TERA: For the Federation S2 Finale - Hope
By Darren Henderson (DizzyPW), OnRPG Editor-in-Chief
Hey guys, sorry for the long wait between my TERA columns lately. Been tweaking this in my spare time for days to get it to my expectations of how the tale of TERA should be told. Anyway hope you enjoy! Season 3 of For the Federation will begin after we complete our coverage of PAX Prime!
The moment following Samael's transformation felt as frozen in time as the temporally sealed mansion we now stood in. Samael, powerful beyond our imagination with bronze plated muscles gleaming by the light of a nearby fireplace, seemed to stretch and step awkwardly, still unadjusted to his new form. Stadrian, unsure of the changing situation, stood his ground in a guarded position awaiting a signal of where this was going. But if their side could be called disorderly, then our sorry looking bunch was in a state of utter defeat. Jelena and Platy had managed to revive Elleon and bring him to his feet, but his left shoulder was torn open and even Platy's best efforts weren't capable of stopping the bleeding. Samael began to sniff the air around him in an animalistic fashion and managed as close to what you could call a grin out of his monstrous countenance.
"You had potential Elleon," Samael grunted through clenched teeth. "To think you might have stood beside me as the savior of Velika."
He moved towards Elleon but Jelena rushed forward, leaving Elleon in the care of Platy. "Get him to safety! Elleon is our last hope to stop Lok. Protect him at all cost!"
Before she could turn back and raise her blades in preparation for battle, Samael grabbed her slender frame and effortlessly tossed her limp form against the closest wall, the shockwave sending fissures through the wall and breaking the glass of a nearby window. A slow suction of air began to pull from the open window, pulling small objects and dust into an endless void of white light. I turned to see Dougal shouting to his men but no words emerged from his mouth. The crack in the wall was beginning to spread and my body began to feel sluggish and unsteady as if I was viewing myself in third person from a dream. Platy pushed Elleon off on a nearby bewildered soldier and teleported before me. In one swift motion he held his wand across his body, and backhanded my oversized button nose, restoring my lost senses to the situation.
"Focus and breath. You are Dizzy from the world of Arborea. You came here to stop the resurrection of Lok. Don't stop repeating this in your mind or you'll lose yourself."
I gripped Platy's shoulders tight and shook him frantically. "What's happening to me?!"
"It's happening to all of us! Breaking that window has broken the ancient seal on this mansion. Reality is trying to reincorporate this structure into Arborea and to do that it has to fast forward hundreds if not thousands of years. This structure will be reduced to dust alongside everything in it if we don't move fast. Our will power and connection to the Dream are all that stands between us and disintegration right now!"
Out of the corner of my eyes I saw movement and pushed off of Platy as a massive green fist plunged into the ground where we stood, cracking the floor and quickening the speed of the mansion's disintegration. Before I could turn to see if Platy was ok a spear split the hairs between my ears and I was forced to react and raise my shield to deflect a second killing blow from Stadrian. His eyes were clouded over and his face stoic, as if he couldn't even focus on my figure in front of him. The world flashed before me and my vision fell to a primitive version of how my rabbit kin see the world.
Dougal turned to his remaining men, two human sibling berserkers and one amani lancer, and ordered them to form a defensive barrier around Elleon as Dougal lifted his shield and dashed across the room with lance raised. Samael rose to the challenge and cut a wide sweeping strike covering half the central chamber. To our surprise Dougal rolled over top of his arm, scrambled to his feet, and made one last sprint to pull Jelena away from the open window. Without hesitation Samael was hot on his tail, slashing widely with arms the size of trees and nails tipped with poison and harder than refined Xermetal. Dougal dodged as best as he could but was hindered by his need to protect Jelena, suffering multiple cuts to his limbs while acting as a human shield for her.
The sound of three of Dougal's followers letting out a battlecry and crashing their metal against Samael was the last I followed of their battle as the speed and intensity of Stadrian's movements grew. The cool calculated mind I had respected was gone, replaced by an adrenaline junky thirsting for Popori blood. Still I realized in my current state I was never a match for Stadrian at his best. Perhaps this was my chance!
I focused my mind and summoned my courage as I lifted my shield skyward just before another one of Stadrian's unrestrained killing blows fell upon it. The lance fell across my side, cutting deeply through my stomach platemail but avoiding my vital organs by a good clip. Before the shock of the wound could set in, I slammed my arm down, dropping the pointed tip of my ram shaped shield directly on the overextended fleshy inside of Stadrian's right elbow. In one solid motion I turned my body weight to the left, pushing Stadrian's spear deeper into my side as I twisted and unleashed the poison tipped Basilisk barbs of my master's lance into action.
Perhaps it was the light headed feeling or the collapsing dimension, or the feeling of nothing around me being real, but I cut clear through Stadrian's throat as effortlessly as he had downed the Giant's Chieftain. Reality came rushing back to me as the pain of Stadrian's sharp edged spear slid out of my side. I fell onto my backside as a wave of exhaustion and the now familiar feeling of not wanting to exist came rushing back. I cocked my head to the side to see Dougal and his three men running strafing patterns attempting to stay out of reach of Samael's deadly claws. I turned to the left to see Elleon face down in a growing pool of his own blood while Platy looked on helplessly, his mind deadly focused as he connected a ray of energy from the angelic statue in the center of the room to the open window that was slowly devouring the nearby walling, increasing the strength of the suction and size of the hole steadily. Dougal's men stopped momentarily and held their ground while Dougal returned Jelena to Elleon's side and turned to Platy for assistance.
"Private Wodin, time is running out. You're the last mystic alive on this doomed expedition. Is there any way out of this?"
Platy grit his teeth as the haunting voice of Akia drifted and echoed around the room, her form appearing out of mist at the top of the flight of stairs with a mighty lance covered with spiral designs in hand. "There is no way out for unrefined heathens like yourself, heathens that believed they could forsake the gods while defying the will of our own."
At this the strange figure of an old man appeared on the wing of the ancient statue, his legs dangling careless as he leaned back, emotions leaning almost towards the carefree side despite the rampant chaos pervading the room around him. Akia twisted the Lance of Gid playfully in her hands, earning a delighted smile from the mysterious old man.
"I've held up my end of the bargain. Now fulfill yours!"
The mysterious man ran his right hand's fingers through his well groomed pure white beard contemplating for a moment. Then faster than the eye could see he disappeared from the statue and reappeared, gripping the lance as his own.
"But of course my dear. Right this way." He beckoned, suggesting she follow him down the unseen hallway at the tip of the stairs. He then turned and glanced at the bloodied face of Stadrian and my form laying limp beside it. He flashed forward to confirm Stadrian's death and then turned to face me.
"You killed my immortal minion and spy Stadrian? You aren't an ordinary little Popori are you." The old man paced beside me lost in his thoughts once more. "I could use a new standard bearer in the coming war. You will do nicely."
At this point I could barely keep my eyes open and focused long enough to comprehend his offer. I simply stared back unsure of the wisdom of accepting or denying his request.
"Silent type? Perfect." The old man placed one hand over my eyes. My mind felt as if a tidal wave had just crashed into me. Energy ignited my mind and burnt through my veins, filling every arm and limb with renewed strength. His hands wavered over me for a moment longer before he withdrew them and casually walked over towards the beast Samael, still holding the figure of a lifeless soldier in his mouth as the two remaining fatigued soldiers could do nothing but stare in disbelief at this strange outsider.
"Come Samael. You have performed magnificently and will be rewarded with your mortal whims. We must leave now though." In a flash the old man levitated across the room and less than a second later appeared at the top of the staircase. He waved his arm at the statue, exploding Platy's ray chain and replacing it with a levitating fountain of small but vicious metallic creatures. Using my newly found energy I jumped to my feet to get a better look, only to realize my greatest fear. Minion Class Argons were flowing from the fountain like a stream gleaming with metal.
"Your minds will forever be trapped and tortured in temporal space when this dimension collapses. I suggest the rest of you accept my charity and die a mortal death before that happens."
At that the old man disappeared, leaving an unnerving silence behind. Samael swung his great horns to the side, launching the fallen soldier like a projectile into his brother and amani ally. He let out a grunt of satisfaction as his towering form turned to make his way towards the steps. I channeled my newly recovered energy and charged my lance straight into his upper thigh, bringing the beast to his knees just as I had done to Karascha on the Island of Dawn so long ago. Only this time my spear didn't splinter and my stance wasn't broken. Samael ripped my lance from his leg and tossed me aside then rapidly began crawling towards the stairs. I scrambled to my feet and prepared to renew my assault but delayed at a scream to my side. The wave of argons had fallen upon the injured soldiers like ants on a fallen butterfly. I cut my momentum and turned to charge but not before Dougal's heavy hand fell on my shoulder.
"These are my men Dizzy. You deserve more than any of us to see Samael fall. As my final act I trust you to ensure that his conspiracy never reaches Velika." At that Platy teleported through me and the two crashed into the chaotic frenzy of blood and metal that had engulfed the entire right side of the room. I narrowed my eyes on Samael who was three quarters of the way up the staircase and dashed up the banister, landing at the peak of the climb and hoisting my shield just in time to block a frenzy of poisonous swipes from the outraged monster.
"Don't... make... Elleon's... mistake!" On this word he hammered both fists into the ground, blowing me back against the wall as an ancient portrait of a giant fell upon me. I was overcome by the moment and blocked out the pain to rush in another jab against his left pectoral. In that moment the corrupted blood of Samael dripped down my lance, causing the purple Argon tip to glow. I retracted the lance to its idle form just in time to pull my ears out of the way of a clean shave and rolled to the side. The world began to fade from view again as my focus became clouded from returning fatigue. Then just as the darkness devoured me, Wulynn's voice echoed in my mind. I saw her again as I had in the past. In a simpler world carefree of danger and outer dimensions.
"Raise your spear Dizzy. Show me you're worthy of Master Surmon's legacy!"
Without thinking I extended the spear and held it straight into the air as the darkness was shattered by the familiar blank white light filling the corridors of the mansion. A red light emanated from the tip, replacing the sound of battle with a solemn low pitched echo. I turned to see the mass of Argon minions slowly backing down from my battered allies and turning in my direction, their heads turning back and forth like birds evaluating a new environment. I felt the shade of Wulynn's hands rest on my wrists as I lowered the lance to point directly at Samael. Without warning the Argons fell upon him in a vicious assault, pinning his limbs to the ground as they bashed and battered his exoskeleton, revealing his soft tissue.
Samael gripped onto the nearest Argons he could and fell across the banister, smashing the Argons on the floor as they desperately tried to pull themselves away from his massive form. He attempted to pull himself to his feet as I lept from the second floor, plunging lance first into his chest and pinning him back to the ground. My allies that could move slowly walked towards the fallen general as his grotesque form slowly mutated back into the human I had taken commands from just a few weeks prior.
"You win... fools. Without me the Scions will lose touch with the Federation. Your arrogance has destroyed the one alliance that may have prevented this world from falling into the Argon's corruption." Dougal approached his former superior with sympathy rather than anger in his eyes.
"You are the fool here Samael. Who was that man that can move to and from this temporal portal at will? He called himself your ally and yet summoned the very Argons that destroyed you." Samael spit at Dougal's feet and managed to choke out a gurgling laugh, the rattle of death clearly clouding his voice as it traveled through his throat.
"What does it matter now. Your tiny victory changes nothing. I shall return to the Dream in peace while you suffer eternal agony trapped in this outer dimension. Akia will ressurect Lok and the Federation will fall never having been warned of the possibility of being flanked from their south. And then Lok shall resurrect me as the hero who made it all possible. You haven't changed... anything."
"I apologize Dizzy but this is something I must do for Velika." At that Dougal plunged his sharp edged lance into Samael's core, fading the light in Samael's eyes at last.
As the lance slid slowly back into Dougal's sheath. the windows throughout the room exploded, sending glass flying around the room as the suction of the outer realm intensified. Dougal and I quickly ran to collect Elleon and Jelena, pulling them as far from the decaying windows as possible. Though the reflection in each of our eyes told the story of soldiers that had already died. Dougal removed his spear and pressed it flat against the ground with its pointed edge facing up. I looked on in horror as it occurred to me what this had devolved to.
"Our duty is served. As soldiers we have no reason to fear death. So long as Seir lives Lok will never take Velika. "
"Now don't be hasty!" Platy placed a hand on his lance, blocking it's angle from being a killing blow. "As a scientist I feel it's our duty to see this through and maybe somehow one of us will relay the information back to reality for the good of our society."
"Optimistic words from the eternal pessimist. Death does crazy things to the mind doesn't it?" Dougal nearly broke a smile at Platy's cheerful expression. "Very well. Waiting around for death to come doesn't suit me though. Let's face the unknown together!"
Dougal turned towards a large stained glass window behind the angel statue, the only window in the entire complex that had remained steady through the previous battle. He lowered his lance and charged, prepared to break through into the unknown vortex beyond. But just as his feet braced to lunge over the gap, a blinding light flashed from the statue, stunning him and knocking him off balance. When the light faded Seir stood before us, an ethereal glow highlighting his authoritative figure.
While my mind was perfectly blank at the revelation, I turned to see the gears in Platy's head working overdrive. The appearance of the high priestess of Velika emerging from behind him seemed to be the connecting dot to complete Platy's puzzle.
"High Priestess... you found another way into this world?"
Ciebel walked past him without pause and stood before me. I looked around anxiously expecting to be mistaken and then realized there was no mistake. My mind raced wondering what was going on.
"Well done Dizzy. You have passed my test and proven yourself a true champion of the federation. Samael’s fall from grace is sad- he was a great soldier once- but he made his choice.
No doubt Samael’s death will cripple Lok’s conspiracy. They may now have the spear but their forces will crumble now that we know their intentions.
For now, accept my gratitude and respect. You served Velika well. You saved my city-and perhaps my life. Thank you."
At this she lifted her arms outward, forming a bubble that withstood the final instant of the mansion collapsing around us. She grew in size as her clothes and appearance transformed to look not unlike the statue that still stood behind her, protected with us in our bubble apart from the universe we had known. She turned to Platy.
"I assume your questions have been answered, Wodin?" Platy took a deep gulp and joined the rest of our soldiers in bowing before her. She then turned to face Seir.
"Mortals, your unwavering faith in Velika and purest loyalty has awoken me from my arrogance and swept away the shadows that once gathered in my city . I believed Velika could never fall with the strength of the federation behind it. Yet even with your strength I now see darker forces than we ever imagined were plotting the city's destruction... and nearly succeeded because of me. Your leadership and faith Seir," at this Velik paused and turned to me, "and the foolhardy bravery of a Popori with no greater intentions than to rescue his family are what protected my city in the end. For this I must repay my debts."
A small orb emerged from Velik's chest and floated calmly through the frozen world, resting and combining with my right glove. I felt a brief intense burning sensation as the orb engrained itself into my outer paw. As I pulled my gauntlet off I found a small tattoo of angelic wings burned into my flesh, emanating power akin to what the mysterious man had given me.
"I declare you the Guardian of Velika, Dizzy of Pora Elinu and grant you the power of the gods to protect you in your quest to rescue Wulynn. But the weapon does not make the hunter. Your determination, valor- and kinship with your allies- those are the weapons that our enemies truly fear. This is good-bye Dizzy. But while my story ends, yours has only begun."
At this she raised one hand and the outer edges of our enchanted bubble began to fill with color, as our bodies accelerated through an infinite blur of white light. We emerged before a thrall of the citizens of Velika who let out a mighty cheer as our group slowly levitated to the ground. I turned and Velik was gone, replaced with the healthy and fully healed though starkly confused Elleon, Jelena, and Dougal's fallen man. Seir raised a hand demanding silence from the crowd and approached his nearby podium to speak.
"Today Velika has been saved by not only our brave soldiers, but by the hand of the Goddess Velik herself." The frenzied cheers of the citizens renewed. Seir slammed his fist on the podium, silencing the crowds of people once more. "But this is not a day of celebration. Our Federation has lost countless soldiers today. Some fell protecting Kaiator and Castanica from Argons. A brave few gave their lives to offer the men standing before us a chance of victory. Let us bow our heads in a moment of silence in memory of their sacrifice."
As I lowered my head the fatigue finally overwhelmed me. I stumbled and tried my hardest to stand in place, but a familiar voice whispered in my ear with its scratchy yet meticulous voice.
"The Guardian of Velika? Wulynn would be proud. Perhaps we should have taken you in her place?" My mind blanked out as I fell forward down the stairs, oblivious to the shock of the crowd around me. It meant nothing to me as my mind flew across the planes of space to a field I had seen outside of Velika while riding my Pegasus. An Elin stood sobbing over the body of a dead bandit. I reached out as if to comfort her but stopped as the pudgy form of Gemie faded into reality next to her.
"Well now, you killed him? I didn't think you had it in you. Guess I'll let you eat tonight as promised. But no crying or you won't get dessert."
Wulynn fell to her knees with hands over the man's body. His eyes were wide open in shock, unaware of that this kind-hearted Elin had ever struck him down. The scene faded away as my dreams carried me to pleasant memories of my homeland, and for a few hours I was able to believe the lie that none of it was real.