Me Titan, Me Punch
Kingdom of Arcadia, Edreign
Year 374 of the Fourth Age
Year 374 of the Fourth Age
It was just past midday, and the sun was shining on the land of Edreign, its warm rays of light perfectly complimenting the crisp and somewhat chilly fresh air on a perfect spring day. The Kingdom of Arcadia had just only come out of another harsh winter about two weeks prior, and now the land had once again been transformed from being covered in a thick blanket of snow to a lush and beautiful expanse of endless grass fields and hills.
For the people of the kingdom's capital city of Windfyre, they had celebrated with a feast consisting of the remainder of their stores for the winter and fresh produce that could only grow in the winter seasons. It was a tradition that had been carried down for millennia, ever since the very founding of the Kingdom over three thousand years ago at the beginning of the Second Age. It was a joyous celebration, for it welcomed better times and the much-anticipated Summer Solstice.
For the members of the Wayfarer Guild, it was much of the same. They celebrated in their own way, with plenty more booze and ale than most people elsewhere, of course. Not everyone within the guild celebrated the same as those who were born and raised in Arcadia, owing to the fact that the guild accepted brave souls hungry for adventure and thrill from all corners of the world, but they still partook in the celebrations like just about everyone else, no matter where they came from. After all, booze was the universal sign of friendship, no matter where you came from.
The celebrations had lasted for a week, and now that it was over, the Wayfarers, as the members of the guild were called, had returned to their normal life of adventure and other duties.
Fort Wayfarer Courtyard
Located in the mountains about a dozen miles away from Windfyre was Fort Wayfarer, home of the Wayfarer Guild. Built from the ruins of a kingdom long forgotten, the guild had reconstructed the mountain fortress a thousand years ago, and had used it as its headquarters ever since. It was quite a large complex, a full fortress, though still paling in comparison to the more modern ones constructed by Arcadia in more recent times. This was where the Wayfarers lived as members of the oldest and most prominent guild in all the land.
In the middle of the fort was the courtyard, a large space where Wayfarers would often train and spar with one another. Now, however, there were no sparring or training going on. Instead, a large runic circle had been drawn in the dirt in chalk, with an old man in dark blue robes and clutching a long wooden staff in his hand by it. A number of Wayfarers were opposite, all of them attending the demonstration.
"Now," said the old mage. "As you can see, I have completed the rune. This is but the first step of this procedure."
A young woman in the crowd raised her hand, wanting to ask a question.
"Yes, young lady?"
The woman stepped out of the crowd, flicking her long golden hair which draped down to her plate-mail armour. "If I may ask," began Elyscia Stormcrown. "What exactly do you intend to accomplish with this?"
The mage mage snapped his fingers together. "Ah, have patience, you will see in due time!"
He tapped his staff against the ground, the shimmering Calnxite attached to the top flaring as he did. "I'm not Grand Conjurer of the Mage College for nothing, you know! You see, what I intend to do her is to demonstrate an advanced spell that has never been accomplished before! My colleagues and I have spent many years researching this specific spell, and now believe finally have the knowledge of how to achieve our intended result."
"You've never tested this before?" Elyscia asked with a raise of her brow. She placed a hand on her hip. "Pray tell, what if something were to go wrong?"
"I have faith that everything will go according to plan," replied the Grand Conjurer. "You needn't worry."
"Right..." Elyscia said, not entirely convinced. "You haven't yet told us what you plan to accomplish."
The Grand Conjurer grinned. "Yes, I haven't," he said, before flourishing his arms in an oddly dramatic fashion. "I reveal to you that I have discovered a way to access a realm even beyond the Mistral Plane!"
There was hushed murmurs among the gathered Wayfarers. No one had ever accomplished such a feat, or even thought that there was another realm beyond the Mistral Plane. Also known as the Origin, it was the birthplace of all magic in the world, and where souls were born and where they would return to upon death. More importantly, it was also the abode of the Progenitor, said to be the creator of the realms.
"You mean to say you would pierce the heavens themselves?" Elyscia asked, skeptical. She crossed her arms.
"And beyond!" Said the Grand Conjurer. "Now, you will see the fruits of our labour! Harkin! Rumo!"
He snapped his fingers, and a pair of younger Conjurers took their places around the rune. Now each of the three mages were standing in a triangle. "I must ask you to stand back, for this might prove to be... hazardous. Ha ha!"
The Wayfarers did as they were told, stepping backwards as the mages began. The Grand Conjurer started with a chant in an ancient language, raising his arms. The two others did the same, and suddenly, the rune began to glow. The mages performed a series of gestures, and a bright blue aura surrounded them, spectral runes all similar yet different to the one on the ground appearing before them. Now the rune was glowing even brighter.
“In lacrimis. Non transiet. Quanto magis. In inanis paro,” the mages chanted as one. The rune glowed even brighter, as did they, and now the light was bright enough to shine like a beacon. Above, dark clouds gathered and swirled, and a perfect hole appeared directly above the rune.
The Grand Conjurer’s eyes were closed. “Et nunc faciemus. View luminis. Fere omnes…” His eyes suddenly opened, awash with an ethereal glow. “APPARUIT!”
A blinding beam of light suddenly shot down from the clouds, striking the rune directly. Reality around it seemed to warp and distort.
Elyscia took a nervous step back. “What is…”
The Grand Conjurer laughed. “Yes! YES! This is exactly what I have been looking for!”
The ground suddenly rumbled, and around the rune tears in the dirt suddenly appeared, ethereal fire erupting from below.
“That… wasn’t supposed to happen…” muttered the Grand Conjurer.
No sooner had the words left his mouth that the tower of light suddenly seemed to twist and distort, and then it suddenly seemed to widen.
Now there was panic in the Grand Conjurer’s eyes. “No! We must cease at once!”
“I can’t!” Shouted Harkin, straining. “I have no control!”
The beam of light had grown larger, and now was warping even more. Above, the clouds had darkened and now there were flashes of lightning from within.
Elyscia realised what was happening. She turned to the gathered Wayfarers. “Everyone, get down!”
The light exploded, consuming the three Conjurers and enveloping everything else in a blinding flash. Elyscia was knocked off her feet and hit the dirt, hard.
When the light receded, there was nothing left of the Conjurers but smoking piles of ash. They had been completely incinerated.
Elyscia shakily got to her feet, coughing a few times. “Is everyone unharmed?” She asked. “What in the name of the Progenitor was that?!”
She turned her attention to the rune, which was mysteriously intact. However, as she moved to take a closer look, she realised that it had changed. It now displayed a new, even more unfamiliar rune.
CNECV Far Passage
Translight Transit En Route to Exoplanet Designated Huygens-381d
April 15, 2219
In a far distant reality the colony vessel Far Passage of the Consolidated Nations of Earth cruised through the universe a hundred times the speed of light, surrounded in a subspace field with its Torsion Drive.
The massive vessel over a kilometre in length was the newest in the Horizon-class of colony ships, great vessels constructed by the CNE to take humanity to new worlds that would take generations to reach within the span of only a few weeks.
For over seventy years humanity had been expanding across the stars, colonising world after world in its fledgling interstellar empire, fueled by the endless drive for conquest and the hope for a better tomorrow after having been bound to Earth for thousands of years.
The Far Passage was now on its way to set up humanity’s latest colony on the world of Huygens-381d, which of course was simply the designation for the planet as were all others discovered by the Huygens Telescope Array two decades prior.
Probes dispatched to the exoplanet had found it to have a breathable atmosphere, and extremely resource rich, which was why the Far Passage was loaded with equipment to establish a mining-focused colony. However, alien fauna had also been discovered native to the planet, and since it had a rather hostile environment, many of the creatures had evolved to be predatory. As a precaution, the ship also carried within it a complement of Corvus Security Corporation personnel to act as defence.
The ship had begun its maiden voyage twelve weeks prior, and now it still had two more weeks to go. With this long a journey, the vast majority of its crew and the colonists within were kept in cryostasis in order to preserve their lifespans and to shorten the journey from their point of view. There were only a few crew awake for their shifts, most of them maintenance personnel.
The Far Passage’s artificial intelligence program, the Colonial Intelligent Director, or simply CID for short, was the one responsible for overlooking the ship during the journey, along with the lives of all those within it. As an A.I., it had no emotions, and as such, hardly minded such a long journey, and was more than content with fourteen weeks of diligently watching over the sleeping colonists.
Twelve weeks had passed completely uneventfully, and it would be two weeks more until the ship had reached its destination, and CID would begin to awaken the colonists and crew to begin the next step of their journey.
Now, however, something would go wrong.
The ship suddenly shook, and warning lights and sirens flashed and blared over the mostly-empty ship. The bridge was completely empty as the bright tunnel of light outside passed on by the viewscreens, but CID still sounded an alert in its usual, upbeat but monotonous male voice.
“Alert: Unknown error. Warning: Torsion Drive is failing. Exiting translight.”
The Far Passage continued to shake violently, and outside, the tunnel of light vanished as the view was replaced by the inky blackness of realspace.
The red of the warning lights returned to the calm artificial light that lit much of the ship’s interior.
“Running diagnostics. Reactor online. Thrusters online. Life support online. Systems nominal. Alert: Torsion Drive offline. Unknown error. Recommend mainiantence dispatch immediately.”
CID analysed the space around the ship, and came to the conclusion that this was not the Far Passage’s intended destination. Something had gone horribly wrong, and it decided that now the best course of action was to inform the ship’s captain immediately, and to awaken its contingent of Pathfinders.
“Initiating emergency awakening sequence. Passing command to Captain. Awakening Pathfinders.”
Cryo Bay 15
Within the Far Passage were thousands of cryopods, each one holding within it a colonist or crew member stored in cryostasis. They were essentially in suspended animation, a deep freeze meant to halt their ageing and make long voyages pass by in the blink of an eye. This way, the crew did not have to weeks or even months aboard a vessel awake.
Cryo Bay 15 was rather special in that it contained the Far Passage’s Pathfinder contingent, two teams of nine each. These Pathfinders were some of the best humanity had to offer, charted out unexplored worlds and discovering new species and minerals, and also being the first to research them. In many ways, these were very similar to the explorers of old who discovered the New World on their wooden sailing ships hundreds of years before.
The bay was quiet, each Pathfinder in stasis in their pod, until the awakening sequence came.
A hiss of steam erupted out of vents located on the pods as the occupant was awoken, followed by the hatch opening.
Dylan Garrison was the first to awaken, sitting upright as feeling came back to him. He cracked his neck, which was rather stiff from weeks in stasis, and then stepped out of his pod. He took a moment to stretch and shook off a bit of frost, before clapping his hands together and looking to the rest of his team, who were all also in the process of awakening.
“Alright, guys, rise and shine!” He announced, clapping his hands together with a grin. “Looks like we’re here!”
He was dressed in a simple shirt and pants made from special synthetic materials, which was what everyone wore as standard when they went to cryosleep.
Dylan was feeling quite excited to lead Pathfinder Team Alpha. He had just graduated from the Pathfinder Academy of Earth the previous year, and at age 23, he was one of the youngest Pathfinders ever. Much of his team was made up of some veterans, with the exception of Vincent, who had attended the academy with him as his senior.
Inexperienced or not, he was not going to let that slow him down.