These are a collection of some player submitted fan lore for you to enjoy!
- 1 Lilithe, Another Flower Gone
- 2 THE FALL OF FENGZHOU AND THE RISE OF XAAN
- 3 Lyonar Kingdom - Vow of the Argent
- 4 Songhai Empire - The Lessons of a Viper
- 5 Vetruvia - Whispers Beneath the Sands
- 6 Abyssian Host - Bloodmoon Benediction
- 7 Magmar - Trial of the Phalanx
- 8 Vetruvian Genesis
- 9 The Lady of the Tigers
- 10 Dancing Blades
- 11 Links to more Fanlore
Lilithe, Another Flower Gone
One petal, two petals, three then four more Drop to the ground askewed from their source A necklace from such a petal she had bore Yet a fate, one less fragile, one more coarse.
Innocence stolen away, kept inept from all Knees bending, courage lending, no mending A necklace worn, that could not ever fall. Yet a fate, on that date, life was ending.
Nature corrupted, fluorescence shunned Eyes closing, murder, posing possession. A necklace clinging to life’s final fund Yet a fate divided by one action
One ethereal plane from happiness Just one choice of difference A memory changed, no more to caress, by a being without repentance.
Vengeance, revenant of sin Never ending always burning, longing of what could have been, Timelines changed, her wrath is dawning.
Once a woman so sublime Now one doomed to be a pawn. A flower from another time Is now, just another flower gone.
THE FALL OF FENGZHOU AND THE RISE OF XAAN
It happened in the year of the seven suns. The month of the winged star. Fengzhou was in uproar. We had just won our first…the first Blooming. Our Bloodborn grinned boyishly and raised the Monolith Core before the Jade Dragon alter, turning the snow white core bluish green amidst thunderous cheers that could have awoken the fabled sky dragons. Lush fireworks bathed the last light of the Fengzhou sky and continued deep into the night. I REMEMBER waking up to a long deep and lonely moan from the direction of the Ruby Mountains. The night sky still looked to be dotted with burning fireworks…and then the dragon war horn pierced the silence.
Fire arrows rained from the jet black sky engulfing everything they touched. I can still hear the screams of anguish. My home Fengzhou was on fire. I saw my Bloodborn Sun Doo Xaan unleash phoenix fire after phoenix fire at the attacking horde of monsters led by the abomination Vaath. Large green chrysalis littered the battlefield hatching monstrosities as they slithered past into the city.
I REMEMBER the spinning ruby staffs of the Jade monks as they struck back in unison at their foes with one end of their staff and another with the other end. I saw the Makantor warbeasts run wild in the ranks of the monks stomping, goring and swinging those huge spiked tails, decimating them in bestial frenzy.
I REMEMBER that booming hearty laugh. I glimpsed Sun Doo Xaan stagger briefly. It was hard to mistaken that laugh. His dull blue eyes widened through his crimson and gold Bloodrage mask in recognition and horror. The laugh of the rogue lion. Lucious Highmayne. We had been betrayed by Windcliffe. Suddenly my Bloodborn’s magic ceased to take effect even as Vaath the Devourer and his hordes drew nigh him.
I REMEMBER Prince Xaan retreat as his Bloodrage mask fell apart. Blood ran from his brow and mouth. He winced and touched his left thigh. A phalanxer war hammer had shattered his left femur in his attempt to flee. We couldn’t fight the Lyonar and Magmar together and hope to win. Worse still was the fact that we’d been surprised and caught badly.
I REMEMBER the final rush for Fengzhou and the resigned look on Bloodborn San Doo Xaan…and then it begun.
My Bloodborn sat cross-legged and then with all his might leaned forward and crushed the Monolith Core into his heart. He put his trembling hands in a prayer stance and held them there as blood trickled from his clasped hands seeping into the ground. Tears mixed with blood streaked from his closed eyes. Time seemed to stop. I only saw his lips move wordlessly. Then his voice boomed with strange intensity, “Bloodborn summon…Jade Dragon!”
I awoke fourteen days later in thick strips of bandages with little memory of the battle. Bloodborn San Doo Xaan had been buried in the Ruby Mountains. Sometimes in my dreams I see them-Prince Xaan lies crumpled on the blood soaked ground with a gaping hole in his chest. Before his body is a sixty-foot grey dragon. A deafening mournful moan fills the battlefield followed by bluish green fire which pours out of its mouth like a flood annihilating two armies, scorching everything.
FOURTEEN years it took to rebuild our city and for fourteen years the Blooming ceased…until now.
I have been chosen by the Jade Elders as the next Xaan-which has come to mean for my people Bloodborn. Once I wielded the blade of the assassins. Now I lead my people as Bloodborn. My name is Kaleos Xaan and I REMEMBER the fall of Fengzhou. I REMEMBER the rise of Xaan.
Lyonar Kingdom - Vow of the Argent
The dim light of the dawn slowly streaks across the Hall of Kings, yet the morning cannot have arrived so soon. Then the sun’s rays cross his eyes and there can be no mistake: the day is come at last. There will be no further time for prayer or meditation, no lingering moments of cowardice or weakness. Not anymore. He rises to look upon the Altars a final time, their pure marble faces glinting in the vermillion morning light. The stone eyes of his Kings regard him with gazes that command respect, demand obedience, and radiate conviction. His own eyes are sleepless, surrounded by dark shadows grown through the night of ceaseless ritual and ceaseless vigilance. Nevertheless he finds a strength in the indomitable stares of his Kings, an intensity he’d not known before but recognizes immediately. The Summon of the Kingdom, the Herald of Duty. Soon his mind is as filled with light as the room, and in reverence he kneels again before his sovereigns. When he hears the first trumpet he could swear it to be his imagination, but then the door of the Hall creaks open and he knows he must step forward. The squires await him at the doors, gawking shamelessly. He understands their awe: he felt the same when he stood in their shoes. He knows now how foolish he was then. The children believe, as he did, that those who bear the weight of the Vigil are kings in their own right, lords among the Lyonar. Yet if the Vigil taught him anything it was his proper place. He is neither king nor lord, but a Shield. A bastion to repel the foes of the Kingdom. His armor awaits in the Reliquary, blessed by the Templar so that he will fight on in spite of pain or fear and will remember the glory of Windcliffe during those infinite moments before the end. Even now, as the squires fumble with straps and buckles, he feels the steel shell enhancing his strength, even as it increases his burden. Before they place the helm on his head, he catches a glimpse of his reflection in a window facing Monolith. Gone is the man he once was. In his place stands a sentinel of the Lyonar, his golden plate shining in the light of the lustrous day. Yet when he finally stands, he still feels incomplete. Soon that too will end, he remembers. Soon glory shall come. When he steps into the courtyard, the crowd turns to face him, and the Knights who flank his path forward salute him for the first time. Proud and humbled, he strides toward the towering, noble man who stands before the stage. Astride this great man are twin lions whose regal manes match the man’s own. Behind each of the beasts lies a shield, each one larger still than the man with the lion’s mane. He stares at them as his newly-mailed feet echo through the corridor of armor. Those are my shields. No… those are Lyonar’s shields. As he reaches the lion-maned man, he bows in deference. The man accepts his offering and speaks the words of the ceremony. He responds, barely hearing his own voice but feeling his vows with his whole body. Honor. Justice. Sacrifice. It is not until the lion-maned man hands him the massive shields that he truly listens, and it is only then because the great man leans close and whispers. “You shall be my shield. I shall be your general. Together we shall embed our Crest in the Great Tree and make our Kingdom proud." When he turns to face his fellow Knights, he is crying. The tears would shine like silver in the midday sun if not for the helmet that hides them. He is glad of this, for now he is a Knight of Silverguard and Knights of the Kingdom do not cry. They have no weaknesses, only strength. They have no fear, only determination… We have no calling save honor. We have no geas save duty.
We have no name but Lyonar.
Songhai Empire - The Lessons of a Viper
“I beg a thousand pardons for my rudeness Master Xaan, but the Sealspeaker told me you wished to see me."
“So I do Disciple. ...what is your name?"
“Disciple Shenri, Master."
“Yes… Shenri… and why are names important Shenri?"
“Because… Xaan… names are our first Mask. They protect us from abandonment and neglect, for no parents could betray that which they exalted with their own words. They protect us from becoming lost because they can be called so that we come running."
“Yes, very good. And why, Disciple, are names meaningless?"
“Because they are only a Mask, Master. When they are removed, or when we choose to remove them, all that remains are our deeds. Our choices."
“Absolutely so. Would you like some tea, Disciple Shenri? I happen to have acquired a most excellent batch of jadeblossom."
“Oh, I am overwhelmed by your generosity Master Xaan, but an uncultured child such as myself should not rob you of the tea you enjoy."
“Nonsense Disciple, I insist. The tea is far more delicious when shared."
“I… I see. Then thank you Master. I am grateful that you would deign to keep my company."
“It is nothing, Disciple. Now please, sit. We have already spoken of masks, so let us speak of seals. What are the Four Flaws?"
“The First Flaw is Cowardice, Master, and it is sealed by Fury. The Second Flaw is Avarice, and it is sealed by Mortality. The Third Flaw is Indolence, and it is sealed by Opportunity. The Fourth Flaw is Overconfidence, and it is sealed by Humility."
“Very good once again. Our principles live in the forefront of your mind, Shenri, and you recite them with conviction."
“Well, Master, I am certain any disciple could enumerate such basic precepts as those. They are fundamentals, nothing more."
“Come now, Shenri. I think we both know that not all of the students here recall all their lessons perfectly, especially not the oldest ones. That kind of familiarity requires practice… and passion."
“…if you say so Master."
“I do. Disciple Shenri, have you ever wielded a Kaido Blade?"
“Yes Master, though I am hardly well-praticed in the art."
“You speak humbly Disciple. That is good. Humility will serve you on the battlefield and distinguish you from those whose prides will lead them to defeat. But you also lie. I have watched you spar with the other students and your skill is unmatched among your peers."
“I… I cannot thank you enough for the compliment Master, and I apologize for my gross indiscretion."
“No, do not apologize for another of your virtues. You know there is power in deception, do you not?"
“Of course Master. Deception masks the ultimate power: truth. If they know naught of the truth, our enemies shall not know when or from where our blades shall strike."
“Exactly. … Disciple, are you curious about why I called you here? Do you seek that truth?"
“I… I do, Master."
“Of course you do. Very well. The Empire has need of a Viper."
“And… and am I… am I a candidate for that post?"
“No, Disciple Shenri, you are chosen for that post. As of now."
“… I… I humbly thank you once again Master for this, the greatest of honors."
“… You hesitate, Disciple. Why is that?"
“It’s only… well, Master… there are rumors of the initiation rituals… of the steelfusion…"
“Ah yes. The pain. The rumors are true, Disciple. The process is unimaginably agonizing. …Does that frighten you?"
“…No, Master. It if it but pain of my flesh that must be given to glorify the Empire, then I shall give it gladly. For such a great honor, I would give my very life. My body will be but blade and bone, but my spirit shall be Songhai."
“…Very good Disciple. Very good…"
Vetruvia - Whispers Beneath the Sands
FORMLESS AND FACELESS, WE SWIM THROUGH THE SCATHING SANDS. WE ARE ONE WITH THE DESERTS. WE ARE NEVER ALONE. WE FEEL NOT THE ACHE OF HUNGER NOR THE SORROW OF LOSS NOR THE WRATH OF TYRANTS. BENEATH THE GLASS AND HEAT THERE IS PEACE. A PEACE UNKNOWN TO THOSE ABOVE.
THE SURFACE SEARS. IT BLINDS. IT SCATHES. IT RUINS. WE WATCH THOSE WHO WALK IT SUFFER, FUTILELY SOOTHING THEIR PARCHED THROATS WITH DRAUGHTS THAT DISAPPEAR TOO SWIFTLY. THEY DO NOT KNOW WHAT WE KNOW: NONE CAN CONQUER THIS REALM OF UNENDING ASH. BETTER TO WELCOME THEM TO OUR PARADISE, TO URGE THEM TO SHED THEIR MORTAL MISERY. WITH EACH PASSING DAY WE DELVE DEEPER INTO THE OCEAN OF DUST.
WE REMEMBER A TIME WHEN WE WALKED THE SUN-SMOTE REALMS. WE RECALL STARING UP INTO A DESERT OF DIAMONDS AND DARKNESS INSTEAD OF THE INFINITE WASTES. WE STOOD AMONG THE DUNES, ALONGSIDE HIS PEOPLE, WATCHING THE FATHER-OF-THE-OBELYSK CARVE HIS MIGHTY DOMINION. EVEN THE NAMELESS RECALL THE KING-AMONG-KINGS, THE DESERT SOVEREIGN, THE FIRST-AND-FINAL-EMPEROR: RASHA.
EVEN AFTER THE ETERNAL EMPIRE CRUMBLED, THE BLOODLINE OF RASHA REMAINED STRONG. WE LISTEN FOR THE WHISPERS OF THOSE WHO CARRY THE SACRED SANDS IN THEIR VEINS. THEIR ORDERS ECHO ACROSS CONTINENTS, YET THEIR VOICES REACH OUR WIND-SWEPT TIDES. FOR THE IMPERIAL HEIRS, WE LEAVE OUR HALLOWED GROUNDS. FOR THE SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF THE DESERT, WE ENDURE EVEN THE CRUELTIES OF THE SUN-SMOTE LANDS. WHEN THEY CALL WE HAVE PURPOSE. WHEN THEY CALL, WE ARE NEEDED.
FROM THE SHARDS OF RASHA’S THRONE WE EMERGE, THE FORMLESS GIVEN FORM UPON THE BATTLEFIELD. WE ARISE AMONG THE ACCURSED SOLDIERS-BENEATH-THE-SUN, THOSE WHO MUST SUFFER THE SWELTERING HEAT, THOSE CLAD IN THE STEEL AND LIGHT WITH WHICH THEY MAKE WAR. WE NAMELESS ARE GIVEN NAMES SO THAT OUR ALLIES DO NOT FEAR US. WE LISTEN FOR THE ORDERS OF THE SCION OF THE DESERT, OF HE OF THE IMPERIAL BLOODLINE. AT HIS COMMAND, WE BLIND OUR ENEMIES WITH OUR BODIES. AT HIS BEHEST, WE ARM HIM WITH THE LOST WEAPONS OF THE ANCIENT KING. AT HIS DECREE, WE TEAR OUR FOES ASUNDER WITH THE MIGHT OF THE SEARING SANDS. OUR ENEMIES SHALL BE BURIED IN STONE: NEVER TO MOVE, NEVER TO MELD, NEVER TO REACH PARADISE. ENEMIES OF THE EMPEROR BEWARE! WE ARE VETRUVIA, AND BY THE SANDS SHALL YOU BE DEVOURED.
Abyssian Host - Bloodmoon Benediction
"Sistren, we gather this night beneath the cold light of the Nine Moons to accept our youngest daughter into our holy Host. As before, as forever, we stand within the Bloodmoon Temple, and its shatted visage reminds us that the Abyss is always a few steps away. On this glorious night, our precious daughter steps closer."
(One step further from the Living, one step closer to our Embrace.)
"Sistren, our daughter hails from a land of light and sanctuary. She feels the caress of the wind upon her cheeks and the kiss of heat upon her brow. These trappings of mortality cannot follow her. The light knows better than to tread where she shall walk. Evermore shall her shelter be inert. Evermore shall her skies be clouded. Evermore shall her path wind through shadows.
(In the Shadow, the Host awaits, guiding and protecting she who steps into the Abyss.)
"Sistren, our daughter is educated in the ancient and eldritch rites of our order. She has long since decyphered the enigmas of the Grimoire and committed the Umbral Incantations to memory. She knows what we know. Yet she is blind to that which we have seen, deaf to that which we have heard. She is ignorant of the truth of the Abyss. She is protected from its manifold horrors and bereft of its indescribable blessings."
(The Unrisen stare into the Abyss and see only darkness. Our daughter shall soon see the truth.)
"Sistren, our daughter shall be a warden of terrors. Her lips will utter sinister tongues that beckon the Unborn from their fitful rests. Her hands will unlock the Gates of the Undervault so that the torrent of gloom within consumes her enemies. Her eyes will bear witness to the hunger of the Forsaken and she will guide them to the dark harvests they crave. Her voice will sing the dirges of the damned and all who hear them shall feel the summons of the Shadow."
(We are the keepers of madness, the weavers of the Nether. Soon our daughter will bear this great and terrible burden. Soon she too will be one with the Abyss.)
"Sistren, our daughter's journey begins now. She will step through the Spectral Threshhold and wander the windswept wastes of the Abyss. She will behold the wrath of the Unborn. She will marvel at the rise of the Black Sun. Our prayers follow her, but we cannot. We must await her return. We must await her rebirth. When she stands among our number again, she will stand as a Priestess of the Bloodmoon or she will not stand at all. Only then will her sacrifice have meaning. Only then will our daughter become our sister."
(As before, as forever, our daughter crosses the Threshhold. She is Unrisen, yet soon she will Rise. When the Shadows part, she will be one with the Host. By the light of the Nine Moons, she enters the Abyss. By the rise of the Bloodmoon she will emerge Abyssian.)
Magmar - Trial of the Phalanx
Even in the depths, she can hear the screams of the throng. They whistle and jeer, roar and groan, cheer and lament. She understands why.
They adore their champion, their unconquerable avatar of strength. In the arena, they witness him do what he does best: battle. Some claim he has never left this world, never slumbered in the realms before life. Other believe he is a thousand generations reborn, each life more wise and mighty than the last. She must fight him next.
She lifts the hammer over her shoulder, nestling it in the familiar groove between her scales. The feeling is a small comfort, but she did not fail to notice the quiver in her knees as she stood. Curses, she mutters. Why fear? She'd been a fighter since the egg, tearing free of her confines with ferocity, the first of her brood to see sky. Her talons grew sharp and she used them in the feeding pits, always procuring the choicest silithar meat for herself. The first time she touched her hammer it required two hands to lift and even then she could barely bring it a horn's length from the ground. But she lifted and swung and sparred and killed until she could wield it one-handed, faster than some can strike with claws. She finds no solace in her former triumphs. Not in the face of the warrior above.
The crowd roars again, this time louder. She sighs and climbs toward the arena. When she arrives at the top of the stairs, the din is nigh unbearable, but what makes her wince is the sun. The depths were so solemn and dark that the daylight is blinding. She rests the colossal hammer on the ground, leaning upon it for support as her eyes adjust. The booming clang made by the heavy weapon as it hit the ground was but a pin drop in comparison to the spectators. Soon the blinding light dims, and she can see the ongoing battle easily enough.
The champion stands tall, grinning widely in spite of the trickle of emerald blood dripping past his eyes. Across the arena, the Tuskaern of Makantor rears a head soaked in ichor and howls at its confident opponent. One of its mighty tusks is shattered, the strong-as-steel shards of bone scattered beneath its scarred hooves. With a desperate cry of pain and fury, the enraged beast charges the champion. The champion lunges forward in response, gouging the beast's thick hide with a clawed-weapon forged from unbreakable metal. It bellows and collapses, wearied by the loss of blood and the stamina of its indomitable opponent. Yet the champion is not finished. He lifts the creature by its tusks and hurls it across the arena. Its broken body splatters on the wall. The crowd erupts.
She stares openly as the champion faces the crowd, drinking in their joy, their blood lust, as if to make it his own. She gapes as a flickering ball of arcane energy forms in his talons and is crestfallen when he crushes it in his palm and the wounds vanish from his muscular frame. How could she possibly defeat this force of nature?
As if to answer, the champion turns toward her and meets her eyes. In that moment, she knows she'd do anything to survive, to live long enough to learn what this champion could teach her about strength, power, and war.
She breathes deeply and hoists her hammer once more as the gate that separates her from the arena opens. She steps into the arena and her knees do not quiver. Though the noise of the crowd is deafening, she barely hears it. She focuses on two things and two things alone: the opponent and the Rules.
The Rules are simple. Survive, and you join the Phalanx to fight on the plains of Monolith alongside the mightiest warrior ever to live. Die, and be reborn bearing the shame that your hubris was great enough to delude you into thinking you were worthy of the champion called The Immortal. The champion who waits in the arena.
Without warning, she breaks into a run. With all her might, she grips the giant hammer and swings, screaming a battle cry that cuts through even the sounds of the roaring crowds. "THIS LIFE AND EVERY LIFE FOR MAGMAR!"
CHAPTER 1: HUMBLE BEGINNINGS
"Sha'hari". It means "Dwellers under the Sun" ,in their tongue. That was their name, once. In simpler, forgotten times , preceding their..."enlightenment". A time before they would sully the Akram Desert and the Pale Dunes with the blood of the innocent, inexorably corrupting their own souls.Before the world came to despise them. They were vagabonds,once.
Drifters on the Ivory Abyss, they would travel to oases and naturally formed caverns, making camp for a few months before moving on to a different location. On the back of tamed scarabs and shrikes, they would traverse the barren land for weeks to hunt for prey; gemstones. The desert was teeming with them, buried beneath its golden mane, tempting many avariciously reckless travelers to their doom. These precious stones were the only real currency the Sha'hari possessed in order to trade with others outside their territory. Nobles and aristocrats from all over the world would travel to the town of Petra, built beneath the derelict Petra Fortress , or to the coastal town of Tyria on the northern edge of the Aymara Canyons, in order to purchase them.
And they were precious indeed. For in order to search for them, one would have to risk the dangers of the unforgiving desert. Sandstorms so severe they would tear through armor and flay the skin. The heat would melt the sand into pools of a glass-like substance that reflected light in the most peculiar ways, creating dazzling mirages, promising parched, weary travelers shade, or the refreshing respite of an oasis, only to lead them further astray into the Dune's sizzling maw .The piercing cold of the night could rival the harshest winters,the frost biting deep into the bone making it as brittle as glass. Creatures of colossal sizes hiding beneath the sparkling sand, waiting for their unsuspecting meal... Almost as if possessing its own will, the desert protected its treasures vigilantly.
How, then had the Sha'hari endured for so long? Glyph-magic . That was the their "secret" to surviving the torrid sands and braving its horrors.It would offer them shelter from the weather by solidifying and insulating the temporary sand-hovels they would build. It could lead them away from sandstorms and illusions by summoning the aid of lesser dervishes to serve as guides. It could conjure mirages to veil them from the less...edible and more terrifying denizens of the wastes...
The ones chosen to become versed in the Sha'hari magic were called "Aymara", meaning "The Gifted Ones" . They would volunteer at a young age and would study under the guidance of their predecessors, familiarizing themselves with the various rune spells, their incantations and their uses. It wasn't powerful magic but it served them well, they thought. They couldn't fully comprehend the intricate invocations of the spells,save for the preparations they required. Perhaps instinctively, they believed it was the Sun and the Dunes that allowed them such privilege; to share in the wealth of the desert.For they maintained that the ever-scorching sun was a divine entity of unfathomable wisdom and power, accumulated throughout its eternal life on the land of Midraeld. And where the Sun would shine brightest, surely that would be the place He treasured most, and the only place one could perhaps come closest to the realm of the Sun-god. For such an omnipotent entity to allow the Sha'hari a peaceful life in His domain, it was more than they could ask for...And they were content.
CHAPTER 2 : POINT OF NO RETURN
The Sha'hari were not many. The nomadic lifestyle and the implicit living conditions combined with the dangers of the desert proved very prohibitive of a more typical growth of population. Or perhaps there's something about ten-foot tall, voracious Duneworms trying to snack on you that...kills the romance.They were, however, efficient. Experience had taught them that hunting in smaller groups rather than one large pack would yield the best results. And so they would separate, and scatter throughout the Akram Desert or the Pale Dunes , in search of food, water or gemstones.
It was on one such expedition that they discovered it. A fierce sandstorm from the previous night had shifted the sands and part of it had become visible. Brick tiles spanning far and wide on the surface of the desert, shimmering even behind the sand-hills in the distance. What attributed to the Sha'hari's greatest shock,however, was not the strange pavement that appeared before them ; rather , it was the color of the arrangement itself. A red-orange color completely in contrast to the yellow-gold of the sand that embraced it.
Why did this structure exist in the middle of nowhere? And who could have built it? The Sha'hari quickly came to the conclusion that any answers pertaining to the edifice's nature or purpose would only be obtained after completely unburying it. Thus, after gathering the remaining groups scavenging the Abyss, they began the excavation. Not long after they began their work, it became evident to them that in order to find the edges of the structure and completely clear it of sand,they would require supernatural assistance. And so, the Aymara gathered in preparation for the summoning of the dune elementals to their aid. After the lesser dervishes had been made manifest , they were commanded to search for, and clear out the edges of the structure of sand and other obstacles. However, the elementals - to the Aymara's surprise - completely disobeyed their commands , instead rushing towards the sand hills to the east and diving into them.
As the Aymara bemusedly wondered about possible flaws with their incantation, one of the dervishes reappeared from within the hills, both its hands stretched upwards, suspending the sand above it and revealing a tunnel the dervishes had built behind it. The elemental made a soft noise, like hollow whispers overlapping each other, and motioned the Aymara to follow it. This was unprecedented. The minor elementals the Rune-chanters had been taught to summon were the equivalent of a foot soldier. They weren't sentient, they couldn't speak and certainly possessed no intelligence. They were simply raw power granted form.
Consulting with the rest of their tribe, they concluded that this was no mere coincidence. The appearance of the edifice and the elementals' peculiar behaviour was an omen. But of what nature? Thus, they decided to send three Aymara accompanied by two Sha'hari warriors to follow after the desert spirits and explore; a small reconnaissance group while the rest remained outside. Preparing a few supplies to bring with them, they ventured inside the tunnel.
The end of the makeshift corridor led to a small circular room, built in the same fashion as the tunnel, where the other dervishes awaited. They had congregated at the center and awaited for the Sha'hari party to arrive. As they entered the room the Sha'hari noticed what looked like two thin, stone pillars built upon a metallic block with carved stairs extending downwards from it. This, too, was part of the large edifice they had uncovered, for it was built upon the same rusted metal. However, there was no rust on this particular structure. It was unblemished,pristine; as if the sand itself avoided it.
Darting apprehensive glances at each other, they decided to trail after the dervishes, who had motioned them to come closer. As they ascended the metallic stairway, they noticed peculiar carvings on the two pillars, much like the glyphs they used for their chanting. Then the dervishes began whispering . One by one they joined the murmuring chorus, their gleaming eyes facing the pillars before them. As their ethereal song intensified the glyphs on the two pillars began radiating with a golden light and soon the whole structure began to quiver. Slowly parts of the rubble at their feet began shaking, then violently shot upwards as if brought back to life by the eerie cadence of the elementals, coming to a halt in mid-air. They slowly rotated for a moment and then, like pieces of a puzzle , they connected themselves to the pillars completely, forming an arch. As the monument restored itself, the dervishes began dematerializing; like an ashen flame, their essence extinguished, the grey sand swirling around their bodies turning to smoke. All but one. The final spirit waved its left arm towards the now-complete arch and sand began to flow like a tiny waterfall from the top of the arch downwards, where stone met metal, disappearing on contact , as if the metal swallowed it.
The Sha'hari stood aghast at what had transpired before them, too disoriented to even speak. The lone dervish weaved between them for a few moments, then grabbed one of the Aymara by the hand,raising its other arm and pushing through the veil of sand before it. A faint red glimmer pierced through the opening below, where its arm obstructed the flow. It was a gateway. Then with a swift motion, the elemental let go of its dumbfounded master and dove inside the portal. It would be a short while before the Sha'hari could collect themselves in order to briefly assess the situation. What had happened thus far was enough to warrant a trip back to their tribesmen , to discuss any further action. However, something bothered them at the edge of their minds, though they couldn't quite express it. It was the dune-spirits that led them to this discovery and now the remaining one had dashed beyond this... entrance. They didn't feel threatened by it and they were intrigued enough as to what lay on the other end. And so they pressed on.
CHAPTER 3: A DIVINE ENCOUNTER
One by one the Sha'hari stepped through the sand-portal and into a dark room,the dervish patiently waiting for them inside. A musty smell permeated their skin, evidence of a derelict place. Their footsteps echoed around them but the thick air and the oppressing darkness , stifled their hearing. There was no light source present besides the two faint-glowing sapphire eyes of their ethereal companion. They heard the soft murmuring of the elemental once again , this time followed by two loud sparks, though no flame could be seen. It was a short moment before the Sha'hari noticed it. Humming. Faint, but clearly audible, though its nature was quite unfamiliar to them. Then came a clash, like rocks rolling down a mountainside, followed by a tremor and then a thundering boom that made their bones resonate.
It was then that they saw it. A humongous chunk of bright red metal hovered before them, various elegant lines of teal tracing all around it, engraved deeply in its design. The metal gave off a peculiar , crimson glow embroidered with light blue, reminiscent of the evening sky. It was unlike anything they had ever witnessed. This was the source of light they had gleaned, when the dervish first peered through the portal. And this was the source of the humming; the subtle sound tingling their ears as they walked down the steps leading to the floating monolith. It was magnificent. Then, as if in acknowledgment of its awakening, braziers, spread all around them, lit up in unison dispelling the remaining darkness and revealing the grandeur of the chamber that contained the hovering monument. Glyphs - similar to the ones engraved on the pillars of the arch that led them here - pulsating with golden light, etched deep into the stone of the ceiling, showered the room in their luminescence like a multitude of small suns. The walls around them were filled with murals from an ancient age, depicting impossible scenes from wars between deities and battles between beasts. Four sets of spacious stairs,all close to the center of the room, all connected to the lowered floor that led to the monolith.
As the Sha'hari looked around and whispered , in marvel, between them, attempting to process the sight of the ancient temple and all that it encompassed, a voice was heard.
Its tone was low but resounding; its hue was...ancient. The Sha'hari looked at each other , their faces alight with shock. That was not a mortal voice. They glanced around but couldn't pinpoint its location until , as if in disbelief, they slowly turned to face the humming monument again. Standing there by its side, a small, familiar figure watched them , almost with amusement. The grey sand that made up its body constantly swirled around it, like a miniature sandstorm. -"Welcome, Sha'hari..." the dervish spoke, its eyes now glinting in the same vermillion color as the monolith's. "Welcome to the Black Obelisk..."
Obelisk? the Sha'hari thought. A person could go through their entire lives without witnessing a sliver of the magnificence of what their eyes now laid upon, and yet they vividly remembered that - portal aside - their initial discovery was that of a large, steel, pavement. Where was the obelisk then? They shuddered at the thought.
"I hope you can forgive this... crude appearance of mine." the dervish's voice interrupted their thoughts. "I do not fancy visiting your world often.As such I have no vessel to contain me here.However, your discovery was rather unexpected and I was forced to improvise."
"Are you an elemental Lord?" one of the Aymara asked in a broken voice, visibly shaken by the talking spirit. The dervish scoffed.
"Please... I am a force of nature. I exist now and forever. I have created life. I have delivered death..." the dervish paused for a moment, its eyes staring at the puzzled expressions on the Sha'hari's faces.It sighed. "Think of me as the vastness of the Ivory Abyss... " its hand reached out, a bit of sand escaping it , trickling down on the stone floor ; its ruby eyes trailing the sand as it spoke "...this, is what the elemental Lords are compared to me." The entity now turned its back to the Sha'hari, slowly moving around the monolith, its right hand grazing it softly.
"This makeshift puppet cannot contain me for long. I urge you to listen to me for my time is short and I brought you here for a reason. You have a higher destiny, Sha'hari. " the dervish now inspected each of their faces. " Unaware of it though you may be, you are preordained to become one of the most powerful races this era has yet to witness. To shape history." it lifted its head, gazing up at the monolith before it. "...and this is the crux of your evolution, the beginning of your enlightenment; this, is where you are truly... born. " The crystal now hummed louder, as if in resonance to the dervish's words.
"Inside this metal, your guide slumbers. The one who will carve you into paragons of knowledge and elevate you to a higher state of being. He is a child of the Sun-god." The Sha'hari gasped. " A Prince ,with power and knowledge befitting his status. However, he is also disinclined to utilize either, fearful of the severity of the rippling consequences... " the dervish let out a chuckle, caressing the pulsating monument "...he is , of course, the architect of his own prison..."
After a short pause , the elemental gazed towards the Sha'hari,its voice now stern and commanding. "Nourish him, and he will be ever-grateful. Protect him, and he will become your bulwark. He will attempt to convince you that he is not divine, that he is an outcast. Do not heed his words. He has grown weak and afraid and it is your privilege to nurture his psyche." its voice had grown weaker now. " This vessel has expired faster than I expected. I fear our meeting will be a short one... I pray its memory will linger within you a while longer... " lazily, the grey sand swirling around its body began flowing through its chest and its hands, as if holes had been poked through it , its lifeblood escaping it, turning it into a small mound of ash. The entity's voice echoed throughout the chamber " Now...you have dreamt long enough, little prince..."
Suddenly, the quiet, humming of the monolith grew to an almost deafening drone, its radiating colors flaring up as if to match the intensity of the sound.The ground quivered beneath their feet, as the Sha'hari hurried to climb the stairs behind them , fearful of the cacophonous portents the metallic monument sang of. The light emanating from the glyphs in the stone ceiling flickered and grew dim, the vibrant glow of the monolith washing over the room, drowning it in crimson. And then there was silence. The tremors subsided, golden light radiated again from the ceiling, and the thunderous drone of the monolith had dissipated, as it loomed completely still in the middle of the chamber. A loud clang resonated from within the hulking monument.Then another. And one more. Small cracks began forming all over its exterior. The clanging grew louder and more frequent, then ceased altogether. Darting alarmed glances at each other, the Sha'hari continued watching, in anticipation. With a final, booming clang and the sound of shattering glass assaulting their ears , the monolith was forced to obey gravity, as it sharply fell on the lowered floor below the stairs, planting itself inside the stone. A large crack was now apparent on the front surface of the crumbled metal, sand pouring out of it constantly.
The Sha'hari watched, perched along the top of the stairs, keeping a safe distance from the ominous wreckage. A hand shot out of the flowing sand , grabbing the fractured portion of the monolith , followed by a gasp. There was someone in there the Sha'hari thought in horror. One of them, however, was already leaping down the stairs; a young Aymara disciple, barely twelve years of age. He reached into the large crack and started removing sand with his hands.
"I need some help! " he yelled, slightly annoyed at his tribesmen's inaction. " There's a person in here. Help me get him out!" Two Sha'hari warriors climbed down the stairs, moving closer to help the child. Grabbing its hands, the two men dragged the body slowly out of the metallic husk, placing it carefully on the floor. He was ...human. He had a thin but muscular body, long silver-blonde hair and a very peculiar...drawing in the middle of his chest. The boy rested the stranger's head in his left arm , proffering a wineskin filled with water. The silver-haired man grabbed the wineskin and quaffed lustily, energy returning to his eyes as he emptied the container.
"Thank you." the stranger said in a broken voice, coughing as he spoke.
"I am Sarlac, of the Sha'hari" said the boy, eyeing the ragged man full of curiosity. "Who are you?"
He raised his head from the boy's arm, sitting upright. He looked down at his open palms for a moment , a droplet of water escaping his lips and splashing on his skin. "My name...is Vetruv."
The Lady of the Tigers
And then she awoke.
She could feel nothing beyond her right arm, and it burned as though submerged in boiling water. Her eyes shot open, but no sight was found to her. No smells, no sound, only the sensation of burning around her arm, and the feeling of being unwhole.
She knew this feeling. It had been weeks since she had been found, and in that time, there had been only unanswered questions, the sound of the bubbling elixir against her ears, and the burning of the stuff against all the skin she now possessed. Today, however, was different. Today, as before, the harness around her hips that suspended her from falling to the bottom of the tank pulled, and she found herself suspended in the air, high above it. she blinked the burning stuff from her ruined eyes as it dripped from her naked, ruined form, and though she could not see, she could hear as the echoes of voices reverberated around the room, giving form to the only room she had ever known.
One voice was known to her. He had called himself Haiam, and had claimed he had been employed to help her, the other was a dark, deep growl, more at home in the throat of a lion than a man, for even in a reverent whisper it seemed to boom. It was not the kind and gentle voice of her doctor, but a voice of authority, sure of his power; this voice could be best summed up as that of a predator.
"This is all that remains of her? I expected more."
"My lord, I told you of her injuries, how damaged she had been, that she yet lives is a miracle itself, but I fear we are only prolonging her suffering."
"She suffers at my command. I must know what happened, and how the enemy knew."
"and you think she holds the answers?"
"perhaps not, but she is all that survived the fight. Any information she holds must be extracted."
"we have questioned her for weeks, she knows nothing before she awoke here. The elixir keeps her alive, but it will never heal her of the damage that has been done."
"Even I can see that, doctor. Have we even been able to ascertain her country of origin?"
"She has no identifying marks on the only skin that remains, her face, eyes, and hair were burned up, and what the fire did not take from her, the tigers did. The Songhai might be happy to know their pets were well fed before you killed them, even if it was a meal of one of their own."
"And she has no memory of any of it?"
"Her memory is disfigured as the rest of her."
"...would she remember what it is to hold a sword?"
"...You cannot be serious."
"waste not, want not, doctor. We have invested considerable resources into her survival, if we cannot glean wisdom from our failure, perhaps we could gain a new ally. The thought of our eastern foes cut down by one of their own is enticing. You will rebuild her."
"Lord Highmayne, your confidence in me exceeds both my own and reality, we are keeping her alive, but she will not survive what must be done."
"She will live. She has weathered the storm, doctor. I know a warrior's resolve when I see it. She will stand, for you will give her legs. She will be swift, for you will make her strong again."
"she will need more than legs, my lord, look at the reality before you! She has no heart, no lungs, no eyes or skin, no digestive tract, no legs, and one arm!"
"Exactly. a sword arm. Don't you see, doctor? The woman died in that forest. All she is now is a blade. at this point, she is more weapon than warrior."
And then she awoke.
Today was the day, and she dreaded the thought as she pulled herself from her bed. She looked into the mirror and at her own reflection; Long, black hair, which she tied into a bun. Tanned skin, which knew the kiss of the sun, skin she pulled on a simple shirt and pants to cover. Striking green eyes, with flecks of gold, a forest in early autumn. She tied a belt around her waist, completing her ensemble, looking for all the world like nothing amiss, this far outside the city of Xaan.
The river ran outside of her house as she stepped out. A simple sword hung from her belt near her left hip, on her right a simpler fisherman's knife. She looked, for all the world like nothing out of the ordinary, just another fisher living on the river. Nothing could be further from the truth.
She stepped off of her houseboat and walked down the dock, checking her net as she did; a fine bass was tangled in the line, breakfast was served. She hauled it in, and minutes later it was spit and roasting over the cooking fires on the eastern shore. All would seem calm to someone walking through, but if one took a moment to observe beyond the obvious, one would notice the unusual.
The timing was different for each person around the fire, the party was glancing sideways, once to the east, then to the west. The more vigilant or the newer among them would do it at least once a minute but She had been here for months in her little houseboat. She had relaxed. Her eastern glance had slowed to every five minutes. Her western glance had slowed to three.
As she roasted her prize catch over the fire, the other indication became clearer; her companions were idly touching their blades. She had used her knife to filet her catch, but her companions were idly handling their swords, ready to draw at a moments notice. They appeared, for all the world relaxed, but this simple motion betrayed them. They were ready.
Meal in hand, she walked past the easter edge of the forest beyond the river, to a hill. it stretched upward, above most of the trees, and a small path had been carved into it, to ease climbing, and at its foot, sat an elder man.
"Today is the day."
"yes, it is. Are the kittens ready?"
"Indeed. Ready enough to give our guests a warm welcome."
"I hope they're hungry. As I understand it, our guests are bringing them a feast."
"I'll skip on the main course, but the guest of honor may require I take a portion."
"...is this really necessary?"
"is what necessary?"
"Can we not make peace with our enemies? Have we exhausted all other outcomes that have led to this?"
"Enough. We have danced round this subject so long that you and I have memorized its steps. We have spoken, they have not listened, and their reply to our offers is blood. We shall speak on this no more."
"I fear we shall never speak again."
"That may also be an outcome of the day. Aperion help us."
Their conversation was abruptly interrupted by a deafening boom. Every eye on the river and east of it looked westward. A series of explosions was, one by one, detonating. The signal had been activated. hundreds of would-be fishermen drew blades and spears, and atop the hill, a volley of dozens of flaming arrows surged forward, trailing smoke in their wake. Hell had come knocking. They would answer in kind.
Stay close to the rocks, my child, and tread only when the wind howls. Beware the loose scree that loudly trips you. Keep your wits about you in the dark, and fix your eyes on the edge of the bluff as you climb.
Choose wisely. The northern approach is shorter, but the rocks are jagged and the scent of blood draws wolves from their holes. The southern approach is the easiest climb, but brambles crack underfoot to betray you. The western approach requires sure feet and determined hands. The eastern approach - well, never approach from the east, my child. The blades watch the sun rise, and their baleful gaze will scour you from the earth in a flash.
Keep your eyes half closed lest they glint in the twilight, and paint your face with mud to peek into the vale. Never watch for too long at once; observe, learn, then hurry home. The next night, return.
Watch, and strain your ears to listen to the silent song and the whisper of moving metal. The dance is slow, sombre, quickening as the dawn breaks. Watch, every night, until you remember the movements like they are your own. Practice in secret, adapting the whirls of the swords to your cumbersome human limbs.
Learn the waltz of the dancing blades, and only then will you come of age.