Glorious Cyprus, the only real country. Monolith, a city state, and everywhere else was a hellish landscape with inhabitants too stubborn to move. Amplus, the shining light of Cyprus, barely has an underclass, the king making sure to employ almost the entire population and prevent slums.
It was 17 years ago today, my people, my culture fell. I say "my" but I hardly know it. A mountainous tribe with quaint ways carried from over the desert and preserved in isolation. Almost all I know of my culture was passed down from my mother. My father drunk himself to sleep and never woke up, a coward too afraid to fight to defend our village and too afraid to face the reality of his choice. I bear his sword at my side, for her sake, she tells me the sword is the pride of our ancestors. Truly, it's a blade unlike those of Cyprus, a graceful curved thing, graying out with slow rust and age. It'll last long enough to assuage my mother, but not pass to my children, I think.
I stubbornly peddle the art of my culture. It keeps us alive, and it warms my mother's heart to see me carry on the family legacy. But I cannot help but wonder, is this what was meant for our culture? To be sold quietly and then die to those who destroyed it? I hardly know the truth of what we once were, I wish I did.
I have so many dreams of what it might have been, that I hardly wish to wake. But the weight of the sword reminds me that I have to care for what little family I have left, my sister and mother. I will rise, and whittle and paint, and peddle away a heritage I do not know.
My mother did not wake this morning. The sleeping sickness claimed another. It runs rampant through the districts ascribed to refugees. No help arrived to wake her, but the day had hardly reached noon before the guards and civil servants had arrived to claim me and my sister and clear away the things of our house to make way for a brighter family. I am old enough to serve as a civil-squire to the military, and she will be taken to a school. I have no doubt it's for the best of the city.
Damn the city. Damn the military, damn their school. I bound the scroll of ancestors about my hilt, and grabbed my sister. I told her, "We are going home, Xao." I'm a liar. I don't know the way home. I was too young when we were taken. But we are leaving, before they find us.
I... I think I know what my father felt. Xao doesn't wake anymore, and I can tell my nights are growing longer and more desperate. My body is so stiff and cold when I wake, a strange sweat covering me. I didn't see this symptom in the others, but I suppose this is my body fighting it and staying alive longer. But do I still want to fight?
Everyone I cared about is gone. My fight meant nothing. Had I stayed, I would have had to face not seeing Xao again, to serving those I hated. But running was no better.
Perhaps... To end in the dreams I once cherished, would not be such a bad thing. To fall asleep aside Xao. Father, forgive my hatred. I didn't know what it was like to have to choose between surrender and a hopeless battle.
~Awaken, great dreamer.~
~I am the dream of hope and the haunt of vengeance. The spirit of your ancestors, their anguish at the future and their memories of the past, called me to this place.~
Dream of hope? Haunt of vengeance? Are you evil, spirit or are you good?
~No being is of one without the other. The hope of justice is a steel forged in the fires of vengeance. But I understand the deeper question, I will show you the answer. You need not trust me. Trust what I pass onto you from your answers.~
I.... That is my father.. when he was young.. and his father... and before him... I... All these pasts, our culture.. My heritage..
~It is much to assimilate. It will take you years. But though you might have such time, Xao does not. AWAKEN.~
I awoke, and my body was on fire. Energy coursed through me, and the scroll of my ancestors burned into my skin. Xao was beside me, still as death. I reached a hand to touch her cheek. Cold as the air around us. Too late.
~She is dead, yes. But her spirit yet lingers out of affection for you, despite the grievous assault Reginaldus forced upon it. Lay your palm over her heart.~
~No crude necromancy is this. It is spiritualism, another art of your forebears. You do not bind an unwilling spirit to you, but grant a willing soul a place to reside until a new body can be found.~
I closed my eyes, and laid my hand upon Xao. I felt the power surge ever greater, and heat blossomed through Xao, before I heard her voice.
~Thank you, brother... It is good to speak to you again..~
~I'm going to rest for awhile, but I'll be back, wait for me..~
I would have waited until the mountains crumbled, till the thought struck me. The one this world hinged on. "Wait, you said Reginaldus."
~Assaulted her? Yes. And your mother and father as well. Your people did not assimilate well, and so he began their destruction. The sleeping sickness is no sickness. It is a spell. He watches dreams and steals lives.~
"He will pay." I spoke through clenched teeth. My fist tightened around the burning sword in my hand, and I rose, the heat growing ever brighter. I swung the sword of my ancestors, and the topsoil was cleaved, as though a thousand swords fell at once. Trees fell apart as though they were made of sticks and a light breeze had raised.
The burning subsided, I felt exhausted. I had just destroyed a circle of 30 feet of landscape, with a sword stroke.
~It will not be easy, it will require guile, and art, and patience. But you will have your vengeance. Walk with me. You shall be Taote, and I shall be Laozi.~
"I am ready."
So easy it was, to inspire a little paladin to fight for a cause he believes is his own. Vengeance for his parents. Hope for his sister. The best lies are always the truth.
"Laozi, Memory of the Departed"- Almost certainly not this keeper's real name, this keeper is manifesting as some sort of "spirit of the ancestors" to aid "Taote". Currently, Laozi is refraining from taking physical form, instead acting through Taote's sword. As such, his power is free to be focused entirely on magical applications. This is currently offset by the fact that his "heart" is a humble scabbard. Laozi seems to be able to awaken people from the stupor of one of the King of Cyprus' deathly dreams, as well as call upon spirits and memories. And, of course, no Keeper is complete without destructive sword beams.
"Taote, The Great Dreamer"- Something about this boy on the verge of manhood attracted Laozi. Perhaps he is a latent sorcerer, perhaps he was a convenient tragedy, or perhaps he was simply good at dreaming. He carries Laozi as the sword of his ancestors, believing Laozi to be aiding him in both revenge and the resurrection of his sister.
Currently No Dungeon or Minions (other than Taote). Located in the lands north of the trade route between Monolith and Amplus, 9 o'clock of the big lake.
~Hello, Captain Vane.~ "Hello? ... Who are you? WHAT are you?" ~My name is Jocumors. I have escaped the Apocalypse, and I came here. Now I need an Avatar. I need you, Captain.~ The voice seemed to echo from all around me. I had many questions. What was the Apocalypse? What is an Avatar? Why does this Jokemore... thing... need one? I decided to start simple. "Where are you?" ~I have no physical form. That's why I need you. You have no regard for the wishes of others, you wish only to further your own goals. I admire that. I need that. I need you.~ "No." The words surprise even me. Who was I to resist this... god? Demigod? Entity of whatever sort? In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I... ~What do you mean, no? Who are you to resist me? I am JOCUMORS.~ Those words sent searing pain through my head. "Make it stop! Fine. I'll be your... Avatar, or whatever." ~Good. I'm glad we could come to an agreement.~ I felt a sharp stab between my shoulderblades, and then...
I opened my new eyes, flexed my new fingers. Perhaps this world will be better than the last. Either way, it'll be fun to play with. "Thank you, Captain," I whisper. Now to find out what the crew expects from their new captain. I stand up, quelling the nausea that comes with the new body. I test the capabilities of the captain, firing a round into the wood of the cabin and spinning the revolver before replacing it in its holster. Then... That's interesting. This body... I gesture, spitting a few words from before the end of the world. A bright burst of colour springs from my fingertips. Magic. This body will serve me well. "Thank you, Captain." I step onto the deck, looking out at my new ship, a Schooner. I cast my newfound magic around, looking for... anything. The range of my abilities here is limited, but I gain a few important bits of knowledge. The ship's name, Ilmyr, the names of the 18 crew members. They will do well to build my Heart. "Thank you, Captain." ... "Thank you, me." A twisted smile spreads across my new face.
Jocumors has always liked fun. His own, twisted version of fun, anyways. Taking control of Captain Vane, a pirate with a propensity for magic, has allowed him access to Cyprus as well as a crew willing to serve him. Now he wishes only to have a grand time in his House of Fun, the building he plans to use as protection for his heart.
Current Location: off coast of Southern Cyprus, near mountains. Current Dungeon/Minion Progress: Captain Vane's crew serves willingly, for now.
Resting just to the East of Monolith is a small village by the name of Borhut, nestled in a group of rolling hills. Though not amazingly small, it is a tight-knit community. The village is self-sufficient, and rather xenophobic, settling matters on their own merit. It is in this small village of friends resides one man in particular who stands out- especially on this day. Alone in his manor, Lyssina'ar sat at his organ, a haunting tune flying out from beneath his fingers. In a masterfully crafted amphitheater, the sound rang out through the entire village, a delight to the ears of those sitting out on benches, simply enjoying the mild weather. But today, another listened to his song. Just outside the valley, there was a disturbance. Thunder rolled across the sky, bringing with it the telltale clouds, grayer than granite. But with this storm, no lighting came. Simply the thundering noise, and the oppressive clouds, slowly tightening their grasp upon the sky. As though the gods themselves were reaching down, the clouds stretched downwards, embracing the earth in an impossibly thick fog. In the few minutes it had taken the events to transpire, it ended. A flash of brilliant light radiated down from the sky, as the fog and clouds vanished into the faint blue of the sky, leaving the sun to shine his light unobscured. Unfortunately for this town, the storm was not gone before it left its unholy taint. Showing himself as a churning mix of light, a new Keeper was born unto the land. 'The Master' had no need to search his surroundings, or speak with those nearby. His imposing presence did the talking for him, and he already knew what he was destined to do. The music resounding through the Keeper struck him- chilling him deep to his metaphorical bones. He moved along swiftly, bobbing with the tune. As the lights danced along towards the source of the music, he began to hum- emulating the tune, adding his own strings of music to it. In all honesty, the Keeper had no idea what he was doing. What these noises were, and why he was so compelled to join along with it. All he knew was that this was a beautiful thing, and that he needed to seek out more of it.
It was almost dark, by the time Lyssina'ar realized something was wrong, it was already upon him. Having put the organ to rest some time ago, he had picked up his violin, carved from mahogany, and still keeping the same scent of freshness it had the day he crafted it. This song was less mournful- more upbeat. The sort of tune one might dance a jig to. Lyssina'ar only realized something was wrong when he found that his music had an eerie echo, ringing out from just behind him. Almost dropping his instrument, Lyssina'ar whirled angrily to find the source of the echo, only to be confronted by the dazzling lights of the Keeper. Lyssina'ar reeled backwards, before slamming into a wall. Spawned into this world, the new Keeper had very little power of any sort and any such power was quickly expended in a quick maneuver. A magical hand reached out to grip Lyssina'ar's mind. With a direct channel to the mind, The Keeper was able to commune with the mortal directly. The golden voice of the Keeper was not what one might expect- rather than a clear, loud voice directing him, the voice came to Lyssina'ar as something far more subtle. Much like the other voices in ones head, this voice goaded Lyssina'ar to sit, and calm his rapidly pulsing heart.
Despite his initial panic, Lyssina'ar couldn't help but obey his own thoughts, sitting back in his high-backed chair. As he fell limp onto the cushion, a thousand motes of dust flew up, caught in the shining light of the Keeper. Inquiries filled the mind of Lyssina'ar, most of which were not his own. Having just been born into the world, The Keeper required knowledge, and this mortal would be the one to give it to him. Standing abruptly, Lyssina'ar moved with a purposeful swiftness, entering his mansion. Though a series of twisting halls he walked swiftly, the dim lighting giving the house a warm glow. When he arrived in a room filled with bookshelves, a warm feeling bloomed in his mind, momentarily making him lose his vision. It was now that The Keeper spoke out loud, rather than forcing his will upon the human. Despite the agony of Lyssina'ar's headache, it was very little in comparison to the pain felt by The Keeper- Mind control was no easy task, especially at such low levels of power.
"Very good, my child. This will do perfectly. Bring me that which I need to know." He spoke simply, his light slowly stretching to fill the room. Though Lyssina'ar opened his mouth to speak, he quickly thought better of it, and went to grab the books. He returned quickly, tomes of knowledge stacked on his arms. It had been some time since these books had been opened, and their yellowing pages were rich with a scent that could only be described as dusty. They were dropped onto a large mahogany table, unsettling the fine layer of dust that had come to reside there, after months of disuse. Lyssina'ar tried to escape the reality of his situation, and devise some way out of this hellish service, but the more he thought, the harder it became. The music that resounded from the Keeper had a strange quality to it- it crept deep into his mind, disturbing the darkest corners and removing any thought past obedience.
Hours were spent in that library, pages rustling softly as the spirit learned. The sun was rising once again by the time that the Keeper spoke.
"My child, today your life has ended. Your limited existence now comes to a crescendo. You have become a part of something much bigger than yourself. You are now a part of The Masterpiece."
Dungeon- None Minions- Lyssina'ar, The Priodigy Location- Borhut, exactly in between the Town and Castle to the East of Monolith
Compendium-The Master- Simply referred to as 'The Master', this Keeper presents himself as a dancing array of lights- Warm colors mostly, with deep passionate reds mingling with soft streaks of yellow, a misty mauve all about. This light is strangely entrancing, and has a calming illusion about it. He has no corporeal form, and cannot mingle with the real world itself- yet. Until he can build his power, he speaks directly to the mind, a melodious voice, described only by a chorus of angels. With this voice, he uses a mild magic, something of a poison to lower the inhibitions of others, allowing him to spread his word unhindered. A spirit obsessed with perfection, he seeks out to remedy the harsh noises of battle, replace them with his beautiful symphonies. With his music comes peace. With peace comes conquest. From this conquest, perfection shall be born.
The sun was shining, but it was not uncomfortably hot, even though the quarry's stone amplified the heat. That was a pity, because the hotter the air was, the faster the Flesh would spread. It rose to its feet, wobbling unsteadily. Since it had fallen asleep, its body had bloated up substantially, and all around the Progenitor lay the reason why. Surrounding it lay the bodies of roughly three dozen men, each of which had been in life either a slave or a master. The slaves were distinguishable by their ratty overalls, and the masters by their white cloaks that were more for show than guarding against the elements. Seeing the bodies intermingled, their status in life now meaningless, the Progenitor felt a twinge of anger. It gargled slightly, the giant maw on its torso rumbling. Abruptly, its gag reflex kicked in, and the Progenitor unceremoniously retched out a pile of sludge onto the ground twice as big as it was. Momentarily weakened by the effort, the monster collapsed into a sitting position, and lazily observed the vile mound of waste.
Meat. Living matter, broken down and fused together, redesigned to play a part in the ultimate organism. Alone, a living thing would eventually die and be forgotten. When coalesced, however, when seized and embraced by the Flesh—that was forever. The Progenitor dully mused over this, sitting on the stone. What it knew of life indicated that it was imperfect, but it could be cured. That...was its mission.
It rose laboriously and navigated to the nearest corpse. After several hours in the daylight, the body was visibly infected. Its skin had become entirely covered in scabs and sores, and it was ready to be molded. The Progenitor's maw yawned open, and from the cavity several bluish tentacles shot out. They snaked through the air and wound around two of the carcasses, seizing them and yanking them into the Progenitor's belly. A foul, magic-infused vapor escaped from between the teeth as the Progenitor processed its meal, speeding up the infection and forcibly altering its course. When the maw opened, it spat out a bulky creature about three feet long, two feet wide, and two feet tall. This thing oddly resembled a vaguely reptilian tube on legs, complete with a long head that sported a mass of facial tendrils useful for manipulating the Flesh. On its back were several tendrils, more served for grabbing and carrying than for delicate operation. The Progenitor felt no satisfaction on seeing its first Scab; they were weak, inferior fusions only good for construction. For now, though they were required.
The Scab, quite devoid of thought, stared dully at the Progenitor with a bloodshot eye on the end of a specialized tendril that served as a stalk. Deciding that here was as good a place as any for Nirvana to appear, the Progenitor outstretched a hand and touched the Scab with his own hand, imparting to it his will via chemical signaling. Without hesitation the little abomination began to work, to create the Heart that the Flesh would call home.
-=-The Flesh That Hates-=- Territory: None Volume: The Progenitor, 1 Scab Infection Progress: Negligable
Compendium Entry Scab - imp equivalent. Small, utterly unintelligent, repulsive beasts only good for overseeing the spread of the Flesh. Deaf, blind, and weak, totally not suited as either combatants or carriers. In a pinch, they are barely serviceable as cannon-fodder. Often, they'll be used after a battle or on the environment to gather biomass and transport it back to a central hub.
~We are almost there. A small village, that has likely not heard yet of your escape. There, you will do as I have instructed, but feel free to move your hand on the brush as your dreams take you. Remember, that I cannot aid you until the deed is done. I must concentrate fully on preparing the energy for the spell that your paint will give form to.~
"Yes, Laozi, it will be done." Taote nodded, as the village came into view, and he entered.
Strange looks he was given, a rag tag wanderer coming to a small isolated village. Few would enter such a village as though it were a destination.
Taote unrolled the scroll of his ancestors. He had already committed the contents to his mind, to his dreams. The record of the past would be the birth of the future.
Ink was mixed with water, scooped from a tiny hand sized pool caught in a pockmarked rock. The brush was lightly dipped. The painting begun.
It was simple. Caligraphy. Handwriting in language the world did not remember.
A girl stopped, and looked. It was pretty! That gave her an idea. Something like that would make a fun design for dolly's dress. She had to go get her needle!
1st Creature- Vibrant Dreamer, the first insidious virus introduced to Cyprus to counter the control of King Reginaldus the Fifth. Spread by sight of various sigils, artifacts, and other paraphanelia, this causes the subject to have vibrant dreams that King Reginaldus cannot read or affect, so frenzied and tumultuous they are. On the outside, the afflicted simply appear to have a spring in their step, they are inspired, they feel a little artistic idea coming on, maybe with this and that. Yes, that sounds like a good idea. And so, the affliction is spread further. And affliction it is, for if Laozi has need of them, they will be overtaken by a mindless frenzy, throwing themselves into battle without fear of death.
Pros- Subtle, Crafter, Fearless, Infectious Cons- No battle skills, no equipment
"There are going to be some... changes... on me ship. We be needin' a few things ter be diff'rent. Firstly, we be needin' some establishment on th' mainland. Secondly, we be needin' some" ~I search the captain's memory~ "Gorenston*. A lot of gorenston. And I be needin' me some new magic to play with." "Cap'n? Why we be need'n these things fer a crew o' pirates?" ~Jerkins, is it? Yes, the one who is my first mate for the time being.~ "I been visited by a spir't las night. It tol' me that things are ter be gettin' rough on the seas, and that we be needin' to set ground fer a while till it all blows ov'r. And besides, thar be fun ter be had on land as well as sea, aye?" "Aye." ~Good. The crew is on my side in this matter. They are obedient, and will do well for the effort.~ "And Renid? Can ye come ter my cab'n later terday? I got somethin' fer ye ter do fer me." "Cap'n? Ye said ye had summat fer me ter do?" ~I'll have to work on their linguistics. No matter.~ "Yes, come in. I got a task fer yeh." ~Ugh. I hate the way these creatures speak.~ Renid enters my cabin, closing the door behind him. I cast a spell, sealing off the room so that no sound escapes, and beginning work, twisting the young pirate's flesh and mind with my new magic.
The brightly shining Keeper emerged from the darkness of the library, bringing with him a chiming melody. This melody awoke Lyssina'ar in a gentle manner, slowly rocking him out of his unconscious state. The man awoke, grogginess keeping his body relaxed. Ever since this... Keeper had arrived, he hadn't gotten a nights sleep in, always abruptly awoken after a small nap by the questions of the entity. This time, however, the spirit urged him to stand, and prepare himself to work. As the man rose to his feet, banishing his drowsiness to the far corners of his eyes, a portrait appeared in his mind- a magical vision of beauty and elegance.
Without argument, Lyssina'ar moved quickly to complete the project. The main piece had already been completed, that being a large pipe organ, sitting in the main room of the mansion. As the mortal began making the necessary modifications to the instrument, he heard The Keeper speak to him. "You shall refer to me as The Master." It spoke simply, hesitating before speaking again. "Is it prepared, my child?"The Master asked, rather impatiently. Fortunately enough, the modification was simple, and almost complete. "...Yes, Master. It simply requires your blessing." Lyssina'ar said, stepping aside. In the Organ, just above the rows of shining ivory, a gem was inlaid. A massive diamond, the only thing of such value in the town, let alone for miles. It was perhaps the one item that would serve as a sufficient conduit for The Master's power, the only thing suitable for His Heart.
Without warning, the light of The Master suddenly flared, a vibrant corona dominating the room. A bright surge of energy shot out from the keeper, firing directly into the diamond. With the sound of a thousand gongs, the light dissipated, revealing the keeper again in his ethereal form, the light notably dimmer, and his pulsing heart racing along much faster. The gem itself now glowed a deep crimson hue, pulsating with light like the beat of a drum. It was this that would be The Master's base of operations. The source of His power. His heart.
The Master urged Lyssina'ar to go towards the pulsing light of the diamond, which soon consumed his thoughts. Almost mindlessly, the mans hands drifted to the keys, and began flying across the smooth surfaces effortlessly. A beautiful melody sprung off of the mans fingers, as he drifted off into unconsciousness, the music still ringing out through the village.
The room was two stories tall and 15 meters deep. Sunlight entered the room by a system of frosted glass and skylights, lighting the room without having it on the vulnerable outside walls. The walls of stone and marble were polished, reflecting the already diffuse light around the room and banishing any shadows. Bands of concrete, made from hard-earned cement from the Ashmarch, ran up the walls and along the ceiling, reinforcing the structure, and were covered in carvings of well-managed towns and victorious Cypriot armies. Gemstones such as sapphire, ruby and emerald were inlaid along the length of the room, adding colour to the walls. The path down the center was paved with gorenston, coming from a door of solid oak with a steel frame and leading to a throne on a raised platform. The throne was plated with gold, except where it was cushioned with red silk pillows for comfortable sitting. Behind the throne in the back wall were two ordinary-sized doors, leading to rear rooms. Lined along the hall were stood suits of ornate armour with weapons.
This was the throne room of Reginaldus the Fifth, King of the Cypriots, safely nestled in the heart of the grand palace in Amplus. Inside sat King Reginaldus on his throne, and before him were a number of assorted noblemen bowed on one knee, and a servant with a table on wheels with food and drink stood bowed behind them. Reginaldus the Fifth was a slightly plump man of middle age dressed in a robe of red and gold. A light crown sat upon his head, gold plated with a few small gems, although he owned a much more ornate crown for ceremonies. His white-skinned face bore a well-kept brown beard and his head had short brown hair which was starting to bald. His eyes, however, sparked with wisdom, age and cunning.
The nobles and the servant rose. At a wave of the King's hand, the servant turned to depart, leaving the table behind. Then Reginaldus stood and said to the nobles, "Let us get down to business."
He descended to them and they arranged themselves in a circle around the table. They picked up some meat to eat before Reginaldus spoke. "Mervin," he said to an elderly man with a long white beard, purple robes and a pointy hat, who was the Arch-Chancellor of Magic, "A young apprentice wizard by the name of Felix has caught my attention, of the Drayling district. He is a promising student, but he harbours feelings of ambition. Ensure that he is nurtured and kept on the right path and that his attention is directed properly." Mervin nodded sagely and replied, "Yes, your highness."
Reginaldus turned to a burly man in military attire, with a sword by his side, who was the Commander-In-Chief. "Commander Alfred, the Hoiflimton district, near the Ashmarch, could do with extra presence of patrols. I fear they are feeling uneasy, and could do with reassurance that they are safe." "Of course, your majesty," replied Alfred.
Then he focused on a strictly dressed man with a rather pointed face, who was the Chief Legal Officer. "Theophilus, there is a property dispute in the Glemery district. I believe it would be best if the verdict fell in favour of the Markos family." "Understood, your highness."
Finally Reginaldus turned to another man, short in stature and bespectacled, who was the Chief Manager of Supply. "Franklin, the price of food is climbing in the Jedburgh district, which is starting to become a concern for the residents. Rectify that problem." Franklin nodded, "Will do, my lord."
Reginaldus scanned around the rest of the nobles of his High Court. "Was there anything which any of you had to report or ask?" he asked. Heads were shaken and variations on "No, your majesty" came from the group. "Good. That is all for this week's meeting. You are dismissed." The group turned and exited out the main door. The servant reentered and took the table away. Then, once the room was empty, Reginaldus turned around and returned to his throne.
To say that the Heart was complete would be to lie; the conquest of the Flesh over life would never cease. For now, though, the basic structure of the Heart was finished because there was no more biomass in the area to add to it. Simply put, the Heart was a ball of meat, roughly twenty feet in diameter, held up by five pillars constructed of two corpses each. The pillars themselves, aside from supporting the main mass, had several other functions. Dispersed randomly across their surfaces, there were several orifices that served as either mouths or vents, to consume matter offered to them and add it to the ball and to give off heat generated by the ball, respectively. Within only thirty minutes of the Heart's completion, the temperature of the excavation pit had risen about twenty degrees, providing the Flesh that Hates with the ideal environment to grow. The Scabs now numbered twelve, and without a new objective they simply hunkered down in their positions and lay there.
With the initial area under its control, the Progenitor knew that it was time to expand. It approached the nearest Scab and physically communicated its orders. With new purpose, the tendril-laden gremlin pulled itself up and visited the others, passing the commands on. The Scabs quickly mobilized to climb up the pit walls and onto the surface, where they began to vacuum up all the plant matter they could find. The Progenitor approached the Heart and threaded its way between the pillars until it stood directly beneath the large ball. Opening its maw, the Progenitor extended its own tendrils to grasp the underside of the ball. As it watched, a human face took shape on the underside, and opened its own mouth, through which new tendrils -along with a lot of magic-infused vapor- extended to grab the Progenitor and pull it in. It was time to begin work on a new disciple of the Flesh.
The nightmares agonized Moggotheddon, forcing him to relive all the horrors of the past. The memories came in order. He once again felt himself drowning in the unholy river Lethe, its water black as ink and its magical properties erasing all of his memories, all of his triumphs, to make way for memories of defeat and helplessness. Being harpooned like a fish, then dragged back out of the Lethe by his enemies. Being burned alive in the river of fire known as the Phlegethon. Drowned in each of the remaining three rivers of the Underworld, those of hate, sorrow, and lamentation, with nobody to drag him out of the final one. Eventually his limp form was carried downstream, to the great pit in the center of the Underworld where all rivers flowed: Tartarus.
The fall felt like it took an eternity. Slowly, what little light had existed in the Underworld above began to fade away as he cascaded deeper in to black depths. At last, he crashed to the bottom with a thud that shook the ground and recoiled upon the walls of the pit, echoing maddeningly. The fall that would have ordinarily reduced a mountain to dust did little to the Keeper, for death was no escape in this realm. Cursed and made vulnerable by the final three rivers of the Underworld, hate, sorrow, and lamentation seeped out of the body, intermingled with blood. The accursed things boiled into a foul vapor before coalescing into shackles and chains.
The nightmare ceased. The giant's eyes snapped open, though it made no difference; the utter darkness surrendered none of its secrets to his sight. Still, there was no need to see, for he knew the jailors were coming. The shiver down his colossal spine always foreshadowed the arrival of the wraiths that tormented him. The giant tried in vain to scramble backwards, as he always did, but the chains held him resolutely. It was too late, in any case, for they were already upon him.
His tormentors managed to elicit his howls, as they always did, but this time they got more than they bargained for. The forgetfulness and oblivion of the river Lethe had seeped deep into the Keeper's mind, where it would always stay. The Styx's hate, Acheron's sorrow, and Cocytus's lamentation had left him to form the chains. But the fire of the Phlegethon still burned strong. Mogotheddon let the unholy fires wash over every fiber of his being, searing strength into his broken body much as the kiln does to wet clay. His rage knew no bounds. With what amounted to little more than a twitch, his massive hand shot out to grab one of the wraiths that approached. The thing shrieked and burned upon mere contact with Mogg's flesh. A triumphant roar erupted from deep within his chest.
A thunderous clattering caused the Keeper to suddenly jerk his body around. As he did so, another deafening sound came from the opposite direction. Mogg laughed as he realized that the sound was that of his massive chains snapping like twigs. He awkwardly clambered to his feet and began walking. The chains that shackled his feet were shattered just as easily. Breaking out into a run, the broken chains clattering behind him, the giant eventually came upon the wall of the near-bottomless pit. His fingers found purpose once more as they gripped the rough stone. He tried to begin climbing, only to crash back down to the ground. The fire washed over Moggotheddon again, enraging him. He managed to scramble a little ways up this time before losing purchase, though he did not fall. Out of his manacles, their broken chains hanging loosely by his side, his former jailors emerged by the hundreds. The wraiths, now forced to obey his will, grabbed their master with ghostly hands and began to lift him upwards, out of the black depths of the pit.
The sun was setting on the city of Amplus, bathing the brilliant city in the sky's orange hues. The young Prince Reginaldus the Sixth was being taken on a walk in the palace gardens by the Queen. They were rarely seen in the courts and just about never spoke in public, but they were seen enough, such as through glimpses into these gardens, or overlooking the city from a balcony, so that they were known to exist by the citizens. King Reginaldus the Fifth had just finished eating his dinner in the throne room in the dwindling light from above. The servant came to remove the trolley, and once he was gone Reginaldus the Fifth stood from the throne and retired to his bedroom through the door behind the throne on the left. He closed the door behind him and bolted it shut, leaving the room in total darkness. And he was alone.
In a single gesture, all the lamps in the room came to life, restoring visibility. And the man who stood by the door was not King Reginaldus the Fifth. No middle aged jolly-looking king stood here. Instead, a gaunt, imposing man with greying hair and a wiry grey beard stood, although dressed in the same style clothes and with the same wisened eyes. King Reginaldus the Fifth did not exist, and neither did his queen or heir. They were all illusions, perfectly crafted by the man standing here to make everything appear normal. Only the members of the High Court were in on the secret, and they were watched very carefully. While Reginaldus the Fifth was an illusion, Reginaldus himself was very real. He undressed, washed and toileted in the en-suite, changed into his night gown and sat down upon his bed. At a wave of his hand the oil lamps in the room dimmed so he could have some peace. But rather than lie down to sleep, he crossed his legs, closed his eyes, took a deep breath and let his mind expand.
And expand, until it covered almost all of Cyprus.
What Reginaldus saw was not a landscape, or cities. Instead, he sensed dreaming minds. For the night had just begun, few people had yet fallen asleep, so what he mostly sensed was vague, fuzzy minds, blurring together in clusters of villages and cities with their thoughts indiscernible. But a few hours into his meditation and the kingdom was largely asleep. Now he could feel the mind of each sleeping citizen and sense their dreams. But he could do more than simply sense dreams. With some gentle manipulation, he let positive emotions influence the dreams across the kingdom, providing a vague feeling of satisfaction with the state of Cyprus to each and every citizen. With the good dreams sent out, Reginaldus could now do the real work. He concentrated his consciousness on each village and town in Cyprus and swept over it, scanning for any irregularities or demands.
And throughout the night he watched over his sleeping citizens through omniscient eyes. It was another night in maintaining his centuries long rule.
Emily popped into Cyprus after smashing her way out of the demon dimension, and looked around.
"Huh. An empty field. No one around. And, nothing to do." She said to herself.
'Try walking in a direction, and see where it leads you?' The Mistress of Magma offered, but Emily had a better idea.
"Na, i'm tired. Going to sleep somewhere that isn't an icy hell surrounded by demons plotting my demise for once." She said, and promptly laid down on the ground, before closing her eyes, and going to sleep.
A long, low moan issued forth from the Heart, whose beats had grown more frequent and more violent. The entirety of the ball of flesh was in motion, rippling and squeezing, until vapor seeped from its underside. With no small amount of struggling, the bloated Progenitor was reborn into the world, landing heavily on the smeared soil and coated in unspeakable juices. Sending out tendrils as anchors, the Progenitor heaved itself out of the way in time to avoid a second body falling from the gross orifice of the Heart, though this body was like none previously known to the world. An acrid stench, like rotting meat, swept across the blighted excavation zone, but even its horror was only a herald to that of the first Snatcher.
Made from the bodies of two men fused back-to-back, the Snatcher would -for any being sane enough to comprehend its monstrosity- be a gruesome visage to behold. The front body rather resembled a disfigured sloth; its arms were thick and long, and it walked using its knuckles as well as its misshapen feet, to keep its envenomed claws from touching the earth and losing any trace of their potency. In place of a head, it had a bundle of muscles, all leading down to a barb at the queer organ's center that was capable of shooting and embedding itself in living things before reeling them in. The body on the back was constantly elevated, bend over backward at a 60 degree angle. Its ribcage extended from its torso to form a grotesque cage, capable of cracking open and closing shut at will. Rather than legs, it simply had more arms, all of them long and capable of grabbing anything unfortunate enough to be close and sealing it in the horrific prison.
The Snatcher brought itself to its feet, turning this way and that. After a few seconds, it found the Progenitor, and stared—not with eyes, there were no eyes. Its awareness was simply felt. Wearing a devilish smile, the Progenitor lumbered forth and brushed its fingers across the Snather's headlauncher, as if it were a mother stroking her newborn or a desirous man leching on a woman too terrified to move. When physical contact was made, neurotransmitters leaped forth from the herald of the Flesh to its disciple, and the Snatcher knew its mission. What mattered, the only thing that mattered, was to feed.
It began to move, unsteady as a cripple, but gained speed as it approached the pit wall. With a retinue of Scabs around it, the abomination scaled the rough cliff, until it had reached the surface. All this the Progenitor viewed in silence, as dead and as alive as the Flesh that surrounded it. When the Snatcher disappeared, the keeper of the Flesh that Hates lurched back toward the tiredly-pulsating Heart. It needed food to make Flesh, and Flesh to create the spawning sacs that would make more Snatchers, for without the Snatchers, there would be nobody to get the food.
-=-The Flesh That Hates-=-
Territory: Excavation Pit
Volume: The Progenitor, 12 Scabs, 1 Snatcher
Infection Progress: Negligible
Project: First Creature, 3/3
Current Activity: Gathering
Snatcher - level one creature. Two men fused together, back to back, to create a gruesome slothlike ghoul with a grappling-barb launcher for a head and a huge jointed ribcage on its back to serve as a prison. Its long claws are laced with chemicals found normally in the human brain that function as low-level sedatives. Aside from the two main arms, they can also have an amount of extra arms between one and seven, stemming from the smaller body in the main one's back. While capable of combat, these brutes are more adept at abducting living things to be assimilated into the Flesh.
Night wore on into day, yet Reginaldus still meditated on his bed, watching the dreaming minds of his kingdom fade away to an faint haze as they awoke. He continued watching into the morning for a number of reasons. Firstly, he had little better to do, for most of the administrative tasks were carried out by others, leaving Reginaldus with only important decisions and subtle manipulations to make. Secondly, this meditative state was not quite as restful as proper sleep, so he needed to do so for longer in order to be completely rested. Finally, not all people in his kingdom follow a diurnal lifestyle, be it for legitimate or not so legitimate reasons, so meditating through the morning meant he could examine those minds too.
In the towns, everything seemed normal. The night watchmen were drifting off to sleep, as were the few other people who had worked that night. Reginaldus noticed in the town by the jungle a man's mind running with memories of a small burglary that had been committed that night. He planted a seed of guilt in the mind and planned to send an anonymous tip to the local police. He was almost done sweeping across his kingdom when he noticed a single mind in a deep sleep far from any village or home. This peculiar occurrence prompted his investigation.
At first glance the mind seemed to belong to a young girl, but stirring within was something strange, both in thought and in nature. He probed deeper, concentrating his attention on this odd mind, and what he found was most unsettling. In her memories were flashes of an icy wasteland, over-bearing cold and grotesque beings which seemed like the Ice Witches. At first he assumed that this girl had somehow fled from Kythnos in the North, but then the memories continued to a mighty yet, to this mind at least, soothing fire. This fire burned first the Ice Witches and then, later, the entire icy wasteland. Finally the memories revealed reality itself shattering and a sense of great relief and freedom as sunlight and fresh air were encountered for the first time in a long while.
Reginaldus was considering how powerful a magician this girl must be when he realised that he was not alone inside this mind. He sensed two other souls residing in this mind, one male and one female, neither were human in the slightest, both were very powerful. This was troubling to him, for he had not ever seen such a powerful individual before. Should she be hostile, she would be a great danger, but so far he could not discern any motive or goal in her. He tried to search more, to find more information about this strange yet powerful girl.
Emily found sleep hard to come by. Months of remaining on edge, and never properly sleeping made it hard for her to relax. And then there was the uncertainty. Where was she? Was it in the middle of a conflicted zone, where some soldiers would slit her throat and steal what little she had on her rather than risk her wake up. Or maybe some bandits would see her as a young girl, and take her back to their camp. And her two friends where not exactly quiet either.
They where using Emily's down time to get to know each other and Emily, via her memories rather than talking to her. Knowing how each of the residents worked would be the first step to perfecting the bond between the three. The rest would be solved with experience in the field. Obviously, each of the three where proficent and comfortable with the manipulation of Fire. But, the young Mistress had a penchant for Magma, and was glad that this new place had the ground that could pull it off. Srutr, on the other hand, liked the more benevolence uses of fire, like Heat and Light. Emily, as it happened, also had affiliation with the Earth, and could control Storms when they happened. She even had a way to create a weak, pseudo-storm with her fire.
The interesting discussion continued, and at first the fourth presence went unnoticed, but then it was spotted by the young mistress when she went to speak with Srutr and instead came across the fourth.
"Who...?" she started, curious. But the direct addressing brought the existence to Srutr's attention as well, and he was less refined.
"You dare to invade my realm?!" he boomed, a psychic scream waking Emily fully, who rose with a ball of fire each in hand and prepared to ignite whoever was there. But, there wasn't anyone.
"Mind letting me in on that?" Emily asked, slightly irritated as she put out her flaming balls.
Reginaldus also woke with a start from the psychic shout. He was breathing heavily and for a moment fear flitted over his eyes. Never, for over two hundred years, had he been caught inside someone else's mind. And never had he ever encountered such a mind possessed, consensually inhabited, even, by such spirits. And why had he never noticed this girl before?
All this worried him deeply, so he got up to pace for a few moments to calm his nerves. His position as most powerful being in the land was challenged by this girl's presence, and as such he felt threatened. However, he soon calmed down. Even if this girl and her resident spirits rivaled him in direct magical power, he still held a great advantage, for he had the kingdom of Cyprus under his command while this girl was lost in an unfamiliar land. Plus, he knew more about her than she knew about him, although that was still insufficient to determine what she would do next. For all he knew, this girl might inhabit the land quietly without raising a challenge, although that was uncertain. Plus, this girl seems to need to sleep, which again puts him at the upper hand, for Reginaldus was confident in his dominance over all who slept under his watch.
Feeling in control once more, Reginaldus exited his bedroom to get breakfast before attending to the business of the day. He would have to keep an eye on that girl, but at the same time he would have to do so carefully to avoid provoking her and her spirits further.
Emily sighed as Srutr told her about the man who had invaded her mind. This place was strange as it was unknown, and enemies lurked in the unknown. And he was a man who could invade the mind, but was it at any time?
"Seems we have a problem, this world is alien to us, and someone of power has already found us. They might even be a Keeper. We need to find a congregation of people, and see what we can learn from them" she said to herself, before raising a single hand and letting out a soft, mellow note. Several small balls of light blossomed into existence in response, and floated in wait.
"Darlings. Float free and find villages, or towns, or cities. When you have found a collection of humans, find one on the brink of passing, and take residence in them. I shall find you once you do" Emily told her balls, with a motherly tone, before they floated up into the sky, and away. "So, A, B, C, or D?" She asked, while assigning a direction to each letter.
'That, isn't random you know. We can hear what you think' the Mistress replied, to which Emily sighed.
"Fine, west it is" she said, heading that way, with purpose.
A low groan echoed from the bowels of the earth. Moggotheddon stirred in his slumber, and as he did so the rock shifted with him. With a thunderous crack, tons of stone collapsed downwards into the subterranean chamber. They plummeted onto the limp body of the giant, the massive boulders merely scraping his hide. The cuts awoke Moggotheddon, their sharp pain reminiscent of the chafing of his shackles.
The cavernous deeps that Mogg inhabited were blacker than ebony, the oppressive darkness no different from that of Tartarus. Fearing that it had all been but a dream, that his escape had been imagined, the mighty keeper fell into a fit of rage. The colossal links of his chains rattled as the were whipped wildly, recoiling off the walls of the cavern. Mogg's continued thrashing caused yet another collapse. A fisure began to appear above, splintering layers of solid granite as if they were flimsy arrows. At last, after several minutes, Moggotheddon once again slumped down from exhaustion and fell back into a deep sleep.
Fortunately for the Cypriots unwitting living atop a sleeping giant, none of them were harmed on this day. In fact, not a single building had been damaged. The crack in the earth had split the town square in half, though it swallowed nothing save the single statue of Reginaldus I, a weathered old guardian that had stood vigil over the market and warded off thieves since the town's creation.
Deep below, Moggotheddon's wounds continued to ooze blood. Pools of the red sludge formed, the infernal magic within managing to infuse the fallen boulders and seep into the very walls of the cavern itself.
First Creature: 0/3