Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Godless, Forgotten

"An arena! A battlefield, with the roaring tides swelling in anticipation of the bloodshed that is to follow. I hear them scratching at my soul, desperate for a release only I can provide. I am eternal salvation in the form of unholy demise. I am worship to the godless, faith to the forgotten. They look upon my form and tremble. I’ve watched stars wither and die, planets shrug off the parasite that is life and tear themselves asunder. I have watched death tread across the battlefield, watched him weep for the souls of the damned, condemned to the Unreal. He could not provide a relief, so I took them upon my back, carried them through darkness, fed them until they found strength. I looked upon the world and said; No. This is not enough. And with that, I created life..”

Sentient, the Dead-God of the North, the Manipulator of Far Antiquity, and the progenitor of the Cult of Silver.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Fountain of Perdition

The Ciphrang strode through the walls as if they were made of paper, melting brick and steel mere inches away from its form. It stood eight foot tall, but hunched over to fit beneath the low ceiling it stood barely taller than the average man.

Of course, the average man in this room was a suit, a businessman or sales-woman, here for one of TOWERs many seminars and courses. They were regular nobodies, some having scraped enough money to come here, others just looking to try something new with their life. The centre of Newarth wasn’t the land of opportunity many felt it was, and TOWER seemed the only way to escape the muck and filth down in the city.

The Ciphrang reared its head back, glowered at the 18 other people in the room. Five thick horns rose from a plate of bone which covered the top of its head, each of them starting with an ivory white but tipped with a pitch-black almost as dark as the creatures eyes, which slowly evaluated everybody in the room.

Only one was of interest here.

Only one.

Dalath rose from his chair as soon as the Ciphrang entered. He knew the creatures eyes would bear down upon him, and he knew he was the one the Ciphrang sought. He spoke a silent prayed to the Dreamweaver, throwing off his suit jacket to free his arms for the battle to come. He spoke words nobody in the room could grasp, none except for the Ciphrang, and he felt his mind rush into the Unreal.

The Ciphrang had raised a single arm, pointing now at Dalath, and roared in a language incomprehensible to everybody in the room; many simply fell to their knees, deafened by the creatures voice, their minds ripping apart at the edge with the blasphemy he sang.

It was a sensation akin to being pulled out of water, after almost drowning; clarity, the gasp of true air, that important breath that granted glorious life. This was what the Unreal meant to a Sorcerer. This was what would allow him to defeat the Ciphrang.

This was what didn’t come to him, that day.

His mind collapsed in on itself. He felt a weight press down hard onto his left shoulder, then a second pressing down on his right, until he fell backwards, hitting the floor with a crash. He was drowning in the Real, and that ever important breath hadn’t come. His eyes saw stars and his thoughts swam without purpose. A third weight pressed now on his chest, and the head of an ugly little creature appeared before him; a Goblin. It was grinning, its rows of tiny, razor-sharp teeth running from ear to ear, its lizard-like eyes staring at the bauble in its hand.

No, more than a bauble. His senses returning to him, he opened his mouth, preparing to scream impurities and fire in his native tongue.

Until a tiny hand stuff a bandage into his opened mouth. The first goblin shook his head, and laughed the way they always did, high pitched and wicked.

The bauble was in view now, a mess of bright blues and purples flowing over and under each other within a hard globe case. Attached either side of the case were wrist restraints.

Dalath punched hard into the face of the front goblin, sending it reeling onto the floor out of view.
He lifted his fist again, aiming to fight back, but there were more goblins now, half-a-dozen at least, who began piling onto his limbs, holding him down.

The front goblin stood back up, rubbing his jaw, the smile wiped from his face.

With the utmost malice he strapped the restraints onto Dalath’s wrists. The globe between them now changed colour, draining from bright colours into a variety of dull greys and greens.

Dalath was a young man from Anur-Jandria. His skin was a sultry brown, his eyes, like all Sepsyon sorcerers, a glorious blue. But as soon as the dust shackles were strapped from his wrists, all colour seemed to drain from him. Shadows seemed to reach extremes over his pale, grey features, and his blue eyes now seemed closer to a swamp green than anything else. Even his black hair seemed to lighten and wither, as if from age.

By this time the others in the room had been herded into the corner by other goblins. They were all crying, some of them hugging others, some of them pushing others away. The terror in the room was tangible, and you could hear further panic outside; people screaming, calling for help.

Where were TOWER Security? Where were Apaex, the PMC that did all of TOWERs contract defence?
The questions seemed to come from a mile away. Dalath couldn’t even think straight. He realised he was wearing Dust Shackles. He remembered his tutor, back in Oneiros, warning him that they nullified the Unreal through the use of concentrated Hyperreal; the two, when mixed, would neutralise each other. A Sorcerer couldn’t make use of any sorcery while under the influence of the Hyperreal.

Lesson number 2, back in training; the difference between A void and THE void. Stay away from the Hyperreal.
The goblins hauled him to his feet, then onto a chair. His blurred vision raced across the room, unable to focus on anything; panic, terror, fear, all from the others, herded like cattle; meaningless. Indifference, greed, thoughtlessness, all from the goblins; meaningless.

But his eyes fell upon the Ciphrang. It rose before him like a mountain of fire and hate. Its skin, like all Ciphrang, seemed more like molten earth, held together by sheer hatred alone;  and this wasn’t far from the truth. When an area underwent enough sustained violence and death, a battle-field or cult-totem, a Ciphrang would be born from the melding together of those dying spirits, a hundred or more souls all trying to enter the Unreal, getting confused and lost, forced together into a single being capable only of their extreme emotions.

Emotions like hate. Like anger. Like pain.

This is what made a Ciphrang. And in turn, this was what they were made of. Sorcerous creatures of the worst type.

“Enth..” he coughed. The dust shackles burnt his voice when he tried to speak, the Hyperreal reacting badly with his Unreal-tinged vocals, made it impossible to speak any sorcerous incantations, or ‘sing the wrath of God’, as many poetically put it. “Enthill-..Asdynn’ryl” The creatures true name.

The Ciphrang rose, its face now mere inches away from Dalath’s. It was warm, but he could not concentrate on the heat, only on the look in the creatures eye. Always such suffering. They were smart, but little more than animals, bound to a dozen whims they couldn’t even grasp, always thinking a hundred thoughts at once, always feeling a hundred hates at once. To kill them was a mercy. Few ever had the capacity for such mercy.

“DALATH!” it roared, unable to calm its own voice, if you could call it that; it spoke with a chorus of a dozen voices screaming in unison, the voices of the most prominent spirits incorporated into the whole, all seeking equal attention. Its spittle was ash, and its voice carried with it a cloud of dust and cooling embers. “THOUGHT YOU COULD HIDE HERE?!”

It turned, and paced back and forth around the room for a few moments, as if trying to gather its thoughts. The goblins sat quietly and eager behind Dalath, giggling and jumping around, excited by the prospect of violence to come. The Ciphrang couldn’t touch the dust shackles without experiencing incredible pain; a creature of the Real could never come into contact with the Hyperreal.

Summoning classes, lesson 3; confluence of two impossible functions.

No doubt it would kill these goblins when their purpose was done. A Ciphrang’s mind couldn’t grasp payment or exchange, it could only take. Wealth was meaningless, as the creature was temporary in this world anyway. All that mattered was fulfilling... whatever goal it sought to fulfil.

Dalath shook his head at the Ciphrang. He wasn’t trying to hide. Their previous meeting, he had thought, should have been their last. But here it was. At this motion, the goblins burst into uproarious laughter.

“I AM ETERNAL!” it roared, this time at the goblins, as if replying to Dalath’s very thoughts. Their laughter ended, and they were cowering before it, terrified, hiding behind their ‘elected’ leader (usually the one with the biggest pockets or the nicest hat.) Dalath thought it would consume them, there and then, but the Ciphrang instead reared back.

“I AM HATE! SUFFERING IS MY BLOOD!” It roared now at the others, the unfortunates who were only here to take a class. It was certain they would not survive the hour. “YOU THINK YOU COULD TRAP ME?! YOU THINK THAT HOLE WOULD HOLD ME?!” It unleashed a deafening roar, and unfurled its wings; at least, the stems that once were wings, with the tattered remains of the patagium lying limp and broken.

Even Dalath had to admit he was scared.

Ciphrang lived violent lives. Enthill-Asdynn’ryl was the extreme example of this. Most Ciphrang lived a few weeks, maybe months within the Real, before being dragged back into the Unreal or, more often than not, destroyed by a capable Sorcerer. This one had been hunting Sorcerers for over 12 months. It had found Dalath two months ago, but the ‘easy feast’ Asdynn had assumed turned out to be a miscalculation. The Ciphrang was overconfident, and it cost him so much.

Now Dalath had been overconfident.

“HOW DO YOU WANT TO DIE, MORSEL?!” Enthill-Asdynn’ryl took a few steps back. It opened its maw, ready to unleash a torrent of the vilest Sorcery the Unreal seemed capable of. The goblins turned away, now aware of the fear they should hold towards their master. The other innocents were screaming and crying once more.

Dalath whispered a silent prayer to the Dreamweaver. He had met his God once, back when he was training to be a Sepsyon Sorcerer, one of Indara’s Chosen. He thought of this moment, clenched onto it, focussed his mind through the distraction of the shackles. If you ever cared about me, right now would be the time to show it..

The sound of the door being kicked in was distinct enough to grab his attention. There was a moment of panic. Even the Ciphrang was distracted enough to release its drawn breath, letting go of the Sorcerous heresies it was about to speak. Three of the goblins rushed towards the door, although from Dalath’s point of view, he could only see them from his peripheral vision.

He saw the silhouette of a figure standing just out of sight. It wasn’t the Dreamweaver but it certainly brought a smile to his face. He could just make out her armour, the distinct plate stylings of the Imperial Order, the three purple-red-black feathers atop her helm.

The flicker of light from a drawn sword flashed across the room. Asdynn stepped back twice more. He was nearing the edge of the room, right by the windows. “DESTROY HER!” her roared, stepping back again. As soon as she entered the room, Dallath could feel the weight of her chorae pressing into his soul, the tool of a Sorcerer-hunter, anathema to the Unreal and its denizens and abusers.

The light flashed three more times, before the sword was heard being sheathed. The figure stepped into the room, turned towards the other goblins. They didn’t know what to do; lost and confused, their victory had gone south, and the loyalty of goblins was unsurprisingly lacking. They thought better than to fight the Knight, and knew the power of the Ciphrang, so they did what all goblins would do; they fled, through the hole originally made by Asdynn.

She came into view now, her silver-coated armour as bright and glorious as it had ever been. The face-guard on her helmet was lifted, and her brown fringe fell loosely across her face. She smiled, in that innocent way she always did when facing insurmountable odds.  Of course, with the chorae held tightly in her hand, the Ciphrang couldn’t come near her.

“NO!” the Ciphrang roared, incapable of stopping what was about to happen. As powerful as Sorcery was, it seemed almost unbelievable that an intricately carved globe that could fit into the palm of your hand could bring it all to a stop. Of course, now even Dalath was feeling the pain; he could feel the surface of his skin physically dissolving due to his proximity with the chorae, turning to salt and falling, flake by flake, from his body.

And he was part Human. A Ciphrang was pure sorcery. The agony the creature was feeling must have been beyond calculation.

“Los..” Dalath managed to mutter despite the shackles. He could see her smile.

Los advanced towards the Ciphrang, holding the chorae in her outstretched hand. Asdynn was backing off, further and further; as long as Los remained in contact with the chorae, she was completely immune to sorcery, and the Ciphrang had no way to fight back.

The Ciphrang turned, looked towards the windows, smashed from his bellows earlier. The drop below was miles, 60+ stories. Without its wings, the fall would be fatal.

Los unleashed her battle-cry, roared at the beast who only whimpered back. She drew her sword in her free hand, clutched tightly the chorae in the other, and charged Asdynn. Her armour and sword were extensions of her being, she was trained as a warrior and her training was absolute; she slammed the blade into the creatures flesh, smashing through its rock-like skin, splashing molten blood onto the floor around them both.

Her sword steamed more with each blow, and Asdynn’s bellows grew loader. It tried to defend itself, raising its arm in fury, but its proximity to the chorae became all too evident, as the flesh on its forearm swiftly dissolved into a layer of ash. Los’ sword cut through the ash with ease.

Its roars went silent. The limp arm fell to the floor with a crash, with the severed stump now running profusely with the creatures burning blood. It gushed onto the floor, burning through the carpet and brick around them both. It was everywhere. The heat grew so intense that Los had to back away, discarding her sword which had already begun to wilt from the sustained blows.

Asdynn raised its remaining hand, trying to staunch the bleeding from its stump. Its whole body swayed, back then forward; it had been internally exposed to the Real. Its arm had been severed. It fell, unable to respond, and watched as the severed arm began to fall apart in a soft flicker of flame, leaving only ash in its place.

It was fading.

Los quickly returned to Dalath, knelt beside him, and loosened the restraints of the dust shackles, while being sure to keep the chorae away from him. It took only a few moments for the colour to return to his skin, for the tightening in his throat to loosen and relax, for his mind to begin thinking clearly again. His thoughts came back like a tide being released, and he finally breathed that most important breath, felt the Unreal flood into his veins.

“I’ve been tracking it for a while now. Thought it’d come for you first.” She smiled, and that smile seemed to wash away Dalath’s pain.

“Nice..” he coughed, “of you to let me know.” Although he was steady on his feet, Los still helped him up.

“I CANNOT DIE..” the Ciphrang roared helplessly. It struggled back onto its feet, raising up, this time to his maximum of eight-foot. As soon as the horns touched the ceiling, it sparked and lit on fire. It was a slow burn at first, obviously sorcerous in nature. Asdynn whispered in one of his dozen voices, sang the necessary words to bring the building down with his final breathes. The flames began spreading across the ceiling.

“I HAVE SEEN THE RIVERS OF FIRE. NATIONS FALL PROSTRATE TO MY KIND. YOU THINK ONE MAN AND HIS WAIF CAN STOP ME?!” The fires began spreading faster now. The wall either side of Asdynn found themselves aflame, and it was reaching the floor at an astonishing place. Ash and cinders rained down upon them. A few of the panicked innocents saw the blaze, and thought otherwise; they leapt through the broken windows, the jump impossible to survive. Smoke poured out into the sky.

“I CALL THE UNREAL HOME. DEATH..” Asdynn took a deep breath, raised its remaining arm. “..IS NO MORE PERMANENT THAN LIFE!” It roared, a bout of flame pouring from its mouth, engulfing Dalath and Los.

When it cleared, Dalath stood infront of Los, his arm outstretched, his palm open. He muttered impossible words. The fires had split around them. More words, more heresies, spread forth from his lips.

His eyes brightened, his irises changing from grey to green, then green to blue. Like a burst dam, the iris then split open, and the blue flooded into the white sclera until his whole eyes were blue, apart from the black pupil in the centre, an island in an ocean. This was it. He could see Asdynn had fallen back to one knee, too distracted by the spreading fire to adequately fight back. Dalath felt revitalised, turned to see Los in his peripheral vision.

“I’ll finish it. It’s weak from the trek, it’s getting old, struggling to live in this realm. It used so much of what it had left just to get here, to fight its way through to me. It hoped this would be the end.”

“THERE IS NO END!” it spoke, supporting itself with its one remaining arm. The flames had engulfed almost the entire room. The screams of the innocents were impossible to hear through the sound of the blaze. Some died in the fire, many fell burning to the floor below, others stayed huddled and afraid in the corner of the room, desperate for some salvation that would never come. The first jumper, they would say, was the luckiest. Dalath would later argue that, on that day, none were lucky.

Already the Ciphrangs body had begun turning to ash. It’s once-armoured shell was now flaking away, drifting through the open air and down to the innocents below. Its insides were revealed, almost white-hot, flaring up before the inevitable end. A Ciphrang would never die alone, would always endeavour to drag as many others down to the Unreal as possible, enough to create a new Ciphrang, enough to make its life worthwhile.

 “Get away Los!” he shouted over the roaring flames, now spreading rapidly up the building. “Save as many as you can, but for gods sakes, get out!” Dalath stepped forward. Another gout of fire pulsated from Asdynn, the heat from the flames was visibly pushed away from him, his Vaparsi Wards holding strong. Los nodded, turned, and ran from the room, aware she was now out of her depth. Dalath turned to look at Asdynn, who sat broken on the ground. “You are ruined, Ciphrang! I will take the fetid remains of your soul and lock them away for all eternity. You will find only peace there.”

“NO!” Asdynn roared, and attempted to stand. Its power all but focused on the spreading flames, the wound that was once an arm rapidly draining its essence, and the scars from Los’ chorae attack still leaking burning blood, its attempts to stand were in vain, and it simply fell back down, a muted roar leaving its cracked and broken lips.

Dalath dropped his Wards, just long enough to speak the war-cants of the Sepsyon, Indara’s Waterfall and Fanes Lost Eyes. It was only an instant, a mere moment in time, a change of focus that switched from defence to offence. The Ciphrang stood, fast as lightning, and wrapped its single arm tight around Dalath’s form, frail compared to the Unreal beast. The breath was squeezed from his longs, and unable to speak, his cants merely held in the air, half-formed and half-ready.

“SO CONFIDENT! SO FAITHFUL IN YOUR GOD! LET THE DREAMWEAVER KNOW THAT YOUR FAITH IN HIM WAS THE REASON FOR YOUR DEATH!” He squeezed tighter, tighter, until the edges of Dalath’s vision turned dark. He tried to punch the creature, but felt only the heat of its blood, tried to kick, but merely deflected off its semi-armoured form. It began teetering backwards towards the edge, its tattered wings now opening in excitement. Dalath tried to look for Los, but she had gone. “I SHALL DRAG YOU INTO THE UNREAL, MY PLAYTHING, NOTHING MORE THAN A CHAINED BEAST TO MY THRONE! THEY SHALL LOOK UPON YOU AND DESPAIR, FOR HE WAS THE MAN WHO THOUGHT HE COULD BEST THE FOUNTAIN OF PERDITION!”

“No!” shouted a voice from the far corner of the room. Dalath managed to focus his eyes just enough to see one of the civilians, one of the nameless suits, stand from his huddled position in the corner of the room. The fire was everywhere, and the heat was oppressive, but this man stood. The look in his eyes was obvious; a man, already dead, trying to save a life. Another stood, and another, and soon all of them were standing, men and women alike. There were only thirteen of them.

They ran through the fire with complete faith in their actions, almost as if they themselves were a part of the blaze. Asdynn’s grip loosened, just slightly; he had no spare hand to fight them off, and his attention was entirely focussed on keeping Dalath silent and maintaining the fires now burning through the top half of the building. Those 13 people descended on Asdynn with an incredible fury; just touching the flesh of Asdynn set their clothes and hair alight, sent them reeling backwards. Some fell from the window, others into larger gouts of fire, but they continued, raining blow after blow on Asdynns arm and shoulder. Two had grabbed onto its wings, and clung their until their bodies were little more than bone and ash.

His arm slipped again, this time further than before.

Fanes Lost Eyes were two beautiful geometries of light, which flashed from Dalath’s eyes and smashed into Asdynn’s face; he was blinded, his eyes now no more than bloody sockets. His arm now completely released, and he began flailing. Those few suits still standing, through endurance no less than superhuman, leapt again at the creature; they charged into its body sending it further backwards, towards the window ledge.

It stopped short, screaming into the air, and knocked them aside.

Before Dalath’s forehead appeared a blue orb, small and divine. Just as its name suggested, Indara’s Waterfall shot a raging torrent of blue light from the orb, as if an ocean had burst free from Dalath’s mind. The Waterfall consisted of hundreds of small blasts, beams of light drawn from the Unreal, purified through Dalath’s training, which smashed into the Ciphrangs form. Again and again the creature was struck, until it balanced on the very edge of the window. The waterfall had ceased, just for a moment.

“Know this, Asdynn, blind and helpless. You do not deserve the pleasure of sitting at the throne of my master. The Dreamweaver suffers not the faithless. And by his example, I suffer not the Godless.” Dalath raised him arms, and it was as if a void had opened behind the Ciphrang. It was akin to looking into the Unreal, the rivers of fire and the shifting ground. From this void came an arm, which stretched out and grasped onto the remaining arm of the Ciphrang. Then came another arm, and another, each of them stretching out, each of them holding tightly onto the Ciphrang. Each touch seemed like agony, as was the case with Siandere’s Return, a powerful war-cant calling upon the spirits of the deceased to punish the sorcerers foe.

Asdynn struggled against the spirits, but was too weak to truly fight back. Its entire shell was like ash and crumbled upon touch, and its blood seemed to almost seize up and solidfy even as it fell from the creatures wounds. The fires around him began to flicker and fall back, weakening with his lack of attention, his rage faltering.

“Goodbye, Asdynn.” He brought his arms down suddenly, and with that the arms of Siandere pulled back. Asdynn roared in agony, and the crack of flesh and bone was audible to even those watching from below. Its arm tore from the socket, its legs ripped apart, first the plated armour, then the flesh and bone itself. Its head was tore free, and its body ripped into three distinct pieces. Even its wings, already tattered, were ripped asunder.

The sorcerous fires almost immediately stopped burning. Although many natural fires had been started, the majority of the blaze was started and controlled through Asdynn’s will alone, and instantly faded without his influence to keep it going. Still, the damage was done, and many had died. Dalath kneeled by one of the twisted forms that was once a man, one who had helped release him from Asdynn’s grasp. “Dreamweaver forgive you your sins..” he spoke softly, and quietly left the room.

Below, the creatures body had already fallen apart, and what was once the torn limbs of a Ciphrang fell instead as black ash and dust, a perverted snow upon the gathered crowd. Apaex had done a good job of clearing much of the building, but the death toll was all too great. Dalath couldn’t help but despair; not only had so many died, but worse, the public’s perception of sorcery, already reviled, would only grow worse.

Still, his fears were calmed when he reached the ground, to see Los standing impatiently at the entrance to the building. He only had to smile, and she came running towards him, throwing her arms around him and burying her head into his chest. She had removed the chorae from around her neck, but he could still feel its soulless influence in her back pocket; still, he had suffered enough today, what was a little more? He wrapped his arms around her, ignoring its influence. Moments passed, until he lifted her head, looked into her eyes, and wiped away a tear.

“Next time I fight a Ciphrang alone..” he smiled, “..don’t leave me.”

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Strength in Letters

Every demon from the Unreal has a name, and they all follow the same structure. Ald'dra-saarden, a most-famous daemonic entity, is a good example; Ald' refers to an item of importance in the creatures Real life, before its Unreal rebirth, in this case, a Dagger. Dra- refers to the emotion most often connected with the creature, here it's Rage. Finally, Saarden is the name it takes upon its birth into the Unreal to distinguish itself. Ald'dra-saarden takes the given name (in the Real) of Saarden, the Dagger of Rage.