TERA: For the Federation Season 2 Ep 1 – Slaves and Masters
By Darren Henderson (DizzyPW), OnRPG Editor-in-Chief
Often times we never know when our time has me. The last day of our lives can begin just like any other. Or perhaps you know it is coming and can do nothing to prevent it? Death by old age? Death by the sword? Death by accident? Who are we mortals to predict how our end will come. As I rode under the wing of Elleon I never would have believed that this very day I would die.
It was finally my time to find answers to all the questions I desired. Just days ago I was tight within the grasp of Samael’s plot to use me to kill off the supposed head of the Scions of Lok. Now I was mounted on a Pegasus construct riding side by side with the Black Hood I had been assiged to kil, Elleon. The legendary Elleon who struck fear into the federation years before and now was lauded by all races as the bastion of hope in the unending war with the Argon menace.
“Living as an outlaw seems to suit us!” Platy laughed as we flew by the outskirts of Velika, off the beaten path of standard Pegasus flight zones. “Perhaps we can tick off Goddess Velik next? Need to keep upping the ante or things might get dull for a change.”
“I wonder what she is doing anyway? The highest officials in her own city are running around trying to revive the traitorous fallen God Lok and she slumbers somewhere oblivious to it all,” I replied.
“This is why we trap the power of a god within the Core in Allemanthea,” Elleon joined in. “Why rely on the whim of a god when you can yield the power of one the way you deem fit!”
“Honestly I’ve never seen a god myself. Sometimes I wonder if they weren’t all killed off in the Divine War, leaving us to suffer.” Platy pouted at the thought.
“So where are we heading Elleon?” I finally had built up the resolve to ask, though I doubted his answer would be satisfactory or enjoyable.
“Cutthroat Harbor. I’ve sent Leander ahead to prepare disguises for us. I’m sure the Scions will have Devas spies crawling all over what with it being just south of Castanica.”
“And why?” I figured Elleon must be hesitant to have not followed through with my next obvious question.
“Two reasons really. The more obvious one is Samael is about to get his clutches on the fabled Lance of Gidd. It’s rare to catch him outside the protection of Velika’s walls. If we miss this opportunity not only will it be numerous months before we can catch him vulnerable again, but our next opportunity will be during the ceremony to revive Lok himself."
“That’s a tall order for such a small strike force to accomplish, even with you leading it Elleon.” Challenged Platy. “What else is going on there related to us?”
“Wulynn and Surmun are being sold into slavery. Gulas. Jelena’s intel shows they’re still both alive but by this time tomorrow you may never be able to find them again.”
My heart wanted to race and come to a complete stop at the same time. I gripped my chest as the rush of emotions nearly overwhelmed me, causing me to temporarily lose balance on my ride.
"Gulas?! How did those Popori eating slavers get a hold of them?" I was beside myself and needed to know the full truth about what happened on the Island of Dawn.
“When all seemed lost at the Island of Dawn, Karachas suddenly withdrew along with the demon hordes. Jelena arrived on our final ship and attempted to bomb the demons while picking up survivors. However there were two squadrons of us split between the demon hordes. I missed my chance to join Jelena on the ship and instead tried to break through the enemy lines to reunite with the other squad. However that's when a second flying ship appeared on the horizon. At first I thought a second ship had survived the maelstrom during landing but the flag they flew was no federation flag.
As I came closer I realized it was the Red Lash Gulas' flagship. I shouted for the injured soldiers to make a run for it but Surmun and Wulynn refused. They stood their ground on the beach front, slaying half a dozen of the first Gulas that jumped off the ship. I managed to rally a few survivors to safety but the Red Lash Captain captured Wulynn and used her as a hostage to force Surmun to submit. I vowed I would not forget them and send help someday to rescue them."
I remained silent. Words couldn't convey the series of emotions rushing through my mind. The thought that they were alive. The thought that they stood tall as heroes against monsters notorious for cooking our kind for dinner. Surmun stayed true to his teachings to the end.
I’m afraid I don’t have any cavalry to spare on your quest Dizzy.” Elleon apologized. “If Samael lays his grubby hands on the Lance of Gidd, the Red Lash Pirates will be the least of our concern. I’ll even need Platy to help scout out the labyrinth prior to our assault on Samael. Will you still go even if you are alone?”
I pulled my shield off my back and stared at it. A gift from Velika and a symbol of the Federation. This shield may have been bestowed to me by Samael but its symbolism still held the way of the Lancer nay.. the way of Surmun. Visions of an age now long past returned to me as my master’s familiar voice echoed in my memories.
“No matter how bad things get, never forget the way of the Lancer in the heart of battle. A lancer never flees from the enemy no matter how bleak things look. If all is lost, a Lancer beckons for his allies to run and holds the enemy off as long as possible. Help can arrive from the least likely places in the nick of time. A lancer who turns his back and runs loses all defensive composure and will be struck down instantly like the coward they are. Never retreat Dizzy. Are you listening?”
“Are you listening?” Jelena’s shrill voice brought me out of my daydream. “We’re about to hit the portal. What’s your plan?”
“Do you really have to ask? I’m going after them. I can never return to my Queen in high standing if I don’t bring back Surmun and Wulynn in one piece. Everything is riding on this. I won’t back down.”
I pulled hard on my reigns and steered my Pegasus to the right as the rest of the crew swerved left. As the blinding white colors surrounded me I realized this was the first solo challenge I had faced. All this time I had been saved one instance after another. Leander, Platy, Seir, Elleon, and even Samael’s man Stadrian had all stood up and protected me from an honorless end. This time it was on me. I chanted Surmun’s words ‘a lancer who turns and runs will be struck down’ again and again in my head. It was go time!
My Pegasus burst into a blur of bright blue in all directions as my reflection soared below me on crystal blue waters while clear blue skies reached as far as the eye can see. In the distance I saw the putrid smoke from a Gula campfire. I cringed as I remembered their reputation for barbecuing worn down Popori and Elin slaves. The thought of furry flesh burning in those distant fires was enough to make me reconsider this entire venture. But if I turned back now I was surely dooming my family to that fateful fire someday.
I came to a calm landing in the hills just above their camp and restored my Pegasus to crystalline form before drawing too much attention. The Red Lash Pirates lumbered about below, randomly lashing at Popori trapped in inhumanely small storage boxes whenever they spoke up or begged for food. Popori tend to make the best of a bad situation and many were throwing their voices to try to draw the clumsy oafs away from their cage and towards their brethren in other areas. Captivity can play a sick toll on the minds of even the most dedicated soldiers it seems.
After glancing across the encampment from the high grounds for 10 minutes I realized there was no sign of either of my family on the north side of the encampment. What intelligence I did gather is that I was outnumbered about 80 to 1 and a head-on approach would get me thrown in one of those tiny cages faster than I could skewer 2 of their pirate trash minions. In the distance there was some kind of alcove built into the side of a cliff. I figured that must be where they were being kept. I was going to need a disguise to get in there unscathed. I scurried to the ocean and swam to a tapped out Normetal mine located on an island just off the main shore. There was some left over chain links from where they had forced some of my kind to mine ore so I lightly slapped the chains on myself and then swam towards a line of Popori lining up for their evening gruel.
The other Popori immediately recognized me as a free rabbit and shooed me away. I remained stoic and kept in the line until a barbarious Red Lash captain strolled by to lash our group a few times to silence whatever commotion had suddenly riled them up. He stopped at me and gave me a long stare.
“Urgha who brought in a new shipment of trash this afternoon? This one looks like he’s bathed in the last week. What’s your name whelp?”
“What does it matter?” I glared into his pudgy sunken eyes with hatred overflowing beyond even the levels that Samael’s dark magic had imbued in my mind. The dimwitted Gula was oblivious to my intentions.
“Hur hur hur you will live a long time with an attitude like that. I’m glad a fresh one like you realizes I don't give a damn 'bout your name! Go deposit that fancy Federation armor after you get your grub on though. You won't be needing it where you're going mate.” The captain tipped his hat to me and then pulled back his whip. I closed my eyes and braced for it but heard the Popori beside me fall. I turned around to see his hand grasping his right eye as blood seeped through his fingers. Two more Gulas rushed to the scene immediately.
“Gah you bloody oaf that was one of mine!” The smaller and fattest of the three cried out.
The other taller and stronger of the two pulled the gopher Popori’s hands from his face to reveal that his eye had been hit by the edge of the whip and burst completely open. He cringed at the site and threw the Popori over his back. “Great job. Great job! This thing is useless to us now. And we already have an overabundance of food for the summer. I’lla take ‘em down to the Devas and see if they wants him at discount.”
The gopher Popori’s screams echoed through our line as the chubby and lanky Gulas carried him off to a nearby ship being loaded with ragged and balding Popori and Elin. I turned to a particularly fierce looking Husky Popori besides me and slapped a bag of 40 gold coins into his hand.
“Payment. What’s the job?” This Husky knew the ways of our people well. I could tell he had been raised in Popolion and knew our street ways well.
"I need a diversion to get inside that alcove unseen."
"Rescue or revenge?" The Husky grinned at me. I figure he must not have seen someone as stupid as me try this since his capture and it was long overdue.
"Does it need to be one or the other?" I grinned back.
The Husky Popori slapped the bag of gold back into my hand and pointed at the gopher being dragged towards the boat. "His name is Taya. I served with him on the Argon Front. We were captured together and have watched out for each other to stay alive in this hellish place for over a year. Don't worry about payment." The husky brandished a large shank from his leather pocket and cut his hand binds with it. Then proceeded to do the same to each Popori and Elin in the line. "I'm taking a one way ticket back to the Dream. Your gold is no good to me where I'm going!"
The husky summoned his instincts to charge the horizon and took off full speed at the lanky Gula. He lept into the air and plunged his shank into the back of the neck of the Gula, causing a massive outburst of blood as the Gula fell to the side. The husky raised his shank in triumph as he held Taya up by his side in a showdown with the fatter Gula who stood looking dumbfounded trying to process the current events. Chaos ensued as Popori and Elin lashed out with teeth and claws on each of their Gula overseers. Now was my chance!
I dove into the clear blue sea and swam with all my might towards the cave entrance as ship after ship loaded with Gula sailed past me rushing to quell the rebellion I had accidentally instigated. My adrenaline had never pumped so hard as I swam with all my might to stay afloat in my crushingly heavy armor. A scrawny Gula stood just inside the opening door with weapon sheathed. I ran up behind him and ran him through with one thrust. It was one of my first cold blooded kills, and I honestly felt no remorse at this point. Soon one after another fell. Thankfully all the brawny Gulas had been sent out to quell the rebellion and these pipsqueaks inside were more accustomed to keeping unarmed Popori in line.
After a long ordeal I emerged with my face splattered in Gula blood on the other end of the island. A small encampment with an over the top extravagant tent stood in the distance. My eyes shot open as I saw Wulynn in the distance piling kindling for the fires. When the Gula on duty went to wake up his replacement, she looked around discretely and then broke down in tears. I saw her signature golden dragon staff bestowed to her at birth by the Goddess Elinu still intact. I knew the Gula had recognized her knack for healing injuries and kept her safe to use as a tool for treating wounded Gula.
I rushed to her side and was forced to put my paw over her mouth to block her surprise scream. My appearance was obviously nothing akin to the bookworm bunny she had known for so many years. Once I saw the recognition in her eyes I released her and we locked eyes in a long stare. Neither of us truly knew what to say until she broke down in more tears and embraced me in a hug, almost knocking me over as she threw her fully body weight into it. At first I thought I had lost my composure as I felt a drop run the gamete of my furry cheeks. But looking up the clear blue sky had formed an unnatural looking green cloud cover during my brief time navigating the underground alcove. Before I could quite put my finger on what was so unusual about it my thoughts were broken by the few words Wulynn managed to eek out between sobs.
"I... thought we would never... I mean... and you're here! Who knew Surmun actually got something through that thick skull... I'm so happy!"
I didn't have time for reunions. The fires would begin to waver under the coming downpour and the Gulas would come running quick either to gather her kindling wood or alert their leader of the rebellion I had helped instigate.
"Is Surmun still here?" I asked, "I'm going to need his strength to get us out of here."
At this Wulynn became further choked up and attempted to speak but no words came out. I hugged her until she could think clearly again.
"They broke him Dizzy. It was awful. No matter how many times they struck him down he refused to stay down until the last of our crew was out of sight. He begged for me to run too, but I couldn't just leave him in that state."
"Where is--- he?" My concerned voice cracking with bubbling anger. The Gulas had caused the families of Popolion much despair in my time working for the Queen and I had filed much paperwork documenting the countless atrocities they had acted on against my people. Genocide, rape, slavery, even burning our people alive to be feasted on. But to think they had broken the invincible master of Rabbit Lance style. I wouldn't rest until the entire Red Lash Pirate crew lay dead in the waters of Cutthroat Harbor.
"300 meters behind the captains tent, Dizzy. His legs are broken but I told the Gulas he could be ransomed to the Queen for a fortune so they kept him alive. They use him to stand guard by the weapons cache." Her explanation was interrupted by the frantic sound of footsteps coming from the hidden alcove entrance. Wulynn urged me to hide and work my way to Surmun. She promised she could keep them occupied in the meantime. I hugged her one last time and scrambled towards the hillside where a distant tent filled with the gleam of metal stood.
I focused my soothing presence into full force as I snuck past countless over-sized Gula Enforcers and Lashers. As I came closer I spotted a lump of Popori sitting on the ground next to a weapons cache. It was Surmun all right, but he was nothing like the grandmaster I cherished in my memory.
His normally jet black fur was disheveled and beaten brown with dirt and mud. His glorious chest piece stripped down to nothing but a plain recruits leather garment. His lance was more of a beating stick then a weapon. However when he spotted me his eyes still burned with the same passion I had grown up hearing legends about from Lienyn, the Elin Palace Knight Leader of Pora Elinu.
"Dizzy..." His voice was weak, likely from malnutrition judging by how small he seemed. I gripped his shoulder attempting to help him to his feet but he pushed me away and slumped back to the earth.
"Come on father. You've got to get your real equipment on and lend aid in the rebellion. We are killing all of them and going back to Pora Elinu together!" I encouraged him all I could but my words fell on deaf ears. While focusing his gaze on the ground as if embarrassed to look at me, he spoke slow and solemnly.
"My legs are broken... beyond repair. Even Wulynn could do nothing for me. My collarbone is fractured and I can't lift a shield above my belly even if I could stand. My days are numbered Dizzy." Surmun raised his head slightly to get a good look at me, "But you, you're covered in Gula blood and bear the emblem of the Federation on your shield. You are the new hope for our people that will lead them into the next era!"
Surmun reached under a nearby rock and brandished a key. He turned and opened the large trunk by his side to reveal the hilt of his Zealous Lance. In my awe he pulled it from its resting place and strapped it around my arm. I stretched out and the lance extended to full length, with countless poison barbs spitting poison in all directions as it reached maximum length. This was my master's lance and shield. The same he had withstood a direct breathe of fire from a Fangspawn with. The lance that once cut down an Argon abomination that had threatened Castanica in the early days of the Federation. The one he had held off the entire Red Lash Pirate Army with...
"A master's proudest moment is to bear witness to being surpassed by his pupil." Surmun spoke these well practiced words that I knew he had hoped would be said on a happier occasion than this. I went to hug him but a slimy scaly hand gripped the back of my neck just as I let my guard down.
I spun around to see Wulynn being held by the throat by one of the largest and ugliest Gula I had ever seen. One hand was completely severed, replaced by a rusted golden hook. The other hand was missing a finger, but still plenty large enough to suffocate the life out of Wulynn with no effort required. Around him stood a legion of the same Gula slave masters I had just scooted past while sneaking over to Surmun. Saliva dripped from their fatty mouths as they sharpened their cleavers against their butcher knives. I wish I had time to put on my master's chest plate. I looked back to Surmun for some kind of encouragement or advice. To my great surprise Surmun held a tout bow with arrow notched from his sitting position.
"Never retreat Dizzy. You never know when help might find us!"
He fired the arrow off, pegging the leader of the Red Lash Pirates square in the eye. He sputtered and fell to the ground thrashing around in pain, but refusing to release Wulynn from his death throws. I rushed forward to pull her free but was belly bumped back by a wall of hardened slave masters. I heard a laugh from behind me and turned to see one of them flying at least 4 meters in the air belly first straight at me. With all my might I boosted off the fatty stomach of one of the nearby slave masters and charged with spear draw back towards Surmun. The monster crashed into the ground, leaving a smaller crater and taking out half a dozen Gulas with him. Surmun unleashed another arrow as a fresh wave of 6 slave masters charged forward, tearing down the tent as they struggled amongst each other to reach us first.
I cut my way through the tapestry and pulled Surmun with me as the tent became a bloody mess of confused Gulas cutting other confused Gulas in their ravenous hunger to find fresh Popori meat. The half dozen bowled over Gulas had recovered and rushed to surround us, blocking off any chance of escape. I let out my best guardian shout and then faced the nearest Gula and screamed a challenging shout into his face. The Gulas snorted and hissed at my defiance but thankfully I had drawn their attention away from Surmun allowing him to crawl out of the circle to safety. The Gulas fell on me from all directions as I turtled beneath my master's massive shield, randomly stabbing out with my poisonous lance in every direction attempting to break skin.
One by one the furious Gulas fell over in pain, fresh poison racing through their veins and shutting down their nervous systems. I grew confident and slammed my shield into the belly of one followed quickly after with a thrust straight into his gut, tearing him down in a massive thud. The Gulas now stood less than four tall and lacked the ravenous conviction they held a moment ago. Suddenly I recognized the slave master captain from earlier among them.
"You and I could have been a team you little runt. Instead I had to kill that husky and all your little friends that thought they could take their freedom by force."
I blinked the rage out of my eyes and remained dead focused on his vitals.
"That's right," he bellowed as he braced to launch his massive torso in my direction. "I killed them all and ate the face of that stupid looking gopher to repay your kind for killing one of ours." Time seemed to slow as his massive form lunged into the air in the Gula's gravity defying belly flop. "Just like I'm going to do to the stupid Elin princesses that think they are above us in their fairy tree house Pora-...!"
Blood spurted from his mouth on the word Elinu as he fell to the ground lifeless. I stood atop his corpse with poison seeping across my lance. My arm burnt from the unfamiliar sensation of it splattering across my unprotected arm. I reached back and threw a chain out at the nearest Gula, pulling him straight into my extended spear and finishing him off slowly. The final two attempted to run by were cut down by a volley of arrows shot by Surmun from a nearby hillside. Even without his legs that rabbit sure was mobile.
My bloody victory was short lived as the eerie silence broke from Wulynn's scream. I turned to see the now one-eyed Gula staring back at me with pleasure in his remaining eye. He squeezed Wulynn tighter as her mouth shot open but no sound came out.
"I need no hostage to deal with your kind, you filthy vermin. After I squeeze the life out of her I'm going to kill that cripple on the hill and then roast you alive as a feast in honor of my poor crew." His grip tightened as blood began to seep from the side of Wulynn's mouth. He was literally squeezing her last breath out of her. I knew time was short and haphazardly rushed him with spear drawn. My stamina was near empty and each step I took in the muddy downpour of the storm took more out of me than I could bear. In the last moment I fell forward and the Red Lash Captain did the unthinkable. He threw Wulynn in the way of my spear, forcing me body weight to pierce through her. Instantly a bright light shot out of the heavens and my senses were overwhelmed with an intense coldness.
When I came to the Gula Pirate Captain lay dead, his skull crushed and shattered. A metallic glow surrounded Wulynn as a figure held her close, seemingly attempting to close the wound and prevent the spread of my lance's poison. Wulynn looked at me with soulless eyes as if asking why. I couldn't bear to look back and instead focused on the figure before me. Suddenly the light faded and the surroundings came into view. A figure akin to a high elf female floated in the air before me, yet her flesh was discolored and chiseled like a stone monument. Her eyes gave off the impression of extreme intelligence without emotional restriction. Her mouth moved but no sound came out, yet her thoughts resonated deep inside my mind.
"The three tailed Elin is a precious symbol of the Federation, is she not?" I nodded back to the metallic being in agreement.
"I see. It would be a huge burden to lose her then. But a far greater defeat to have Federation soldiers slain by her. Correct?"
My mind answered truthfully, despite my heart not wanting to agree to such a horrible thought.
"Then you don't mind me taking her do you, Dizzy of Pora Elinu?"
"You can't have her." I answered aloud, more to my own surprise than anyone else. I instantly felt the intensity of this creatures power bear down on me, and maintaining my fighting stance became a gauntlet more so than a marathon.
"Ah the Popori, a failed experiment of the long dead gods. I have tested my patience working with your kind. Unintelligent clumsy abominations, all of you. Stand aside. I have no interest in your kind." The shimmering creature ran a human-like hand through Wulynn's hair as gently as possible. "Now this Elin on the other hand. This mutant of her people. She is no different from us. From the Argons. Arborea offers no real love for our kind. Arborea would have sent her to the Dream and wasted her potential. I however... I, the Queen of the Argons will make her a figurehead of the coming Nightmare. And soon none of your kind will be able to stand in her path."
"Argons..?" I stammered. They have a queen? I thought to myself. The Argon queen is here in Cutthroat Harbor and intends to transform Wulynn into one of those monsters. In my desperation I threw my shield to the floor and braced my exhausted right arm with my left paw for stability. I charged forward and thrust my lance straight into the belly of the beast, penetrating straight through her as if pushing a lance through a barrel of water. She merely smiled down at me and placed her free hand on my lance, as a shock of electricity shot through my lance, frying me from the inside. My last vision was of a sickening purple contamination seeping into the tip of my lance as Wulynn looked down at me from her resting place against the Argon Queen's bosom. Her cold eyes stared at me unable to comprehend. My lance dislodged from the Queen's stomach and I fell back, but never hit the ground as darkness engulfed me first.