Part 1: The Crushing
The chambers were silent. Beef, the Dev-ine Artist glided along, adding not even a whisper to the boundless halls. Turning a corner he came face to face with CryptoB, the Dev-ine Factotum, forcing him to come to a sudden stop.
“You feel it too, brother?” CryptoB asked, the silver pencil he normally kept at his desk tucked behind his ear.
Nodding, Beef drew out his golden brush, swiftly creating a seamless archway and materializing a portal into the main Grand Chamber.
“This…this isn’t right.” CryptoB said, stepping through.
“Indeed.” Beef replied.
Their gaze rested upon the room in shambles. Far different from the normal clutter of a successful meeting, particularly in that the dimension ruled over by the Dev-ine Council would typically have reacted to their arrival, reconfiguring and erasing any trace of habitancy no matter how small.
Instead what they saw was chairs, half-formed but still standing. Candle flames suspended without candles to fuel them. Tables upside down, suspended in air, plates of rotten, unwanted food sitting upon their surface as if gravity were no longer a concern.
Bending down, CryptoB picked a small, black worm off a plate. “Nothing should decay…nor should there be any beings but us permitted in this place without our knowledge.”
Beef, without hesitating, quickly rushed to the door he painted some time ago, leading to a pocket dimension where El’uk, the kinetisuit pilot, was staying. Jarringly, he found the door locked. Prying harder and calling upon his Dev-ine strength he ripped the portal door from its hinges, only to find there to be nothing but a freestanding frame. The pocket dimension was entirely gone.
“Wh-how?” Beef exclaimed
“Beef!” CryptoB called, storming the main door in an attempt to open it. “Help me with this.”
Beef, pulling his golden brush, quickly painted a battering ram, and the two of them together manned it to charge the door.
With a splintering crack the doors gave way, revealing a cataclysmic storm brewing beneath a sky blacker than pitch, the air thrashing outside the deathly silent halls of the Grand Chamber.
Suddenly, the weight of the golden robes each of them wore began to bear down on them, becoming more oppressive with each passing second. The golden brush in Beef’s hand grew unbearably hot, forcing him to cast it away.
The robes grew heavier still, bringing them to their knees. The silver pencil behind CryptoB’s ear fell as it too changed in nature, piercing his right hand, pinning it to the ground and continuing to bore into the marble flooring.
Stripped of their tools and their influence they were left powerless and faced with the sudden, crippling realization that the weight of the cosmos itself was falling upon them.
“This is it, it would seem.” Beef began. “I guess the real universe was the friends we made along the way after all.”
“Beef…” CryptoB began breathlessly gesturing to the outlook past the gardens towards the true entrance to this realm. “Look!”
Part 2: The Arrival
Standing at the edge of the Grand Chamber courtyard was a collection of familiar people…were they? They were! Rulers from the realm of Mortegard stood at the balcony, a golden, Dev-ine halo encompassing them, clashing with the impossibly dark blackness of The Great Cosmos behind them.
Wordlessly, they stepped forward in unison, driven by the awakened knowledge in them that some impossible weight needed lifting.
The swallowing blackness grew ever closer with each of their steps, and as they approached Beef and Crypto a bolt of blackness like a striking hand swept away a vast swathe of The Grand Chambers, leaving the ethereal space between reality tattered. As the curling, smokey, tendrils wound up for another strike, each of the Rulers raised their hands:
As if an infinitely strong glass shield covered them, the blackness stopped dead above their invisible barrier.
“Get up, Beef, Crypto.” One of them said in a dire tone. “You can’t do this alone,”
As if a crushing weight was lifted from their shoulders, Beef and CryptoB stood once more.
“You dropped these.” One of the Dev-oted Rulers said with inspiring confidence, handing the silver pencil and golden brush back to the crushed council members.
“Now PUSH!” They all yelled in unison.
Crypto and Beef stood to their full height, the resplendent golden robes adorning each of them rippling and ricocheting as they impacted the blackness of the Cosmos. Beef and CryptoB too lifted their hands, and joined in the push against the cataclysmic onslaught of the same cosmic blanket once put in place to protect Mortegard.
For days – weeks – they pushed, never letting up, their collective strength and support providing the sustenance they needed to continue. Then suddenly, after a nod between them signaling a final heave, the Cosmos rippled and gave way.
Part 3: The Impact
The impact of these events showed itself all across Mortegard. The darkness that threatened to bring eternal night to the entire mortal realm left all survivors, rulers and citizens alike, with a sense of impending doom.
Then one day, with a sharp violence, the blackness lifted. A shockwave and an ear-shattering tearing echoed across vast distances. All the races, factions, and creatures of Mortegard felt a weight lift as the threat of eternal night lifted to a pallid vision of…twinkling white lights. Were these the stars – the visions of hope in the sky that ancient writings foretold?
Every single living soul that could muster the strength, looked up as a rain of twinkling ember-like trails descended from the sky with a terrifying speed.
Part 4: Sha’haiya
Deep in Sha’haiya, a Heavy-weight handler had worked though the entirety of what is now referred to as ‘The Cosmic Cataclysm’. Shaken with a start from his deep concentration, he quickly realized the impossible blackness was now pricked with white pinholes; he clicked a command for his reading light to be snuffed. A transfixed Lepkin jolted out of his stupor to quickly obey.
The Handler’s eyes, still adjusting to the darkness, followed one of the descending blue embers beneath a raised eyebrow.
Once the ember-trail had disappeared behind a dune, all of the servants of the Heavyweight Handler turned to look at him for guidance.
“Uhh, M-L–l-ord Yuthranii, sire?” stuttered the Lepkin.
With a boom, a shockwave knocked all the servants of lesser weight off their feet. The Handler shot a hand out and grabbed his favored Lepkin servant by the robe, letting the others fall around him.
“Fetchin.” Mouthed the handler, scraping his fat tongue against his teeth gathering the connected sand, then spitting it out. “Fetch me my walkers. You and I are going to…investigate.”
“Are-are you sure that’s wise…uhh M-mist…Lord Yuthranii…uhh…sire?” Fetchin squeaked out.
“Fetchin…” The handler began, making clicking mouth noises as he built saliva up. “You should know better than to question the likes of Dul’chuk Yuthranii, you little toad, now go!” Dul’chuk commanded, tossing the Lepkin towards his tent.
In the span of a single breath Fethin returned, holding a long case. Placing it on the ground, he unlocked its delicate clasp. Opening the lid, Fetchin removed two ornate serpentine devices, connected with a glittering chain sporting a large ruby suspended in the center.
Stooping low and handling the first device with reverence, he knelt at Dul’chuk’s feet. Made from a single piece of pearlescent ivory and engraved with countless fine runetchings, the device was slowly twisted with immense care onto Dul’chuk’s fat-laden leg.
Gradually, as the heat from Dul’chuks globulus limb permeated the golden formulae, the device writhed, and shaped to his form. The singular ruby began to glow like an eye reflecting firelight.
The chain contracted, causing the ruby in its center to pull tight and suspend.
“W-w-want me to w-w-warm it up for you…L-M-M-Sire?” Fetchin asked.
“Go ahead oh ribbetous servant.” Dul’chuk replied, pleased he still commanded such power despite recent events.
Without a word, an immense flame erupted around the ruby, burning with a controlled intensity that somehow left those nearest unaffected while the onlookers from Dul’chuk Yathranii’s entourage shielded their faces with fast-scorching hands.
To the less observant, this served as a display of the unassuming Lepkin’s immense latent knowledge and understanding of Alembria. However, to those with a modicum of intellect, this served more as a testament to the true power and influence of The Sha’haiyan Merchant’s Guild: that they reigned uncontested above even those who possessed the power to erase the mightiest of leaders with a single thought.
“Th-there, Mister, uh, Lord Yuthranii.” Fetchin said, without a hint of pride.
As the fire subsided, the ruby glowed with a blinding single point of light.
“Very good, Fetchin, very good.” Dul’chuk said, patting the Lepkin on the head. “Now for the other leg.”
“Y-yes, L-L-Sire.” Fetchin stammered, delicately handling the other device and twisting it onto Dul’chuk’s leg with a greater ease than the first.
The glittering chain contracted to the perfect length as Dul’chuk stretched his legs.. “Truly a marvelous device.” Dul’chuk laughed as he wobbled to his feet.
“B-b-take care, sir.” Fetchin said with a deep concern in his tone. “T-It-I”
“I appreciate your concern, Fetchin.” Dul’chuk interjected as Fetchin continued to stutter. “But do not assume you have any say in my actions.”
“Besides, if I happen to scratch it, you can simply make me a new one.” Dul’chuk chuckled, feigning friendliness.
Fetchin masked a sigh “Yes, sire”
Dul’chuk, becoming accustomed again to the device, took his first step in months. His back cracked under his adjusted weight. He first paced back and forth, then leapt – higher than his frame would suggest, sinking slowly, as if a feather wet with dew was dropped from a height.
“You three, with us.” Dul’chuk began, pointing to three kinetisuits. “You must keep pace.”
Without another word, Dul’chuk began awkwardly bounding away to the site of the ember-trail’s impact.
Sighing, Fetchin pulled an oily rag from a pouch at his side and wiped his face and hands. He then took off his robes and threw them at another servant, ranked far below even his own questionable status. Under the robes, he was clothed in a tight-fitting garment: crafted from the mythical beast hides of the Wilderland and covered in runeetching, it exuded an aura of power and purpose.
“I-i-we-make some tea for our re-ru-when we come back.” He commanded. “St-pu-be sure to put plenty of lumenfr-fr.”
The servant nodded, understanding fully. Fetchin got down on all fours and leapt after his master, moving with surprising grace.
Part 5: Bolochtarian Border
The King in Black stood in his ethereal form among the citizens formerly under the charge of The Bandit King.
“Take care, good people.” said the King in Black. “I too feel the pull of this substance, indeed I am looking at this in many places now. It is not to be handled yet, but will be guarded by my legion. You people must let us discover first what has happened to cause this strange disturbance. I will send aid.”
Without a sound he vanished.
“Fiddlesticks.” Fre’ja muttered, having already approached the crater’s edge. “Better to ask for forgiveness than beg for permission,” she said quietly to herself as she carefully descended into the crater, “let’s see what we have here, and get a chunk of this to my lab.”
Part 6: Arkenheart
“Aye, you would, Sengen. As if we haven’t had enough trouble as of late.” Rordras replied with a throaty sigh, gazing at the pinhole lights twinkling above them. “We’re fortunate the Grey Fingers have the willpower they do.”
Rordras remained silent as he watched the carts roll away from the site. “This is the third site tonight we’ve overseen, I imagine the other regiments have done the same. What do you suppose this means?” Rordras finally asked at things grew more quiet.
“Change.” Sengen mumbled simply as he walked away.
Part 7: Osvara
A host of a million ravens were finally home. Never before had so many perched at Ravencrown at once, and the twisted peaks were thick with their unkindness. Each was given a task, to locate every ember-trail site in Osvara, no matter how minute, and bring back what they could manage.
Now, having completed their assignments, every branch surrounding the inner sanctum was stripped clean of errant leaves and twigs. A twining perch polished to a sheen by the beaks of the black, feathered creatures which stood along it, like a guttenous bounty of devout fruit.
Each avian servant stood silent as they gazed down at their master who sat contemplatively, equally silent, looking with almost a greedy guilt upon the bounty at which lay at his feet.
His people below rejoiced at the lifting of the blackness, singing the hunting song now adopted even by the descendants of the highest echelons of Elven society.
“‘Aguwah’ indeed, my good people. Soon our true honor will be restored.” was all he spoke, mentally calculating, ruminating upon, and foreseeing the immense power this might bring to his people.
Part 8: Dul’chuk’s Delight
A deathly silence filled the air. Even the skittish Desert Kul’nats were perched on rocks and cacti, watching the ember rain from the sky. Leaping along, Fetchin struggled to keep pace with his master and the kinetisuits. The rotund weight of his master was lifted effortlessly by the featherweight-shackles, a unique, masterwork artifact.
“Curse that blasted contraption.” He thought to himself. “I could have made it less efficient. Or he could permit me an ashstrider, but of course he leaves me to leap.”
Dul’chuk and his entourage disappeared behind a sand hill leaving Fetchin behind.
Fetchin glanced around, realizing he was alone for the first time in years. “I miss this,” he thought to himself.
A blood-curdling cry of joy shocked Fetchin out of his contemplation, sending a shiver across his oiled skin. Without hesitating, Fetchin lifted himself from the ground with a complex mental equation and an incomprehensible solution muttered under his breath, and flew like a speeding arrow to his master.
“M-m-si-m” Fetching stammered, slightly out of breath. “W-w” he started again, but couldn’t get any words out.
Fetchin stood at the edge of a crater, the size of a small house. The entirety of the crater walls had been turned to glass. At the bottom stood Dul’chuk – laughing, holding his knees, and peering down at a singular point, the object of his fixation obscured from view.
Dul’chuk continued to laugh, uncontrollably. He turned to Fetchin, continuing his deep chuckle.
“Wh-wh-” Fetchin began.
Dul’chuk stepped out of the way, revealing what he had been concealing.
“Oh…” said Fetchin, a grin growing on his face. Then he too began to chuckle.
Part 9: The Cosmic Council
Beef closed the doors of the Grand Chambers, pressing his back against the ornate portal.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us.” said CryptoB.
“Indeed we do.” replied Beef as they walked together into the inner sanctum.
“But you don’t have to do it alone.” said The Dev-oted Rulers, now adorned with their own resplendent golden robes.
And with a nod, they all sat upon their thrones formed from the Cosmic fallout. The gargantuan seats shone with radiant power and stood at an impossible height, their backs aiding the support of the very sky itself. The surface glimmered with etheric strands, woven from the deepest black and most resplendent white all at once.
The Dev-ine Council members were no longer alone: by their side stood those that would help them shoulder the weight of the very Cosmos itself.
The Cosmic Council had arrived.