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The Ultimate Organization IV

The Ultimate Organization IV

This is no longer the age of heroes. This is no longer the age of Knights in shining armour. This is the age of warfare, of soldiers and mystery men lurking in the shadows. This is a new world. A cruel world. And we have no business in it.

23,808 readers have visited this universe since Nulix created it.

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Introduction

INTRODUCTION: "This is no longer the age of heroes. This is no longer the age of Knights in shining armour. This is the age of warfare, of soldiers and mystery men lurking in the shadows. The Sora System has fallen, and though its statues will crumble we still remain. This is not the world we fought the Brotherhood in. This is a new world. A cruel world. And we have no business in it."

ImageThe universe is changing, Kingdoms built upon rocks in space now turn to ash in the fire of war, and the Ultimate Organization, a group of heroes once destined to save the world now find it is no longer saveable. The Princess Vitalia used a group of Ulfirian Assassin’s known as Seed to murder the rest of her bloodline and capture the throne of Sor for herself. But Seed, led by a former Knight named Sentrius, had other plans. Bigger plans.

Sentrius led Seed into a new world where they allied a creature and weapon in one. A gargantuan plant of immense size and power, capable of conquering many worlds at once. With his new weapon Sentrius returned to the Sora System and captured the throne of Sor. But no one realized at what cost, for on his journey to the beast Sentrius unleashed a greater evil. One that the Phoenix called a God long ago. Sentrius unleashed Oblivion, and with his power and influence Oblivion raised an army in the west with one goal in mind: to conquer the world.

Following an attack by Oblivion Sentrius appeared to die, leaving when Seed needed him most. The plant perished with it’s master and his lover, Nai, assumed control of Seed and their lands. Seed, still technically a vassal of the Ulfire system though rivalling them in power, now find themselves confronted by the other systems retaliating to the destruction of Sor with war of their own. But there was a hope: a council, led by the Phoenix Wizard Wu Woon. A gathering of all heroes to try and resolve the chaos before it began. But it was unstoppable, and before the council even began Wu was murdered. The council continued without it’s leader, and at it's end the heroes realized that there was no solution. No answer. And to some, no hope. Now, six months to the day the council had concluded, and the Ultimate Organization finds itself spread out across the galaxy.

Wing and Tera Roth headed to the West into the wilds of Dark Space, and the heart of Oblivion’s newly conquered lands, to try and fight a war on their own, and save what little they could. Xane and his partner Mellodia sought to escape the chaos in the far east, to the land of the Baonauts, finding an abandoned Sorillian exploration station and using it as their own to discover new worlds. Caithe, accompanied by a small team of protectors, stayed in the North East Space despite the war in an attempt to translate her mystic book the Mürshlatan, in the hopes that a new answer could be found within it’s pages. Darius, used as a pawn and somehow connected to Oblivion, remains locked away in a realm of the Dead World, trapped forever and never to return. Nulix and Bella fled to a colony, the last construct of civilization, far south of the North East space, where they and the other colonists hope to remain until the warring forces destroy each other and the North East space is safe to return to, and rebuild.

It is currently the First of June, 2252. The new chapter begins now....

THE ULTIMATE ORGANIZATION IV: The Ultimate Organization is a sci-fi, fantasy series set in a mythical world. The threads typically have multiple storylines and confusingly complex plots. We don't really treat it like a game and don't worry about mechanics usually, the rp is mainly focused on the storytelling. Magic in our world is usually relating to Phoenix, a race of people who can control elements, mainly fire. To learn more about the history of the world you can read the History section of the previous threads, which are provided below by link.

The Knights
The Ultimate Organization
The Ultimate Organization II
The Ultimate Organization III

One of the most confusing parts of the UO is the technology - it's bad! The UO is barely sci-fi, it's essentially a fantasy series... with spaceships. The technology level is sort of a mix of medieval fantasy and steam-punk depending on where in the UO-universe you are. The guns are from the 1800's as are the space-ships, as little sense as that makes.

CHARACTER CREATION: This is a sequel to the UO III so as a new player at times it may be a bit like being a season 4 character on Lost. It’ll be difficult to keep up but there is a way for new characters to enter. The colony welcomes people from all across the North East Space, and so you can enter as a new character with limited knowledge of the threads plots who has fled the war engulfed systems to start anew there.

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MAPS AND MEDIA:
Dejure Map of North-East Space

WORLD HISTORY: The following the suggested history in the book of Matran, though there is no way of knowing what events are true and what are myth.

The Spread of Mankind:
The planets have gone through much age, being settled and resettled over the course of time. Originally there were two sister worlds floating together in space. One planet was far more advanced than the other, thousands of years ahead. They created star-ships and flew over, making first contact between the two worlds. However, the advanced men, the race of Neahian's, did not come in peace. They conquered their sister world and enslaved those who resisted, mutating them: giving them the unnatural ability to control the elements so that they could fuel war machines. Soon the Neahian's had conquered all there was to be conquered and the two planet's had peace for hundreds of years until their fire-wielding slaves, the Phoenix, rebelled. The Neahian home-world burned along with all it's technology. The sister planet was abandoned, the citizens wanting to escape the wrath of the Phoenix by any way possible. Ships flooded into space, each of them going outward, alone, as far they could. The remnants of the old worlds scattered across the universe until they found new worlds to settle. And they would settle, on thousand of worlds, and build new lives. The settlements were comfortable think that they stood alone in the universe, the history of how they had arrived now lost. Most no longer had their ships, or the knowledge of the ships that they had arrived in.

Image


Ancient History:
They lived alone in their ignore for ten-thousand years until contact came, from either the west: from the Phoenix and the Empire they had crafted, or from the Neahian Empire in the east, which had been founded by the single surviving ship that had escaped the burning homeworld. The settlements joined one of the Empires until at last they battled. The Phoenix, this time, were defeated, and the Neahians killed nearly all on their capital. The Phoenix who survived were imprisoned in the mountains of Bao, never to escape. The Neahian's now ruled much of the known world, but on their capital, the planet of Matran, a rebellion was brewing. A messenger acting as an agent for a single, all powerful God led a revolt against the pagan Neahian's. The Neahian's, after years of resistance, were defeated and banished from their capital, which became the holy world for the Matran religion. After the fall of the Matran the rest of their empire too collapsed and the worlds were once again scattered and alone.

Matranical Period:
The rebirth of the Matran as a planet for God marked year 1 for the worlds. From the collapsed Empire worlds began to form their own Kingdoms, some growing on their own planets and some conquering many. This would continue for over a thousand years, all the while the Phoenix remained within their icy prison of the mountains of Bao. Far in the south of space the Helexicon Empire was growing and was looking for a way to conquer the Matranical Kingdom's in the north. In the year 1665 the Helexicon sent a ship to the mountains of Bao and they offered the Phoenix there, who had been turned into savage barbarians, an escape. The Phoenix accepted. They were given armour and cloaks of white, ships, ranks, swords of bronze and helms of gold, and were told to conquer the world. And they did. The Phoenix Knights conquered the Northern worlds and under the Helexicon rule the word's of God became illegal, an all it's followers were brutally abused by their Phoenix overlords. This would continue for nearly two hundred years until the year 1830 when, on the world of the Matran, the northerners revolted. After seven days of battle and death they re-conquered their holy world. Following the victory more rebellions followed. The Phoenix Knights, though more powerful, were severely outnumbered, and soon their order surrendered. The Helexicon Empire collapsed, it's home-worlds in the south invaded by the newly liberated Northerners.

Modern Period:
The liberated worlds quickly created new governments, much of their culture and way of life now derived from Helexicon. The Helexicon Empire collapsed into a small fringe in the east which was too eventually absorbed by the newly formed Kingdoms. The Kingdoms all signed the Treaty of the Crosses in Eighteen Thirty-Nine which proclaimed that all Phoenix were to be hunted and killed until their blight would be forever rid from the universe. The Phoenix Knight's were disbanded and slaughtered, and, on the Capima Islands, in the city of Sor, the capital of the newly created Sora System, the Knights were reborn, now as an order loyal to the Kingdom and open to all men and women of the system. The Sora System and the other newly formed systems prospered in the following 400 years. New technology such as steam-power and gun-powder revolutionized warfare and ships in the modern period, allowing the new systems to expand to previously unconquerable worlds, civilizing and incorporating the primitive humans on them. In the year 2244 the systems faced their biggest threat. In the seas of Wild Space an evil group of Phoenix Rebels grew. The Brotherhood, led by the villain Scourge, waged a war on the systems that threatened to bring them to annihilation. A group that was integral to stopping the Brotherhood was the Ultimate Organization, who were led by a Phoenix themselves. Once the Brotherhood was defeated the Sora System, and the King of Sor, Augustus, made a change. He formed the Church of Sor, an independent Matranical faction which stated that the Phoenix were to be forgiven. They were no longer hunted in the system, and for the first time in history, they were treated as equals. That was eight years ago. It is now new midyear 2252 and the Sora System no longer exists.

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#, as written by Nulix
"This is no longer the age of heroes. This is no longer the age of Knights in shining armour. This is the age of warfare, of soldiers and mystery men lurking in the shadows. The Sora System has fallen, and though its statues will crumble we still remain. This is not the world we fought the Brotherhood in. This is a new world. A cruel world. And we have no business in it."

The words had come from one member of a council, set up by a dead Phoenix Wizard, about what could be done to prevent the total war facing the land of Sor. Their answer was indecisiveness nothing, for no option available on that grey day could stop the drum of war from beating. There was no right answer, and perhaps to some no greater good. Each left unsure of what would happen next, unsure if they themselves had made the right choice – and if that choice would ever lead them to happiness or peace again.

“This is not a story of heroes. It’s the story of those who survived even when all thing’s were against them, and those who did not.”

“This isn’t going to be one of these… tragedies, is it?”

The woman folded her arms across her chest, her long dark curls pressed beneath her skin. The white-bearded man sitting before her turned around in his chair, back to the oaken desk covered in scrolls. Aged parchment, spotted with ink young and old alike. The man’s wrinkled hands glided over the pages of his latest play, the curled edges sliding along his fingertips as they passed. “No,” The man smirked. “Not quite, my dear.”

Suddenly the room rocked, the papers sliding off the table and onto the unsteady wood floorboards of the ship. “What was that?” The woman questioned, glancing to the room’s entrance. The old man frowned. “Trouble.”

In the brightly lit lounge of the ship the rest of the family watched in terror as black-armoured figures moved in through a forcibly opened airlock. Bardiches and daggers were clasped tightly in dirty, deprived hands of the bandits. The woman and her elderly father emerged from his workshop into the main-room, in time to see, between a number of boarded bandits, their leader step forward – a filth covered, greasy blonde man with a half grown moustache and several gold teeth.

“Welcome to civilization!” The leader spat, his off-colour spit traversing the air and splattering the hostage held passengers in the face. “You folks made that long journey, I can tell. Travelled far and wide te’ get here. And ‘den, at that last second, you have te’ incredible misfortune of running into us.” From his back his bandage wrapped hand pulled out a long, spike lined staff. “And that is bad news.”

Suddenly the ship rocked again, this time in the opposite direction. The refugees glanced over to the airlock opposite the one the pirate’s boarded upon, as the familiar clicking of an attaching vessel could be heard from beyond. The door opened, a very messy entranceway of the newly attached ship beyond. The bandits stepped forward, weapons ready. Suddenly from inside the entranceway two leather-bound orbs flew forward, white smoke emitting from them rapidly. The bandits looked down as the ship was engulfed in smoke. The world began to disappear in white, and their comrades beside them became harder and harder to see. And in the chaos a figure flew forward from the entranceway, hard leather-armour bound over a flowing green cloak. He flew past the first two bandits, a long, wooden club wrapped in leather in each hand smashing them across the face. He hit the ground and rolled, flinging the clubs into the legs of another bandit, sending him to the ground. Our hero rose speedily and smashed the man down in the chest before ducking the swing of another. The hero in green brought both clubs across in one blow, a swoop that hit the bandit off his feet and sent him flying into the wall.

The green-man began to stand again, the four bandits lying unconscious or injured around him. The daughter stared as the smoke cleared and his face became more visible. He had messy golden brown-hair, bright eyes, sharp features and a once smartly trimmed beard now overgrown down his neck. His form was muscular and his breathing heavy from the surprise attack he’d launched. In front of him one bandit remained – the leader.

“I… I really can’t keep catching you out here,” The man frowned as the bandit leader dropped his weapon and rose his hands in the air. He pulled a pair of shackles from the waist of his green-robe. “How long have you been out? A month?”

“Three weeks,” The bandit leader replied, looking at his feet.

“Three weeks, and you’ve already got yourself a gang of thugs. Where do you get these guys?” The green-hero shackled the man before pushing him to the ground. “Right, you’re coming with me back to the capital. And you, my fair friends, have earned yourself an escort to safety!” The man exclaimed with a smile to the family on the ship, who had begun to approach cautiously. “Welcome to civilization!”

“You saved us,” The old man said in disbelief as our hero continued to shackle the defeated criminals.

“It’s my job. I’m a member of the Solar Guard,” He called as he continued. “And I assume you and your family here are trying to get into our system, right?”

“Yes… our ruler, he was mad. A villain,” The old man explained. “We’ve heard legends of a better place… of the King under the Sun.”

“And those legends are truly true,” The green-man nodded tiredly as he began to push the criminals onto his ship. “Just give me a moment to get these boys on-board, then I’ll smash their ship off yours and we can get going.”

“Wait!” The daughter called, causing the hero to turn at the entrance of the airlock. “What’s your name?”

“My name-” The man began, a mischievous smile growing on his face. “Is Roastakos.”

“Roast tacos?” The old man spat, disdain and disgust immediately sweeping over his face. “No, what?” Roastakos replied. “You’re named after roasted tacos?” The daughter frowned folding her arms as she stared at the strange man. “Get off my ship!” The old man exclaimed, punching a fist into his open palm. “King under the Sun my ass,” The mother scowled as she searched for rotten fruit to throw at the man.

“No hold on!” Roastakos began. “Roastakos is a very old, well respected-“ His voice was cut off as a loud, annoying, rustic sounding beep began to echo through the ship.

“Oh my god, what is that,” The old man cried as he covered his ears. The beeping continued, it’s sound comparable to a violently vibrating table. “Wow, stop that,” The daughter said as the noise continued to pummel their eardrums.

“That’s my alert, someone else is in trouble,” Roastakos muttered as he jumped aboard his ship. “Listen, just stay here alright!” He called as the airlock began to close. “I’ll be back soon!”

“That’s right, get out of my house,” The old man said.

“I’ll be back!” Roastakos repeated as it shut.

“That’s right, get out of my house,” He said again.

As his ship detached Roastakos leapt into the pilot’s seat, smashing down on the radar and causing the ear-shattering beep to die out in a long and unpleasant manor. “Harassed for being a hero... I guess it’s just one of those days.” On his screen he could detect another blip of a ship sending out a distress signal. He sighed. “I need a holiday.” His gaze floated toward the picture of a brown-haired girl tucked neatly beneath several books atop the control panel. “Somewhere warm, somewhere sunny,” He whispered dreamily as he flew to the newly attacked ship. “Somewhere new.”

***

Beneath a blanket of deep blue a valley lay before Nulix Princeton. He lay into the leather of his chair, resting his sore back into the material as much as he could. His eyes remained closed as he flew, the sun filtered through thick ship glass warming his skin. His left hand hung out onto the wooden wheel and in the background the gently melody of a record played into his ears. And though his mind and body were sore, it’s sweet, scratchy noise gave him peace.

The grey and orange form of the Olanaut sailed beneath the sky, gliding through a landscape of white cloud. Mountains of cloud stretched before the small ship’s form, valleys and steeps dipping between them, onward to the edge of the earth and forever more they came. Nulix flew past peaks higher then the highest of Bao, and through canyons deeper then the deepest mines of Ulfire. Rocky waves of white shot up from the sea of sky, the Olanaut’s hull gliding just over their reach and onward beneath the shining sun.

And as our Sky Sailor traversed the ever-changing horizon his mind wandered, the music seeming to ease the thoughts out of him - thoughts of things that were and things that were no more, thoughts of memories and regrets. Of faces, laughs, lips and places long past. Nulix Princeton was almost always engulfed by regret. They plagued his mind at all times, but what got him through was the thought that he could fix things. He would fix things, he had fixed things, for he was Nulix Princeton – and there was no one with quite the drive as he, would be repeated, again and again. But now, he knew, those things would never be fixed. Those placed were gone, those people were different, and be it the frosty forests in the north of Iceveng or the kiss of his companion in Sor he knew that they would never be experienced again. They would stay as they were – abandoned unsatisfactory.

And so what now kept him going, here – at the end of the world?

The sound of a miniature bell opened his eyes. On one of the machines before him a new message had printed. His green eyes looked over the freshly inked words and after a moment he reached out for a copper microphone resting on the control-panel’s wooden top. He pressed down a button, and another sound of the bell indicated his voice was heard.

“Hey - that sounds good. As for the lunch I think in baked goods I’d prefer blueberries actually – in terms of eating though its strawberries, blueberries are disturbing in raw texture,” Nulix said as he leaned forward in his chair to better examine the landscape before him. “And nope, not helping transport. Just got away to do a atmospheric swoop…” He squinted out at the sunny vista. “Still nothing but clouds. There’s never been a day where it hasn’t been, and then we can’t go down because of the forest everywhere, we’d be hit out of the sky,” He frowned into the microphone. “I’ll be back in an hour or so I can start working on the bread so see you then… and Bella, I love you too.”

He still had something at the end of the world.

The record ended. Princeton placed the microphone back and began to turn, on route for the colony and his descent. The Olanaut sailed through the clouds and over the walls of the colony, approaching the large hanger on it’s centre west side. The tiny cruiser lowered through the open roof of the iron structure just as the clouds began to part above. The colony stood in a clearing on a hill, and was one of the only places on the planet where the skies could be clear, a small gap in the ever-present clouds of the world – one of the reasons it was chosen by the Neahians.

He exited the ship, locking the doors behind him before looking around the small hanger. The Olanaut matched well the many Neahian ships in the hangar, though between the line-ups of pale, curved vehicles there was the occasional beaten refugee ship in bright, worn colours and dented metal hulls. The Olanaut was a bit of both – a Neahian privateer ship, in a life long past, and gifted to Nulix by Taveck on their travel the colony.

Princeton pocketed his keys as he walked through the colony’s dirt roads, rich wood and metal built houses and shops lining the way he marched, the remaining rain water still dripping from the rooftops. Families and workers from all across the northeast space walked through, farmers escorting their oxen. Their faces and clothing was from all over, and the languages of the colony reflected that. Neahian was the majority, barely beating out Sorillian in words spoken. Baon came third, followed by Vench, which made most official signage a bit of a pain to write, as no one language ruled supreme. Though the people were universal the government structure was Neahian: an oligarchic council ruling over many. Campile was on it as was Taveck and Jakson, the head of economy, government, and military each. Under the council things got simpler, with people working their skills, helping however they could, doing whatever job was needed. The colony was a simple place, for all there wanted to survive.

The sound of pot’s smashing broke Nulix’s thoughts. “Thief!” A voice called. Nulix hurried forward onto another street. A shop-keep stood in the middle of a ruined-stand, his finger quivering down the street. “Thief!”

Nulix turned to see where he was pointing. Running down was a poorly dressed man, a large vase under his arm. “Hey!” Nulix called, running forward. The man turned at the call and paused as form his waist Nulix pulled out his pistol and took aim.

“Hands up!” Nulix said, glancing around the street to see if any guards could be seen. The thief stared at Nulix before gradually beginning to move again. “I said hands up!” Nulix screamed, pointing his gun further to try and stop the man. But from Nulix he had no fear, and simply continued on down the road. Nulix cursed under his breath and began to run after him when suddenly the thief was smashed off of his feet.

“Well, well, well,” Came the voice of Big Ben, a Sorillian giant of a guard. He stepped out of the side street from where he struck the thief and swung his mace with an arm. His body was mammoth, and it stretched the tight, leather Neahian guard armour to it’s limits. “Got ourselves a thief, eh?” Big Ben murmured as he walked around the down thief. “By my reckoning that breaks colony law.” At the words Ben sent his mace down on the man’s legs, causing him to cry out in pain.

“Benethorn!” Nulix called as he approached the scene. “Benethorn stop, he’s disabled.”

“White flag!” The thief spat at last. And this, these words of meaning in the colony, caused Benethorn to pause. “White flag,” The thief cried again.

Benethorn smirked. “No flag.” The mace came down upon the thief’s head.

Nulix stared as Big Ben pulled his mace out of the man. “He surrendered.”

“...I didn’t believe him,” Big Ben murmured as he began to trod off, leaving the body for someone else to clean. “About your business, citizen,” he hissed, pushing past Princeton and continuing on his route. Nulix stood there for a moment, waiting as the cleaners came to dispose of the body, before looking down at his pistol still in hand. As much as he wanted to have stopped the thief, he couldn’t shoot. And the thief knew it.

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A lone ship, shot through the unmapped breaches of space, seemingly undetected. Seemingly, because no one quite knew what stood beyond the reach of civilization. Beyond even the reach of wild space and the depths of dead space. Sor had planned for it, yes, but those plans went up in flame,s much as Sor itself once Seed conquered it. So a space station was left, abandoned on the moon of a colonized world. Along with it, an experimental ship, created for exploring what lay beyond. the known reaches of space.

The stationed had remained forgotten and abandoned for many days, until Xane and Mellodia, going on a few rumors, had rediscovered it. With their home gone, with civilization seemingly at it's brink, they had left to find something new. Xane had contacted his family, before he and Mellodia left for dead space, insuring that they had sufficient transport to the colonies, where some of their friends were journeying to. Once they were taken care of, all Xane and Mellodia had to take care of was each other. Their friends, splintered apart as they were, but still forever the Ultimate Organization, would be alright. They always were in the end. Wing and Caithe both had difficult journeys ahead of them, and while both Xane and Mellodia wished them luck, especially on locating Darius, Mellodia thought Wing's decision reckless one.

They also wished Bellatrix and Nulix luck back on the colonies. It was the beginning of a new start for many people. And if the war ever subsided while civilization lied in ruins, then the colony might just be the best bet to the Systems becoming something structured again. But they had no way of knowing for certain how the war would turn out. At best, all they could do for now is hope. But at the very least, they remained relatively safe.

Xane could nether bare to sit down and wait in the colony nor fight what seemed like a losing battle like Wing and Tera Roth, he instead wanted to find something to grasp onto, something to hope for. And as far as he could see, there was nothing in known space that gave him the slightest hint of hope. Something to stop all the war, to stop all the unrelenting evil of the plant and Oblivion. Perhaps what he was looking for lied...beyond.

Mellodia also searched for hope. But her hope was something different. While Xane seemed to be determined to find something vague, powerful, and mysterious that would aid them, she hoped for something akin to the discovery of Longbao but....grander. Civilization yet undiscovered. An army hidden away in a planet untouched by Sorillian hands. A place to settle down if the war ended with their home in shambles.

In truth neither of them knew what to expect. Both of them were prepared to find nothing. After all, it had been around three and a half months since they left the space station on the moon of the jungle planet and they had still yet to find anything substantial, just a spectacle of lights woven from the stars and the occasional lifeless planet. Luckily, the stationed stored more than enough food for a year's journey at the very least. It had nearly taken three days to pack it all, after all, especially with them having to contend with a hungry pair of schmickmunks who had somehow found their way to the base.

Even with the long journey, the young couple still found much to talk about in their travels...but tonight they simply glanced out the window, embracing each other tightly and silently contemplating as they viewed the sea of stars before them...then was when a small light began to blink in the corner of every room on the ship.

That was when it came into view.

***

On the boiling hot springs of Koaeth, there was a lone man sporting a cloak and silk pants and brown shoes above the boiling, natural springs. From a distance, the man seemed to be levitating over the hot springs. On closer inspection, one would find that to be a correct assumption. The man, Lun, appeared to be using the steam emerging from the hot spring's boiling waters to levitate himself upward as if he were but a leaf floating in the wind. His eyes were tightly closed and in his lap lay a map of some sort.

While Lun may have appeared serene and calm, which was almost never the case for him, until a few months ago, he was not meditating. He was concentrating, as his strained looking eyebrows would betray. Bubbles began to erupt from the waters of the hot springs at a quickened pace, none of them touching Lun, all of them circling around him. This was followed by rocks and boulders ripping themselves up from the ground, encircling Lun. Suddenly heat seemed to overtake the rocks as they splintered into tiny pieces, now encircling Lun as if he were a planet. And as soon as the plants began to sway back and forth, everything was dropped as Lun opened his eyes and greeted someone who stood before him.

"Didn't expect you to find me here..." he chuckled, still levitating above the hot springs as he waited for the person he was speaking to, to reply.

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#, as written by Nulix
As Lun spoke to the newly arrived presence another figure watched from between the nearby trees. She gripped onto the bark tightly, unsure what was going to happen next... though if the last few days were any indication she had a good guess.

***

A small rabbit galloped through weaving grasses and twisted root, it's brown furred paws moving him on toward his destination. Between the overgrown trees towering like mountains above the creature's head the sound of running water could be heard, and sure enough as it cornered around the thick column of wood the rushing waters of a stream could by seen. It quickly scurried toward the waters and, after looking up cautiously, began to drink.

The creature indulged in the cool drink, it's ears only flickering for a second as the wind began to pick up. The grass began to flatten beneath the gusts, and the water itself began to spout out as the wind increased. As it became stronger the rabbit rose it's head again and quickly tried to run off, only to smash into a harsh barrier of wind that had encircled itself around the creature. The rabbit could feel the air around it become tighter and tighter as the walls of wind closed in. And then it fell.

***

Feet bound in beaten, leather shoes stepped lazily across the leafs, swinging from her hand beside them a dead rabbit by the tail. Song made her way through the path and entered the small clearing between the thick trees. The pit of a fire still stood as did a few of their supplies scattered about the area, but nothing more. Nothing more permanent. Lun sat with his legs gross, carefully sowing a hole in one of their shirts. Song walked past, dropping the rabbit before him.

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"Only one this time?" Lun asked Song as she dropped the small beast before him. "Either their numbers are dwindling in the usual hunting spot...or you're slipping," Lun grinned, lightly chuckling at his pupil. "Either way, I'm grateful you brought it back so quickly. I remember the first time I had you hunt for hare and you were lost for at least two days."

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#, as written by Nulix
The small dot of a ship glowed on the circular radar, and through ship’s front window the outline of the vehicle could begin to be made out. Roastakos squinted as he leaned forward in his seat, his headlights illuminating the side of the dark ship. Along it’s metal panels there were markings, symbols he did not recognize grouped in strange ways. The vehicle was dark red, and though it was clearly a ship it was of a shape and design he was not familiar with. Roastakos began to time his thrusts as he lined up beside the ship. Strangely there were no other ships attached to it, no invading pirates or bandits to be seen. The windows were dark and lifeless, yet some sort of warning signal was emitting from within.

The man shrugged as he went back to his controls, beginning to align his airlock with that of the mysterious ship. The two aligned – poorly, but good enough to provide a safe vacuum to enter and exit. “You stay here,” Roastakos murmured as he pushed past the shackled members of the gang in the hull of his small ship. From a cabinet he pulled out a pair of smoke bombs and placed them in his pocket before grabbing his clubs from the wall. He held them in anticipation as the airlock began to open to reveal the darkness beyond. As soon as it did he flung the smoke bombs out into the darkness.

The white smoke began to pour out into the darkness, not a sound to be heard except the creaking of the floorboards, the distant chug of the engine, and the beeping of the distress signal. Roastakos poked his head into the dark ship before stepping forward. “Hello?” He called as he entered the dark main room, pressing a light crystal on his waistband that dimly illuminated his surroundings. “Hello, Hello-o?” He muttered as he began to walk through the main-room and toward the control panel. All the controls were marked with the same alien symbols that lined the ship, as did the distress signal. Roastakos carefully pushed the button and turned the distress signal off before turning and heading back through the ship.

“Well, this… looks residential,” He murmured as he passed through the main room – finely tailored chairs and carpets of rich designs and colours lining the main-room. He paused as he stepped on something uneven. Roastakos glanced down and lifted his foot off of a small, wooden horse. With a swallow he continued on. Roastakos crept down the ship’s hallway, clubs ready as he walked. He paused as he spotted a light... a single light, seeping out from the closed door of a room. “And here… we… go,” Roastakos whispered as he approached.

Suddenly the door behind him swung forward and Roastakos was grabbed by the back of his arm. He was thrown overhead, smashing into a bookshelf and having several volumes crumble down upon him. Roastakos rose up and began to swing his clubs violently as the towering foe faced him down. “Come on!” Roastakos screamed as he took two quick swings, causing the man to back up at each. “Come on!” He called. As he swung again the larger man rolled expertly beside him and sent a punch to his side. Now, Roastakos was a fairly well built man, and most punches, while they most definitely hurt, were not of the same level of body shaking magnitude as this.

He collapsed to the ground from the attack, putting all his body into flinging himself to the side a moment after to avoid another hit from the man.

Our hero managed to get on a knee and rise again, though his body ached like it hadn’t in… well, hours really, but still. He swung his clubs and exhaled deeply. “You wanna do this?” He hissed with a laugh. “You wanna Roastakos?! Lets Roastakos.” At the line Roastakos pulled out a third smoke bomb from his back and threw it into the man’s face. It exploded and the giant let out a scream as he staggered backward. “That’s right,” Roastakos murmured as he skated behind the man and shackled him.

“Alright tough guy,” Roastakos said as he pushed the man to the floor. “Let’s take a look at you.” His fingers went to a lamp and with a small twist of it’s knob steam began to pour in, igniting and illuminating the room with light. The man Roastakos had fought was pale and clad in an ancient form of armour. His face was hard, his nose and brow defined like a warriors helmet, and the rest of his features were equally those of a statue. Bunched blonde hairs came down on a blood soaked face, and beneath his heavy brow bright blue eyes stared out.

“Who are you,” Roastakos spat. The man squinted his eyes as he looked upon Roastakos: a look of curiosity. “Why’d you attack the ship? How’d you get on here?” Roastakos questioned, swinging his clubs. “Where are the kids. I saw the toys, man.” Roastakos paused as the man continued to stare in confusing. “I SAID WHERE ARE THE KIDS,” Roastakos screamed, smashing his club into the downed bookshelf beside them and breaking the wood in two. “That’s going to be your skull next now answer me! What is your name?!”

“Nam… languino,” The blonde man uttered at last, looking lost as the words escaped his lips.

“That… resembles language,” Roastakos murmured.

The man stared at him. “Nam… Terman.”

“Terman,” Roastako’s whispered. “Are you alone?”

The blonde man paused, trying to think of the words in his head, before finally responding: “No alone.”


***

Song stared at Lun unamused before searching her pockets. After a moment she threw a collar at Lun's feet. "It was on the rabbit," She whispered. "It belonged to someone. That means there's a house somewhere, a way out."

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He could see it all. Every moment, every fragment of an instant, over and over and over again, splintering pieces of memories replaying in excruciating detail. He could hardly speak from his screaming, his eyes burned from being held open. It was perfect, so perfect. He could see everyone of them, everyone he loved and trusted. Their laughs, their smiles, their hope.

His was a perfect madness: more times than he could count, more ways than he could have known possible, he got to watch each and every one of them die.


***

Highwind's eyes flickered open. The day was approaching evening. He slowly rose, his chest and throat sore and stiff. His fingers found his sword, and he used the long blade to prop himself to his feet. Stumbling forward, Highwind entered the next room.

"Anything?" he asked the solitary guard. The man shook his head, and Highwind nodded in relief. Ever since those first few days, they'd kept a guard. They always kept a guard now. Never stayed in the same spot more than two nights. It wasn't safe, nothing was safe anymore.

Highwind pressed a cool hand to his head. Things were getting worse. Highwind still was called regularly by Tera Roth, but six months into the war and they were losing badly. Highwind could not abandon the planet here, nor did he feel he would win the battle raging in the night. His homeworld would also be his tombstone.

Highwind nodded to the others in the room, brave men and women who were his personal guard. He recognized none of their faces. They were all new, from other squads. They were still trying to piece his last squad back together, still trying to find out whose arms and legs, whose guts, went into which body. Quite a bit was still missing, and Highwind knew where they had gone. Oblivion's army here feasted on only one thing: human flesh.

Highwind silently reviewed what he knew of Oblivion's forces on this planet. They were led by two men, both of whom Highwind had yet to face in combat. One was a monster, and the monsters he commanded were beyond anything Highwind had seen before. They were nightmares come to life, all teeth and claws and speed. They only hunted at night, but every night, people died from their attacks. The other man was a hunter, here to keep the first in check. Highwind had slowly been learning from the hunter, learning how to survive. So far he had been lucky... but all luck runs out.

"Check your equipment," Highwind croaked after a moment, his throat dry. He was handed a cup of water by a cute young girl who looked vaguely familiar. Maybe a sister of someone he'd known. "We leave in 10 minutes." Swallowing the water, he smiled gratefully to the girl, and then began attempting to limber up. He'd need to be prepared for anything tonight. But he knew he wouldn't be; he never was.

***

Tera Roth walked down the ruined street, shaking his head at the decaying corpses and the ruins of what had once been a sizable city. Now it was all smoke and death.

"Typical," he grunted to himself, squeezing past a toppled pillar into a doorway. "Purely typical. I wonder what the body count is so far. Not sure I want to know." He chuckled. "I'd probably go insane from how little I'm doing." He doubled over, pushing through a small hole in the back of the building and stepping quickly to the other side.

"I wonder how Wing's doing," he muttered. "All the others... I hope they're well. It's been a while since I talked to any of them, I should contact them again. Risky though. Always a risk." He reached out and touched a small switch, lighting a small lightbulb in the tiny room he had made his home.

He settled down on his bed, and pulled out a small piece of bread and cheese that he'd saved. Cutting out a piece of mold on the bread, he swallowed the rest with one gulp.

"Ugh, so hungry," Tera Roth groaned, flopping back on the bed. "I hope Wing gets here soon, it's already been a week. If I don't hear from him by tomorrow, I'll have to leave." He wiped his eyes, closing them in an attempt to get some sleep. "Darius..." he muttered. "I'm sorry... but there's no way. There's no way we can..."

A tear trickled down his cheek as Tera Roth drifted into slumber...

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"Or, it could mean there's a visitor and they brought their pet along with them," Lun offered as a counter-explanation, as he skewered the rabbit corpse and began roasting it over the fire. "Either way, this information is of some value. After we eat this lunch, we search for it's owners."

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200 Years Ago

Dear Reader,

I have witnessed a great many things during my short life. Things I’ve seen have come as a harsh realization that has now led me to these final weeks of my life. I am almost certain that I will perish, so I write these last words in hope that someone someday will read them and heed caution, for the inferno that will inevitably unleash upon the world will happen sooner than either you or I can predict. I am dubious that I will be able to stop this destruction, but hope is a funny thing that will catch you unprotected. I hope that when I reach the end of this book I will be recounting my heroic tale. However, my doubts are strong.


**

An autumn forest, coloured with browns, oranges, yellows and greens. The ground wasn't visible, instead covered by a thick layer of decaying leaves and foliage. Thick vegetation surrounded the area and specks of noon sunlight peaked through the dying leaves of the canopy, lighting up the path ahead. It was a beautiful sight, or it would be if it wasn't currently invaded by ghoulish, shrieking spirits that were trying to kill their prey.

Caithe felt her limbs being pulled harshly, new scratches and bruises replacing the old. It was enough to have one arm free, luckily the multiple books that were in her possession flew and knocked the spirits off her, but each relief didn't last long when new grasping ghouls replaced the old. She swore in frustration, aware that she was being pulled to the ground by their weight hanging from her body.

**

Strength. There are many men who waste their whole lives searching for strength and power. Eventually greed takes them here, to this world, to her domain, and like a spider on a web she weaves a network of manipulation to obtain true power. She exploits the greed of men, and each individual or group who arrive on this world leave with their wishes fulfilled, but not before she takes something even more valuable from them. Greed is the sin that invades the mind of every man, woman and child in each corner of the universes. It cannot be stopped. She kindles this fact to it’s full potential.

**

She couldn't see the others, not really, but she assumed that they had their section of attackers under control unlike her. Throughout these past six months Caithe became increasingly aware that she wouldn't have survived one month without Argent, Enigma and Spite Mask. She had been right about one thing at the council; Seed were after her and the Murshlatan, but their desperation was something that she had not expected. It was constant escaping, fighting, barely scraping through the universe to uncover the clues of the book and her past. Admittedly she felt guilty for dragging them into this arduous journey, but glad that they had come along with her as it was no joke that she wasn't strong, unfortunately for her it was almost embarrassing how weak she actually was. She tried to hide it but they knew, and so Caithe was forced to suck up her pride and focus on the one thing she was good at, not strength, but knowledge.

**

My name is Etzel Royer and I have seen everything. I have seen true, terrible power. I have seen the fall of civilizations, mass genocide, the destruction of worlds, governments, families, lives. My own life was destroyed because of this power and now I wish for revenge…no, not revenge, my flame for revenge died when I was a young boy. Instead, I wish that no other person will have to go through the pain that this power has inflicted upon so many others.

**

However the things that they were fighting at the moment were not Seed attackers, instead...."Crampanov you bastard!" Caithe swore, struggling to stand upright from the sheer amount of spirits that pulled her down. She had met Crampanov a few times and was incredibly annoyed that they had found him once again. She began to realize that she couldn't fight the ghouls and she wasn't sure how the others were fairing, panic beginning to seep into her veins.

"Spite Mask!" she shouted through the chaos.

**

It is knowledge. Knowledge is power. It is the ultimate power. She taught me that. It is her sole reason for existing. They come to speak to her, the source of knowledge, asking for her assistance in their quest for strength. She always responds to their requests for but a small simple condition, and the weapon that she gives them is nothing but a mere book, a page of words, or some simple directions, leading these men to their object of desire to cause death and carnage in their wake. Meanwhile, she searches for the knowledge of things unimaginable. Power that is beyond what any person could ever fathom.

**

"Enigma?!" Caithe yelled.

The weight of the spirits was now unbearable and she didn't know what to do. Usually they advised her to stay put, or run or...something, but there was no response and she could almost hear Crampanov laughing....

**

She writes her knowledge in a book, The Book, The Murshlatan. But hear this reader, the knowledge found in that book will cause the annihilation of time and space. Everything you have ever loved will be eradicated if The Murshlatan falls into the wrong hands. It will be the cause of the End, I am sure of it.

**

"Argent!!" Caithe cried.

There was only one thing she could think of to keep herself alive. She was almost certain that they were fine, they were strong, they were survivors, but she was not. Caithe used all of her strength to fight the ghouls hanging onto her and pinning her to the forest floor, the books helped to get them off her.

"Shit," she cussed as she got up from the ground and, hesitating for a moment, began to run away from the spirits who followed her with ear piercing shrieks. Unsure of how long she had ran, and now lost in the autumn forest, her escape was stopped when she reached a dead end; a lake. The lake was huge and covered in moss, branches and dead leaves. It was surrounded by trees, the only way to continue forward was to go around but....

**

Which is why I write now, my manifesto. I will share my plans in hopes that if I don’t do the job, you, my reader, will. It has to be done.

**

The lake was deathly silent. She couldn't hear the ghouls anymore. A shiver went up her spine as she calculated what she should do next.

"Crampy, Crampy...."

Caithe's eyes widened and suddenly a hand shot out from the lake, grabbing her leg and pulling her into the water. She screamed before water enveloped her and she began to be pulled down to the deep bottom of the lake....

**

In a few weeks I will kill the Wordsmith and destroy the Murshlatan, once and for all.

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Enigma dove into the water after Caithe, grasping her shoulder at the same time as his sword lashed out, cutting into the hand on her ankle. Crampanov reeled back and Enigma, as quickly as he had dove, broke the surface of the lake with Caithe in tow.

"Argent would be much better at this," Enigma said, eyeing the dark waters below. "Wordsmith, go for the shore, I'll keep Crampy tied up... hopefully."

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#, as written by Nulix
“Artillery!”

“It’s the bloody Vench Gaventorsten fourteen bloody inch guns!”

Rentu Skinnar stared up as suddenly the sky was illuminated by cannonade blasted from across the field and plummeting down toward them. Skinnar frantically looked forward at the line of swordsmen before him, chaotically stabbing out at the Phoenix soldiers before them – the space between ally and enemy so thin that the riflemen barely had room to shoot between their sword wielding allies. “Take cover!” Skinnar spat. “Retreat!”

Skinnar began to pelt back down the field they had made a bloody charge against, he leading the soldiers backward over the bodies that littered the battlefield. The ground opened as they approached, uniformed soldiers underneath the blackened grassland opening up the underground cavern with Phoenix power for the soldiers to retreat into. “Into the hole!” A Seed soldier yelled as he sat on the edge of the opening, indicating with white-gloved hands as much as he could for the soldiers to enter. With a dive Skinnar leapt forward with a line of soldiers, expertly landing in the pit and hurriedly moving out of the way for the next wave to jump in.

“Sir!” The lookout called, leaping down into the pit. “It’s coming down.’

“Close the hole!” Skinnar yelled at the man’s words. “It’s coming-!”

The earth closed as the remaining Seed soldiers fell to the ground, clawing desperately at the grass to let them back in as the Vench artillery fire blew apart bits of earth on the battle-field. The remaining Oblivion soldiers began to flee desperately down their side of the hill toward the hillside village that had acted as a makeshift fortress since it’s capture, though the cannonade was decimating most of the field. “Let us in!” The Seed soldiers pleaded, banging and crying onto the grass of the land. “God’s mercy, let us in!” The artillery fire ripped them off the earth, one by one.

“Bloody hell!” The Seed Commander said as he limped through the tunnel. “That’s a royal leviathan.”

“A thought they were hours away fighting at the Bako blockade, it’s chaos there,” Another yelled angrily.

“It’s one ship, one leviathan. That’s one hundred soldiers,” Skinnar murmured.

“And fourteen inch guns! Gaventorsten’s! That’s precise aiming, rapid fire, we don’t have a battle-field while those are setup and manned!” The commander cried.

“Enough! We had Oblivion’s forces numbered, with careful planning we can do the same to the Vench,” Skinnar said, glancing down to a dirty map laid out upon a table.

“It was the Ulfirian’s who gave us the intel about the blockade, they knew!” A soldier spoke.

“They knew nothing, the Ulfirian Military is our ally,” Skinnar interrupted. “We fought the main battle while they took the fortress, took out the Oblivionite catipults.”

“We traded their catapults for Gaventorsten Artillery, Skinnar!” Talon, a tall, well-dressed assassin spoke up from the corner of the cave. “And the Vench are going to blow them out of garrison with the leviathan.”

“That’s our chance then, we switch the plan we were going to do to the Oblivionite fortress and do it to the Vench!” Skinnar called as more bits of rubble came down upon them as the earth above became indented with artillery fire. “They’re going to pack up the artillery for the attack on the Oblivionite fortress. If Oblivion’s men still have it they’re decimated, one battle won, if Ulfire does then oh well. While they’re down Talon you do what you were meant to do to the Oblivionite commander to the Vench man, take him, hold his head out, we storm the ship while it’s landed!”

“Risky Skinnar!” Talon called.

“You don’t say?!” Skinnar yelled back.

“If the Leviathan got through then the rest got through, that’s dreadnaughts, thousands of men and bombs!” The Seed commander said.

“Well they’re not here now!” Skinnar explained. “If we get up there and there are more in the horizon we’re all dead, if we have an ounce of time to capture the Leviathan we have two options! One, Captain Gervian may have broken through the deadlock in the port of Otia King and can aid us; two he’s still stuck and we jettison the planet with the Leviathan. Understood?!”

“Yes sir!” The Seed troops called out.

Skinnar smirked. “Then let’s wait for the shaking to stop.”

***

Music played and loud laughter was carried through the streets as the Seed soldiers celebrated. From the top balcony of the Oblivionite fortress, what was once the village’s mead hall, Rentu Skinnar sat back in a rocking chair and stared out as the sun whisked away on the edges of the decimated and thoroughly destroyed battle-field.

It had worked. The Vench had landed to occupy the fortress, which was still occupied with battle between the Ulfire and Oblivion’s men. As the Vench moved in Talon had managed to enter the battlefield and take out the Vench Commander, giving Skinnar and the remaining Seed soldiers a chance to board the leviathan and commandeer the artillery and weapons the ship possessed. It was a quick surrender. Est. three hundred Seed soldiers left, forty Vench soldiers captured, twenty Ulfirian soldiers remaining, and, by the time Skinnar had occupied the fortress, zero Oblivionite soldiers left alive.

Skinnar had forced the Vench soldiers to call out to the rest of the fleet, telling them to avert the warzone and to falsely report that the battle was won. They were safe… for the night, at least.

“Skinnar,” A voice whispered.

Rentu Skinnar turned as from the entranceway Talon’s form stepped forward. He was a gaunt man, pale and with long black hairs. His face, and his eyes, had looked increasingly more empty as the war had continued.

“May I help you, Talon?” Skinnar whispered.

“The battle today did not go as planned,” Talon spoke as he stepped toward the ledge of the balcony, the perch cold compared to the warm celebration in the streets below. “We were supposed to corner the Oblivionite’s and I was supposed to go with the Ulfirian’s, take out the brain while you massacred the body into a retreat.”

“The Ulfirian’s ship was downed, they could no group up. Their attack went early and we tried to manage,” Skinnar murmured reasonably. “And then the Vench came, you know what happened. Your skills were used in the end.”

“Fighting the Vench… I was a soldier, Skinnar, not an assassin,” Talon hissed.

“You are an assassin in Seed’s army, Talon. In war sometimes an assassin must be a soldier,” Skinnar replied.

Talon shook his head. “Seed was never meant to be this. When did we become such savages?”

Skinnar laughed. “Six months ago, old boy.” He took a sip of his brew. “And you’re six months late of realizing.”

***

"And what if it's a warrior and he tries to kill you?" Song questioned as she knelt down and began to rip apart the creatures muscles, finding a juicy part and taking a bite. "You'll be outnumbered," She murmured, starring at the man as she ate the creature.

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"But afterwards, if he tries to kill you as well, then I guess you're out of luck," Lun shrugged, biting a chink out of the rabbit's leg. "After all, you never know who'll end up here and while you are a fairly quick learner, your training isn't nearly complete yet." Lun tossed the bones into a pile and shrugged once more as he grabbed another chunk of rabbit. "You can try your luck though, if that is the true goal of this rabbit's owner."

***
"Damn this confounding creature!" Spite Mask shouted, raising his hands up as the shadow surrounding the forest enveloped the creatures that attempted to grab him. As the spirits were distracted by the shadows, which they wouldn't be for long, he slipped away from their clutches and found a large tree. Drawing out his knives, he began to scale upwards until he made it to the tallest branches, at which point, he began to hop from branch to branch from tree to tree, looking for his companions. "The heart!" he called out, hoping his voice would echo in the forest. "We must find the Crampanov's heart!"

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"T-thanks..." Caithe replied to Enigma, obeying his command and swimming to the shore. She lifted herself from the water and realized that she was freezing, her breaths sharp from the cold of the lake. She growled in frustration.

The ghouls were enclosing on the lake now, shrieking and grasping out into the air. Caithe lost her footing on the mud and clumsily slipped into the water again, trying to evade the spirits, "Ugh..." her gaze averted back to the depths of the lake bellow her, worried that a hand would grab her leg again. It was then that she heard Spite Mask's words and her eyes lit up, "E-Enigma!" she shouted in a panic, her breath shaking from the cold, "The heart! You still have Crampanov, right?! Find his heart!"

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Enigma nodded, taking a deep breath and diving down. He didn't like to use this power, as it was mentally exhausting, but he really had no choice.

The murkiness of the water was no problem now. Enigma could see Crampanov's attacks coming as he drew closer, tentacles and hands reaching out to grab him. Slicing through them, Enigma allowed one of the hands to drag him deeper, before cutting it too. The mass that was Crampanov laughed at him, but Enigma, with incredible prowess, sliced and dodged every attack Crampanov could produce.

With a flick of his wrist, Enigma threw his sword, embedding it deep into Crampanov's left side. Crampanov reached for the sword and at that instant, Enigma dove deeper still. Crampanov realized too late what Enigma's goal was, as his fingers closed on the forest spirit's hidden heart...

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Spite Mask's ears picked up Caithe's voice and he soon hopped form treetop to treetop in that direction. Upon finding his comrades, standing below him as he stood among the branches, he shouted towards Enigma holding the writhing Crampanov below, "Remove the heart and place it in a box full of salt!" Spite Mask instructed, the enigmatic one, hoping that one of them had some sort of structure that could be conceived as a box.

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#, as written by Nulix
The spirit wheezed in pain, the wooden body that it inhabited slowly dying, the eyes of the man turning lifeless and hollow as the creature retreated back into the winds of the wood. Caithe's gang was left with the lifeless, wooden corpse of the creature...

***

"Ooh, what if he tries to kill you as well. You're so clever, Lun," The girl murmured under her breath as she bit more of the creature off.

***

The two lay beneath the wild grasses of the forest as through a clearing a father and daughter walked - light, pale skin, well groomed hair, richly dressed clothing. They were Koran nobles, that much was for certain. "I don't see a ship..." Song whispered to Lun from beneath the trees. "The child is looking for the rabbit, I think it was hers," Song murmured, though the girl looked to be a good two or three years older then her. "What do we do?"

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"Wait here..." Lun answered, holding out a hand for her to stay in place. While keeping one eye on Song, Lun moved over towards the Koran father and daughter until he was in plain sight. "Greetings," Lun greeted. "Didn't expect any visitors here of all places. Would you be, perchance, searching for a rabbit? Well, I'm sorry to tell you it was killed. And there's your killer,: Lun stated simply, pointing directly at Song.

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Caithe raised her eyebrows in surprise as the body of Crampanov was left in their possession. She turned to the scene in front of her; unfortunately for them the shrieking ghouls had not dispersed and instead grew in numbers. They seemed furious, screeching and clawing at the group in desperation to kill. Eventually some began to climb the trunk of the tree where Spite Mask was situated, and dove into the water, swimming towards Caithe and Enigma. She wasn't sure how Argent was fairing, hoping that he was okay.

Her eyes looked up to Spite Mask in the tree, "Uuhh, you said something about a box full of salt? I don't...well, It's not exactly something I have handy..." Caithe pushed herself further into the middle of the lake to evade the spirits.

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#, as written by Nulix
"You're such a prick," Song hissed as she ran out, raising a hand up and blasting air out. The nobleman was sent flying backward in his robes. Before the teenage girl could react Song reached out and caused the earth beneath her to sink, sending her plummeting down until only her head stuck out. Song flexed her wrist before running after the downed nobleman. Lun had tried to teach her control of water, but the technique didn't suit her. With all her might she couldn't move a drop. Fire and Earth she could do the basics - slight movements, generating heat, but air - air had proved to be her true calling. "You," Song called, raising a hand as the nobleman attempted to rise again and blasting him down with a gust of wind. "Do you have a ship?" She called, pulling out a small knife from her back pocket. She aimed it at the dazed man's throat as she knelt beside him in the wild grasses. "A ship?" She repeated, trying to be as clear as possible.

"We rode her, three hours from the estate in the north," The nobleman spat desperately. Song stared at the man for a second before raising and looking at Lun. "They don't have a ship," She called. "And Wu's apprentice is still hunting you, Lun."

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"Legend says, if you put the heart of the Crampanov in a box full of salt, you seal it and it's arcane powers for a decade," Spite Mask noted, leaping from the trees and using the shade caused by the branches to smack the spirits away as he latched onto a vine. "It might have some truth to it, seeing as the Crampanov was once thought of as a legendary creature itself."

***

"I apologize for my apprentice, she's not used to being around people," Lun sighed, water rising form underneath the nobleman and pulling him away, slowly, form Song's knife. "I think it's best if we all just forgot what's happened here, don't you think? After all, this was a big misunderstanding," Lun shrugged at the nobles.

Lun then turned towards Song. "Well, it seems we're out of luck then.Not only because we don't have a ship, but because you are quite possibly the noisiest combatant in existence. The moment you first struck, a flock of birds, miles away flew off into the the horizon. Our pursuer has probably heard the noise and is going to investigate. Which means we'll have to move camp thanks to you...again."

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#, as written by Nulix
Song stared at the nobleman but did not react as he frighteningly ran forward and pulled his daughter from the hole. "And you think this was more noticeable then them going back to their town and sending the witch-hunters after us?" Song murmured, eyeballing the two as they ran through the grass as fast as they could and back into the forest - her only thought how easily it would be to hit both in the back as they left.

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Enigma shook his head, swimming to shore.

He pulled a bottle from his back pocket and opened it. Setting it down, he swiftly dug a hole in the earth, then poured the contents of the bottle into the ground... It was salt!

"I'm prepared," Enigma said, shrugging. He placed Crampanov's heart in the salt, burying it completely, then recovered the hole. "But not that prepared. That's the best I can do."

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"Well, Song, I dunno," Lun spoke in a mocking tone, pretending to sheepishly kick a rock as he put his hands in his pockets. "Maybe if someone had suggested that we'd have to move camp anyway..." Lun's eyes widened with fake realization. "Oh yeah. I did. So we'll be moving camp again, regardless of whoever's chasing us. We'll be long gone from here."

***

"We'll have to see if that suffices..." Spite Mask muttered.

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Song raised her had and opened it in an exaggerated fashion as Lun whined on. "Guess we're not sleeping tonight, again," She murmured as she followed the man out of the field and back into the surrounding woods. "Shouldn't have let those people go, either," She added, shaking her hands as they walked. "You've killed people for less of a reason..."

***

The night sky stretched on, clear as crystal in the darkness of the forest - though the celestial view above could only be seen in brief glimpses through the ever present canopy of trees stretching above them. Song marched tiredly, the pack on her back as they maneuvered around the trees, so thick now that more space was occupied by trunk then not. "We're you always alone, Lun?" Song asked as they cornered another tree, and then another. "Always a weirdo in the woods."

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"No, of course not," Lun shook his head. "I've told you this before, haven't I? I was an Emperor once before. I had many subjects and a decent size family. All of them gone now. Mother form illness. Brother from Seed. Father...from my uncle. My uncle from his own machinations. And I lost my sister, many, many years ago when I first landed in Sor."

Lun led them towards a a valley full of hills, who's grass swayed in the cool night winds. "Then I had a gang. They didn't mean too much to me, honestly. They were just means to an end. Then...there were the Lunatics. And if it's all the same to you, I'd rather not talk about what happened with them."

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Song let out a small laugh as she trudged on, it mixed with her heavy exhales from hours upon hours of journeying. "I can guess what happened, Lun," She whispered. "You're a bad person... and now they all hate you."

***

The silver chalice bent in his grip, the veins popping in his hand though his face remained still, statue like.

The room was lavish, filled with silks and fans for the heat of the world. In the purest of white robes he sat, a crown of golden olive branches sat on his finely trimmed hairs - a stark contrast to the woman sitting opposite, filthy and covered in grime from a chaotic journey. "After that... the council continued like normal," She murmured. "The Emperor found out... Kalva had been destroyed, and at the end he left with me and the other guards before we mutinied..."

"Where is he?" The man spoke, his voice deep yet calm. The battle-worn woman before him swallowed. "They decided to exile him on the world."

Tormand rose his head to her, his blue eyes starring out and his face shifting ever so slightly, as though he almost regretted what he was about to say. "Then I must go kill him."

***

White robes beneath white-armour fluttered in the wind as Tormand marched toward the ship, dozens of swords rich in make and design lining each side of his body as he did. Guards stood on each side as a silver cruiser stood, elevated beneath the night sky.

"Tormand!" A voice called. Tormand turned to spot the raggedy form of Officer Allard run toward him. The red haired man approached, pausing to catch his breath before shaking his head. "You can't do this," Allard began, a twang of the Rock to his voice as he spoke exhaustively. "You can't leave, not anymore."

"And why not?" Tormand questioned. "I've been granted permission."

"Because we need you, Tormand," Allard pleaded. "You know we do - where you want to go, it is fire and death, and you will be blown out of the sky. And then what? What chance does he have?"

"Officer Allard," Tormand whispered, placing a hand on the man's shoulder. "You must believe... I will not die. For there is no man in that war-zone that can kill me," The blonde giant gave a smile before raising again and turning toward his cruiser. Allard stood defeated as he entered, the guards closing the door beyond and the engines coming to life. "AH!" Allard yelled, kicking the stone of the pathway angrily. "God damn it Tormand! Don't..." He sighed, breathing out heavily before slicking his curly red hairs back again. He stared up at the ship and shook his head. "Don't go dying."

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"No, no..." Lun shook his head. "One of them left for the colonies. I eventually got a long okay with her. One of them left with his son. We barely had any interaction. One of them probably lead the Knights to their downfall, the pompous bastard. It'd be hilarious if he died. One of them fell to what I would assume is his death, the fat one. He was...a friend. The creepy one went on an ill-planned trip to save the universe. The one I loved had 'died' and I don't know if she ever returned or not...and your grandfather's pet robot remained on Longbao to do something or other. Probably dead by now," Lun listed them all quickly. "And I believe that accounts for everybody...oh and Derek. I'm pretty sure he existed at some point or another."

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Song stared at Lun as they walked. He'd alluded to things, vague references before of him being royalty, but these names. Never before these names. But she kept her mouth shut, storing the information away for when she might need it.

***

"Thank you," A deep voice spoke in Ulfirian over the intercom. "Safe landings, ambassador," The Ulfirian soldier replied, glancing out the window beside him as a small silver ship shot past. The soldier disconnected the intercom before glancing over more papers, just as the commanding officer stepped by in the hall.

"Who was that?" The officer questioned, pointing at the fading ship. "We're not meant to let anyone through the blockade without a pass."

"Ambassador from Raejo," The soldier explained lazily. "Had the paper-work... and he spoke better Ulfirian then me."

***

The silver ship shot through the sky, Tormand behind the wheel. Ahead in view the outline of a green planet came into view. Koaeth. After weeks of travel and detours he'd arrived unharmed. His beard had begun to grow again slightly and his hairs, though still falling neatly, were now edging past his ears. Atop them still rested the crown of golden leafs. As the ship descended Tormand stared out at the greenland that stretched before him. "At last I've found you..."

***

"His excellency, Lord Leekahn of Boeraoth," A servant introduced. Tormand sat on a small bench in the room of his hotel - a tight suite with a roof slightly too low. And of course the sounds of the tavern below were no help to things, but it was as good a place as he could achieve in the small town he'd landed - the one closest to the lands where the council was held.

Through the door stepped a Koran lord, sharp features and long, richly patterned robes of purple hanging off him. "My lord," Tormand began, giving a bow. "I understand that you've encountered the man I was searching for."

"Yes, he attacked me and my daughter down in Keera's acres," Leekahn hissed with disdain. "They slaughtered my daughters pure-breed hare."

"They?" Tormand questioned.

"Yes, he had a woman with him - Baons both," Leekahn hissed. "I could hardly tell them apart, to be quite frank."

"Would you be able to show me where this occurred, my lord?" Tormand asked. "It is a matter of criminal justice, my lord."

Leekahn nodded. "That can be arranged... but, who are you exactly?"

Tormand paused. "I thought you knew... My name is Tormand," He introduced. "I represent the Kingdom of Sor."

***

Tormand slid off the spotted horse he rode on and stepped forward carefully, the leafs crunching beneath his white boots. On the riverbank were bones - burnt bones, of a fox, Tormand determined by closer examination. It had been nearly two weeks since he'd entered the wilds of Koaeth, his time spent tracking to the best of his ability - though Lun was a difficult pray to catch. He hid his tracks well, never stayed in one place for two long. But occasionally there was sloppy signs - careless clues, like the fox bones.

From the saddle of the horse Tormand unfolded the map again, looking over the forests rivers and trying to think where Lun would travel next. His one clue was that Lun would want to train, and so he'd stay by the rivers, by the water. Tormand frowned at the map and folded it again, unsatisfied. That alone was no enough to catch him yet.

***

Tormand paused, his breathing becoming silent. Another week had passed - but the time he'd spent searching had just payed off. A camp lay before him, scattered bedrolls and baskets of fruit collected in the forest laying beside a dulled fire-pit. It was a good location for a camp - situation between several thick trees, impossible to see in from most angles. But he was no here. Tormand stood straight, considering for just a moment to wait until Lun returned to confront him - to challenge him to a duel. But those thoughts were quickly dismissed. Lun would try to avoid him, and would notice the footprints leading up to the camp. No, Tormand realized, he had to meet him. And looking at the map once more, Tormand realized the one location nearby he'd have to be.

***

Tormand stepped forward onto the rock's of the hot-springs, making no effort to disguise his steps. Before him a figure sat, floating above the steam. He stared out opposite him but after a moment the figure's body tensed, and it was clear Tormand's presence had not gone unnoticed. "Didn't expect you to find me here..." Lun began after a moment.

Tormand rose a hand gently and kept it in the air, though he did not attack yet. "...Did you kill him, Lun?" Tormand whispered...

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200 Years Ago:

"There it is," Fera said, pointing to the world filling up their ship's windows. "Libary. The world of knowledge."

"Looks stuffy," Darius snorted, leaning back in his chair. "Are you sure this is going to be the right place? I mean, we might not have looked everywhere."

"No, we'll find what we want here," Fera smiled at his friend. "C'mon, have I ever let you down?"

"Not recently, no," Darius admitted. "But there was that one time on Capima..."

Fera waved his hand. "Which you easily made up for later, on Kiris of all places. I almost froze to death!"

Darius snorted. "Yeah, I liked it there. It was the only place where you didn't try to pick up chicks."

"Aw c'mon," Fera said, laughing. "That's not fair. I'm a good-looking guy. The ladies come to me."

"I will admit, you do have a knack for attracting flies," Darius growled, his brow furrowing as he brought the ship in to land. "But do try to keep your libido in check here. I've heard the head Libarian is a real ice queen."

"I'll keep that in mind," Fera said, checking his equipment. "But if she refuses to help us, there's always plan B."

"That's right," Darius said, giving a sinister grin. "After all, I've always wanted to see how well books burn."

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"He gave me no choice, Tormand..." Lun shook his head. "He tried to kill me first and I retaliated. Miraculously, I won. But I'm sure you don't want to hear the details, do you, Tormand?"

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"You've ended the last hope humanity had..." Tormand spoke, the air inside his palm beginning to ignite gently. "You know what I must do."

"Wait!" A high pitched voice called out. Tormand paused as a young Baon girl scampered forward from the bushes and slid between the two, her arms stretched wide. "I can't let you kill this man."

Tormand rose an eyebrow. "Pardon?"

Song nodded. "Because I want to kill this man."

Tormand stared at the girl, and then Lun, and then the girl again. "Is this some form of stratagem, Lun?" Tormand questioned, lowering his hand.

Song lowered her arms at the large man's motion. "I... I don't know what that means."

"I cannot proceed with murdering you with this infant on the premises, Lun. What is the nature of this arrangement?" Tormand demanded.

"I'm not an infant!" Song exclaimed.

"You are very, very small," Tormand replied, glancing down at the girl before returning his blue eyes to Lun's. "Do you have some sort of care plan in place for when you parish? I assume, or rather pray, you are not her legal guardian."

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"Her legal guardian...has passed on, Tormand," Lun sighed with enough emphasis that Tormand would know who he was referring to. "I...am training her." As Lun spoke, the bushes seemed to rustle ever so slightly...

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"She wants to murder you," Tormand commented after a moment.

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"Yeah...y'know I'm starting to notice a pattern here," Lun jested. "So what's the next topic in this round of twenty questions, who gets to kill me first? Perhaps you'd like to draw straws or forgo all of this foolishness and attack me together?" Lun spoke, his eyes gaining an intense look about them now.

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"No, former Emperor Lun," Tormand muttered, looking outward. "Come... I already know of your camp."

***

"After you entered the portal I returned and rescued Vitalia, as she had been captured. Alarisset had fallen prey to the Wrython, I know not if she lives," Tormand commented as the two men stepped through the forest. Song followed behind him, examining the richness of his pure white armour and clothing curiously. "Argent has joined the league of Seed, I had to battle him on a ship to save the Queen's life," He added with a frown.

"Is this gold?" Song questioned, raising up an end of his robe and pointing to the bright, golden threaded designs on each tip.

"That is gold," Tormand nodded.

"And that crown?" Song whispered, pointing to the golden crown of olive branches that adorned Tormand's head. "Are you some sort of King?"

Tormand paused. "I do not believe King is the correct title," He settled on at last before continuing. "We captured a Seed ship and managed to escape the Heart of Darkness, that being Queen Vitalia and I. Something peculiar happened there after..." He paused to examine Lun's face. "You've been gone a long time," He commented. "So have I, former Emperor. In my own way."

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"Your information is somewhat off. Argent is no longer with Seed to my knowledge," Lun informed Tormand, irritably eying the crown. "If you're sort of royalty now, that would be the ultimate irony," Lun chuckled bitterly, before continuing. "Look...what do you want exactly? I assumed you came here to kill me, but to my utter disappointment, I find you still here, bothering me..."

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"I thought it worthwhile killing you before I met your apprentice, and now the cons outweigh the pros once again," Tormand commented. "Justice will be served upon your head, be it by I or the people of your realm, Lun, I can assure you, but for now I've decided the correct course of action is to take both you and your apprentice with me to the Kingdom where things can be correctly and safely discussed."

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As Darius and Fera landed their ship on Libary, a middle aged man with a harsh accent and dark blue robes greeted them with a crusty smile, "Welcome. I 'spose you're 'ere seeking knowledge? To speak to The Wordsmith? O'course ya are. We'll look after your ship fer ye," he uttered some words to a young boy to scuttled away in a hurry, "Welcome to Libary, The Fountain of Knowledge. Sure i'nt easy to find, hey? O'course The Wordsmith did that on purpose, not jus anyone can hop on a ship 'n visit. Only those worthy..." he chuckled, "Well, ye two will be in fer a surprise, that's fer sure. C'mon lads..."

The man ushered them through the docking port and to the front of the city gate, where a young girl no older than 13 was waiting there in similar blue robes. She had short brown hair and dark blue eyes, almost the same colour as her clothing. The girl seemed bored at first, but when she caught sight of the new visitors she jumped up from the wall she was leaning against and pretended to look like she hadn't been slacking off. The young girl eyed Darius and Fera suspiciously, "Heida," the man began, geasturing to the visitors, "Take these lads to The Temple, perhaps they would like to see the Wordsmith."

At the name, Heida's face crumpled with concern, but she quickly regained posture and nodded solemnly, "Okay. Hi...uh...follow me..."

Heida led Darius and Fera through the gates of the city, large, stunning brass gates carved with symbols and words in a language they could not understand. The wall around it was built from marble and light stone, with similar symbols carved delicately throughout. If they were paying attention, they would have noticed that there were little to none guards around it, leaving the city completely unprotected. However no one seemed bothered by this fact.

Inside, the city was something to marvel at. Large stone brick and marble buildings lined the city streets, the craftsmanship on the houses were detailed and pretty, also spotting the same symbols on the wall and the gate. Even the stone brick path they walked upon had strange symbols on the occasional tile...perhaps it was a cultural thing. Houses and shop buildings surrounded them, some with stunning gardens and others with no gardens at all. Trees and flowers were in full bloom, moss, vines and grass threatened to cover the stone on walls and the path. It all felt very homely.

The citizens carried on with their daily lives, strolling to work, shopping, talking, playing sweet music with the sun shining warmly upon them. Kids chased each other on the stone path ahead of them, others played ball games on a different street. Heida watched them wistfully, but hurried forward with her head down, gesturing Darius and Fera to hurry along with her. Some of the townsfolk watched the three walk up the path with curiosity, not seeming afraid by the newcomers. Despite being so isolated from any other world, these people didn't look hostile or confused, it was obvious that they saw visitors often.

It became clear where Heida was leading them to. In the middle of the city stood a massive circular temple, made of marble, light stone and brass, similar to the rest of the city. The steps heading up to the door of the temple were steep, covered in sigils and ancient words lined with gold. On the steps sat a few people, most wearing the same blue robes as Heida and the man that had met them at the dock. Others wore dark purple in a similar style, their eyes following the newcomers but with more hostility in their gaze. The young girl avoided eye contact with them.

"This is The Temple, also known as The Library also known as the source of all knowledge...blah blah..." Heida spoke for the first time since the gate, "This is where you want to be if you're looking for something. That's why you're here, right? Sorry if we just assume, it's almost always for that reason. To find knowledge and...and speak with...her..."

The Temple was larger then it looked from the bottom of the steps. Great marble and brass supports held up the front of it and, if looked at closely, the whole building was covered in sigils and words, lined with gold like the steps. It was insanely detailed and very beautiful. Some people in robes were chatting in front of the door, but quickly moved when Darius and Fera came near. They stared at them with wide eyes and hushed voices.

Inside the Temple was as expected, incredibly large and ornate, but there was one obvious thing that was unexpected, or perhaps expected on Libary. The walls were covered in huge bookshelves packed full of books, scrolls and papers. Acolytes, the people in robes, climbed floating books to reach up to the top of the shelves, grabbing books from their place, replacing books, reorganizing books. There were people, not just in robed clothing, around the great library who sat at small tables and read books or studied scrolls. Heida walked toward the end of the giant room to another brass door, her steps quick to keep ahead of Darius and Fera. Through this gate was a hallway leading to a massive door, again brass, but this one had very strange sigils on it that were different from the rest of the ones they had seen. The hallway also had multiple doors lining the sides, that if they were to open them would reveal even more elaborate libraries filled with an assortment of people.

Heida's steps became slower as they approached the large door at the end of the hallway. A group of acolytes talked amongst each other before one called out to Heida, "Hey you!"

The voice approached the three and revealed himself to be a young man with light brown hair that he constantly pushed out of his eyes and tanned skin. His eyes, friendly and gentle, were a deep brown and studied Darius and Fera with acknowledgement. After a moment he smiled warmly at them, "Welcome to Libary. Here to find something? I guess you'll have to speak to the Wordsmith...."

His words trailed off as he glanced at Heida who looked sick, "I'll take them, Heida. You don't have to go see her if you don't want to. Thanks for taking them this far."

The young girl looked up at the male with gratitude, "Oh, thank you Etzel! I just...she kind of...she scares me...."

He nodded, his expression serious. Etzel turned to the two newcomers, "Come. She'll know you're here already, we shouldn't keep her waiting."

The man took place of Heida ahead of them, as the girl skipped off the other way before turning back with a worried smile, "Good luck!"

Etzel reached the unique door, and uttered some words in front of it. The door clicked and opened slowly, revealing the room inside.

The room was another library, but this one was filled with only a few people and many floating books. On the roof of the large room was a sunlight with stained glass, lighting up the room mysteriously. Most importantly, standing in the middle of the circular library was a woman with her back turned to the door. She wore a beautiful light blue dress that flowed to the floor and her dark blonde hair reached just above her shoulders, spilling over them ever so slightly. She turned to face the three who had just entered the room with a slight smile, her eyes cold and calculating.

"Etzel, thank you." The Wordsmith spoke, her voice cold.

"Of course, Wordsmith." Etzel replied with the same coldness, bowed and walked out, shutting the door behind him.

The Wordsmith analyzed Darius and Fera carefully, "So, what are your names? And why have you come here, to Libary?"

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Darius and Fera exchanged glances, then burst out laughing.

"Sorry," Fera said, raising a hand. "No, really, we're sorry, but I don't know, we just expected you to be ancient, like 300 years old, and instead, you're just this gorgeous young woman."

"I'm laughing at him," Darius said, baring his teeth in a grin. "But as to answer your question..." He stepped forward, his blue eyes intense. "...I have one of my own. Do you know who we are?"

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The Wordsmith stared at the two young men with amusement, "Should I know who you are? Ive seen many people. Kings, Emperors, important people that have insulted me for not knowing who they are. I am simply human. I only know the names of those I take interest in. So, let me ask again, what are your names and why are you here before me?"

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"You'll have to forgive my antagonistic friend," Fera said, smiling winningly at the Wordsmith. "You see, where we come from, people know who we are. It's their job to know."

"Hmph," Darius snorted. "I won't waste my breath telling who we are if you don't know. You'll find out what sort of people we are soon enough." He pointed at the Wordsmith. "I want the Masamune."

At those words, the other libarians in the room froze, their eyes turning towards the duo. Fera laughed at their reaction, and Darius smirked.

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There was silence, the Wordsmith's face was blank, it was hard to tell what she was thinking. But suddenly she laughed, making the libarians jump in surprise and cross gazes with one another in obvious concern. The Wordsmith ceased her laughter after a moment and crossed her hands behind her back, "My, my. That is a word I have not heard in a long time..."

She began to pace, consumed by her thoughts while her heels rang on the clear marble floor. The libarians watched the tension between the two newcomers and the Wordsmith, some deciding to leave the room to gossip to the other acolytes. Suddenly the Wordsmith stopped and her sharp eyes pierced Darius', "You would be wise to have some respect, boy. Tell me why I should waste my time with you two, who have obviously not done your research."

She sighed, "Firstly, I cannot give you the Masamune, only provide you with the means to obtain it. Secondly, why should I give you my knowledge? Especially after being so rude in my domain. Don't pretend like you're important in this world, you will quickly realise that you're not."

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"I will burn this world to ashes!" Darius snarled. "Help us or die. It's as simple as that."

"Whoa there!" Fera cried. "Uh, hold your horses man." He laughed nervously, looking at the Wordsmith. "Um, yeah, please just help us out here. Like, you might say, 'kill me and you won't get what you want', but Darius doesn't really think like that. He does things the hard way."

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The Wordsmith stepped up close to Darius, despite being a lot shorter there was menace in her stance and she glared at the tall man before her, "Tell me something. When you were walking to this Temple did you notice anything odd? No guards? Little defense? Then perhaps you noticed the sigils written all over the town. This Temple is covered in them, this room in fact..."

She gestured to the floor. If looked at closely they would see a network, a spiders web of words and symbols delicately lacing the floor, ceiling, walls....everywhere they looked. The Wordsmith turned away from Darius and Fera and walked to the middle of the room where a circle of sigils were placed. She was eerily calm despite just being threatened, "There are reasons why Libary has stood for thousands of years. We need no guards, no army and not one hotheaded boy has ever destroyed this world. If you even think of setting fire to anything, it will be your last thought."

She sharply turned to face them once more, her expression was dark and annoyed, "So then, let's try this again, will you show some respect, or shall I make you regret ever being in my presence?"

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Darius' face turned red with fury, and his hand reached for his blade. With a cry, he swung it forward, only to have it intercepted by Fera, who then kicked Darius as hard as he could in the groin. Darius' eyes bulged and he sank to the ground, gasping.

"Ah, uh, sorry about that," Fera chuckled, not sounding sorry. He turned to the Wordsmith. "Listen, we do respect you. That's why we came here. Since Darius is a little out of wind, right now, let us introduce ourselves." He pointed to Darius. "The testosterone-engorged guy here is Darius Lionheart, and I am his charming companion, Fera Albrite. We're searching for the Masamune, aka the strongest sword in existence, and we were hoping that you might be able to help us."

He bowed at the end of this speech with a small flourish, then straightened. "Will that do?" His eyes narrowed. "Or will you make me kiss your boots too?"

Darius coughed on the ground, and groaned loudly.

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There was an eager rattle at the door. Skinnar opened an eye, closing it almost instantly at the warm sunlight flooding in. “Come in,” He murmured, sitting up tiredly and brushing the blankets off him. The room was small, cluttered with a single window starring out into the village below. Rubble and weapons from the battle past were pushed into a corner and the bed was cleaned as best it could for the Seed soldiers commanding officer to get a good nights sleep, outside of the tents and tightly packed ships he had been making home the last several months.

The soldier went in hurriedly, closing the door behind him. Skinnar tiredly looked upon the man – he filled out the long, dark blue coat of the Seed troops well but his face was barely that of a man’s. Pimples lined the boys face and by the sweat on his brow something had made him nervous.

“Sir, the Vench are coming,” He managed to spit out with a bow. Skinnar sunk his face into his hands at the news. “They decided that the area needed backup despite our falsified report. A thousand men flying in by midday.”

“…Then we retreat,” The commander spoke matter-of-factly, nodding at the officer. “Get the men onto the Leviathan. Pack as many weapons and supplies as can be in forty minutes, I want us ready to depart in an hour.”

“Yes sir!” The Seed soldier saluted before hurrying out the door, leaving Skinnar alone once more. The aged man rose to the mirror, examine his body in it. Muscle’s lined with wrinkles, hair lined with white. Eyes stretched with the markings of an old man. He was soon dressed, dark-blue leather coat – quite similar to his U.P.A. uniform, in years past, though the small copper emblem of Seed on his chest would dash any mistake.

Outside the soldiers hurriedly packed the Vench Leviathan, barrels of whiskey and livestock moving from hand to hand in grand lines in order to maximize efficiency. A team of looters ran across the battlefield, searching the corpse of a soldier each as fast as they could before hurrying to the next. Skinnar stood on the balcony of the mead-house, watching as the machine of a unit worked the streets. “Back in space, eh?” The voice of a Seed commander came from behind him. The older, larger man stepped beside Skinnar and sipped his drink. “We should burn it,” He added after a moment.” The mead-house here. It makes a good fortress, someone else will take it when we leave.”

“I will not burn these people’s village,” Skinnar replied. “Is robbing them of their livestock not enough?”

The commander frowned. “If there’s no tower of defence there’s no reason to take the village. You’d be saving them years of reconquest.”

“Perhaps,” Came the reply. “Make sure the men are aboard. I’ll be down shortly.”

The Commander nodded as Skinnar wandered back inside. The head of the unit navigated the halls until he reached a wooden door, still shut tightly. Skinnar rapped on the door. “Talon?” He called in. There was no reply. He opened the door, greeted by Talon’s boots. Skinnar glanced up at Talon’s form as it dangled from the tiny room’s chandelier. With a sigh he pulled out his rapier and sliced through the rope.

***

Skinnar skipped down the village’s main dirt road, two bodyguards pushing the crowd of villagers away as he made his retreat to the ship. Over his shoulder was flung a body, wrapped in linen.

“Ready for take-off sir!” A soldier called from the ship’s entrance-walkway. “Here,” Skinnar replied, throwing the body into the man’s arms before turning to the villagers, who were yelling and complaining in commotion. “Thief!” And or “Murderer!” were the most common of complaints given, to Skinnar’s ear.

“You!” Skinnar began, pointing to a man. “Your village name?”

“Gotovian, Sir. We’re Sorillians proper! We’re not some Baons, you can’t desecrate this land with your war!”

“Parchment,” Skinnar called to a soldier. After a moment a paper and pen was handed from inside the ship. Skinnar rose a knee and began to hectically write down an order on it. “Seed High Command orders the Assassin Military to allow the citizens of the village of Gotovian free passage through the Capima Blockade and accommodations in the city of Sor as well as a payment of two-hundred Trinari to each citizen of the village of Gotovian. Signed, in the absence of Nai Tsukumo, by Commander Rentu Skinnar.” Skinnar stamped the page before folding it and handing it out to the old man. “Keep it safe! Get a ship and get to Capima!” Skinnar ordered the man before he and his guards began to back up onto the ship.

“Thrusters away!” A voice called as the Leviathan began to blast off the ground. The doors closed as the crowded ship began to lift-off.

Inside Skinnar marched through the assembled soldiers, prisoners, livestock, weaponry and food toward the command deck, where the pilots had already setup. “Destination sir?” A pilot asked.

“Take us north to meet with the seventh fleet, then try to establish contact with Capima for orders,” Skinnar muttered.

“Sir…” A soldier began as the machine in front of him began to print out a page. “Capima… is contacting us.” He ripped out the page. “It has the seal of High Command. It says to return to the city of Sor immediately.” The soldier turned, a smile on his face. “We’re heading home, sir!” A roar of hoorays echoed throughout the ship at the news, and even Rentu Skinnar had to smile, the thoughts of his family back on the islands warming his heart. The war wasn’t over, but for now, they were leaving the west behind.

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"The Kingdom? What Kingdom?! Your Kingdom?" Lun chuckled at the thought. "Oh no, I believe I'm quite comfortable staying on this miserable planet. Besides, I have several things I need to take care of here..."

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#, as written by Nulix
"The world is engulfed in war, the Kora system has managed to remain neutral but the days of peace here are coming to an end," Tormand replied. "The Ulfirian's surround the world, they will invade soon. You cannot stay here."

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"I will stay here until I finish my business," Lun spoke slowly, shrugging. "I won't even take long. If you're that worried, you may leave."

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"What business?" Tormand questioned as the three entered the camp.

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"It's very interesting, really. In fact, I'd suspect you'd like to know," Lun answered in an informative tone, despite not answering much of anything at all. "Now do you have any other, nosy questions or will you be on your way?"

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"I will not," Tormand answered. "What business?"

Song watched the two and turned to her master. "Do you want to tell me who this is, Lun?" She whispered after a moment.

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Lun looked at song with a bemused grin. "Oh, you don't know? All of that spying on me and studying my every movement and you still couldn't manage to locate me when I had disappeared for days at a time? Didn't manage to find out where I was or what I was doing?"

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Song stared at Lun. "That's not an answer," She pointed out.

"Your months spent as a savage hermit have harmed your ability to communicate, Lun," Tormand interrupted. "I will not leave this planet without you and the girl, Former Emperor, I hope you realize. Whatever business you have I am now a part of."

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"Oh you were already a part of it, even before I was," Lun continued to riddle. "But like many things of your time, Tormand...you are becoming obsolete."

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Tormand shifted his usual expression to one that began to resemble bemusement. It was noticeable, not to most perhaps but to Lun at least, that he had appeared more talkative since his return. More human, perhaps. "I am not sure I would say that, my friend," Tormand commented before turning to the camp. "I'll begin organizing your things. This camp is very messy," He said as he began to march through the camp.

"Don't touch my things," Song warned as she stepped toward her pack. Tormand glanced at her. "Alright," He began, before kneeling at Lun's belongings and beginning to rummage through them.

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All Tormand found were rocks, sticks, and other stupid hermit shit.

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Song grabbed Lun's sleeve as Tormand began to sort their belongings. The Baon girl dragged the Longbaon man to the edge of their camp, a good distance away from earshot. "Who is he?" Song whispered, glancing back at their strange, white armoured guest.

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"That's Tormand, a creation of your grandfather's," Lun informed Song, quietly. "One of many clones of a phoenix form ages past...I suppose you'll be impressed? Or something?" Lun assumed in an uncaring tone.

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Song stared at Tormand from a distance before turning to Lun. "That's not the most impressive thing Wu did," She replied coldly before walking past the man. "I'm going hunting," She called as she made her way through the orange trees of Koran autumn and was soon out of view.

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"Very well, just don't take too long," Lun called back to her as she was leaving. "You spot a Koran guard or something and you return here with haste. And make sure you're not followed!"

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Tormand glanced up from his organizing and gave Lun a look.

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Lun was silent but waved at Tormand, though it was less of a wave and more of an obscene gesture.

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"She's not a fan of you, is she Lun?" Tormand spoke at last what was on his mind. "Who is she? Why are you journeying together?"

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"I didn't tell you?" Lun questioned. "I could've sworn, I did. But I suppose, you still don't understand hints, do you? She's the granddaughter of your master. She's is, from what I know, Wu Woon's last living relative. That is, if he didn't adopt her or something."

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"I know who she is Lun, I meant who is she to you?" Tormand asked, raising to his full height in front of the man. "Why do you journey with her? Were you unable to let her die in the wilderness or is she a means to an end?"

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"Well, honestly yes," Lun spoke as he leaned back against a boulder. "To the former. She was this angry confused child who saw the last of her family killed before her very eyes. So...of course it reminded me a bit of myself. I couldn't leave her alone to fend for herself in the wilderness anyway. So I took her in to train her. Eventually she's going to come after me to kill me again, she makes no secret of it. I find the thought rather amusing..."

"Lun then shook his head, as he swatted away some flies. "But no, I have no villainous scheme in the works involving her. She's just...a responsibility now, I guess. In an odd way."

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Tormand looked at Lun, silence between the two for a moment as they stood in the autumn clearing. The sound of birds chirping above could be heard as could the distant moan of the stream. And, at long last, Tormand gave Lun a nod. "Then you've added another con to killing you," He replied. Tormand knelt down again and began to fold their clothes. "I'm going to take these to the river, they're dirty," Tormand indicated as he rose, almost all of Song and Lun's spare clothing in his arms - a very limited number. He began to walk toward the exit before pausing. "Also, Lun. I am betrothed to Queen Vitalia and am soon to become the titular King of Sor," Tormand explained before carrying on.

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Lun looked into the sky blankly for a moment, before standing up and speaking within earshot of Tormand. "Hmm, odd. I can't even get angry anymore. I'm not even the least it disgusted, given that I find you both incredibly creepy. I can't say congratulations, either because honestly, what do I care? In fact I'm not sure why you or even Vitalia care. Sor is about as dead as Longbao at this point."

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Tormand smiled. "No it's not," He whispered before continuing down through the trees and toward the river...

***

"Why do you always carry that around, Nulix?" The boy asked as he carried a crate of apples. "You're not a guard."

Nulix glanced beside him to the boy - the son of one of their neighbours, a Sorillian couple. The boy's finger was aimed at the pistol on his hip. Nulix smirked. "Because the guards can't always be there, Torian," Nulix murmured. "My concerns are not always with the colony, they're with Bella. They're with me," he admitted.

Torian rose an eyebrow as the two continued on the dirt road, small houses lining it between wet grass fields. "It's just a stupid pistol, though, it can't do anything," The boy murmured.

Nulix laughed. "It can do things," he replied in mock defence. "With enough skill... a bullet can kill anyone. It can kill me, it can kill Nai... it can even kill Oblivion, if it hit. That's not the tricky part though... the tricky part is knowing when to shoot..." Nulix swallowed. "Because people don't come back, Torian..." Nulix paused as he reached the gate of his house. "Don't let death become cheap... because even now, when its so rampant, life still means more then anything."

Torian gave Princeton a nod before carrying the apples over to his house. Nulix entered the wild-grass of his yard and continued on toward the front door.

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"We've got them on the run!" Orglef belched, hauling his massive waist upwards by gripping onto his oversized belt. "Hit 'em with all we got!"

The Oblivion captain was currently chasing a group of Seed soldiers through a small town. Orglef was very proud of himself; he had reason to believe that this very group of Seed assassins were the ones who had been harassing the much larger force on the planet for some time. They had been quite the nuisance, nearly single-handedly defeating the entire task force here. With some glee, Orglef figured he would get handsomely rewarded, maybe even get some cake when he got back. He loved cake.

The Oblivion soldiers with him bellowed in reply to Orglef's battle ululations, which sounded something "Orglaorglaorglaoog!", and charged forward after the retreating Seed members. Orglef somehow kept pace, his fat squishing and flopping about with arrogant style. The Seed members turned a corner, and as the Oblivion members reached it, they vanished, as if into thin air.

"ORGLA HALT!" Orglef cried, sweat pouring down his face. "I don't understand! Where did they go? Where did they fly to?"

"It's called 'Curtain'," Joachim said, stepping out of nowhere and clenching his fists upwards. "It's a water-based illusion. I can string hundreds of droplets into the air, and create a mirage of sorts, fooling my enemies into thinking they see something that never was there... or not seeing something that is." He lowered his fists, his last words falling upon deaf ears, his work complete. The hundred or so Oblivion soldiers who Orglef had led now lay silently, dead.

"Child's play," Joachim muttered, absorbing the water he had stolen from the Seed soldiers to use later. "To fall victim to such a trap... this leader must be quite the idiot."

"ORGLAORGLAORGLAOOG!" Orglef cried, pouncing on Joachim and attempting to crush him with his fat. Joachim's sword sliced out, cutting pieces of Orglef off. Orglef screamed in pain and slammed Joachim through a building.

"Couldn't get through my fatty shat!" Orglef hollered, pounding his chest and causing minor earthquakes from the impacts. "I am the master of fat, the mighty Orglef! I am a cyborg, the left lieutenant of the royal army of...!"

"Shut up," Joachim said, dragging himself back out onto the street, his wounds knitting from the water inside him. "So you survived my attack... because you don't have any water in you."

"That's right!" Orglef winked, causing a building to collapse across town. "I am the mighty one!"

"I see," Joachim said, spreading his fingers and throwing his hands up. "Then I won't underestimate you."

Water cascaded down in tiny thread-like patterns, ripping into Orglef's flesh and slicing it to ribbons. Orglef's fat fell off his body in waves, as the cat's cradle sliced Orglef to pieces.

Joachim shook his hands, releasing the water. "Noisy," he muttered, turning to receive Orglef's punch to the face as the now fully metallic body of Orglef blasted a rocket fist into Joachim's jaw.

"ORGLAORGLAORGLAOOG!" Orglef screamed, punching at Joachim repeatedly, his red eyes gleaming through his silver chalice. "I AM A CYBERNETIC ORGANISM! ORGLAOOG!"

Joachim said nothing, as his jaw was quite broken, but he looked frustrated as he skated around Orglef's attacks.

"You should know by now," Orglef squealed, causing the nearby trees to lose their leaves in terror, "you can't defeat me with your water attacks. I am the secret weapon, sent to destroy you. I was specifically chosen by..." Orglef grunted as Joachim stabbed twin needles of water into his borg eyes, shooting water through Orglef's system.

"A-a-a-a-a-agh," Orglef glitched, creating a forest fire outside of town. "That'll do it." Joachim quickly covered Orglef in a massive wall of water, which absorbed the resulting explosion. However, he couldn't stop all power in the area from going out.

"What a pain," Joachim muttered as his jaw slowly healed. "Too much work."

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"Ah, you could do that if you're offering," The Wordsmith joked. For once. The libarians in the room looked at each other in confusion, unsure if she was actually joking, "Well, it's a....pleasure to meet you two, Fera, Darius."

She raised an eyebrow at them, "I can help you, but you will have to wait a few days at the least so I can search my archives. The Masamune is ancient knowledge...yes, that is a name I haven't heard in a long time. What do you two want with it, I wonder? Ah but, that is none of my business."

The woman swept the floor to the opposite end of the room, where a small, ordinary looking door was situated. It seemed out of place in such a grand building. She turned briefly to face the two once more, a glint in her eyes, "In the meantime, you are welcome to stay at Libary for as long as you wish. There is an Inn down the road where a man named Shalvoh works, tell him I sent you and you'll be allowed to stay and eat for free. Ask one of the acolytes for directions."

She opened the door, about to leave, before facing them for the last time, "Oh and, I assume you already know that if you want my knowledge you will have to give me something in return. A trade, right? It can be valuable knowledge that I do not already have stored my library, or an item of interest. I'll give you time to think about it, if you haven't already. I'm afraid you will not receive my help if you do not agree to these terms, it is only fair. I will send someone to retrieve you once Ive found what you're seeking."

With that, the Wordsmith closed the small door behind her. The others in the room watched as she left and then gazed at Darius and Fera in curiosity. As the entrance to the room opened they found several acolytes pressed up against the door trying to listen in, but they quickly dispersed when the two exited. At the back of the retreating group stood Etzel and Heida, an amused smirk on the males face, "So uh, I heard that went...well?"

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#, as written by Nulix
Two-hundred years ago....

"The world of Libary... in my grasp," The figure whispered as he stepped out onto the steps of the world from the gold-plated ship he'd flown on. He stared up, his blue eyes widening at the sights before him. Behind him a handful of guards marched out the ship, the hilt of their blades fashioned to resemble the Eye of God, the religious symbol of the Matran. He glanced back at the guards and swallowed. "Will she understand me?"

"She speaks the language, your highness," A guard whispered in response. The man nodded before stepping forward again. He had flown ways away, near farther then where the Neahian's nested, through dangerous tides to see the woman he'd heard so much about. The Wordsmith...

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"We got what we wanted," Fera said, glancing at Darius, who was staring sullenly at nothing in particular. "Anyway, we were told to be taken to an inn owned by a man named Shalvoh. Could one of you take us there?"

Etzel nodded, still smirking, and the two acolytes led them down a few streets. Fera shook his head, lost already. He'd been warned that Libary was a maze, but this was something else.

"Here it is," Heida said, gesturing.

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A pair of eyes peeked out of the blinds of a window on the upper floor of the inn briefly, observing as Heida led the two young travelers towards the place of rest. The blinds then shut as quickly as they opened and several lights flickered off from within the rooms on the top floor.

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Darius sneered at the shoddy place, brushing dust off the label on the door. The front door fell inwards, kicking up a massive wall of decaying sawdust.

"What is this!?" Darius snarled. "Some junkheap of an inn?"

"Uh, I think that's the wrong place," Fera said, opening the door of the actual inn. "C'mon Darius, come soothe your wounded... ego."

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They were greeted to the inn with bright lights and a warm, family friendly atmosphere. Lamps hung above the tables that dotted the lobby floors and alongside the walls lay bookcases containing volumes upon volumes of various literature. Not as expansive as that of the Libary itself, but entertaining, nevertheless for weary visitors. Sitting at the front desk was a tall, pale bored looking man, with dark black hair, and a chefs uniform. As Fera and Darius entered the inn, he gave them a cold glare, before drawing out a peace of parchment on his pocket, jotting something on it with his quill.

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"Oh boy..." Heida watched Darius and Fera, about to close the door behind her before looking at Etzel who was stopped and frowning at a small notebook, a messenger book, "You coming?"

"I just got a message from Tarick, telling me that someone didn't return back to their post at the gates. I thought you said you had finished shifts," Etzel sighed, while Heida simply grinned sheepishly, "I'll take over then. See you two later, don't get into too much trouble."

Etzel waved at Darius and Fera before leaving toward the dock. Heida shut the door and shrugged, spotting Shalvoh and waving, "Hey there Shalv!"

**

"We're popular t'day," Tarick, the man at the dock, laughed as he greeted the new figure and his guards, "Welcome to Libary--oh, uh..." he realized that they couldn't understand him and instead smiled and gestured to the front gates where Etzel now stood, replacing the young girl.

Etzel welcomed them warmly with a bow once he saw their attire, probably able to speak their language as he greeted visitors from all over often. He saw many rich, important people during his job at the docks and became accustomed to politeness. Heida on the other hand still had a lot to learn as it was her first week working, but she was getting better, "Hello there, here to see the Wordsmith, I presume?"

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Darius smashed a table.

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Shalvoh glanced up from his writing and greeted Heida with a friendly nod and a smile, before resuming his cold glare, jotting notes down violently on paper.

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Darius threw a chair at Shalvoh.

Fera fell over from laughing so hard.

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Heida kicked Darius in the shin. He couldn't hit her back without looking like a massive villain because she was a little girl.

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Darius threw Heida at Shalvoh.

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Shalvoh, without missing a beat caught the chair in one hand and grabbed Heida by her collar in the other. He set them both down and turned to look at Darius and Fera. "Can I help you two somehow? Are you looking for a place to stay or something to eat?"

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"Um, yes," Fera said, wiping tears from his eyes. "The Wordsmith directed us here to stay until she has recovered the information we were looking for. I apologize for the inconvenience and, of course, the massive villain that my companion Darius is."

"That's pretty impressive," Darius said, folding his arms. "You must be a pretty good fighter."

"Oh shut up Darius," Fera said, rolling his eyes. "Go take a nap or something."

Glaring, Darius sighed, and motioned to the upstairs. "Rooms are up there?"

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"The rooms for paying custoemrs are, yes," Shalvoh answered, pointing upwards before pointing tot he window behind him. "The rooms for grubby penniless vagabonds are outside in the back, next to the dogs. If those are to be your accommodations, you should deem yourselves lucky. Not many would get to witness the sheer power of a Libarian storm up close. "

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"Great," Darius said, going upstairs. "Hate to be one of those guys."

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Suddenly the sound of a crossbow going off echoed around the room, as the crossbow bolt shot out and embedded itself in Darius' leg. Attached to the end of the bolt was a rope, which was, in turn, tied to a crank on the crossbow. Shalvoh slowly pulled the crank back in an attempt to drag Darius back down the stairs. "You seem to have a problem understanding something very simple...If you do not pay properly, you may not go upstairs under any circumstances. And as I do not like to repeat myself...I felt this was the only way a lummox like you would understand."

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Darius reached down and yanked the bolt out of his leg, then yanked on the rope, sending the crossbow into his hands.

"I'm a paying customer," Darius said, yawning. "I just want to check out the rooms first."

"It's true," Fera said, pulling out a crystal and approaching Shalvoh. "Although we appreciate the Wordsmith's offer, we don't make it a habit to be moochers. How much do you charge?"

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Shalvoh informed Fera of the price of the rooms. The bill was excruciatingly high. And that was without counting interest rates. "If you can't afford any rooms and still wish to stay...there is some work I need done."

***

"How's it been going so far?" a voice belong to a figure as of yet unseen. "Your crusade against evil that is."

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Joachim leaned back against the wall of the Seed hideout, closing his eyes as the voice spoke.

"Against evil? Poorly," Joachim admitted. "Against Oblivion? About the same. Still, I am only one man, and in these turbulent times, one voice is not enough to quell a billion others screaming for blood."

***

"We're filthy rich," Fera admitted, pulling out the cash that Shalvoh was demanding. "And we get super bored. I'm sure Darius would be happy to help out, starting with fixing that table over there. I'm more handy with customers than fixing things, but we'll both help out where we can." He smiled. "We may be bad guys, but we're not completely barbaric."

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"What are these, smurf-bucks?" A passerby commented as he punched through Darius and Fera's lack of funds. The money was essentially rotted lettuce with arbitrary values written upon them in pencil.

***

The rich arrival bowed. "Yes... I've never met her before, but the Wordsmith and I have several things to discuss," The man spoke in Sorillian, a new language, rarely heard in the universe at all. "Things... are changing."

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Shalvoh looked upon the money that was lying on the floor and quickly pocketed. "Wow, you've certainly accumulated a lot of cash over the years...unfortunately it in no way remotely resembles Libarian currency," Shalvoh bemusedly informed them, despite pocketing their money anyway. "So it looks like you're best course of options is to work for me. And luckily enough I have work more befitting your skill sets than repairing tables and I have no intention of letting you sacks of filth anywhere near the food I serve my customers unless you're having some yourself."

Shalvoh then pointed outside. "When the sun sets into the evening sky, you and your compatriot should return to me so I can tell you the job you'll be doing. Until then, please refrain from interacting with me in any manner," he added, smugly.

***

"True enough..." the voice whispered echoing alongside the walls. "For you are not merely fighting against evil...you're fighting to change the way the world works....and a large part of this war is due to someone attempting to do the very same thing...and failing."

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"Wow. Prick!" Fera said, punching Shalvoh in the face.

***

"I suppose you mean Sentrius?" Joachim asked, bemused. "Well, he's dead now, so I suppose you are correct. Time will only tell if I do any better."

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Shalvoh quickly slabbed the fake money onto a sandwich and handed it to the passerby. "Thanks bub," The man commented, laying down a few coins to the chef before taking a bite of his sandwich and heading out.

***

“I’d like to inform the cabin that we have entered the Sorillian Bay and are beginning our descent into the city of Sor,” The fuzzy voice of the Captain spoke over the intercom. In a warm leather seat Commander Rentu Skinnar sat, his face dirty, hair still a mess and uniform battle-worn. Since reaching the Capima blockage things had been a rush. The Seed officers were eager to get him to Sor, and nearly instantly upon landing he was transferred to a Imperial Standard, a cruiser designed for High Command, and sent immediately to the Capima Islands. And so here he was, back on the islands again. The ship dipped out of the nighttime clouds and through the window beside his seat Skinnar could see the lights of the city lighting up the sky and the water both.

“How long have you been away, Mister Skinnar?” A ship servant questioned as he watched the man.

Skinnar sighed as he stared out. “Too long.”

Stone towers stretched into the sky, pure light illuminating from within with each inch covered in colourful banners and posters advertising something or another. Snow sailed down through the lights – June on the Capima Islands was one of the only times during the year where the temperature dropped enough for snow to even appear, and even then it was light and only a few days lasting. Still, when the snow began to fall, the Sorillian’s went all out. In the streets below rich-fur coats roamed, every imaginable type of animal slaughtered and worn by the people of the city. Advertisements flashed at them from every window, and constructions consumed almost every road. Not repairs but new systems, new infrastructure being built completely. Skinnar stared out, hardly believing that the lively metropolis was the same conquered city of six months past.

The ship began to lower into a lavish spaceport. Waiting outside the ship with an automobile ready was a small man in a long, coyote-fur coat. Fairchild smiled warmly as Skinnar emerged onto the snowy stone-ground. “Welcome to the city of Sor!” Fairchild exclaimed. He looked better, healthier – and his once long hair was now short cut and clean.

“Welcome… to the city of Sor,” Skinnar replied with a reluctant nod.

They rode off into the streets, Skinnar observing the affluence that now coated each block. The rich outweighed the poor in Sor now, so much was clear.

“Lets get the tunes on,” Fairchild added as he adjusted the backseat radio. Soon an upbeat burst of power began to play along with a woman’s singing. “It’s not occupied by wartime signals?” Skinnar asked in confusion to the radio.

Fairchild laughed. “Not here, Skinnar,” He commented. “I’m sure you’re wandering why you’ve been summoned here, right?”

“It’s crossed my mind,” Skinnar murmured as he eyeballed a brightly lit banner for a new time of photograph patent.

“Nai’s been watching your progress, Skinnar, she’s quite impressed,” Fairchild smirked. “Impressed enough to summon you for a personal meeting. We’ve set you up in the Pentias Tower, all expenses on us. It has a servant staff, pleasure staff – all needs yours, chefs. Anything you could want – then meetings two days away, if that’s quite alright with you?”

“It’s… it’s fine,” Skinnar nodded. “Fairchild what’s happening here?” He asked as the man bopped to the music. “The city of Sor… it seems like the war isn’t here at all.”

“The wars here, Skinnar,” Fairchild smiled. “But we’re winning it.”

“I’m not sure I would call the western front a success yet, sir,” Skinnar replied, his thoughts going to the months of chaotic and undeceive battles with the numerous sources against them.

“Six months ago our super weapon died and we had half the numbers of the Oblivionites ready to kill on the battlefield. Six months later we’ve grown our army and services to rival that of the Oblivionites and we have managed to secure the least amount of casualties on the battlefield, while making more income then Seed ever has before,” Fairchild explained. “We’re winning as much as anyone can in this awkward situation.”

“How?” Skinnar asked. “How can you afford… all of this? Or the soldier entitlement act? Or the nobility redistribution, or the construction? Where’s the money coming from?”

Fairchild smiled. “Don’t worry… it’s coming,” He nodded, making it clear the specifics of Seed finance were not to be discussed. “Oh wait, look at this!” He called, pointing out the window. Skinnar turned to see a giant posted on the side of a tower, the image of Nai as a Sorillian farming planting a Seed before a tombstone marked Sentrius Tetran of the Sora System. Beneath it was the text “Help plant the Seed of tomorrow”.

“Good lord,” Skinnar muttered.

“Yeah, it’s good, isn’t it?” Fairchild laughed. “People like her, Skinnar. We managed to make a Baon woman someone the people will not completely hate. We changed Seed, what it means, what we think it means. Instead of us showing ourselves as a new Empire or like, an invading culture, we’re trying to show ourselves as a mix – as Sor, as Ulfire. So it’s still your home… even if its not your home.” Fairchild glanced down as the song ended on a bang. “God that’s good.”

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Shalvoh doubled back a bit before calmly pressing his hand to his face. Noting the blood, he wordlessly made a beeline for the restroom.

***
"And Oblivion...his goal of utter annihilation will result in a kind of change as well...as do the many other nations vying for power in these desperate times..." the seemingly bodiless voice wailed.

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Etzel nodded curtly, his eyes studied the man and his guards with a curious frown. Sorillian? It was not a language he was particularly familiar with and there was only one language book in the entire world of Libary that had it, written by the Wordsmith herself. He made it his duty to train in linguistics, but his Sorillian was very rough, "Ah, of course. Please follow me."

He led the men through the streets of Libary, however this time the newcomers were greeted with more awe then Darius and Fera were, their curious eyes following the group. Up the steps and into the Temple, acolytes made way for the visitors and talked amongst themselves. Etzel knew what they were gossiping about; it was rare that they got two lots of different visitors in the same day, and he sighed in partial relief knowing that the Wordsmith would be too busy to write in the book. If only for a few days. A few days. A week at the most. That's all the time he needed to prepare.

They arrived at the inner library door, where the Wordsmith was almost always found. Her office was at the back of the inner library, along with her living quarters, but hardly anyone had seen them. In those spaces held the deepest, most powerful of ancient knowledge that Libary had to offer and only she and a select few others could read them. Etzel sighed as he uttered the words to the door and as it clicked open he stepped aside to let the visitors through. The Wordsmith didn't bother addressing him this time, too engrossed in a book that she held in her hands, a frown on her pale face. He noted that she looked very tired, then shut the door and left the man and his guards in her presence.

She was silent for a minute, standing in the middle of the room finishing a sentence that she was reading, before her gentle eyes gazed up to welcome the newcomers. The Wordsmith snapped the book closed and looked as though she was about to drop it on the floor, but the book promptly began to float as soon as it left her grasp and flew into it's place on a bookshelf.

"You speak Sorillian? That is uncommon," the Wordsmith spoke, placing her hands behind her back, "Perhaps you would like to tell me who you are, and your purpose for being here?"

**

"Whoa! Whoa! Hang on there!" Hedia intervened in the passive aggresive battle, standing in front of Fera with a frown, "Hey, why dont you get some rest as well before both you and Darius end up destroying this inn and it's keeper..."

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Joachim grunted, taking a drink of water.

***

Fera looked at Hedia. "You're kind of cute. Do you have any older sisters, ones that might be interested in giving me a 'tour' of the city?" He grinned.

***

Darius slipped through the top floor of the inn's window, quickly leaping back across the rooftops. No one saw him; no one heard him. The magic he was using was little known, but it was one of stealth and silence, enabling him to return unseen to the massive library he'd met the Wordsmith in. Unlike Fera, his sense of direction was uncanny, and he quickly slipped inside.

Smirking to himself, Darius slipped silently around the Libarians, not bothering to keep up the silent magic. None of the Libarians looked up, too involved in their studies to notice his presence. After about half an hour of searching, he pulled a book off the shelf, and settled down in a chair.

It was time to go to work.

***

It was 10 pm and already half of his group was dead. Highwind held the door firmly shut against the continued barrage of attacks from the creature outside. They'd been careless. Those who were still alive would not be the next time. If there was a next time.

A crack appeared in the door and Highwind quickly pressed a hand over it. Shadow sliced through, cutting deeply into the acidic blood of the monster. It howled in pain, and Highwind could hear its many limbs flopping about as it died.

"It's dead, but there will be more," Highwind intoned over the noise. "Climb up on the roof, we'll cross a few buildings, then go into the sewers. Hurry."

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"Uh, no. I'm an orphan," Heida commented plainly, her frown deepening, "Also I'm a kid. But hey! I'll show you around, Etzel's taking over my shift at work anyway, c'mon!"

She grabbed the mans arm and pulled him along into the street, beginning to name places he didn't know or care about. Looks like Fera was stuck babysitting for the moment.....

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#, as written by Nulix
"King Dolias Ognarius of Sor," The man before the Wordsmith spoke. "We were a tribe under the Helexicon rule and fought for our independence during the collapse of the Empire, Wordsmith..." He whispered, his hand going to the hilt of his blade. "We Sorillian's have expanded and conquered. Now six planets lay under my rule: Capima, Snaeve, Wevian, Gnybian, and Kocartenia..." The King swallowed. "And it will soon be more. The Baons have provoked us and now we are waging war on their Empire. Things are changing, Wordsmith, and new powers in the south have arisen. The Cartenians, Ulfirians, the Vench, the Bakotians, the Ponanese, the Lutmen. Former slaves to Helexicon all expanding and conquering... all allied."

The King paused as he stepped forward toward one of the many hundred bookshelves that lined the walls - the words on the spine were in all sorts of languages and alphabets he could not read. "We have all signed the Treaty of the Crosses, my lady..." The King continued. "Calling for the arrest and murder of all Phoenix for the cruelty and evil they have unleashed upon the worlds since the dawn of time." He glanced to the Wordsmith. "Magic is a large part of what fuels the planet of Libary, is it not?"

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The Wordsmith's eyes narrowed, observing the king closely. Of course she had heard of him, but it was the first time that they had met which felt surprising to her, "We have no business with Phoenix magic on Libary, your majesty," the Wordsmith replied after a moment, "Phoenix's are powerful and unpredictable, their use of elements stemming from strong emotion which is predominantly undesired when dealing with the delicacy of knowledge."

A small smile curved her lips, "None of my Acolytes or Bookkeepers are Phoenix, but that of course doesn't rule out the citizens of this city. I have no control over who is Phoenix and we have never had troubles with any in the past, but you are free to search if you so desire, so long as it doesn't disrupt the peace of Libary."

At this point, many of the libarians had left the room leaving them to discuss in private. She watched the remaining few leave before her now unsmiling gaze pierced Dolias, "Concerning the magic on Libary, if it puts your mind at ease then you'll be pleased to know that we use a different kind. Rather than magic from the heart, ours come from the mind. It is less....destructive than the Phoenix and our traditions state that we may never directly harm another unless provoked, so you need not worry. The Libarians are simply here to serve our fellow man."

Her sentence finished with a winning smile, "But of course, if my explanation seems vague then you are welcome to do more research to put your mind to rest, we are, after all, in a world of knowledge. Which brings me to my next point, surely a King such as yourself hasn't come all this way just to hunt for Phoenix, is there something more?"

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#, as written by Nulix
King Ognarius stared at the woman, as he had for all her reply, though his expression did not change. At the end of her words he simply leaned in. "All magic is Phoenix magic, be it used by those who shoot fire or those who do not it's all come from the corruption of their hands," The King hissed at her smile, it becoming clear that logic and reason were not the language he spoke. "You exist as a haven of intellectualism in the emptiness of this here Wild Space, gaining knowledge from all it's vast corners... but those corners are shrinking," He whispered. "There is a new book in the hands of the people, one that is soon to rein supreme across the galaxy. It is called the Book of the Matran," The King whispered. "And the Eye of God will see all and deem who is and who is not to burn, my dear. And this haven of witchcraft and Phoenix villainy, this shrine to their evil and the information you've collected on them will not withstand the fire."

The King turned away, raising a pendent of the Eye of God from his collar. "We the system's of the North are small but powerful, with the lands once with the industry and weapons of the Helexicon at our disposal... and we are all aligned, all beneath the world of the Matran... and so while our focuses may be elsewhere I cannot guarantee the safety of your world now from the other systems in our alliance or even from Sor itself, in times yet to come..."

The King paused, glancing back. "Of course... I, of royal blood, of such power as I wield, I have the power to change the views we, the chosen, hold so dear over this world. I, of royal blood, of such power as I wield, have the power... to spare Libary the horrors of a crusade, the horrors of a conquest, the horrors of our judgement as to leave you only to the judgement of the afterlife." A smile crept onto the red-haired man's face as the true purpose of his visit to Libary became clear. "And to speak upon your behalf mercifully, to make Libary known as an place of good to all Kings in North-East Space, I ask only... for one thing in return. Information on the Empire of Bao's military... and all weaknesses within."

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"Wow, a prick!" Darius called from a corner of the library, setting his book down and stretching. He went to one of the other shelves, and pulled another book down. "Don't take the deal Wordsmith!"

One of the King's aides blinked, recognizing the man. Although Darius' name escaped the aide, he did recognize the features: very tall, muscular, young, red hair, blue eyes, Phoenix, large sword strapped to his back, stylized armor...

"The Immortals," the aide muttered, his eyes narrowing. "Here on Libary..."

The Immortals, as they called themselves, were a duo of Phoenix who were beyond powerful. Everywhere they went, havoc followed. They made their living selling themselves out to the highest bidder as high-profile assassins or mercenaries. They weren't from known space, but they were very wanted men, even without the Phoenix ultimatum.

Although the aide didn't believe for an instant that their title had any actual meaning beyond their ego, the Sorillian did worry quite suddenly that this unpredictable man might cause a problem.

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"And you're sure you want to go?" The soft voice called out from the back of the hanger. "You're sure you want to leave all this behind, forever?" The last word stung. Wing had hoped he wouldn't grow attached to the small colony world nestled on the far side of the Dark Worlds System. Light years from Sor, from the pain of the last six months. From the ruined Seed and Oblivionite encampments and the bodies of those who joined him in attacking them, but would never leave.

Wing had crash landed on this small simple world, and more than once fought off scouting parties, but they increased in frequency and troop counts. Wing was now a liability, he refused to be the end of the colony. Yet, if he left, who would stop Oblivion from taking over? He simply shook his head, running though the diagnostics of the small fighter he'd managed to piece back together since crashing. Seemed to be his story, leave one world, crash on another, then leave that one, only to crash on yet another. Each with their own challenges, people and stories, and somehow he never felt part of any of them. No matter how long he remained in one place. However something was different this time. War surrounded him, and he'd yet to find a reason to keep going. A reason of his own anyway. He fought for ideals, never sure if he was the one in the right anymore. These people seemed to think so, but what would happen if Oblivion or Seed did take over? With no one resisting, would harm really come to these people? Would Seed or Oblivion actually improve their lives? What if it was due to his actions, that Wing was keeping these people from reaching their potential.

The thoughts manifested themselves into twilight, ruining the small datapad in his hand. He tossed it aside without so much as a second thought, and pushed pulled his goggles off his eyes let them rest around his neck. "I know you can hear me, son."

Klaus, the kindly old man who had taken him in, provided him with food and shelter. His wife, Rena followed a few steps behind, a basket in her hand full of breads and salted meats. "I won't try and stop ya, but I will ask you to reconsider. You can make a life here, son. You can make a difference. Now, I know it won't be as big as saving the universe, but it'll be big here. That's what matters, Wing. The small differences. Looking at the big picture all the time will never bring you true happiness."

"He is right you know." Wing looked up to see Roland, a young man from the village, and a trusted ally. He'd helped Wing push back Oblivion's men on more than one occasion. Wing was grateful that Roland wasn't around during all those failed covert operations. He wouldn't have been able to live with himself if Roland had remained on a far off world forever. "Of course he's right!" Wing aid with a soft smile, turing to face Klaus. "He's not been wrong since I've been here, and I thank him for it. I thank him for every second he stayed up talking with me, and for taking me in." Wing looked down at his black boots, caked in the mud of so many far away worlds. Klaus looked on with a proud smile, "It's because he's always right, that I have to go. I have to find my 'small picture' I've lost the will to fight, but I must keep fighting. I have friends out there who will getting into more trouble than we've ever been in before, and another friend I still have to rescue." Wing could barely meet Klaus and Rena's eyes. They wore proud smiles, but their eyes showed such pain.

"When this is all over, and you're sure you're friends are safe, please come back here my boy. You are always welcome. You will always have a home here." Klaus then embraced Wing, while Rena placed the basket of food into the cockpit of the fighter. He hugged her tight, thanking her for everything, before shaking Roland's hand. "If you need a partner man, you know where I'll be!" Roland was always up for an adventure, but Wing knew he wouldn't leave his home. "You bet, take care of them, I know you'll give anyone hell that tries to take this place!" Roland nodded confidently as Wing boarded the craft.

The engines hummed to life while Roland and Klaus opened the hanger doors, Wing eased on the throttle, taxiing the craft onto the makeshift runway. With one last salute, Wing punched the throttle, and pulled back on the stick, reaching escape velocity only seconds after he was airborne. Just like that he was among the stars again, and another world rest behind him, utterly small in the grand scheme of things. He felt the familiar chill of being alone in space, and set a course for the rendezvous point he and Tera Roth had planned to meet at. It was time to find Darius,

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"I don't believe this concerns you," The Wordsmith's sharp gaze pierced Darius, before turning to the king with rage filled eyes, "That is a very extravagant request!"

Fury seeped into the Wordsmith's blood as she began to slowly realize the consequences of his words if she did not comply. It had always been a messy task being the matriarch of knowledge, but there had been no choice for her ever since a young age. She kept up the reputation of Libary being a beacon of power, a tool to use for conquest and strength for little payment, and not one person, group, civilization or empire had ever thought of destroying it. Because they knew, and she knew, that Libary and the Wordsmith were needed to achieve greatness, and who would sabotage their chance of power? No, the Wordsmith knew human desires all too well and she played her hand along side it to achieve her own. It was tricky at times, and occasionally she was forced to dispatch of those who were not happy with their answers on Libary, those who threatened to spread a bad reputation, but the world had been in it's golden age for quite some time. It was a world of peace and prosperity.

But now...now a King of conquest stood before her and threatened this safe haven. The cracks that she had tried so vigorously to cover were starting to show and no matter how many things went through her mind she could not come up with a simple solution. She was furious that her research would have to go on hold for the moment, the Wordsmith was so close to the end of her research it pained her to have to put the Murshlatan on pause...but as long as Libary was safe. That was all that mattered.

"Militia information on any world is difficult to obtain and even more difficult to maintain. Plans, status, weaponry and weaknesses are constantly changing and improving, so it will be a long time before I can give you that knowledge" she pinched the bridge of her nose, thinking things over, "I will have to send an undercover team to the front lines because we do not have updated information that will properly aid you. I do hope you understand."

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#, as written by Nulix
The King of Sor stared at the unknown, vagabond intruders before returning his gaze to the Wordsmith. "I understand, my lady," The King whispered with a bow. "But until I receive the military information I've requested I will raise no hand to plans of invasion or crusade from my southern allies of this... Godless, Neahian ploughed space you've populated." The King smirked as he placed his hand back on the hilt of his blade, it the finishing touch of the overly decorated ceremonial armour he wore. "And if you do not deliver the information I will never raise a hand. And know that without me stopping it, one day, perhaps in ten years, perhaps more, you will awake to find Libary burning, and all you once knew here dead and gone, my lady. And you'll find your memories of this age is all the knowledge Libary will have left."

The King glared at her. It was clear what type of man he was - not the type that built the future, but the type that conquered it - by any means. "Good day," He whispered, turning to the entrance with his guards in unison. His thick cloak trailed on the marble behind him as he walked. "And to you, my lords," He murmured dismissively as he and his guards passed Fera and Darius. And with that the King of Sor left, the result of months of space flight north for one simple threat... but to the King, it may be the threat that could change the biggest war the Sora System had ever fought. For the Baon's were dangerous, and they would not be defeated with ease.

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One minute.

Time had seemed to stretch into eternity with the bodies of women keeping the passage of its reluctant passing. He had waited. For what reason, well the truth was, he had none. He had simply waited for her.

Thirty seconds.

He had kept his word and not touched her. The unfortunate thing was, he had not sworn off every other woman he had contact with. Argent had been smart however. It hadn't mattered if his victims had been.

Ten seconds.

"My, my, Miss Caithe!" Argent called out as he approached her. "May I have a private word with you?"

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The spirits were now starting to dissipate into thin air, particles of the ghouls dissolving and fading away before their very eyes. It looked as though they were burning up by salt, which would be true in a sense. Their shrieks were the last thing that the group heard as the autumn forest turned back to normal; silent, save for the normal forest creature sounds that echoed throughout. Caithe sighed in relief, and her eyes lit up as she caught sight of Argent.

"Oh! Argent! I'm glad you're okay, I was--oh..." the girl stopped her words when she realized she was still floating in the middle of the murky lake. She swam to the shore and lifted herself up on the muddy ground before him with a grin, "...as I was saying, I was worried. But of course, I worry for nothing huh?"

Caithe stood, trying not to slip on the mud and back into the water, and wrung out her wet hair as she talked. She was soaked, "That was a complete disaster though, who knew we would encounter Crampanov of all people. Luckily Spite Mask knows about these legends!" she glanced to the man in the trees with a smile, before turning to face Argent once more "Hm? What were you saying? You want to speak with me in private? Oh! uh...is there something wrong? Well, I dropped a few of my books on the run to the lake, come on and help me find them then, we can talk while we look."

She began to retrace her steps, peering to the foliage covered forest floor while trying to wipe off some of the mud and moss that clung to her wet clothes, expecting the man to follow.

**

The Wordsmith stood still for a long time, clenching and releasing her fists, remaining silent and trying to control her rage. But, thinking that the library she stood in was empty, she screamed in frustration, "How DARE he!"

She stomped her foot on the marble in fury, wanting to smash something in her tantrum, "HOW DARE HE--" her words were cut off however when she caught sight of Darius, still in the library with her. A look of shock crossed her face before it turned back into anger, but she didn't yell at him, "Go away."

A sigh left her lips, and she repeated her words less harshly, "Please leave me..."

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#, as written by Nulix
The pitter-patter of rain against bamboo wood, her eyes awakening to a cold sting in the air. The world before her grey, lifeless - with nothing but the sound of wind prancing through the open doorways of her house. Her tiny form rose from the bed, though it never felt as though she'd awoken from her dream. Her grandfather stood in the dirt-road past the garden - the strange mountain man come to return again, as he so rarely did. But something was different now - he wept over bodies. The bodies of his only daughter and her husband, of her parents, now bloodied and left dead in the rain. And from that day he was a mountain man no longer.

***

"Do you remember how they died?"

His words cut like a knife through the warm hum of the insects in the air. Song turned to the man, her grand-fathers murdered, who over the last month had insisted on taking her in - teaching her how to unleash her power, with the knowledge that she'd only use it to kill him in turn. And indeed she would.

Song stared at Lun before turning away. "I don't remember a thing."

***

The pitter-patter of rain began to fade in, mixed with grey light and the feeling of wetness on her cheek. Song opened an eye, closing it almost instantly as a raindrop smashed an inch away from her black pupils. She rose to find the morning forest overcome by downpour, the large leafs above her dripping the liquids furiously.

"Good morning Song Woon," Tormand's heavy voice greeted. Song glanced over to the man who knelt by a tree-stump, polishing his weapons. "Don't you ever sleep?" Song murmured drowsily as she kicked her bedroll back and began to walk forward. Tormand looked up at her in confusion. "I have slept," He replied before sharpening again.

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"I have an idea," Darius said after a moment, not moving or looking up from the book he was reading. "We're supposed to do something for you, right? In return for this information?" His eyes finally glanced up and met the Wordsmith's. "Do you want us to destroy Sor?"

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"You're an idiot," the tired Wordsmith muttered plainly, but she didn't seem mad. She walked to the door and opened it, gesturing towards the exit, "Leave me. I need to organize things for both yours and the kings requests, I'm sure that you don't want to wait any longer then you have to."

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"I'm fine with waiting," Darius said, getting up and setting the book back on the shelf gently. "It's not like we've got anything better to do." He smiled slightly, glancing over at the books. "And I've got nothing but time..."

He walked out of the library, heading back to the inn, lost in thought.

***

Fera, meanwhile, had not stayed depressed for long, asking Heida question after question about the landmarks, the city, the people, the culture, their history, what they planned for the future, her neighbors, her friends. It was enough to exhaust anybody, but Fera seemed tireless in his questioning, and always listened intently to her answers. It was as if he were a giant sponge, soaking up every bit of knowledge he could.

Eventually, the day wound down, and Heida seemed relieved to bring Fera back to the inn. Fera entered to find Darius sitting at one of the tables, cleaning his sword.

"Well, I know you're bored when you're doing that," Fera said, sitting down next to him. "Shalvoh, the innkeeper, said he had a job for us."

Darius sheathed his sword. "That's fine with me." He hesitated. "The Wordsmith had another visitor: Sor's King. He didn't seem to recognize me, which may have been a good thing."

"Hum, well, we are just 'lowly' bank robbers," Fera pointed out. "At worst, we're petty thieves. At best, we're crooks."

"He threatened Libary," Darius said, not bothering to respond to Fera's quip. "I offered the Wordsmith a return service. I said we could destroy Sor for her."

"Let me guess, she wasn't thrilled," Fera said, shaking his head, his smile fading. "What on earth were you thinking?"

Darius shrugged. "She did say I was an idiot, but I do think it's possible..."

"Listen," Fera snapped. "Do you even know what destroying Sor means? Do you have any idea how much power that would take? It would take an army, a massive army! You'd have to have hundreds of skilled fighters, and thousands of troops!"

Darius said nothing, thinking. "Hmm... I believe you're right. Yes, I'd be a little unprepared now, but..."

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"So how is Vitalia, by the way?" Lun asked Tormand. "Did she ever inform you of how Alarisset happened to land in the clutches of Skippy? I have most assuredly correct suspicion that she had a hand in that."

***

"Wow, why are you two still here?!" Shalvoh asked Feral and Darius with equal parts disgust and bewilderment, approaching them as he was washing out a glass with a dishrag. "You haven't paid for anything!" Shalvoh glanced around, noting that no one else is here. "Unless you seek to accept the job offer I spoke of earlier?"

***
Spite Mask's eyes narrowed as he listened in on Caithe and Argent's conversation. HE then looked at Enigma, giving him a glance that seemed to inquire, "Aren't you going to do anything?"

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Enigma looked at Spite Mask, and gave him a glance that seemed to ask, "Are you going to help me?

***

Darius and Fera exchanged glances.

"Uh, sure, Shalvoh," Fera said, leaning back. "What did you want us to do? Sing and dance?"

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"Your suspicions are incorrect, Lun. I am sorry I was unable to save her," Tormand replied as he glanced up at the rain. "Who's hunting you, Lun?" He asked at last, though neither Lun or Song had told Tormand of their predator. "You hide your tracks and move often and quickly. Somebody on this world is after you, Lun. Tell me who."

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Lun was silent for a long moment. "You aren't the only one...did you know that?" Lun responded to Tormand cryptically.

***

"Do I look like I want the guests of my hotel to riot?" Shalvoh asked incredulously. "No, no...My job is far more befitting of your skills. Well, at least I hope that's the case. Shalvoh pulled some dingy looking paper form his pocket and slammed it down upon the table, where it unfurled into what appeared to be a a map...though upon closer inspection it was more of a layout.

"Know what this is? Of course you don't" he answered quickly, refusing to let them reply. "This is a layout of the Temple, the grandest library in all of Libary....I need you to steal something from it. No casualties, but I don't care what else you do. You're starting point is here," he began, his finger pointing over to a corner of the map. "Sneak in through a window. It will lead you to the furnace. This is where the temple dumps all of it's garbage. It never stops burning...but there's still a knob on the side that can turn it off. Now...not even the Wordsmith herself knows this...but once you turns the furnace off...it belies a passageway...that'll lead you directly here," Shalvoh's finger hovered over to a spot on the center of the map. "That's the Wordsmith's quarters."

"Now, when you turn the knob off, make sure to break it off so no one will unwittingly wander in and turn it back on," Shalvoh cautioned. "and don't worry about the Wordsmith's or anyone else's presence in her chambers. There will be...a distraction in place. Once you reach her chambers you are to search her room for a book. Not any book. Her...well, I suppose it's a journal. It's full of notes symbols, and such. You won't understand it. But that doesn't matter. All that does matter is that you retrieve it for me, and the reward will be astronomical. Do you accept?"

***

Spite Mask made no motions of movements to betray his thoughts, he only remained silent and turned his head towards the direction of Caithe and Argent.

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"I killed myself, Lun. I've been made aware there are multiple versions of me," Tormand replied as he finished sharpening his blades and carefully placed each back into their sheath.

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Enigma sighed, and followed... stealthy-like.

***

Darius and Fera exchanged glances. "Screw you," Fera said, punching Shalvoh in the face. "I don't steal from women."

"C'mon," Darius said, picking up Shalvoh's map and lighting it on fire. "Let's go sleep in the street. It's probably healthier."

"This Shalvoh," Fera muttered, as they left. "What a villain!"

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"Those must be the worst pirates I've ever seen," The passerby murmured as he observed Fera and Darius.

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"Who said I'm talking about you...?" Lun snickered. "I suppose this incarnation of you doesn't remember the other apprentice. Tell me Tormand....does the name Bandolo ring any bells to you?"

***
Quickly Shalvoh's arm moved towards the map as it was caught on fire, causing his arm to light up as well. Screaming in loudly sheer agony, Shalvoh caught the attention of another one of the guests staying at the inn. It was Platybus, the captain of the guard of the Temple. A large round man, Platybus was a kind soul, but not one to be trifled with. He didn't earn his nickname, 'The Iron Wall' for nothing.

"My word, what happened here?!" Platybus gasped. "I say, your arm seems to have caught on...is that the map of our glorious temple lit aflame as well?! I thought this was stolen days ago!"

"It was..." Shalvoh screeched as some maids and attendantsran towards him, dumping a bucket of water on his arm, dousing out the flame. "By those thieves...!" he pointed out of the door at Darius and Fera. "I saw them...laughing and plotting about how they were going to steal valuables form the Wordsmith's chambers. When I went to confront them about it, they attacked me! Punching me in the face and setting my on fire. They lit the map up too, foolishly burning away all evidence of their fingerprints being on it," Shalvoh added, glacing at the pile of cinders which was once a map with his incriminating fingerprints all over it.

"This cannot stand!" Platybus grumbled in a fury. "IT will not! I'm rallying the guard!" Platybus drew out a golden trumpet. He began to play a loud tune on it, which alerted all able bodied guardsmen to gather towards him. "Those two ruffians who Libary's had the misfortune of recently hosting! they're scoundrels. Rotten to the core! Find them and arrest them! And place guards around the Wordsmith's quarters! We must NOT let them ruin the sanctity of our great land!"

Guards then spilled out in droves on a manhunt for the two thieves. Shalvoh was sent to the apothecary, though as soon as the nurse's eyes were turned, Shalvoh had already seemed to have left.

***

Spite Mask remained in place, his cloak folded over his body as his feet remained planted in the waters below, watching Enigma sneak after Caithe and Argent.

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"Hm, I do believe we've been played," Fera said, sitting on top of the hotel's roof, eating all of the food Shalvoh had never given them. "This should be fun."

"Yeah," Darius said, grinning. "But let's not kill anybody, just in case the Wordsmith makes a fuss."

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"Well well well..." The gruff voice of the passerby murmured as the figure approached from behind them against the twilight sun, smashing a gloved fist into an open palm. "If it isn't the two Immortals of Bako Bay...."

***

"Is that an instrument?" Tormand inquired.

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"No you utter simpleton," Lun retorted. "It's the other. Wu's other apprentice! you aren't the only one who's life has been manipulated by him, you know!"

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"Why, of course Miss Caithe. Anything for you," Argent responded as he followed her, hovering just at the edge of her personal space. He did not want to rush this but his focus on her was too great. It made him eager. So, he followed her but looked back to where Caithe had indicated Spite Mask was. He could not see the man but knew that the threat was probably lurking within the shadows. Enigma he hadn't seen in a while either. Then again, Argent was oblivious to many things right now.

"Y'know miss Caithe, this has been a rather fast six months, has it not?" Argent began as his eyes roamed her newly defined form thanks to the wet clothes. Sweat began to accumulate on his forehead. "But a rather interesting six months it has been since I've been waiting for this day. Do you want to know why Miss Caithe?"

His words began to grow a little rushed as he continued without waiting for Caithe's response, "It is because that fellow, Enigma, and I had a quite interesting chat before coming here with you. A rather interesting proposition with you at its center. Would you like to hear it Miss Caithe? About Enigma's betrayal?"

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"Enigma's....betrayal?" as Caithe uttered the words she stared at Argent in complete bewilderment. She had turned to face him and found that they stood very close to each other, but she was more focused on his words, "I don't...I...don't understand. What do you mean, Argent?"

**

"What is the meaning of this?" The Wordsmith muttered as guards took their place around the Temple, "What's going on?"

"There are people planning to steal from you, miss! Those...those two ruffians that you saw earlier had a map of the library and set some guy on fire!" a random guard explained. The Wordsmith sighed and shook her head.

"Ugh...you mean Darius and Fera? Why would Darius offer to help me and then steal--" she cut off her words when she realized the guard had no idea what she was talking about. She simply waved her hand and decided to think about it later, her mind preoccupied with other more important things.

**

"What are you thinking, Shalvoh?!" Etzel growled, "Asking those two fools to steal the Murshlatan...are you insane?! We don't know if we can trust them and now we certainly know we cant. This is going to cause problems..."

He leaned against the kitchen wall where Shalvoh, Heida and Etzel discussed, "If the Wordsmith gets suspicious!--"

"I think we can trust them..." Heida peeped, she looked down at her feet, "I think we can trust Fera at least...he's a nice person."

"We cant just trust any person who is nice, " Etzel snapped at the young girl, who simply looked away, "But I have some good news at least. The King of Sor just visited, which means the Wordsmith will be busy for a while. We must get the Murshlatan before she completes it...." Etzel glared at Shalvoh, "Without causing a fuss."

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Darius glanced over his shoulder.

"Fera, see what this guy wants," he said, finishing a piece of chicken. "I'll go take care of business." Darius sprang forward, leaping from roof to roof with agile grace.

Fera set his plate down nicely, and turned to the mysterious man who knew their identity. "Do whom do I owe the pleasure?" he asked politely.

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"I did not," Tormand murmured as he glance duo to the rainy skies above. "Though I am not surprised. Perhaps he can be reasoned with if he was a servant of Wu's."

***

"You need to learn when to stop,"" A female voice called from across the room. "You need to learn to respect people when they're speaking," She added. "And not block them out like a child." Roastako's replied with a groan in agony at the woman's words. "Oh God alive," He murmured, covering his hands on his ears and collapsing on the leather couch.

"Can you honestly not," The woman whispered with hostility as the man ignored her. "Don't - don't act like this, not when I'm going through this."

"But you caused this! You!" Roastakos said as he rose up on the couch, standing on his knees. "And it's always this, it's always something you mess up that becomes a weeks worth of work to fix. I know you hate your family and the old unit saying you're useless but God alive stop acting useless."

The black-haired woman's mouth hung open, her head shaking back in forth with rage after a moment. "You... you absolute-"

"I'm sorry but I'm trying to help," Roastakos interjected defensively. "With your screw-ups I always, always am the one who has to fix it. When I screw up its hilarious, and the station station can laugh. That's cruel, and you've never cared. Never." He stared across the apartment at her desperately. "I'm good at what I do! I don't deserve to be mocked because of little things, please for the love of God I need you to get that. Just because I'm capable of dealing with it doesn't mean it doesn't hurt."

The woman gave a mock laugh. "You think you're the only one capable of getting hurt." She shook her head. "Selfish little boy."

***

"Down here, right?"

Roastako's voice caused the large man to look up. The hall of the ship was tight, and Roastakos was careful to not let the criminal get an advantageous angle on the Solar Guard. Even shackled the man was a threat. Terman, as he'd identified himself, barely spoke a competent word - but he had revealed enough to tell Roastakos that there were others in the ship, and they were dangerous.

"Terman, down here?" Roastako's whispered again, casually hitting the shackled man's side with one of his clubs. Terman grunted at the pain before starring at Roastakos again. "Down here? Yes or no?" Roastakos spat, raising his club threateningly again. "...Yes," Terman replied at last. "Alright..." Roastakos breathed as he stared down the hall ahead again. There were several doorways, though he suspected the others on the ship were not in them. No, the staircase at the end of the hall seemed the most likely corridor. It led down into a truly thick darkness.

The Solar Guard swallowed before pausing once more and turning to Terman. "What were you staring at? Before I spoke?" Roastakos demanded. The large criminal pointed the tip of his blonde bearded chin to the ground. On the wooden steps behind Roastakos' boot a photograph lay of a straight, black-haired woman with large, sharp eyebrows, pale skin and exotic features smirking at a camera as Roastakos held her from behind. Roastakos frowned and snatched the photo up in one swift motion. "None of your concern," He whispered threateningly to Terman before continuing on.

Roastako's swallowed as he made his way to the circular staircase downward, the small light stone on his waist revealing about a foot ahead and nothing more. He continued down carefully, clubs ready for action as he circled the creaky stairs several times and emerged into a new hall. "Wait..." Roastakos whispered, squinting through the darkness as much as he humanely could. "I see something..."

A doorway, far ahead, with the faintest of lights pouring out of it.

Terman nodded ahead and spoke one word: "Them."

***

"COme on, Scumbo, you remember me," The passerby hissed.

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"Oh, yeah, I do," Fera said, tying the passerby up with some rope and dangling him from the roof edge. "Hold still please." He pointed a finger at the sky and lit up fireworks like the Fourth of July.

"Whoa yeah! It's on!" Fera yelled, his voice amplifying through the city. "I'm at the scene of the crime boys and girls! Bring your family, who wants to BBQ!?" Fera then began dancing on the rooftop as the fireworks continued to light off. He snapped his fingers, and music began blaring out of nowhere, strange, intense music with a heavy beat and funky bass.

"I call this Disco!" Fera said, to the confused masses below. "Disco Inferno! Dance babies, dance!"

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"There they are!" The guards yelled as Fera began to make a fool of himself. He stared down at what he thought was the passerby only to reveal that it was but a rip of the strange figures cloak that he had caught in his rope.

"Let's murder 'em!" Another guard agreed as suddenly fire-soaked arrows began to fly toward the rooftop.

"You idiots," The gruff voice of the Passerby hissed, the dirty, brown cloaked figure standing on a neighbouring rooftop. "This way, boys. The Mürshlatan awaits. And I know exactly how to get it."

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"Whoa, chill out guys!" Fera said as he stopped the arrows in the air. "This is a party! Everybody should be having a good time on the bayou!"

He completely ignored the "Passerby", who he hated.

***

Darius, meanwhile, was stepping out of the lit furnace without any seeming problems. Looking around the Wordsmith's bedchambers, he frowned slightly. They were... much smaller than he'd suspected. They also looked hardly touched. He noticed a large book on the desk, with a pot of ink next to it.

Carefully, he picked it up and opened it, beginning to read. Shalvoh had been right, there was a code here. Still... Darius' brow furrowed and he sat down in the chair, his fingers turning the next page.

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"It's not nice to sneak around," a voice sounded from the chambers. The Wordsmith leaned against the door frame, obviously annoyed at Darius, "You should learn to keep your nose out of other peoples business. You're here for information of the Masamune, not to read my personal studies."

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"I'm here because I was bored," Darius said, looking up from the book. He lifted the Wordsmith's journal. "Do you have any idea why anyone would want to steal this...?" His eyes narrowed. "Something tells me you do."

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The Wordsmith laughed bitterly, "Of course I do, but I'd rather not say. Someone told me you and your friend were plotting to steal something from me, I'm guessing it's that book, so perhaps you already know..."

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"Perhaps you should ask your good friend Shalvoh the not-so-honest innkeeper about that," Darius sighed, setting the book down. "After all, he's the one who asked us to do this. But in answer to your almost accusation, I honestly have no idea why he would want to read through complete gibberish." He stood up and rubbed his eyes. "You've obviously gone to great lengths to code this thing, but maybe you just like your privacy and it's just a journal, or personal thoughts."

He looked at the Wordsmith. "Or maybe it's knowledge that is dangerous... very dangerous." He smirked. "Well, either way, it's really none of my business. But I was curious... thought maybe I could figure out why I was being asked to steal it."

Darius raised his hands in mock surrender. "So tell me, Wordsmith... Is this a pretty typical day for you? Or are we bringing our own blend of special excitement?" He laughed.

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"This is a pretty stressful day for me," the Wordsmith sighed, placing a hand to her head. She seemed exhausted, "Visited by the King of Sor who threatens to destroy Libary's existence if I don't get him difficult-to-obtain information, finding out that people are trying to steal my research, and being rudely addressed by two young men who are now causing up a stir in my city?" the last sentence was said with a slight smile, "No, not a typical day. But I've had worse. It would be appreciated if you didn't eavesdrop or sneak around in my personal quarters though."

She leaned against her desk, suddenly a different person to the one that they had first met, her expression soft and her voice gentle, "But now that you're here, perhaps you would like to tell me what two troublemakers such as yourselves want with the Masamune?"

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"He's not reasonable, Tormand...Not anymore," Lun shook his head. "He was hellbent on getting revenge just like you were...but then he went back into Wu's chambers. For what reasons, I don't know. Nostalgia maybe? Either way, he...did not like what he found in there. He's not like you, Tormand. He was never made into a clone. Wu made him into something...else. And now he's something worse."

***

"Well, clearly our plans have failed," Shalvoh informed Etzel, before raising a finger and pointing at him. "Or rather...YOUR plans have failed. You've cautioned us to wait for too long I knew those two thieves were going to be a knife to the heart of our plans form the minute they loudly stepped into town, so I've made countermeasures. Informing the thieves about the Murshlatan is one thing...and the chaos their disruptions have caused in town is another."

"The latter is merely a distraction, the former...was in the workings for a long time," Shalvoh muttered, placing a hand on his chin. "You see, I must admit, I've intended on betraying you from the very beginning," Shakvoh began before glancing down at Heida. "Not you, but him" he informed her nodding at Etzel. "My plan was for you to have you crawl through the furnace instead, but those foolish thieves proved to be the bigger guinea pigs in the end." Shalvoh smirked to himself. "and they are none the wiser..."

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"I'm afraid," Darius said after a moment, "that I just don't know you well enough to answer that question. But I respect you too much to blow you off completely." He smiled slightly. "Wordsmith, we both have our secrets. And since neither of us feel like sharing, I'd say we're at an impasse."

Darius shrugged. "So, let's talk business. I suspect your price for the whereabouts of the Masamune is going to be costly... Therefore, I propose that Fera and I remain as your retainers for one year, during which time we will protect and care for yourself, Libary's citizens and city, and your interests. After this period of time, you may decide if that was sufficient. Does that sound like a deal to you?"

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The Wordsmith chuckled at his dismissal of her question, having expected a response like that. After hearing his offer though she simply smiled and shook her head, "Ive taken good care of Libary and myself for years, I don't need protection and neither does this city. I am quite capable of fighting my own battles thank you. Your offer has no use for me. Although..."

She looked at the book on her desk, her eyes seemed distant and a frown replaced the smile, "Darius, it seems you and Fera have been involved in a dire situation that I'd rather you not be...but now that you are..." she looked at the man, her eyes serious, "It is of vital importance that I complete my research, do you understand? Otherwise in the future we may be dealing with an issue far beyond anything we have ever seen before. This book could be the key to understanding this threat, but if fallen into dangerous hands..." she bit her lip in contemplation, but didn't finish her words, "With the recent distractions and threats that have been posed against me it seems I may not have have a lot of time. So perhaps your offer does have some use to me after all...alright, I'll agree with your proposition. However, and I apologize for my honesty, but I don't trust you two, especially you. I'll be watching closely."

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"He sold you to me," Argent whispered so softly that Caithe couldn't make out the words. She would see his lips move but would not understand why his hand was suddenly around her throat.

"He gave you to me really," Argent said with a broad smile on his face. "I paid nothing but patience for you all this time and he made me wait so much more. I think, however, that his way cost much more."

Argent began to squeeze her throat.

"It is very fitting that he should be the audience to your grand fall from innocence, Miss Caithe. Would you like to thank him?" Argent chuckled and released the grip on her throat just enough for her to talk but still feel the pressure of his fingers, eager to squeeze again.

~*~

"Lady Nai. In your condition, I would recommend that you rest more often. To strain your body during this time and with so much activity to attend to, it would not be an ideal environment to foster growth or confidence."

On one knee with her head bowed, Hariolus counseled Nai who stood before her with a rather tired look upon her face. The past six months had been turbulent as a result of the changes she had brought about, particularly those concerning the members of Seed. Some had not gone over well considering the outrage the Ulfirian support had expressed at her own change in ranks. Her own changes must have been like adding salt to the wound although her successes in the past months had certainly convinced others that she had earned her position. Sentrius was gone but he had not lost his head in his final moments.

""I suppose i do have capable people in command," Nai conceded with a sigh. "It will only be for another month or even less. Xeroux can certainly act on my behalf."

Hariolus squirmed at Nai's last statement but did not say anything but, "Of course."

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Caithe's eyes widened, her body frozen in confusion and shock. She tried to understand what he was saying, what he truly meant, what exactly was happening right now when suddenly the realization hit, "You...want...me?"

Even now she still didn't really get it, but a frown replaced the shock as she began to repeat what Argent had said, "You and Enigma made a deal...about me? I..." and unexpectedly, even to her surprise, she laughed, "H-hang on a second. You're telling me that...you waited six months so that you could have me? Because Enigma gave me to you? That's insane, Argent."

She stared at him in astonishment, still aware that his hand was around her neck but she didn't look afraid at all, "So let me get this straight, you followed us around the universe, fighting and almost dying and going through all of this trouble because you wanted me?! I don't get it. You could have any girl in the universe...heck, Argent, I'm not even--I'm a mess!" she gestured to herself, covered in blood, dirt, sweat, bruises, cuts, her hair and clothes were a mess and she was the exact opposite of desirable at the moment, "Didn't you tell me that you've spent almost your whole life around Alarisset? and I'm...I'm nothing compared to her!"

"Not only that," Caithe's expression was serious now, "But I'm not Enigma's to give away. I'm not anyone's to give away, how dare you both make a proposition like that. This is...this is...why?!"

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Darius extended his hand, smiling. "Sounds like a deal to me. Now, would you mind calling off the guards before Fera finds himself full of holes? Or he's forced to kill someone?"

***

"Six months, Dios," Oblivion said, turning to the one who called himself Despair. "It has been six months, and you have yet to find the colony. You have yet to capture Tera Roth and Wing. I begin to wonder at your subordinates' willingness to complete their tasks."

"Hmm," Dios said, smiling. "Well, I'm sure they're all very willing, but as you might remember, you ordered us to stay within our boundaries, so as to keep things, ahhhh, organized." He lifted the glass of wine to his lips and swallowed the blood red liquid. "And I'm afraid to say that Tera Roth and Wing have been jumping from world to world so randomly that, ahhh well, they make it hard to track without crossing boundaries."

"And the colony?" Oblivion asked. "Your excuse there?"

"I have none!" Dios cackled. "I haven't even bothered looking."

"Well at least you're honest," Oblivion said, smiling. "In that case, you should have the manpower to move forward on all fronts. Relay to Echelon that I require him to do the same." Oblivion seated himself in his black throne, and rested his chin on his hand. "From now on, I am giving your generals and high captains leave to participate in the battles... However, I want this regulated. There's no sense in obliterating our opponents at this point in the game."

"Just ahh, curious, you might say," Dios said, twisting his head sideways as he looked at Oblivion cross-eyed. "But when will Samurai join the war? He commands a full third of our forces."

"Do you see a point in him joining?" Oblivion asked, raising an eyebrow. "Neither you nor Echelon are using your full strength and are progressing at a steady, if slow, pace. No, it's better this way." Oblivion's smile did not touch his eyes. "Let the pawns kill each other. It will leave more room for the other pieces on the board to battle."

"As you command, my lord," Dios said, bowing. "As you, ahh, command..."

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"I... Well, you see, Miss Caithe, I..." Argent struggled for words and he looked away from her. He had expected whimpering or cries of Why?but her actual reaction had left him stunned. In all his years, he had only come across three similar outbursts that had left him with little to say. Two of them had been Alarisset's.

"My apologies, Miss Caithe. I seem to have lost my head," Argent said softly and slowly put her down, releasing the grip on her throat to do a slow caress of her cheek if she didn't slap his hand away. Even if she had, either way would have left him standing there with a confused look upon his face. "I seem to have lost my head for a second there. I don't know what to say outright to that outburst of yours. I can only hope..."

Argent kneeled in front of her, "That you take me into your service."

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"Argent..." Caithe began softly, she was overwhelmed and decided to crouch down beside him so that they were eye level, "Don't you get it? We're friends. Friends do stupid stuff for each other, like travel around the universe with their life in constant danger to try and decode a book that could either further destroy or possibly save everything. Because they care," she laughed, her eyes gentle, "I care about you. I would've thought you'd have figured that out during these past six months. You don't need to be in the service of anyone anymore, you can do what you want...although, why you decide to follow the girl with a death wish in the form of an evil book is beyond me. But I'm grateful."

She smiled, before adding gingerly, "Just...uh, just don't grab me by my neck again...that kinda hurt," Caithe stood, grabbing his arm and pulling him to stand with her as she muttered, "Now, where is Enigma? I think him and I need to have a talk."

**

The Wordsmith grabbed his hand gently and shook, "Ah, right, I'll have a talk to Platybus...I'll also pay a visit to my dear friend Shalvoh, we'll see what he has to say."

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Once the Wordsmith arrived at the guards' office, she would find Shalvoh sitting on a bench, hoping to wave her over before she spoke to Platybus.

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"He does not know you as I do, Lun, that does not mean he cannot be reasoned with. If he is informed your end will come from punishment no matter the circumstances he may ally as I have," Tormand pointed out wisely.

Song let out a long sigh as the two mindless babbled on and began to head out into the open orange of the fall forest. She trailed out the path of their secluded clearing and began to scamper silently up a leaf-filled fill. From her back-pocket she pulled out a knife, twirling eagerly for prey.

***

There was a patter on the door to Nai's chambers. "Pardon my lady of Seed," Came Fairchild's voice. "I've just got back from the Pathibian. Skinnar's arrived and I have some... exciting facts and figures," Fairchild paused. "At your convenience, my lady."

***

Spite Mask stood alone in the forest, awaiting the return of his companions - unsure what type of agreement could have been reached. The forest they had entered was grand - thick pines stretching into the sky, bears and beasts of all kind lurking within it's unending grove. And, between it all, he could make out the faint sound of trumpets...

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Enigma threw out his fishing line into the bay, as he sat on the dock, waiting in silence. The hook, with a small worm on it, plopped into the water with a gentle sound. The wind rustled through the trees, and Enigma sighed.

***

"This Highwind is as devious as they say," Slayer said, twirling a knife around his fingers. "Every trap we create, he wriggles out of. I'd say it was a failing of my team if it was any other opponent." He smiled. "Beast, how many of the Morgla are left?"

The Beast snarled, slamming both fists into the table, and drooling.

"That should be plenty," Slayer mused. "Summon them up. It's time we had a showdown with Highwind. I'll lead him to the center of town with bait he cannot resist, and we'll see how well he does."

The Beast giggled and ran from the broken room, howling into the night.

***

Across town, Highwind shivered. Morning would soon arrive. His team was hunkered down in a small building, waiting for the light. The minutes ticked by slowly, until finally the sun breached the horizon, and his team visibly relaxed. The danger was past.

Highwind wiped his brow and settled back against a wall. His chest felt hot, too hot. This disease, this Seed growth inside of him, it was killing him. Highwind wasn't sure how much longer he had, but as he drifted to sleep, he could feel death's cold talons tapping on his heart.

"Tonight," it seemed to whisper. "Tonight you become mine."

***

Joachim waved silently at the Seed members behind him. The town below had just been hit by Oblivion's troops the other day, yet now there was no sign of them. In fact, there didn't seem to be anyone in the city. As he and his team moved forward, Joachim felt uneasy. This wasn't the first time this had happened, and Joachim felt like he was missing a big piece of the mystery. Something was happening to the people Oblivion was conquering, and Joachim just knew it was nothing good.

Maybe there would be some clue in the town, maybe not, but Joachim figured he wasn't going to get an answer until he caught Oblivion in the act. Which meant Joachim needed to know beforehand where Oblivion was going to strike. Until that lucky day arrived...

Joachim paused as he heard something in the town. Motioning to his forces behind him, he began preparing for another fight. After the confusing battle with Orglef, Joachim knew, he had to be ready for anything. He couldn't be caught by surprise again, or it would mean his death, his mens' death, and failure.

Joachim refused to fail. Beyond everything else, Joachim was going to succeed. No matter the cost.

***

"I might inquire," Kalgus yawned as he approached the Wordsmith on her way to the inn with Darius, "what is going on, but I think I have an answer." He looked Darius up and down. "You're the cause of it I'm sure."

Darius just laughed, to which Kalgus snorted crossly and turned back to the Wordsmith.

"My dear, if you intend to pick up strays, you really should make sure they're properly house-trained and neutered before allowing them inside," Kalgus said. "Otherwise, they tend to spray everything and it's really just a pain all over."

"Wow," Darius said, a little taken aback. "Harsh."

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Spite Mask turned ever so slightly towards the sound of the trumpets.

***

"No, you don't understand..." Lun shook his head. "Maybe at first he could be reasoned with...but he went into Tormand's chambers...And whatever he found there drove him mad," Lun informed Tormand. "you may meet his expecting a man, but once you find him, the only sight you will find before you will be a revenant."

***

"Most would say your path is a futile one.." a voice would echo towards Joachim. "Do you believe them...? What are you hoping to accomplish?"

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"Enigma," a hiss came from behind him. Suddenly a hand was on his shoulder and Caithe leaned over to face him, her head tilted ever so slightly, "Argent told me about the deal you guys made. Six months ago. Y'know, I may just be going insane but even though we've been pretty busy we've still had a lot of time to talk about things. In fact, we've talked about many things, but you never once mentioned that. What the hell?!"

**

The Wordsmith smirked at Kalgus' words, "We can house train him, I promise. There is also another, they're of use to me. His name is Darius and his friend Fera..." her teasing words trailed off as she caught sight of Shalvoh and, with a frown, she sauntered off towards him.

"Hello there, Shalvoh. Ive recently been told some interesting things, but you already know what I'm about to accuse you of, don't you?" the Wordsmith crossed her arms, her gaze piercing and cold.

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"We out number him, Lun, I see no reason to run," Tormand commented as he rose. "We can confront the madman, kill him if need be."

Far from the camp Song knelt on the ground, watching a small, brown hare dash across the crunchy leafs and up a hill. She followed silently, her footwork expertly stretching into each spare hole in the blanket of leafs across the forest ground. The creature moved swiftly up to the top of the hill before stopping, perching itself there on the horizon line. Song grinned as she carefully came behind a tree and began to reach out, moving her hands and wrists unnaturally as a layer of wind began to circle the creature, blowing the leafs around it away gently. And then, with a tightening gust, its air was cut, and after a few moments the creature fell dead. Song's hand dropped as did her manipulation of the air. The girl rushed forward loudly, looking forward to capture her next meal. "Hello dear," She murmured as she reached the top and grabbed it only to pause at the sight before her.

"Quickly!" A long-haired, bearded man said as he lifted a table and quickly hurried to get it aboard a beige frigate landed in a clearing. "Get it on the ship, get it on the ship!" A red-haired man murmured as he and another lifted large, mechanical equipment and began to stow it away on the vehicle. The men below her did not look dangerous, they wore ill-fitted coat uniforms and were all fairly wild looking. But the mechanical machinery they had... looked like something else. Like something advanced, and from the future. And Song could not take her eyes away...

***

In the distance through the trees Spite Mask could spot a man with a trumpet spouting it tiredly as he marched, followed by a handful of guards and four servants carrying a red and gold trimmed float, whatever was inside disguised by curtains...

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"I see you're still alive," Enigma said in a monotone. "I think that's what is important, Wordsmith."

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"He is a man no more, you utter simpleton, listen to what I am trying to tell you!" Lun sighed. "He is not like you, a simple clone! I don't know what Wu did to him, but it's clear he doesn't belong in the realm of the living anymore..."

***

Spite Mask raised a masked eyebrow at the procession, observing before he made any move towards them. It was an odd sight to see all of the sudden in the midst of a haunted forest, but perhaps they would bring tidings that would aid them on the group's journey. "Afternoon," Spite Mask greeted, raised a hand approaching the procession finally. "You guarding someone...of some kind of importance, I trust?"

***

Shalvoh glanced at the Wordsmith innocently, twiddling his thumbs as he shrugged. "I...have no idea, really," he shook his head.

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Caithe hit him upside the head at his remark, "Yeah, of course I'm still alive, thanks a LOT! It's nice to know that you have such confidence! He said that you gave me to him, and since when was I yours?! Don't ever make deals like that behind my back again!!" she stood in front of him now, blocking his view of the lake with her hands on her hips and a pout on her face, "I don't suppose you want to explain yourself?!"

**

"Our visitor said that you wanted to steal something from me..." the Wordsmith's voice was low and threatening now, so only Shalvoh could hear, "Whether you want to admit to it or not, I'd advise you to be careful from now on."

She made a sharp turn away, leaving him with her lingering words...

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Song continued to observe, unaware that her weight had begun to loosen the platform of leafs she had rested on. The men continued to pack up the machinery as a few more ran from the forest, wooden rifles in hand. The men packed up the last of the machinery and began to board hurriedly. "It's almost time, boys!" One of them commented as they ran toward the open storage bay of the ship. Suddenly the ground from beneath Song fell apart, her weight sending her smashing forward and rolling down the hill. The riflemen turned to stare as the strange Baon girl landed in the clearing.

"Hands up!" The riflemen yelled, running forward to surround the girl. Suddenly one of their men was sent flying backward from a blast of air, his body smashing into the metal of the storage bay's ceiling. "Phoenix!" Another cried as he desperately dodged a blast. "Net 'em!" Another called. Before Song could reacted a man shot at her with a large machine. A net wrapped around her, sending her to the ground. The men picked Song up and ran to the ship, the hangar door closing behind them.

***

"If you say so, Lun," Tormand concluded at last. "I trust you know whats best for our safety."

***

"And who are you?" The trumpet playing guard murmured, stepping forward and putting his hands on his hips. They wore chain-mail, the entire bunch, and had strange facial hair - not of Sor or the other systems, truly. Their shields were circular and dirty - many damaged from battle, most likely.

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"What do you want me to say?" Enigma said, setting his fishing pole down and looking at Caithe. "That I'm sorry? That I shouldn't have made that deal?" He sighed and stood. "That I should have told you about Argent's intentions? That I should have stopped him from joining us? Fought him for you? Killed him perhaps?"

Enigma folded his arms. "I did what I thought was best. I made a deal with Argent that I would not try to stop his... advances on you after six months, if in the meantime he would protect you." Enigma was clearly angry, which was rather shocking considering how little emotion Enigma ever portrayed. "Trust me when I say it was much worse for me. I knew what was going to happen, and all I could do was delay the inevitable."

Enigma took a deep breath. "I'm not asking you to forgive me. I understand why you would be upset. But Caithe, if you think..." He blinked and stopped. "Ah, what I mean to say is..." He trailed off, staring at Caithe for a moment, before turning away. "I'm sorry, I lost my temper." He swallowed. "Argent... he didn't... you are all right aren't you?"

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"Our...our visitor?" Shalvoh half-chuckled in astonishment. "You mean the thief? Perhaps it is not I who should be careful, dear Wordsmith..." Shalvoh shrugged, beginning to follow her. "But, wait! ...I have something to ask of you? I believe it may benefit you..."

***
"I am a well worn traveler," Spite Mask answered simply. No need for lies or subterfuge on a journey like this, but a hint of vagueness when confronted with an unknown enemy might be beneficial. "Me and my cohorts were just busy...getting lost in these woodlands. And yourselves?"

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"You subjugate yourself to the King of All Slavaria, fiend," The guard hissed, his accent foreign and with a mellodic quality to it. He pulled out a thick, iron sword. "On your way, traveller, or your head will be on the ground," The guard spat threateningly...

***

Tormand paused as suddenly the sound of a ship flying over could be heard. "Is that him?" Tormand questioned, preparing for battle...

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Caithe blinked at Enigma for a moment, before she broke out into a grin and began to laugh, "You didn't honestly think I was mad at you, right? Heck, I'm annoyed but...no! God no! I'm fine! Argent and I are friends, just like you and me. I think perhaps you need to be a bit more trusting, Enigma."

A hand was placed gently on his shoulder while she reassured him.

"You're not going soft on me, are you? Calling me by my name instead of Wordsmith! It's a miracle! Ive only been telling you guys to stop being so formal around me for..hmm..this whole time?!" she smiled warmly at him as she teased, "It's nice that you're looking out for me, but I trust Argent. And anyway, I can take care of myself!!" her voice was confident, even though they both knew that she couldn't actually take care of herself at all, "We're a team, we have been for six months. The Dream Team! Ah, actually that reminds me...I haven't seen Spite Mask for a while..."

**

"What is it?" The Wordsmith turned to face Shalvoh once more with a frown.

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"Right," Enigma said, stepping away from Caithe. "The dream team." He began walking into the forest. "I doubt he's lost, Wordsmith. But I believe he went this way."

***

Kalgus and Darius exchanged glances, then seemed to realize what they'd just done. Kalgus laughed as Darius wandered off in search of Fera.

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"Slavaria," Spite Mask repeated blankly, refusing to move even as the guard drew his blade.

***

"No, he uses no ships..." Lun muttered. "It doesn't...sound like any of the ships I've herd on this abominable planet either..." Lun shook his head. "Song has yet to return. I'm going to check up on her," Lun announced sighing as he stood up and began to follow Song's trail.

***

"What is it? Well...you mistrust me, right...Well, if that's what you beleive,t hat's fair...but I misturst that new friend of yours, the thief..." Shalvoh muttered. "He and his friend are a hair trigger away and they nearly destroyed my inn...That fire caught on more than my shoulder you know. My kitchens are...ruined beyond repair, I'm afraid. But I cannot and will not stop providing the populace with my excsquisate meals simply because my kitchen has gone to ruins. I..humbly request that my kitchen's be moved to the Temple. That way you can keep an eye on me...and I can feed your people something edible while I keep an eye on the thief," Shalvoh shrugged. "I mean...you don't trust him, do you?"

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"The lands of the former Halaxakon Province," The guard said. "My King is of a land within... though he is due to rule them all from the disgrace of the lord-!"

"Havalan," A light voice, matching in accent, began from inside the silk curtains. "Enough. Another traveller here in the wilderness of Napidos - he is no agent of the Dark Master..." The red-haired guard glanced back and swallowed before going to a knee. "Of course, my lord," He whispered feebly.

"...Rise..." The voice ordered. The guard did so and retook his place at the front of the unit. "You traveller... approach my curtain," The voice spoke.

***

"Good luck," Tormand nodded before moving toward Lun's bedroll.

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"Oh! Okay..." Caithe stopped, about to follow Enigma before noticing the fishing rod was being pulled. She tugged the line and unhooked the flapping fish, pausing to stare at it for just a moment while a look of something...distant crossed her face, before throwing it back into the water and running to catch up to him.

**

"I don't trust many people at the moment..." the Wordsmith sighed, letting her guard down for just a moment before she regained her glare toward him. She seemed to be thinking it over for a while, looking to Kalgus for help, but instead shook her head and placed a hand on her hips, "Fine. It would be ideal for both of us I suppose, and I don't have any proof against you..."

**

"Hey, who are those people?" Caithe asked in a hushed tone, crouching in the bushes surrounding Spite Mask and the new arrivals. She glanced at Enigma with a frown, "Do you think we should interrupt? Though I'm guessing Spite Mask has it under control."

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"Come in Fairchild," Nai called out and Hariolus rose to leave.

"Please bear my words in mind,my lady. The last thing we need is to lose another Heir."

And with that, Hariolus bustled past Fairchild to give the two privacy.

~*~

"It's been a rather peaceful six months hasn't it?" Bellatrix asked the empty air as the blade in her hand wedged itself between the partially split carrot. It came apart cleanly and she went to cut another piece. The cutting knife was the closest thing to a weapon that she had touched in five months.

"He should be here soon," she continued to herself and smiled.

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Spite Mask approached the curtain cautiously, sighing as he moved along. "And of what is it you want with me, exactly?" Spite MAsk questioned.

***

Shalvoh smiled and nodded. "I thank you," he said simply. "I'll begin to move my things immediately..." he informed her as he walked out of the door.

***

Lun approached the direction of the noise the ship in the distance was making. Looking high above the treetops, he could see the top of the ship. Wondering if Song had traveled too close to it. "That foolish child...she couldn't have..." Lun muttered as he approached the vessel.

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"Mindlessly cutting them down would probably save us trouble in the long run," Enigma said. "But it never works out and it is rather loose morally. So yes, I suggest we wait."

***

Kalgus shrugged. "It's fine with me, so long as you realize we're not going to be paying you."

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Through the light of the curtain a small figure could be seen among the outline of pillows. "I know you..." The voice whispered, it's wheeze sounding sicklier and sicklier the more it spoke. "You are like me... retreating to the edge of space to survive the destruction of war. I've seen you before. Your face on those who passed, the leaders who fight and defend... wanting to keep your people alive even when the world wants nothing but to end them..." The man exhaled with a smile. "I was a King once, Spite Mask... now I am down to five men."

***

The ship blasted off over the treetops...

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"Yes, well um..." Shalvoh frowned at Kalgus. "You see, when running a restaurant, it's generally the customers that pay you," he prickishly informed him.

***

"And now what do you plan to do?" Spite Mask inquired. "To be quite honest, you don't seem like much of a king anymore."
d
***

Lun sighed as he looked over the ship. Creating a whip of water he latched onto it's side and using the air below him to push him upward, Lun began to scale the ship, looking for a door or something for him to break into. If he can somehow take command of this ship...there may be a way out of here, tat didn't involve Tormand capturing him.

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"...But I am..." The King replied. "I need protection, Spite Mask... I have a great treasure to my name, and if I am to die here it will be forever lost. Your group is one that is at it's final dime, that is running and surviving these last six months in desperation and despair... that could use my riches," The King paused. "But you have a treasure too... don't you?"

***

"What was that?" One of the men murmured from inside the ship as they flew, commenting on a bump that had rocked them.

"Just altitude, don't worry about it," The pilot replied. Outside Lun's whip held him on desperately as it began to fly faster and faster over the treetops. As he hung Lun noticed something - on the side of the beige Ship where he hung were the words The Food Boys.

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Kalgus yawned in Shalvoh's face. "And I'm saying, young bun, that you won't get paid. You'll be happily honored to be working for the last guardians of Libary, the Wordsmiths. You'll be so honored, you won't charge a dime until we can get it worked out that you aren't a problem." He smiled. "Oh, and by the way, as you'll be working in the library itself, we'll need to meet later to go over some regulations that are necessary. Such as restrictions on where you can go, who you can meet with, just small stuff like that."

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Fairchild gave the departing Seed Agent a smile before he approached Nai, his scrolls to his chest as he stepped forward. The initial transition had been frightening - everything Seed had built up, every card they had seemed to be destroyed in one instance. Sentrius perished. The plant, their master weapon, and to Fairchild's eyes the only thing allowing Seed to be a player in a galactic scale - withered and dead. And with the rise of Nai, a politically unexpected choice for his replacement, Fairchild was not even sure his title would be held. He, despite what most would believe, was not an agent of Seed. He was a personal adviser, and often carried the word of Sentrius in his own though without real power. The first day Nai took the throne he wasn't even sure he was welcome there. But she was overwhelmed, and so indeed he was, and continued to be. And in those six months Fairchild had served under a different ruler. A strategist.

"Also, we have a cryptic message from our good friend the Emperor," Fairchild murmured, raising an envelope with a purple seal upon it. "Watch the radio, he says. I don't know what else he's planning to do, he's already trying to bankrupt us. Then you also have that meeting of High Command in an hour, there are a few strategical points they wish to discuss."

***

The wooden door of the house creaked open, Nulix Princeton stepping inside. "Hey," He murmured to Bella as he entered the kitchen, his jacket falling off onto a chair as he passed. He came behind her as she cooked, his arms wrapping around her torso. He kissed her cheek gently. "I missed you," He whispered as he released his grip and headed toward the window. He opened it wide, the grassy wilderness of a neighbourhood they called home bringing a cool breeze in. Princeton let out a sigh as he leaned on the windowsill, the cold air filling his chest. "So I think we have to take over this council," He commented at last.

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"Perhaps..." Spite Mask answered wryly. "And perhaps not. What help can your riches be to us at times like these?" Spite Mask questioned.

***

Lun steadily used his water whip to pull himself upwards towards a nearby hatch. As the ship gained in altitude Lun formed a wall of ice to shield himself from the harsh winds that raged within the planet's upper atmosphere. He then sunk some water underneath the hatch. On the other side, the water forms into a liquid hand which reaches up and opens the hatch form the inside. Lun grabs onto the hatch handle as it opens, swinging from it as the ship pierces through the clouds. With a kick of his legs, Lun is able to swing into the ship. Using the wind outside he slams the door back shut, sighing in relief.

"Food boys," Lun spat in derision as he began to wander the halls of the ship.

***

"Well, I suppose I won't be making any food until you've worked out that I'm not a problem," Shalvoh chuckled. "I run a restaurants not charities."

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"Oh, we can easily work that out," Kalgus said, smiling. "After all, beheading is very efficient."

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"Wow, barbaric! You can't behead someone for refusing to force themselves into poverty!" Shalvoh retorted.

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"You won't sink into poverty by giving the Libarians a free meal," Kalgus said dryly. "Don't be dramatic."

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In the following week, the people of Libary wondered, why the famous Shalvoh, once renowned for his cuisine began to serve slop that suspiciously smelled of piss and dog food as soon as he set up shop in the Temple. Among the many rumors was one customer who swears he heard Shalvoh mutter, "You get what you pay for..."

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"Gold still has its value, even here at the end of the world," The King murmured. "And together you add five more warriors to your cause. We'll survive together or die apart, Spite Mask. Eventually."

***

Lun was immediately greeted by crates, the brown storage units lining the hull of the frigate he'd entered. They were labelled generally, words like food and snacks lining them. "Gaoll's concussed," Lun heard a light voice murmur. From beyond the boxes in the centre of the storage area two men in uniformed blue coats were cleaning a pile of rifles, clearly worn out from the chaos in the forest. "She's insane, why'd we take her?" The other, long bearded man murmured.

"It was instinctual man, I don't know," The man sighed. "Hopefully the boss knows how to get rid of her."

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"I will speak to my companions of this..." Spite Mask informed the King. "Once we've reached a conclusion, I will return to you..."

***

"I heard you sell food, boys," Lun loudly announced, kicking one of the crates of food over, and toppling it's contents onto the floor. "I only wish to know the location of the child. Tell me this and you will be unharmed."

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"Making such a stink over feeding 20 people for free out of the entire city," Kalgus muttered to himself. "No respect from the youth of today."

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As if to answer Lun's question the ship suddenly rocked violently, the men sent flying into a wall as the crates began to rain down upon them. "Take it easy!" A voice cried in desperation from up the stairway to the second floor. "We're not trying to hurt you!" The ship continued to rock, the ground Lun stood on unstable as the vessel began to loose momentum.

"Boss!" A scream came out. "Get to the controls, we're going down!"

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Lun held onto a crevice in the wall as the vessel began to experience turbulence. "What the hell's going on? Did you buy this ship cheap, or something?"

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At his words the ship dipped again, Lun, the two men, and everything in the hull flying into the ceiling for a moment before smashing back down into the ground, hard. "Mel, Taeved!" A voice yelled. Lun glanced up to the top of the staircase where a muscular, dread-locked man stood in matching uniform. His white-gloved hands held onto the ceiling railing as his feet swayed with uncertainty to the ships movement. "Get up here now! The brats effecting the ma-" The man paused as his red eyes focused on Lun. "Who is this?!"

"He knows her!" One of the men called as he tried to crawl over the sliding crates. "He came to rescue her!"

"Then get him up here!" The dread-locked one said. "Have him stop this!"

At the man's words the two foodboys were at Lun's side, each grabbing an arm and pulling him forward. Before they got far the ship turned again, sending the three falling forward onto the staircase. "Get up here!" A foodboy yelled as he pulled Lun. In the second floor above Lun could make out the bright flashes of electrical strikes illuminating the room, mixed with incoherent yelling and the distinct sound of Song's wind blasts...

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Lun barreled into the room, shouting over the blasts of wind rampaging over the room. "Song! Song! It's me! What are you doing?!" he asked. "Stop this immediately"

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The main-room Lun entered was filled with machinery, blue-coated men running desperately around a single centred machine, electricity blasting out of it chaotically. "Lun!" Song called, the girl visible at the other end of the room before the ship suddenly rocked again, more electricity draining out of the machine. "Boss!" The dreadlocked man called, running toward a man at the other end of the room. "He knows her, he can stop her!" The figure the dreadlocked man spoke to nodded before turning to Lun.

"Listen, brother, you've got to talk to the kid... we have very sensitive equipment on board, her Phoenix blasts have changed the calibrations! We need- Wait-" There was a pause as the man squinted at Lun, stepping forward to reveal a familiar face. "...I don't know what you're doing here, Lun," A bearded Stuart Snovalichi whispered as he eyeballed the man. "But I've got some theories."

"Lun!" Song called out as she blasted another blue-coated man back. "Don't listen to them! They're not Food Boys!"

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"So, who was that dude, Spitey?" Caithe asked, as herself, Spite Mask, Argent and Enigma deliberated what to do next. She stood in the sun, letting it dry her damp clothes, "We got what we came here for, but what did those guys want?"

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"Spitey?" Spite Mask asked, raising a masked eyebrow. "He's a King of diminished power. He's lost nearly everything. He hopes to rely on us for additional protection and on his end, his guards will provide us with greater numbers for the perils we will face," Spite Mask shook his head. "I have no doubt he has ulterior motives, but time will tell what those are...What do the rest of you think...?" Spite Mask asked.

***

"I don't know what a Food Boy is, Song..." Lun grumbled. "But I do know a Snovalichi! Now stop fighting!" Lun ordered, glancing around the room at the Food Boys. "That goes for you too, for I assure you, I can do much worse then what she has done. Now...please, someone explain the situation before I join her in flinging you wildly around the room."

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"None of what you mentioned has anything to do with us," Enigma said shortly.

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"The Emperor is a very hard man to please," Nai sighed as she extended her hand to take the envelope from Fairchild. "Not like I blame him but that certainly won't grant him any mercy if he continues with his tantrum."

She massaged the bridge of her nose, eyes closed, and asked, "I doubt he's caught onto what we've been working on, but what if he has? Nothing much we can do but press on. We'll have to find the answer for this, Fairchild. In the meanwhile, communications should be monitored. If he's somehow managed to get into our system, we'll need to respond quickly to his threat."

~*~

Bellatrix's hands slowed down and she didn't answer at first. Instead, she waited until she was comfortable leaving the food alone and then turned to face Nulix.

"And what exactly made you come to that conclusion?" she asked with a frown.

~*~


"I think, Enigma, that these events in which Spitey here has mentioned, do in fact relate to us," Argent suggested with a bemused grin. "Y'see Enigma, this is a King and while he may not be what he once was, he still has some power to give us in the form of men. Back on the Rock, strength indeed there was in numbers and to give up such a fine opportunity for some aid seems rather foolish to me. Royalty is royalty after all and there ain't nothing bad in aiding others if you have something to gain."

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"Because what we have right now won't work, we don't even know what else is on the planet," Nulix frowned. "It's not Taveck's fault but I... I question his judgement sometimes. He doesn't understand economics and... with the limited resources we have I'm worried the colony might crash." He gave a shrug. "Big Ben killed a thief on the street today when I had him with my pistol, we don't need the guards here. Crime isn't an issue. We should be sending them out and exploring, see what resources we have. Make mines, smelt."

Nulix paused as the distant echo of thunder came in from the window. "I mean, it doesn't hurt to petition it to them, right? Taveck and Campile will talk to us."

***

"Right, speaking of our good friends the Ulfirians... we've lost the Selonix," Fairchild murmured as he flipped the page. "The main garrison in Fort Gash found one of their men dead, they blamed the Ulfirian unit and they started fighting. The supporting fleet described them as hopeless and made a tactical retreat, we lost what little of the planet we still held."

***

"Calm down, brother," Snovalichi began, raising his hands as the ship rocked again. "We're not Food Boys. We're researchers. I've been going after a man named Wu Woon, he's the wizard that created Tormand. We've gone to the other pods, they've been destroyed but the one on this planet is missing," Snovalichi began. "Now we've done some digging, man... Wu... he was prepared, he knew something was coming. He had a plan and I don't know all of it yet but... I've got some theories."

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"Argent speaks some sense...for once," Spite Mask nodded. "The King has offered to aid us. for now, I see no reason why we should turn his offer down."

***

"Of course you do," Lun noted, patting Snovalichi's head dismissively."But I do believe you about Wu Woon. I know he knew something too. It's why I haven't been too quick to leave this miserable rock. But uh...one thing you should know. Don't expect to find Wu Woon himself anytime soon. He's dead. His research is still intact, however, with his darkest secrets hidden...somewhere here. I haven't quite located it yet," Lun informed Snovalichi and the Fake Foodz.

"Oh! Also Tormand is here," Lun added. "I was going to let you figure it out yourselves, so I can savor the look of terror upon your face while you wet your trousers, but I figured we'll all be busy once we get out of this predicament."

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"Tormand's not the problem, brother," Snovalichi whispered as a look of fear came over his face. "Wu was... now there's something out there brother, something he caused, something that can stop this... but you're not ready for that theory."

Suddenly electrical veins flowed through the room, blindingly bright as the machine came to life again. "Control it!" Snovalichi yelled as he ran over, "Get the machine under control!" The light blasted out again, Song running through the brightness toward Lun. But she didn't make it.

***

"Lun?" Tormand's deep voice whispered in the darkness. He could feel flowing water on his body, sand on his head. Lun opened his eyes to find Tormand standing before him. Both he and Song lay at the bank of a river, back in the forest. "Can you hear me Lun?"

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"Sure, if you guys think it'll be useful," Caithe agreed, trusting their judgement more than her own, "But perhaps we should keep the Murshlatan a secret for now, just to be on the safe side. I noticed Spitey already had the same idea," she grinned at the masked man as her and Argent teased, "But we should help where we can!"

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"Move....move aside!" Lun spat as his arm shot up and he shoved Tormand away, violently. He turned to look at Song. "Song!" he exclaimed, though he figured shouting was just a waste of breath. "Is she well, Tormand?" he asked gently shaking her shoulder.

***

"...Spitey?" Spite Mask questioned, glancing over Caithe.

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Song lay still as her form was shook. Tormand looked over the girl for a moment before glancing at Lun. "I don't know," He whispered. Suddenly her face came to laugh, a pained expression coming over it. She began to cough violently, water spouting out followed by deep inhales. Song looked up wide-eyed, regaining consciousness leaving her disoriented and confused. But only for a second, for when her eyes locked onto Lun another disapproving look came over her face. "Don't touch me," She murmured as she rose.

Tormand watched as the girl stood and regained her breath. "What happened? You left for hours and I find you both nearly dead," Tormand frowned.

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Enigma said nothing, made no motions, and did not change his expression, yet still managed to give off a disgusted air.

***

"PEESPAWN!" screamed a fish as it swam by Lun and Tormand. It splashed water everywhere, flopped around, and died.

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"We found the Food Boys, Tormand," Lun patted Tormand's shoulder as if he was saying something that would make sense to the soon to be King. "But they weren't Food Boys," Lun sat up, and stretched his legs. "Look there's some digging to be done here. And I'm not going to lie. It involves your old master, Wu. If Snovalichi is to be believed, he may have had something dangerous in the works and there might be a few more clues here. That said, this is Snovalichi, so whatever Wu was actually hiding is bound to be the exact opposite of what he thinks it is."

"So how about it, Tormand? Song?" Lun stretched a it. "Care to dig a little into your old master and grandfather's things?" Lun asked, turning to each of them as he mentioned their respective relationships to Wu. "I've got a few secrets to unveil...and a lot more to uncover. If...we can move past Bandolo...."

***

"So...shall we return to the King, then?" Spite Mask inquired.

***

"Mellodia....are you alright?" Xane wondered, as his eyes slowly opened.

"I think so..." Mellodia grumbled, her vision adjusting to the dark they saw before them. 'What happened to the ship...because we definitely aren't in it anymore..."

"I dunno...." Xane shook is head. "But staying here won't help us. Let's move out for a bit..." he muttered raising an hand in the air, only to find that it touched something stony, damp and cold. "Are we in a cave...?" Xane wondered, contemplating how they got in their current predicament.

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"Sounds like a good idea, Spitey man! Let's meet this King properly!" Caithe laughed, quickly tucking the Murshlatan under her shirt to hide it and beginning to walk towards where the newcomers waited...

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"What are you talking about Lun?" Tormand questioned, glancing at Song before resuming his stare at the man. "Are you unwell?"

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"...Spitey Man," Spite Mask asked of Caithe as they walked back towards the king. "Is that some kind of wordplay?"

***

"I chased after Song, you fool," Lun muttered. "You found us blown out of the Food Boy's ship, I imagine? It should've crashed nearby if so. We should hurry and salvage it before the looters happen upon it."

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"Sounds like a cool kinda super hero name, doesn't it?" the girl grinned at the masked man, "You could totally be a super hero, you have the mask and everything! Hmm...when the universe is all good and back to normal we'll have to endorse it. Imagine that, people could make comics and everything! You'll be famous, Spitey Man."

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Mellodia and Xane continued forward, the darkness of the world around them feeling all-consuming - like it was pushing down upon their hearts and minds. But then, ahead, the flicker of light could be seen. "Excuse me," A distant voice called, echoing off the walls of wherever they were. "Excuse me," The voice came again. "I think... I think I can help you."

***

He could hear whispers from inside, the shadows of feet passing the light that came flowing from the crack of the doorway. In the darkness Roastakos glanced up to Terman, who stood at the opposite side of the entrance staring back at Roastakos blankly. Strange man, but he was shackled, and if the criminals inside were anything like him he'd need all his advantages to take them down. However, down on smoke bombs with a territorial disadvantage he did not estimated a fight would go well. "Terman," Roastakos hissed in a low tone. "If you help me I will use my power as a Solar Guard to help exempt you of any non heinous crimes, do you understand?"

Terman contemplated the words for a moment, dissecting them, before eventually giving a nod. "Right... if it gets rough I'll unshackle you," Roastakos whispered as got into a stance. On his lips he silently mouthed three. Terman too prepared himself to ram the door at the motion. He mouthed two. Roastakos rose his clubs, tightening his grip around them to enter with one solid swing. He mouthed one. And, leaping forward with Terman in unison and ramming, the door at the end of the hall went down.

Roastakos flew in, the bright light almost blinding at first as he rolled onto the ground and flung his clubs at the first opponent, sending the off-guard man flying back upon impact. Roastakos rose, ready to take the rest out - but he paused, surprised at what he found. Firstly, the chamber. Grand and rich as the rest of the ship was it had no comparison to the room they stood in. Spherical and filled to the brim with gold - weapons, cones, statues raising out and into the air, all perfectly molded and decorated in an alien fashion. The walls that surrounded them were lined by stars, golden dots representing planets and systems, though they resembled no space Roastako's had ever seen. Secondly, the people. The man he had hit back, now raising, wore ragged robes of what were once richly tailoured velvets and furs. He had rich chestnut hair, overgrown and combed back beneath his pale ears, and his face was bearded - a finely trimmed mustache now overgrown atop it all. He was a man ten years or so older then Roastakos, a well travelled one by the wrinkles on his face, and a capable one judging by the determination in his eyes and the muscles beneath his robes.

But the man was not the only person of interest in the chamber, for in it's farthest point away from the door stood four figures. A woman with long, burgundy hair holding two children before her, a boy and a girl. Beside them was another man, older with a long brown beard, a circular shaped body and an unsettling look in his eyes. Roastako's stared at the family before turning to Terman at the doorway. "These aren't criminals, you bastard!" Roastakos spat, smashing his clubs against the man's legs and sending him to the ground of gold violently. "What have you done to these people?!" Roastakos yelled as he rose a club above Terman's head, threatening to send it smashing down.

Suddenly there was a scream behind him. Roastakos turned only to be hit by the mustached man - an unexpectedly strong one at that. "Wait!" Roastakos called, raising his hands in the air. "I'm not here to hurt you, I'm a member of the Solar-" Before he had time to finish the man punched again. Roastakos caught the fist before his face and pushed back on it. "I'm a member of the Solar Guard, you have to listen to me!"

Suddenly the woman called out, the alien language once more coming from her lips. The same language Terman had spoken, Roastakos could assess, though all words in it escaped him. Suddenly the children too began to call in the language, then the bearded man. The mustached man spat something at Roastakos, and the chaos of words around him became overwhelming.

"What are they saying?!" Roastakos yelled, turning to Terman desperately. "What are they saying?! What are they saying?!"

***

"You going to training tomorrow?" Heonos questioned. Roastakos poked his head out of his folded arms, glancing at his dark haired friend before quickly shaking his head.

Heonos laughed. "You can't, you can't not go to these things, Roastakos," The man muttered as he glanced around the large, white hall. "You're a Solar Guard, you have to interact with other Solar Guards."

"I will. You," Roastakos replied defensively as he straightened himself. "I don't enjoy being around the company of people who hate me and aren't brave enough to say it, oh, what a crime."

"They're your friends, they're your fellow guards. You can't do this," Heonos sighed, glancing away from the man and at the other guards in the hall. "...You really think they hate you?"

"I think it was abruptly clear whose side most of them were on," Roastakos said. His fingers tapped on the table nervously. "I just... she's so vanilla and clean and it's so obvious that I'm seen as the abuser or whatever, when I'm not. If public image is a concern I can't win."

"But you have to get over it," Heonos said as he reached over the table, putting a handle on Roastakos' to stop the tapping. "You can't live like this." Roastakos stared at his friend, his face suddenly twisted to fight back a surge of tears. "But I'm... I'm so not."

Heonos swallowed. "Do you love her?" Roastakos didn't reply, instead his head dipped down into his arms again.

"I know why they're being dicks, then," Heonos continued. "They're afraid of you. They know you the best guard."

Roastakos glanced up. "You think so?"

"Does it make you feel better?" Heonas asked.

Roastakos paused, thinking on the question for a moment before nodding. "...Yeah."

"Then I think so."

"Excuse me - Mister Roastakos?" A deep voice came. Roastakos glanced up as a tall, dark-skinned figure clad in white approached their table. A sword hung from his hip. "Me," Roastakos nodded. "Good," The man replied. "The Captain is ready to see you."

***

The room was dark, tones of blue being the only colour that managed to escape the seemingly all consuming shadows of the tower office. The architecture was equally hostile - sharp, aggressive ceremonial items lining the walls - seemingly pressing in on Roastakos from all sides. It was a tight, yet tall room, made to make a man feel like the only escape was up and it was unclimbable. Sitting in the one source of light before him was the wrinkled, elderly form of the Captain, starring down at a piece of parchment on his desk. In the window beyond the Captain the Glass City could be seen - white towers beneath a blue sky.

"Your report..." The Captain's thickly accented voice murmured at last, placing a hand on the parchment loudly and snapping Roastakos back to attention. "Yes sir," Roastakos replied. "Is uh... is everything okay? I know I'm not the most prolific writer but-"

"Roastakos you are an idiot, but you may have stumbled upon one of the most significant discoveries in our modern history."

Roastakos blinked at the words. "Sir?"

"Our psychologists and translators have been surrounding them - the man Terman seems to have linked our language to the most basic patterns of another language he knew from the system, and has managed to learn ours quickly. With his help we have the footworks in understanding theirs," The Captain explained.

Roastakos smirked. "Yeah he's... a clever beast."

"Unnaturally so," The Captain continued. "In the time we've had we've managed to extract a large degree of information on them. Their ship as well - the mechanics say its unlike anything they've seen. No fossil fuels, it runs on pressurized water and generated electrical currents. They have two motors, one for the atmosphere and one for space for greater control, together and a mutual generating power core - in this case the core is linked directly to that odd chamber you found the family in."

"Thats... how do you even think of that?" Roastakos whispered, trying to comprehend the mechanical information he had just been given.

"The melding too - the metal is stronger and thinner then anything we can produce, it's clear from the examination of their ship that we are dealing with an advanced, technologically able society, Roastakos," The Captain informed. "Now - we've managed to get their names. According to the translators the man who attacked you is Goven Flin, the family is his, and the bearded fellow is the one who created the ship. Bardios Crum. They were fleeing their system - war was coming, apparently, and so they designed a ship more powerful then any other ever created - a ship capable of escaping the chaos. A ship powered by that chamber. But in the chamber was the man, Terman. He was hostile, became free - apparently, and waged a war on-board against the ships inhabitants until you arrived."

Roastakos swallowed. "...What does this mean?"

The Captain smiled. "It means, my dear boy, that the world is far larger then we anticipated. There's something out there. Something grand."

***

Holding a torch the man approached, his form becoming clearer and clearer the closer he got. He had brown hair, a wild beard matching, bright eyes and a green-cloak beneath leather armour, of a type and make Xane and Mellodia had never before seen. At his hips were two clubs. "I think I can help you indeed," The torch-wielding man whispered as he approached.

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"Where are we...?" Xane asked. "And...who are you? some kind of phoenix?" Xane muttered, observing the green clad wild haired man.

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The man sighed, raising his torch to the slick, rock walls that surrounded them. "I don't know," He admitted after a moment, glancing at the couple. "Me and my Cabin Boy crashed here a few days ago... there's some sort of sickness in the earth, messes with your mind, your memory..." He swallowed as an echo came from down the passages... sounding like a scream. An inhuman one. "What do you guys remember? Anything?" The man asked, turning back to Xane and Mellodia. He sounded Sorillian - or at least Sorillian enough. Every so often a word would sound off, strange - but it was hardly noticeably. And for the most part he seemed friendly.

***

Tormand stared at Lun coldly. "There was no ship, Lun... you chased after her and the two of you were found in this river. I neither saw nor heard a Food Boy."

"Yeah Lun," Song whispered, her eyes locked on the man. "He saw and heard nothing."

***

"Here they come," A guard murmured in disgust as the forest people reappeared between the trees. "Spite Mask... and he brought friends."

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"I uh...well we came here on a long journey from this terrible war to find...something, anything of use out here in the breaches of space that could be of use to us," Xane explained.

"We came here on a ship...which is now gone, I see..." Mellodia murmured. "We have no idea what happened to it."

"We encountered something...and blacked out," Xane frowned. "What do you mean this cave messes with your mind?"

***

Lun glared at Tormand and Song. "....I've had enough with people thinking I've gone mad," Lun sighed. "I'm going to stretch my leg a bit to gather some venison. I...will return," Lun muttered, slinking off into the forest with a hurried pace. His true destination would earn him no venison, however. He was returning to a familiar ground. One he had come to recognize very well...Wu's lab.

***

"Greetings, fallen king," Spite Mask spoke loudly, nodding at the royalty and his guardsmen. "It may be to your interest that my group and I...have accepted your offer."

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"Excellent, then I must let you know we cannot stay here. There's a port a few miles east - we can resupply there, organize our next moves..." The King whispered from within his lift, still having not revealed his face to the group. "It would be wise to go there. We cannot run and hide in these woods forever."

***

"The Earth itself," The man whispered. "For this is no cave." He pointed upward. It was pitch black, but through the darkness the faintest of stars could be seen. "Canyons of stone line the planet, tight ones like this," He explained, moving the torch along the stone wall. "According to my Cabin Boy you start to forget things... and then, once you've forgotten, they come back, out of order. Things that are real feel fake and things that are in your mind... feel real - according to my Cabin Boy," The man muttered. "We have a camp ahead, we've been searching for our ship. You come with us and I'll help you." He gave them a smile. "It's what I do."

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"...alright..." Xane sighed. "Not like we got much of a lead anyway...Sorry you don't remember though," Xane offered, not knowing what else to say in what he felt was going to be a long, mostly quiet walk and wanting to break the silence. "How long do you wager you've been here?"

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"A few days, I said," The man murmured as they strolled through the rocky passage, it moving like a smooth curve toward a fire ahead. A campsite, small - two bedrolls around a fire-pit. The Cabin Boy was nowhere to be seen. "Here we are," The man whispered, turning toward the two in the light of the fire. He smiled. "Behind you."

Suddenly Xane and Mellodia could feel a hand grab them from the back of the neck and smash them both into the ground, holding them down. "Alright!" The man yelled, pulling his clubs out and swinging them threateningly. "Are you the ones who stole our ship."

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"We just met!" Xane spat back, kicking the man with his leg. "Try and remember! We're missing our ship too!"

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The man from behind Xane and Mellodia released the two at the kick while the other man, the one who'd guided them, rose his club into the mid-night air, threatening to smash it's wooden side down upon them. "I asked you a question!!" He spat. "Did you steal our ship?!"

"Roastakos," The man from behind spoke, causing the UO members to turn. His hair was short, his skin paler, and his face overgrown with a blonde beard - but the features were identical. The man was, to their eyes, Tormand exactly. "I do not think they stole our ship."

"Maybe," The man in green, apparently named Roastakos, began as he paced. "Maybe not. This place plays... tricks on your head." Roastakos cracked his gloved knuckles by clutching his clubs tighter, his eyes lingering on the dirt ground as he paced. "This planet... messes with your mind."

"Repetition," The Tormand look-alike whispered.

"Yeah well I didn't travel halfway across the universe to die on a rock, did I?!" Roastakos yelled, glaring at the Tormand lookalike wide-eyed. "Did I..." He whispered, his eyes dipping as doubt crossed his face. "Did I, Terman?"

The Tormand stepped forward, reaching out and placing a hand on Roastakos' shoulder. The man rose his green-eyes to meet Tormand's blue. "I think... you're feeling ill, Roastakos," The man whispered, suddenly chopping into the side of his head. Roastakos' eyes fell up into his skull at the hit and his body slumped forward into Tormand's arms.

Tormand glanced down at the unconscious man before turning to Xane and Mellodia. "You two," He began. "Come," With that the Tormand lookalike began to march off through the narrow canyons, holding Roastakos' body in his arms.

***

A barren cave stretched before Lun as he entered, the area devoid of life for many months. It had never been a long-term setup - a single rock serving as a work-bench for the few weeks Wu was meant to have stayed in the Kora System. Now cauldrons and texts lay covered in dust and webs, and markings for spells in the ground had faded.

Lun had been here before - after the saviours of the world abandoned the fight, after the Ultimate Organization and those who had attended the council dissolved apart into the universe. He'd found one of Wu's journal - and though it told of the thing's he'd done that year, the things that had passed - it never spoke of the things he'd planned. Never in detail. If Wu had a plan to save them, he had not written it there.

Lun's foot hit something as he walked - a loose stone. The Longbaon man moved the flat stone aside, revealing a stair-case into the rock of the cave...

***

Song sat on the ledge of a hill, the birch trees swaying over the horizon with the wind. After Lun had departed Tormand and her had set up a camp nearby the river, an elevated peace of the terrain - near where the castle was, where Wu's council had been. And, after exploring, Song had found the hill. She'd found hills before but never like this. From here... she felt like she could see all things. The forest she'd lived in for months stretched out beneath her.

"Peaceful night," Tormand commented with heavy footsteps. Song ignored the man and continued to stare out. "Or at least it would be," He added. He rose a finger to the sky, where against the backdrop of stars many small black forms descended - small as ants to Song's eyes.

"What is it?" She asked.

"The Ulfirian's are invading," Tormand whispered as the dots disappeared under the horizon. "They'll capture the cities first... then they'll come here, for you and Lun."

"They'll never find us," Song replied.

Tormand turned to the girl, the sounds of the wind and a night-owl filling his silence. "I found you."

Song sighed, her head lowering into folded arms.

"I have a ship, still," Tormand began. "You are Wu's granddaughter. You are important, even if I don't know why." Tormand leaned in. "Come with me. To the Kingdom of Sor. We cannot stay on this planet."

"...They'll kill us?" Song replied from her arms. "Them - well, everyone wants to kill Lun... but I mean the Ulfirian's."

"That is their intent," Tormand nodded.

Song glanced up. "Maybe I'll see him again in heaven."

"I'm not sure that exists," Tormand replied as he looked out over the forest.

"You don't think God created man?" Song asked. "That's what the book of the Matran says."

"I was created artificially, through wizardry, not through a birth..." Tormand whispered. "But I am just as human as you. It doesn't matter where I've come from, or what I am made of... I have given new life to the world. The cycle continues regardless of however differently I came to be... the cycle continues no matter the language, the banner... or the war." Tormand swallowed. "I don't know the answers... and if I don't, then how possibly could the men who wrote that book?"

***

Lun reached the bottom of the dark, stone stair-case - leading to a small room, hastily carved out with Phoenix power. Lun lit a torch that hung on the wall and revealed that the rock room before him housed one object - a wooden chest, sat against the wall. Carved in the floor before the chest Lun noticed something - Baon text reading a single pair of words:

The Answers.

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"Wait, WAIT," Xane shook his head in shock. "Tormand?! Wat are you doin' all the way out here?! Unless...You're one of the clones? Wu sent you all the way out here?"

***

Lun's hand warily drew towards the wooden chest. Within was exactly what he needed to make everything right again. But perhaps he was not ready...Perhaps whatever he would learn form within the contents of the chest were for a phoenix well beyond his level. But, time was almost up. For any of his pans to succeed, he'd need something. Anything. And this chest could hold the key.

Carefully, Lun opened the chest.

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Tormand glanced back to the two behind him. "Come," He repeated before marching again, Roastako's hanging off his shoulder.

***

The chest creaked open, it's inside dark and empty. Beneath a shadow in the corner of the chest a single orb rested, roughly the size of a kicking ball. It's surfaced was covered in layers, some of carved, ancient woods bound by lines of copper and some mechanical, complexly smelted lines of silver and iron. And along the layers seemed to be small canyons leading inward toward a faint light emitting from within the orb - the faint flicker of a fire inside. "...So you killed Wu Woon?" A quiet voice came...

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"And another thing, I forgot to mention..." Xane pointed a the corpse hanging off Tormand's back. "Is that dude literally named after roasted tacos?!" Xane spat in disgust.

***

"Yes..." Lun whispered back, staring intently into the fire within the orb as he cupped his newfound prize in his hands. Is this what his search has finally led him to? "But...who are you?"

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#, as written by Nulix
"It would seem," Tormand responded as they continued through the canyon. "We've lost our ship," Tormand commented, grabbing hold of a piece of rock from the smooth canyon wall. "To find both our crafts we must climb. This place erases memory," The large man stated as he began to scale the wall.

***

The sphere in Lun's hand gave a mussing sound, mechanical whirls and ticks heard from within. "I've been an adviser and companion to many great wizards over the years, Lun, storing the knowledge of each inside me. I've been Wu Woon's for the last four years. And now I am yours," The device whispered. "My name is Orb."

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"Do you know why...or how that is?" Mellodia asked

"And both are ships crashed up there?" Xane asked as he climbed. "I don't think the memory thing's affecting us yet, but I don't remember landing there...." Xane muttered as they scaled the rock wall.

***

"Well...Orb. I'm not great wizard...yet," Lun began, raising the Orb into the air to perhaps get a clearer look at it's inner workings."But I am willing to learn all that you can teach. Will you answer any questions I ask of you, Orb?"

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#, as written by Nulix
Tormand swung Roastako's form up onto the top of canyon wall before swinging his own leg onto it and grappling up. The large man rose and stared out across the foggy distance of rock and stone. In the distance a downed and damaged ship could be seen, bright red and almost swan-like in shape, with large, arching wings coming off it's side and strange text alongside it from a language Xane had never before seen.

"Our ship," Tormand said. "We had no memory of crashing. After a few days we knew we must had lost our way. Somehow."

***

"I will answer all that I know," The voice from inside the orb whispered...

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"Anomaly detected." The ship's on board scanner chirped to life, and with it the cabin lights. In a flash Wing disabled the auto-pilot and began to head in the direction of the anomaly. Whatever it was, it had his ship doing its best to pull away, sensor arrays flashing and his data screens switching into their critical failure modes. "C'mon...it can't be that bad...we may be on to something for once!" He shouted, fist connecting with the blinking red light that sat next to his main data feed, which had gone dark. The entire ship shuttered to a halt, and the engines whined down, and began their solar recycling programming. He was adrift in open space. "Shit." He cursed under his breath and rubbed his temples, laying back in the pilot's chair. "Now what." He sighed and closed his eyes, "I guess I'll finish that nap..." He pulled the hood down over his eyes, to better block out the unfiltered light of the Dark world's life giving star before drifting off to sleep.


A few minutes passed before the ship rocked violently, an unusual behavior for a ship in a vacuum, unless acted upon by another force. Wing was jostled awake, but nothing was visible and the ship didn't seem to be damaged. However, it was still dead in the water so to speak. Yet, he was moving towards a large object, trapped in a tractor beam. "That's no moon..." he muttered ironically as he reached for the hilt of his blade, and summoned his newly strengthened twilight powers and fed them into the Featherdancer.

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"What...kind of ship is this?" Xane muttered in amusement. "I've never seen a model like this one before!"

"Xane,look at those symbols alongside it!" Mellodia gasped, scratching her chin as she pointed out. "Nothing similar to it, in Sor, Bao...even something as old an archaic as Longbaoan."

"Do you remember where you're from?" Xane asked, steadily approaching the ship. Whistling and marveling at a sight he had never before seen he also asked, "This thing flies with a core, right?"

***

"So many questions..." Lun began. "Let's begin with something basic. I don't need your knowledge to achieve phoenix wizardhood, I am well onto that path myself with time. But I would like to know how Wu attained control of the dead worlds."

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Tormand didn't reply, instead marching forward and beginning to make his way across the terrain. Xane and Mellodia followed. Soon the fog moved in again, the world becoming dizzier and dizzier as they went. Forward no longer seemed forward, and at times it was a struggle to even remember why they were walking. Time stretched - to hours, days, weeks, months years in a single minute. And then it would snap bank in the blink of an eye.

"Where am I?" Roastako's whispered as his eyes fluttered open.

"Nearly there," Tormand replied as they stepped forward. Ahead in the fog the outline of their ship could be seen. Roastakos staggered to his feet as Tormand went forward to the large red ship. "They asked about the ship," Tormand called back as he began to rip vines off the vehicle. Roastako's turned to Xane and Mellodia. "I'm sorry," He began. "This place plays tricks... I thought you stole our ship."

***

"He was granted the title by the Lord," Orb replied. "The land of the dead must always have a Lord, chosen by the last."

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It was at the final moments that everything became clear. Reasoning came alive even as his consciousness decayed into ash, every minutia of time springing forth a new level of clairvoyance while the void sawed pieces of his mind off in its relentless destruction. He knew, at that instant, what death was, felt its cold talons ripping into his heart.

But for the moment, he lived still, and in that moment, memory was sharp. For memory, it seemed, was all he had left.

***

(Hears the muffled sounds. Does not know the meaning. But [behind] the eyes [I?] knows the truth. Everything is transparent when [you?] first intelligence [born?] created is just [pain, cold, quiet] new.)

"What is it?"

"It's a boy, my lord."

"Thank God! Finally! An heir!"

"But sir... it's... well, maybe you should see for yourself."

(Thumps [footsteps? cannot process] opening [door?] open eyes to see [father? man] standing. Face shows [agitation? cannot process]. Dark. It's all dark.)

"What is this!? What's going on?"

"Sir... sir it's not what it looks like."

(Register [heartbeat] thumps, eyes open but leaking [tears? PAIN?]. Fears the darkness. It grows.)

"You common whore! That is no child of mine!"

"No, your grace, it's not what..."

(Man turns to second [inferior]. Darkness swallows.)

"Get her out of the house. Throw her in the gutter. No child of this house has ever had black hair. And... BURN the child."

(Man [undone, broken, fix must fix, cannot process] leaves. Eyes close. Heartbeat stutters.)

***

"Mother." He stands in the doorway, his eyes dark. "You sent for me?"

"Rufus, my son," his mother says weakly, reaching out a much too skinny hand for him, her frail bones barely supporting her own weight. "Come to your mother."

He complies, though he cannot stand to see her in such a condition. The thought is almost unbearable, but he knows she must soon die. He takes her hand, gently presses the cold skin to his lips, feeling the bones pushing through, her weak pulse. Her breath rattles from broken lungs, from a ruined throat, pushing its way through pale blue lips.

"My body betrays me," she manages to whisper to him. "But you must promise me. You must return to our Lord and make him recognize you."

He does not wish this. He wishes nothing but hatred on that man for what he has done to the pure spirit before him. But he cannot betray his mother's trust. She is everything to him. When she is gone, he must honor her as she wills.

"I will, mother," he says after a moment. "Now, rest. Rest and be free."

His mother smiles as the darkness seeps into her.

"I love you so much my son," his mother whispers on last time before the darkness sets her spirit free.

He stands, his eyes dry. This is his burden now. This is his sin.

***

"You should have burned."

The first words his father speaks to him are poisonous, riddled with hatred and venom. A once proud man now stands as a broken remnant. His father blames him, that much is sure. But he wonders how much his father actually blames himself. So he asks.

"Blame myself?" his father sputters, clearly taken aback. "What on...?"

"For what you did to us," he says calmly. "As I have known nothing else, I hardly can feel anything but natural towards our circumstances. Yet my mother... She surely did not deserve your wrath."

"I had proof!" his father roars, his anger clear. "I had proof that she was seeing a man outside this house! Yet I trusted her to carry my child! And you, you are what is born! A black-haired black-eyed devil child!"

"Perhaps I am of the devil," he agrees. "But it was a devil of your making. Your jealousy and anger poisoned my body, poisoned my soul. I am what you made me. And now I have grown, as your own venom has grown. Now I am greater than you."

His father gapes at him, shock written across his face. But the truth, for the first time since his birth, is now clear to both him and his father. The darkness lifts, then as all dark things do, it evolves and descends anew.

"You," his father swallows. "You are my heir."

He is fast. He is young. He is fearless. But none of those three things were able to help him as he watched his father put the revolver to his head and pull the trigger.

***

"Stay back! Stay back!"

He's heard this before. He knows what will happen. The darkness is strong now.

"Relax baby, it will only hurt a bit!" Loud laughter. There are several of them. The girl's panic is evident in her voice now.

"I swear I will kill you if you touch me!"

"Give me that!" the man laughs. The girl screams. To his left, he sees a policeman hurriedly walking the other way. Rage, so much rage. How could things have gotten like this? The darkness is everywhere.

He steps forward. "Leave. Her. Alone." His voice sounds strange, even to him, like some monster has taken hold of him. Yes, a monster. He can feel its hunger, deep within him, growing.

The men turn. There are three of them, big, ugly, and stupid. But they're protected. They own these streets.

"Dude, just turn around and go back home," one of them says, frowning. "We just want a little fun, we don't intend to kill anyone today."

The girl's wrist is held in the speaking man's hand. She can't be more than ten or eleven. Wide eyes stare up at him, tears streaming down her cheeks. Darkness, so much darkness, wraps around everything.

"Did you hear us!?" one of the other man says, stepping forward and bellowing. "MOVE ALONG! I can see on your coat, you're a noble! I don't want to have to explain to the boss why I killed a noble!"

"Like I said," the first man says. "We don't intend to kill anyone today."

They stare at him. He stares back. Then he smiles.

"You have no intention to kill, do you?" he asks. "That's fine. Because I do."

When he is finished, the men are dead. The girl is sobbing into his coat as he holds her gently. He can feel the darkness, like a heartbeat, pounding, waiting, eating away at the city. He feels it watching him, weighing him, touching him, then filling him. Darkness, all is darkness, yet now there is light. Just a tiny spark of light, yet this is something new, something that fascinates him. He has created light.

He knows now what he must do. To free the city and bring light, he must become the darkness.

***

The blood of a dozen men. The blood of a hundred men. The blood of a thousand men. The blood of an entire race. The blood of an entire world. He bathes in it. He surrenders to it. The blood his hands are stained in, the blood his whole body is stained in, he embraces it. He welcomes it. To free the world of darkness, he will pay any price.

This is his burden. This is his sin.

***

The girl is a woman now. He, himself, is a hero. But he knows. She knows. They all know the truth, the secret buried beneath the surface. They smile to his face, yet he can see beneath their facade to the truth. The darkness bears many gifts.

He cannot stay, nor can she. She is nothing to him, yet she has been everything. He is something to her, but not all. When the immortal flame bathed his planet, she found her all. He wonders if she knows that she is chasing a fool's dream. A flame cannot love, it cannot build, it cannot hold. It can only burn.

Yet he is drawn to the flame as well. For the flame brings light and warmth, something the darkness does not know nor understand. He is darkness. He does not understand. His world is safe now, safe from the darkness. Yet there is still so much darkness. The flame has made him realize this. Now he follows the flame.

He wonders when he, too, will be consumed by it.

***

He remembers them as the dark years. He does not wish to remember. But he does. He remembers everything. He can't forget. He doesn't want to forget. He remembers it all.

He remembers that he found a light. This he recalls with no shame. With the light came an ocean and a storm. He followed the light. He floated on that ocean. He braved the storm. The darkness hated the light. It grew jealous. It ate him, and spat him back out. The light shone on, bravely, and he followed it again. Then the darkness reached out and ate the light.

It was not his darkness. It should have been. He could have controlled the darkness. He should have.

But now he knows the truth. He is darkness, this is true, but there is darkness darker still, and that, that he will never be. That he cannot be. For there must be darkness for there to be light.

This is his burden. This is his sin.

***

The light returns. It has been tempered by the darkness. It is too bright now. It blinds him.

It asks him to take upon himself darkness, a new darkness, a different darkness. He is close to breaking. He has too much darkness. It has been so long since he knew warmth. But he agrees. The light cannot be forsaken now.

***

He returns home. It is his home, but it feels alien, unnatural. It feels unreal. And it is a trap. The darkness beyond his is waiting for him. It strikes, beckons to him, whispers to him, promises him so many things.

He has three darknesses now. They all take and take, he has so little left to give.

Clairvoyance. He remembers clairvoyance.

***

This is how he remembers it.

"Bravo!" the man says, the darkness shrouded so completely around his figure that he is almost eclipsed by it. "I honestly was beginning to doubt you were going to make it here!"

"Who are you?" he asks the man.

"Do you really not know?" the man asks, amused. "I'm your nemesis of course. I am Oblivion's hand on this planet."

"That's not what I mean," he tells the man, feeling the two darkness eating him alive from the inside out and the third, wrapped around the man, gnashing its teeth in hunger. "I need to know who you are so when I take your head, I'll know what level of opponent I have defeated in Oblivion's army."

The man laughed. "Well, in that case, I guess I should explain it to you. I can see it in your eyes, after all. You're already dead, aren't you?"

He has nothing to say to this, for it is the truth.

"I am the Slayer," the man says. "I am a Captain in Oblivion's army. I serve under the man known as Black Tree, who is a General. He serves under Dios, one of the three Commanders. Under me are three others. You have been playing with the Beast. Or more accurately, his pets."

Slayer smiles. He frowns.

"You're awfully forthcoming, even to a dead man," he says to Slayer. "Why?"

"I admire your spirit," Slayer says. "I'll even give you some more information. Do you want to know how many Captains are under Black Tree? There are five. There are five Captains for every General in the army. There are five Generals to every Commander. And there are three Lieutenants under every Captain. Each Lieutenant brings with him or her a force of at least ten thousand men, usually more." Slayer smiles. "Have you done the math right?"

He has. That means there were over 2,000,000 men in Oblivion's forces. Enough to annihilate any single army in the known universe without blinking an eye. Even together...

"I see you're getting it," Slayer says, shrugging. "Well, I hope you enjoy your last few minutes. I'm afraid I have to kill you now."

He prepares himself, although he knows that he is no match for Slayer in his condition.

"Oh no no no," Slayer scoffs. "Beast? Finish him. We're done on this planet."

A heavyset man jumps down. He looks more animal than man, covered in fur and adorned with horns, fangs and claws. The Beast roars and charges at him. Even torn by death as he is, he still retains his speed. His sword cuts deep furrows into the Beast's body, but the Beast keeps rising and attacking. The Beast's claws rake his chest, his fangs biting deep into his side. He feels his ribs go on his right side, feels the darkness rising.

It is in this moment that he remembers everything.

***

Highwind's sword tears upwards into the Beast's abdominal cavity, shredding out the man's guts with a vicious swing, even as the Beast smashes what is left of Highwind's ribs into paste with his massive hands.

With a roar, the Beast thrashes backwards, desperately grasping at his own entrails. The cry is cut short as Highwind's sword cuts a bloody swath through the Beast's neck. Blood splashes from both the Beast's and Highwind's broken bodies as they fall as one to the ground.

Highwind cannot breathe. It wasn't the ribs. It was the Seed inside him, the darkness that had been growing, filling him with its vines. It was choking him now.

"I wish I could have seen her face... one last time," he whispers. "But... this is my burden. This is my sin."

He manages to gather one last strangled breath. The darkness steps forward. He dies.

***

"A true pity," Slayer said, as Oblivion's ship lifted back into orbit. "I would have liked to have tangled with him while he was still... functioning."

"You left Beast to die?" Shadowheart asked, a hint of an accusation somewhere in his voice. "I thought the two of you were from the same planet."

"I hunted those things he called family," Slayer said, raising his eyebrows. "They respected him. Feared him. As did I. He had grown too wild, free on that planet. I trusted Highwind would be able to eliminate him, and I was right. A small price to pay to finish Highwind off."

"Yes, he was a very troublesome man, yet why did we not take the planet?" Shadowheart asked. "His death should have meant we would be unstoppable."

"Tell me something, Shadowheart," Slayer said, smiling. "When you're fishing, what do you use to catch fish?"

"Bait..." Shadowheart said, slightly puzzled by this sudden turn in the conversation.

"The bigger the fish you wish to catch, the better the bait you use," Slayer agreed. "In this case, Oblivion is wishing to catch a very large fish indeed."

Shadowheart's eyes narrowed, and he nodded. "So Highwind's death is the bait."

"Oh dear heavens, no," Slayer said, laughing. "Highwind is one of the fish!" Slayer continued to laugh, long after the small world of Ouri had disappeared from view.

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Xane and Mellodia opened there eyes as if for the first in a long time. The fog was cleared, but the feeling of those dreadful hours lingered on for a bit until, ironically, they were forgotten. Xane nodded at Roastako's, almost visibly shaking in anger at the supposed 'name', but managing to say, "Don't worry about it, roasted one. Now...I've been asking Tormand for a while, but he's as vague as ever. Where exactly are you from? We speak the same language, but...I don't recognize the symbols on your ship."

***

"I see..." Lun murmured. "And what of the Wrython? Is that too passe down form lord to lord of the dead Worlds?" he questioned.

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#, as written by Nulix
Roastakos stared at Xane, squinting his green eyes at the man before flashing a smile. "Sora," He replied. "I'm from the Sora System. Those symbols are just markings," He commented. "This ship was designed by a man named Bertius Crumb, another Sorillian."

"I think it'll fly," Tormand called from the window. "Though I do not know how long."

Roastako's nodded before glancing back at Xane and Mellodia. "What are you doing so far from home, friends? We both seemed to have lost our way?"

***

"Yes. The Wrython is bound to the Dead Worlds, and the Lord that controls it," The Orb explained. "The Wrython exists to help control the limbo between life and death that is the Dead World, and the unresolved spirits that inhabit it."

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"No, no, no! When will you learn I out rank you?!" Starkey's voice blasted over the small two-way radio as Xeroux walked down an empty corridor. "Just do as I say and grab whatever you can carry in that ratty pack from the lab! My experiments must be given priority here and the new base is just not up to snuff like the last one." Starkey sighed and Xeroux rolled his eyes, muttering some curses under his breath.

The two had become quite the pair, brains and brawn. Though at times it was hard to tell who was who. Xeroux did his best to keep Starkey out of trouble, but the man had the curiosity of a cat with 9 lives to spare and no cares in the world. The two had met up with some Seed forces after the fallout of the Oblivion incident, but had yet to regroup with the main forces. Partly to keep Sor's remaining forces and Oblivion away, and partly due to Starkey's incessant need to rebuild his stores of lab materials, and what better way than to collect fresh elemental samples? Xeroux was used to the dangerous missions, after all he had been a Knight of Sor and was now a high ranking member of Seed, however, not high ranking enough. He found his mind wondering to his old comrades, specifically Jove and Nai. They were on opposite sides of this war, and while he could no longer seem to stand any of them, Jove would not fight, not like the Ultimate Organization. Oh, if they only understood, if only he could make them see that Seed is the right side in this conflict. At the very least it would be considered the lesser of two evils. That was how Xeroux looked at it anyway.

He wondered into the ruins of yet another lab, two Seed infantrymen close behind, "Grab whatever you can...make sure it isn't broken. I shouldn't have to remind you that if it's broken, it is useless. I don't want a repeat of last time." He shook his head and made his way to the far wall where he would find the sealed samples of various elements, or plants, possibly even preserved remains of various animals. there really was no telling what Starkey found useful or not, so Xeroux had made a habit of taking all he could from a lab that looked at least useful or unique.

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JOURNAL ENTRY 15

4 quiet months have passed since the Wordsmith's two lackeys joined this little place we call home. 4 months with minimal progress to rid of the Murshlatan and kill the Wordsmith. It's been too much of a risk to try anything due to Darius and Fera's interruptions in our plans and they seem to cause more trouble than they're worth, but I'm slowly beginning to see why she keeps them around.

Shalvoh has his own plans, keeping to himself. I never seem to know what that man is thinking anymore, but I suspect he does not wish to destroy the Murshlatan like we so vowed, instead keep it for himself...use the information for his own gain. I still converse with him sometimes, we share valuable information about the Wordsmith, but these plans are now mine and Heida's alone.

It is interesting to note that the Wordsmith is always off on business, for one reason or another. Sometimes she leaves Darius and Fera to look over Libary while she is gone, sometimes she brings them with her. We believe that she goes to infiltrate Bao for information on their military for the King that confronted her months ago, an important event that we had almost forgotten. Word travels quickly on Libary, not many secrets are kept amongst the Libarians especially when a conquering King visits, which is why the Murshlatan is such a peculiar thing. Few know about it and even fewer dare to question the Wordsmith's motives, but there is something dangerous about that book that we must keep hidden. Afterall, while there are many secrets of the universe, some should be left untouched.

On the days she leaves Darius and Fera on Libary we suspect she continues on her research. Next time we plan to find out where she leaves to.


**

"It's almost complete," The exhausted Wordsmith mutters quietly to the empty, dark room, "The King's request is almost complete...he should be pleased."

In the shadows, if one were looking close enough, they could perhaps catch a glint in her eye, a smirk curving her lips, a deeper meaning to her words.

**

"Your Majesty," Caithe spoke before the mysterious King and his guards, not sure if she should bow or curtsy, "We er...we've decided to accept your offer...I think...."

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"Sorillian?" Xane frowned, sounding mildly disappointed. "Damn...I was hoping for...nevermind. What are you two doing so far out here? You know Sor's a massive warzone right now right? We left it to find...a new way. Not sure what that means, but that's why we're out here. But what about you?"

***

"Thank you," Lun commented. "But...Wu is an ancient phoenix..yet he has a grandchild who's barely an adult. Who are wu's children? I presume they are dead?" Lun asked.

***

Xeroux would hear a ship approaching overhead. It was one of the few fully completed Seed Dreadnoughts, Nighthammer, awaiting to pick him up. It's pilot, known to many by his nickname, Survivor, was the commander of Seed's space and skies himself. He mostly coordinated Seed air strike and space naval efforts from the Nighthammer, which hovered over the city of Sor and other Seed sanctioned safe zones like giant metal navy titan of the skies, but today his ship also served as the current primary mode of transport for Professor Starkey. Being one of the most brilliant minds of Seed, and one of the few who understood the nature of the Plant Creature Starkey was a valuable asset in need of protection, and what better protection than the most fortified ship in Seed's army.

***

"Here's lunch," Shalvoh muttered, off-handedly serving Darius and Fera some burnt crispy mush on their desert trays. It smelled of corn many a day old. "Enjoy," Shalvoh grinned as he walked off back to the kitchen. He still ran a restaurant outside of the library, as he was allowed to by now, where he served edible food to his paying customers.

***

"Hopefully this alliance will benefit both of our groups,"Spite Mask noted making sure to heavily disguise the doubt in his voice.

***

Not far from where Caith's group first landed their ship, a cold, wet nose is pressed to the ground, sniffing a footprint embedded deep in the mud. The nose belonged to Chu and the footprint belonged to Enigma. The prey he was so long ago sent to track could elude him no further. Then he would find them. then he would fight. And then...once the they lay cold and broken, then...he would feast.

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#, as written by Nulix
Roastakos stood with his arms folded, starring out from darkened glass onto the travellers he'd stumbled upon. They sat in a row, the family to the left - the father, mother and two children, then the other two to the right. The brute, Terman, and the bearded one - the Professor who'd built their ship.

"How are they doing?" Heonas whispered, slipping off his helmet as they entered the dark room.

"Thanks to Terman... we seem to understand them," Roastakos whispered as the family nodded in response to a question. "His name is Joven Flynn, the father... he was a warrior in their system, fleeing with his family on this ship the professor built. But Terman was inside and attacked them... then they drifted, the ship becoming a war-zone until I found them." Roastakos frowned. "We are dealing with a civilization never before contacted, on the other side of the world..."

"Is that a bad thing?" Heonas whispered.

Roastakos turned to his friend. "The only way we have to get there is their ship... the chamber Terman was the only thing powerful enough to propel them here at the speed they did." Roastakos replied as he pulled his notebook from the table and made his way to the observation room exit. "We may never see their system, Heonas. Life just... goes on." With that the man exited, leaving Heonas alone to watch the strange Sorillian's being communicated to in the other room.

***

"Roastakos of the Solar Guard, you have been summoned," An officer called as he ran up to the man, moving through the hanger as best he could.

Roastakos turned around from the entrance to his ship at the approaching officer. "I'm about to... guard the solar, or whatever," Roastakos frowned. "Whoever summoned me needs the authority to nullify my duties, and I doubt they have it."

"You've been summoned by the King of the Sun," The officer said. The words hit Roastakos like a rock. "What... what does he want with me?" Roastakos whispered in confusion. The officer handed him a note and began to walk off. "Not to be late!" The officer replied as he left.

Roastakos stared down at the paper - at the seal upon it. The King of the Sun, the leader of their world, wanted to see him. A dizzying feeling came over him - fear and anticipation all in one, a fear that only magnified as the day went on. Even as Roastakos stood outside the glass tower of the King the meeting still did not feel real. But as the doors opened, and Roastakos entered the massive tower, he knew it was.

The space was massive, harmonic music filling the air as warm light bounced off the glass around the Solar Guard.

"Roastakos," A grand but gentle voice spoke. "My child..."

Roastakos stared up as from the top of the tower the light descending until it became close enough to make out. Roastakos' eyes adjusted to the light, as though some sort of magic or spell had made them calm in the presence of the King. His arms were outstretched his body floating downward - skin made of fire, and a face made of pure light. A smile could be seen, shades of darkness through the binding light making warm eyes, as the King descended. He was the life of the world, he was the power of the Solar Guard, and for any citizen to witness him was of great rarity.

"You're... you're the King of the Sun," Roastakos whispered as he squinted into the being of light and fire.

"And you, my son, are about to be make history," The King spoke - even his whispers earth-shattering roars. "You already have. We've taken the ship they arrived here with, the Runner, and refitted it. I want you to take it and go to the Sora System, Roastakos. I want you to find out what is on the other side of the world."

Roastakos stared at the being in disbelief. "Why me?"

"Because you're special, Roastakos," The King replied. "And you will not go alone. With their ship it will take three months to travel. You must learn their language in that time, and for that you will need a teacher. The brute - Terman, will go with you."

Roastakos swallowed at the prospect, but nodded anyway. "...when I leave... what will I find there?"

The being smiled. "People in need of salvation."

***

"I've been exploring outside the Sora System," Roastakos explained as he, Xane and Mellodia entered the ship, the lights inside flickering on weakly. "I've not been back in many years. I know nothing of the wars there other then they exist," Roastakos frowned. "But if my system needs me... I know I must go back."

"We are ready for takeoff," Tormand whispered.

Roastakos nodded and turned to Xane and Mellodia. "Are you guys ready to get off this rock?"

***

"Wu had one daughter late in his life. She was murdered," Orb explained. "By the Lords of Bao."

***

"Good, good," The King smirked from beneath his curtain. "Let's be off, then!" He yelled, a much stronger voice now as the guards lifted his carrying carriage and began to march through the forest again. "We're near the edge of these woods, then it's only a few hours to the port," The King explained. "Soon we can leave Ulfire behind... if the war doesn't find us first."

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"Takeoff..." Xane repeated. "Where are we headed?" Xane asked. "Not back to Sor already, I hope?"

***

"The Lords of Bao?" Lun asked. This information may not be of importance to him at this time, but he grew curious "Wu was one of them. Why would they commit such an act?"

***

"You have a ship at the port?" Spite Mask asked the King hopefully.

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"E's got somet'in f'er you, alright," One of the guards carrying the kings litter chuckled as they walked.

"I do not have a ship there yet, but we will find one," The King whispered from beneath the curtain. "I've foreseen it..."

***

"Yeah, back to Sor!" Roastakos laughed, pushing trash and old plates off the control panel before starting the ship up. "We're lost, man, we need to head back," Roastakos muttered. "Listen, we're both explorers but we can't stay out here forever. We have to find out whats happening, maybe the wars done. We don't even know." He turned to the large man. "Tormand, get us out of here."

Tormand nodded as he sat at the large ship's controls...

***

"I do not know, that was before I was with Wu," Orb explained. "I do know that he and the Lords have fought many times... and continue to do so."

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"Uh..." Caithe glanced at the others in dismay, continuing in a whisper, "Do ya think this is such a good idea after all?"

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"OI LOVELY, WHATS Y'ER NAHM?" One of the clearly intoxicated guards laughed as he took a swig of brandy and scuffled up beside Caithe. "Heheheh, look at 'em," Another guard viciously commented as he sharpened his blade...

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"C-caithe..." the poor girl muttered, gazing back at her friends with an expression saying 'help'...

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"SLYTHE, EH?" The stupid guard burped as they marched out of the forest and into the fields. "Oi Lordy, can we rob 'em?" A guard called, pointing his blade to a refugee family down the road.

"Not now," The King replied dismissively.

"Alright," The guard nodded sadly.

"See gang this is pretty much the best situation to be in at the end of the world," One of the guards murmured as he turned to Spite Mask and the others. "See even though we lost everything the King there has a special power..." The guard leaned in. "He can see things, he can. Into the future and that. So even though things are so bad, at least we can avoid em' and find the good, ya see?"

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"You're some kind of Seer?" Spite Mask questioned, moving ahead from the back e group to speak with the King. "I'd heard they all but died out not too long ago with the burning of that oracle....?"

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From inside the King's litter Spite Mask could make out the outline of a young man. He turned to him through the curtain. "The Oracle of the Matran... I've heard of her," The King whispered. "I can see things, yes. Information. I knew the war was coming... but I could do little to stop it. Now I can just use my powers to keep us alive." The King gave a smile, though Spite Mask could barely make it out through the purple silk curtains. "I foresaw meeting you, Spite Mask. And your friends... it's why I came here."

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"Wait, you had him with your pistol?" Bellatrix asked, turning around to face Nulix. "You're not hurt are you? Nulix, crime may not be an issue but you still have to be careful."

She walked over to him with a bowl of soup, placing it in front of him with a plop, a few droplets spilling out upon the table. Her own bowl was dropped with the same attitude.

"And petitioning them isn't gonna hurt anybody, but don't get your hopes up either," she added, her tone making it sound as though the comment were nothing more than an afterthought.

~*~

"Another loss, not unexpected but surely missed," Nai responded dismissively. "Anything else?"

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Nulix stared at the food. "Well this is disgusting."

***

"No ma'am, here are your notes for the meeting," Fairchild said as he handed a scroll to Nai and moved to the exit. "In the Benarius Tower High Command is waiting," He nodded to her before exiting.

***

Alette paused, a sound catching her ear. She glanced around the rainy forest, the wet trees towering in around her. Suddenly she spotted something. "Wait! Wait!" A voice called as Alette grabbed the dirty man from behind the tree and pushed him forward. She and the other guards surrounded the man and in one quick motion Alette pulled out her blade and aimed it at the man's neck. "Wait! Please stop, don't kill me! I was just out here exploring!" He spat.

"White flag?" Alette demanded as she shook the man. "White flag, white flag," The man nodded fearfully. Alette nodded, sheathing her blade and shackling the man's hand behind his back. "Citizens aren't allowed outside the walls at night," She murmured, glancing to the other guards. Nasriel and Big Benethorn were among them. "Someone escort him back, please? We have a mission." She muttered.

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"I told you I can't cook," Bellatrix said as she gave him her helping and went to get some real cuisine.

~*~

The door snapped shut and Nai let out a long sigh of exasperation. She looked down at her notes for the meeting and then glanced over when a soft thump alerted her to another presence. The thin figure said nothing but the mask they wore faced in her direction and remained fixed as though it were a statue designed to do so. Nai inclined her head an inch and the figure bowed down with an extravagant flourish. No matter how much Nai's eyes combed over the figure, there were no seams to be seen.

"Another loss. We're getting squeezed tight now," Nai confessed to the figure, wanting to look away but instinct keeping her eyes locked on the target in front. "I think we should start beating them back now, get them standing and then to the ground, no?"

The figure considered this before nodding slowly. Another sigh and Nai stood up, grabbed the list, and headed off towards where the other members of High Command waited. She didn't do any of this however until the figure submerged back into the shadows with a small wave.

~*~

"I got it," Nasriel said as he roughly grabbed the prisoner and shoved him to walk forward. "Ain't nothing I can't handle, for the right price of course."

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Darius brushed the plates off the table, ignoring the food Shalvoh had given them. They didn't come here to eat Shalvoh's slop after all, despite the fact that he consistently tried to feed them what was clearly poison.

"The Wordsmith," Darius said, kicking his feet upwards and leaning back. "Why haven't I thought of this before? She's clearly a woman."

"Hold it," Fera said, looking longingly at the food on the ground, since he would have eaten it without complaining. "The Wordsmith isn't a woman. She's hardly human."

Darius laughed. "No, she's definitely a woman. But, unfortunately perhaps, she can't be just a woman, she has to be many other things as well."

Fera shrugged uncomfortably. "Anyway, what's your point?"

"I just think that like any good woman, she needs some downtime, a vacation of sorts," Darius said. "I think we should surprise her on one of our impromptu trips, just 'accidentally' go to the wrong place. It might help her unwind."

"This doesn't sound like you!" Fera squinted at Darius. "Who gave you this idea? And how much are they paying you?"

"All right, you got me," Darius laughed. "Kalgus, that old mentor of hers. And quite a bit of money, thanks for asking."

Fera chuckled. "Well, if he's behind it, I feel safer. The Wordsmith... she scares me."

"It would be interesting to fight her in battle, but I have the feeling that neither of us would really come out on top," Darius said in an agreeable tone. "She'd die because I can't. But I must admit, I really have no interest in fighting her."

"That's unusual, coming from you," Fera said, smiling slightly. "You enjoy fighting most everyone. And I've never heard you regretful after they're dead."

"Perhaps that is because I take care who I kill," Darius said, eyeing his friend. "I've never heard you complain about it before."

"I'm not complaining," Fera said, raising his hands. "Anyway, are we doing it this next trip?"

"Probably," Darius said, standing. "So you're in?"

"I don't really have a choice," Fera laughed. "So, of course!" The two left the inn, perhaps noticing, perhaps not, that Shalvoh had been listening to their conversation.

***

Enigma drank some water from a bottle he carried on his waist.

"Mmm," he said as he returned the bottle to its place. "Refreshing."

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"Good afternoon," Nai said as she bustled into the meeting room, looking over her High Command. She took a seat in her chair and placed the list upon the table. "Now, who would like to start today?"

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"So...you knew we would meet?" Spite Mask. "I must admit the thought of knowing the outcome of the future, even a just tidbit of one's fate would unnerve me. Was this public knowledge in your kingdom?" Spite Mask asked the royal who he had began to suspect was younger then he first presumed.

***

No one seemed willing to speak up first as there was a tense atmosphere in the room. Not because of Nai leading them, those were tensions that (mostly) passed long ago. The room was tense because they came here to discuss the war effort. There was good news, triumphant news, in fact. But that did not mean the war effort was going well, no. It was a struggle, for all sides involved. Ylyncount was the first to actually raise his hand.

"Ooh! Ooh! C'mon, pick me..." he muttered under his breath, as he his other hand grabbed his raised arm as if to hold it up in the air because he was too tired to do so.

Grimsever glared at him. "You're not a child. If you've got something to say just say it," he stated bluntly.

"Oh uh, right," Ylyncount nodded, breathing heavily through his gas mask. "We are starting to lose Seed Beasts! They were the brunt of our armies until about a month ago,when the Vindicans started bringing out Dreadnoughts to fight them instead of footsoldiers. Without them, we lack sufficient firepower to fight Oblivion's forces." Ylyncount paused to breath through his gas mask once more. "The advanced Seed Beasts like the Survivor, won't be ready for a few weeks after Professor Starkey gathers whatever remains of the Plant..."

"Once they're all dead or unable to fight or M.I.A, we could always use the wild ones..." Ylyncount continued. "But we can't control them. Let them lose and they'll attack civilians and their fellow troops....unless....you put me in charge of our 'special' ground troops. I am adept at soothing the minds of savage beasts."

"Heh. There's his angle," Sai Ko chuckled, smugly. "He's power-grabbing."

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Alette turned to Nasriel as he began to trudge off with the prisoner in the rain, his leather guard's armour a bit too tight for his body and the green clothe of it's uniform fitting him awkwardly. Not that it fit any of them well, one must mind - the Colony Guard was a small, all purpose unit. Peace-keepers, police - and military, if such a need arose. As yet it did not.

Alette looked away as Nasriel disappeared into the darkness of the forest night. "Right," Alette muttered with a sniffle, placing her hand on the hilt of her rapier lazily and moving the patrol again. "Forward on, every body."

The remaining dozen guards began forward through the rain. "Not naturally, you know," Big Benethorn whispered from beneath his wool hood, his slack jaw the only thing protruding from it's cover into the rain. "A planet to be this wet and this covered in clouds." He paused for a wet sniffle. "It's like a maze. Don't know if I can take it much longer."

"Three months to reach the southern tip of the Vindico System, Ben," Alette replied. "No one's keeping you."

"I ain't leavin'. It's just... we don' know whats out 'ere," Big Ben murmured. "It makes things feel-" Suddenly Alette rose a hand to Ben's stomach, stopping him in his tracks. The other guards did in unison. From her hip Alette pulled out her rapier and began to approach the shape she'd seen ahead in the darkness. "Oh god," She whispered as she rose her lantern to the bloodied form rag-dolled against a mossy tree-trunk. Alette examined the corpse with a frown. "Councillor Braddock," She muttered before raising to her companions. "She's dead. We have a murderer on the loose."

***

"I mean you can't... I don't think you can legally do that to an animal," Nulix murmured to Bella sitting beside him when suddenly the council room doors opened. A few days had past since Nulix's incident with the thief and Big Ben, and in that time he'd written a list. Propositions - changes to be made to the structure of the Colony, the distribution of power. Nulix headed to the Long Hall, the largest building in the colony, in the centre of it's rainy green streets - to plead his case.

Through the doors of the chamber Taveck stepped out onto the rough log floors, each step creaking and bending the wooden building uneasily. "Nulix, Bella," Taveck said with a warm smile. "Well look at you two. Haven't seen you in a good month or so, since Campile's party," Jakson smirked as he and the Disgusting Criminal Master Mind Antonio Campile stepped out behind the Neahian Oligarch.

"Hey guys," Nulix smirked. "You guys read over the proposition I wrote up?"

"We did, they're surprising," Taveck murmured. "They're mainly military."

"Yeah, of course they're mainly military, we're at war," Nulix replied with a confused look. "Right now we only have around thirty guards, many of whom abuse their power. I don't think the White Flag system is great, there's no nuance to the system of law. We need three different levels of military - we need a full on navy for the cosmos, manned and gunned ships, a level for the police, law keepers, and then the military guard on the walls."

"With what money? With what men?" Taveck said as he handed back the scrolls. "Nulix - we're focused on survival."

"Yeah, so am I," Nulix responded, glaring at Taveck. "So am I."

Taveck sighed, leaning forward and placing a hand on Nulix's shoulder. "Somewhere there is a war, Nulix Princeton. Somewhere the world is burning. But out here, there's no fire." Taveck gave him a smile. "One day we'll need your suggestions. One day we'll need better systems. But right now, for our size, what we have works. And every citizen of the Colony has a house, has food, and lives in comfort"

Nulix frowned, glancing down. His fingers tapped the edge of his pistol holster nervously. "Yeah, it does," He admitted with a sigh. "And the colony is safe..." He paused before looking Taveck in the eyes. "But I don't feel safe, Tav."

"Maybe it's not the colony's safety you're worried about," Taveck suggested, stepping back toward his colleagues and giving a nod to Bella. His eyes darted along her for a moment and then at Nulix. He hadn't seen her with a weapon since they'd arrived, and opposite he'd never seen Prineton without.

Suddenly footsteps could be heard from the stairs. Alette ran forward, Big Ben, Nasriel, and a few other guards following all of them dripping wet. "Councillors," She began, stepping aside as Big Ben laid down the body of Braddock. "Your fifth member is dead."

***

"No," The King laughed from behind his curtain. "No Spite Mask, in my Kingdom..." He paused, letting out a slight sigh as he looked away. "In my Kingdom... I could not be heard no matter how hard I yelled."

"We're almost there, sir - you can already see the town," One of his guards called from the front of the litter. On the distant hills the smoke of an Ulfirian space port and the sprawl surrounding it could be seen...

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Tera Roth flew away from the planet, dully wondering if Wing was dead. He'd missed the rendezvous by quite some time, but he was also the Guardian of the Twilight World. It would take a lot to kill him, but Tera Roth knew for a fact how much Oblivion had wanted him dead. His invasion and disruption of the Twilight World itself was proof of that; the Guardian of Twilight's life force was inevitably tied to that of the world itself. One could not exist without the other.

He'd heard nothing from Highwind for weeks. Tera Roth wasn't sure, but he was sure his friend was also dead. Tyre's reports were scattered but he sounded like he had a handle on the situation on his homeworld. The other Guardians were being pressured as well, though they also seemed capable.

Tera Roth was the only one, it seemed, free to do anything at all worthwhile. He glanced at the map of known space, updating it quickly with what he had received intelligence of in the last few hours. Oblivion's forces were mostly contained to the dark worlds, although contained wasn't the right word. They were "staying" there, for whatever reason, sending out strike teams to decimate worlds and leave them dark. They tangled with Seed forces, Guardians, whoever they could find, but they always seemed to suffer incredibly high losses.

It was unlikely, Tera Roth thought to himself, that Oblivion's forces were truly weaker than everybody else. No, Oblivion had a plan, or perhaps was playing some game. After all, he'd proven that he could, single-handed, annihilate an entire fleet when he destroyed the Knights and the planet below. Yet, Oblivion had oddly vanished after this, and hadn't been seen since. Some believed his power was spent and he was biding his time.

Tera Roth didn't believe this or any other theory, other than that Oblivion was doing what he wanted. If Oblivion wasn't fighting, if Oblivion's forces were losing, it was because Oblivion willed it. But why? That was really the question. Add that to the fact that no one of any consequence from Oblivion's forces had been fought or even seen yet, and Tera Roth was quite on edge.

His radio gurgled, making him start. He answered.

"Hey hon, it's Cora," his fiance said over the radio. "No word from Wing?"

"I'm on my way out," he said. "I can't wait any longer."

"I agree," Cora said. "I have an idea for a strike for you."

"Another one?" Tera Roth frowned. "The last one was bad enough, hopefully this one doesn't involve me attempting suicide."

"I have faith in your abilities," Cora said, chuckling. "I'm not like most women that sit and fret at home over their husbands or sons fighting in the war. You're either going to die or you're not, and while you're still alive, best to make you useful."

"Sometimes I wish you would worry a bit," Tera Roth grumbled. "I certainly worry about you."

"You worry enough for the both of us," Cora said gently. "I love you and that's what's important."

Tera Roth sighed. "Well, give it to me straight, and I'll see what I can do. Heaven knows I've got a lot of work to get done."

"We all do," Cora said. "That's what war is."

"No," Tera Roth said softly. "War is nothing but death."

***

"I suppose you've never wondered," Joachim said to no one in particular, "why we're even out here doing this. You know, things aren't as black and white as we once pictured them to be. We've got billions of lives at stake, we've got war on every doorstep, deaths all around us. But what are we doing about it? We squabble. We bicker. We blame Seed. We blame Sor. We blame Oblivion. We blame anyone but the person really to blame. Ourselves."

Joachim looked around. "Yes, that's right. We're all to blame for this. It's time we swallowed that fact, and took it to heart. We let these people gain their power, we did it because we were not united. We weren't able to catch the signs showing that war was coming. Some of us even thought we wanted a war. Well now here we are, in the middle of one, and we all realize now that it was a terrible mistake to allow this to happen. But we still are blaming anyone but ourselves."

"Some of you may say, 'but what could I have done'. To you I say you're not thinking small enough. You need to understand the fundamentals of civilization. Is civilization technology? Is it government? Is it cities, skyscrapers, worlds colonized, armies, magic?" Joachim shook his head. "No, civilization is life. You are living. You are civilization. As long as you are alive, so too does civilization. You decide the rules for your own life. Yes, we have government to help give us guidelines. But it is up to the individual to follow those guidelines."

"We have a chance now, a golden opportunity," Joachim finished. "We have made many mistakes in the past, we have fought many wars. But now we have the chance to change it. We don't have to fight anymore. We don't have to be divided. We can all live in peace, and it starts with each one of you deciding that is what he or she wants. So I ask you: What do you want?"

Joachim stepped down from the makeshift podium to thunderous applause. He smiled slightly, and waved. His speeches were a big hit, somewhat to his surprise, but even more to his surprise, people were taking his advice. Everywhere he went, he was being regarded as a hero, a savior. Joachim had never considered this before; it wasn't in his nature to expect gratitude for his actions. But something had begun to grow in him, an idea that he had considered before but never truly accepted.

Joachim knew what his purpose was now. And he was going to fulfill it, one way or another.

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"Ah and here we are..." Spite Mask noted, adjusting his mask slightly. "Now, your majesty, we've found your port, so what's the general plan here?" he asked. "

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"I have my ways, Master Spite Mask," The King spoke as his guards lowered the litter. The curtains opened to reveal a fine, velveteen draped man, barely taller then Caithe. His robes were finely sowed crests, and though clearly royal their symbols and stitching were of a slightly more primitive weave then the gang was used to the System's Royalties wearing. He had pale white skin of one who barely had to go into the sun, soft black hair freshly cut at the ears, and bright brown eyes. He had a distrusting look on his face, and a certain fat of the cheeks and lack of chin placed him in his teenage years. One of the guard's placed a rough knit brown cloak over his shoulders. The young King raised it over his head. "Right," he frowned, covering his garbs up and turning toward the port on the hills below them. Black smoke rose out of it's sprawl, several ship's rising and falling into it's cloud. Past the industrial blackness was an equally black coast, polluted waves smashing against stone carved city barriers and rickety stood houses on the water.

"The one thing North Ulfire has is sprawling green spaces, and the one thing folks do with sprawling green is burn it to the ground and make guns and ships with it," The King explained as he began to descend toward the smokey city. "According to my navigators this was a small town before the new wave of pre-war industry. Now it's a furnace."

The gang followed, heading down an entrance way street. Ahead of them a cloud of black smoke was coming forward, quickly consuming their forms in it's heat. The King cough violently before covering his mouth. "Welcome to Sulfuropolis." Violantly uneven cobblestones twisted their ankles as the crowd of rugged Ulfirian workers began to push past - their faces dark from the coal and fire's they worked with, and their skin rough from the lives they lived. Neither them, nor the vehicles on the street, seemed too concerned with hitting the team as they walked. An object would simply appear from the smog, feet away and ready to smash into them if they were not wise enough to avoid. "It's a bit of a chaos, eh Sir?" One of the guards asked as he barely avoided an engine turbine blasting fire out from a garage. "Can't even hear where it bloody comes from, theres noise everywhere?!" Another exclaimed as a massive Ulfirian man smashed into him, causing the guard to fall to the ground.

"We're almost there!" The King assured as he avoided a passing carriage. He coughed again, trying best not to breath the fumes of iron and sulfur that polluted the air. "There!" He exclaimed, pointing up to Pub Sign that appeared through the smog. For it's icon it had a stupidly mustached man being hung, and below it the words read The Dead Sorillian. "That's our destination," The King said, heading toward the door...

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"This...is our destination?"Spite Mask muttered in repulsion. As he walked in, the stench of a foul smelling brew permeated the air and shot through his mask, into his nostrils. He hacked a violent cough as he examined what he presumed were the bar regulars. Generally they seemed a boisterous folk, greasy and stained with dirt, undoubtedly from working in the various factories now littered throughout the town.

"And...what exactly do we hope to find in this..." Spite Mask struggled to find the word. "...establishment?" he eventually came up with, eying a bartender serve a customer a platter of something that had five too many appendages to be anything a human should eat.

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"You stay here, I'll be back with the ship shortly," The King smirked at Spite Mask and the rest of Caithe's Team. With a nod the King exited into a backroom behind the bar, his fivesome of guards following. Caithe's team was left alone in the thuggish saloon. At the bar the long-bearded bartender and several patrons listened to a radio. Though the transmission was scratchy Ulfirian words did come through, roughly translating to: "Excitement in Raejo as she approaches the podium... and the Emperor is there to... crowning... there is a new Queen of Sora." The speaker's thin voice let out a few unamused coughs from the patrons.

From across the pub a group of Ulfirian soldiers sat, dead, sulfur poisoned mugs of ale in hand. They stared at Caithe's group menacingly - as though instantly being able to peg that they didn't belong...

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"Uh..." Caithe gazed warily around the bar, before she tried to find the silver lining, "Hey, but this is not so bad, we've been to worse places..." she scratched her nose, remembering some corners of the universe that no civilized man should ever visit, "And at least we're not Sorillian, right?!"

Her laugh got cut off by a large, brutish man completely pushing her out of his way while entering the bar, causing her to stumble and fall on the moldy floor that clearly hadn't been cleaned in years. Caithe looked up in surprise just as the disgusting man grabbed her by her collar and lifted her up to his eye level with ease, "Did ya say SORILLIAN?!"

She peered at the soot coated face before her, wincing at the spittle that flew from his words, "UH...No! Nope! No Sorrilians here...ha..ha...those damn Sorillians, amiright?!" He growled at her and threw her with mighty force onto the floor, walking to a table and ordering a drink. The disgruntled Caithe peeled herself from the sticky, dirt ground, brushing off whatever muck she could from her clothes "Ow. Hey, did I hear that correct before..." her voice lowered to a whisper, "A new Queen?"

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"We...have been away from civilization for quite some time," Spite Mask noted, plucking a banana peel form Caithe's shoulder and tossing it into the furnace. "Perhaps it would be best to ask around the bar to gather information on more or less current events..."

As Spite Mask spoke, two drunkards at the counter looked over their shoulders, muttering. "Ya want information....we got it. No need ta even pay us. All we want is the feast..." he muttered, pointing at (bird) Argent, fluttering behind Spite Mask.

"You mean the beast?" Spite Mask questioned, raising an eyebrow form under his mask and getting a very uneasy feeling.

"Oh no, I definitely mean the feast," one of the drunkards slobbered wiping the drool form his chin as he leaped towards Argent and grabbed him with one hand and slammed the poor creature onto a table. In his other hand was fork. He turned towards his brother. "Which part you want, Braddy boy?"

"Pierce 'im in the liver!" Brad answered savagely as the scene started to gather a crowd of onlookers.

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Argent squawked in fear and hid behind Caithe's book as Ulfirian chants began to form in the crowd. The patrons watched eagerly, itching for a fight. "Svitchkov!" One of the red draped Ulfirian shoulders yelled, smashing through the crowd with his shield and stepping between Caithe's group and the savages. "What is the meaning of this? No fighting!" He spat.

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"They're trying to feast on our beast!" Caithe pointed accusingly at the two drunkards, before grabbing bird Argent and the book into her arms, "We don't want any trouble, honest!"

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Svitchkov looked astounded. "M-major?" he asked in shock. "Sorry, sir. They uh..they had a feast. Wasn't right that they get to keep such a marvelous meal for a pet while we eat this bar's filth."

"We were only hoping to gain some news..." Spite Mask sighed, scratching the back of his mask. "We're wildlife experts, you see. We try to examine what effects the war has on the wildlife throughout various worlds. Are first examination was to be of the Ulfire System. As you may guess, such a life....does not leave one privy to recent politics. We heard something of a new queen?"

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"Ulfirian," The Major smirked as Spite Mask switched languages. "If you caught that critter you must be quite the experts," He nodded at the filthy, flee-infested Argent. "Ah my friend, you've been out in the wilderness too long," The Major began as he waved for the bartender to give them a round of drinks. The Major and Caithe's group sat around a circular table, Spite Mask directly to the soldiers left. "Aye, the new Queen. Officially the Emperor has been the King of Sor even though Seed governs all of it, but ever since good old Sentrius died saving us from Oblivion, well..." The Major sighed. "Things between the Emperor and that Sorillian witch leading Sor now haven't been great. So he put a new Queen on the throne, under him still, in the hopes that she will be able to sort Nai out, I reckon..." The Major turned as the bartender placed the bottles of vodka before each member at the table. The Major nodded at the man before taking a sip. "His daughter, Princess Anaszia."

***

There was a loud patter of knocks on the chamber doors followed by the guards opening them. "Nai," Fairchild called, entering the private meeting fearlessly. "And High Command," He commented dismissively as he passed by the members sitting round the long table. "So you remember Anaszia's surprise announcement? It turns out she's being crowned the Queen of Sor, a title I'm really not sure needs to exist at this point in time except to destabilize us and make us dependent. Here, transcripts," He muttered, handing Nai a large parchment. "She has no armies or real power but... officially, Seed is now her vassal. And she wants to talk with us - all of us, as soon as this meeting is over," Fairchild frowned and turned to the group of gathered agents. "Sorry for interrupting," He added.

***

As the Major and Spite Mask spoke Caithe felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned in her seat to see the King behind her, still cloaked. He was pale - paler then usual, and appeared nervous. "Caithe, the pilot... he says he knows you. And that he needs to see some book for proof that it's really you. He wanted me to show it to him." The King swallowed. "He said he was an old friend, and that he hasn't seen you for six months?"

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Caithe frowned curiously, tucking the book under her arm and gently standing as if not to disturb the Major's and Spite Mask's conversation, "I see...this could either be very good news or very bad...in any case, take me to him."

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"He said he just wanted to see the book," The King replied with a frown. "For what its worth, I did not see evil in his future."

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She shook her head with a laugh, "The book doesnt usually leave my side, but if he does not wish to see me then..." Caithe hesitated and looked down at the Murshlatan, before handing it to the King as if it were a small child, "Don't take it too far though...I'm not the one you'll have to worry about if it is somehow stolen..."

There was a slight glint in her eye as she said this, remembering the time that Malkini had once taken it from her....

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"We'll just be behind that door," The King replied, before looking down at the book in confusion. "...What is it?" He asked after a moment.

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"So Anaszia's finally been brought to power...in a sense," Spite Mask murmured. He turned to the others and whispered. "This may be a good thing. It could bring turmoil to Seed." As the King returned, Spite Mask blinked a bit and narrowed his eyes at the King nervous demeanor but said nothing, as he turned back to converse with the major.

***

"We should've never allowed this," Sai Ko spat. "This new...queen will ruin everyhtign we've planned."

"Not quite..." Grimsever spoke slowly, scratching his chin. "She holds no power over us, yet we are now technically her vassals. This is good for us. Tensions with Ulfire settle down as long as we let them believe Anaszia's in charge. The only problem is keeping it this way..."

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"A secret," Caithe smiled as she placed a finger to her lips in a hushing motion, "A dangerous one, I'll give you that much. Perhaps you will find out if we hang out long enough."

She sat back down, "Be careful with it."

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The King nodded, before holding the book securely against his chest and heading toward the backroom.

"I must say... you and your company are awfully well armed for naturalists, eh?" The Major murmured as he sipped his vodka. "But I suppose you must be in these troubled times. What do you make of Seed and the war? For us soldiers, Seed made us feel safe once... but now they've become Sorillians, forgotten their roots."

***

"Anaszia has no political track record, I really can't say what she'll do. But the marriage between her and Sentrius meant that she has a claim to Seed, as a country. When Sentrius died the Emperor had hoped she'd take over... chances are her ambitious and his too haven't strayed far," Fairchild sighed as he glanced over the transcripts. "Oh good. It seems we'll have plenty of time to get to know her too, as it seems she'll be taking up residency in the Royal Palace..." He glanced to the leader of Seed. "Your room in fact, Nai. She's requesting an integration of Seed and what she's calling the Royal Government... which I imagine are just servants or something."

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It happened so fast, I’m not even sure I’m remembering it all correctly. Let me start at the beginning…

I was trying to reach the outer rim of the Dark Worlds. Hunting for Oblivion’s army and any clues to the location of Darius. Then there was a flash of light and I was ripped from the cockpit of my ship. After that it get’s a little fuzzy. I remember the light was blinding, and my assailants were only silhouettes. They hit hard and fast, taking my blades and tying my hands behind my back before throwing me in here. I remember hitting the wall head first and then nothing.


I came to and found my armor gone, replaced by this prisoner jumpsuit. From the markings on the walls opposite the cell I’d say this is the vessel of a very powerful clan. One I’ve only a faint memory of reading about. I should have researched the area better…all that time on the run and I managed to skip the details. Who to avoid, who to help, who to simply kill. It all ran together and seemed so meaningless when the fate of the universe hung in the balance.

It was a few hours later that my memory would be jogged, a familiar face made its way to the door of my cell. Voleur. The man who dared to impersonate me and tried to kill my friends. He smiled nonchalantly as he shook his head, arms crossed over his chest. “Oh, Wing…we really have go to stop meeting this way! I mean, the universe is in peril and you are out here in my father’s territory alone? I really thought you were somewhat intelligent, I can see I was mistaken. It’s no wonder the Ultimate Organization has disappeared. You probably lead them all to their graves!”

I struggle to free my hands, trying all I can to summon my powers, while he leans against the wall opposite my cell and laughs. “You’re such a fool. Seed has installed their anti-phoenix provisions in each cell. If you listen really hard, you can hear the drums. Thankfully they limited their range, because I’m still able to use my powers.” His face then morphs into a likeness of my own, only the eyes remain unchanged. Their cool grey unable to mimic my twilight infused eyes.

He begins to mimic my voice, mocking me as he tries to wield invisible swords. “I’ll protect them all! Ultimate Organization, follow me to your deaths!” He laughs, shaking his head. “Pathetic. You’ll never win, Wing….Never.”

He was at the bars to my cell before I could react, the cold steel pierced my side, sliding too comfortably in-between my ribs and into my lung. He held it there a moment, savoring his cheap kill. “The death of a Phoenix is always sad, but you will not be missed.” I cough, and spit blood onto his face, a last act of defiance? I’m not sure. It felt right at the time, but his hysteric laughing only served to anger me as I fell backwards, blood pouring from the wound that wouldn’t heal.

The lights dimmed, flickered, and went out. I took a few labored breathes as my vision blurred. Funny how even in the dark things can still become hazy. This was it, my entire life coming to an end in such an anticlimactic way. Maybe it was for the best, after all I made my share of mistakes, abandoned my friends in favor of an un-winnable war. A solo crusade that resulted in nothing. I chuckled to myself at the irony. as I began to gasp for air. I couldn’t even die in a dignified way. I’d leave this universe gasping for air, the irony again was not lost on me. The master of gales dying from lack of air…full circle. A phoenix is said to die by the very element it controls. So it was only fitting. However, I didn’t see myself rising from any special air pocket on a world filled with lush grass and cool, running water. No, I’d leave this world the way I came into it, in the dark and afraid.




That’s when the explosion rocked the ship. Sirens blared and the emergency lighting drenched my cell in blood red light. I could hear men barking orders and others calling out their acknowledgement. No one seemed to understand who was attacking. Given that this was a Seed vessel, I assumed it was a sect of Oblivion’s followers. The door to the cells opened and footsteps raced down the stairs. Voleur was at my cell once again. “You knew this would happen didn’t you?!” He screamed the question, fear rising in his voice. “You called them! You were bugged, this was a trap for my father wasn’t it?!” He’s frantic, and I’m losing consciousness. I look over at him and manage a small smirk before slipping into unconsciousness.

The next time I’d wake up would be here, on this ship…surrounded by Knights. You all saved me, sadly it was the second time that family has managed to capture and nearly kill me. I just want to find my friends and see if they are alright. I’m tired of being out here alone. I really appreciate the help and medical attention, but if it’s all the same to you, I’ll be going now.

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"It isn't the same to us actually," the last remaining Knight general said as he approached Wing's bed, waving away the men taking down notes on Wing's capture. "One, you're still wounded. Your Phoenix magic will heal the damage eventually, but in the meantime, you're not fit to do anything. Two, we're in the same boat that you are. We are the last remaining Knight force in existence. Do you know what that means?"

The aging man sat next to Wing's bed and sighed. "It means, my friend, that we are the last of Sor. That is a heavy burden, and one that only sixty Knights were never meant to carry. We need allies. We need to find your friends just as much as you do. So I'm afraid you're rather stuck with us for the time being."

"My name is Garan," the man said, holding out a hand to Wing. "I used to be good friends with Tera Roth, back when he and I were fighting on the same side. Before the wars."

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"Well, nature can be fierce. Beasts especially so when forced out of their habitats in the name of wartime industry," Spite Mask sighed staring glumly out of a window as sleet began to pour from the sky, causing the glass to frost. "This war has been a nasty business for all of us, especially Ulfire. Seed was known as the shadow of Ulfire, protecting her in secret from what would cause her people harm. Then it became as much a threat to us as other rival nations, wouldn't you say? Perhaps...under Anaszia things could get back to the way they should be, hmm?"

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Caithe stared at Spite Mask for a moment, almost forgetting that he was once a member of Seed. Admittedly she hadn't thought about it much, though it was always a strange thought that if Seed had picked her up from the dead worlds instead of the UO she would be on the other side of the war....she hadn't known any better. Perhaps she still didn't, "What of Oblivion?" Caithe asked, lowering her voice, "How will Anaszia handle his forces, if, as you say, things get back to the way they should be? Seed seem to be the only force large enough to counterattack..." her words lowered to a whisper, that only the team could hear, "We need more time."

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"Welcome to saakmeat hall!" A boisterous voice announced. Wing glanced up to the entrance of the room he slept in as a large man in red armour stepped in, medical supplies in one arm and a greasy roasted boar in another. "Welcome to the last refuge of Knights and men, my dear," The man smirked as he took a bite out of the boar and placed a hand on Wing's chest. "Just hold still for a moment, I'm a doctor," He murmured. "Already met the Big Boss I see," He added, nodding to Garan as he continued to check the vitals, nibbling boar over Wing's carcass as he did...

***

The Major paused at Caithe's words. "For the war... it's something we soldiers don't like to admit, but Nai... Anaszia would be smart to keep her in power of Seed, she just needs to find a way to keep her Ulfirian. Part of the Empire and not turning everything into a bloody Sorillian daisy bath." The Major murmured something as he sipped his vodka. "If Anaszia and Seed can take care of Oblivion up in the Sora System then we can hold off the Vench down south. Tryptia is stretched thin between Oblivion in Dark Space and our western forces, they're less of a threat..." The Major swallowed. "My fear is, if by some stretch, we manage to win this war... our vassals, Nai and Seed... may be more powerful then us when it's done with."

Argent squawked uneasily at the words as the unsettling stench of burning petrol filled the building. "Your friend is taking his time, no?" The Major murmured as he took another sip.

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Enigma chuckled at the major's words, the first use of his voice he had made since joining with the king.

"What's so funny?" the Major asked, frowning.

"Your worries," Enigma said, smiling coldly. "I'm going to tell you something, all of you. You may believe it. You may not. The choice is yours, but it is true nonetheless." He raised a finger. "None of us are in control of what will come. The players have all been chosen. The set has already been built. The script has already been written. Now, all that's left for us is to act out our roles. Major, you worry about what comes after this war." Enigma shook his head and chuckled. "Nothing comes after this war, except perhaps a small, short epilogue that, rest assured, will not be about you."

***

"Wing, meet Boris Gud," Garan said, gesturing. "More of a psychiatric doctor, but still one of the better physicians around as well. He's been the one treating you, of course."

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Spite Mask nodded. "A valid concern," he said. "Let us pray the day Seed rules the galaxy does not come. I fear it will affect more than just Ulfire..." As the Major mentioned the King, Spite Mask scratched his masked chin. "I will check on him. Perhaps he's run into trouble..." Spite Mask stated, wandering over towards the direction the King went.

***

"So...a member of the UO joins the remnants," a voice approaching Wing spoke up. "You may not remember me, windmeister, but I've met your group before," the Knight spoke. "Captain Nevrest. Where's the rest of your order?" he asked, making it sound as if the UO was vastly more important than it actually was.

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"HMmmmm," Doctor Boris murmured as he examined Wing's skull, keepign quiet as Nevrest entered the room. "Keep your wits about you, Mister Wing. Nevrest is a troubled man," Boris whispered as he examined...

***

"...Strange group of naturalists you have here," The Major smirked at Spite Mask as he rose, though his eyes kept locked on Enigma. The Major shifted to Caithe. "You gave your friend a book about ten minutes ago, no? Is it... a nature journal of some kind?"

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"Ah, yes....you could say that. Though not your usual," Caithe watched Spite Mask leave with a concerned frown, hoping the pilot really was an old friend and not someone after the book, "We've uh...we've been studying Seed's plants and creatures as well, which is why it's um...important." she rubbed the back of her neck, knowing she wasn't as good as lying as ol' Spitey.

"Tell me, Major," Caithe's gaze settled on the man, "We've been out on the....field for a good six months. I don't suppose there is any other important information we've missed?"

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The Major glanced at Caithe before giving an amused grin. "I suppose that all sounds perfectly in the ordinary," He replied. "As for news... it's just been a lot of fighting. A lot of fighting..." The Major raised his bottle before pausing. "There is... one thing. A rumour though, information I do not know if it's even worth repeating. On Raejo... there have been rumours in the guards of an assassination attempt on the Emperor... a lone assassin, they say. But it's hard to say if such far away murmurs are even true."

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