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supernal

It Begins [Samurai Jack; Alt]

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[B]|Introduction|[/B]

Night in a desert land.

A single, continuous sheet of velvet pulled taut, stretched over the celestial domain. It has been made to suffer excavations, and through these innumerable pinholes there streams soft bars of twinkling, silver light, ethereal in the presentation of their utter majesty. The moon inches along its track, washing away all notion of that delicate beauty of the stars with strong light, whitewashing the desert and dressing it in monochrome; overlapping shades of black, white and gray. A strong breeze makes ripples in the sand, reflected like wrinkles in the moonlight; the sounds of the desert belong to the desert alone. The winds whip up into a frenzy, froth over the sand dunes, and its howl mingles with the cacophony loosed by a yelping family of coyotes.

Other than that, all is still and all is silent.

The hours tick away in a solemn masquerade. The desert is eternal but forever changing. Luna creeps along her intractable path and soon begins toward the horizon. Closer and closer, trembling with the anticipation of a lover's touch, at once timid and brave, reserved and ablaze with passion, as its rim strains itself to kiss the horizon. Soon the sun begins to rise.

The black velvet is peeled back, layer by layer. Rather than revealing the argent stuff that dreams and stars are made of, with each layer instead darkness flees. The once impenetrable depth lurking between the stars loses all meaning without the stars themselves to give it contrast. Dark becomes light; black becomes blue; white Luna becomes golden Sol, and with the harsh mistress now spraying her white light on the opposite end of the globe, Sol is free to fasten into this sky colors of another world.

Day in a desert land.

At first, pastel pinks and the lightest shades of purple fill the space between the clouds. The sun climbs higher still, and those pinks and purples become lurid crimsons and magentas that dominate the sky in a veneer of fantastic color. But as the sun climbs higher still, beauty is gradually traded for intensity so that as the sun reaches its zenith one thing is made very clear; Sol is not a painter, Sol is a soldier. The colors in the sky are not his intent, but an accident of his fury. And now that Sol is fixed in the highest point of the sky, the top tier of his throne, he surveys all that lies before him with a glare of unremitting scrutiny.

. . . It has taken exactly one thousand years. One thousand years of the earth slowly tilting on its axis, slowly inching along its mathematically rigid path fixed in space; a thousand years before the sun's light aligns down exactly the right path, at exactly the right angle, to focus through the center of a fist-sized crystal mounted on a three-foot staff that jutted into the sky within spitting distance from the mouth of a cave. It catches the light and focuses it, sending it on a frenzied path into the catacombs running beneath the desert sands.

From one crystal to another. And then another. And then a dozen more. The light reflects and refracts, perfectly maintaining its intensity and cohesion as it bounces off of nearly twenty collective crystals, until from its labors is born an intricate network of light. The belly of the cave is revealed. The walls are smooth, studded with gems myriad, and what gems do not directly reflect the sun's light nonetheless glow as if by some internal mechanism, or as if in reaction to all the light surrounding them.

The network makes an odd design, a symbol of some time immemorial, and at the center of it is a pit; at the center of the pit, a bush. There is no breeze in the cave, no wind at all as a matter of fact, but the bush begins to oscillate. Its limbs tremble slightly at first, and then grow more desperate and violent until its limbs thrash about without rhyme or reason, not swaying and not sidling but rampaging against the ground and air. The web grows whiter, more pure, and suddenly the bush catches flame.

It is consumed by fires blue and green, splits down the middle as if struck by a heavy stone edge, and then the cave collapses in on itself with a sigh of final resignation that sends plumes of dust out into the open desert air. On the surface the sun is nearly at the horizon, casting the desert amidst the throes of the witching hour. A hand with sickle-shaped fingers and blue claws, belonging to a shadow, reaches out to the staff near the cave and dislodges the crystal from atop it.

And thus vanishes, leaving a single phrase twisting in the air:

"And so it begins." Edited by supernal

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"[COLOR="#AFEEEE"]We were once feared as 'Specters of the Sea', the reason why was due to the fact that we used water during assassinations. You were not born during those murderous and evil times, your father being the current village head was young and foolish. In his younger days, they would take on any assassination mission given to them and would without fail, be successful. With the ability to manipulate water, our village used water in a way that it made us invisible from sight. By manipulating the refraction of light in water vapor we were able to do this and highly increase our chances but it was not only limited there, we were able to change water into it's 3 basic forms; Liquid, Solid and Gas. Those were the glory days of infamy for our village but in our current time, we have stopped taking in missions. Do you know the reason for that Charlotte?[/COLOR]"

Charlotte was alone in her room with her father's personal friend who was teaching her the basics. She was no longer paying attention to everything and instead looked outside the window. Birds were flying out into the setting sun and the breeze that hit her face was a warm feeling for her. It was a time of peace, a time where everything is in order but that didn't mean they had to stop teaching the younger generation. She lived and grew up with an easy life but now that she was at the right age, she was tasked to learn water manipulation, [I]Since handling a sickle isn't for women, I only need to take water manipulation lessons? I want to be as strong as my father![/I]. With the sun slowly setting down on the horizon she felt the sudden urge to close her eyes but before she could do so, warm water was poured over her.

"[B]Hey! What was that for!?[/B]"
"[COLOR="#AFEEEE"]It couldn't be helped right? If you were to fall asleep now, what benefit would there be for you? Now back to the question, do you know why we stopped taking in assassinations?[/COLOR]"
"[B]Yes, it was because my father fell in love with my mom and then later I was born. He thought assassinations weren't for a women and that exposure to such things would only cause me to take the wrong path.[/B]"
"[COLOR="#AFEEEE"]I am impressed that you know but that doesn't mean you should be lazy and stop learning the ways of water manipulation. There seems to be no time for that today though, rest and we shall continue tomorrow.[/COLOR]"

Charlotte responded with a nod and headed downstairs to accompany her teacher towards the gate. Right after doing so, she ran back upstairs and sneaked into her father's room. There she saw the family chain sickle encased in glass, it gave her the inspiration to learn a lot and follow the footsteps of her father. Just as she was about to head back to her room she heard footsteps and feared that her father's return was earlier than expected. She decided to stay within the room until the footsteps subsided, soon enough the footsteps faded away and she made a quick dash outside the door and into her room. With the bed right in front of her, she leaped at it and decided to call it a night without having dinner.

The once feared village now settled in with peace that flowed throughout the land. 20 years had passed since their times of great infamy and sorrow. Charlotte's father, Charles III grew up in a harsh and cruel environment during Charles II's rule. He was forced to learn and master the manipulation of water and the use of the family chain sickle. 4 years later, he had mastered both the manipulation of water and the chain sickle all because of the strict training given to him alongside the heavy burden of being the next head. Due to the fact that he was raised and taught in a harsh and cruel environment he would abuse his power as the village head's son and beat up anyone in the street for no reason at all, not even children were spared. With the passing of Charles II he went even more berserk and took in assassinations but this all changed when he met Charlotte's mother, Collete. Collete was a young maiden who captured Charles III's heart by hitting him when he was making fun of children. Not a year later, they fell in love with each other and got married, A year passed since their marriage and then their daughter, Charlotte was born. He swore that he'll change his ways and the place they were living in into a peaceful one suitable for a growing lady. The villagers were fierce but they had a warm and gentle heart within thus peace was easily established in the village. They would welcome visitors with open arms on certain days but would not hesitate to kill anyone who would try and bring harm to any of the villagers.

The village was situated and built around a grand waterfall by Charles I, the reason for this was due to the attachment of the villagers with the element, water. Originally, it was situated near the sea by Charles I's ancestors but that land is now long gone. Even with the continuous advance of technology, the villagers still preferred using what nature has given to them to build their structures. Adept with using water for their needs, they train around the waterfall to increase their skill in the manipulation of the element, only the village heads were able to go against the moving waterfall, mostly because they have spent their time with water manipulation rather than the with their weapon. Their weapon of choice was the chain sickle due to the advantage in range. The most adept in using the weapon would be able to send the sickle in any location they want with a soft and fluid motion comparable to water. They continue to train but it is no longer a need for the village for they had stopped their evil and wicked ways.

The village heads would make use of the waterfall's water vapor to hide their village from sight and would last for months. It would only be undone during specific days for village celebrations and events. Even with the halt of their assassination activities they were still feared due to their ruthlessness. The village people had low resistance to diseases because of the curse that enveloped the whole village but there were ways to avoid this. Avoid but not fully rid the person of the curse, Charlotte was no exception to this and was highly vulnerable to catching diseases if not for the medicine they developed. Edited by MKaiya
Changed History

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It does not matter how cold or hot the wind was, not when you are rooted. When your roots are deep, you feel as Earth feels, and no braver element exists that could take that from the Mother.

Perhaps that is why when Yamo pinched the leaf between his fingers he felt more than just his crop, he felt his brother. Together they would speak in ways none other could know. It was not a conversation of words, but instead an understanding of each others knowing. Together they opened to share not only who they were, but what they were and Yamo could see it for more than the plant it was. He saw, no, he felt its history. From the water that crawled through its stem to the minerals it drew from the ground, and from those minerals to the decomposition that led to them. And when the winds stopped blowing and the blue sky calmed to an easy purple, he would squint to see the faintest of stars; the mothers of it all. Here, Yamo would stand and know his history as it was, not from his village, but inside the cosmos.

"Almost," Yamo whispered as he opened his eyes, and the village behind him cheered.

He knew that harvest was within ten suns, and it could not have come any sooner. The village, dwindling in rations and old crop, were awaiting the arrival of fresh fruits and vegetables to give them and their children strength. And it was within Yamo they confided for before him they had been but a gathering society, and since him they had settled into prosperity. Yet among all his deeds, the village remained dependent on him, and so he was less the pioneer as he was the saviour -- a dangerous thought.

Not a moment beyond his proclamation, he felt the rumbling. Yamo looked to the villagers but none of them took notice. Mother, however, kept no secrets, and deep tracks were marked in her that bore the stride of one and the weight of thousands. It was the weight of a thousand slumbers that boiled vile intentions. Such vindictive respite awoke and was now racing across the land, kicking the Mother with each step as she cried to Yamo.

By the time his villagers caught wind of the force it was too late. The ground shook and the children cried as they fell to the ground, their parents scrambling to shelter them only to find themselves without footing, falling like the children before them.

Yamo braced himself against Felsine, a spear bearing an obsidian tip that tapered into swirling tendrils around the wooden shaft. The sweat beaded off his face as he bore the weight of the Earth beneath him, for he could hear her crying and would not let her face it alone.

When Yamo looked up he saw it in two parts. One was a shadow that raced through the village, trampling crops and huts with its stride while wilting and crumbling all that washed in its wake. But the same demon stopped with each step as if to know that Yamo could feel its presence above seeing it. And with every wimper the Mother gave, the demon showed himself to Yamo -- wrapped in a haze that revealed only a blue grimace that beckoned Yamo and sealed his fate forever.

Then it was gone.

Yamo's people clambered to their feet, some bruised, others not. The children were crying and the women held them in their arms while the men debated which spirits they had offended to allow this to happen. But Yamo did not look at them. He looked to the ground, his back to the now defeated crop, his brothers rotting where before they flowered. There was an emptiness in him that pierced through any physical restraint and forced his being into solitude. There it sat to ruminate and plot.

Yamo walked to his hut and grabbed a chest. He returned to the crowd of villagers and handed it to one of them, his face as black as the obsidian on his spear and his heart as wilted as the crop beneath their feet.

"Yamo," the man said.

But he was already walking, following the feet that left no trail.

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The copse was heavily wooded, and shrouded in twilight. The trees themselves were great black ironwoods that ruminated ominously under a cape of coming night. The undergrowth was thick with vegetation, odd tendrils crawling up the bases of the trees, dark green and thick, edged with bladed thorns as thick as a man's hand. The underbrush rustled- five sleek black shapes bolted through it, too fast to see in the dimming light.

A slight man, dressed simply in tight clothing of the darkest blue, stood on one of the ramrod-straight branches of the ironwood, the single-breasted coat buttoning down the side of the chest leading up the figure's neck to shroud his features in a breathable mesh, filtering the sound of his breath into silence. As the shapes darted beneath him, he blurred into motion, a silent breeze coiling through the trees to slip along his limbs, cutting through the air before him as the man pitched himself forward in a run.

The bow in his hands was carved of the same impossibly hard wood of the trees; plied with ritual and song over many moons, it had been worked and shaped into the flexible weapon it had become. The bowstring was taken from the tough, fibrous vines that forced the forest-dwellers to take to the trees- wound together and bound tight, it had a prenatural resilience and an unusual elasticity about it that became evident when a hand snapped over his shoulder viper quick, seizing an arrow, nocking and drawing it as he reached the end of the branch and leapt into midair.

He landed smoothly a lower branch of a nearby tree, planting his right foot sideways and sending the archer into a slide along the length of the branch, simultaneously lifting the bow to eye level and firing with a loud [i]twang[/i]. The feedback was far greater than a simple arrow should produce- there was a great concussion when the man released the bowstring, and the wide dark leaves of the ironwood tree blew backwards as the product of that force detonated.

The arrow itself was four to five times faster than normal- a sheath of wind propelled it forward, and as five black shapes blurred into the air the sheath [i]twisted[/i], sending the broad-bladed arrow into a tight spin and drilling it with a loud [i]crack[/i] into the neck of one of the indistinct shapes.

It bellowed briefly in pain, a gutteral, deep noise that shook the slim archer to his bones. The whirlwind generated by the initial shot coiled around him as he knelt, immediately redistributed and channeled beneath him as he leapt straight up. Vaiien drew another arrow as he leapt, eyes to the sky even as the four remaining creatures boiled out of the undergrowth, tearing effortlessly up the trunk of the ironwood with claws evolutionarilly predisposed to the task.

The wind told him everything he needed to know, and as he found purchase for one foot on a branch above, he reached back and drew three more arrows- one for each gap between his fingers, as he called out to the sky and [i]pushed[/i] off the branch. His force was redoubled by a third and final gust of wind, launching the archer out into open air as he swiveled, eyes closed as he seemed briefly suspended it the twilight air, hand drawn back to ear, four arrows nocked-

And then the leaves [i]shocked[/i] into frenzied motion as the bowman loosed- collected air pressure released in four new arrow sheaths. The air itself would prove the nightrunner's undoing- as the vaguely-canine creatures crossed through a patch of moonlight, the four deadly shafts struck simultaneously, urged and guided by gentle breezes and atmospheric pressure, the four shafts drilling bloody holes into the broad, muscled chests of the apex predators.

All four pairs of eyes along the thing's snout bulged- their death cries this time seemed subdued, less substantial in the wake of the wind's fury. He twisted as he fell, the air beginning to whip past his ears when a swift hand shot out, catching a nearby branch and swinging him along it's fulcrum- righted and redirected, he slung the bow over his shoulder as the arc of his fall carried him into the trunk of a tree, catching himself with toes and palms and hopping quickly down to a lower branch.

He was silent for a moment, listening to the bodies tumbling down the seventy-foot tree they had died on; in the unnatural stillness of their passing, unease prickled across the skin at the back of the bowman's neck. Stiffly, his head whipped up over his shoulder, bright blue eyes going wide under a short, unkempt shock of midnight black hair. He had thought tonight would be the end of this feeling- the hunter had tracked this particular nightrunner pack for nigh on three days, once he had discovered sign dangerously close to his village of their passing.

With chilling quickness, realization dawned unrelenting and inescapable. [i]This had been a diversion.[/i] There had been no issues with roaming nightrunners for the past two decades, not since the young man's ancestors had slid down on ropes with fire and burnt the creature's nests out from beneath the deadly underbrush. But they were dark things, evil things- notoriously known for flocking to darker things of greater strength. The predators weren't the real threat, the source of the uncomfortable sense of foreboding that had awoken him every night for the past week. Something else was, and as the horrifying realization set in so too it seemed, did his senses sharpen- so did his dismayed psyche touch the great dark thing that squatted, corpulent and [i]feeding[/i], in the direction of his village.

The next few minutes passed in a blur- of ironwoods streaking past, of sure feet bred of years of experience carried him streaking through the forest as the night eased into inky blackness, trusting memory and the wind to guide him through the maze of interlocking branches. He was fast- supernaturally fast, but he had been on the hunt for days, and the pack had lead him far from home. It took him the better part of the hour to make the trip directly, and the whole time he ran the presence grew fatter and darker, sicker and more sinister.

By the time he burst through the treeline, feet finding purchase on the first of many great platforms spanning the branches, it was far too late. His last few steps were staggered- each slower than the last as some fresh horror struck the archer, finally he came completely to a stop, near the center of the lowest platform, bow hanging loosely from nerveless, slackening fingers.

The low wood huts and cottages were reduced to nothing more than splintered carcasses- most of the inhabitants were crushed within, though gore was splattered everywhere as if those who survived and attempted to flee had simply been picked apart by some irresistible, inescapable force. But it was not the shattered remains of his home that drew Vaiien's shocked blue gaze; nor was it the defiled corpses of his family, his friends, his people, no, it was the great black thing that clung to the center of the greatest ironwood, malevolent eyes of blue flame regarding the bowman with ill-masked malevolence.

It resembled some horrible cross between a spider and a bird of prey- but it's beak was segmented into four parts, and was a cruelly-gleaming green, a terrible maw set in the center of a low-slung, blocky head and surrounded by prehensile mandibles, each topped with a three-foot claw blade, stained with gore. It's eyes- for there were six of them, rising along either side of the thing's head, burned and smoked, popping and crackling like bonfires as it shifted on eight long legs.

The thing was huge- it dwarfed the smallest platforms by a significant margin, and as bright moonlight began to filter down through the copse it was illuminated in stark glory. It's skin was a disgusting reptilian green, and it shuddered eerily as the demon parted that nightmare maw, revealed to be lined with dark blue, razor-sharp teeth splashed liberally with the life of his people-

And it [i]roared[/i] at him, a piercing, evil noise that shook the air in Vaiien's ears and drove the archer to his knees- it was irresistible and inescapable, an alien demand for obedience. The thing flexed its will carelessly, but its effects were devastating as the thing invaded his mind, ripping away any sense of [i]self[/i] he might have once possessed and filling what was left of his mind with alien sigils and odd chanting voices, horrible screams hidden just beneath the surface of a whirling, fragmented perspective, grasping fleshless hands and gaping skulls, rattling with mocking laughter as he fell into a pit of madness that stretched through the stars-

...

He awoke to the caress of warmth on his face- Vaiien came back to himself lying flat on his back where he had fallen, and as the sounds of early life began to filter through the forest he sat up, the ruins of last night's attack spread out around him like a macabre joke, a prank taken too far- the consequences and implications had yet to touch him; even as Vaiien awoke, he was still in shock, but the smell urged him to his knees, pulling down the mask that obscured fine, if narrow features as the young archer heaved, hacking, his chest pumping as everything he had ever eaten- or so it felt- heaved itself from his gut.

It still didn't seem to touch him, when he rose- in fact, as he wiped the back of his hand across his mouth and shook it clean, blue eyes were dull and dead. He gathered his bow and quiver from where they had fallen, and as the sun began to climb into the sky, unnaturally silent, the archer began to pick his way through the trees- to the east, where he knew the forest ended.

There was nothing left for him here- but he left with something more than when he arrived, and as he disappeared into the horizon the echo of a deep, satisfied chuckle was the funeral dirge for his abandoned village.

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"Demon!"

His voice rang true. It skipped over crumbling parapets and twined lunatic circles through the streets. It rose to a sonorous thrill that struggled against the keening winds, and buffeted effetely against the stygian monolith he faced, the obelisk whose jagged head tore puffs of white into individual shreds of despair and hopelessness.

"I have come to slay you, foul beast of the dank depths!"

The man stood at the zenith of one of the tallest buildings in the city; one of the few left standing. All about him lay ruin and desolation and the desperation of people that had faced a terror unimaginable to past generations and, by sanctity of how well kept a dead man's silence tended to be, unknowable to future ones. The man himself wore only the tattered remains of his country and his faith. Full armor transformed into dimpled plates, more than a few of which seemed to hang on his body by no more than a few tenuous strands of sheer force of will. In his right hand he gripped the handle of his sword, chipped along its blade so that it seemed to wear jagged teeth, and in the left hand he gripped a pole from which fluttered the banner of his country.

"The gods have written my fate foul demon, and I know it all too well. But I swear you a blood oath vile thing, upon the seas of it that flood this ground so much that the dirt and mud runs scarlet. I swear an endless vigil! That today the depths of the abyss will consume me, but you too shall know defeat."

Even if I am not the one to bring you to your knees.

It was all a sober practice in insanity. He was not one thousandth the size of the massive superstructure that he so vehemently leveraged his passionate invective against. And to what end? What mountains have been made to move, nay even to tremble, merely by a man's words?

But move it did. With a slow creaking that spanned and spoke of a thousand ages, the monument broke and bent at the middle in a sudden blur of motion. The man's vision was replete with the vivid sapphire of the demon's face, and his skin was consumed by the emerald glow of its incandescent eyes.

It felt like an eternity to the man, like the flap of a fly's wing to the demon, but in reality no more than a handful of minutes spiraled into oblivion. They stared at each other. The demon unblinkingly; the man blinked, but did not waver. Did not cower. Did not shrink, but fixed his gaze into a bright green eye larger than his whole body.

[I]"What is this!"[/I]

The words flicked from the demon's tongue like canon shots. Concussive blasts of force and air that pummeled the man. Were he not swift of hand enough to sink sword and banner into the roof and strong of arm enough to hold fast while his entire body fluttered like his very flag, he would have been sent skipping along the roads like a stone flicked over the surface of a lake.

The winds died when the impetus of the demon's voice left it. The man got to his feet, not so much a struggle for strength as for balance, and stood upright. Tall. With his back straight, his shoulders an even line, and still no larger to the demon than an ant may have been to a man. The demon stood at its full height and paid the man no more of its direct attention; did not even turn to the man as he spoke.

[I]"I am Aka Manah. I am all evil of all time. I have tempted, coerced and forced true heroes, of dynasties LONG past and FAR greater than any I have yet seen, into committing unspeakable horrors and treacheries. Those I could not bend, I broke. You are not the first to fall before the mighty Aka. You will not be the last. This land is weak and spoiled but I will make it a proper kingdom yet."[/I]

With a careless, casual gesture Aka flicked his hand out to one side. A jagged bold of blue lightning escaped his palm, chewed the air up, and blasted to dust and ashes what was already rubble. Fire eagerly leapt from the wreckage and lapped at the air; grew and gorged itself on the delectable remnants near at hand.

Already the man had launched himself into the air. Tumbled along the ground, stumbled to his feet, and charged at the demon so large it nearly enveloped the sky. He drew his sword across the demon's bole with an earsplitting shriek. He swung with all his might. Concentrated so much of his effort and hope and desperation into one swing that he could almost feel the years of discipline screaming at him as he pushed it to the wayside. He sacrificed balance, reserve, and calm but did so heartily.

And his sword, a hundred times, passed through the demon. Tore at, but the tears knitted themselves back together with both ease and alacrity. The demon turned its bright, green eyes down its nose at the ant but did not so much as even turn its head a fraction.

[I]"Fool! There is no mortal weapon that can harm the great Aka."[/I]

A wink of light and where the man once stood now . . .

[center]~~~~~~~~~~[/center]

"A wink of light and where the man once stood now is only a pile of dust."

With the final word slithering from her mouth and twisting in the air, the woman collapsed; dripping with the sweat of exertion, unconscious, and coddled in bandages.

"That's enough. Take her back to her room. Let her rest. Mind that you keep plenty of water nearby." An elder man spoke. He motioned at the woman and two men, dressed in half-plate where the elder was dressed in a robe, grabbed the bandaged woman and carried her like a child between the two of them out of the room.

Steam vented from various pores along the walls, ceiling and floor. The old man wiped the beads of sweat from his forehead with a bare hand and shook the droplets off, to join the mixture of water, sweat and tears circling the drain.

"You can come in now, the vision is over. The oracle is without."

From a door opposite the one the woman had been taken from streamed in a small group, no more than four of them with the elder present making the fifth, and took seats along the benches lining the walls. All of them had gray hair, soft eyes, rough hands and robes. The eldest among them, who had heard every word the oracle had to say, channeling the passion of their king and the wickedness of the demon in turn, relayed the vision.

"So it is gone then?" One of the voices against the wall chirped. "All of it?"
"All of it. Certainly there are stretches of a few inches, perhaps even a whole foot, that escaped the demon's wrath but all life there is ended. What few hundred we managed to bring with us underground are the very last of our people."

Silence reigned, and none dared question the king for some time. The eldest was the one to topple the monarch.

"It is as the prophecy foretells."

Just a day ago, perhaps even less than that, the elder would have been laughed at. Perhaps even laughed off the council for proposing something so abjectly ludicrous. But they had seen the demon's hulking mass looming in the distance as it strode towards their kingdom. Some had caught it in the very act of its inhumanity, and had been maddened by it, now locked in cages even further underground while they rave and rage. They knew that the prophecy, written on crumbling paper in a language almost forgotten by ancestors' millennia old, was anything but laughable.

"It rests on the boy." The elder spoke, only to be met by the only other voice among the elder's that opposed him, or clung to a forlorn hope.
"But how can we be certain he's the one? He's hardly a boy for instance, and the scripture is clear."
"Yes. It is. But simply because he is the age of a man does not make him a man. Does not make you a man, even with gray in your hair. There are other things besides years that make a man. That man is still a boy. And yes, the scripture is clear. Very clear. Painfully so. There is no doubt that the boy is the one."
"But –"
"Silence."

And there was. The old man pressed his lips into a thin, grim line and wiped the sweat from his forehead again.

"Dress him. Arm him. Show him the way and then let him go. We must not interfere with destiny, lest the demon destroy us all." Edited by supernal

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The people were calling, crying and yelling outside for help. Charlotte didn't know why and decided to ignore it but the cries didn't stop and instead grew louder by every second that passed. Agitated, she threw away the blanket to the side and arose from the bed she was sleeping in. Footsteps could be heard outside the door and this made her even curious as to what was happening. Just as she reached for the door, it was opened by her father from the other side. It surprised and caused her to jump back to avoid getting hit.


"Charlotte! Come, we need to get you into the shelter!" Her father shouted to her and this made her more curious as to what was happening.
"But why?! What shelter? Are we being raided? Attacked? WHAT?!" she had a lot of questions to ask but it was only answered by her father reaching out to her and grabbing her hand. The grip on her hand was so tight that it would cut off blood flow and it hurt. Her father pulled her by force and out of the room.
"No time to explain! Just hurry!"


Being pulled out of her room, she looked around to gain a little bit of understanding as to what was happening. Only then did she realize that in her father's left hand was the family chain sickle. People around the main household were fleeing towards the gate to defend against something she did not know of. Even the elders moved towards the gate which has never happened, even in the past. Just as they were about to head down towards the basement, she managed to glimpse outside the door that was wide open, a dark figure soaring through the sky with blue and green flames erupting from it's eyes. She couldn't fully grasp the figure due to the fact that she was still being dragged down towards the basement which was where the 'shelter' situated. Her father made a few hand gestures and water erupted from the ground and flowed into a crack in the wall. Moments later, the wall crumbled down and opened a path going down. They continued to go deeper and finally reached the end and encountered another door. The door had intricate carvings and had 5 different key holes. Her father made another set of gestures and this time, water turned into ice and formed the set of keys that would fit each hole in the door. With a wave of his hand, the keys inserted themselves and unlocked the door revealing a room surrounded by water. There were different sets of carvings on each wall of the room, this surprised her even more.


"There's no one here, dad. Dad?" As she turned around her father pushed her in and threw the family chain sickle beside her.
"Charlotte, I love you and... Goodbye." The door slowly closed and the last she saw was her father's warm smile.
"FATHER! FATHER, NO! WHAT DO YOU MEAN GOODBYE!?" she continued to hit the wall but it was futile, her body would not be able to do much. Tears continuously trickled down her face and she couldn't do anything to stop it.


---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


"It's done." Charles III said as he approached the village elders by the gate."May the gods watch over her." One of the elders said and the rest responded with a nod.


A massive and dark creature with blue and green flames erupting from it's eyes soared through the sky, breathing out flames from it's mouth and burning down anything in it's path to mere ashes. The villagers cry for help never subsided but some took up their arms and fought against the creature but it was futile. Their weapons could not make even a simple scratch on the creature. Even if they did manage to land a blow, it would just rapidly heal the wound. Even with their ability to utilize the 3 forms of water, they could only stop the creature from continuing it's rampage. With second that passed, the villagers were either burned to mere ashes, debris or from the tendrils that came out of the creature's wing.


"So the prophecy proves true. Since the time of our ancestors, the main household has not given birth to women. It has happened only twice, a thousand years ago and now. We were foolish to not believe in the prophecy and now we pay the price for our ignorance. We may fall now, but she will fulfill her destiny." the elder said while raising both of his hands. The others did the same including Charles III, water from the waterfall gathered towards them catching the attention of the creature. They directed the collected ball of water into it's solid state, ice to hinder the creature immobile for a while but it proved to be useless. The creature continued to soar towards them and breath out blue and green flames. It engulfed the elders leaving nothing behind. The creature's rampage continued and in the end, everything was burned down, bodies were lying everywhere. The blanket of dawn was disappearing and light slowly rose up from the horizon, marking the end of the creature's rampage and the village.

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Following the demon was simple. You could smell it – or rather, Yamo could feel it. Its presence was palpable and yet no matter how far Yamo followed, it never grew stronger. It was too late for gradients. There were no more continuums. This was an evil of absolution; the world, forfeit.

Still, every step brought Yamo into knowing, for the feet of the Mother did more talking than walking, and with every touch a word was uttered until the end of a long trek when both Mother and Son exhausted their discussion, and Yamo rested. He built fires from tinder, sparking the stones that tied off the threads that hung from the head of the obsidian spear. But no one came.

So was the routine for three days, fighting for the truth of things, the home of evil where Yamo sought retribution. It was for his village that he marched, and though he felt the cries of the burning as he passed around them, Yamo never stopped. These weren’t his people. That wasn’t his task.

Until one day when Yamo stopped to pull from the air a breath of water, acrid and poisoned. It bit into his nostrils and beckoned him closer. There was something beneath the poison, the sort of reprieve only water could give. Underneath was the slick sheen of fresh rain and pristine rivers but it was wrapped in something that made it stagnant and putrid. It churned his innards to think of what could relinquish the element of such a quality. Though inside, he knew, and so he followed.

Yamo stood before the falling water, laced with putrid greens and threads of black pitch. The mist washing off it spattered the smell of chalk and charcoal that drifted over the land in a thick musk. And between Yamo and the water, if you could call it such a thing, was something of a city, laid to waste and charred beneath the very fire that poisoned the water.

“It’s him,” Mother told him.

“It’s him,” Yamo answered.

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[b]Eternal night in a desolate land. [/b]

He had been numb for some time, Vaiien realized clinically as he sat sprawled beneath a great oak that shadowed a bubbling spring. The forest was alive around him with the sounds of the morning- as the sun hauled itself over the horizon and began its stately plod across the skies, animals stirred. The sounds of night, so loud for a lack of noise, gradually filtered into a subdued symphony of birdsong and the quieter, more subtle noises of creatures stirring.

He had been on the road for some time, and it showed. His mask he wore around his neck, revealing aquiline features, a touch too delicate to be called masculine; his form, too, was oddly slim. He wore armor now- when he had departed from his village the archer had backtracked to his kills, knowing that the pelt of the nightrunners, cured and worked properly, made fine leather. A pair of bracers, a chestguard, pauldrons, greaves and boots interrupted the navy blue of his clothing with stark obsidian sheen. Where the cloth peeked through it had faded- in places it was even frayed and torn, especially around joints or the areas that suffered the most pressure from the straps of his armor.

Thirty feet to his left, a feral cat sauntered out of its den, digging in forepaws and stretching itself into an inverted "u" as it greeted the day. When it yawned, Vaiien felt it, the faintest breath against his skin. It was an odd thing, this sixth sense. Perhaps it was common in his village; legend certainly suggested that it was, though none living- formerly living, he corrected himself, with an odd pang of regret that died too soon- had heard so much as a rumor.

To set a sense that has no basis in the standard five in relatable terms is difficult; suffice it to say that it was as if the wind itself was, for the archer, a sensory organ all its own. It spoke to him in curious terms, and growing up inundated in a world beyond typical perception, even his reflexes had adjusted accordingly.

So it was that he leapt to his feet, startled, as a great rushing presence intruded upon his awareness. Unconsciously reaching back to stroke along the reassuring length of his bow, Vaiien glanced from the barely-visible road that snaked a few meters to his right, then up into the tree. He scaled the oak swiftly, all toes and fingers, unerringly seeking holds that ate distance as quickly as a squirrel. When he reached the topmost branches thick enough to support his weight he chose a lower one, creeping out along its length with a hand grasping a slightly higher branch to ensure firm balance.

The refugee line first assaulted his sense of smell. As he cleared the forest canopy, the scent that rose up from the road beneath him was multifarious but uniformly abhorrent. It was the scent of fire and ash, of decaying corpses and unwashed bodies, soiled linens and clothes choked with sickness and death. It was all undercut with the stench of fear and despair- no hope walked with the struggling column as it wove through the forest like a line of drunken revelers. At its head was the presence that had so startled Vaiien, a large man wrapped in furs, half his face obscured by blood-crusted bandages, swaying slightly as he sat in the saddle of a cantering horse.

Withdrawing to the cool shadows of the canopy, the archer settled himself into a crouch, ruminating. This was hardly the first refugee band that he had come across- the demon's advance across the land had been one painted entirely in blood, and in the mere week and a half that had passed since its attack on his people, hope for the fate of the world had died. The news that the four paramount cities had fallen- those who constructed the four-posted defense of earth, fire, wind, and water- had crushed the people utterly. The demon had not simply mastered their armies- by destroying the homes and slaughtering the kin of the strongest forces in the land so swiftly there was no chance to react, he had proven his dominion over the natural world.

Keen eyes picked out one odd detail, however. Many of the stumbling men and women that comprised the line still wore bits and pieces of armor- some few still even carried shields, and on these shields was the sigil of a dancing flame. The archer's eyes widened at that. Those people had been among the first to fall- rumors had spread across the land that they were wiped out entirely, though some diehards still insisted that a few of them had slipped underground.

Here were survivors.

He made his decision quickly, soundlessly slipping down the tree, gathering his supplies, and setting off in the opposite direction of the column. He backtracked to a bend in the road, and as the last few groups of refugees wandered through it, he slipped soundlessly out of the woods and into their numbers. Some few noticed him- but his steady stare and distinctive weaponry dismissed their attention.

He was just another broken man, like them, searching for a reason to live. Edited by blood soaked earth

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A chill wind flicked through the morose phantasm the city had become. A tightly woven fabric of the screams and pained wails of the dead lingered there, invisible to the eye but heavy on the mind and outright oppressive on the heart, a thick sheet of solemnity that loosed defunct and desperate and maddening whispers whenever that gelid wind blew through.

Leveling an unobstructed gaze across the city, one was left with an impression that conjured to the fore of human consciousness a singular, inevitable conception. That the mayhem laid naked and bare before them, by the staggering dint of its scope alone let alone the unrestrained fury of its application, could only have been an act of god.

A tornado, perhaps. A whirling dervish with cynical rage at its core, ripping through the lands and putting to rest nearly an entire legacy of people with just one night in which to unspool its malignant machinations. Or perhaps a shifting of the very foundation, as the massive fissures fracturing the street saw fit to indicate, had brought glorious architectural achievement crumbling down with almost sycophantic ambition.

But no. Most certainly this was an act of nature. A playing out of forces beyond the reach of human ken to be sure, but not an act of God. Far from it.

All the main roads leading into and out of the town of the Blazing Flame met and overlapped at the heart of the city; this crux was once a place of constant trade and commerce, and now was nothing more than a dark stain of life indistinguishable from the thousand other such sites pockmarking the ruined hallmark of civilization.

So he waited where he could keep the hub in sight. Crouched down low against a wall that terminated abruptly a foot above his head, its top a jagged line of violence, and the only remaining wall of a local grocery shop brought down to its knees. The longest locks of his ivory hair were drawn back in a tail, exposing a great deal of the tender pink flesh of his cheeks and sensitive red eyes; a pair of tinted glasses rested on his forehead, and his hands idled with a stick by drawing abstract figures in the ground.

Nasa had no clue what the man would look like in sooth. He had only a faint glimpse of a vague silhouette, ripped with desperate grip from the churning madness of fevered dreams, coaxed from him under extreme duress. But the moment that Nasa spotted the man with the long, loping gait and strange dress, Nasa knew he could have picked the guy out from a dozen lookalikes. Something opened up in his heart when Nasa spotted the guy walking towards him, spilling light and certainty, and closed up when Nasa saw him walking away, leaving his heart in the shadow of anxiety and doubt.

A hand patted Vaiien's shoulder but did not come to rest there. As the pinkish hand drew away, hidden by loose sleeves, a voice filled the air.

"I dreamt of you. Let's go. There are others."

Nasa slid the tinted spectacles over his eyes, veiling the bright red gems studded into his skull, shouldered his pack and took up a walking stick with a gnarled top. With this and no more, he began the journey east. Edited by supernal

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The further towards the waterfall he walked, the thicker the air became. It was the heavy weight of a winter quilt soaked in oil. It was the airy tang of sulfur and people burning. It was the wretched waking to a day with no light and a life with no sound -- none except the thick splashes of black against an oily pool of slick tar.

Fingers wrapped tight around the spear, Yamo thumbed the shaft nervously as his link to the Mother phased away behind the static of evil things.

“What is this,” even Yamo could not hold his stern resolution.

“ I-. .s-…..sf-,“ nothing.

A sliver of doubt sliced through Yamo, embedding itself into the space between a first dream and a last wish, where you understand the cold shudder of raw silence reminding you you’re going to die. Such is the fate of burning bridges with imaginary friends, never realizing that was the last thing you said before they left forever. Before you knew what it meant to be alone.

Suddenly the roots weren’t so deep, the ground not so solid. Standing before the black torrent of pitch raining upon the land, soaking the rivers and dirt into its grip, Yamo understood the scope of what was to come.

“Hello?!” he shouted. “Hello!”

He could not do this alone.

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The pull was inexorable. It would not let him rest. When waking, his feet trampled ground and kicked rocks; pain was an inconvenience, no matter how persistent. When resting, his mind wandered. Detached, searched further up ahead, came back and promised Nasa the world if he would push on just a little more. Another foot, another yard, another mile.

And another. And another. Occasionally the compulsion would so consume him that Nasa would not realize, not until he was laying himself down for the night near a guttering fire haphazardly hashed together, that he hadn't eaten or drunk all day. He'll struggle to sit upright and struggle against his body's urges to sleep now so he could wake early and continue on, so that he can nibble on a piece of bread and dried meat and down a gulp of water.

Soon, the scenery began to shift; threads of a different color and composition were woven into the tapestry. The arid, but hospitable, lands of the Blazing Flame subtly transitioned into a milieu that grew lush by degrees. First a taste of vapor hanging thinly in the air, then a smack of humidity, and finally lush vegetation. Nasa had crossed the rubicon, and ahead lay the land of the Sea Specters.

[center]~~~~~~~~~~[/center]

[i]“Hello!”[/i], Yamo's voice sank beneath the slick, oil gurgle and roar of the waterfall.

"Hello." A crisp riposte, that rose above it all. Upon turning, from the shadows, Yamo saw the two red dots hanging abstractedly in the dark. The eyes of a demon no doubt, perhaps even of the very thing that gave birth to all the mayhem tearing them all to pieces.

The eyes moved forward and the body they belonged to became a sharply defined silhouette. Another few steps and the shape revealed itself to be just a man, but a curious man at that. One with spectacles of obsidian hue resting over his forehead, with a face half-wrapped in bandages and the flesh beneath it indistinguishable from the color of the bandages themselves, with his arms and legs covered and gloves for his hands.

"I dreamt of you." A few more steps forward and Yamo could not discern that it was the man's eyes that were red, nothing more. "Child of Earth. I met the one of Wind but he has gone ahead, for now, to seek his legacy. And I am the son of Flame. Where is the other?" Nasa looked around expectantly, and then settled red eyes on Yamo again. "The one of Water?"

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Charlotte had awoken from her sleep and in a daze. Her surroundings filled with water flowing into the room yet never exceeding the large stone table she slept in. The water lit up and shone like a gemstone struck by the sun’s rays. As wonderful her surroundings may be, it only reminded her of the harsh reality that she was now alone. Once again tears were flowing down her face, remembering her father and the rest of the villagers. She had hoped that survived but them down she knew that it was impossible.

[I]Is this how it’ll end? Alone in this chamber without the slightest idea of what’s going on?[/I]

Right by her side was their father’s family sickle. She wiped her face with her clothing and picking up the sickle afterwards. Left without a choice, she decided to examine the chain sickle. Something caught Charlotte’s attention, especially the chain sickle’s weight (The counter-weight found at the end of the chain). A symbol of sorts, she didn’t know what it was but with this little clue she looked around the room for anything peculiar. With luck, she noticed something flicker at the back of the room and instantly went there ignoring the chest-deep water. The exact same pattern which was on the sickle’s weight could be seen. Without hesitation, she immediately punched the weight into the wall where the same symbol resided. Charlotte expected for something to happen but moments later nothing occurred which caused her hopes to fall.

As she was about to walk back to the stone table; water around her suddenly drained out of the room. With the water gone, light was no longer present in the room and was now filled with total darkness. Charlotte’s hope rose up and behind her, the exact wall she punched with the weight, opened up and revealed a passage illuminated by glowing water. Excited at finding the way out, she followed the tunnel’s path with the family sickle in hand, ran as fast as she could. At the end of the passage was a bright light, the way outside. Seeing the way out made her even more hopeful and ran faster than she did before. As she was nearing the exit, the sound of crashing water could be heard. [I]It must be the waterfall! The center of the village![/I] She reached the exit, saw the waterfall and without hesitation jumped down and swam towards the edge.

[B]Charlotte hoped to see a village full of people working together to rebuild the place but once she resurfaced. All she saw was a village burnt to the ground, burnt corpses and the stench of death filled the place. She swam towards the edge, climbed up and was down on her knees, crying and shouting.[/B]

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The words cut the air, slicing through the muck. Yamo turned face, drawing up spear in hand. His toes dug into the dirt – it was the cold lifeless sediment of a land gone stale. There was nothing here. No voices spoke to Yamo through his roots. The unease it rested upon his conscious tickled his fingertips with anxiety as they gripped tight the shaft whose black head aimed pointedly at red eyes.

“Stay your feet,” Yamo’s brows furrowed with marked resentment. There was something about this man and the manner of which he spoke. He had the alluring confidence of a man ready for battle, and yet he was wrapped in bandages, thick and pale as the sickly flesh festering beneath them. Who was this man?

And his eyes. Those were no eyes of man. They were eyes of realms spoken in whispers, hushed over through fairy tales and children’s stories – the sort of mask you place over an unnerving truth. This, Yamo did not trust about him.

“You will state your business here or I will call it from your flesh, demon.” He nearly spat his words.

A cry. Yamo’s eyes drifted . There were others . . . His eyes took back to the man in bandages. In his head swelled the rotting crops beneath the feet of black and blue, a cold evil wake sweeping his people. His heart wrenched with a fire that burned to the hue of his opponent’s eyes, ready to cut from him the wrongs him and his kind have brought upon the land.

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No sooner had Yamo turned upon Nasa, a certain affection of revulsion crawling over and distorting his features, and raised his hand to place between the two men a stolid rubicon with a sharp metal point, then Nasa's mouth contorted with a most unflattering moue. It stretched the corners of his mouth taught, wrinkled the flesh about crimson eyes, and in general bereft his already chocking appearance of all sense of kinship and familiarity.

"Very well." Nasa did as bid. In his land, his home, Nasa came from a powerful bloodline of seers and oracles. This afforded him with a chip on his shoulder that made it a minimal effort to acquiesce to the poor and feeble-minded. "But thee would do well so stay thy impulsive hand, and let not thy metal tongue," Nasa motioned with his eyes to the spear that Yamo raised before so much has speaking. "Speak before the tongue given unto thee by Osoft the Creator."

Nasa took a long step back with his right leg, bent at the waist, and swept his cloak behind him in a bow.

"Were you too not a hero by destiny, perhaps today would be the day for you to ken things most wondrous and foul, things that could end a man's life. Perhaps."

Nasa spoke with no joy, though the light dancing in his eyes as he looked up at Yamo and straightened from his bow was a light most puckish. Now standing Nasa squared as best he could his thin shoulders and stood as straight as he could; a difficult feat with a back warped as his.

"I come from the land of Flame. An envoy. The Hero of Flame that will stand with three others against the Baleful Beast and end its terrible reign before it can bring the world to a smoldering ash, though not one of us will live to see a future without the Beast." Nasa let that implication hang, that of an unavoidable death.

"You are the other. One of the others. Of the heroes that I must find before entertaining any hope of continuing in my life's purpose. And we are both here not through our own devices, but by the turning of the wheel of Fa –"

A cry. Did he pause because he heard it too, or because Yamo had?

"Hearken, crying. Will we stay and fight and, thus, end all hope? Or will we go, and see what waits to test us?"

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Bubbling and roaring, uninterrupted, the splashing waters create a steady pattern of endless rhythm.
Like a wall trying to block out the sounds of the world behind the waterfall, it roars louder and louder.
The waterfall paints a scene so perfect if not for the sight she saw when she resurfaced.


Despite that, her cries were heard, the cry of grief and sorrow but how was it that someone heard? The crashing sound made by the waterfall should have drowned it but that was no longer the case however; the waterfall had stopped its natural flow. At first it was wild and furious but in matter of seconds, it slowed down. The water flowed so slow that the noise it naturally made died down and disappeared almost instantaneously.


Charlotte subconsciously wanted to let her grief and sorrow be heard. She didn't want it to drown alongside the waterfall's roar and thus tapped into her hidden potential. Strength was what she needed but despite that, Charlotte was still a girl deep inside. It is not a trivial thing as it can so easily be gotten over with but she wiped the tears on her face and turned towards the waterfall. She failed to realize that the waterfall was eerily quiet. Her senses failing, she placed both of her hands atop the water’s surface and manipulated its properties to act as a mirror.


Looking at her own reflection, Charlotte asked herself questions. “[I]Is there still hope, a reason to live? I… am alone. I only heard and read of the world outside from my uncle and the books that were in my father’s room. Aside from those, I know nothing.[/I]” And with that the tears fell once again, her cries louder than before.

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