TERA: For the Federation 3 – Lok’s Conspiracy
By Darren Henderson (DizzyPW), OnRPG Journalist
There we were isolated and, although not officially stated, prisoners of Leander. Which wouldn’t have been so bad if not for the dark glare I was receiving from the tanned Castanic who went by the name Jelena. I have no idea what brought her to this point, but I distinctly remember hearing her name come up when researching the Dawn Massacre. She had commanded the Relentless, the one and only air ship to witness the Dawn Massacre and return to Velika ports in working condition. No doubt that day she had faced many brutal decisions and seen many of her fellow comrades fall, not to mention carrying the guilt of not being able to rescue Elleon despite her best efforts. I felt like without Leander’s zen presence restraining her, she might have torn the three of us apart, no questions asked.
Jelena tossed Fadora and Platy aside and began making swift strides in my direction. Leander stepped between us at the last moment only to find himself pinned against the wall. For a short stature Castanic female, her strength was surreal.
“He’s lying to you Leander. We have to kill them off or the next Federation ship we’ll be boarding will be en route to our execution!” She spoke quickly with her emotions causing her tone to quiver from low to high.
“He tells the truth. Unhand me and get back to searching the ship.”
“You’re not a soldier Leander. You don’t know proper protocol for this type of situation. I’m only being reasonable.”
Leander removed her hand by force, so that the two stared eye to eye, almost as if they were secret lovers. A serious taboo that would be frowned upon by even the most liberal days of the Elven Counsel.
“Do you really think I spent the last 60 years as a diplomat traveling through the Federation without learning how to read people? What is the most vital trait to know of a Popori when negotiating?”
Jelena moved to answer but then her face scrunched up in frustration. It was obvious she had no clue.
“Popori will always rely on lying,” he continued. “They will lie to any outsider unless they have a vitally important reason to tell the truth, and only if the truth will get them closer to their objective.” He glanced quickly in my direction. “Soldier, what was the name and description of the two soldiers you are looking for?”
“Surmun… a rabbit lancer like myself but with dark fur and tiny ears. Also Wulynn the legendary five tailed Elin fox.”
Elleon turned again to Jelena with a matter of fact aura about him as he stated that both soldiers had been alive during the attempted evacuation of the survivors, and both had volunteered to stay behind with Elleon to hold off the endless assault of demons and ensure a safe escape for the Relentless. Most of the known spies had immediately rushed aboard the ship to save their hides, meaning my family had nothing to do with this conspiracy that they still had us left in the dark about.
As the arguing became more fierce between the two, Platy nudged me and motioned with his eyes towards the darkness at the back of the cargo hold. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness I noticed Fadora standing over a large mass of something, staring intently at a glowing black bead. My eyes adjusted a little more until I noticed a massive orc laying dead in the corner of the room, forcing me to squeek out of habit, breaking Leander and Jelena out of their heated debate. Jelena dashed across the room, gripping Fadora’s wrist and quickly pulling the gem from her.
“Hey that’s my payment for coming on this silly quest! Hand it over!” Fadora cried.
“Leander look at this. It’s an artifact of Lok! But it’s engraved with the Orc’s name, Acharak,” Jelena beckoned Leander closer to confirm her thoughts to be true.
Leander pulled a slayer’s blade that emanated an aura of death so powerful, Platy and I reeled back , overwhelmed by a terrible sickness in our guts. Leander held the gem up to the sword, and the two began to resonate in unison.
“It’s linked to the weapon the demon in charge of the ambush was wielding. No doubt something was controlling both the demons and the orcs during the Dawn Massacre. I couldn’t believe my eyes that day to see a ragtag group of monsters overwhelming our handpicked battalion of soldiers with superior tactics. This confirms everything.”
“Leave it to a greedy Castanic to find the clue everyone else overlooked, eh Leander?” Jelena chided. Her mood visibly improved from moments ago.
“Indeed. We need to send word to our allies in Velika at once. They have to know the Scions of Lok are behind it all!” He went to walk off but Fadora jumped between him and the only exit in the ship. Jelena pushed him back and soon bow was drawn against twin blades.
“It goes against my religion to let an elf walk away with my hard earned treasure. If you don’t offer compensation I’ll accept it in blood,” Fadora warned.
“My blades are known as Mercy and Justice for a reason. I sever your nervous system with the first strike so you feel no pain. I kill instantly with the second to put my foes out of their misery. Fire one arrow, and I’ll educate you in the process.”
“Ladies calm down!” Leander positioned himself precariously between the two fiery Castanics forcing them to lower their weapons. Leander placed the gem in her hand, much to the surprise of all.
“I’ll let you keep this little trinket if you’re willing to work with me. I want to ensure that you and that odd looking raccoon over there are just as honest as that Popori lancer. We’ve established a base camp in the middle of the tainted gorge that has located the central root of the corruption on this island to be in… well.. the roots.”
Leander went on to explain that a supernatural energy force was emanating deep within the caverns forged by the giant tree’s roots as they stretched across the island. He promised that Fadora would likely have her treasure, Platy would certainly have his adventure, and I might possibly find clues about Elleon if we ventured into the depths of the tree to uncover the truth.
I accepted the assignment without question; the thought of uncovering the truth about Elleon’s expedition team granted me a surge of adrenaline that overpowered my cowardice. Platy and Fadora on the other hand took some harsh motivational words to convince. I could tell both of them had gotten into something they wanted no part of and would jump at the chance of escaping. After some ‘encouraging’ words from Jelena, including the mention of how tasty raccoon soup is on a cool summer night, they agreed and we were off traversing the baron landscape as the shadow of the great tree cut off all sources of light.
Platy insisted we stop by the gorge base for some quick libations.. not to mention the ladies.
Our eyes were heavy as we finally arrived at the cavern. I had been on my feet in full uniform for roughly 21:00 hours and it was taking a toll on me. I knew my stamina was low, and I couldn’t afford any mistakes if the natives of the cave were aggressive. As we sunk deeper and deeper into this alternate world, something clearly unnatural began to occur to Platy.
His eyes rolled into the back of his head and he began speaking in tongues. He pushed against the side of the cavern and thrust a layer of dust off a large root to reveal a series of magic glyphs embedded in the wall. As he read them off he began to scribble madly onto a piece of parchment that he always seemed to keep close by his side. Just as Fadora and I thought that madness has consumed him, the chanting stopped and he turned to us with glazed bloodshot eyes.
The Scions of Lok are converting this tree into some sort of energy source. That’s why we Popori can hardly stand underneath its shade without getting goosebumps. But this isn’t your typical mechanical powerplant like in Velika. They’re attempting to utilize the power of the Titans’ dreams to reshape reality.
“That’s insane! You’ve gone mad Popori.” Fadora mocked.
“Oh? Then what do you make of this?” Platy pointed to markings clearly made in the ancient language of the Castanics. These were the writings cherished from before the days of Lok’s fall. And now they were a common code language used by the Devas, a group of Castanics still loyal to their fallen god, and zealots ready to stand against any who oppose his will.
The conversation quickly evolved into some sort of accusation that I could hardly follow. Platy demanded Fadora read the markings but Fadora vehemently denied that she had any connection to the Devas or Lok. She said they should just make their way down the next hall and find the power source of the tree. I could feel the temptation filling her words as she seduced me with the thought of having the power of the Titans at our finger tips. Nothing would be beyond our grasp.
As I began to fall into a hypnotic trance, Platy broke the spell by lunging on her, teeth barred. He grabbed the stone and slammed it against her bow, causing the two to resonate just as the stone had done so before with Leander’s tainted blade.
“Down that path we’ll find treasure eh? Power eh?” Platy threw the dark stone as hard as he could down the hallway only to watch it explode as countless spikes shot from the floor and walls. “A typical Devas trap.” He turned back at Fadora, his normally cheerful demeanor replaced by unbridled animalistic hatred.
Fadora tossed him aside and drew her corrupted bow, firing a quick shot that pierced through Platy’s foot. My inexperience caused me to fumble under pressure and Fadora’s swift spin kick caught me square in the opening above my breastplate. She immediately placed her hand on the dusty root and began chanting alien words, the language of the Devas and Lok.
“Stop her you fool!” Platy shouted to me as he pulled the bloody arrow from his foot and began healing the wound.
I clambered to my feet and saw Fadora madly sprinting towards a portal emitting a blinding light in all directions. Every ounce of my being knew that I couldn’t allow her to reach that portal. I threw my breastplate on the ground and took off in a mad dash like only a Lancer trained in long distance running in heavy armor can do. I grabbed onto her just as her hand reached inside the orb, and the experience was unlike anything I’ve experienced before or since.
Fadora’s beautiful features suddenly transformed into the distorted barbaric look of a Devas priest. Her armor carried the runic markings of a high priestess of Lok and glimmered with dark red ethereal shades. She turned to me and kissed me, then laughed as my entire body shut down. Time slowed to a crawl as my body fell back lifelessly to the ground. I looked up to see a bow and arrow made of cultist magic fire at me. I shut off my mind and focused my entire strength to raising my shield, which shattered into thousands of shooting stars falling around my distorted vision of the world. I felt weightless as I and the remaining handle of my shield flew across the room. I knew what came next.. My body hit the ground with such force that I bounced three times before coming to a stop. Reality was setting in. My blood began to boil as I recalled my last birthday receiving that shield as a gift from Surmun. Despite being the supposed father figure of our family, Surmun never gave away anything for free.. nothing except that shield and my lance. I had just lost one of my last connections to my master and father, Surmun.
“Hardy little rodent aren’t you Dizzy? No matter.” In an instant she summoned a Guardian of Lok. This giant looming metallic beast spoke in gurgles and gargles, yet somehow his words found meaning in the depths of my mind.
“Leave this to me milady. Lok be praised I’ll hold these nature freaks down until His seal finishes corrupting the tree.”
“Please do Karascha. I need to warn you know who of Leander’s intentions. We can’t allow the high command of the Valkyon Federation to gain wind of our plans just yet. I’ll report that the Power of Dawn is safely sealed for Lok’s use. Be a dear and don’t make me look like a liar.”
The great beast known as Karascha took her final words as marching order and wasted no time setting his sights on me. The ground shook as the beast approached. I took comfort that I had been able to lift my shield thanks to the decrease in weight from dropping my breastplate, but now I stared longingly at the piece of gear resting 20 meters away. With no shield and no armor I didn’t have a prayer.
“On your feet Dizzy!” Shouted Platy who was crawling to my side, his foot still bleeding profusely.
He crawled into range just in time for his magic aura to reach me, breathing new life into my body and returning feeling to my limbs. My eyes, growing heavy, suddenly burst to life with vigor that could only be achieved through raw magical enhancements. I rolled to the side just as the beast lunged, leaving a crater in the hard stone where I had lay seconds before. I stumbled to my feet and caught the beast square in the teeth, knocking one of them loose and lodging the tip in his gum-line as his mouth formed around me. He bit down hard on the lance and shook it fiercely attempting to separate me from my last hope of an offense. I held tight as he released the lance, launching me and my weapon across the room.
I was not used to fighting in such a fatigued state and clumsily tried to scramble into a defensive position as the rumbling of the ground grew like approaching thunder. Platy forced himself to stand and began a half stumble, half run towards the glowing orb while firing orbs of energy furiously. His aim was shaky but one bolt managed to graze the side of the altar, causing the light to dim.
The Guardian of Lok snarled at Platy and abruptly ended his monstrous momentum as he began to forge magic in the palm of his skeletal hands. Platy sacrificed any chance of dodging this incoming blow as he aimed one final ball of light at the orb illuminating the room. The spell never escaped Platy’s channel as he was floored by Karacha’s fireball and knocked against the glyph covered wall with a sickening thud. It was then that I saw it. There was a break in the beast’s metallic armor at the top of his thighs, revealing the raw soft flesh of the beast. My lance arm was so shaken I couldn’t lift it, but I made do by supporting my right bicep with my left arm. I steadied my aim as I began a slow charge towards the beast, nearly tripping on my own feet during the first few steps.
It was too late to turn back now. My feet were moving faster than my body could balance and I knew I had to throw my entire body weight behind the next thrust. Platy spit and mocked the beast with the last of his spirit, holding back his claws with well timed blasts of his wand. The beast never saw it coming as I leapt with my full force driving my training spear into his right thigh. The spear, made of petrified wood and shaped by the queen’s personal blacksmith, broke through his skin and then splintered into hundreds of pieces, cutting veins and deep muscle tissue in the process. Platy then cursed the beast one final time before unleashing a shockwave that blew the massive beast off his feet. He stumbled and shrieked as his body body weight forced the remnants of the spear clear to the other side of his thigh. He began madly clawing the ground in an attempt to pull himself into the light of the orb.
He steadied himself on the pillar as blood poured from his mouth and splintered leg and looked at us with what could only be described as a smile.
“Akia told me… guard this place until the shield is up. You fought well… but I did it. And soon the demon-god Lok will resurrect me. You haven’t won at all. Ha Ha Ha Ha! Eurgh!” And the Guardian of Lok fell silent for the last time as a shield spread from the light, slowly pushing back anything that came in contact with it. I reached down deep, summoning a second wind to grab Platy and carry him to safety.
Minutes later we collapsed on the grounds outside of the great tree just as the caverns collapsed behind us. The tree itself had changed from purple and pink to black and crimson. The ground shook violently and I cringed as this was exactly how I had imagined the island from hell. But then, the shaking stopped and peace returned. I heard the murmuring of waking voices coming from the nearby base camp. Suddenly the tree burst into color again as if nothing had happened. I gazed dumbfounded and wondered if there had even been any witnesses.