This is the story writeup for Champions of Ascerth.
Chapter 1: Darkness Arises
They say true heroes come and go in times of chaos. That they are born with good intentions and a desire to help those around them. This is one of those stories, but it's not for the faint of heart.
On the fertile planet of Ascerth lies the simple town of Farhorn Village. Inhabited by simple villagers, it has been targeted by the gringar, a ruthless, short-statured race, many times. Leading the charge is the village's guards, among them the hero of this story: Kaiden Damuth. The twenty two year-old Deputy Captain of Farhorn's guards, second only to his father, Kaiden is a skilled swordsman, prefering the use of two swords in combat instead of one. Kaiden wore a simple set of armored plate, with two shoulderpads for protection. His swords were forged by Farhorn's blacksmith, and had runes on them resembling those of the ancient kronn race's magical runes. Kaiden had scruffy brown hair and light green eyes, though he didn't really care for how he looked as long as he could fight efficiently.
"Let's see how they do this time," thought Kaiden as he charged into battle. "FOR FARHORN!!!"
Kaiden dashed at a gringar warrior, swords in hand. As the gringar prepared to unleash a strike with his hammer, Kaiden kicked him into a nearby building. He then unleashed a deadly twin sword strike to the chest, cutting at the gringar. Black blood was pouring out, but the gringar didn't seem to be bothered by the pain. He lashed out at Kaiden with a strong-armed hammer strike, bashing his left shoulderpad. Kaiden took advantage of the hammer's immense weight by pinning it to the ground with his foot, before unleashing a swift strike to the head.
"These barbarians show no honor," uttered Kaiden. He then drew his attention to a nearby gringar archer, who was shooting arrows at his fellow guards. Kaiden charged at the lone gringar, slashing him with his two swords. The gringar attempted to respond by using his arrows as weapons, but was too weak at melee range to put up a good fight. Kaiden finished off the archer, and began to look around and see that the attack was over. Yet, many guards fell.
"So many fallen brothers," muttered Kaiden. "What must it take to end the violence?"
As Kaiden walked into the nearby barracks, his father, Orian Damuth, approached him. As the leader of the village's guards, Orian wore more detailed armor, and had a shield in addition to a sword. He had a beard, though it was a light one that seemed to have been shaved earlier.
"Nice work out there son," uttered Orian. "Another day without gringar raids."
"Yeah, I guess that's good," replied Kaiden. "Though I'm thinking of leaving the town soon and seeing the world."
"Well, we need you here to help defend the village!" exclaimed Orian. "You're one of our best soldiers."
"That is true," replied Kaiden. "But I can't stay here forever. I've got my whole life ahead of me."
"You'll understand when you're older," replied Orian as he left the barracks. Kaiden sat down and began to lament about his place in the world. Was he a skilled warrior? Yes. Did he want to see the world? Absolutely. Ascerth was massive, with many different races and a rich history. Kaiden wanted to see it all, yet he had been holed up in this village ever since he was born.
"Guess I'm stuck here," uttered Kaiden. "The village does need me to help defend it from-"
Kaiden's train of thought was interrupted by the sound of an explosion. He quickly dashed out of the barracks to find a burning building, though the flames were purple for some reason.
"Look!" exclaimed a villager as he pointed to the sky. Truthfully, there was something there. Massive warships were floating in the sky, and a smaller one had landed nearby. Emerging from it were squid-like humanoids, with swordlike weaponry made out of what appeared to be pure energy on their wrists. They had armor on, and appeared to have purplish skin.
"Zykol nogoz," uttered one of these humanoids. "Yachil govon!"
The squidlike humanoids charged at the village, weapons in hand. Kaiden and the other guards were ready to hold them off.
"Guardsmen, prepare for battle!" exclaimed Orian. He brought out his weaponry and prepared to fight.
"Show no mercy!" exclaimed Kaiden. "Farhorn will not fall!"
Kaiden and the other guards charged into battle, with Kaiden hitting one of the squid entities with a shoulder slam. His opponent responded with a shoulder-cutting attack, destroying his left shoulderpad and leaving a wound in his shoulder.
"Gah!" exclaimed Kaiden. Although injured, he kicked the warrior to the ground and slashed him with his two swords, utilizing his pain to keep himself fighting. The warrior he was facing, however, proved to be incredibly cunning, unleashing a swift counterattack with his weapons. Kaiden's chestplate barely blocked the hits, though he was still wounded and struggling to keep up. The two warriors continued to parry weapons, staring intently into each other's eyes.
As the battle continued, Kaiden realized that these squid warriors had one weakness: their hands. If he were to chop off this one's hands, it would be incapable of fighting. Yet, his opponent had managed to slam him with a punching maneuver, knocking Kaiden onto the nearby grass. He then charged at Kaiden in a swift running motion.
"Not today," thought Kaiden as he blocked the hit, before letting out a cutting motion that took off the warrior's left hand. As he screamed in pain, Kaiden took off the right hand as well. Dark purple blood began to pour out, and before long, the creature died of blood loss.
"Tough guys," uttered Kaiden. As he looked around, he saw countless guards dying, and his father was barely keeping up with one of their more armored soldiers. Kaiden seemed distraught by this, and dashed over to Orian. However, the warrior simply let out a fierce stab at that point, as if he wanted Kaiden to watch his father die. He then spat at the ground before motioning for several soldiers with ranged weaponry to fire at the village. Kaiden quickly ran towards a nearby pile of rocks, watching from a distance while tearing up. A massive explosion occured in the town, killing everyone inside. The squid warriors then left the area, leaving the village to burn.
"No..." uttered Kaiden. He then began to cry from his location, as everyone he had ever known was now dead. Every friend, every family member, every fellow guardsman. He was the only remaining citizen of Farhorn Village. Yet, this also presented an opportunity. Perhaps these squid warriors were attacking other areas of the world. If Kaiden could reach Xastil City, humanity's capital, he could find like-minded individuals who wanted to find out more about this invasion.
"Looks like I have a journey to go on," thought Kaiden as he got up from his hiding spot and began walking. Although the village was burnt down, Kaiden still had a bag on him, which contained a map as well as some travel supplies that were packed in every guard's bag. Yet, for Kaiden, arguably the biggest chapter in his life was about to begin.
Chapter 2: Road to Xastil
The plains of Dralgoth, the lands controlled by humanity, are a savage place. Gringar camps dominate the landscape. Wild animals constantly roam around. Bandits reign supreme. Yet, Kaiden knew of these dangers, and sought to counter them.
"This is exciting," thought Kaiden. "Untamed wilderness."
As a gringar warrior came up to Kaiden, he brought out his swords, and struck him in the shoulder. The two of them exchanged blows for some time, culminating in Kaiden stabbing him in the chest.
Eventually, Kaiden set up camp in a forest clearing, looking around at his surroundings. The flames consuming Farhorn could be seen in the distance, which made Kaiden feel more depressed than he was before.
"I'll avenge you all," thought Kaiden. "Every single one of you."
As Kaiden got ready to sleep, he began to think about the people he knew there. Despite being one of Farhorn's most prestigious individuals, he had few friends. This was due to many of his so-called "friends" in his childhood being captured by gringar raiding parties as sacrifices. Thus, Kaiden had a philosophy that most people he forged bonds with would eventually leave his life. It was the price he had to pay by living in a village that was constantly targeted by attacks.
Yet, he knew that those squid people had to pay. They came out of nowhere and just burnt down the village, with no known reasoning. Kaiden had to make them pay somehow. He wanted justice.
Chapter 3: The Girl with Visions
Kaiden walked into Xastil City, the capital city of the human race, though it was also inhabited by Ascerth's other four races. The streets were crowded, with lots of different individuals. Kaiden could hear chatter about the ships in the sky, though he knew the truth behind it all. As he walked through Xastil City, he noticed a hooded individual following him, though he shrugged it off and entered a tavern, sitting down on the second floor. There, he pulled out his map and began to analyze it in preparation for his journey.
"You came from Farhorn, right?" asked the hooded individual, who was standing nearby. Kaiden immediately fell back in his chair out of sheer shock, as he couldn't believe what they were saying.
"Sole survivor of the attack," replied Kaiden. "You knew?"
The individual sat down, taking off her hood. She had a short haircut, and looked incredibly nervous.
"You seem nervous," uttered Kaiden.
"I'm just, um, socially awkward," replied the girl. "I just happened to see someone who matched the appearance of the person I saw in a vision I had."
"Vision?" asked Kaiden. "You're a mage?"
"Yes I am," replied the girl. "Name's Elina. You?"
"Kaiden," replied Kaiden. "So what were these visions?"
"One of them was the attack on Farhorn," uttered Elina. "Another was seeing you enter Xastil. I've been troubled by them for some time, and I just want to know what's going on."
"Well, I guess we have a common goal then," replied Kaiden. "I want to kill those bastards, and you want to find out the meanings behind the visions. If we work together, we can find out what's truly going on."
"That is true," replied Elina. "But I don't want to fight some underground war. I just want to know what's going on."
"Well, until you find out what's going on, let's stick together," replied Kaiden. The two of them left the inn, and began to exit the town. Kaiden felt unsure about trusting Elina, but knew that she was his only ally so far.
"So where are we going exactly?" asked Kaiden. "Seems like we're just walking aimlessly."
"The visions told me to go to a place called the Spirits' Den," replied Elina. "It's located near Frostscar Mountain."
Chapter 4: The Rugged Path
Kaiden and Elina continued walking down the road, on day two of the journey to the Spirits' Den. The road they were on was quite rugged, with a nearby river and lots of hills. To the east, they could see a bit of the volcano known as Mt. Necrosis, which was known for constantly spewing out magma. Ascerth was a planet with many different landscapes, so they were fortunate to be in a more peaceful area. Yet, the ships remained in the skies, with few people knowing why.
"So you were adopted," uttered Kaiden. "Never knew your real parents?"
"Nope," replied Elina. "My adoptive father raised me as a mage, so I've known how to do this stuff for years."
"Well, my village was the target of countless gringar raids, so I sort of grew up a fighter," replied Kaiden. "We did have a resident mage though, but he died alongside the others."
"So your whole family was...murdered," replied Elina. "That's pretty sad."
"Those bastards are going to pay," replied Kaiden. "I don't know what they have planned for this world."
Suddenly, two bandits emerged from a nearby pile of rocks. One of them had a bow, and the other wielded two daggers.
"Hand over your belongings and nobody gets hurt," uttered one of the bandits. Kaiden pulled out his swords, staring angrily at the bandits.
"Well, you'll have to kill us first," replied Kaiden. "Elina, get ready!"
Elina pulled out her staff and began to cast spells at the bandits while Kaiden charged into battle. He first went for the archer, snapping his bow in half with a swift sword strike. The archer responded by kicking Kaiden to the ground, and landing a punch to the face. Meanwhile, Elina was hurling fireballs at the one with the daggers, though he attempted to stab her. She responded by blocking the blow with her staff, pushing him to the ground, and finished him off with a swift blast of electricity.
"One down," uttered Elina. Kaiden was continuing to fight with the remaining bandit, and eventually landed a blow to the chest.
"You fight well," uttered Kaiden. "Most mages I've seen are useless up close."
"Well, my staff is there for reasons besides channelling magic," replied Elina as she chuckled. "I can't just be defenseless up close."
As Kaiden sheathed his swords, he continued the journey north, towards the Spirits' Den. The road was beginning to get colder and more rugged, and mountains could be seen in the distance. Eventually, the two of them decided to rest for the day and set up camp.
"Once we've figured out what's going on with the visions, what's next?" asked Kaiden. "Will we just take the spirits' advice and split up?"
"I've heard stories about the wisdom of the magical spirits," replied Elina. "That they choose different worlds to get magic, while others don't. I've always admired them for the power they hold."
"I see," replied Kaiden. "I've always been more of a fighter and an adventurer than an intellectual."
"I can see that," replied Elina. "You handle those swords well."
"Oh, these?" replied Kaiden as he pulled out his weapons. "The village blacksmith made these for me. They have runes of the ancient kronn race on them, since they were known for making impressive weaponry."
"Yeah, the kronn race was known for that," replied Elina. "They were also known for their mastery of magic and the ruthless empire they built."
"I'm hoping to see some of their ruins on my journey," replied Kaiden. "I just like travelling in general."
Chapter 5: The Scout in the Mountains
Frostscar Mountain. The northernmost region of Ascerth. A land dominated by ice and snow, with freezing temperatures. Truly, this land is inhospitable.
"So the rul'kor live here?" asked Kaiden as he sat down resting. Elina simply nodded.
"They're the masters of frost magic in Ascerth," replied Elina. "Which is fitting for how damn cold it is here."
"Yeah, it's freezing," replied Kaiden. "Far too cold here."
"We should get going," replied Elina. "We've only got one last stretch to go."
As the two of them got back up, Kaiden looked around at his surroundings. He and Elina seemed to be in a small gorge, with nearby cliffs limiting vision. A constant blizzard impaired their movement as well as blocking their vision.
"You ever been outside of Xastil before?" asked Kaiden.
"Just neighboring towns," replied Elina. "Certainly not this far out."
As they continued to walk, Kaiden could hear footsteps among the constant sound of the cold winds blowing. Was someone following them?
"Zonog krexxar," uttered a voice. Kaiden and Elina began looking around the gorge for anyone, before witnessing two purple lights in the distance that were moving towards them at a rapid speed.
"Look out!" exclaimed Kaiden as he leapt forward, parrying the strike. Another one of those squid warriors was here, with his wrist-mounted swords out. He constantly struck Kaiden as Elina began casting spells.
"I need you to keep him occupied while I ready a paralysis spell," uttered Elina. "That way, we can interrogate him with a translation spell."
"Got it," replied Kaiden. As he continued to parry hits, he noticed that the warrior before him was ramping up his attack speed, constantly unleashing strikes from his wrist-mounted energy swords.
Then, out of nowhere, a hooded, armored individual charged at the squid warrior, hitting him in the back with an axe. He seemed to have brownish skin, and a large, muscular build.
"Yarnek zakil..." muttered the warrior as he kneeled on the ground, injured. At that point, Elina cast the paralysis spell, keeping the warrior pinned down. She then activated the translation spell.
"Let me get this straight," uttered the warrior in a translated voice. "You three managed to get a krexxon scout pinned down and paralyzed due to...magic?"
"Krexxon?" uttered Kaiden curiously.
"The name of my race, duh," replied the scout. "We've come to this world for military reasons."
"Military reasons?" asked Elina. "You're not saying that you're gonna be-"
"Conquering this planet and enslaving its races?" replied the scout. "Yep. But there's more to it than that."
"Can we kill him already?" asked the hooded individual.
"Guess we can," replied Kaiden. "We're not really detectives anyways. This is not what we came here to do."
Kaiden stabbed the krexxon scout in the chest with his twin swords, killing him. As he did that, the hooded individual took off his hood to reveal himself as a rul'kor, the main race native to these mountainous regions.
"You two fight well," uttered the rul'kor. "Name's Ukoras."
"I'm Kaiden, and this is Elina," replied Kaiden. "We came here because Elina had some visions concerning my village being attacked by the krexxon, and she wants to visit the Spirits' Den."
"I thought that place was just a myth," replied Ukoras. "But I'll come with you."
"You sure?" replied Elina. "What could you get out of this?"
"The krexxon are actually amassing a military force here in Frostscar," replied Ukoras. "My clan's been waging war against them for the last week."
"Good to know," replied Kaiden. "Seems as if that scout wasn't lying."
Chapter 6: Discovering the Cave
"I think it's here," uttered Kaiden as he stood on a ledge overlooking a large cave alongside Elina and Ukoras.
"I am sensing incredible magical energies from that cave," replied Elina. "Just look at its effects on the nearby environment."
True to her word, the land near the cave was incredibly strange. Pits of lava, strange-looking trees, chunks of ice, and large rock formations could be seen, with a thunderstorm raging in the area as well.
"Let's head inside," uttered Ukoras. "This has to be it."
The group rushed inside of the cave. Immediately, they saw incredible things inside. Ancient runes could be seen on the walls. The five elements of Ascerth could also be seen in primordial forms here, with pure fire, electricity, frost, earth, and natural energies in many locations. Eventually, the group arrived at a spring of water in the center of the cave, with stone pillars surrounding it. On the ceiling were hieroglyphs detailing some events.
"So we're here," uttered Kaiden. "Now what?"
"Maybe I have to use magic here to draw the attention of the spirits," replied Elina. She took hold of her staff, and began to channel magical energies.
"WHO DARES TO CALL UPON THE SPIRITS' ATTENTION?!?" exclaimed a voice as Kaiden, Elina, and Ukoras fell back in shock.
"Um, we did," replied Elina. "Visions told us to come here."
"Oh, right," replied the voice. "Lemme just get out of this pool of water."
A ghostlike entity rose from the water, with no prominent features other than two glowing white eyes. His body had a pink aura to it however.
"Name's Spiritar," replied the spirit. "I'm sort of the leader of Ascerth's magical spirits."
"Leader?" replied Ukoras.
"Yeah, we have a whole hierarchy," replied Spiritar. "I'm pretty much the head honcho, giving people orders and whatnot. But that's not what I'm here to talk about. You had some visions, correct?"
"I did," replied Elina. "One of them led to me finding Kaiden over here."
"Yeah, Elina said she saw me in a vision," replied Kaiden. "What's going on?"
"It's simple," replied Spiritar. "I assume you've run into the krexxon before, right?"
"Twice," replied Kaiden. "Though I think Ukoras here has seen them more than us."
"Well, they've come to Ascerth to conquer it," replied Spiritar. "The reason for it is something I can't tell you yet."
"Why not?" replied Kaiden. "We should know. We share the same planet after all."
"Hey, I don't ask you about all your secrets!" replied Spiritar. "Anyways, I sort of figured that I need some heroes to, y'know, help stop the krexxon."
"Heroes?" replied Kaiden. "Are you implying that-"
"Yes I am actually," replied Spiritar. "I want you three to act as three of those heroes."
"So there's more we need to find?" replied Ukoras.
"Yeah, there are," replied Spiritar. "I recommend that you three find members of the grovarn, sulkrik, and volant races to join you."
"So you sort of want a full team of Ascerth's major races then," replied Elina. "Seems reasonable."
"Alright, you guys seem like you can do the right thing for Ascerth," replied Spiritar. "If you need to contact me, just use a spell to contact the spirits. I should respond as quickly as possible."
"Okay then," replied Kaiden. "We'll head to the Everbark Forest first to find a grovarn to join us."
As the group exited the cave, they began to look at each other with curiosity.
"So we'll need a leader for sure," uttered Elina. "I'm more of someone who provides advice and isn't much of a fighter, so I'm not gonna lead."
"I've never wanted to enter a leading position," replied Ukoras. "Back in my village, I'd always cook what the hunters caught while also forging weaponry."
"I guess I'm the only one here who's had experience commanding people," replied Kaiden. "I guess I'll lead our little group."
"Yeah, you seem like the kind of guy who should lead our efforts," replied Elina. "Leadership seems to come naturally to you."
Chapter 7: The Zar'kesh
"So you're a blacksmith and a cook then?" asked Kaiden. The three of them were now travelling west to Everbark Forest, finding themselves near the ocean.
"Yeah, I cooked what my clan's hunters caught and made weapons for them," replied Ukoras. "Don't worry, I intend to cook for us on this journey."
"That'll be good," replied Elina. "The two of us have never went on long journeys like this before anyways."
"Well, as someone who's travelled throughout the mountains, I can say that it's interesting," replied Ukoras. "You meet a lot of different people and see a lot of different things."
As the group continued to walk, Kaiden began to think about the journey. He was excited to be adventuring for the first time, and knew that he had some great people with him. Though, him being the leader felt like a burden. Yet, Kaiden knew that he was the only one who had any experience in commanding others, as he was the second-in-command of Farhorn's guards before the village was destroyed. He knew that the situation called for his leadership.
"I'm sensing destructive magical energies here," uttered Elina. "Someone is-"
Elina's words were interrupted by three hooded individuals emerging, with one taking off his hood. He seemed to be a gringar, with a black tattoo resembling a skull over his face, and a large scar across his right eye. A staff with a purple flame could be seen in his right hand.
"Well well well," uttered the gringar. "Potential sacrifices."
"Oh, we're not going down so easily," replied Kaiden. The gringar then chuckled before producing a ball of green energy in his hand.
"You sound like someone who hasn't dealt with the Zar'kesh before," replied the gringar. "Someone who is all too weak to grasp the power of shadow magic."
The gringar tossed the ball of purple energy to the ground, causing an explosive effect that knocked the three of them back. Kaiden, after regaining his footing, looked to make sure that the others were alright. He then pulled out his two swords and lashed out at the Zar'kesh before him. While the leader produced a magical shield around himself, the other two seemed vulnerable, and Kaiden took advantage of the situation by striking one of them with both of his swords, dealing vicious damage. As Kaiden exchanged blows, Elina and Ukoras got up and attacked the other two, with Elina exchanging spells with their leader.
"You handle magic well," uttered the leader. "But you could be a great user of shadow magic."
"Not if I have anything to-" replied Elina, before she was interrupted by a choking spell. At this point, Kaiden and Ukoras had dealt with the other two, with Kaiden looking intently at the leader. He charged at him to break his hold over Elina, though the leader managed to teleport away.
"You can't escape from us," uttered the leader as he disappeared. As he did, Kaiden went to check on Elina, who was still coughing.
"You okay?" asked Kaiden. Elina nodded in response as she got up. Kaiden knew that she was injured, yet he felt something. A desire to protect the members of his group no matter what.
"Let's keep going," uttered Kaiden. "We've got a forest to visit."
Later that day, the three of them would set up camp for the night. Kaiden found himself sitting by the fire for a bit, thinking about what was next for the journey. He had heard stories of Everbark Forest's harsh terrain, with plants that want to kill you everywhere.
"Still up?" asked Elina as she walked over to Kaiden.
"Yep," replied Kaiden. "Just thinking about stuff."
"Thanks for saving my life earlier," uttered Elina. "I've never dealt with shadow magic before, so I was helpless there."
"No problem," replied Kaiden. "I just don't want to lose anyone to this journey. I've already lost most people I've known already."
"I can tell," replied Elina. "You seem like you're afraid of being hurt emotionally even more."
"Yeah, that's what I'm going through," replied Kaiden. "Do you understand?"
"I have more of a fear of failure than a fear of further loss," replied Elina. "As someone who constantly studied magic, I never gave up in studying specific spells. I was desperate not to fail."
"Well, I failed to save my village, and look at what happened," replied Kaiden. "You can learn things from failure."
"Anyways, you'll be glad to know that I don't want to lose you or Ukoras," replied Elina. "You two have been great allies, and I'm glad to be journeying with you."
Chapter 8: A Hunting Detour
Kaiden was cleaning his swords off as he sat down on a tree stump. The group was resting, and Kaiden was taking advantage for this opportunity, as his swords still reeked of the scent of gringar blood.
"So, I've heard that this area we're in has a lot of wild animals," uttered Ukoras. "Namely the aiprex."
"Aiprex?" replied Kaiden. "You mean those giant furred spiders?"
"Yep," replied Ukoras. "I've heard that their meat, when purified by magic, tastes delicious. I'm hoping to kill one and cook the meat, but the question is, will you two help?"
"I can purify the meat," replied Elina. "I studied that kind of stuff years ago."
"And I can help kill the thing," replied Kaiden. "Besides, I'm getting bored of using these weapons on gringar and bandits."
"Then it's settled," replied Ukoras. "Should we head out now?"
"Yeah, we should," replied Elina. The group then got up and exited their resting spot. The area they were in was located near Lake Kalnu, and was primarily a swamp, with marshy terrain and thick foliage. The aiprex could be seen roaming around. Their bodies were about the size of a bear, with spiked legs, brown fur, and red eyes. They primarily fed on unsuspecting travellers as well as residents of nearby villages, and unlike regular spiders, they were incapable of spinning webs to trap their prey.
"The trick is to look for the meatiest one," replied Ukoras. "Preferably one that's fat."
"Smart," replied Kaiden. "This way, it'll be slow as hell and unable to stop us."
"I see one over there," uttered Ukoras as he pointed to a nearby aiprex. It was partially submerged in water, as the species relied on jumping out of the marshy terrain to ambush their prey.
"I'll start this off by electrocuting the water," uttered Elina. As she threw a bolt of electricity into the water, the aiprex leapt out, injured. It then began rushing towards Elina, before Kaiden and Ukoras jumped in front.
"We'll handle it up close," uttered Ukoras. "Focus on keeping it in place!"
"I'll ready a paralysis spell!" exclaimed Elina. As she prepared the spell, Kaiden found himself clashing with the aiprex's legs, which were managing to hit him hard. Meanwhile, Ukoras was slashing the back half of its body with his axe, while it attempted to pound him with it.
"These things are tough!" exclaimed Kaiden.
"Well, they descended from spiders corrupted by shadow magic during the Shadow War," replied Ukoras. "The magic made them lose their webspinning abilities, but gave them increased size, heightened combat prowess, and stronger reflexes."
Kaiden hit the aiprex's chest with a swift sword strike, causing it to howl in pain. Lime green blood began to pour from its body.
"Now!" exclaimed Ukoras. Elina fired off the paralysis spell, causing the aiprex to lose much of its mobility. At that point, Kaiden jumped onto its back and decapitated it from the back, sending its head into the marshy water below.
"Nice swordsmanship," uttered Ukoras. "Now let's gut it."
As Ukoras began to cut open the aiprex and grab the meat inside, Kaiden cleaned off his swords again.
"This'll be a nice break," uttered Elina. "Never had aiprex before."
"Yeah, food in my village was domestically produced," replied Kaiden. "We kept livestock and farms, but they were destroyed in the attack. I did usually cook for myself when I had time though."
"I learned how to cook basic recipes," replied Elina. "Though I didn't dedicate my life to it. I did, however, learn how to use magic to amplify my recipes."
"Interesting," replied Kaiden. As they finished talking, Ukoras had all of the meat in the bag.
"Let's find a good spot to cook," uttered Ukoras. After some searching, the group settled on a small forest outcropping, and quickly built a fire.
"I'm gonna be making a stew with it by the way," uttered Ukoras. "Now Elina, could you do the honors?"
"Of course," replied Elina as she conducted the purification spell. The blood and dirt covering the meat began to disappear, and before long, it looked like something you'd buy from the market.
"I'll take it from here," replied Ukoras. "I brought some cooking supplies with me too."
As Ukoras began to cook the aiprex, Elina began to look through a magical tome.
"Studying teleportation?" asked Kaiden. "Heard that stuff is hard to master."
"Yeah, teleportation is notorious for being the hardest magical ability," replied Elina. "Mages who fail to study it enough can end up ripping their body apart, or teleport in the middle of nowhere. I've been studying this book for months so I can understand how to utilize it."
"Even if you don't master it, it's fine," replied Kaiden. "I like walking anyways. Teleportation only speeds it up."
"I guess you're right," replied Elina. "Plus, teleporting groups of people is even harder to comprehend than just teleporting yourself."
"Well, I think you can master it," replied Kaiden. "Just keep studying the tome, and you'll do it."
"Thanks," replied Elina as she smiled at Kaiden. Eventually, the two of them could smell the stew.
"It's finished," uttered Ukoras. He handed Kaiden and Elina bowls of the stew, with some spices and herbs added in for flavor. As the two of them digged in, Ukoras smiled.
"It's delicious," uttered Kaiden. "You weren't lying when you said you were a good cook."
"Where did you learn to cook?" asked Elina. "This is great!"
"I was taught by someone in my village," replied Ukoras. "Then, once he was done, I experimented with ingredients myself."
As the three of them ate the stew, Ukoras began to think about how he was pleased to see people enjoying his cooking.
Chapter 9: Arriving at the Forest
"We're here," uttered Kaiden. The three of them stood on a ledge overlooking the Everbark Forest. A dense fog covered the area, which was dominated by many, many trees, vines, thorns, and even carnivorous plants. Urban myths said that very few exited the forest alive.
"Let's head inside," uttered Elina. As they went down the road, Kaiden began to feel lots of plantlike matter on the ground. The earth seemed to feel alive here, and Kaiden was worried about doing something to piss off the grovarn, as he had heard stories of them being overprotective of nature. As the group walked further into the forest, voices could be heard.
"Really eerie environment," uttered Ukoras. "Never been in a place like this before."
As Ukoras finished his sentence, thick vines wrapped around the three of them, pinning them in place.
"Aah!" exclaimed Kaiden. The vines wrapped around their bodies, almost choking them.
"Trespassers!" exclaimed a voice. Kaiden, Elina, and Ukoras looked in front of them to see a grovarn walking up to them. Like all grovarn, its body resembled that of a humanoid tree. Leaves covered its barklike skin, and vines wrapped around its arms and legs.
"The Tree of Ages will decide your fate," uttered the grovarn. "You shouldn't have come here."
The vines began to pull the group deeper into the forest. They could see grovarn looking at them in contempt, though Kaiden spotted one who had a curious look on his face, as if he pitied them. The group eventually arrived at the center of the forest, where the vines let them go and forced them onto the ground. As they coughed and attempted to regain their breath, the grovarn began to crowd around them.
"So these are...the trespassers," uttered a voice. "...pretty neat for outsiders to be here."
Kaiden, Elina, and Ukoras expressed shock as they looked at the massive tree before them, identifying it as the Tree of Ages. It seemed to have a face engraved inside, as well as a massive log sticking out of its "mouth".
"We found them attempting to enter the forest," uttered a grovarn. "They-"
"Hey, don't be a...party pooper..." replied the Tree of Ages. "Let's hear what these guys have to say to...defend themselves, y'know."
"We came here with orders from the magical spirits," uttered Kaiden. "They want us to rally a team of Ascerth's races to fight the beings that-"
Kaiden was interrupted by the Tree of Ages laughing hysterically.
"Something funny?" asked Elina. The grovarn in the area quickly gave her cold looks.
"I was...I was just thinking of some stupid bird I saw earlier," replied the Tree of Ages. He then looked at the grovarn in the area who were giving Elina dirty looks. "Come on guys, don't...don't give her that look."
"As Kaiden was saying, we want to fight the beings coming from those ships in the sky," replied Ukoras.
"Oh yeah, those jerks," replied the Tree of Ages. "Screw them. Haven't seen 'em much, but my dudes here say they've been causing some bad times for people here."
"So you want to help us?" asked Kaiden.
"Since I'm feeling lazy today, I'm gonna have to pass," replied the Tree of Ages. "We're...we're not the kind of guys that kill people, y'know? We just...we just chill here with the plants and stuff. You dig?"
"This is stupid!" exclaimed Elina. "Also, why is there a pile of marijuana next to your roots?" At that point, the Tree of Ages gave Elina a dirty look.
"HEY!" exclaimed the Tree of Ages. "That's...that's enough questions. Now get the hell out of here."
Before long, Kaiden, Elina, and Ukoras were kicked out of the forest, landing on the nearby ground.
"You just had to ask about the marijuana," uttered Ukoras. Elina gave Ukoras an angry look, clenching her fist.
"In her defense, we were gonna get kicked out anyways," replied Kaiden. "But we need to figure out what's next for us."
"We could always come back here after getting sulkrik and volant allies," uttered Elina. "Then they'd know we weren't joking."
"That won't be necessary," uttered a voice. Kaiden, Elina, and Ukoras looked behind them to see a grovarn standing before them.
"You three didn't deserve to be kicked out by the Tree of Ages," uttered the grovarn. "He can go nuts sometimes, especially when he's consuming marijuana. It has really weird effects on him."
"Told you," replied Elina with a smirk on her face.
"Anyways, my name's Jogot," uttered the grovarn. "I'd like to join your group."
"Sure," replied Kaiden. "But why? The rest of your race doesn't exactly treat outsiders nicely."
"Well, I see potential in your cause," replied Jogot. "For one, the people from the ships are near here."
Chapter 10: The Trespassers
"That's them there," uttered Jogot. The four of them were standing on a ledge overlooking a small camp, where two krexxon scientists were analyzing pieces of tree bark from the nearby forest.
"Looks like they're studying the magical properties of the tree bark in the forest," replied Elina. "Do you think they're trying to comprehend magic?"
"Possibly," replied Kaiden. "But how should we head down there?"
"I say we attack stealthily," uttered Ukoras. "They won't see us coming."
"Well, a full-on assault would work too," replied Kaiden. "Any other ideas?"
"I can use my magic to draw them out of the camp," uttered Elina. "Then we can attack them from the high ground."
Elina readied a fireball before tossing it at the camp. The small explosion it called drew the attention of the krexxon scientists, who stared angrily at the group.
"Now's our chance!" exclaimed Kaiden. He dashed at the scientists, pinning one of them to the ground. Ukoras followed suit, slashing the other scientist with his axe. Meanwhile, Elina kept bombarding them with spells from the high ground alongside Jogot, who was pulling immense roots out of the ground to attack. Kaiden was fascinated by the fact that these scientists were still armed with their traditional wrist-mounted blades, and kept exchanging blows. Yet, the scientist unleashed a devastating uppercut attack that created a large cut in Kaiden's chest. He fell back onto the ground, injured. At that point, Elina clenched her fist before sending a massive bolt of electricity at the scientist, killing him on the spot, as if impulse overtook her.
"Was that just me repaying him for saving me from the Zar'kesh?" Elina asked herself. "Or is it just friendship?"
As Kaiden kneeled down on the ground in pain, Ukoras finished off the last scientist. Afterwards, Elina, Ukoras, and Jogot rushed towards Kaiden, with Elina expressing a face of concern.
"You okay?" asked Elina. "Nasty wound there."
"Yeah, I'm fine," replied Kaiden. "I'll just need some time to recover."
"No need," replied Jogot. He began casting a spell that healed the wound on Kaiden's chest, though the armor remained damaged.
"So you're a healer too," uttered Kaiden. "Interesting."
"Let's take the bodies to the Tree of Ages," uttered Jogot. "This way, we can prove that we're telling the truth."
The group reentered the forest, with the other grovarn looking at Jogot in curiosity. Eventually, they threw the krexxon bodies in front of the tree.
"You guys...you guys did this?" asked the Tree of Ages. "Pretty badass if I say so myself."
"These two were analyzing pieces of bark from this forest," uttered Jogot. "Which tells me that they've hurt the trees here."
The grovarn expressed sounds of shock, while the Tree of Ages simply looked at them in respect.
"Looks like you guys weren't...weren't joking," uttered the Tree of Ages. "I'll be making sure our forests remain...remain defended. Jogot, go help these dudes. They've...they've done enough here."
"Yes sir," replied Jogot as he led the group out of the forest. They then prepared to set up camp for the night.
"Drysun Desert is next," uttered Kaiden. "The sulkrik live there."
"Those lizard bandits?" replied Ukoras. Kaiden nodded in response.
"It'll be a longer journey," replied Kaiden. "But we'll make it there."
As the group began to rest, Kaiden found himself up late again, looking through his bag. Before the grovarn took the bodies of the krexxon, he managed to take some of their belongings, such as their weapons.
"Looking through their stuff?" asked Elina.
"Yeah, they carry some interesting things," replied Kaiden. "I don't even know what most of this is."
"Anyways, it's great that we have a healer in our group now," uttered Elina. "I was worried when you took that hit."
"Speaking of which, thanks for killing him after that happened," replied Kaiden. "Repayment for me saving you from the Zar'kesh?"
"I guess," replied Elina in a humorous voice. "Though I think it was motivated by not wanting the group to fall apart."
"Huh," replied Kaiden. "I guess I can call you a friend then."
Elina smiled slightly.
"You wanna know something?" asked Kaiden.
"Sure," replied Elina.
"I'm glad I met you that day in Xastil," replied Kaiden. "Not only did it lead to this journey, but it also led to me finding someone I respect."
Elina blushed slightly, but Kaiden didn't notice. It was clear that the two of them respected each other.
Chapter 11: The Dragon's Nest
Elina woke up to find herself on a fallen log next to Kaiden. While blushing briefly, she got up and decided to read through the tome on teleportation she brought. Yet, she looked to see Kaiden still sleeping, and looked at him sleep briefly. She was talking to him the night before, and knew that she felt something for him. Was it friendship? Admiration? She couldn't tell.
"You're up early," uttered Jogot as he walked over to Elina. "Studying teleportation?"
"Yep," replied Elina. "It's really difficult to master though."
"So I've heard," replied Jogot. "Also, I've been feeling something peck at my head all morning."
Elina looked at Jogot's head to see a bird sitting on his treelike head, pecking at the leaves.
"Oh, there's a bird on your head," replied Elina. "Want me to deal with it?"
"No thanks," replied Jogot. "In grovarn culture, it's okay for animals to live on our bodies. It's part of nature."
"Ah," replied Elina. Eventually, Kaiden and Ukoras woke up, and walked over to Elina and Jogot.
"Morning," uttered Elina with a smile on her face. "Sleep well?"
"Yeah, I got a nice rest," replied Kaiden. "We should get going soon."
"Wait, I better hand out some breakfast," replied Ukoras. He began handing Kaiden, Elina, and Jogot some bags of food. However, Jogot shook his head.
"I'm fine," replied Jogot. "I can make my own food with photosynthesis."
"Alright then," replied Ukoras. As the group began to walk along the road, Kaiden looked around at his surroundings. The area they were in resembled a desert, but had a lot more rock than sand, and more water than a usual desert.
"Quite rough here," uttered Ukoras. As the group continued to walk, they heard a roar coming from a nearby cave.
"Something's here," uttered Jogot. "Something massive."
As Jogot finished his sentence, the ground began to tremble as a massive dragon flew out of a nearby cave. It let out a massive roar before smashing into the ground before the group.
"Please tell me he's not here to kill us," uttered Kaiden. Elina simply nodded as the dragon produced a storm of dust from its wings, hitting the group hard. Its body resembled that of tough rock from deep underground, and gems could be seen on its chest.
"I'll keep it in place with some roots!" exclaimed Jogot as he cast an entanglement spell. The dragon, though entangled, began slashing its claws all over the place.
"We'll handle it up close!" exclaimed Kaiden as he brought out his swords. Ukoras did the same with his axe as he charged at the dragon alongside Kaiden. While Kaiden focused on attacking the dragon's gemlike underside, Ukoras went for the legs.
"Its skin is too tough to be broken by metal weapons!" exclaimed Elina as she fired a blast of fire at the dragon's belly. The crystals began to melt, revealing some flesh underneath. Kaiden nodded at Elina before cutting at the flesh. The dragon, howling in pain, began stomping its feet on the ground, eventually breaking the roots. It then hurled rocks into the air before flying off. Several of these rocks began heading towards Elina and Jogot, who had remained out of the dragon's range.
"Look out!" exclaimed Kaiden as he pushed the two of them out of the way. As the rocks hit the ground, Kaiden found himself on top of Elina, with the two of them blushing. Strangely, nobody noticed except them.
"Thanks," uttered Elina. "Those rocks would've got us for sure."
"Yeah, my body couldn't handle the weight of those rocks," replied Jogot. "Anyways, the desert's just south of here."
As the group continued walking, Kaiden began to think to himself about what happened earlier. When he fell on top of Elina, he felt something. He felt as if she was important to him. As if he...liked her.
"You seem deep in thought," uttered Ukoras. "Something up?"
"Just thinking about stuff," replied Kaiden. "So Jogot, we didn't ask about your past."
"I was just one of many grovarn grown to combat the Zar'kesh in the Shadow War," uttered Jogot. "Ever since then, I've been studying healing magic and watching nature's balance here in Ascerth."
"Well, I'm the lone survivor of the krexxon attack on Farhorn Village, and a former guardsman there," uttered Kaiden. "Elina's a mage who's studied magic her whole life, and Ukoras is a blacksmith and cook whose clan is currently bogged down in a war against the krexxon."
"Interesting," replied Jogot. "Before I met you three, I had always been skeptical of outsiders. But the appearance of the krexxon caught my curiosity, and you three are my key to stopping whatever's going on."
Chapter 12: Unbearable Heat
"It's so hot here," uttered Kaiden. The group had reached Drysun Desert, which was known for having scorching hot temperatures. The ground was sandy, with orange rock lining the landscape. Very little vegetation and water could be seen in the area, along with hilly terrain and a village in the distance.
"Once we reach the village, we can grab some supplies," uttered Elina. "Jogot, you doing okay? I know the sunlight can burn at your barky skin."
"It's fine," replied Jogot. "At least I've got this bird on my head for company."
On Jogot's head, the bird had built a small nest, and was looking around at the area.
"When's he gonna realize that you're not a tree?" asked Ukoras.
"Soon," replied Jogot. As the group kept walking, they saw ancient kronn ruins half-buried in the sand. Elina knew that they used these temples to channel magical energies before the collapse of their empire.
"So, we're gonna be at the village soon," uttered Kaiden. "Then we can focus on finding a sulkrik ally."
"Yeah, I really need to rest," replied Elina. "Though I'm also looking to grab a drink."
"You're not alone on that," replied Kaiden. "I'm super thirsty. Maybe we can grab one together."
"Sure," replied Elina. "Anyone else want to grab a drink when we hit the town?"
"I'm good," replied Ukoras. "I'll stick with Jogot and see if we can find someone to help us."
"Sounds good," replied Kaiden. The group eventually entered the town, with Ukoras and Jogot splitting up from the group to find a sulkrik ally while Kaiden and Elina entered a nearby tavern. In reality, they were both happy to be spending some time with each other due to the bond they forged. The tavern they were in was run by a human and a sulkrik. The sulkrik race were like humanoid salamanders, with skin resembling sand and pure black eyes.
The tavern seemed seedy, but looked like a place where you could hear some good stories. As the two of them grabbed their drinks, they sat down on the second floor of the tavern. They both got glasses of water due to the desert heat requiring it instead of alcohol.
"I'm super thirsty," uttered Kaiden as he drank his glass of water. Elina looked at him fondly as she drank hers, knowing that she felt something for him. A desire to keep him safe.
"We've gotten into a lot of fights lately," uttered Elina. "And somehow, we keep saving each other's lives."
"Heh, that's true," replied Kaiden. "But I've been worried about losing more group members lately, especially you."
"Why me specifically?" replied Elina.
"Well, I think we have a bond that isn't shared with anyone else," replied Kaiden. "And I...I care about you."
"Yeah, I care about you too," replied Elina. "We were the first two in the group after all."
"We were, yeah," replied Kaiden. "But we've experienced a lot on this journey together."
"I think we should get going now," uttered Elina. "I'm all hydrated now."
As the two of them walked out of the tavern, Ukoras and Jogot approached them.
"Apparently there's a krexxon camp near here," uttered Ukoras. "Seems as if they're in the desert for some reason."
"We should try interrogating one of them," replied Kaiden. "But we should also try and see if there's any sulkrik mercenaries here. They are known for being motivated by payment after all."
Chapter 13: Encounter in the Desert
"Camp's over there," uttered Ukoras. "The desert heat is so much different from the mountains."
The group was making their way through the desert, towards the krexxon camp. As Kaiden, Elina, and Ukoras continued to sweat intensely, Jogot was scouting around.
"So, I'm eager to fight these guys again," uttered Jogot. "They're defiling nature, and I don't like it."
"Yeah, we'll defeat them easily," replied Kaiden. "After all, they're not sending out any of their major ground troops."
Suddenly, the ground began to shake as a massive robotic scorpion emerged from the ground, with two krexxon soldiers nearby. They got into the scorpion, and charged at the group.
"What the hell is that?!?!" exclaimed Kaiden.
"Their technology is quite powerful," replied Elina. "Let's take this thing on!"
Kaiden opened with a sword strike to the cockpit of the scorpion, before being pushed off of it and onto the ground. Meanwhile, Jogot attempted to root the machine in place, but it would cut at the roots using its pincers, which were designed similarily to the wrist-mounted weapons of krexxon footsoldiers. Ukoras and Elina also bombarded the scorpion with their attacks, though its tough armor resisted most damage.
"Ygzol zokur raeger!" exclaimed one of the krexxon pilots as a massive cannon emerged from the scorpion's body. It began firing massive blasts of energy at the nearby canyonside, causing dust and rubble to emerge. While Elina put up a magical shield to defend herself, the others weren't so lucky.
"We can still do this," uttered Ukoras. "I've noticed a weak spot on the thing: the bottom of the scorpion seems to have an engine of sorts that we can destroy."
Kaiden nodded before sliding underneath the scorpion and spotting the engine. It seemed to be like a ball of energy, spinning constantly. However, the pilots were cunning enough to pull Kaiden away from it, throwing him into the nearby wall. Elina's heart began to race out of fear as she dashed towards Kaiden's body. He was bleeding slightly, but quickly got back up.
"Don't worry about me," uttered Kaiden. "We need to keep fighting."
Elina nodded before readying a massive fireball, which began to burn the scorpion's legs. In retaliation, it rushed towards the group relentlessly, causing tremors in the ground. However, a shadowy figure jumped off a nearby ledge, ducking underneath the scorpion and slashing at the engine with their two daggers. It began to explode uncontrollably, before falling to the ground. The two pilots inside were dead.
"Well, looks like we're saved," uttered Elina. The shadowy figure then approached the group, and took off their hood. She was a sulkrik, with orangish skin and a scar across her right eye.
"Name's Orthesu," uttered the sulkrik. "I saved your lives, so now you owe me something in return."
"Well, why did you save us in the first place?" replied Jogot.
"I wanted to salvage the technology within the machine," replied Orthesu. "So I could sell it."
"Then we'll strike a deal with you," replied Kaiden. "You get access to any krexxon technology we salvage if you join our little group. You see, we want to stop the krexxon invasion in whatever way possible."
"Interesting deal," replied Orthesu. "I accept."
The group then entered the abandoned krexxon camp, discovering that they were attempting research into magical energies. Their technology also existed within the camp, including some sort of communications device. Kaiden shut it off, and proceeded to take what was in the camp.
"Next up is Mt. Necrosis," uttered Kaiden. "Once we're there, we can recruit a volant to join our cause, then check in with Spiritar."
"This journey should prove to be profitable," replied Orthesu.
Chapter 14: The Entity Beyond
"Mt. Necrosis is this way," uttered Jogot. In the distance, the volcano could be seen spewing out magma, blackening the nearby sky. It was infamous for erupting incredibly frequently, due to magical energies being located at the heart of the mountain.
"So, this phase of the journey will be rough," uttered Kaiden. "Dangerous terrain, and blistering temperatures."
"Yeah, it'll be vicious," replied Elina. She looked at Kaiden quite fondly, but didn't say anything. It seemed as if she had some feelings, but was keeping them repressed. The group seemed to be walking through the plains in central Ascerth, though this area was near the Stormtorn Sea. Small port towns could be seen, along with ships sailing off into the ocean. Yet, nobody was sure if there were other continents on the planet, though islands did exist within the ocean.
"The krexxon seem to be quiet lately," uttered Ukoras. "Think they're preparing for something?"
"Maybe," replied Orthesu. Within the sky, the krexxon ships continued to fly above the planet. Though energy was being released into the skies, they seemed to not be doing much. The group eventually stumbled upon five gringar conducting a ritual of sorts, with one of them seeming to be familiar.
"Are those the Zar'kesh?" whispered Kaiden. "What are they doing here?"
"Probably conducting some ritual," replied Elina. However, the Zar'kesh leader turned towards them, alongside his disciples.
"Well well well," uttered the leader. "This little pack of runts has decided to show themselves."
"What the hell are you up to?!?" exclaimed Orthesu.
"Simple," replied the Zar'kesh leader. "We seek to contact the master."
"The master?" replied Ukoras.
"An ancient entity not of this world, and what you would call a "demon"," replied the leader. "If we bring him to this world, then the invaders can be cleansed from the planet and the shadow can claim it."
"Shadow magic is disgusting," uttered Elina as she prepared a fireball. "Let's see if you can handle regular magic."
Elina tossed the fireball at the Zar'kesh, disrupting the ritual. The gringar immediately brought out their magic and began to attack the group.
"Prophet, we'll take them," uttered a Zar'kesh magi. "Just return to base safely."
The prophet teleported away, leaving the group to fight the Zar'kesh. It was a relentless battle, but eventually, Elina began to blast one of the gringar with a surge of electricity while he unleashed green flames. The energies would churn and combine before unleashing a terrifying explosion, which began to horribly mutate the gringar.
"The shadow energies in their blood must be combining with the explosion's energies to mutate them," uttered Jogot. "They'll be mindless beasts soon."
The gringar eventually revealed themselves as deformed, sickly creatures, with exposed bone, enlargened teeth, and a much larger size. Kaiden began to strike one, but he seemed to be incredibly bulky. The two sides would clash for some time, with neither of them gaining any ground. Yet, the gringar would begin to relentlessly charge at Elina at one point, sensing the magical power she possessed. Kaiden, out of fear, panicked and sliced at their backs, killing them all instantly. He then began to breathe heavily before collapsing onto the ground due to the panic attack.
"Kaiden!!" exclaimed Elina as she rushed over to his body. He had fainted, and was covered in the lime green blood of the gringar. The others also looked at him with faces of concern.
Chapter 15: Closer and Closer
Kaiden woke up to find himself in a bed within some room, with Elina sitting on the bed next to him. He felt extremely tired, but was visibly awake.
"You're awake!!" exclaimed Elina as she tightly hugged Kaiden, out of fear. He could feel her heart beating rapidly, but returned the hug. The two of them were also blushing, albeit neither of them noticed. "I was so worried."
"So I just collapsed after saving you?" asked Kaiden.
"Yeah, you did," replied Elina. "Question is, what knocked you out?"
"My guess is that it was a panic attack," replied Kaiden. In reality, he was incredibly nervous talking to Elina, as in reality, he saved her due to him having developed a crush on her. He couldn't deny it anymore.
"Panic attack?" replied Elina. "That explains why you rushed after the gringar so quickly."
"Yeah, it does," replied Kaiden. He then began to tear up slightly as he stared down at the bed.
"Hey, what's wrong?" asked Elina as she put her hand over Kaiden's. It was warm, and Kaiden felt more relaxed by feeling it. Elina, too, had feelings for Kaiden
"I guess the truth is that I don't want to lose you the way I lost everyone in my village," uttered Kaiden. "And I care a lot about that I guess."
"Kaiden, that's great," replied Elina. "And to be honest, I'm glad to be alongside you as well."
"Let's make a promise," uttered Kaiden. "When this is all over, we'll still be friends. Besides, I'll probably find a place to live in Xastil anyways."
"Of course," replied Elina. The two of them, smiling, hugged each other in friendship, though they knew they were getting closer to each other.
"So where are the others?" asked Kaiden as he ended the hug.
"They're downstairs," replied Elina. "Ukoras insisted on getting into a drinking contest with a volant here despite Orthesu and Jogot saying otherwise."
Kaiden chuckled a bit, before getting off the bed.
"Well, I have an idea," replied Kaiden. "Let's spend the rest of the day here. Just five friends having fun."
"I'd like that," replied Elina. The two of them went downstairs to the inn's bar, where Ukoras and the volant before him were taking shots as a large crowd watched. The volant were a bird-like race, with wing-like arms and large beaks.
"That's ten!" exclaimed Ukoras as he burst into laughter. He was clearly drunk, and so was his opponent.
"Let's just...let's just keep going," replied the volant in a slurred voice. "We've got all night man."
As the two of them kept drinking, Kaiden and Elina walked over to Jogot and Orthesu, who were sitting in a nearby booth.
"Who's paying for his drinks?" asked Kaiden.
"Apparently Ukoras has quite a bit of cash," replied Orthesu. "He made it from selling some stuff he cooked to the people here, and insisted on paying for drinks."
"That's good," replied Elina. "Anyways, let's have some fun."
Over the course of the night, Kaiden and the rest of the group would get drinks for the rest of the night, talking with each other and joking around. It was a nice break from the intense journey around Ascerth, and a way of unwinding. Yet, for Kaiden and Elina, they knew they were closer than ever.
Chapter 16: The Volcanic Approach
The road to Mt. Necrosis was extremely rough. The bones of fallen dragons scarred the barren wastelands. Caves dotted the landscape. The land itself was blackened, and very little vegetation grew here. Yet unlike the southern deserts, it wasn't hot. Just barren.
"Just keep going," uttered Kaiden. "We're nearing the volcano."
True to his word, Mt. Necrosis could be seen in the distance, though the view here was far more impressive. The lava could be seen scarring the landscape, with darkened clouds surrounding the volcano. It was like looking into a furnace.
"Think we'll encounter anything on the way?" asked Ukoras.
"The area near Mt. Necrosis is notorious for its native dragons," replied Elina. "The beasts visit this land for hunting, and often scare away adventurers."
"So anyways, you guys got your own reasons for doing this?" asked Orthesu. "I can tell that my mercenary-esque mindset isn't something you guys have."
"I don't want to let the invaders defile this land further," replied Jogot. "They've been conducting industrial operations in the plains from what I've heard."
"I want to push them out of this world," replied Ukoras. "After all, they're not from here. They deserve to die."
"I'm just looking to ensure that Ascerth sees peace once again," replied Kaiden. "And to ensure that the ones I've grown close to don't die like my village did."
Elina blushed slightly. Although she was near the back of the pack, she could hear everything. She wanted to tell Kaiden how she felt, but wasn't sure when.
"We didn't hear yours," replied Ukoras. "Why are you with us?"
"Um..." replied Elina. "I guess I was here first due to the visions I was having before, but now I'm not sure. Maybe it's because I feel like putting my magic to use?"
In reality, Elina had stayed with the group due to Kaiden. Although she had initially not cared for him, the journey made her want to remain with him. As the group walked through the wasteland, Mt. Necrosis suddenly let out a massive eruption, sending fire boulders to the group's location.
"Everyone, get into the cave!" exclaimed Kaiden. As the group rushed into the nearby cave, the fire boulders let out explosions of lava, before revealing entities made from the lava. Their bodies were abhorrently shaped, and they mostly crawled along the ground.
"What the hell are those?" asked Orthesu.
"They seem like magical spirits," replied Elina. "But they look like they've been tortured."
"Then we'll put them out of their misery," replied Kaiden as he rushed towards them. Despite being made out of magma, Kaiden's swords could still cut through their bodies. The one he went after barely put up a fight, and seemed eager to die.
"Purple ones...not to be trusted..." uttered the spirit as he died.
"Think they're talking about the krexxon?" asked Ukoras.
"Maybe," replied Jogot. "They seem like they'd torture magical spirits."
Kaiden nodded before continuing to slash through the tortured spirits alongside the others, before they were all dead. The group then continued to walk over to the volcano, eventually setting up camp in another cave. During this time, Kaiden would be polishing his swords before he went to bed.
"Seems like the danger's ramping up," uttered Elina. "Let's just hope we survive."
"I know we will," replied Kaiden. "After all, we survived the encounter with that dragon."
"True," replied Elina. "You know, I really want to make sure we both live."
"As do I," replied Kaiden. "I feel as if we have some sort of connection."
"I've sort of been thinking about that too," replied Elina. "But let's not give up on this journey. We can do it."
Kaiden smirked. Elina seemed more optimistic than usual.
Chapter 17: The Archer's Tragedy
The group had finally arrived at Mt. Necrosis. Volcanic ash would constantly rain down on the ground, and pools of lava dotted the landscape.
"So, where do the volant live?" asked Orthesu. "This place isn't exactly hospitable."
"They live in a city built into the side of the volcano," replied Ukoras. "At least that's what I've heard."
"Then let's head there," replied Elina. Unlike the wastelands leading up to the volcano, the ground itself was scorching hot. Vegetation didn't exist here due to the temperature, and the skies were shrouded with black clouds.
"This hell better be worth visiting," uttered Kaiden. As the group followed the road, the volcano continued to leak out lava, scarring the nearby landscape. Eventually, the group arrived at the entrance to the volant city of Mag'uran, which, true to Ukoras's word, was built into the side of Mt. Necrosis. Two volant guards were stationed outside.
"Welcome to Mag'uran," uttered a guard. "Today's guard patrol is sponsored by Mt. Necrosis Bed & Breakfast. Trust Mt. Necrosis B&B for the finest hospitality."
The group shrugged as they walked into the city. It was bustling with activity, with merchants all over.
"Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the volant are a race of merchants," replied Ukoras. "They like to buy and sell goods here."
"Then we'll recruit one the way any businessman would," replied Jogot. "By posting an advertisement."
"What do we have to offer though?" replied Orthesu. "We don't have much money."
"Cash isn't an issue," replied a voice. "I've been looking to leave this hellhole anyways."
The group turned around to see a volant in a back alley of the city, motioning for them to come to him.
"So I hear you're looking for someone for a task of sorts," uttered the volant. "What can I do for you?"
"You've been following the news about those extraterrestrials, right?" asked Kaiden.
"Have I?" replied the volant. "I've been hunting them for weeks. Why do you ask?"
"We're on a...crusade of sorts to push them out of this world," replied Elina. "They're called krexxon."
"Weird name," replied the volant. "Anyways, name's Grik. I'm just a mercenary for hire, and I don't share my race's view on profit coming first."
"Strange," replied Orthesu. "I'm more of a sulkrik that seeks profit."
"Guess we'll be butting heads then, " replied Grik in a joking voice. "Anyways, I'd be glad to join you guys. I've been looking to get out of this place for a while. You see...I have a score to settle with the krexxon."
"Interesting," replied Ukoras. "Care to tell us?"
"My wife used to join me in my little skirmishes with them," uttered Grik. "But she was at the unfortunate end of one of their shockblades. I swore to avenge her that day."
Kaiden's heart suddenly began to beat intensely. Could the same thing happen to Elina? He didn't know.
"Anyways, we should find a place to stay for the night," replied Jogot. "Then we can contact Spiritar in the morning. He's the magical spirit who sort of set us on this journey."
Later that night, the group was resting. Kaiden couldn't sleep for some reason, and went out onto the porch of the room the group was sharing. He was growing increasingly concerned for Elina's safety, and the story Grik told him only amplified it. Was it because he liked her? Kaiden wasn't sure.
"Something bothering you?" asked Grik. "It's been a while since I've slept in a nice bed, so I'm awake too."
"Just thinking about stuff," replied Kaiden. "About the safety of the group."
"I remember using that same excuse after my wife died," replied Grik. "I know the tricks."
Kaiden blushed, before putting his hands up sarcastically. "Alright, you got me."
"I knew it," replied Grik. "My advice is to just tell her how you feel."
"I'm scared of rejection though," replied Kaiden. "And what if she suffers the same fate your wife did?"
"My wife's death only pushed me to keep fighting," replied Grik. "And if the one you're referring to dies, then it'll only strengthen your resolve."
"I guess you're right," replied Kaiden. "I'll tell Elina how I feel when I've mustered the courage."
"That's the spirit," replied Grik. "Anyways, let's get to sleep."
As Kaiden and Grik got back into their beds, Elina began to blush intensely. She had heard the whole conversation, as she was also unable to sleep. Yet, she was also worried about Kaiden dying. Would it weaken her? Would it make her stronger? She'd know the answer by the morning.
Chapter 18: Countdown to Destruction
"Spiritar, do you hear our call?" asked Elina. She was conducting a magical ritual to contact Spiritar, with Kaiden, Ukoras, Jogot, Orthesu, and Grik observing. They stood outside Mag'uran.
"So this Spiritar guy asked you to bring the different races of Ascerth together?" asked Grik.
"Yeah, he did," replied Kaiden. "I'm still not sure why he wanted the presence of two humans though."
As the group watched the ritual, Spiritar seemed to appear before them, while not being there simultaneously.
"I see you actually pulled it off," uttered Spiritar. "I'm impressed."
"Well, it's been a rough ride," replied Ukoras. "Lots of different opponents to face."
"I'd love to hear those stories later," uttered Spiritar. "But for now, I'd like to inform you about the krexxon camp in Mt. Necrosis."
"IN Mt. Necrosis?!?!" exclaimed Orthesu. "Inside the volcano?"
"Apparently, yes," replied Spiritar. "I suggest you check it out."
As Spiritar seemed to vanish, the group got back up and prepared to walk on over to the encampment. As they walked, Kaiden began to think about his conversation with Grik the night before regarding his feelings for Elina. As he looked at her fondly, his heart began to beat rapidly. Love was beginning to overwhelm him.
"What are they doing?" whispered Jogot. The group was hiding behind a rock as they looked at the krexxon camp. It was more of a fortified base than a camp, with a massive device of sorts dipped inside the magma of the volcano, and krexxon laborers were setting up other technological implementations.
"They seem like they're setting up a base here," replied Elina. "And doing something with the volcano."
As the device inside the magma activated, the magma began to churn incredibly quickly. At that point, Grik took out his bow and aimed it at a lone krexxon warrior.
"Let's distract them," replied Grik. He fired an arrow at one of the krexxon scientists, landing a headshot and sending his body into the water. At that point, the krexxon turned their gaze to where the arrow came from.
"Shit," uttered Kaiden. As he pulled out his swords, the krexxon soldiers charged at the group. Intense fighting occured, but before long, countless krexxon soldiers lay dead. However, one of the scientists near the back of the base activated one of their machines. It appeared to be like a portal or some sort of teleportation device, as countless krexxon soldiers came marching out of it.
"We're outnumbered," uttered Orthesu. The group began to flee from the base, but as they fled, five krexxon soldiers also fled from the scene.
"That was close," uttered Elina. "You think they're doing something there?"
"Probably," replied Ukoras. As he finished talking, Mt. Necrosis let out a massive explosion of what appeared to be purple lava. It rained down on Mag'uran as countless volant flew out of the city, and dark clouds began to form above the volcanic wasteland. Krexxon ships also moved into place above the volcano.
"Oh no," uttered Grik. "They're setting up their base of operations here."
"I can't believe they did it," uttered a voice. The group turned around to find the five krexxon soldiers nearby.
"How are you managing to talk with us?" uttered Jogot.
"Translation device," replied one of the krexxon. "I took it with me before we deserted."
"So you don't want to fight alongside the rest of your race then?" asked Kaiden. "Why not?"
"All the violence I've seen in my years of service has left me scarred," replied the krexxon. "Me and my allies here are looking to end this invasion and ensure that another world doesn't fall."
"Interesting," replied Orthesu. "We could use allies right now."
"We're looking to set up a base of sorts at some point," replied the krexxon. "Name's Valnar."
Late that night, Kaiden sat by the fire at the camp while the rest of the group slept, thinking about the future of his journey. Things were getting violent now, and he also had to deal with his feelings for Elina.
"Still up late as usual?" asked Elina. She had been reading her book on teleportation before she noticed Kaiden, but decided to talk to him instead. She was also having thoughts about him.
"Yeah, I am," replied Kaiden. "Just thinking about the rest of this journey."
"Makes sense," replied Elina. Her heart was beating rapidly, and she didn't know what would happen next.
"Hey, I need to tell you something," uttered Kaiden. "It's pretty important too."
"Sure," replied Elina. "What's up?"
"I've sort of been thinking about stuff over these last few days," uttered Kaiden. "And I think it's about time I told you the truth."
"What might that be?" replied Elina. Now she was incredibly nervous, as she had thoughts about what Kaiden might say next.
"I, uh.." muttered Kaiden. He was incredibly nervous. "I...like you. A lot."
Elina suddenly blushed immensely, and smiled at Kaiden.
"Yeah, I've thought the same," replied Elina. "Looks like being together has caused us to...fall in love..."
Kaiden and Elina embraced, hugging each other tightly. Both of them seemed incredibly happy, and would never want to let go of this feeling in the midst of everything that was happening around them.
Chapter 19: The Invasion Begins
Kaiden woke up to find himself in Elina's arms. It seemed as if they had fallen asleep together. Blushing, he continued to embrace her. Last night had been one of the greatest moments in his life, and he didn't want to lose that feeling of being with someone he loved.
"Hey Elina," whispered Kaiden. "You awake?"
Elina opened her eyes slightly to see Kaiden holding onto her. Blushing, she smiled at him.
"Last night was great," replied Elina. "Now let's head on this journey together."
"Wait," replied Kaiden. "How should we tell the others?"
"Oh, we already know," uttered Ukoras. He and the others were already awake, and both Kaiden and Elina didn't see them.
"It was adorable watching you two try to deal with your love for each other," replied Orthesu.
The group stood before the camp set up by the volant refugees from Mt. Necrosis. The krexxon rebels were also here, albeit there was some tension between the two groups. Kaiden, Elina, and the others walked into the camp, towards Valnar and his soldiers.
"We're working on rallying an army to recapture the volcano," uttered Valnar. "These volant are proving to be excellent allies."
"Of course we are!" exclaimed Grik. He was quite optimistic and knew that his people were excellent fighters.
"I don't think we're ready to recapture the mountain yet though," replied Valnar. "Before we deserted, we were hearing something about the commander seeking to set up bases across the planet. Seems like my people are trying to set up a network of strongholds across Ascerth."
"Well, taking out this one should prove to be a decisive blow," replied Jogot. As he finished saying that, the ground began to tremble as the krexxon warships high up in Ascerth's skies began to continually send down transports to the ground. Krexxon soldiers emerged from the transports, and charged at the camp.
"Here they come!" exclaimed Kaiden. He relentlessly charged at one of the krexxon soldiers, impaling him with his two swords. The krexxon kicked Kaiden, and prepared to unleash a flurry of punches. However, Elina hit him with a bolt of electricity, which allowed for Kaiden to pull his swords out of the warrior's corpse. The battle raged on for some time, before the krexxon were eventually pushed out. Yet, Elina was still locked in combat with one of their snipers, who used an energy-based projectile weapon. Kaiden decided to ambush the soldier from behind, slashing him with his two swords. However, Elina was still wounded from the battle, and Kaiden rushed to her side.
"You okay?" asked Kaiden. Elina simply nodded.
"Th...thank you," replied Elina. Kaiden, grasping her tightly, went in for the kiss. The two of them locked lips for some time, embracing each other and forgetting about the whole conflict with the krexxon.
"I won't leave your side," uttered Kaiden as he smiled at Elina.
"Neither will I," replied Elina.
"Sir, the enemy pounds on our gates constantly," uttered a human soldier. King Dalfon II of Xastil City was sitting atop his throne, as he watches the outskirts of Xastil. Krexxon soldiers were laying siege to the city, relentlessly killing soldiers and bombarding the gates with explosives.
"I think it's time for martial law," replied Dalfon. "The city needs to be able to take on the enemy accordingly."
"Hold them off!" exclaimed a rul'kor. He wore armor made from the bones of animals out in the mountains and wielded two war axes. Outside his village, krexxon soldiers were attacking the rul'kor warriors.
"Where's Ukoras when you need him?" the rul'kor thought to himself.
"The forests tremble..." uttered the Tree of Ages. "We MUST keep the land under our control!"
"Yes sir!" exclaimed a grovarn as he rushed into battle. The forest was beginning to suffer immense damage, and the Tree of Ages was incredibly worried.
"They've infiltrated the city," uttered a sulkrik warrior. His armor was torn apart, and he wielded a large greatsword.
"Lock off all the tunnels and activate the traps," replied the sulkrik commander. "They won't get in here without a fight."
"It's begun," uttered a Zar'kesh magi. They were witnessing krexxon warships sending down soldiers, and landscapes being torn apart.
"We'll wait it out," replied the Zar'kesh leader. "Once the invaders have this world under their control, we'll strike them hard. They're just keeping the real enemy occupied."
Chapter 20: City Under Siege
"This is troubling," uttered Spiritar. The group was speaking to him via Elina's ritual, within the camp outside Mt. Necrosis. Krexxon soldiers were continuing to raid the camp, but Valnar's forces were providing great help with tactics and knowing how to counter the enemy's forces. "Though I do have another task for you."
"Let's hear it," replied Jogot.
"There's an artifact that I need you guys to secure," uttered Spiritar. "It's called the Zal'von Keystone. Blue and white object with a crystal in the center. Problem is, it's currently inside the sulkrik city of Gal'norsh. Which is under siege by the krexxon."
"Uhh, there's a problem," replied Orthesu. "I was kicked out of there a long time ago due to my thieving getting out of hand."
"You tell us that NOW?!?!" exclaimed Kaiden. He had an angry look on his face.
"Calm down everyone," uttered Elina. "Spiritar, we'll secure the keystone. What do you need it for?"
"To show you six the truth behind this world," replied Spiritar. "The reason why the krexxon are here."
As Spiritar's spectral projection disappeared, the group began to get ready to leave.
"The road back to the desert is gonna be dangerous," uttered Grik. "From what I've heard, the krexxon are all over the planet now."
"Who said anything about walking?" replied Elina as she pulled out a book on teleportation. "I think I've got the hang of teleportation now. I experimented on teleporting the book itself over short distances last night."
The group instantly appeared in the Drysun Desert, near a side entrance to Gal'norsh. The krexxon could be seen laying siege to the city, which was primarily underground.
"This way," uttered Orthesu. "I know the way in."
The group descended down the tunnel, seeing the city in all its glory. Most sulkrik lived in homes build along the cave walls, and a large, ornate vault could be seen as a testament to all of the riches obtained by the sulkrik in their years of stealing and plundering.
"Over there?" asked Kaiden. Orthesu nodded as the group snuck towards the vault. Traditionally, the sulkrik kept it out in the open for anyone to look into, though a series of traps would exist near the entrance to scare off thieves. Orthesu began to tamper with an air vent as the group kept watch for guards.
"So we're thieves now?" asked Grik. Orthesu nodded as she managed to cut open the bars and crawled inside the vent.
"I'll look for it," uttered Orthesu. She would search for the keystone within the vault, before bringing it back.
"Alright, let's go," replied Jogot. However, as the group began to head out, Ukoras accidentally hit a button on the wall that activated a trap, causing a net to fall on top of the group. Two sulkrik guards immediately rushed to the group's location.
"Trying to steal from the vault?" asked one of the sulkrik guards. "Should've known better than to do that Orthesu."
"Well well well," uttered the sulkrik warlord. "You're back here Orthesu. And with friends too!"
The group was being held at swordpoint within the sulkrik warlord's throne room. He wore immense plate armor and had a plate of armor around the bottom of his mouth.
"Dad, please," replied Orthesu. "I didn't want to do all this fancy schmancy political stuff."
"The fact that my only daughter wanted to be a thief disgusted me," replied the warlord. "And I, Gralnor, will NOT allow my people to succumb to the chaos that consumed us before we had a stable government!"
"I like my freedom, okay?" replied Orthesu. "And plus we need to take this keystone somewhere important to stop the invasion."
"Oh?" replied Gralnor. "Prove it."
"Elina, do the honors," uttered Kaiden with a smirk on his face. Elina began contacting Spiritar, who seemed shocked.
"Got the keystone already?!?" exclaimed Spiritar. He then looked towards Gralnor. "Oh. Now I see."
"I caught your friends here trying to steal our keystone," uttered Gralnor. "Why should I release them?"
"Because I'm the most powerful of the magical spirits on this world," replied Spiritar as he discretely motioned towards Elina, who began conducting a teleportation spell. "Oppose me, and your cave city will collapse."
"Do your worst," replied Gralnor. "We're already dealing with the krexxon anyways."
"Well, you were dumb enough to not notice this," replied Elina as she teleported the group away. Gralnor angrily looked at his guards, wondering why they didn't stop them.
"Well, guarding gets boring after a while," uttered one of the guards. "And that spirit didn't seem like he was joking.
"That was close," uttered Kaiden as the group returned to their camp outside Mt. Necrosis. "You guys alright?"
The others nodded in agreement as Elina prepared to contact Spiritar again.
"I'm impressed," uttered Spiritar. "Now, I want you guys to check out a little cave near the volcano. The keystone will come into play there."
Spiritar's projection disappeared as the group began to move. The journey was getting rougher and rougher.
Chapter 21: Unraveling the Truth
After a long trek, Kaiden and his allies reached the cave Spiritar was talking about. Strangely, it had strange architecture along the walls, and a device of sorts in the center, with a slot shaped like the Zal'von Keystone.
"Think this'll work?" asked Kaiden. Elina simply smiled at him.
"It's worth a shot," replied Elina. Kaiden nodded before inserting the keystone into the device.
"Activating transportation systems," uttered a feminine-sounding voice. The cave began to shake as rocks collapsed to reveal an elevator of sorts.
"Interesting technology," uttered Grik. "Hopefully there's a good reason to come here."
The group entered the elevator, which automatically started to descend. Windows were in place along the way for some reason, but all that was outside them were the rock walls surrounding the elevator.
"Where is this taking us?" asked Jogot.
"Probably some ancient ruin," replied Ukoras. "Seems like some ancient civilization built this thing."
Eventually, the elevator came to a stop. The group walked out of the elevator to find themselves inside an ancient, decrepid ruin. Moss-covered machinery could be seen, as well as multiple consoles of some kind.
"Please follow the glowing blue arrows," uttered the voice. Multiple arrows were on the nearby walls, and the group began to follow them. Eventually, it led to a large room with a giant screen.
"Please insert the keystone again," uttered the voice. Kaiden inserted the keystone into the console. It slid into place as the screen turned on, showing multiple different video clips and files. "Access to data matrix granted."
Curiously, Kaiden looked at the screen. Multiple files could be seen, as well as a button in an unknown language. Kaiden clicked on it, and a nearby door slid open. A large machine of sorts booted up, and moved towards the group. It had a golem-like shape and large fists.
"Finally, visitors," uttered the golem. "Those years of studying the surface-dwellers have been worth it."
"Studying us?" replied Orthesu. "What's going on?"
"Oh, right, you guys don't know," replied the golem. "I am Unit Z-3291, the last operating Guardian of this weapon."
"WEAPON?!?!" exclaimed Kaiden. "What are you talking about?"
"That's a long story," replied Z-3291. "It'll be better if I show you. I spent years translating the video clips on here into your language."
A video clip began to play on the screen. It showed an avian race of sorts overseeing the construction of a massive object in space from what appeared to be a spaceship.
"Project X-338, known internally as the Hungerer, is a military project being worked on right now," uttered the narrator. "Once this weapon is complete, the Hungerer will be able to turn the tides and allow for the krexxon invasion to end."
"So the krexxon are involved here?" asked Elina. Z-3291 nodded as he shut off the screen.
"My creators were embroiled in a interstellar war with them, and would later lose" uttered Z-3291. "The Hungerer was constructed to turn the tide of the war, but was never used. It simply sat here, until debris from space hit it and created your world."
"So Ascerth's holding an alien superweapon?!?!" exclaimed Ukoras.
"Indeed," replied Z-3291. "That's why the krexxon are here. They want to make sure nobody else gets this superweapon."
"How do you know all this stuff?" asked Jogot.
"I was constructed as one of many Guardians that would work to keep the weapon functional," uttered Z-3291. "But as the others fell into disrepair, I used their parts to prolong my life, as well as repairing the charging dock over there. Ever since then, I've been managing the weapon's systems and also working to ensure that any natives would know what's going on if they managed to get here."
"Then how'd the keystone end up on the surface?" asked Grik.
"That was mainly due to a teleporter malfunction," replied Z-3291. "I tried teleporting the keystone around with the machinery here in the past."
"Anyways, we probably shouldn't tell anyone about the weapon," uttered Elina. "Everyone will plunder this place for the machinery."
"That's true," replied Z-3291. "But I have some things for you."
A box emerged from the ground, and opened up. Inside was some weaponry made from the technology seen in the facility: a pair of swords, a staff, a large axe, a pair of daggers, and a bow, along with some powerful-looking arrows.
"I've been observing you guys for the last few months," uttered Z-3291. "And I made these weapons for you. They'll be strong enough to tackle the krexxon."
As the group took their equipment, Jogot looked at Z-3291 curiously.
"What about me?" asked Jogot.
"I couldn't keep your weapon in here due to the plantlike matter it had," uttered Z-3291 as he brought out Jogot's weapon. It was a staff covered in moss, with a mechanical core at the center. "That core is full of healing energies. It'll augment your healing magic."
"Thanks," replied Jogot as he took the staff. The bird on his head was also incredibly happy, chirping away. Elina was busy readying a teleportation spell.
"Thanks Zeethree," uttered Elina with a smirk on her face. She had made up the nickname fairly quickly. As the group teleported away, Zeethree began to head back to his charging dock.
"Activating recall beacon," uttered the automated voice. On the screen, a map of the galaxy could be seen, with a radar-like signal coming from what appeared to be Ascerth's location.
"Interesting stuff," uttered Kaiden as the group returned to the volant camp. The soldiers here were beginning to arm themselves for an inevitable battle, with Valnar teaching volant soldiers how to use reverse-engineered krexxon technology. He motioned over the group.
"Tomorrow we'll be attempting to recapture the volcano," uttered Valnar. "You guys ready?"
"You bet we are," replied Ukoras. "Let's show those bastards what we've got.
Chapter 22: Taking the Volcano
Kaiden was standing before the volant army preparing to recapture Mt. Necrosis. He was nervous to address the group, but knew it had to be done. Many of the volant soldiers were utilizing reverse-engineered krexxon technology, and Valnar's forces were also among the group. Elina, Ukoras, Jogot, Orthesu, and Grik were also nearby, with Elina smiling at Kaiden in confidence.
"Today, we will be scoring our first major victory against the enemy!" exclaimed Kaiden. "Today, these invaders will rue the day they came here!"
The army began to cheer as Kaiden smiled. Clearly, they trusted him.
"The battle will be rough, but we'll survive," uttered Kaiden. "We all will. And the key to that is the krexxon technology we've reverse-engineered!"
Valnar and his forces began to cheer. It was their help that had led to the utilization of krexxon technology.
"Now let's move!" exclaimed Kaiden. "We have a battle to win. If we lose here, this world will fall. Good luck out there."
The army began to assemble as Kaiden returned to his group. He had his new swords on him, and was ready to test them out.
"Guys, I just want you to know that we never would've gotten this far if it wasn't for working together," uttered Kaiden. "We've been through a lot, and this battle will decide the fate of Ascerth."
The group smiled as they got ready. Elina walked up to Kaiden with a smile on her face.
"You really know how to motivate people," uttered Elina. "Hell, you motivated me to stay with the group, and look how that turned out."
"Well, being the second-in-command of a village's guards teaches you a lot," replied Kaiden. "But if we die here, we die together."
Elina and Kaiden embraced. Clearly, they loved each other considerably and would fight together until the very end.
"Charge!" exclaimed Valnar. "This is it!"
The army charged at the entrance to the krexxon base in Mt. Necrosis. Although Mag'uran was under lockdown, most of the krexxon were present here. Volant and krexxon soldiers began to clash as Kaiden's group rushed into battle, with Kaiden going for a lone krexxon soldier. His new swords had an electric edge to them and cut nicely, as the krexxon soldier he went for was defeated quicker than usual. He turned his gaze to a sniper, slicing at him and kicking his body into the magma within the volcano. Meanwhile, Elina was preparing a massive fireball to destroy most of the krexxon soldiers, but one of their more heavily armored soldiers turned his gaze towards Elina, charging at her.
"Counter this!" exclaimed Elina with a smirk. A shield of ice formed around her, which would shatter upon contact and impale the krexxon with sharp icicles. The ice, however, would begin to melt, damaging his equipment and causing an electric shock that would kill him. The battle would continue to rage on for some time, until Kaiden was caught dueling the apparent "leader" of the krexxon forces. He had heavier armor and wielded two massive energy swords.
"So you're the one whose father I murdered," uttered the commander. "It was satisfying to insert my blades into his body and watch him bleed out."
Kaiden shuddered as he continued to fight his opponent, before landing a blow to the arm.
"You have courage," uttered the commander. "You'll need it to stop us. Something your father was incapable of."
Kaiden, with a face of anger, pinned the commander to the ground before beheading him. Purple blood flowed across the ground, and he then kneeled down to the ground, eyes closed.
"Father, I've avenged you," uttered Kaiden. "You'll be able to live in peace now."
As Kaiden looked around, he saw that the krexxon forces here were either dead or being held captive. Yet, their teleportation device remained active.
"There's only one way we can stop this," uttered Valnar. "We need to send you six through the teleporter. It'll take you to the Defilinax, our commander's flagship. From there, you can kill him and then order for a withdrawal from the planet."
"It's a necessary sacrifice," replied Grik. The group entered the teleporter, and arrived in what appeared to be a barracks. There were very few soldiers here due to them being deployed on the surface, so this would be the perfect time to take out the krexxon from within.
A large, bulky krexxon was standing in a room that had a massive computer screen. On it, a map of Ascerth could be seen, with areas of conflict marked out on the map. However, he could see a warning that Mt. Necrosis had been breached, and that there was unauthorized personnel inside the ship. He reached for a translation device, placing it onto his tentacle-like mouthpiece. He wore heavy armor and had large spikes protruding from his skull.
"Let's see if they're strong enough to defend this world."
Chapter 23: Storming the Annihilax
Kaiden, Elina, and the group found themselves analyzing a map of the ship, looking for the command bridge of the ship. The hallway they were in was full of dead krexxon soldiers, and had a purplish look to it.
"So the bridge is here, and we're down in the barracks level," uttered Ukoras. "We'll need to get through one of the elevators and break our way into the command chamber through force."
Kaiden nodded before continuing to lead the group through the hallways of the ship. A few windows could be seen, with Ascerth visibly being attacked by the krexxon. As the group neared the central nexus of the ship, four krexxon soldiers charged at them. They were dealt with relatively quickly, and the largest elevator on the ship could be seen. It had purple energy running through tubes along the side of it, and a large, imposing skull-like inscription above.
"This must be it," uttered Elina. The group entered the elevator, and fiddled with the buttons before it took them to the highest level of the ship. Guards were nearby, as well as a large door.
"Let's take out the guards first," uttered Grik. He charged at one of the guards, pinning them to the wall. After a short flurry of sword strikes to the stunned guard, he was dead. The guards here seemed to wield large warstaves instead of shockblades, and had more armor on. Eventually, they were all dead. Yet, the entrance to the command bridge was sealed shut. Jogot looked towards the right side of the door to see a scanner, and then looked at the krexxon guards' hands.
"Maybe it'll accept this guy's credentials," uttered Jogot as he pulled a body over towards the scanner. He placed the bleeding hand onto the scanner, and it accepted the credentials, opening up the door. The group sighed in relief as they walked inside. A large set of stairs could be seen, leading to a central chamber, where an armored, intimidating krexxon was sitting. He turned to face the group, clapping.
"Looks like you made it," uttered the krexxon. "I commend you for your strength."
"You know why we're here," uttered Kaiden as he pointed his swords at the commander. "The weapon must be kept safe by us. Not by your people."
"Did you ever wonder why we want the weapon?" asked the commander. "Why we would utilize something designed by our sworn enemy?"
"No?" replied Orthesu.
"It's simple," replied the commander. "If we have it under our control, than nobody can abuse its destructive power. You see, the weapon is fueled by life. One blast of it will drain the life force of everything on this planet. We seek to ensure that its destructive capabilities are never utilized."
"Still, there's living beings on this planet!" exclaimed Ukoras. "We can defend it. You don't need to take over."
"Your people aren't strong enough to withstand the threats we've seen," replied the commander. "That's another reason why we're here. To test your planet and see if it can withstand interplanetary threats. All that "butchering and enslaving" talk was just to scare you straight."
"So this was all a test?" replied Kaiden. "To see if we were strong enough?"
"Mhmm," replied the commander. "And now, it's time for the final test."
The commander activated his twin shockblades and brought his helmet onto his head.
"I, Supreme Commander Ethros, will determine if your people are powerful enough to defend this world!" exclaimed Ethros. "If I win, then this planet will need to come under our control. And if you win, it'll be strong enough to withstand any interplanetary threats!"
Kaiden angrily charged at Ethros, but his strike was parried. The two of them locked blades for several seconds, before Ethros knocked Kaiden into a wall. The others charged into battle right away, hitting the krexxon hard with their respective attacks. Kaiden, however, managed to trip up Ethros as he was distracted, shattering his helmet. He responded by grasping Kaiden's neck and choking him.
"Fell the pain," uttered Ethros. "The fear of you failing your world."
As Kaiden struggled to break free, Grik fired an arrow at Ethros's leg, causing him to let go of Kaiden. Eventually, Ethros let out a shock of electricity from his armor, knocking everyone to the ground. Kaiden, however, got up and charged relentlessly at Ethros, landing a blow to the chest. He kneeled down on the ground, and stared at Kaiden intently as purple blood poured out of his chest.
"Looks like you six are strong enough," uttered Ethros. "Activate the retreat matrix on the computer screen there, and the invasion can end."
"You're just gonna give up like that?" asked Orthesu.
"It's necessary to prevent further bloodshed," replied Ethros. "You...passed the test..."
Ethros's body fell to the ground. He was clearly dead, and the threat of the krexxon was over. Kaiden reached for the computer screen, and activated the matrix, which was present on the screen.
"Elina, take us back to base," uttered Kaiden. Elina nodded before activating a teleportation spell, taking the group back to the camp outside Mt. Necrosis. Here, the army was awaiting them, and cheering. The krexxon ships in the sky were absent as well.
"Looks like you did it!" exclaimed Valnar. "The krexxon are no more!"
The group smiled in confidence as they rested. Meanwhile, Jogot approached Valnar.
"What are you going to do now?" asked Jogot.
"I want to build a new future for my people here," uttered Valnar. "Where we can live free and independent of our tyrannical empire. I'll rally any soldiers left here and give them a new purpose on this world. To help defend it."
"Looks like this is it," uttered Ukoras. "The end of the journey."
The group was standing outside the Den of Spirits. They had just spoken with Spiritar, and were now going their separate paths.
"I'll be hunting down the leftover krexxon who don't join Valnar," uttered Orthesu. "Gotta find some work somehow."
"I have to head back to the forest," uttered Jogot. "The land needs healing after this war."
"Hopefully my village is still standing," uttered Ukoras. "I've got some old friends to meet with."
"And I have to see how my people are doing back in Mag'uran," replied Grik. The group then turned to face Kaiden and Elina.
"Elina, want to head to Xastil together?" asked Kaiden. "Start a new life for ourselves?"
"I'd love that," replied Elina. As the group split up, Elina activated a teleportation spell. Ascerth was safe from the krexxon now, but another threat could come at any moment...
The recall beacon continued to beep within the ruin, as the map of the galaxy seemed to be teeming with activity. Multiple dots could be seen indicating other facilities.