. The elder soldier let out a gargled sound of surprise as the rookie yanked out their knife, allowing the elder soldier to collapse, convulsing as blood pooled around them. Quin slowly picked up his sword and stood; by the time he had, the elder soldier was already dead.

 

“I’m getting too old for this,” he said, coughing and spitting out a little bit of blood.

 

The rookie remained silent, eyes wide as he stared down at the elder, his chest heaving.

 

“Are you okay, son?” Quin asked, glancing at the rookie worriedly.

 

“…what have I done?” they whispered.

 

“You saved my life… albeit at the cost of his,” Quin admitted. “He was a fanatic, soldier. Anything you or I could have said… it wouldn’t have changed his mind.”

 

“I need to report this to the King,” the rookie muttered.

 

No thanks, Quin thought, reaching out and grabbing the rookie’s shoulder. “Hey! Stay calm. We can deal with this.”

 

The rookie shuddered, closing his eyes. Quin waited as they took several deep breaths, trying to calm themselves.

 

“I need to report this to the King,” the rookie said again after a moment. “He’ll understand, I’m sure. I think.”

 

He could use this. “Who do you think ordered him to attack me?”

 

As intended, the rookie was now uncertain again. “Well… surely nobody. He was… well, he seemed disturbed, right? In the head? Maybe he wasn’t ordered.”

 

Quin shook his head sadly. “What’s your name, soldier?”

 

“Pouks, sir. Pouks Petros.”

 

“Pouks,” Quin said, taking a deep breath. “If I’m completely frank with you, Vinheim didn’t send me. That was a lie. I didn’t want for this to happen, but it did. I want to trust you.”

 

The rookie frowned. “Why? Why would you lie?”

 

Deciding that a bit of the truth wouldn’t hurt, Quin said, “I realized that that I need to be less… direct about things, to beat Vinheim. Plus, I’d really rather not kill my own men.” He leaned back against the wall, a hand on his wound. “Do you know why I was imprisoned?”

 

“War crimes,” Pouks said. “During the War of Five Kings.”

 

“That’s what they say.” Quin sighed. “Talk is malleable; Vinheim knows this better than most. The truth is, I was ordered not to harm civilians during the war by ShadowVezon. The King and I have a history….”

 

“Oh?”

 

“Vinheim was a diplomat once. ShadowVezon’s diplomat, to be exact, and he was fantastic at what he did,” Quin said, thinking back to days that had been both easier and more terrible at the same time. “He was too smart, though. He managed to stumble on something… embarrassing, regarding ShadowVezon. Rather than expose him, Vinheim blackmailed him – blackmailed him into giving Vinheim protection so that nobody could stop him.”

 

Quin clenched his fist, pausing to collect himself before continuing. “Once the war kicked off, Vinheim was always around me, taunting me… until one day, I received news from our enemies in the North. From Nato the Traveller. Vinheim had made deals with the Knights, Kamuk’s enemies. Of course, I couldn’t trust Nato – nor could I use the letter to expose Vinheim, as there was no physical proof. Once the war ended, Vinheim managed to seize power, making up false charges to toss ShadowVezon and I to prison.”

 

He sighed, shaking his head. “Even if you don’t believe me, believe the corpse in front of you. He had no reason to attack, and yet he did so anyway.”

 

Pouks was silent for a long, terrible moment. “I… have a relative. Velika. He’s… well, he’s strange. He never speaks clearly, expects you to figure out what he means yourself. But… he’s hinted at similar things. It’s… part of why Lord Anuhea is making a bid for the throne.”

 

“Velika… huh. I’d like to speak to him at some point, Pouks,” Quin said. “I have someone I’d like to introduce you to, as well.”

 

“Who?”

 

“Lord ShadowVezon himself,” Quin said, grinning in spit of everything. “He might be in the deepest, most secure cells of New Makuta City Prison… but I’ve got more than a few men down there loyal to me.”

 

Pouks remained silent for another long moment as he thought it over, before giving him a quick nod. “Alright. Then I’m coming with you, sir. But, uh…” he glanced down at the corpse. “What about him?”

 

“Don’t you worry about that.”

 

-Karamu: Hinterhall-

-Reyna Saryian-

IC: Reyna, Tekulo

 

Reyna sat down in the kitchen of her home, where both Tekulo and Nidhiki Briar were already seated. “My mother is mobilizing our armies. She’s planning to invade… someone.”

 

“We don’t know who?” Tekulo asked, frowning when Nidhiki shook his head. “Alright, well… what if a more immediate and pressing matter came to her attention? Maybe rumors of an attack and a need for beefed up security?”

 

“That sounds like a poor idea,” Nidhiki said. “We’ve only just managed to begin peaceful relations with Aodhiim, and it took their Imperator dying for that to happen. We need to avoid our army gathering at all, or Aodhiim could see it as a hostile move.”

 

“…fair point.”

 

Reyna nodded. “Agreed. As much as it seems like it would help… I can only see that ending poorly. Sadly, mother doesn’t trust me enough to handle the troops myself, or that part could be avoided.”

 

“So what are our options?” Tekulo asked.

 

Nidhiki shrugged. “Find something to distract her that doesn’t feed into her plans to invade the rest of Okoto.”

 

“How do you distract a power hungry political figure?” Tekulo mused, thinking aloud. “What if the army was incapable of invasion?”

 

“That could theoretically work,” Reyna said, though she knew that her uncertainty was obvious in her voice. “Is there even a way to do that without injuring any of them? Tools of the Makani or not, they are still our people.”

 

She groaned, rubbing at her temples. “I wish I knew what had happened, what changed. She wasn’t like this when I was younger.”

 

“She wasn’t like this until after the war,” Nidhiki said gently. “I doubt we’ll ever really know why – not every problem on Okoto is magical in nature.”

 

Nidhiki shook his head again. “We need to be careful. We can’t be overly hostile, but if news were to get out that our army was out of commission entirely….”

 

“An outbreak of disease,” Tekulo suggested. “Non-lethal, among the troops. Not too sick to work, but not the best for an invasion.”

 

Nidhiki chuckled, seeming amused by the idea. “Where do you suggest we find such a disease?”

 

“Could be caused by poor supervision of the mess hall,” Tekulo said. “Food poisoning.”

 

“I’ll reiterate that we shouldn’t try to weaken our army,” Nidhiki said. “No open hostility, but not openly weak, or Aodhiim will pounce.”

 

All three fell silent for a long moment, before Reyna had another idea. “Would my mother be willing to head anywhere?”

 

Nidhiki frowned. “It’s… unlikely. Might be a risk too, since she has the Mask of Control. I’m counting us lucky that she isn’t controlling any of us yet.”

 

“News about Keetongu?” Tekulo asked.

 

“We’d need to ask Lan about that,” Nidhiki said, before his eyes lit up. “Alternatively, maybe Rassilon? He might have some news from the Knights that could distract her.”

 

“What if I somehow… knocked her out stealthily?” Reyna asked. “If we could get to her when Lewa isn’t around….”

 

“Not possible,” Nidhiki interrupted. “You’ve seen her – she’s an absolute control freak; Lewa isn’t leaving her sight. I suggest we contact Rassilon. Send him in to distract her with some lore.”

 

Use him as bait, you mean, Reyna thought to herself. “How?”

 

“I’ll find him,” Nidhiki promised, standing. “Re-group at Purple Oasis?”

 

Although reluctant, Reyna nodded; it was the best chance they had. “Sounds like a plan.”

 

-Rollor’s Reach-

-Ehksidian Glacies-

IC: Ehksidian

 

Ehksidian Glacies and Piruk Lasang were finishing their preparations to travel to Kamuk, where the Mask of Time had last been rumored to be located.

 

“I think we just need to grab a few more Knights to guard us, and then we should be set,” she said, smiling at Piruk. “Maybe two guards for each of us? That would bring the party to six people.”

 

“The smaller our party, the better,” Piruk said in his scratchy, rasping voice, not returning the smile. “Unless you wish to try and convince Loremaster Voltex to join us, our chances of avoiding King Vinheim’s detection during our search will be best if it is just you and I.”

 

“It’s dangerous for just two of us to go, but… you are correct,” Ehks admitted. “Three of us total, then. It’s probably best if Voltex joins Jed, so… one other Knight to guard us both, then.”

 

Piruk shook his head. “Vinheim has been facing strong opposition of late from a member of House Petros. He is a master of communication, and will be keeping a closer eye on his nation than usual to monitor any possible… rebellious activity. There is a reason we lack any official presence in Kamuk; it’s too difficult to remain neutral, too difficult to keep things hidden. If the Loremaster does not join us, then I’m afraid we must take only ourselves.”

 

Ehks sighed. “Regardless of official activity, doesn’t it seem more suspicious if we don’t have someone defending us? Only brash fools would go off on their own in the current climate, without means to defend themselves.”

 

“Our activity is suspicious,” Piruk said. “We are searching out the Mask of Time. If we have heard of it being in Kamuk, then Vinheim will have too. If he learns we are there, he will suspect our purpose immediately. Better to avoid detection at all costs, even if it’s more dangerous.”

 

“Perhaps,” Ehks said, swallowing her frustration. “Very well then, we’ll travel with just the two of us. I do hope you can defend yourself from any beasts.”

 

Piruk laughed; it was a harsh, rasping sound. “Well enough, though I expect I shall perish if it comes to combat. I’m old; this trip will be the last I take. I feel it in my bones. So, let’s find this mask without being caught, and make it count, eh?”

 

“Of course. The sooner we move, the better,” Ehks said. “Vinheim must already be searching for it… and it’s on his home turf. I hope we aren’t too late.”

 

-Kamuk: Daggerfall-

-Vinheim Maran-

IC: Vinheim

 

Vinheim sat at his desk, shuffling various notes and messages around. He had finished his tasks in the throne room for the day, and could now move onto the actions that would have a real impact on Kamuk in the years to come. Four distinctive knocks sounded on his door; it was a special combination created by himself and Ahkmou Umrik years before, so that both would always know when the other was entering – and sure enough, Ahkmou stepped into the office, quietly shutting the door behind him.

 

“You called, sir?”

 

He looked up from the document that he had been preparing, not worried about Ahkmou seeing it. “I’m glad you arrived so quickly. There’s much to talk about. As I am sure you are aware, we have a rather powerful opponent seeking to challenge me for the position of King. I feel our usual tactics will not work given the… influence this one holds. I propose that we go about this next campaign with a different route.”

 

Ahkmou nodded, sitting down in the chair that was technically there for visitors, though only Ahkmou ever stayed long enough – or had enough of Vinheim’s respect – to use it.

 

“It’s well known that House Petros clings to a time when they still ruled,” Vinheim continued. “I hold no illusions that, should Anuhea Petros succeed, they will undo everything I have done and return Kamuk to a time when one’s blood designated their right to rule. We cannot have that. Nor can we have the spineless pacifists of House Petros ruling. As such, I wish for your assistance in spreading misinformation about myself, leaking it to their informants. Venues or events I may attend, but won’t. Meetings that will never take place. We have other steps to take, of course, but only once they are ready.”

 

Ahkmou nodded. “Anything else, sir?”

 

“Yes. I presume you’ve heard the reports of a mysterious figure spotted visiting Kamuk frequently in the last year… someone clad in navy armor. I do not like unaccounted guests in my kingdom; I intend to label this individual an enemy, with orders to be detained on sight. Nobody visits a location that frequently unless they are up to something.”

 

Vinheim watched Ahkmou carefully during the relay of information, watching for any reaction that his Right Hand might have. Ahkmou might have his trust, but blind faith was never wise.

 

The Stone Protector frowned as he heard the information, looking worried. “I haven’t heard many facts about him, which is why I haven’t made an official report,” he said, “but this figure does appear to be going by the name Sahmad. He seems to frequent every city except for Daggerfall and making friends, but… no clear purpose yet.”

 

Vinheim leaned forward, his curiosity piqued, and he rested his chin on his hand. “Sahmad… interesting. What do we know of the friends he has made? Any common links?”

 

“Not really,” Ahkmou said, both looking and sounding frustrated. “He’s visited prisoners, guards, politicians, strangers on the street. Never tries to get them to do anything, never gives any hints to his own background.”

 

“Wait, wait. Who is allowing him to visit prisoners? I’d hope out guards are better trained than that,” Vinheim said, both befuddled by the revelation and amused by his own words.

 

As if I am one to speak… ShadowVezon’s guards let me waltz around as if I owned the place, and that was before I had him trapped in his leash.

 

“Any names of individuals he’s met with?” he asked. “Anyone within our own circle, or outside of it?”

 

“Minor prisoners, thieves mostly,” Ahkmou said. “Nobody knows how he got inside – the cells were still locked.”

 

Vinheim’s expression darkened. “Mask Maker,” he muttered with disdain.

 

He had no love for the Mask Makers. He had witnessed the power they wielded, and the sense of superiority that it gave them. They were even worse than the bloodlines of old; he viewed both with disgust. Self-importance based solely upon traits that they had no control over. A lottery by birth alone.

 

“What you have revealed, my old friend, is very important information,” he said. “This Sahmad… he has been spotted all over the island, and in the presence of certain powerful individuals. It made no sense, given the current hostility of the island. Magic, however, would explain his mode of transportation, and Mask Makers are the only Protector-related beings who wield such powers fluently. I feel my decision to label him an enemy wise.”

 

“I might suggest an alternative approach,” Ahkmou said slowly, the idea clearly coming to him even as he shared it. “As I said, he hasn’t done much wherever he appears… except that he does, inevitably, leave a good impression. It’s possible that labelling him as an enemy could spread discontent – or, worse, hand Anuhea the perfect tool with which to undermine us.”

 

Vinheim watched as Ahkmou stood and began to pace, his Right Hand stroking his chin thoughtfully.

 

“Why not take out usual approach?” he suggested. “Label him a friend, treat him as such, and set him up for failure at the same time. Or perhaps plan some sort of trap that we can blame on Anuhea.”

 

“He hasn’t done much? He’s waltzed into prison cells under our very noses. What other potential locations could he walk into? Our archives?” Vinheim shook his head, briefly considering the idea of the Mask Maker wandering into the vault… he would have to double-check that in the future. “We go with your plan of labelling him a friend, though we will also increase security in the prisons and other locations of importance. If he is sighted in any of them, orders will remain to detain him, as would be done with any trespassers. All are led to believe that they are equal in Kamuk – and this applies to the law.”

 

“Though we should see about… arranging a meeting with him, if possible. See if he adheres to any sort of schedule. He’s obviously making it an effort to avoid me, and that’s just rude.”

 

Ahkmou inclined his head, opening the door and stepping out. “Of course, your grace. I’ll return once we have more.”

 

-The North-

-Voltex Aodh-

IC: Jed, Isniel

 

They were halfway through the North when one of the Knights up ahead nudged Jed. Voltex squinted, shielding his eyes from the falling snow; a storm was brewing.

 

“Sir, we’ve got trouble,” the Knight said. “Kopaka’s tailing us.”

 

“Well, that’s just perfect,” he heard Jed grumble, clearly annoyed. “How long?”

 

“Hard to tell,” the Knight said, sounding annoyed himself. Voltex didn’t blame him; bad enough that Kopaka’s armor would naturally help him to blend in with the snow, let alone the quickly worsening weather. “I don’t know if the weather is from him, if it’s natural, or… something else.”

 

“Why is he following us?” Isniel asked, sounding worried. The Protector of Jungle had remained close to Voltex for the entirety of the trip, both finding unlikely companionship in the other. “What did we do to warrant him creeping up behind us?”

 

“I don’t like this at all,” Jed said, slowing to a stop and placing his hand on the hilt of his sword. “The only thing we can really do now is advance. We should be ready to fight if it comes to that; I know we aren’t prepared, but we might not have a choice.”

 

“Perhaps someone tipped Kopaka off?” Isniel suggested. “Now he’s coming here to dispose of us.”

 

“He’s been corrupted by Keetongu and losing his sanity ever since,” Voltex said, shaking his head and shivering. “It’s more likely that he’s little more than a wild animal now, who senses us as prey.”

 

“Well that’s no good,” Isniel grumbled, shivering as well. “We can’t exactly move forward with a feral Toa breathing down our necks. Qendroj City would never let us inside. We need a plan to lose him.”

 

Glaring through the blowing snow, Voltex pointed to what he could only guess was their east, at a grove of trees.

 

“If we can weaken the trees, maybe we could topple some on him,” he said. “We don’t need to kill him; just buy ourselves time. It’s either that or face him in the open.”

 

“Let’s go with the tree plan then,” Jed decided. “Someone will need to be lured closer, though, so that the trees will actually fall in his way.”

 

Voltex lifted his hand to volunteer, only to stumble as one of the other Knights shoved past him to volunteer instead, shooting him a dirty look. “We all know you couldn’t wield a weapon to save your life, Loremaster. Don’t even bother.”

 

Clearly hoping to avoid a conflict, Jed stepped in between them. “Now is not the time for internal fighting. We can do that once we get to safety. For now, let’s focus on stopping a berserk Toa.”

 

“It’s fine,” Voltex muttered, rubbing at his shoulder. “He’s right.”

 

The Knight nodded grimly, and set off into the snow to distract Kopaka.

 

I wonder if he realizes he just volunteered for a death sentence.

 

“Let’s go,” Jed ordered. “We should start weakening the trees.”

 

The remaining three Knights all pulled out their swords, making their way to the trees to do the best that they can. Voltex hung back; all he had with him was a knife. The Lord Commander turned to address him directly: “I’m going to go help the others weaken the trees. You stay here with Isniel as a lookout; keep an eye on Kopaka. If something goes wrong, let us know. Immediately.”

 

“Will do.”

 

As Jed followed the other Knights to the grove, Isniel moved up a bit, trying to get a better view. They watched as the Knight distracted Kopaka, slowing the Toa down; Voltex, however, turned his attention to the sky, a sudden thought striking him.

 

“The weather isn’t changing,” he said. “Kopaka’s getting closer, but the weather hasn’t changed.”

 

“So he has nothing to do with it,” Isniel concluded, sounding thoughtful. “It could be something unnatural in our path up ahead causing the storm.”

 

“Possibly,” Voltex said. “Though if it isn’t Kopaka, I’m not sure we want to find out what it is.”

 

“We’ll find out. Eventually.”

 

From the shouts of triumph coming from the grove, it sounded like the trees were weakened enough to be ready – which was a good thing, because Voltex returned his attention to Kopaka just in time to watch the Toa impale the Knight distracting him with his spear. They watched as the Knight fell over dead, and Isniel cursed under his breath.

 

“Alright,” the Jungle Protector muttered, turning to him. “Warn the others. I’ll lure Kopaka in.”

 

Voltex nodded. “Good luck.”

 

-Kamuk: Fort Patrus-

-Ehksidian Glacies-

IC: Ehks

 

As it turned out – though Ehks would refuse to admit it, and Piruk wasn’t the type to rub it in anyway – Piruk had been correct. With just the two of them, they had managed to sneak into Kamuk undetected, and had remained unseen and unheard so far. Rumors that they had heard while travelling in Kamuk itself had hinted that the Mask of Time was located somewhere around Fort Patrus, and so they had headed south.

 

With the gates of the city now visible on the horizon, they stopped for a small break. “Searching inside first might be the best idea,” Ehks said, sipping from her canteen. “We’ll be… well, slightly less suspicious once inside. If we’re out here too long, the guards may take notice.”

 

Piruk remained silent, which wasn’t unusual. His efforts to convince her not to bring any additional Knights had, in fact, been the most that the Jungle Protector had spoken at once in the entire time that Ehks had known him.

 

After finishing their break, they approached the gates, deciding not to bother attempting to sneak in. They were allowed up to the gates of Fort Patrus without issue, where they were stopped by two guards who stood on the battlements. Squinting, Ehks could just barely make out the sigil of House Petros on their armor.

 

“Who seeks entry?” one called down.

 

“Two travellers,” Ehks called back. “We’re looking for something, though we only have a rough idea of what it is. We heard it might be available here.”

 

Both guards exchanged looks, and their tone became more suspicious. “Names, please.”

 

Ehks glanced over to Piruk, urging him to respond first. Piruk, in turn, raised a single eyebrow, which was more than enough for his message to be implied: it’s your mission. Ehks sighed. “I suppose this is for documentation purposes?”

 

The guards shrugged. “Not really. Just protocol, you know how it is. We’re living in dangerous times.”

 

Ehks nodded. “They are, indeed. Very well. I am Ehksidian Glacies.”

 

“…and your companion?” one of the guards asked after a moment, when it became clear that Piruk still wasn’t going to speak.

 

“Piruk Lasang.”

 

One of the guards seemed to recognize them both, now that they knew their names. “Wait… are you here on Knights business?”

 

Ehks frowned. “Is this protocol as well?”

 

Piruk sighed from beside here and stepped forward, finally speaking up. “Yes, it’s Knights business. My apologies; my companion has not slept in seven days and seven nights.”

 

Flushing with embarrassment, Ehks remained silent as the soldiers nodded understandingly to Piruk’s words. Ignoring her previous question, the guards turned and yelled down: “open the gates! We’ve got some Knights!”

 

One of the guards sounded particularly excited.

 

Her companion, meanwhile, turned to her. “What is the point,” he asked quietly, “of us entering through their front gate, if you are going to insist on acting like we have something to hide?”

 

“…fair point,” she mumbled, rubbing the back of her neck. “I apologize.”

 

The Jungle Protector rolled his eyes before leading the way into the city as the gate opened. As if Piruk’s chastising hadn’t already been enough, she immediately noticed Protectors of every single element wandering the streets as they entered. There was even an Earth Protector over at a nearby stall, haggling with a Protector of Water over what looked like a shield.

 

I hadn’t expected it to be so open to other elements, she thought to herself. Even if it is the trade capital of Kamuk….

 

One of the guards they had spoken with hurried down to the two of them, dust billowing in his wake. “Hey. Would you two like a guide during your visit?”

 

“For a bit,” Ehks decided, still staring at the crowds. “It would be good to know the lay of the area.”

 

The guard grinned, sticking out his hand. “Very well! Photok Dagala, at your service.”

 

Continued in Part II.

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EPISODE ONE

“End of the Beginning”

(Part II)

 

-Aodhiim: Silodas-

-Jakura Aodh-

IC: Jakura

 

Jakura groaned, burying his face in his hands as Efandril, Unit and Bartok exited the Council Chambers. The meeting had been a disaster.

 

Desperate to focus on something else, he turned to Balta. “You knew my brother well. Do you have any recommendations for where I could look to uncover information concerning his demise?”

 

“As you know, the investigations never found anything,” Balta said, his own mood having soured. “Our best lead was the disappearance of RG II Coal around the same time. His home had been disturbed, and there was blood inside as well. We never found anything, but… if you wish to investigate again, RG’s disappearance might be a good place to start.”

 

Jakura nodded solemnly, foliding his arms tightly to his chest. He peered out one of the narrows windows. “I will not let my brother’s death fade into history unavenged,” he said, calm but firm. “The House of Aodh neither forgets nor forgives. If RG’s disappearance is the first key to the puzzle… then so be it. I’ll ask around Silodas for answers.”

 

He glanced over at Balta. “There’s… something else. Surely you know as well as I that there’s one of us among the council who is not as they seem. I can trust that it isn’t you, my friend – you’ve been nothing but loyal since you began service. But of all the challenges we must face… a traitor is not one that we can let slide for even a moment. Can I leave it to you to investigate the matter, and report back to me as soon as possible?”

 

“I will certainly try,” Balta promised.

 

“Good.” Jakura stood, placing a slender hand on Balta’s shoulder. “Watch your back at all times. Spirit be with you.”

 

-

 

Jakura made it to the street where RG II had lived without trouble. It was on the outskirts of Silodas, an area that he didn’t typically have reason to visit – and as such, the sight of the area being about as close to a ghost town as possible was rather shocking.

 

He pulled the cloak he had ventured out in closer to his body, the hood hopefully concealing his face enough to hide his identity. Shaking off the eerie chill creeping its way down his spine at the stillness of the area, he looked for the house that had belonged to RG. Try as he might, he was unable to find it quickly enough to avoid drawing the attention of one of the few remaining residents. She approached him, introducing herself.

 

“Korgot Coal. Can I help you with something?”

 

“Er, yes,” he said, bowing his head slightly in greeting. “I’m visiting from Madacus. I was hoping to speak to the family of the late RG II Coal, if you know where to find them.”

 

“He was of my house,” she said. “But he was… a loner. None of us were particularly close to him.”

 

“Oh, that’s unfortunate to hear. I’m familiar with his work, and wanted to learn more about his career. Do you know of any who would have at least worked alongside him?”

 

“The Council of Fire,” Korgot said, scratching her chin with one hand, the other falling to her hip. “Lord Burnmad and Imperator Sil, mainly. He never bothered getting close to anyone else.”

 

“I see. Thank you for your help, miss. Would you be able to direct me to where he lived, so I might pay my respects?”

 

She pointed to one of the more obviously abandoned dwellings.

 

“Nobody’s moved in since he died. I don’t even know if they bothered to clean the blood off the walls,” she said, before glancing around the street. “This entire area had been on the decline ever since. Strangest thing about it is… nobody who left was afraid. New opportunities just opened elsewhere, one by one. Most accepted. The rest… well, nobody cares enough about the Protectors at the bottom of the ladder to notice when they disappear.”

 

"I'm, uh, sorry to hear that."

 

He knew he should continue on, but he couldn’t help but ask: “so… what about you? What’s here that keeps you from moving on?”

 

She shrugged, meeting his eyes, and Jakura could have sworn the hint of a smile played at her lips. “Curiosity.”

 

It was a lie.

 

As much as he wanted to press, he wasn’t sure he really wanted to know the truth. “Right. Well, thanks again. And… best of luck to you.”

 

He made his way toward the dwelling that Korgot had pointed out. As he opened the door to RG’s home, he glanced back; Korgot was gone.

 

He stepped inside, and closed the door behind him. There were stairs leading up to a second level, and a hallway leading toward a workshop. A quick search of the workshop revealed that it was entirely empty, having clearly been ransacked for supplies.

 

When he decided to look upstairs, things became more interesting. As he ascended the stairs, he began to spot the signs of the struggle that had apparently taken place. There was a hole in the wall, as well as in one of the stairs; he gingerly stepped over it onto the second floor. The second floor itself was a large loft space that clearly doubled as RG’s bedroom and office, and it was a disaster. Brown stains were scattered about, clearly long-dried blood; on top of that, something about the mess seemed a bit too… perfect.

 

Keeping a sharp eye peeled, he sifted through the mess, cleaning it up as best he could. As he did so, Jakura couldn’t help but feel that it almost seemed like someone had constructed the mess to give the appearance of a struggle, rather than the mess emerging from a struggle naturally. Frowning, he returned to the stairs. The hole in the wall fit his fist a bit too cleanly; the hole in the stairs, on the other hand, was more jagged.

 

Probably using a tool, he thought. A tool that was almost certainly taken by whoever cleaned out the workshop.

 

Intrigued by the findings but likewise discouraged by the lack of anything solid to go on, Jakura chose to leave the dwelling. The outside of it was perfectly ordinary, but Jakura now suspected that there was more to RG’s disappearance than met the eye.

 

The rest of the street still looked just as empty as before, except for a single dwelling that Jakura suspected belonged to Korgot.

 

Why not? It’s suspicious, and I’ve got nothing else to go on.

 

He approached Korgot’s dwelling and rapped firmly on the front door.

 

There was no answer, but he could make out the flickering glow of a candle through a window.

 

“Korgot Coal!”

 

After a long moment, the door swung open to reveal Korgot. Her eyes were wide and wild, and she held both a hammer and what looked like one half of a rapidly cooling mask in one hand. At the sight of him she relaxed, grinning.

 

“The stranger returns! Did you want to come in?” she asked, holding up the hammer and mask. “I’ve been trying my hand at forging. I’m… not great at it.”

 

Quickly regaining his composure (and if anyone asked he would deny having jumped at the sight of her), he couldn’t help but let out a chuckle, intrigued. “Yes, I would like to come in – provided I’m not interrupting…?”

 

She waved the broken mask piece as she stepped aside to let him in. “Well, I just finished ruining another project, so I think an interruption might be nice.”

 

Jakura pulled back his hood and stepped inside, a wave of warmth rushing over him as he did. His eyes flitted back and forth, surveying the dwelling but avoiding Korgot’s gaze. “You can, uh, call me Jak, by the way.”

 

She smiled, leading him into her kitchen, where she set her hammer and the mask down on the table. “Tea?”

 

“Oh, thank you, but I’ll pass for now,” he said as he took a seat, still a bit wary of her. “How long have you lived here?”

 

“Six years. Ever since the Magical Crisis ended,” she said brightly, prepping some tea for herself.

 

“And you’ve been practicing mask forging this whole time?” Jakura asked, his amusement leaking into his tone.

 

“That’s a bit of a newer hobby. I used to work for Lady Efandril making darkfire, but…” Korgot trailed off, holding out one of her hands. He could see it trembling in the air. “I wasn’t steady enough any more. Nearly blew up Vakama City by accident.”

 

“That’s unfortunate to hear,” Jakura offered, “but at least you’ve found something else to occupy your time.”

 

“I was inspired by Lord Burnmad Aodh,” she said, taking a seat and sipping at her tea, fixing her eyes on his. “Your uncle, as I recall.”

 

She does know who I am, then.

 

He arched an eyebrow, a grim smirk stretching across his face. He stretched his arms above his head. “I shouldn’t be surprised, I suppose. ‘Jak’ is a terrible codename.”

 

“Just a little,” she laughed, before becoming more serious. “I know you haven’t just stopped by for any old visit, however. What can I do to help?”

 

“Tell me why you’ve stuck around this ghost town,” he said. “And what else you know about RG II’s disappearance. Why haven’t you shared it? Are you not… loyal to Aodhiim?”

 

He looked Korgot sternly in the eye. He had admittedly never been great at confrontation, and indeed, Korgot seemed almost amused with him, although he could have sworn something had sparked in her eyes at the loyalty accusation.

 

“Would you like to know the person responsible for RG II’s disappearance?” she asked. “It’s RG II himself.”

 

Jakura cast her a look of disbelief.

 

“It’s true,” she said. “He asked me not to say anything, unless the Imperator came looking. He learned something dangerous, from what I could understand.”

 

“And what would that be?” he asked, allowing the slightest mocking undertone to slip into his voice. “Are you going to try and charge me for this information?”

 

Korgot raised her eyebrow. “He didn’t share it with me – and I didn’t particularly want to risk my life finding out, not if it was bad enough for him to flee.”

 

“Where was he going?”

 

“East,” she said. “He claimed Aodhiim was no longer safe.”

 

East? That’s all he said?”

 

“Where better to hide from Aodhiim than among their greatest enemies?” Korgot asked quietly.

 

Jakura leaned back in his seat, nodding slowly. “I don’t understand what he could fear so much that he would abandon his people without a trace. How is my brother’s death linked to it?”

 

“Your brother died quite suddenly, as I recall,” Korgot said, tracing the edge of her teacup with one finger. “And when he did… RG vanished, frightened, into the night.”

 

"...and what would you know about his death, exactly?" though his voice remained calm, there was a sudden edge to it. A cold sharpness; a genuine shift in tone far more intimidating than any purposeful attempt he could make.

 

“Even less than I know about RG,” she said, his accusation having no impact beyond a sharpening of her own features. “Only that they were very close, time-wise.”

 

Jakura sighed. For awhile he said nothing, the only sound penetrating the silence the whistling of the wind outside.

 

“I don’t trust you,” he said finally. “I have no good reason to. But it doesn’t matter, does it? So… I’ll try some of that tea before I leave, if you don’t mind.”

 

He extended a hand outward, palm up. Korgot smiled, an understanding look in her eyes.

 

“Certainly,” she said, setting her teacup on the table as she stood and pulled out another. She poured the tea inside before turning back and handing it to him. Jakura took the cup and downed at least half of it, the heat of the liquid having no effect on him. He sighed, a tired sort of sound.

 

“Mm… reminds me of my mother.”

 

He stood, swallowing the rest of the sweet substance in barely enough time to savor it. Then, setting the cup down on the table and pulling his hood back over his head, he turned to leave, before glancing back over his shoulder.

 

“Whatever I find out there, I won't forget you. For good or ill, only time will tell. Either way… thank you.”

 

“I could help you,” Korgot said suddenly, before seeming surprised; she clearly hadn’t intended to volunteer her services. “I mean, a companion on the road is better than travelling alone.”

 

Jakura couldn’t help but laugh; it slowly subsided, replaced with a bewildered expression. “You’re serious? Why have you when I can have any number of loyal soldiers I desire? Who are almost guaranteed not to drive a knife through my skull while I sleep?”

 

Korgot frowned. “Well, there’s no need to be rude about it.”

 

She turned away, busying herself with cleaning the two teacups. “You can let yourself out, sir.”

 

Jakura shrugged. “I didn’t mean it like that. Look, if you’re really so inclined….”

 

Korgot either didn’t hear him – or, more likely, she was now ignoring him.

 

“Suit yourself. Best of luck, mask maker.”

 

-The South: Ignika-

-Terrorsaur Rayne-

IC: Terrorsaur, Resien (Meeting), Anahera (After Entrance)

 

He was seated in his kitchen again, Sahmad having left some time before, when Reisen entered. The Commander eyed the Mask of Water, his disapproval of the security and respectfulness of its current location evident, before he turned to Terrorsaur.

 

“Sir, are you well today?”

 

Terrorsaur contemplated the question for a moment. Am I sober enough to function, he means. Heh, function. Funky.

 

“Oh, yes, yes, I am… perfectly well,” he replied, his gaze dropping to stare at the table for a few seconds in idle fascination before he turned it loosely back to Reisen, flapping his arm vaguely in the direction of the Mask of Water. “What can I get you? You can… have anything except… except that.”

 

Terrorsaur rose steadily (kind of) to his feet, as Reisen segued directly into whatever he’d come to discuss.

 

“I need to be doing something, sir. Guurahk is romping about Riverrage, and reports of Burned Harbor’s talismans breaking down are becoming more and more common, as are those raiders on the southern shoreline. I’ve been meaning to meet with Rilvigi as well. These aren’t tasks I can just leave to a subordinate, and yet, I’m worried that if I leave the capital, something will happen while I’m not around. What do you think I should do?”

 

“Well, I thiiiink you answered yourself, didn’t you?” Terrorsaur asked, handing the Commander one of the last few clean glasses he had, full of water. “If something needs doing that you think you can get done, then that’s what you’ve gotta do.”

 

He sprawled back into his seat heavily, gripping his bottle. “Can I offer somethin’ real to drink?”

 

“The water will suffice, thank you,” Reisen said, with a faint air of distaste. “Where to start? The raids, or the Rahkshi?”

 

“Pirates leave the bay, Rahkshi here to stay,” Terrorsaur hummed to himself, taking another swig.

 

Reisen sighed, setting his untouched water back on the table. “I’ll consider that my standing order. Thank you, sir.”

 

Bowing his head in a gesture of respect, Reisen exited.

 

“Yeah, no problem,” Terrorsaur mumbled, approximately fifteen seconds after Reisen had left.

 

-

 

Later that day – a great deal more drunk – Terrorsaur was stumbling along through the city, accompanied by several guards, when he came across another familiar face: Anahera Abissm, Assistant to Hahli Vatten. Anahera offered him a patient and benevolent smile, though she did not extend her gloved hand to shake.

 

“Greetings, Khan Terrorsaur. What a coincidence, meeting you here. I was hoping to present Hahli’s report to you in person.”

 

“Oh, indeed?” He returned the smile and offered a sloppy bow. He pressed a hand to his forehead as he stood. “Well… let’s hear it.”

 

Anahera took the report from the bag and held it out. “No need to bow, Khan Terrorsaur, though I appreciate the gesture. I only hold command until Hahli returns. As for the report… I’ve been concerned about some outstanding issues detailed within. It seems pirates have been causing issues along the southern shores, and some reports of strange talismans causing problems in Burned Harbor. I wasn’t able to reach Reisen to request support.”

 

Terrorsaur took the report, letting out a short, odd laugh. “He just saw me earlier about this. He knows. Decided to look into the raids first.”

 

Anahera folded her hands neatly behind her back, humming in a soft sigh. “What a shame. I was hoping to discuss tactics before he departed… ah, well, I’m sure he can handle things on his own. I do like to know what steps are being taken, though… I suppose I just feel uneasy when things aren’t as they should be.”

 

She considered him then, her eyes bright with interest, and Terrorsaur tensed.

 

“Say, that’s a very interesting mask you’re wearing. The Mask of Water, correct? A stunning replica.”

 

He slowly shook his head. “No replica here. This is the actual Mask of Water.”

 

Anahera picked up on the tension in his voice and posture immediately. “I apologize, sir. It’s simply… well, I certainly know of its power. It must feel incredible to have at your fingertips. I confess to some… jealousy. A mask such as that would make my duties so much easier, after all!”

 

She laughed, and Terrorsaur joined in after a moment, until he was interrupted by a hiccup.

 

“You need not worry,” she said after a moment. “I would not dare lower myself to petty thievery.”

 

She considered the mask some more, back to her curious intrigue. “But, if I could be so bold, would you mind demonstrating its power? I’m terribly sorry for the bother; it simply is such a beautiful mask.”

 

“Um, sure. An’ don’t worry, I know you’re no… no thief,” he said, somewhat confused. His shift in mood had nothing to do with his suspicions about someone stealing the mask; he had no such feelings. All he knew that would ease him now was, well… more alcohol.

 

He stumbled a few steps away from Anahera and his guards toward a small puddle. Squinting down at it, he outstretched one arm, palm open. He swiftly made a loose fist, and the water shot upward, collecting itself into a rough sphere midair. Anahera smiled, clearly impressed, as she approached the sphere.

 

“Thank you,” she said. “I knew what the mask could do, but seeing it…”

 

She seemed to want to say something, but hesitated, instead asking, wistfully, “how does it feel to have such power at your command?”

 

Terrorsaur opened his fist, his arm flopping back down to his side as the water splashed against the ground. Shrugging, he mumbled, “alright, I guess.”

 

But I’d still give it up a thousand times for one more minute with what I’ve lost.

 

-Kamuk: Daggerfall, Throne Room-

-Vinheim Maran-

IC: Vinheim, Virndrung

 

“Send him in,” Vinheim said, the command echoing throughout the throne room.

 

He sat in his throne, a simple chair carved from stone. Ahkmou, as his Right Hand, stood beside him, silent and tall. The doors opened, and a Protector of Water was escorted inside – Virndrung Vatten. Vinheim gestured for Virndrung to approach; the guards fell back to their stations outside of the throne room doors.

 

“Greetings,” he said, staring down at the Protector of Water. “Welcome to Kamuk. What brings you to my fine kingdom this day?”

 

Virndrung stopped a few feet before the throne, bowing and then kneeling. “Gracious King Vinheim. I, Virndrung Vatten, am here on behalf of the Brotherhood of Ata. I am here to propose a deal between the Brotherhood and the glorious nation of Kamuk.”

 

“Go on.”

 

“The deal is simple, and it is as follows,” Virndrung continued. “We, the Brotherhood of Ata, offer you and all of Kamuk our assistance – while Kamuk likewise offers us in the Brotherhood their assistance.”

 

Leaning back, Vinheim began tapping his right index finger against the arm of his throne, unimpressed. “Why should Kamuk assist the Brotherhood? The last time we allied with you eccentrics, it did not end well for us. Of course, at that time the Brotherhood went by a different name… and was led by a particularly nasty skeleton.”

 

“The Faith will become the… definitive force on Okoto.” Red eyes gleaming in the dark, full of sinister amusement, in a cold, cold world, the threat unspoken but clear. “To reject an offer of companionship from us might prove to be unwise.”

 

Ahkmou shifted in place, and Vinheim shook his head, forcing the memories back as Virndrung responded.

 

“We have changed,” the Protector of Water said, opening his arms beseechingly. “No longer do we seek to antagonise or vilify the rest of the island – we are a Brotherhood. We welcome all, regardless of who they are, and give them a greater purpose. We seek tranquility… nothing more.”

 

“Right…” Vinheim said slowly, his gaze narrowing, “and the fact that you can survive within the Barren, where the Undead still roam, does not mean anything?”

 

It looked like Virndrung was about to reply, but Vinheim continued over him: “But such is beyond the point of discussion. You did not answer my question; why should Kamuk ally itself with the likes of you? What does Kamuk stand to gain, to counter the possible losses from such an agreement?”

 

“We are growing in power,” Virndrung answered. “Soon, we shall be more than just a Brotherhood – we will have powers not seen on this island for aeons. Kamuk would be the nation to lead all the rest into a brighter future.”

 

Vinheim laughed deeply as Virndrung finished. “Oh, please, do tell me what this supposed power is. I would dearly love to hear.”

 

“Truthfully, I myself do not know,” the Protector of Water admitted. “Only the Prophet has an idea of what this power is. I, while part of the Brotherhood, am merely extending an offer to you… an offer we had hoped you would accept. I will not hold your implied rejection against you personally, but I cannot say the same for my Brothers.”

 

Vinheim clenched his fist as he rose from his throne, motioning for the guards who remained to exit the throne room. One by one, the guards stepped outside.

 

“Then I suppose,” he said loudly, “that we are done.”

 

-Karamu: Hinterhall-

-Rassilon Oak-

IC: Rassilon

 

Nidhiki Briar had found him in his home, and had wasted no time in asking if he could speak with Makani Chloe, using his knowledge of Okoto’s lore to distract her from mobilizing the army for an invasion. Rassilon had agreed, of course; with the Great War apparently on the horizon, the last thing Okoto needed was to be at war with itself.

 

Now, the two of them approached the Makani’s throne room, finding the way barred by two guards.

 

“What is your purpose?” one asked, glaring at them. “The Makani has not informed us that she would be expecting visitors.”

 

“As Loremaster of Karamu, I have important information regarding the continued safety and freedom of our home,” Rassilon said, remaining calm.

 

The guards glanced at each other and scoffed. Thrown off, Rassilon leaned toward Nidhiki. “Do we have a Plan B?”

 

“I went through Plans A through Z with Reyna already,” Nidhiki muttered, scowling. “Do you honestly have no ideas for getting past two guards?”

 

“We could just push past them but that’d leave us with swords in our guts,” Rassilon said, thinking for a moment before returning his attention to the guards, an idea shaping itself in his head. “Guards, I must speak to the Makani immediately. Parts of the Great War prophecy are taking place as I speak.”

 

“Great War?” It was clear that neither guard recognized what he was talking about – but their interest had been piqued.

 

Now to reel them in.

 

“It’s a conflict that could be the deadliest in Okoto’s history,” Rassilon explained. “Not many know of it, but I hope to stop it before it can begin. Not only for the continued freedom of Karamu, but for Okoto itself. I ask you to let me in so that I can assist the Makani in this.”

 

The guards nodded solemnly, and opened the doors without another word.

 

“This is where I leave you,” Nidhiki said quietly, grasping Rassilon’s shoulder. “I need to let Reyna and Tekulo know that you made it inside before they do anything… rash. Good luck.”

 

He was gone before Rassilon could reply, and knowing that hesitation could be fatal, he stepped into the throne room. The doors slammed shut behind him, the sound echoing throughout the chamber; Makani Chloe was seated in her throne at the end of the hall, Toa Lewa standing beside her.

 

“Come closer,” she called.

 

Rassilon looked at the sight before him and couldn’t help but feel pity. He remembered who Chloe had been, before she fell into her madness. They had been friends, once upon a time, but the Chloe he had known was long gone. He couldn’t help but hope that some of the Chloe he once knew was still in there, somewhere, but he knew it was a futile dream.

 

Stepping forward until he was directly in front of the raised dais upon which the throne was placed, he bowed politely. Then, keeping his tone friendly, he spoke: “It’s good to see you again, though I wish it wasn’t under such circumstances. I hope you can clarify a rumor I heard… is it true that Karamu’s army is being assembled? Who dares to attack us?”

 

“Our army has been ordered to gather,” the Makani said. “No nation dares to threaten us yet, but it is only a matter of time. We must strike first, before they can strike us. Only then can we protect them from themselves. Only then can we spread peace across Okoto.”

 

Rassilon was disappointed by the response, but not surprised. “Chloe… from personal experience, violence only begets more violence. Never have I seen it bring peace, not truly, and I don’t think anyone will.”

 

Although that certainly won’t stop them from trying.

 

“I do agree with you that a threat is coming,” he continued, “but it is a threat to all the nations of Okoto. A threat beyond the strength of individuals, but perhaps weak to unity. If Karamu is to have any chance of surviving this threat, we must be at peace with the other nations… not at war with them.”

 

Unfortunately, she seemed not to hear – or had simply decided to ignore – his first statement, in favor of responding to the second as she nodded along. “You too see the necessity to unite Okoto. This is good… perhaps I have underestimated you, Loremaster. Perhaps the Loremasters could use a new leader, once Okoto is united under our rule.”

 

Rassilon kept his features calm, knowing that to reveal the slightest hint of his frustration would mean failure.

 

“You seem to have not heard me correctly,” he said, keeping his tone light. “When I say unity… I do not mean conquest. All of Okoto must be united to stop the coming threat, yes – but not as one nation. Our strength comes from our unique traits, as separate nations.”

 

The one and only benefit of the War of Five Kings.

 

“Besides,” he said, “I believe there is already a threat within our borders that needs our attention.”

 

Chloe leaned back in her throne, affecting a confused expression.

 

“It sounds to me like I am understanding you perfectly,” she said, and Rassilong could hear a dangerous edge in her voice. “We will unite Okoto, and take care of any threats within our own lands. Our army will guarantee it all, once they have gathered.”

 

Bota spare me, Rassilon thought, sending up a silent prayer for the lie he was about to share. “Chloe… even though I must admit I disapprove of this… I have an idea that might aid your plans.”

 

He moved forward, stepping up onto the first step of the dais, ignoring Lewa’s subtle shift in position. “Why don’t we use the coming threat as an advantage? When it has weakened the other regions to a point where they need help… we can come to their rescue, and secure rule over them in the process. It would cost us less military losses, and all of Okoto would be in our debt.”

 

Another step. This time, Lewa did not react.

 

“It would mean waiting a couple weeks or more,” he continued, “but the reward would be great. Your dream of an empire of Karamu covering the whole island could become a reality… we just need to wait for the right moment.”

 

Let it work, let it work, let it work, he prayed. Say yes. Please say yes.

 

Chloe remained silent for a long moment, considering what he had said, before she spoke again. “You believe we should wait. Allow the other regions to suffer under this new threat, before we step forward and save them.”

 

It’s undesirable to let anyone suffer, but it’s the only plan that allows us the military might to control Okoto,” Rassilon said. “We would look like saviors to everyone else. If we attack now, maybe we can conquer a nation or two, but not everyone – and then, when the true threat arrives, our forces would be stretched too thin to protect even Karamu. If you insist on peace through conquest… then let us wait for the right time.”

 

Although she was clearly hesitant, Chloe nodded. “We shall do as you say, Loremaster. Please… do not hesitate to visit if you learn more about this threat.”

 

The dismissal was clear – as was the fact that he had succeeded in buying them time, and weeks of it. Nidhiki and the others would undoubtedly be relieved. Bowing to hide the exultation on his face, Rassilon turned to leave the room. “I shall not hesitate in informing you. Goodbye, Chloe.”

 

The words felt oddly final as he spoke them, but the feeling was soon overcome by a wave of relief as he exited the throne room.

 

Thankful that Bota had answered his prayers, he decided to visit Hinterhall’s Spirit Woods, to give proper thanks. Botaism was still a small religion – until their extinction, House Hinterland had guarded its secrets closely – but in the wake of the War of Five Kings it had slowly grown in influence throughout Karamu, and was openly practiced by many in the region, including Rassilon himself.

 

When he arrived at the small clearing, however, he found a figure in rusted navy armor standing before the Spirit Tree, staring at the face carved into its bark.

 

A Protector of Water? He thought, before tossing the thought aside as he examined the figure’s armor more closely. No… that armor, it’s of Mask Maker design. And that rust… that’s magical in nature.

 

“What brings you to these holy woods, stranger?” he asked, announcing his presence.

 

“You know, I find it curious,” the figure said, still staring at the face carved into the tree rather than turn to face him, “that you Okotoans have lived alongside, served, and fought against gods come to life… and yet you still have the capability to fall victim to an entirely false religion.”

 

Most would have been insulted by the stranger’s words. Rassilon liked to think he wasn’t like most people.

 

“At the heart of Botaism is the worship of nature,” he said. “We might give that force a name, but that doesn’t mean nature isn’t real. I guess Protectors appeal to it because they’re sick of the real immortals, and their thirst for bloodshed.”

 

“What you truly worship is the essence of Ma,” the stranger said, before falling silent again.

 

“Why are you here, Mask Maker?” Rassilon asked, curiosity spiking. The name ‘Ma’ had rung a bell in his memory.

 

The Mask Maker shrugged. “My name is Sahmad. Might I know yours?”

 

“Rassilon,” he answered. “You mentioned Ma. That… wouldn’t be linked to the Torch of Ma, would it?”

 

“You catch on quickly,” Sahmad said, turning to face him at last. “I’m here about the Great War, and what must be done to prepare for it.”

 

“Nothing can prevent it, if what I’ve learned about it is true,” Rassilon said. “Though it’s possible that it might be stopped once it arrives. I’ve read about some of the pieces, and can guess at others. The Torch of Ma, the Staff of Annona, finding the Seventh Toa. You’re here to help, I assume, or at least lead the Loremasters in the right direction?”

 

“I’m doing everything I can,” Sahmad said, and suddenly, he just looked tired. “You’re more right than you know. The Great War… it can’t be stopped. Maybe, just maybe, if we’re lucky, we can delay it a little. But nowhere near enough. Okoto has five years at best.”

 

Five years? Rassilon though, dismay flooding through him. He pushed it aside, focusing on the moment. “Pardon my bluntness, Mask Maker, but you look exhausted. Perhaps you could stay here a day or two? Regain your strength, and we can compare notes. Perhaps we can find a way to stop the threat. We must have hope.”

 

“I’m sure we’ll speak again, but I still have too much to do… and too little time as it is,” Sahmad said, preparing to leave. “I simply had to warn you – Makani Chloe, she won’t last. She’s too unstable, and even if I don’t get rid of her, someone else will… and soon. You’ll need to support someone to rule Karamu in her place. You need to find your nation a leader that will listen to your guidance about the Great War, but who can also work to peacefully unite with the rest of Okoto when the time comes.”

 

Having said his piece – and clearly needing to be elsewhere – Sahmad closed his eyes, and vanished from view.

 

-Kamuk: Daggerfall, Underground-

-Quin Galum-

IC: Quin

 

After hiding the body of the soldier in the darkness of the underground, Quin and Pouks had continued into the shadows themselves. The occasional torch lit the way, but vast stretches were as dark as night.

 

“There will be more guards down here,” Pouks said as they descended another level, sounding worried. “We will have to be very careful.”

 

“The dark will allow us to sneak around,” Quin said. “We can’t turn back. There’s something down here that Vinheim has taken from me… I wish to recover it.”

 

“What is it?” Pouks asked, so quietly that he had to strain to hear it.

 

“They called it the Torch of Ma. I’m still not entirely certain what it does,” Quin admitted, “but I know that it’s important.”

 

Pouks fell silent as they crept through the maze-like underground, narrowly avoiding patrols. From the snippets of conversation that they overheard, Quin gathered that none of the soldiers stationed down here were very happy with being stuck patrolling in the dark day after day.

 

“You’re sure it’s down here?” Pouks asked.

 

“It’s somewhere around here,” Quin said. “If Vinheim wanted to prevent people from entering the underground he would have sealed it off. That he hasn’t… means he has reason to enter himself. It’s the true reason you were assigned to guard this place, I suspect.”

 

They both fell silent again, hearing voices up ahead. From the sounds of it, they were approaching some sort of gathering spot from the guards. Quin grinned as he listened from around the corner, as one of the guards mentioned a vault nearby. They stayed a bit longer, though the guards shared nothing else of importance. Silent as the night, they snuck onward, coming to another fork in the path.

 

“I think the vault is to the left,” Pouks whispered.

 

No harm in following a hunch, Quin decided, turning left.

 

Pouks led the way now, his sword held before him. The two of them came to a final turn; Pouks leaned around before whipping back, eyes wide.

 

“I think we found it,” he whispered. “Five guards.”

 

“I don’t want to kill if not necessary,” Quin murmured. “But… how to get them to leave? Perhaps you could attempt to fool them?”

 

“Eh…”

 

The Torch of Ma is meant to have significant protective properties, Quin thought to himself. Perhaps simply getting past the guards will help.

 

“Remain here,” he ordered, having made his decision. “I’m going to sneak past them. If push comes to shove… well, let’s hope that the Torch can do all that the legends say it can.”

 

“Yes sir.”

 

Continued in Part III.

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EPISODE ONE

“End of the Beginning”

(Part III)

 

-Rollor’s Reach: Border of the North-

-Nato Greavesey-

IC: Nato, Quad Roka

 

They arrived at the border of Rollor’s Reach to find it already closed, and barred entry. The Knights of Ekimu clearly already knew about the spreading plague – somehow – and had taken measures to prevent it from spreading out of the North.

 

Never mind that they live in my home.

 

Fortunately, he recognized three of the Knights, some of the higher-ranking members of the organisation: Quad Roka Maran, Marah Vatten, and Metus Crustallus, who had risen through the ranks like fire ever since he miraculously survived an encounter with Kopaka the year before.

 

“Greetings,” Nato called, keeping to what he could only hope was a safe distance.

 

“Greetings,” Quad Roka replied. “May I ask what brings you two to Rollor’s Reach?”

 

“The Stonescale Plague,” Nato said. “We’ve been infected, so please, keep your distance. The Knights of Ekimu hold the most extensive records of Okoto’s histories; I believe somewhere in your records is the key to finding a cure.”

 

Quad Roka’s eyes widened in horror at the mention of the word ‘plague’; beside Nato, Kazi frowned at the sight.

 

“He seems shocked,” Kazi mumbled. “But they’re already closing the border. Why is he shocked?”

 

“Thank you for being upfront,” the Stone Protector said. “But because of it, I cannot allow you in. However, we can search the records ourselves. I don’t know how long it will take, though.”

 

“I understand,” Nato said, crossing his arms. “Listen; this plague, it was caused by a Mask Maker calling himself Sahmad. He wears navy armor, rusted orange, and plans to awaken a Titan to rule Okoto. He caused his plague to prevent us from stopping him. Said it was similar to the Stone Plague from a few centuries ago, and that it would require another Mask Maker to cure it… but I don’t know how much his words can be trusted.”

 

“If this plague is similar to the one that infected the Stone Region long ago, the lore might be a good place to start,” Quad Roka agreed. “Do you know how he infected you with the disease? That might give us another clue.”

 

“There aren’t any Mask Makers here,” Metus said, glaring at both Nato and Kazi. “Last I heard, one was down south. That’s assuming you’re even telling the truth, though. Sahmad saved my life once, from Keetongu. This doesn’t sound like him at all.”

 

“It was a purple flower. Sahmad said it was a relative of the plant that caused the original plague,” Nato said to Quad Roka, before turning his attention to Metus. “Which Mask Maker was seen down south? How long ago?”

 

Metus shrugged. “Don’t know which one; just rumors. Hard to confirm with long range communication next to impossible.”

 

“My Protectors will search through the lore for the info that you seek,” Quad Roka said, whispering something to a few other Knights, who hurried off. “I can’t be certain how long it will take.”

 

“Too long, probably,” Metus muttered, just loud enough for Nato to hear.

 

“Do what you can. Now, what about this ‘Sahmad’? I’d never heard of a Mask Maker with that name before he showed up and poisoned me, yet you…” Nato pointed at Metus, “…claim he saved your life. How long has he been active on Okoto? Has he ever said or done anything that might give us some clue as to which Titan he plans to awaken, or how he might accomplish such a task? Are there any mentions of him in the histories?”

 

“He saved my life a year ago, around the time Keetongu first appeared,” Metus said. “Kopaka had been corrupted, hunted down my party. Sahmad tried to help us escape, but I was the only survivor. He left afterwards, to learn why Keetongu was corrupting the island.”

 

“Can’t say off the top of my head whether he’s in the histories,” Quad Roka said. “I’ll look into that as well, though we’ll prioritize a cure.”

 

“I agree,” Nato said, “but his plans will have consequences for the whole island. Please, find out whatever you can. I’ll travel to the border, see if my allies in the South can shed any light on this rumor of another Mask Maker.”

 

Quad Roka nodded. “Safe travels, Khan.”

 

-Aodhiim: Vakama City-

-Efandril Aodh-

IC: Efandril

 

Takua greeted her upon entry, and was quick to assign a few Pyromancers to gather darkfire to send to Valma.

 

“Turahk was most recently sighted to the north of the city,” he said when Efandril asked. “As for Ikir… we haven’t spotted it for several weeks. It’s probably been driven away by the aura of pure dread that the Rahkshi seems to carry with it.”

 

“Then north we shall go,” Efandril replied, deciding not to comment on what was surely an exaggeration. “I’ll split the soldiers up into six hunting parties of twenty-five. We’ll scour the countryside, moving north from the city, for any sign that might have been left by the creature. I’ll go myself with whichever party is searching the last specific location it was spotted. The soldiers are authorized to use their darkfire on sighting the target.”

 

“Should I stay behind?” Takua asked. “Or am I with you?”

 

“You’re welcome to come with if you desire,” Efandril said. “If you have no other… pressing matters to attend to. The others ought to be able to handle the Valmai transfer on their own.”

 

“I think I’ll remain here,” Takua said, grinning. “Lots to do.”

 

-

 

Thankfully, it was obvious within the first hour of searching that the Rahkshi was nearby. Efandril could feel her blood pumping and adrenaline beginning to race through her; the Turahk, it seemed, somehow caused those near it to exhibit physical symptoms of fear. Gripping her sword in one hand and a bottle of darkfire in the other, she stopped and cast a look toward her men, hoping to confirm that they had also noticed its proximity. They had; one was even curled into a fetal position, rocking back and forth. Typically, she would have snapped at them for dealing with a situation so poorly, but then she noticed that their hands – one of which was holding a bottle of darkfire – trembling.

 

Sheathing her sword, she slowly stepped toward the soldier, hoping to take the bottle from him. “Let me have that, and you can go back to the city,” she said.

 

The soldier flinched at her approach – and dropped the darkfire.

 

The bottle fell to the rock and shattered, shards scattering in all directions as a violent, searing purple flame blasted out of it. The force of the small explosion knocked Efandril and a few other nearby Protectors back several paces, while the darkfire itself consumed the soldier, who screamed in agony.

 

Before she could stand back up, she heard a series of shouts in the distance – one of the other groups.

 

“Follow me!” she ordered, jumping to her feet and taking off in the direction of the sounds, unsheathing her sword.

 

Three more of her group dropped their own darkfire at the sound of her voice, and burned for it. Four ignored her command and turned to flee back to Vakama City, but tripped in their haste, and their fates were the same. The remaining seventeen, however, managed to keep their wits about them and follow.

 

As they approached the area – their view obscured by a large rock formation, one of many in the area – the screams and shouts died off one by one. Smoke rose into the sky, and the smell of burning flesh filled the area. Efandril rounded the formation without hesitation, sword drawn – and found a scene of absolute carnage. The ground was scorched black; dotting the area were smoking corpses. The Rahkshi itself had disappeared from view, having slain the entire squad, though her increasing heart rate would suggest that it was still very close by.

 

It must have some level of intelligence, she thought, to be able to hide like this, to fight like this.

 

Some of the rock formations were as high as twenty feet tall. She scrambled halfway up one of them to survey the surrounding area.

 

While she couldn’t see very far, what she did see was both shocking and worrying. This group wasn’t the first of her soldiers that the Turahk had encountered. She couldn’t count the corpses, but if she had to guess, it had already torn through at least three other groups.

 

“Split up into small groups,” she ordered, climbing back down. “Spread out. Cover the area-”

 

She hadn’t even finished speaking when one of the taller rock formations shifted – and then the Rahkshi uncurled itself, standing as tall as Toa Tahu once had. With blinding speed, it threw its staff with one arm, impaling the Protector standing next to her to the ground. Ignoring the cries of pain from the Protector, Efandril placed herself between the Rahkshi and its staff.

 

“Come and get it!”

 

Turahk leaped dwon, crushing another Protector under its weight as it landed. The Protector’s darkfire went off, but did little more than scorch the Rahkshi’s armor. Efandril held her sword in front of her, preparing for the Rahkshi’s advance, signalling for her soldiers to throw their darkfire. Several did just that, but the darkfire seemed to have little impact; Turahk held out its hand, and its staff flew back into its palm.

 

“Charge!” Efandril yelled, before doing just that. She threw her own bottle ahead of her.

 

Turahk swung its staff. Half of her group was immediately paralyzed with fear; the other half was knocked aside, tumbling to the ground. Its staff met her sword, and Turahk loomed over her, the remnants of her darkfire sputtering out upon its armor as its face plate opened to reveal a fleshy, slug-like creature inside. The creature screeched at her, a grating, awful sound.

 

Grimacing, knowing the contest of strength wouldn’t last long, Efandril placed one boot on the staff and tried to punch the slug.

 

It was a stupid move to try, and it cost her. The Rahkshi shoved her back easily, and off balance, she sprawled onto her back in the dirt. Its face plate closed, and it lifted its staff, preparing to spear it down through her skull. She rolled to the side as it thrust down, trying to pop herself back onto her feet with the momentum. As she did so, several of her soldiers pulled her back just in time to avoid another blow.

 

“We need to get it to open its face plate again,” she said. “The slug inside must be its weak point.”

 

Through sheer luck – or the fact that Turahk knew her sword couldn’t do anything to it right now – she had managed to hold onto her sword. With her other hand, Efandril grabbed her second and last bottle of darkfire, circling the Rahkshi. Its armor had no chinks, no weaknesses; she narrowly avoided a few more strikes, though her compatriots were not so lucky. By the time Turahk had completed its latest series of attacks, only four of the Protectors in her group aside from Efandril herself remained standing.

 

“Come at me, you rust-covered worm,” she taunted, trying to keep her voice from shaking.

 

The Rahkshi lunged forward; all five of them met its staff with their swords, and were still barely able to push it away. Then, before it could attack again, the Rahkshi was tackled from behind.

 

The final group of soldiers must have heard the sounds of battle, and in the nick of time, they had arrived to help. Doing a quick count, Efandril realized they now numbered thirty to Turahk’s one, and they knew its weakness as well.

 

Turahk flailed, cutting down six Protectors before managing to toss the soldier off its back. Seemingly enraged, its face plate opened once more, the slug inside screeching again; this time so loud that she felt as though her ears might burst. Ignoring the pain and moving as swiftly as possible, Efandril thrust her sword into the open face plate.

 

In what had to be some sort of instinctual self-preservation measure, the slug avoided the blow by ejecting itself out of what was apparently just a suit of armor. It landed in the dirt, still screeching; Efandril saw three of her remaining soldiers cry out as their eyes popped, before all three fell still to the ground. Five others were shuddering, overcome by symptoms of fear.

 

With her sword still inside the Rahkshi’s armor and her head pounding, Efandril stomped on the slug with all her might – only for her foot to slide off harmlessly, darkening to black as the armor around it began to rust. Grunting, she leaped back, throwing the darkfire in her hand at the slug as she did so, her vision beginning to blur.

 

The motion was more than enough to set off the darkfire. Catching onto her idea, every soldier still holding their own bottle of darkfire threw it at the slug as well, though hers was already burning it. The creature screeched, twitching madly in place as it was consumed by the flames, until all that remained was a scorched husk.

 

The armor that had one held the creature began to rapidly rust, flaking away in the breeze.

 

Efandril fell onto her rear, head spinning. “Annoying cur,” she muttered, alongside many colorful curses.

 

She tried to remove her boot, to see if whatever corruption that had occurred had spread to her foot. She winced as she realized that it had… though strangely, aside from a change in color to pure black that she had a nasty feeling was permanent, there seemed to be no other symptoms… yet.

 

She slumped over, exhausted, her heart pounding and the edges of her vision still black. As the blackness crept further and further inward, the last thing she knew was a set of hands on her shoulders.

 

-Kamuk: Fort Patrus-

-Ehksidian Glacies-

IC: Ehksidian, Anuhea

 

Ehks, Piruk and Photok were still in the middle of the marketplace when they came across three other Stone Protectors – one of whom Ehks recognized as Lord Anuhea Petros.

 

“Lord Anuhea, sir!” Photok said, standing stall and saluting. “Good to see you!”

 

“Good to see you too,” Anuhea said, eyeing Ehks and Piruk warily. “Welcome to Fort Patrus. Tell me, what are your names?”

 

“I’m Ehksidian Glacies,” Ehks said, Piruk’s prior words coming back to mind, and she bowed her head respectfully. “A pleasure to meet you.”

 

Once again, Piruk remained silent beside her, clearly not feeling that his name was overly important. Photok clearly disagreed, looking confused before he said, “he’s Piruk Lasang.”

 

One of the Protectors with Anuhea stepped forward, so that he was standing next to the lord, before gesturing to himself and their third companion. “You know of Lord Anuhea. I am Nilkuu Petros, and this is… Velika.”

 

Velika seemed satisfied by something, though Ehks had no idea what that something might be.

 

“If you wouldn’t mind me asking, what brings you two here?” Anuhea asked, before frowning, having also noted Velika’s change in demeanor. “What has you so pleased?”

 

Velika smiled at them all, though Ehks had a feeling it was directed to her more than the others. She couldn’t tell if it was a good smile or a bad one.

 

“To move forward,” Velika said, “you must move back.”

 

“We’re looking for a… specific Mask of Power,” Ehks said slowly, glancing around before stepping closer and lowering her tone. “The Mask of Time. Allegedly, it’s here, somewhere.”

 

Velika’s smile grew larger, almost predatory in nature, and Ehks resisted the urge to shudder, wondering how he had heard her.

 

Anuhea, clearly disturbed by Velika’s grin, dropped his own voice to a whisper. “You should be more careful. If King Vinheim learns your true goals… you can guarantee that you won’t be going anywhere for awhile.”

 

The lord leaned back, his tone rising back to its regular level. “I may be able to offer some assistance. I don’t have any clue as to where it could be, but he might.” He pointed to Velika. “However, I do find his current attitude… somewhat alarming. I can offer you a small team of guards to accompany you on your journey, but if you accept them, I must ask that once the mask is found, you return here.”

 

She nodded. “Understood. Guards may be useful. It’s… rather dangerous. Piruk and I were lucky to get here unscathed.”

 

“Guarded, and you are un-guarded,” Velika said, a curious expression on his face now. “Do not seek, and you shall seek. Speak the answer, and your question will be asked.”

 

 “…is he normally this cryptic?” Ehks asked, frowning. Nilkuu, still standing behind Anuhea, nodded. He sighed, rubbing at his temples; beside her, both Piruk and Photok looked bemused. She sighed. “Of course. And I thought the Mask Makers were cryptic.”

 

Her comment seemed to amuse Velika. At the same time, the cround around them seemed to slow.

 

“Let’s go then,” she said.

 

“What is the answer?” Velika asked, as the crowd around them slowed even further. “What do you wear, but never see?”

 

She glanced to the crowd, before glancing back to Velika, shifting nervously. “I feel like this is a conversation better held in a not-so busy place. Though… my gut tells me that the ‘answer’ you’re looking for is a mask. Am I correct?”

 

Velika appeared both disappointed with her, and please.

 

An answer to his riddle, but not the answer that I’m seeking, she guessed.

 

“Guarded, you are un-guarded,” he repeated. “Do not seek, and you shall seek. Speak the answer, and your question will be asked.”

 

Around them, the crowd had slowed to a crawl.

 

Swallowing, Ehks turned her attention from Velika to the crowd – and quickly realized that they weren’t just slowing… they were stopping. Freezing in place…

 

…or in time.

 

“You’re wearing it, aren’t you?” she asked, no louder than a whisper.

 

Velika remained silent.

 

“The Mask of Time. You’re wearing it,” she said, the words suddenly flooding out. “There’s no reason to search for it, because it’s right here. If I came with guards, we’d be in even more danger. That’s what you mean. That which we wear, but never see… it isn’t a mask….”

 

She trailed off, before swaying under another realization. “Our history. We can’t see it, it’s always behind us, yet we always wear it. It affects the present, yet we can never look on it directly.”

 

Velika smiled knowingly. Ehks felt something then, some sort of invisible force squeezing around her, as the marketplace faded away from around them – and then in the blink of an eye they were standing in the middle of what appeared to be an ordinary home. Velika’s face shifted, as though a curtain had briefly been pulled away, revealing the silvery sheen of the Mask of Time for only the briefest of instances before all she could see, again, was his ordinary mask.

 

Reeling from the shock of the sudden change in scenery, Ehks tried to glance around – but even that simply action rendered her dizzy. Luckily, Velika had clearly anticipated this, and he caught her before she could fall.

 

“Who rules, but does not rule?” he asked quietly. “Who guides, but does not guide? Who belongs, but does not belong?”

 

She blinked, her head spinning. His words swam in her head for a few moments, before she managed to respond. “I… the Mask Makers. They haven’t been around for a long time, and yet… we still follow their rule. Follow their guidance.”

 

Velika nodded, though she had the feeling that she hadn’t solved the entirety of his latest inquiry. The Mask Makers were the correct answer… but he was obviously looking for something more specific.

 

“Ekimu,” she guessed, her thoughts still hazy.

 

As soon as she said the name, Velika shook his head. He turned away, tapping at his mask, beckoning for them all to follow him as he opened a door that looked to lead down to some sort of basement workshop. Ehks stumbled after him, still wondering what the real answer could be.

 

Behind her, Anuhea tentatively responded. “Is the answer yourself?”

 

Velika paused.

 

“The criteria of ruling don’t necessarily apply to you,” Anuhea continued, “and I never thought you were a Mask Maker… but your guidance is… how should I say… cryptic at best. And you might go by the name ‘Velika Petros’, but I know for a fact that you are not from this house at all. In that sense, you don’t belong.”

 

Velika glanced over his shoulder at them and grinned. It was more than answer enough, and with a wave of his hand as they reached the bottom of the stairs, one of the walls of the workshop (which, Ehks noticed, was littered with tools and parts) shimmered, revealing what looked to be a literal paper trail of Velika’s actions across all of Okoto’s known history.

 

No way, Ehks thought numbly, approaching the wall. Piruk and Anuhea did the same, though Nilkuu and Photok – possibly believing it to be above their station – both hung back. All this time?

 

Velika’s life, as detailed, was both colorful and insightful. It began nearly a thousand years before; he had arrived on Okoto as Velika, serving as the Mask Maker Voltex’s second in command. When Voltex was disgraced and refused the right to govern a region of his own by the rest of the Council, Velika alone had remained loyal to him.

 

Following the War of Twelve, while Voltex enacted his self-imposed exile, Velika had remained behind to serve as his eyes and ears on Okoto. During this time, Velika had clearly begun to ‘live’ and ‘die’ over and over again, pretending to be an ordinary Protector again and again, in what was clearly a successful effort to avoid detection from the remaining Mask Makers… or any enemies they might have.

 

While none of his assumed identities were particularly memorable, it was clear that Velika had been a driving force behind many of Okoto’s early advances – including the house system.

 

“This is… something else,” Piruk whispered, awestruck. Ehks nodded.

 

The first identity that stuck out to her was one that was familiar to everyone even moderately versed in Okoto’s history, and one that was still commonplace in Kamuk: Archean. From that point, several others began to stick out; Velika had clearly decided, at some point, to begin taking a more active role in aiding Okoto.

 

Her eyes flickered over the details of various lives: Vohon Aodh, who had led the Fire Region through the Long Night; Karzahni Vatten, whose reign had been the most peaceful in Okoto’s history; Irteza Gelu, House Gelu’s last known head; Dallior Qendroj, who had loyally served Pulse Vatten before his apparent demise.

 

He’s watched over Okoto for its entire history, guiding it, Ehks thought.

 

Velika had made mistakes – nobody who had lived and worked and served for as long as Velika had wouldn’t – but overall, it was clear that he had made an impact for the better.

 

A Mask Maker hiding among us all this time, nudging Okoto toward a better future.

 

“…why are you showing us this?” she asked curiously, turning to face him.

 

Velika met her gaze, a solemn look in his eyes. What he said next chilled her to the bone; not just because of its ominous nature, but because it wasn’t cryptic at all.

 

“The prelude has ended. The Great War is almost here.”

 

“…I understand,” she murmured. “I assume you know precisely what I need the Mask of Time for, then.”

 

In lieu of another verbal response, Velika led them to a table in the far corner of the room. Unlike the other tables, this one had no bits and pieces scattered across it; it was, instead, covered by a map of Okoto. The map itself was clearly older than anyone in the room (except for Velika), and circled at the southern tip of the Barren, almost at the point where it met the border of Aodhiim, was her destination: The Temple of Histories.

 

She stared at the map, taking in every detail. “How long ago was this made? The records I have only vaguely mention that it might have existed before Ekimu’s time… and speaking of which, do you know where he and Voltex went?”

 

Velika pointed to a small inscription on the border of the map, labelled as ‘300 BE’ – though even with its age, the ink of the date was clearly newer than the rest of the map.

 

Probably inscribed after our dating system was established following the Long Night.

 

As to the question of Voltex and Ekimu, Velika only shrugged. Whether this meant he did not know or simply didn’t think she needed to know was unclear.

 

“Thank you,” she said. “May I… take the map?”

 

Velika shook his head, tapping his mask again. “Move back to move forward. All as one.”

 

She sighed, and nodded. “I assume you aren’t keen on coming back to Rollor’s Reach with me to help decipher more texts, just so I have more to go on.”

 

“Time is of the essence,” Piruk said quietly. “The Temple of Histories no longer exists, but we must enter it. I suspect we shall be travelling back in time… a trip best made sooner rather than later, before anyone else on Okoto discovers what we’re looking for.”

 

“Of course,” she said. “I still need to return to Rollor’s Reach to inform them we found the mask, though. We can’t send messengers…”

 

Velika shook his head, though it was Nilkuu that now spoke.

 

“If I may, your presence in Kamuk is unlikely to go unnoticed for long,” he said, sending a sour look Velika’s way. “Especially since, to everyone in that marketplace, we will have seemed to vanish into thin air. I doubt you will be able to return north.”

 

“…fair,” Ehks admitted. “It’s time we head off, then.”

 

“I wish I could come with you, but I cannot,” Anuhea said. “I wish I could; I could use it to finally prove that I am a worthy candidate to be King… but I need to be here. If I’m gone, there will be nobody left to oppose Vinheim, much less overturn his rule. But I do wish you well on your travels, and will continue to support your efforts, if and when you return.”

 

Ehks nodded. “Understandable. I wish you luck on your own quest; Vinheim is… slimy, to say the least. When I met him years ago, I couldn’t help but feel he was plotting something.”

 

“I’ll remain here as well,” Nilkuu said, looking at Anuhea. “You’ll need all the help you can get, my lord.”

 

Photok, looking determined, turned to face her. “I’m joining you. I can fight, and defend you if needed.”

 

Piruk nodded, looking grim. “Very well. Then let’s go.”

 

-Karamu: Hinterhall, Purple Oasis-

-Reyna Saryian-

IC: Reyna, Tekulo (Until Departure)

 

Inside the Purple Oasis – an establishment that Tekulo had opened following the War of Five Kings – Reyna sat at the bar, waiting for Nidhiki’s return. Tekulo stood behind, though he was currently ignoring the other patrons in favor of conversing with her. He was in the middle of sharing an anecdote from his infiltration of the Earth Region before the Battle for the Dawn when a large group of clearly panicked Protectors piled inside.

 

“That Rahkshi, the Lerahk! It’s back!” One of them yelled. “It’s just outside the city gates!”

 

Panic startled to ripple across the crowd. Reyna felt a flash of fear grab at her heart, but she took a deep breath, refusing to let it control her.

 

“Let’s keep calm,” she called. “That thing is bad news, but if we’re scattered, we can never hope to defeat it. Tekulo, how good are you in a fight?”

 

Tekulo ignored her for a moment, gesturing for his workers to begin handing out drinks. “Have a drink on the house, and then tell me more about Lerahk,” he said.

 

One of the Protectors in the new group – the only one, Reyna noticed, that had managed to remain calm – approached the bar, accepting the drink that Tekulo poured for him.

 

“Also, against a Rahkshi?” Tekulo asked, glancing over to her as the newcomer helped him to hand out several bottles and glasses to the rest of the Protectors in the establishment. “I’d wager not very effective.”

 

“The name’s Tanma, Tanma Raieb,” the newcomer said, once the last of the drinks had been handed out. “What do you need to know?”

 

“It’s motivations would be nice,” Tekulo said.

 

“I dunno about motivations, but it’s spewing some kinda poison or acid everywhere,” Tanma said. “If the trail of dead and dying plant life is any clue, it came from the west. As tall as a Toa, if not taller. Probably as strong as one, too. Can’t say how intelligent it is, or if it can understand us… but it’s definitely hostile, and it’s definitely trying to get inside.”

 

“Do you believe it’s possible for us to build a trap for it?” Reyna asked. She knew the city guard was around one thousand Protectors strong, even before the gathering of the army.

 

“A trap would need to resist poison and be strong enough to hold a Toa,” Tekulo said, sounding skeptical.

 

Tanma also seemed doubtful about the trap idea. “We could maybe defeat it just by throwing enough soldiers at it, but we’d lose a lot of lives.”

 

“Anything bigger than soldiers?” Tekulo asked. “Something with more of an impact?”

 

“Doesn’t the Makani have a Toa?” Tanma asked. “Maybe we could ask her for that.”

 

Reyna bit her lip, worrying it between her teeth. “That could be an idea… but I don’t know if it’s entirely wise. Do you feel it is worth the attempt to get her, Tanma?”

 

Tanma brightened. “I heard she’s mobilizing the army herself! She’d definitely help!”

 

Reyna froze, looking at Tekulo uneasily, only to find her own worries reflected back at her. Were they already too late? Had Nidhiki and Rassilon failed?

 

“You two go, find Nidhiki,” Tekulo said. “I’ll stay here.”

 

Taking a deep breath, Reyna nodded. “Fine. Let’s go.”

 

-

 

As they approached the palace, they overheard whispers that Karamu’s new Diplomat, Lan, had been taken into custody for attempting to incite mass panic.

 

“Wonder what he did,” Tanma said, unknowingly voicing her thoughts.

 

“I don’t know,” she murmured. “This seems counter productive.”

 

Falling silent, she hurried her pace – only for Tanma to match it easily. “You’re Lady Reyna, aren’t you? The Makani’s daughter? That must be interesting! Has she taught you any cool strategies?”

 

“Interesting is one word that could be used,” Reyna admitted, begrudgingly impressed by the civilian’s pace. “I wouldn’t say she taught me any strategies, though.”

 

“That’s a shame,” Tanma said. “She taught you to rule, though? Right? I mean, she’s no Mask Maker. She won’t rule Karamu forever.”

 

“She’s taught me enough about how to rule.

 

If by ‘enough’ you mean ‘what not to do’.

 

Tanma nodded, but before he could respond, Reyyna spotted Nidhiki up ahead… alone. She frowned slightly, jogging over. “Nidhiki! What’s the word?”

 

Nidhiki spared a glance to Tanma before turning his attention to her. “Rassilon is speaking to her now. Lan’s gotten himself arrested for some inane reason, I didn’t really pay attention. And it sounds like we have a more immediate problem.”

 

“Lerahk is at the gates,” Tanma said. “Or, well… it’s probably almost in by now.”

 

“Nidhiki, let’s walk and talk,” Reyna said, continuing toward the palace. “Do you believe Lewa can handle the Rahkshi.

 

Nidhiki frowned. “Wait, Reyna, wait. Where are you going?”

 

“…to the Makani,” Reyna said, turning away from both her companions. “It’s… a long story.”

 

“It’s not that long,” Tanma protested.

 

“Let me get this straight,” Nidhiki said slowly, moving to stand beside her and speak quietly so that only she could hear. “We just sent Rassilon to distract the Makani from mobilizing our entire army, and you now want to go speak to her… and get her to mobilize our entire army?”

 

“Just Lewa.”

 

Nidhiki groaned, the sound filled with exasperation. “Reyna, please. We both know she won’t just send Lewa.”

 

“I know it’s a risk. I don’t like it at all either. But there’s a likely chance that the Rahkshi will just kill all of us if we do nothing,” Reyna said, twisting her hands. “Let me take a shot at this, at least. Maybe I can convince her that Lewa is all we need. Unless you have a better idea?”

 

“Haven’t you been following the Temple research at all?” Nidhiki asked, sounding appalled.

 

Um, no. It’s top secret.

 

“They haven’t figured out how to properly weaponize it yet,” Nidhiki continued, “but they’ve gotten close to a stable time freeze device. Fire at a target and they should be locked within a single moment of time for a few minutes.”

 

“If it’ll work, that’d be helpful. It’d at least buy us a few minutes to figure out how to kill it.”

 

Despite Nidhiki ignoring him, Tanma followed them as they sprinted in the direction of the Temple research labs, looking more than a little lost; belatedly, Reyna remembered that he was just an ordinary citizen.

 

Nidhiki got them inside the labs without issue, although it appeared like he worked his way in by making friends with the researchers, rather than getting any official permission. Regardless of his strategies, however, he was soon showing her the device in question; it looked like a rather large crossbow.

 

“Not a whole lot of imagination, and I’ll admit that it’s gonna be awkward to wield,” he said. “But if it works, it might buy us enough time to strike the Rahkshi down.”

 

Reyna nodded, looking it over. “Looks good enough for now. Do you… have any idea on how to kill it once it’s frozen.”

 

“Not a clue,” Nidhiki admitted, grinning. “Here’s hoping we can spot some sort of weakness to it quickly.”

 

Nidhiki grabbed the crossbow and shoved it into her hands; Reyna grunted, nearly dropping the device immediately. Clearly, in their experiments, the researchers hadn’t taken how much their equipment might end up weighing into account.

 

“We’ll find you a good vantage point,” he promised, before finally acknowledging Tanma: “Tanma and I will lead the guards out to distract it in the meantime. Let’s go.”

 

They made it halfway back to the gates before they began to hear the screams. Nidhiki managed to latch onto a Protector fleeing toward the center of the city; while they couldn’t make out much of what the Protector said, one thing was clear: the Rahkshi had gotten past the gates.

 

They were rapidly running out of time.

 

“No time for the walls, then,” Reyna said. “How many shots does this thing have?”

 

Nidhiki cringed. “Uh… one? Maybe two.”

 

Reyna could only sigh. The three of them raced through the streets. Chaos reigned; along the way they managed to draw a few guards under their command, but unless the crossbow worked, Reyna knew it wouldn’t be anywhere near enough.

 

They had just passed the Purple Oasis two streets back when they rounded a corner – and there it was. Standing as tall as (or even taller than) Lewa himself, in bright green serpentine armor and wielding a dual-edged staff. Lerahk. The Rahkshi was stalking down the road toward them.

 

Biting her lip again, Reyna hefted the crossbow up and pointed it toward the Rahkshi. There was no time for hesitation; she steeled her nerves and fired.

 

Rather than an arrow, a blue electrical charge flew out. Unfortunately, Lerahk ducked under the blast. It struck a fleeing Protector behind it, and in the moment before the Rahkshi turned and speared them, Reyna noticed that the Protector froze in place.

 

The weapon works.

 

Then, angered, Lerahk turned back, staring her down – and its face plate opened, revealing a sluglike creature inside. The creature screeched at her before the face plate closed again.

 

“Get it to open up again and we might be able to kill it,” Tanma said, standing beside her. “The rest of it looks pretty armored, but I bet that slug inside isn’t.”

 

“Easier said than done…” Reyna said, trailing off as she stepped closer to Lerahk.

 

As if the situation wasn’t already bad enough, the Rahkshi began to charge straight at her. Acid spewed from both ends of its staff, eating away at everything it touched, and before she could react, it was upon her. Before it could spear her, however, Reyna was shoved to the side. She blinked in confusion as she hit the ground hard – and before her horrified eyes, Tanma, having shoved her out of harm’s way, was speared by the Rahkshi.

 

There wasn’t even time for him to scream before he died, the acid eating away at his body. Lerahk swiped its staff through the air, and she retreated with three of the guards that had joined them.

 

The other four guards – and Nidhiki – were gone.

 

And everywhere she looked, acid was eating away at Hinterhall, piece by piece.

 

END OF EPISODE ONE.

 

-Due to the monstrosity that this episode was, some content had to be cut, and will appear in Episode 2.

-I will post sometime tomorrow to begin Episode 2, just to give myself a bit of a break.

-I hope you all enjoyed!

-Seriously, this chapter alone is 17, 965 words long. The entirety of Season 1 was only 32, 077 words long.

Edited by Lucina
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Hm, I see you cut out my big speech from the start of the episode. Does that mean that whole awkward incident where I held a meeting and accidentally infected all of my underlings has been rendered non-canon?

BZPRPG Characters - Minnorak, Kain, T'harrak, Savis, Vazaria, Lash

BZPRPG Mercenary Group: The Outsiders - Description - History - Base

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Ghosts Of Bara Magna - The Ash Tribe - Precipere Village - Kehla, Somok, Skrall, Gayle

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Hm, I see you cut out my big speech from the start of the episode. Does that mean that whole awkward incident where I held a meeting and accidentally infected all of my underlings has been rendered non-canon?

No, the episode was just 17k words already and I didn't need your speech in there pushing it to 18k :P

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It's me, Dilly-Dal, back from the dead! I'm so up for this; should I make a character sheet or since it's a special role should I not?

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"Remember when the comics forum had a lot of good stuff? Let's make that a thing again." -Kazi the Matoran

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So while you all wait for me to finish Episode 2, here's a stupid little thing I scribbled down. Credit to the folks on the S3 Discord for helping give me this dumb idea in the first place.

 

BEHIND THE THRONE

 

Episode One

“Romance is Coming”

 

-Mask Maker Productions Offices-

-6 Months Ago-

 

“So,” Ekimu said, his fingers steepled. “Give us the pitch.”

Voltex scratched the back of his neck. “Right. So, the season begins twenty years after the end of Season Two. The island is at peace, but tensions are rising. Communication between the different nations has been cut off, and a prophecy has been uncovered. The Great War approaches, and with it, the greatest threat that Okoto has ever faced. While events conspire to split Okoto further apart than ever before, they must find a way to unite together, or face their extinction.”

 

Makuta nodded along, an interested look in his eyes, but Ekimu leaned back in his chair and frowned. “Not exactly snappy.”

 

“You didn’t say it had to be snappy,” Voltex said. “Besides, this is BZP’s Game of Thrones. It’s a bit too complicated to stuff into one sentence.”

 

Ekimu opened his mouth to respond, but a touch to his shoulder from Makuta silenced him. Makuta leaned forward, now looking apologetic: “You have to understand, Voltex, that we want to give you the benefit of the doubt. The show is a massive hit. But the risk is beginning to outweigh the reward. Season One and Season Two were both plagued by budget and production issues. Season Two never even finished.”

 

Voltex scowled. “I know. That’s why Season Three takes place so far into the future. I’ve written up a new set of Lore and Histories, explaining why Okoto is so different.”

 

“And I’m sure they’ll be useful to us,” Makuta said. “I glanced over the notes for them; they seem exciting…”

 

“I’m sensing a ‘but’.”

 

But even still, we can’t just greenlight a third season,” Makuta continued, shaking his head and sighing. “Even if we do greenlight it, you’re going to need to make some compromises.”

 

Voltex tensed, glancing between the two. “Such as?”

 

“First off, you take on a partner,” Ekimu said, crossing his arms over his chest. “Having a second Showrunner and Director will take some of the weight off your shoulders, help you avoid burnout. Less episodes too – no more then seven. And Makuta and I reserve the right to alter the show if we see fit.”

 

“I don’t need a partner! I can do it just fine on my own!”

 

Ekimu raised an eyebrow, looking at him skeptically. “You collapsed twice during production on Season Two from overworking yourself. We were nearly sued by your doctors.”

 

“That… doesn’t make any sense at all.”

 

Makuta sighed, reaching across the desk to take his hand. “Voltex, please.”

 

Yanking his hand back, Voltex groaned. “Fine, fine. Do I have the greenlight, then?”

 

“No,” Ekimu said. “I was serious. Your pitch is clunky, and from the preliminary scripts I’ve seen, this season is going to be bigger than ever before. I need you to prove to me that the human element will still remain in place; that the smaller moments will still exist.”

 

Makuta nodded. “Boil it down to one line.”

 

Glancing between the two owners of Mask Maker Productions, Voltex sighed, rubbing at his temples. “Alright. Alright. Fine.”

 

Both Mask Makers leaned forward.

 

“How about this,” Voltex said. “Everything before was just prelude.

 

Makuta grinned, turning to Ekimu. “Oh, that’s good. Tingles, man. I’m getting tingles.”

 

“Yes, yes, it’s a good tagline,” Ekimu muttered, flapping his hand dismissively at his partner. “Fine. You’ve got the greenlight. Six or seven episodes, you pick. Budget is 100 million.”

 

“100 million?” Voltex squeaked.

 

“Yes.”

 

Voltex fainted.

 

-Roxtus Prison-

-Production Day Zero-

 

“So, what are we filming today?” Onaku asked.

 

Voltex glanced at his partner, but did not respond. He sipped at his coffee and returned his attention to the newspaper – specifically an article in the entertainment section. Apparently, Underscore had been caught trying to smuggle illegal Kohlii Balls again; luckily, Voltex hadn’t planned on asking him to return for Season Three. Not after the debacle that Underscore had caused at the end of production for Season Two.

 

“Voltex? What are we filming today?” Onaku asked again, poking him in the shoulder.

 

Voltex closed his eyes, sighing. Onaku had been one of the main stars of Season Two, but had also ended up taking an extensive role behind the scenes. Many of the new lore elements had originated from his suggestions, and Voltex had even hired him to write and direct a mini series set during the Magical Crisis. Naturally, Onaku had therefore been Ekimu’s first choice as the new Co-Showrunner for BZPGOT.

 

He's better than Iaredios at least, Voltex thought. He can have fun directing that historical drama.

 

“Hey, earth to Voltex,” Onaku said, shoving the newspaper away and snapping his fingers less than an inch from his face. “What are we filming today.”

 

Voltex slapped his partner’s hand away and scowled. “We’re not filming anything today! It’s Day Zero, we’re just going to put the finishing touches on some of the sets, maybe do a run through of some scenes.”

 

“Oh. Well, that’s boring,” Onaku said. “Hey, since we aren’t filming, is it alright if I duck out after lunch? Zippy and Terrorsaur spotted Chro earlier and scheduled dinner with him.”

 

Voltex suddenly found himself sitting up straighter at the mention of Chro. “Wait, really? Chro is in town?”

 

Onaku frowned. “Uh, yeah. Voxumo invited him.”

 

“And he didn’t even message me? What the karz, man. We ran Infinite together. What am I, Muaka droppings?”

 

“Didn’t Chro quit Infinite?”

 

Voltex grimaced. “Well, yeah, but still.”

 

“Still nothing, Infinite was a total trainwreck and you know it. I’m surprised that Ekimu and Makuta even trusted you to run BZPGOT on your own in the first place.”

 

“Hahaha. No, I uh, might’ve thrown Blade under the bus for that one. And Ehks. And Xaeraz. Well… mostly Xaeraz, honestly,” Voltex admitted. “It’s probably why I haven’t been invited to any of his parties since then.”

 

“Wait, Xaeraz hosts parties?! Why am I never invited?!”

 

-

 

Later that day, Voltex stood in a dimly lit cell. ShadowVezon was sitting against the wall of the cell, snacking on a thornax, and TimeLord leaned against the bars from outside the cell, a crumpled-up script in hand.

 

“Alright, let’s run through the scene once more,” Voltex said, pointing to ShadowVezon. “You’ve been in prison for the last thirteen years, after Vinheim got you locked up for your crime of murdering Zatth… as well as a dozen other false accusations. He-” he pointed at TimeLord, “-is the Mask Maker Sahmad, who wants something from you. Let’s go!”

 

“Who goes there?” ShadowVezon mumbled, sounding so bored that Voltex had to resist feeling bored himself.

 

TimeLord stepped into the cell, an enthusiastic grin on his face. “ShadowVezon Raqmu, the first of his name! The King of Stone, and Ruler of Kamuk. Kingslayer. Oathkeeper. The… uh, the faithful! Murderer of Zatth Raqmu. Guilty of a thousand crimes!”

 

“No, no, no!” Voltex stepped in with a tired groan, resisting the urge to face palm. “First of all TimeLord, you completely blew the speech. He’s a Kinslayer, not a Kingslayer, and an Oathbreaker. And second, you sound… happy? Like, what even? What even? You’re Sahmad. This is the first time we’re seeing you. You’re supposed to be cold, dark, mysterious, and threatening.”

 

Before TimeLord could respond, ShadowVezon spoke up. “Hey, can we just like… go? It’s almost dinner time, and if I miss another dinner, Voxumo is going to gut me.”

 

“And then – wait, what?” Voltex turned to ShadowVezon. “Wait, are you and Voxumo dating?”

 

What?” ShadowVezon asked, looking as startled as Voltex felt. “No! What? We’re business partners, dude.”

 

“Since when?!”

 

“Uh, since forever,” ShadowVezon said, offended. “Come on, Voltex. You literally feed the cast and crew using our food services!”

 

Voltex glanced over at TimeLord, expecting him to be just as bemused – only to flinch at TimeLord slowly shaking his head, a look of sincere disappointment on his face. He turned back to ShadowVezon. “I didn’t know that.”

 

“It’s in the name,” ShadowVezon said drily. “ShadowVox Food Services.  We’re looking at expanding our operations into Xia, but thanks to BZPGOT we’ve both been busy lately. Tonight’s gonna be our first chance to sit and hash some stuff out in weeks.”

 

“Right,” Voltex said, scratching the back of his head. “Uh, well. Yeah, I guess we’re done for the day. Make sure tomorrow night is free, though. I want the atmosphere just right for Sahmad’s introduction. And TimeLord, I swear to Mata-Nui, if you aren’t properly in character for Sahmad tomorrow, I will replace you with Nato, budget be darned.”

 

-

 

After that disaster, Voltex returned to his trailer.

 

Maybe I SHOULD start paying more attention, he thought, as he unlocked his… already unlocked door? He shrugged it off. Maybe Blade was right. Maybe I AM an a-hole.

 

Opening his door, he resolved to sit down and track down the personal details of the lives of every single cast and crew member – only for that idea to be blown out of his head by two members of said cast shoving their faces into his own.

 

“GAH WHAT THE HECK!”

 

“Voltex!” they both said. “Finally!”

 

He clutched at his chest, heart beating a mile a minute. “Zippy, Nato, what the karz? Why are you in my trailer?”

 

“I’m here about the scripts,” Nato said, scowling and shaking a large wad of papers at him. “They’re an atrocity!”

 

“Same here,” Zippy said, though she seemed rather calm.

 

Glancing between the two of them, Voltex sighed before pushing his way into the trailer and collapsing at the small dinner table. Taking a moment to steel himself, he turned to Nato. “You first.”

 

“I honestly don’t understand what you’ve done with my character this season,” Nato said, glaring at him. “I mean, I’m barely in it. I don’t think I appear in Episode Two at all! And what’s with me getting obsessed with Sahmad? Why are the few scenes I’m in all centered around him?! I’m the last main character from Season One still standing. I should be front and center, not just… shunted off to the side!”

 

“I-”

 

“Plus,” Nato continued, “I thought I was going to be playing Sahmad? You said I was perfect for the part! But apparently you gave it to TimeLord? And half of my best scenes involve interacting with Sahmad, too! What was I going to do, play off of myself?”

 

“You did have the part,” Voltex snapped, speaking quickly so that Nato couldn’t interrupt him again. “And you did, believe it or not, have a larger role in the original plans. But Onaku convinced me to scale it back a bit due to your character’s age, and… well, then I found out how much you were demanding for pay.”

 

Nato leaned back, looking aghast. “My demands were reasonable!”

 

“Maybe in dreamland,” Voltex mumbled, before raising his voice. “You wanted 3 million per minute onscreen, Nato. That’s ridiculous.”

 

“Well, I’m not being paid that, am I?”

 

“Half a million per minute is still insanely expensive,” Voltex said. “Even with your limited screen time, you’re going to make twice as much as Pulse. He’s playing two characters, and shows up in every episode.”

 

“I’m only making 14 million?!”

 

Voltex scowled. “That’s over a tenth of our total budget, Nato.”

 

“I’m the main character!”

 

One of the main characters, and you were. Until you decided bankrupting the entire production was worth more to you than being a true cog in the machine.”

 

“I am more than a mere cog.”

 

“You are. You also only have 14 minutes of screen time, and that’s assuming none of it ends up on the cutting room floor in Post.”

 

Nato huffed, turning and stalking out of the trailer without another word, shoving the wad of scripts into the trash as he did so. The door slammed shut behind him, causing the trailer to rock back and forth.

 

“Well,” Zippy said, after a long moment of silence, “that was… something.”

 

And it’s probably not the last I’ll hear of it, he thought to himself, before warily turning his attention to her. “Alright, Zippy. What did you want?”

 

“I’m concerned about the lack of romance,” she said.

 

He frowned. “For Anahera? She doesn’t strike me as the romantic type?”

 

Zippy chuckled. “No, no. Besides, I know you and Onaku added her in at the last minute for me, and I’m thankful. No, I meant the lack of romance in general. There’s no big kisses, y’know? No pounding hearts, no doe eyes…”

 

“Doe eyes? Are those even a thing?”

 

“I mean, things got a little steamy between Tekulo and Purple in Season Two, but you’ve got nothing like that this time around,” she said, sounding disappointed.

 

Voltex shrugged. “Well I mean, Terrorsaur’s in a funk because Pulse isn’t around.”

 

Now Zippy frowned, clearly confused. “But… Terrorsaur doesn’t drink. And Pulse is on set like, every day.”

 

“Not the actors, the characters. Why do I even need to explain that? You were talking about the script, and so was I.”

 

“Oooh, was there an unrequited love?” Zippy gasped, clapping her hands together excitedly.

 

“Something like that.”

 

“Juicy,” she said, sitting down in the other seat and leaning across the table toward him. “But not juicy enough. We need a romance, Tex.”

 

“Don’t call me that.”

 

“I mean, you’re gonna lose out on a whole demographic!” He winced as Zippy’s voice rose. “That duel between Tekulo and Purple in Season Two? That’s what got me into BZPGOT. It’s why I fought so hard to get a role. You’re a master with romance, Tex.”

 

“I’m really not. And stop calling me Tex.”

 

Please add a romance?” she asked, batting her eyelashes. “You know, maybe the plague is Sahmad’s way of flirting with Nato….”

 

Voltex shook his head. “No. No way. Not happening. Sahmad doesn’t do romance. And if anything, Nato is getting less screen time, not more. Not unless he’s willing to downgrade his pay grade.”

 

“What about Efandril and Jakura?”

 

“Um… no.”

 

“Ehks and Reyna?”

 

Voltex sighed, closing his eyes, reaching blindly for his travel mug. “Ehks is at least twenty years older than Reyna, and they don’t even meet.”

 

He took a swig, shuddering as he swallowed the stone-cold coffee.

 

“What about Chloe and Reyna?”

 

His eyes shot open, bugging out as the coffee went down the wrong pipe. He coughed, Zippy reaching across the pound on his back, an amused look in her eyes as his own streamed.

 

“Gods, what. Just, no,” he managed hoarsely. “No. Stop. These ideas are terrible.”

 

Zippy grinned. “What about Voltex and Efandril? There’s a connection there, I can feel it even on the page.”

 

“No, they would never work,” Voltex said, desperately trying to steady his features into a calm expression. He’d never hear the end of it if Zippy learned that he had, in fact, only cut a romantic subplot between Efandril and Voltex in the very final draft of the script. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’d hoped to get some rest. It’s an early morning tomorrow.”

 

“Of course, of course,” Zippy said, standing and making her way to the door before glancing back at him, a too-innocent look in her eyes. “One more suggestion.”

 

Voltex groaned. “Fine.”

 

“Voltex and Voltex.”

 

“Oh god, Zippy, no! Gross!”

 

Zippy only laughed, ducking out of the trailer before he could throw his travel mug at her.

 

“This is going to be a long shoot.”

 

To Be… Continued?

Edited by Lucina
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And I guess I'm the guy who used to be on the show but swings by the set every so often to see what's up before the security guards drag him away kicking and screaming. There's one on every television production.

"Remember when the comics forum had a lot of good stuff? Let's make that a thing again." -Kazi the Matoran

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