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Lords of Rock

The Rockaverse

a part of Lords of Rock, by Nulix.

The Land of Plenty

Nulix holds sovereignty over The Rockaverse, giving them the ability to make limited changes.
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A Rock Hard Land for Rock Hard Men.

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YEAR 2E,466 - 12 years after the Oblivion War.

In the depths of Dark Space, the Lord of Malice Oblivion emerged with a terrible horde of Phoenix barbarians, determined to cleanse the world in his fire. One by one the galactic kingdoms fell, but not all hope was lost. In the darkest hour a fleet of heroes from all parts of the galaxy, both Phoenix who fought for good and humans of old nobility alike, stood against Oblivion. And after a long war the lord of malice was defeated. From the remnants of the shattered worlds the victors formed the Holy Matranical Empire under the leadership of former Ulfirian Princess Anaszia Kusiliosc. The Empire now looks to reconquer their lost stars.  

But this story, for the most part, is set far from this empire. It’s set on a desert world. resting on the edge of charted space. Inhabited by natives from before the first age and the brood of criminals stranded there three-hundred years ago. This planet was rediscovered by the galactic kingdoms fifteen years ago. The kingdoms attempted to colonize the planet but Oblivion’s war destroyed all hope of that. And since then it has been in a state of chaos, ruled by warlords, barbarians and thugs. The Rock has long been divorced from the events of the galaxy. Its Phoenix were never part of any great empires or conquests, its people unfamiliar with the history the rest of space had lived. But as the Holy Matranical Empire tries to piece together their galaxy once again the Rock no longer has the luxury of being ignored.

It was a new age. And in this age anyone, even the least important of Rockian peasants, could change the fate of the world. Or at least, in Argent's case, become Captain of the Royal Guard and member of the Presidium: the ruling body of the Empire. Few knew he was born in a shack in the middle of the desert, having grown up never even hearing of outer space or planets beyond his.

There was the familiar wheeze of a starship's steam-powered core, a royal servant moving through the lounge where Argent and the others sat. The weather outside looked warm, unlike the Red City. "Now I must say a little sweat and heat is a nice change of climate," He murmured.

A body-suit of black ring-mesh chainmail hugged Argent's skin, with gaps at his joints so the metal would not ride up. Over the armour he adorned a silken black tabard, a coat of arms weaved in gold on the stomach. His legs crossed on his seat, a polished codpiece poking out between his thighs.

"After Raejo's winter it's nice to see some sun," The woman across from Argent replied. Blonde hairs tucked behind her ears and a friendly smile adorned her face. Caithe Azleir, the First Minister of the Crown. Across her chest were various gold pins that represented her statuses, one of the Wordsmith, one of a Sentinel of Knowledge and another of the First Minister - but by far the largest symbol was the Empresses embroidered coat of arms.

“Beautiful, beautiful. God, the sun," Chancellor Kovacs, another member of the presidium, chimed in. Her outfit was in layers, a gold weaved tunic beneath a black-short-jacket. Symbols of a diplomat hung off her neck. All three wore armbands of pure gold silk with the symbol of Eye of God threaded in pitch black. Designed by the Empress to look as striking as possible.

"You roast like a Vench pork out there,” Kovacs continued. Her distinct ramblings were a quality Argent and Caithe had grown accustomed to. “We uh, won’t be staying, uh, particularly long though. We’ve got to report to the Empress after this. And you know how the, uh, disgruntled families can be,” Kovacs made her hand into a pistol and placed her fingers to her neck, sticking her tongue out the side. “Not our fault, of course. We’ve been making so many new nobles it’s hard to remember the old ones.”

They’d been flying above the clouds of the Capima Islands for some hours now, on a stately visit to a family meant not to be involved in the state.

“Anora was once part of the royal family of Sor,” Caithe said, turning to face Kovacs, “Not just any old noble family.”

“Not, uh, not actually a noble family at all, anymore,” Kovacs replied, a toothy smirk growing on her face. Ratlike, almost.

They breached the clouds, swooping over the sandy banks of the Eullian archipelago. Flocks of flamingos took flight as the ship descended. The island was lush with greenery. Small ponds and streams stretching through the rain forests toward a clearing, where two men in black chainmail and skirted armour saluted up to the sky. Royal Guards; Argent’s men. Protecting what remained of house Maximus.

The landing horn echoed as uniformed crew moved through the lounge. The sound of the steam engine defusing in crisp release as they began to hover down to the grass.

The trio of aged statesmen exited the polished black cruiser out into the warm sun. A breeze wafted sweet fragrances of capima lilies; one of the many bright, tropical flowers that bloomed a path toward the stone estate. A tall structure surrounded by trees and walls. Moss covered limestone pillars at the estates corners that held statues of late Sorillian kings. Reliefs of great victories decorated its outer walls, and standing beneath the archway the last of remnant of that great kingdom stood.

“My, my,” A voice said, the melodious quality it once held faded from years of silence. “Visitors from the capital of the Empire come to the Capima Islands to hear our pleas.” Standing under the archway was a grey-haired lady in her sixties, brown eyes cradled by wrinkles. Her nose arched like the best of Sorillian nobility, whatever that meant anymore.

Beside her a young man towered; her features clear on his face, though there was another in him. Green eyes and a square, uneven jaw. Memories of his father.

“Anora! Augustus!” Kovacs exclaimed, her robed arms held wide as she waddled forward. “You’re looking! You’re looking strong,” She said, examining the youth. “Azleir, take a look at this kid.” Kovacs squinted at Caithe from beneath her sunglasses. “Built like a yak. A yak.”

Kovacs laughed, taking their hands. “Come on, let’s talk.” Kovacs escorted the two former royals into the gardens of their own house, Argent and Caithe following respectfully. But as they entered through the estate’s archway another figure shifted into view. Old armour, muscular arms folded on chest as he stood against the wall- like a guardian angel. A gruff beard covered his face, grey streaks now running through the red hairs. “Argent,” The man murmured as the Captain of the Guard passed. “Mister Michael,” was all Argent said before continuing on.

“The birds always come out this time of year; and the summer season brings the most beautiful rain showers. I take great joy in seeing them bathe, hearing them sing.” “It’s beautiful stuff. Red City is, uh, I hate to say it, a shithole, I hate that word, a shithole compared to the islands. I’ve been saying we should move to the city of Sor for years, haven’t I? Haven’t I Azleir?” Voices echoed from the wooden gazebo in the centre of the estate's gardens. Argent approached the assembled group sat around a table, a servant pouring tea into fine china. Pulling a seat up the man took his place. From a distance Michael strutted into the gardens, watching the group with suspicion.

Anora took a sip as the servant dismissed herself with a bow. “Now, for the reason we’re truly here.” Her eyes scanned over Caithe, Kovacs, and Argent. “I assume the Empress has received my request?”

"Yes. You wish for the Empress to acknowledge your claims," Caithe responded. Her eyes had faint lines of weariness. Perhaps from knowing that this would not be a pleasant affair, nor a long one.

“The war is over, the lands of the old nobility are again under the banners of the Matranical faith,” Anora said. There was a wide smile, nervously kept up as if dropping it would do the same for her claims. “My family ruled these lands… surely it’s time to reinstate our titles?”

“Yes, you speak of the Sora System,” Kovacs said, holding her tea. “An ancient regime, so long ago.”

Anora kept her smile. “It was… fourteen years ago.”

“So long,” Kovacs continued wistfully. She lowered her cup. “Listen, Anora, darling. You’re not wrong. We are reconquering the lost worlds. The problem is, they’re not yours anymore.” Kovacs sighed. “We’re in negotiations with… new lords all over the place, they’re so many of them. Argent has had his guards here to protect you and your family on these… beautiful islands, the treasury has kept you comfortable. I would describe this as sort of a, a lottery winning, miracle mile situation.”

"And we are grateful that cousin Anaszia has been so generous. Yet still we long for our nobility,” Anora replied. “We haven’t left the archipelago since the war... Augustus wants to join the Knights and I long to taste alien air again. Anaszia’s claim to royalty is the same as ours... our families have age old treaties by marriage. Surely she must have some loyalty.”

Caithe looked at her with genuine sympathy, “As much as she would like to, the Empress cannot reinstate your titles. And if... the Empire recognized you as nobility, your claims to those titles would have to be recognized as well."

"I don't understand the issue. Let us recognize the claims. Sorillia has been conquered, and I am the last of my line, the rightful queen of these lands," Anora replied. “I can rule them.”

"The Empress won’t give you your land back, and so she cannot recognize your nobility since your nobility has claims to the land," Caithe explained. "And thusly here you must stay." She paused. "I'm sorry, if the situation was less delicate perhaps-"

“The Sora System stretched from Bakobay to the Land of the Baonauts," Anora snapped. Her smile was gone. "From Wild Space to the Rift. It was grander than anything your empire has managed to assemble in its tenure. And I am her rightful queen."

“A queen without title or power ain’t much of a queen now is she? See that's the big difference between you and the Empress, the way I see it,” Argent pitched in, playing with a sugar cube between his teeth. “Otherwise you wouldn’t be begging. Now our empire is as persistent as sand. Can’t very much say the same for yours though, now can I, Miss Anora? Ain’t nothing left of your home now.”

“And what's left of your home, Argent?” Michael intruded. Argent turned as the burly man marched toward the gazebo. “Because last time I visited I had shot a bullet through you and we had conquered it with a single dreadnought.” Michael grinned, predator like. A loyalist to the end. A loyalist to a dead kingdom, and the family that remained of it. “Your home was our bitch. And when our kingdom fell our colonies fell with it. That’s right, Argent. Your home- our colony. What’s the last ten years been since then? Civil wars and petty squabbles?” Michael squinted at Argent. “So tell me, Captain. What’s left?"

Argent looked at Michael. His face held more repulsion now than when it stared down the barrel of the gun. A bead of sweat rolled down Argent’s forehead despite the pleasant weather. He still saw the sun before him, Alarisset’s curves doing little to shield him. The last real ruler of the Rock.

There were small bamboo huts in the distance, running along a white river. Crops richer than any he'd seen in his lands stretching along its banks. A village of Sudean people. The men stood hunched in the hut entrances, but their women were nowhere in sight. Instead they sat by him, in fear. In the palm of his hand he held the sweaty breast of one and in his ear was the lips of another. A mesquite smell filled the air as fire burned in the distance.

The feeling of soft skin shifted into the rough of stone, his hand rubbing along the side of the clay house. The small adobe homes came in all sorts of different shades but they all shared the same cracks. Creaks accompanied every step he made on the wooden walkway. Men in brimstone hats watched in fear, careful not to do anything that would anger the man. Women did not dare look up at him as they passed but the children peered from behind their mothers. Argent could see his nose in a few of them. This was his tribe. His people. The Skylanders. Though they had different races and skin-colours they all shared the same past. The descendents of pirates, Sorillian speaking, though they'd long forgotten where they'd come from.

No. Now they were simply Rockians. Survivors. By any means necessary. And Argent was at the top of the food chain. Here he could walk about freely, for any man fool enough to attack him in his own land would learn why Alarisset had entrusted him as her top enforcer.

There was still much that escaped her though. Cool wind caressed his face and the smallest noises echoed around him. The healer Damou had warned him of the caverns, of the lands beyond the desert, far north in Alakat’s Maw, on the peaks of the mountains. Argent had seen things in the nights, the wandering nomads, ants being swept away by animals he never could name. Men whispered that forests lived among the deserts and lights blinked without source in sandstorms. Ancient structures, covered with sand. They'd fought in the dunes and among the rivers but there was still much of his world that he had never seen. Much that brought back nightmares. Tales he'd heard as a child. Tales he could never forget.  

“I’m afraid the answer is a no,” Kovacs’ voice cut in. “The treasury is willing to raise your weekly stipend, we’ve got more money now that we captured the Pollusian Shipworks, the new tariffs with Neijei are in effect... you’re an important part of the empire, just a part that has to remain here… in safety.”

Kovacs echoed on as Argent looked away. For a moment he was back on that faraway home he had left so many years ago. What had happened to it?

“You could, you could see all the uh, the fire and brimstone in her eyes,” Kovacs laughed as they made their way down to the pathway back toward their cruiser. The meeting was over, and the setting sun rested on the treetop horizon. Caithe pursed her lips, “Can you blame her?”

From the cruiser a figure emerged, a crewmate, holding his black naval cap down on his head as he ran forward. “Lady Azleir, Lord Rapedo, Lady Kovacs! We have a telegraph!” The crewmate called, raising a printed scroll in the air as he ran.

The crewmate breathlessly approached the trio, before outstretching the paper to them. “Report from central. A Matranical vessel has been downed. The Meritocrat, reportedly at half crew. Severe engine failure.”


“The Meritocrat? Ain’t that a transport vessel?” Argent asked as he scanned over the telegraph.

“It was transporting King Horocrat’s Sceptre,” The crewmate said. At the name a collective pause came over the presidium members, as if a bomb had just dropped. Even Kovacs, in her limited military knowledge, knew of King Horocrat’s Sceptre. The most powerful piece of artillery the Empire had ever built. A twenty-inch barrel gun. Powerful enough to siege cities from a distance and shoot ships from the sky. A devastating piece of weaponry. Whoever had that gun could do unthinkable damage to their enemies.

“The Imperial Domicilian is still trying to figure out who authorized the transport. Could be the Knights, the Military,” The crewmate’s eyes blinked up at Argent. “Perhaps the Royal Guard.”

Argent glared at the crewmate. Under the black-cap was not still a boy but barely a man.

“Where’d it crash?”

***



The Rock. So named because of its big ass rocks. At least, that’s what the two men sitting off the edge of one assumed. Above them stretched a pale blue sky. The sun was blinding as it reflected off the desert around them, but their old eyes had grown accustomed to the harsh light. On the horizon before them flat rock turned to shifting dune, an endless sea of sandy waves. That’s where you got lost. The flat earth could be farmed. Built on. But the dunes, the shapeless desert - that was a wild land of nomads and nightmare creatures.

That’s why the two old timers stayed by their town. Schittle was nothing more than a collection of wood and adobe houses, all circling a single, massive well. Protected by old walls, built by their grandmothers and grandfathers. It was small, unimportant, but it was home.

On the edge of it all, where the desert truly began, Ackleton and Źambra sat quicksand fishing.

“Now I tell you Źambra these stones in’ be’ a changin’,” Ackleton muttered.

“Nethen’ be changin’ but what gang come into town with his men, been like that since the day of Northboroughs fell,” Źambra said. “Rememberin’ those days and them peace, before them god damn southmen came in with their armies.”

“Yeh, the days we huntin’ them Sudas,” Ackleton said. “Fightin’ for the Northboroughs. Uniform and everything. You and me, bein’ young men again. Now that’s somethin’ I dream about many a day.”

Źambra laughed as he crossed his legs. An old wheeze. They could still remember the days when all the Skylanders were united. Fighting the Sudeans. Before the decades of warlords. Before the systems came and tried to colonize them.

Ackleton let out a long whistle. His gaze had shifted from the quicksand to a nearby beetle ranch outside the town walls. A dark skinned woman with wild knotted hair had bent over to change the food stacks, giving a keen view of the ashy legs beneath her dress. “Boy, I tell you that there Gorgon daughter… she be ripe for breedin’.”

“Ye’ old bastard...” Źambra said through what few teeth he had. There was a sudden tug on his line, the harsh rope ripping through the quicksand below their hanging feet. Źambra laughed, standing up to reel in whatever he’d caught. “I got it, I got it, I got-!”

With a thunderous boom Źambra’s fishing pole snapped in half, the rope flying down into the sands. Źambra looked in fear at his pole, and then at Ackleton, whose gaze was fixated on the horizon. That boom was not from Źambra’s pole. It was from whatever was falling from the sky.

Engulfed in flame and smoke the two could see a ship plummeting toward the earth, its sounds deafening even from a distance. The ship disappeared behind a dune, an explosion of fire blasting out and darkening the sky.

The burning wreckage skidded across the sands leaving a long scorched trail behind it. A symphony of foreign noise blared over the desert. The shrieking of the metal hull ripping apart across the dunes; the exhausted screams of fire blasting out as the burning engine’s flames escaped a weakened shell.

The passing nomads shepherding their cattle were knocked into the sand by the sheer force of sound. Their grasshoppers leaped off the ground and flapped their wings in alarm, only to be pulled down by the weights of the ropes between them.

The sky turned dark from the thick smoke pouring upwards from the new mountain of fire rising out over the dune. Leaving the cattle behind, one of the shepherds, Moth-From-Darkness, ran up the side of the dune.

With feet buried firmly in the sand Moth-From-Darkness reached the peak, looking down at what had crashed. A smoking metallic mass, creaking as chunks of its hull began to break apart and drop down upon the sand below with heavy thuds. Like a lit oil well the back half of the ship burnt into the sky. Even from this distance the nomad could feel the heat from the fire.

A strange feeling grew in the pit of Moth-From-Darkness’ stomach. A feeling that things were about to change. That being in the wrong place at the wrong time had altered her future for the worse.

A feeling shared by most close to the incident, including Pilot Palavan as she crawled out a hatch opening of what used to be the Meritocrat. In her arms was the body of Captain Belüt. Her senior office. Bearded, elderly, Ulfirian. They both wore the black and gold uniforms of the Empire’s military- now obscured by ash and blood. Palavan dragged her captain out into the sand, his legs completely motionless.

Palavan looked up from the man to the inferno at the stern of the wreckage. “Captain, the core. How do we stop the core?”

Captain Belüt wearily turned his head to the fires, even that small movement a strain. With a gulp of his own blood he raised a hand in the air, clamping it into a fist. The erupting fire imploded in on itself with an echoing bang, and the engine collapsed at the sudden impact.

Captain Belüt was a Phoenix. Palavan had known this since she was assigned to his crew, but never had she seen his powers at work before. The fire started to subside. The sky peeked through the smoke. Steaming hot water began to flow from the cracks in the hull.

Belüt breathed heavily, looking up into Palavan’s green eyes. “We… were not supposed to be here,” he said. There was pain and fear in his voice. “We were not supposed to be...” His words choked off into a gurgle as more blood leaked from his mouth.

“Captain?” Palavan swallowed hard as the man slumped in her arms, dead-eyed as his wounds overtook him. The Meritocrat had landed. And every soul within a fifty-mile radius had been witness.