Chapter list: http://tanadin.dreamwidth.org/382.html
Map of the continent: http://tanadin.deviantart.com/art/
Ashwatch, Minecraftia. March 28, year 788. Time instance 483Z.
“So,” Vengeance said as they climbed the hills to leave Ashwatch, “where is our first stop?”
“Dalania,” Ujhin answered, glancing at the map. “We promised King Phyren we’d return Rend to him, as well as news of how to cure the plague. We’ve gotten both of those, so it’s time we head back. He might be able to supply us with a way to get across the eastern sea, as well, which could help us in our quest.”
“Yay,” Nessy said weakly. “Quests.”
“I don’t know what your problem is. Leaving Ashwatch and getting to save the world? I’m so fucking excited.” Eclipse looked at them like they were stupid.
“We’ve done this before,” Nessy grumbled. “I’m not too excited about doing it again.”
Ujhin stopped walking at the top of the hill and waited for them to reach him before turning around and poking a finger into Vengeance’s chest. “Okay, look. You’ve been dropping really cryptic hints since we’ve met and what she just said just confirms that you’re hiding something, and while I respect that, I feel like, as a team, we deserve to know what it is.”
Vengeance shot Nessy a I’m-going-to-kill-you-in-your-sleep look before speaking. “I...understand. But not right now. Okay? Maybe when we make camp for the night. I need to think about this first.”
Ujhin narrowed his eyes but nodded, turning and continuing to lead the way. Vengeance let out a sigh of relief, letting his shoulders slump. How am I supposed to explain this to him?
A quiet squeak drew his attention and he looked at the valk’vanor curled up in the saddle of his horse. Ujhin’s horse was holding most of the group’s things, but it looked marginally happier than Vengeance’s did with its squirming and squeaking cargo. The valk’vanor had fallen asleep shortly after they set out, but had awoken again. She reached out a claw for Eclipse and whined until she picked her up, humming and nuzzling the Skullblade’s shoulder.
“Any idea what her name is?” Nessy asked, leaning over to look at her. “I know the last Caretaker said that the valk’vanor’s name just came to her.”
“Not yet,” Eclipse admitted, rubbing the valk’vanor’s back. “But I know that I love her.”
“That’s to be expected. Your lives are bound together now, and, well, it’s hard not to love a baby dragon.” Rend shrugged slightly. “She’s awfully cute.”
“She is,” Nessy agreed, and Vengeance nodded. They walked in silence after that, following Ujhin as he glanced at the map. Vengeance naturally fell in step beside him, Nessy following behind him with the Skullblades tailing them. Vengeance gazed at the sky as they walked east, watching the sun rise out of his field of view and soar overhead before starting to sink, casting the sky behind them in orange and darkening the horizon before them.
Before they stopped to make camp, Ujhin held up a hand for them to stop and folded up the map. He retrieved his spear- Samuel’s spear, Vengeance remembered- and waited until the others had readied their weapons before continuing forward. Vengeance’s eyes quickly identified what his zombified friend had seen.
Two humanoid forms battled up ahead, one with the shadows at her back and the other glowing and sending out arcs of light. He held a sword in his right hand that glowed with yellow light while the darkness elementalist’s sword was sheathed at her hip. Expressions of fierce concentration were carved on their faces as they dueled, darkness against light and sword against speed as she moved out of the way of his strikes.
“What’s going on here?” Ujhin demanded, raising his spear slightly.
The darkness elementalist glanced at them momentarily, an eerily familiar face flickering from concentration to curiosity briefly before making a motion with her hand and sending her opponent back. He ignored them entirely, quickly recovering from her attack and charging forward again.
“He asked what’s going on!” Nessy snapped, charging forward to stand between the warring elementalists. They both ignored her, trying to move around her and only being knocked back as pulses of purple energy moved from her arms.
“This doesn’t concern you!” the light elementalist barked, sending an attack her way. She snarled as she parried the blow with her own energy, purple eyes lighting in fury and flames obscuring her body.
Vengeance grinned mischievously. Oh, here we go.
Nessy roared, spreading her wings and rearing onto her back legs momentarily to get their attention. She crashed back down to all fours, tail swinging, as they all stared. She was larger than Vengeance remembered, larger by far- what had once been a small and thin example of dragonkind was now at least forty feet long and rippling with majesty and power. Her purple scales seemed more royal and her eyes brighter, her claws sharper and wings larger in proportion to her body. She seemed more confident and her powers- powers that were linked to the element of force, Kaepravah had told him- were much stronger than ever before.
The light elementalist stumbled back, yelling in fear, while the darkness elementalist paused and stared, just like the rest of Vengeance’s group. They had been told that Nessy was a half-dragon, yes, but seeing it was something else entirely.
“You will tell me what is going on here or I will set fire to the both of you.” Nessy’s voice rumbled with a no-nonsense tone, making the light elementalist almost drop his sword.
“He is a thief and a liar,” the darkness elementalist said calmly. Her voice was even and quiet, almost lost in the sound of the wind and Nessy’s breathing. “I have to bring him to justice.”
“She’s trying to kill me for no reason! She killed my sister and is now after me!” the light elementalist shrieked, pointing an accusing finger. “She’s a murderer!”
“You don’t have a sister,” the darkness elementalist informed him. “You never have. You’re attempting to get me killed.”
“I believe the Skullblades watching will be very interested to learn about what you’ve stolen from Sunspire, as well.”
“I didn’t steal anything!”
“If that’s true, then you’ll have no problem with me going through your bags,” Rend told him, stepping forward. The light elementalist started to protest but a quiet growl from Nessy silenced him. He didn’t let Rend draw closer, however, continually stepping back.
“Stop moving or I will set you on fire,” Nessy snarled, stepping forward and lowering her head to be level with him. He yelped in fear and shot a bolt of light energy into her eye, making her roar and release fire on instinct.
The light elementalist screamed, but only for a moment.
Nessy blinked her eyes a few times, hissing at the pain but grateful that no permanent damage had been done. She snorted at the burnt corpse and shifted back into her human form, crossing her arms. “Woops. He deserved it, though.”
“Indeed,” the darkness elementalist agreed. “So one chapter ends and another begins.” She turned to Vengeance. “The shadows have told me of you.”
He looked into her eyes and felt a jolt at their rusty irises, identical to those of the last darkness elementalist he had met. Don’t you dare tell me you’re related to Onai. “Endira Daraloh, darkness elementalist. I believe I am meant to accompany you east.” FUCKING DAMMIT! FUCK FUCKING FUCK!
“Fantastic! Fantastic. I’m so glad we have another darkness elementalist with us.” Vengeance fought to keep the snarl out of his voice.
“We don’t have a darkness elementalist.” Ujhin frowned, looking at him oddly.
“Oh, that little shit.” Rend kicked aside what remained of the light elementalist’s bag and held up what appeared to be an extravagantly carved dragon fang. “He stole this from Sunspire. This belongs to the Sunspines.”
“You can return it after you return to Dalania,” Ujhin told him. “We need to focus on getting there.”
“And make camp,” Eclipse added. “My feet hurt.”
“How can your feet hurt?” Rend demanded. “We haven’t been walking that long.”
“Are we just accepting this random lady into our group?” Vengeance demanded.
Nessy grinned at him. “Didn’t we do that all the time back when we fought the Hostiles?”
He crossed his arms moodily. “That’s irrelevant. That was two hundred years ago.”
Ujhin put his spear on his back and crossed his arms. “We’re setting up camp,” he decided, “and then you’re telling me who you are.”
Vengeance sighed, mentally resigning himself to digging up things he’d rather not remember and running his fingers over the gem on his necklace. “Very well. Let’s get this over with.”
Endira silently helped them set up their camp, quickly becoming enamored with the valk’vanor and stopping halfway just to play with her. Eclipse watched them carefully for awhile before getting distracted and ‘helping’ entertain the baby dragon. Rend only rolled his eyes and helped out where she had intended to.
Once they were settled and had a campfire going, Ujhin motioned for them to all sit around. He watched Vengeance’s face carefully, something that made Vengeance feel very self-conscious for one of the first times in his life as he ran his fingers across the smooth, humming surface of the gem over and over. He watched as, one by one, the group sat down around the fire, the valk’vanor asleep on Eclipse’s lap as she ran her fingers over the hatchling’s spine. Nessy sat beside him, smiling reassuringly, and he felt an odd sense of camaraderie with her. She understands, even if no one else does.
Ujhin motioned to Vengeance once they were all ready, a silent indication for him to start explaining. Vengeance took a deep breath and let it out slowly before speaking.
“My name is Tarsen Harvex. I was born in the year five-fifty-three, and I was a trashbag. I lived in Tirisk for a long time until a couple of lesbians dragged me out of there. I lost track of them and joined up with a group of bandits until I was twenty, at which point I met Baltbee, a sheepman who is still alive in the mountains in southern Dalania using the magic of a dead evil guy whose ghost is stuck in an amulet. Ujhin, that would be the guy who lived in that house on the cliff face. Anyway, I turned on the bandits and freed Baltbee, but ended up meeting a group of losers that ended up dragging me on a quest to defeat the Hostiles- those doomsday monsters that were around for a few months and were released right after Mira hatched.
“Those losers were led by Dalania Davion, the heir to the Dalanian throne that had been destroyed in the Shattering sixteen years previous. We traveled to Ashwatch with Shred the Mainframe, and I watched Mira hatch and choose Shred as her Caretaker. Along the way we picked her up-” Vengeance jerked a thumb at Nessy, who raised an eyebrow- “when she was stalking us.”
“I didn’t stalk you!”
“It was stalking.”
Nessy rolled her eyes as he continued. “Anyway, we went around and killed Hostiles and kicked ass and I met my best bro Samuel, who was awesome and literally the best guy in the world, ever. That group included a couple of Davions, Nessy, a bunch of assholes, a darkness elementalist known as Onai Daraloh, and a genius little kid named Tranpar. At one point I ended up throwing myself into a super powerful thing called the Heart of Pain and everyone thought I was dead and I had to sit out the final battle and that sucked ass but I got to meet Kaepravah, who’s pretty awesome and my….” He hesitated. “I’m not sure what we are but she’s been infected with the plague and been put in stasis until we find a cure for this thing. She’s the oldest daughter of the creator Iilthrid, so she could kick my ass to the moon and back by looking at me funny but I love her anyways.
“So pretty much Nessy and I have already been involved in a prophecy and I’m really tired of having my fate spelled out for me in an obnoxious and cryptic manner by Skullblade seers who smile pleasantly the whole time while I want to punch them in their stupid masked faces.”
“Last time we were involved in fate, it...didn’t go so well.” Nessy crossed her arms and shivered. “There were thirty of us, and fifteen died.”
The weight of her statement hung on the air, and Vengeance evaluated the faces of those watching them. Rend and Ujhin looked horrified, Eclipse looked enthralled with the story but sobered at the death count, and Endira didn’t look surprised but seemed interested.
“Two of those that we lost were my friends,” Vengeance said, voice quiet. “Those girls that got me out of Tirisk were some of the first to go down. That was the first time I’d ever really lost someone.”
“A lot of friends of mine died as well,” Nessy added. “They were the first friends I’d ever had. Dalania Davion...Nia...she was lost in the final battle, and she was my closest friend at the time. It still hurts, sometimes. It was so long ago that we fought the Hostiles, two hundred years, but I still remember flashes in vivid color and sound, the worst moments of my life and the stuff of my nightmares.”
“It was almost worse in the years following,” Vengeance added. “Watching as all of my mortal friends- Shred, Samuel, Tim- faded and died, either over time or from...other sources.” He shuddered. “I left after Samuel was gone. I didn’t have a reason to stick around.”
“We thought you died!” Nessy turned to glare at him. “We thought you chased after Samuel and that you were both dead!”
“Well, I wasn’t! I wanted to get away from everyone, I didn’t want, I couldn’t take, any more loss! It must have killed you watching the rest of them die, and then being left thinking you were the only one alive, watching the children and grandchildren of the only friends you’d ever known live on while they were gone!”
“Yeah.” Nessy’s voice was a whisper. “Yeah. It hurt more than anything. Watching them die. One by one. Only you and Baltbee and I escaped that, I guess.”
“Who really won, do you suppose?” Vengeance looked up at Rend spoke.
“What do you mean?”
“The ones who died to the Hostiles didn’t go through that kind of pain. The ones who died in the years after died fulfilled. You lived, yes, but at what price?”
“I’ve been asking myself that a lot lately,” Vengeance muttered. “And they didn’t all die fulfilled. Tim died from a disease pretty young. Shred and Samuel…” He hesitated.
“It was bad,” Nessy supplied, putting a hand on Vengeance’s shoulder. “It’s best not to dwell on it.”
Vengeance’s eyes found themselves searching Ujhin’s face as he watched the flames, dark eyes unreadable in the flickering light. He eventually spoke, voice quiet. “What is that around your neck?”
“The Heart of Pain. Kaepravah entrusted it to me.”
Ujhin nodded slightly before getting to his feet. “You all should get some sleep. I’ll keep watch.”
Vengeance watched him move a ways away, shivering. Nessy gave him a reassuring smile before getting to her feet.
The valk’vanor raised her head and squeaked, standing and rubbing against Eclipse’s side. The Skullblade smiled and looked up, locking eyes with Vengeance.
“Her name is Nelvethia.”
He nodded slightly, but jumped to his feet as Ujhin fell to his knees and clutched his head, tremors wracking his entire body. Vengeance bounded over and knelt beside him, putting a hand on his shoulder and asking if he was okay, asking what was going on.
Ujhin stopped after a moment, still shuddering, and only shook his head, getting to his feet. “I don’t know. I just…” He shivered. “Something….something. I don’t know.” He turned away and Vengeance reluctantly left him alone, crawling into a tent and closing his eyes but knowing that sleep would be a long time coming.
Nebris shivered and leaned into Etho’s embrace, holding his orb close. Nessy and Vengeance’s tale had shaken him to the core, making him imagine losing his friends, losing Etho, losing-
“Shh. I’m here,” Etho assured, hugging him tighter. “You’re okay.”
“I’m afraid you won’t be, though,” Nebris whispered.
“What could possible get me? I’ll be okay, Nebris. I promise.”
Nebris nodded silently, closing his eyes.
Vechs watched them and leaned against Aureylian, shutting his eyes as well. “What are we going to do?” he whispered. “Norazdomu and company are slowly losing against the corrupted creators, we can’t help what’s left of the descendants, and half of Minecraftia is infected with this plague.
“Nothing.” Aureylian shivered. “We can’t do anything. Those poor people…”
“I never thought to see even Tarsen so sobered and aching,” Vechs admitted, opening his eyes again. “Whatever happened to Shred and Samuel must have been horrible. How Samuel ended up a zombie, though, is beyond me.”
“I’m sure we’ll find out in time,” Aureylian mumbled, although whether it was a warning or a reassurance, Vechs wasn’t sure. When she spoke again, her voice was almost inaudible. “I don’t know if I can take this again.”
“You can,” Vechs told her. “You’re stronger than you give yourself credit for. You can get through this, no matter what.”
Words either as true as the sun or as hollow as an echo.
“Do you think so?”
Vechs nodded. “You can.”
“Hmm. So can you, then. You won’t hallucinate and you won’t obsess.” She poked him in the chest to prove her point.
Vechs snorted. “What would I hallucinate about? Nasty plague germs? Tarsen flirting with me? I think I’ll live.”
Aureylian laughed, and Vechs joined her, and together they laughed the pain and fear away.