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This chapter's almost entirely Mindcrack-centric and shows very little of our prophecy group. Woops. But we start a new plot arc! For Blame! And it's not necessarily really depressing!

Also, I don't know if I ever said Zekara's last name in Fated, but it was Draem. It's been changed as of Frostborn to Aklena and the Fated edit/rewrite will reflect this change.

Chapter list: 
http://tanadin.dreamwidth.org/382.html
Map of the continent: 
http://tanadin.deviantart.com/art/Static-map-606709103

 

Chapter Nine

Kingdom of Dalania, Minecraftia. April 8, year 788. Time instance 483Z.

“I thought it might be you.” Vengeance crossed his arms.

“You sound almost disappointed, Tarsen. Didn’t you pick me?”

“I did. I just didn’t remember doing so. And, no, I’m not disappointed.” He stepped onto the ship, grinning. “I think you’re exactly who we-”

“ZEKARA!” Nessy shot past him to slam directly into Zekara, hugging her. “Holy shit it’s good to see you!”

“Woah, woah! What’s with this excitement?” Despite her apparent confusion, Zekara was grinning as well. “It’s not like we were close friends or anything!”

“It’s just good to see another familiar face.” Nessy stepped back, purple eyes gleaming. “Oh man am I glad to see you. You- hey! You have both of your arms!”

Zekara stood up straight and opened and closed her hands several times. “Of course I do! Why wouldn’t I?”

“I mean, you kind of lost one.”

“Can someone please explain who the hell she is?” Eclipse demanded. Endira sidestepped away from her, as if removing all affiliation with the Skullblade and her outburst.

“Everyone, this is Zekara Aklena. She’s a badass pirate woman who’s good at sailing and kicking ass.” Vengeance motioned at her.

“I see your memory of me hasn’t faded. Good. I won’t have to beat it back into you.”

“I’ll take that as a friendly remark to an old ally and not a threat. Zekara, this is Eclipse, the new Caretaker, and the new valk’vanor, Nelvethia.” Ujhin shivered at the name, but Vengeance continued. “This is Endira Daraloh, our resident creepy elementalist.”

“Darkness. Yes.”

“She reminds me of Onai.”

“She’s his replacement. This is Ujhin, who’s...who’s Samuel. He doesn't remember who he is.”

“Really?” Zekara stepped forward to look him over. “I had wondered what happened to you when you never showed up in the realm of the dead. I wasn’t…”

“I don’t know who you are,” Ujhin told her honestly, “but I feel like I respected you.”

“As well you should.” Zekara grinned. “Do you have any recollection of how...this happened?”

“No. I have no idea. I don’t know anything about myself other than that I was involved in that previous prophecy and that I was Vengeance’s best friend.”

“How long has it been since you found out?”

“A few days.”

“Tarsen! You really haven’t told him anything about himself? And what’s this nonsense with the bullshit name?”

“It’s symbolic,” Vengeance said weakly, “and I was still coming to terms with him being sort of alive myself.”

“Nessy! Why didn’t you-”

“Not my place.” Nessy crossed her arms. “We’ll have plenty of time to tell him about himself on the voyage. I’m figured it’s going to take about eighty years to get to the eastern continent.”

“Probably not eighty years, but certainly several weeks, if not months. If it weren’t for Mezeron’s assurances, I wouldn’t believe that it exists at all.” Zekara shrugged. “But yes, we will have plenty of time. Barros!”

“Yes, Zekara?”

“That’s captain Zekara to you, and don’t forget it.”

The crewmember gulped. “Yes, ma’am. What did you need?”

“Gather the rest of the crew. We set out in a couple of hours.”

“Yes, captain!” He quickly scurried off the ship, past Vengeance and vanishing into the crowd.

“Did you really intimidate the entire crew into making you captain?” Nessy asked, raising an eyebrow.

“What? No, I’ve been captain all along. I just had to beat up a few of them to make them respect me. It’s how to earn respect on a pirate ship, so I figured, why would a legitimate one be any different? Sailors are all the same.”

“I’m not sure that’s how it works,” Endira said slowly, “but it seems effective.”

“Isn’t it?” Zekara picked up her axe and secured it to her back. “Let’s get ready to go, and then you can tell me all about what I’ve missed in the two hundred years since I died.”

-~-

“You shot who with the bolt?” Guude demanded.

“Norazdomu.” Vechs’ voice was a hoarse whisper but he was the only one of the two that could speak, Iirkolav remaining firmly silent with his arms crossed and muscles tense. He had barely spoken since the fiasco at the Infinity Hourglass several days ago, and it had taken them this long to tell the full story to the entire group. “He leaped right in the way. We could have killed him.”

“Well, that’s...bad.”

“No shit, Chad,” Zisteau grumbled. “How about you state the obvious next time?”

“What other reaction am I supposed to have?!”

“Don’t start this,” Blame snapped. “Not now. We need to think. We just fucked up colossally.”

“Alvaria’s on our side,” Vechs whispered hopefully. “We’ve got that, at least.”

“But Norazdomu is down for the count and from what you said, we don’t seem to be winning.”

“Now that the voidclaws aren’t fighting against us, we should do better,” Skera mumbled, “but it won’t be enough if Jeb keeps this up. Nozvalu told me that he seems to be getting stronger and stronger with each passing day, obliterating their forces and infecting most of the others. It’s bad out there.”

“What’s been going on since you took Norazdomu down? How are we doing?” Guude asked, looking directly at Skera.

Vechs noted that the Mindcrackers had slowly started calling Norazdomu and his allies we, as if they were fighting with them. I suppose we’re allied. I guess they are us, even if we didn’t want to help them at first.

“We don’t know. The last person to see anything was Vechs.”

“Iirokolav saw more than me. I wasn’t really looking at much. No one’s contacted us since, though.”

Iirkolav just shook his head when everyone turned to him. Blame rubbed his back but he still refused to speak, leaning against Blame and shutting his eyes.

He jerked and sat up, however, when Oros’ voice pulsed in both his and Vechs’ minds.

Maker.

One has felt the disturbance of Norazdomu’s fall. You will find three Skullblades within my sector, awaiting you.

Bring Blame the Controller.

Iirkolav and Vechs exchanged glances as his presence faded.

“What did he say?” Before Vechs could ask, Skera continued, “You two always get this look about you when Oros speaks in your minds. What did he say?”

“He...wants us to bring Blame to his sector. Three Skullblades want to meet us,” Vechs said carefully, slowly getting to his feet. “He didn’t say why.”

“Does he ever?”

“No.” Blame crossed his arms. “I’m not listening to a Hostile.”

“Your hatred of Oros is uncalled for,” Aureylian protested. “He was never corrupted and is very wise.”

Blame snorted but looked up at Iirkolav’s hand on his shoulder.

“Please.”

Blame sighed and got to his feet, helping Iirkolav up. “Fine. But only for you.”

Iirkolav smiled and let Vechs lead the way.

The door to Oros’ sector was out of the way, down a hallway off of the portal room. The door shimmered with iridescent colors and the energy behind it thrummed dangerously. It hadn’t been a popular move amongst some of the Mindcrackers for Vechs to open Oros’ sector to all worldbuilders who obeyed the rules set in place, but it had worked, creating a place where worldbuilders of many clans could meet and work together in peace, even forming friendships by fighting through dangerous situations that couldn’t do permanent damage.

It was like a game, one that Vechs had allowed anyone to participate in. At any given time, thirty to a hundred worldbuilders were in the sector, if not more. Vechs didn’t visit very often anymore, due to newest prophecy, but he and Iirkolav were on good terms with most of the regulars. Iirkolav rarely went in, if ever, and few knew of his relation to the other Vechs.

Nevertheless, when the three of them stepped through, several worldbuilders waved and called out greetings. Vechs waved them off and walked down the first hallway into the main room, following a hunch and going into a side room reserved for conferences. He opened the door and raised an eyebrow at the three figures within.

All three were Skullblades, one of each clan. The Ashenhorn wore more a ornate outfit, with gold trim around the edges of her black cloak and armor, dark hair no more than a few inches long. Her arms were crossed and she sat straight up in her seat, looking up immediately when the door opened. Her eyes were dark and hidden within her mask, which was carved more roughly than Blame’s but seemed more severe. She had no ribs on her armor, likely due to lack of space. An amulet hung on a simple black cord around her neck, a bone carving of a dragon’s skull. The Sunspine seemed somewhat familiar, with blond hair and gray eyes. Three ribs adorned his armor, although he was almost undoubtedly older.

It was the Shadefang that made Vechs blink and look at the Skullblades again. She had short brown hair and friendly blue-green eyes. She also had three ribs on her armor and seemed just as familiar as the Sunspine, but it was the metal right arm that tipped him off that perhaps she wasn’t all that she seemed. He narrowed his eyes, trying to place her features, and yet-

“Fatewriter!” Iirkolav’s outburst triggered Vechs’ memory immediately. He rubbed his eyes and looked at her; yes, she was indeed Fatewriter, and the Sunspine had to be Ragebent Blade.

“Iirkolav?” Fate sat up in her seat and Blade looked up, eyes widening. “You’re a worldbuilder?”

“You guys are worldbuilders?”

“Yeah! Blame here recruited us to her clan! Isn’t it great?”

“What?” Blame demanded, stepping forward. “What the fuck is happening?”

The Ashenhorn got to her feet. “Vechs, Iirkolav, Blame the Controller. It’s good to finally meet you.” She stepped forward. “I am Blame the Nightmare. I’m the oldest Skullblade alive, as far as I know. I knew some of the first valk’vanor and was the Caretaker of Myradeth and the Clanlord of the Ashenhorns for twenty years during the time of Dragondeath. I’ve been waiting to meet you for a long time.”

A hero of an age long passed.

As Blame- their Blame- stared, Fate exclaimed, “Vechs? Iirkolav, you know Vechs?”

“I am Vechs!”

“You’re what?!” Blade got to his feet and moved to stand next to Fate, looking at them curiously as she questioned them.

“I’m a Vechs from an alternate time instance! I thought I told you all this!”

“No! You didn’t!”

“Ahem.” Blame the Nightmare cleared her throat. “Blame the Controller, could you please come with me? You four should catch up.” She jerked her head and Blame followed her out of the room and into the hall. She led the way into another room and shut the door behind them, sighing quietly and sitting down on a couch. Blame sat in the chair across from her.

“Look, Bl- I can’t call you that. That’s me.”

“You can call me Nightmare if that would be easier for you.”

“Okay. Great. Nightmare, what is it...why have you been wanting to meet me?”

“You’re one of the most important Ashenhorns in history.” She leaned back in her seat, sighing. “Almost everyone that knows anything about Skullblades knows your name. But that’s not why I’m here.” She carefully took a hold of the cord around her neck and lifted it over her head, over her horns, and held it out to him. “I’m here to return this.”

Blame frowned, feeling a shiver run through his body. “I’ve never seen this before in my life.”

“No, but it is yours. Take it.” Blame reluctantly took it from her, running his fingers over its surface. It sent a chill through him, but it felt familiar, despite the fact that he was certain that he had never seen it before. Its smooth surface felt almost alive, but at the same time it felt ancient, the bones of one long dead.

“Why are you giving this to me? What is it? How have you endured for this long?”

“It’s been hard to carry on this long, I admit, but I’m the leader of a clan of worldbuilders and, until now, I had a mission given to me by the first valk’vanor on his dying breath. That amulet is carved from his forehead, at his request. It has protected me for thousands of years and allowed me to protect the brood of Vallor’roth, hiding the island from mortal eyes except during the Bloodshadow’s zenith.”

“That was you? It was you who created that spell?” Blame suddenly felt very small.

“I helped, yes.” She smiled. “It was the lingering power of the unhatched valk’vanor’s mother that cast the spell, but I directed it. It would have destroyed me if not for the amulet.”

“So why are you- one of the greatest Skullblades of all time- giving this to me?” Blame’s voice was quiet. Here he was, before one of the most influential and well-known Ashenhorn Skullblades ever. Now that she told him some more about her, he could remember bits and pieces of his education of Skullblade history, over five hundred years ago. Details were fuzzy, but he had a feeling not everything was necessarily accurate.

“The first valk’vanor, upon his death, asked me to carve this from his bones so that it could protect me. But this came with one stipulation: he said that when “time’s gaze clouds over and the snake that swallows himself whole approaches you,” I must give the amulet to a certain Skullblade. He said it must be returned. I had suspected that Skullblade might be you, starting a few centuries ago, but when you showed up in the company of both Vechs Davions, I knew. Norazdomu’s future sight has been clouded by Jeb’s corruption, and Oros is undoubtedly the snake. He is a keeper of cycles- he knows more than I thought he ever could.”

Blame turned the amulet over and over in his hands. Why does this feel familiar? I’ve never seen this before. She’s had it all these years, so why do I feel like I know it? “This is...strange,” he admitted, “but...thank you, I suppose, for giving this to me.”

“Wear it proudly. It is the only thing ever carved from the bones of the first valk’vanor, also at his request. His bones are entombed in the catacombs under Ashwatch.”

“What was his name?”

“He-” Blame the Nightmare blinked several times. “I don’t know. It’s faded from my mind over the millennia. That’s odd. Of all things, I never expected to…” She trailed off, frowning.

“No one knew it,” Blame muttered, clenching the amulet in his hand. “Everyone I’ve ever asked has had a similar reaction to you. No one can ever remember his name. The carvings are all gibberish; they’re all nonsense.”

“Vallor’roth must have struck it from history,” Nightmare mused. “But why?”

“I don’t know.” Blame looked at the amulet one more time before slipping it over his head, its weight a reassuring presence on his neck. “He’s got to have a reason. I feel like Vallor’roth isn’t the kind of guy to just do something for the hell of it.”

“No,” Nightmare agreed, “he’s not. Even when he was alive, he-”

“You knew him when he was alive!”

An ancient, striding among those who are little more than mortal.

Her gaze darkened. “Of course. I remember when he died, I remember the years of Dragondeath following, I remember the death of his mate, and I remember the fall of the valk’vanor. I was the Caretaker of the last valk’vanor to hatch before Vallor’roth’s death. After that, there was only ever one alive at a time.” She paused. “Until now. Two valk’vanor currently live. Vallor’roth is doing something, but what…”

“Coming back to life?” Blame suggested.

Nightmare stared. “What?”

“There’s a new prophecy, and it speaks of raising the Dragon Unknown.”

“What is this prophecy?” Nightmare demanded.

“Vechs has it written down. I don’t remember it a-”

Nightmare tore out of the room. Blame raced along behind her as she kicked open the door to the other room and stormed up to Vechs.

Blame sighed at what he saw.

Fate had removed her armor, leaving her in a short-sleeve shirt with the sleeve of her right arm pushed up to show where the metal connected to her skin.  Iirkolav had pulled his pant leg up to show where his own metal limb connected. Both were grinning while Vechs looked at them curiously and Blade held his face in his hands. All of them looked up as the door opened and the fear of death shone in Vechs’ eyes as Nightmare stormed up to him.

“Tell me this prophecy.”

He shakily retrieved his notepad from his toolbelt and read the prophecy aloud, stumbling occasionally but getting the message across.

“When all that live become infected,

When all infected fades away,

Those touched once by fate and watched by night

Will go east to cure the plague.

Seven cross seas but one crosses life

From darkness she rises, from darkness they walk

He of pain and he of strife,

She of spring and she of naught,

Dragon and death, night of rebirth

Together, they raise the Dragon Unknown.

End the end, change the fate,

All that was darkness, to light.”

Nightmare stepped back to lean against the wall. “And this group is currently together?”

“Yes.”

She sighed quietly. “It sounds like they will succeed in raising Vallor’roth, if nothing else. That is good.” She shut her eyes. “To see Vallor’roth again…”

She shook it off. “I have delivered my message and the amulet, and now I am finished. Blade, Fate, I will see you at home. Blame the Controller.” She turned to look at him. “If you need me, I am the leader of the Bonewatch clan of worldbuilders. Oros can point you in the right direction.” She bowed stiffly to the three of them and left the room.

Iirkolav pulled his pant leg back down and walked over to Blame. “What was all that about?”

“It’s a long story,” Blame muttered, “so you’d better sit down.”

~~~

Anderz sat on his bed, leaning against the wall.

Once again, fate had seized the Mindcrackers in its frigid grasp, and once again, they were helpless to act other than watching and suffering.

He shut his eyes. Most of them didn’t really do much, other than battle Hostiles, get injured, and watch their descendents die while they sat by, helpless.

What’s the point of all of this? Why am I involved? What is-

A quiet voice, one he thought he’d never hear again, reached his ears.

“Get in, losers, we’re going sailing.”

Anderz shot bolt upright, eyes snapping open and searching for the sound. He heard the voice of Vengeance and, more importantly-

No. It couldn’t be her. Could it?

His eyes were drawn to the box where he had poured the bronze dust that had made up Zekara’s orb. There was no way.

He got to his feet and, in a daze, stepped over and opened the box.

Zekara’s orb gleamed brightly in the light, showing her standing and picking up her axe. Anderz picked it up, as if fearing that it would shatter upon contact, but his fingers wrapped around its smooth surface without any issue. He stumbled back to sit on his bed, gazing into its surface with wonder and bewilderment.

Zekara was alive. She was alive.

And she was once again being thrown directly into the maw of danger.

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