GGCE 7 – EPICINIUM

Fires burned like hungry walls of destruction, rising high into the air, daring even gods to come near. Black figures of griffins weaving around imps swam through the burning air above as blood rained down with bodies. On the ground below, tens of thousands of monsters marched towards the Elven city of Fable’s End as their terrifying roars sounded out like war cries.

A mixture of Elves, beast-kins, humans, and Fey tried with all their might to hold the ramparts before a single massive mammoth beast, with tusks made from solid iron and eyes as red as blood, charged through the horde and into the rampart gates with an earth-shattering force. The first charge was stopped cold in its blood-soaked tracks, but the walls bent inward with visible pulses of mana travelling through the broken defensive wards.

A hail of Greater Magic fell upon the mammoth from the Mages standing on the rooftops of the buildings bordering the great wall. Then a wave of magic was flung back in retaliation from Mage Monsters such as Goblin Mages, Kobolds, and Ogre Chieftains. The firefight continued until the Mammoth fell and another took its place, bursting through the heavily damaged gate.

Then all the monsterss came to meet the defenders as the hordes swarmed through the breach. Armored golems tried to hold them back, but were overwhelmed by the sheer numbers and force as a Giant rushed through and began to wreak havoc.

High above the city, above the aerial fights – Two figures danced in a battle of black light and bronze. Back and forth they danced, their attacks seemingly beginning to tear at the fabric of space itself. Back in the city, in the Plaza Center, a beautiful woman stood at the foot of her daughter’s statue with a Golden orb in her hand. “Hold them back! They must not get her soul! Protect me while I seal it!”

And it was at this moment, she became aware. As her home was set ablaze, as the fires of war raged through the city and the throngs of monsters pouring through, slaughtering every NPC she had ever created and their offspring. Blood ran thick through the cobblestone streets before she realized what was going on. “Mother! Mother!” She saw her mother holding her, so large. And she was so little. The world she saw was through a faint tint of gold, but it didn’t change the of blood. Of Death. Of Destruction.

“Mother, what’s going on!?” She cried, but she responded as she looked to up to the blackened sky, would have entirely consumed the sky if not for the powerful battle between two godly beings up there. But their fight was even worst as the very world around them was distorting in a myriad of colors as the laws of the world strained to contain the fierce fighting of the two.

“Mother!” A burst of golden light exploded from the orb, sending the monsters surrounding Camilla into pools of golden dust, but the fighting continued regardless as heavily armored Elves regrouped and recaptured their defensive positions around the city center before the monsters had a chance to come back from the explosion.

Camilla looked down, her grey eyes looked at golden orb in her hand. Worry in her eyes, she softly patted the top of the orb as if it was the most delicate item in the world. “It’s all going to be okay.” Her silvery hair fluttered slightly and darkness pulled her down before she could try to call out to her again…

. . . . . .

Rays of dawn poured in through the high windows of Avery’s room, illuminating the room in a faint orange. Avery’s eyes jolted awake as her body tensed up. The ceiling of her room greeted her with a great sense of comfort and familiarity. She could almost hear the blood pumping through her ears as her heart raced from whatever she had dreamt, or saw. She didn’t know which, and frankly – None of the answers would be a comforting one.

She closed her eyes as she calmed herself. Her chest rose slower and slower with each passing moment before the blanket covering her was nearly still. She took a deep breath as her mind cleared and the room began to brighten with the morning’s light turning clearer and the dawn’s warm colors being chased away by the rising sun.

She rolled over, feeling more exhausted, only to be greeted by the sleeping face of Navara. Her eyes went wide when those nosed touched and she was stunned, unsure why Navara was sleeping in her bed! Then it came to her…

Navara had to bunk with her since she was the only other girl in the group. Ter’Yut took up the entire couch. Desmond and Randol did not mind sleeping in the same bed as brothers. That left Navara to sleep in Avery’s room, but Avery had insisted they sleep in the bed as she didn’t want anyone to sleep on her floors. She felt a tinge of warmth knowing she definitely had her mother’s hospitality.

A sense of loss began to rise before Avery shoved it down forcefully, unwilling to wallow in it at the moment. She closed her eyes again for a moment to gather her emotions before she opened them again. But she was in for another shock. Staring back at her was the wide open eyes of Navara, with the oddly adorable sight of a blush slowly blooming on her visible left right cheek. Thick red curls swam around Navara’s pillow being greeted by the river of long snowy hair between them.

Feeling it was the scene might have been getting too awkward, with Navara staring into her eyes while turning as red as her fox ears. Avery smiled then greeted her. “Erm… Good morning.” It didn’t work. It actually seemed to send Navara into another fit of blushing as her entire face was redder than her ears now. Lost in how to deal with this, she decided it was best to just retreat now.

She rolled off the bed, still in the black dress from the night before. She rummaged through the wardrobe and pulled out a single white cloak before vacating the room, leaving Navara on the bed like a maiden who had just been taken advantage of.

She closed the door behind her and found herself standing in the dark, lonely hallway. The house was as silent as a grave. Gathering her emotions, she couldn’t help but let out a smile giggle. “That was an interesting way to start a morning…” She thought to herself before she fiddled with the white cloak that nearly blended in with her long hair.

The cloak was called Cloud-Dancer, a comfortably thick cloak spun from the fur of the Sky King, Cloud-Eater, the Ancient Dragon of Calamity. The cloak reminded her of modern-day cotton, but it felt lighter. It was also prettier and warmer. It was a hooded cloak that wrapped its wearer to withstand the cold climate of the high skies. Such was the flavor text. It, however, was just an extremely rare drop.

One she was proud to say she earned on her own.

The hood was embroidered with the Sky King’s Sigil of a dragon eating its tail while circling a cloud. The sigil glowed a faint light blue as the day skies in the dark hallway as she ran her fingers over it before sliding it on.

. . . . .

Desmond woke to Navara pulling him out of bed and standing him up. “Hold still!” she growled as he repeated blinked in confusion. His brother was startled awake as well, sitting up on the bed. “What mischief are you causing now, girl?” Randol moaned begrudgingly as he took a deep breath to wake himself up more. His hands found a pitcher of water on the bedside table before pouring himself a cup.

Navara had replicated the positions Avery and she awoke in while standing up and pushed her nose against his while staring intently into his eyes. This time, it was Desmond’s turn to blush, but only faintly. Randol looked on with interest as he poured the cup of water down his throat until Navara answered his question.”Making sure I’m not gay.” She said with a straight face.

The water Randol had just finished drinking squirted out his house before the little left in his mouth came coughing out. It was a pitiful sight that Desmond couldn’t help but turn away from Navara to pat his back. “Hey, you okay…?” Randol heaved for a good minute as Navara stood proudly with her rather small chest puffed out triumphantly – her face just as red as when she faced Avery. ” Yup! A-O-K!” She sheepishly grinned before humming out the room.

Randol coughed a few more times before he looked up at his brother teary-eyed. “Did she just-” Desmond cut him off. “I don’t question her antics.” He said as if it was just a fact of life for him. Randol silently vowed in his heart that he’d get his bookworm of a brother together with that fox girl before she killed him with these “antics”. Once Desmond was sure his big brother wasn’t going to die, they readied themselves for the day ahead.

. . . .

The wide-spanning lands of the Demon army stretched far into the horizon in the north, Ter’Yut sat next to Avery on the Pale Tree’s brick retaining wall on the viewing platform. He woke up to this morning’s commotion, but it only took a few minutes for the reality of their situation to overtake him. Yesterday, they were just too exhausted to think about it, but now that he had a full night’s rest… It all weighed heavily on his heart.

Of the ten-odd group, only four people were left and they were the people who had organized the expedition. The implications were grave, but he wasn’t worried about his honor or his reputation. He worried how he was going to tell the families. They were children of noble lineage with Navara being the only commoner among them, but it did not make telling a mother or father their beloved child had died so gruesomely.

Did they die in vain? Did their deaths have any value?

He didn’t have an answer, which pained him even more. They would probably seek answers from the royal family since Desmond was the Third Prince and he had organized the expedition – that wasn’t even taking into account his standing there.

With a sigh, he turned to Avery, hoping for a distraction. She wore a white robe with what he could only think as magical runes embroidered into the sides. It covered most of her body down to her midthighs. “Aren’t you cold?” He noticed she did not wear any shoes or boots. “Yeah.” She answered absentmindedly “Then why don’t you go get boots?” He said while turning back to the vast lands stretching far into the distance.

They were overlooking the demon lands, but he thought they’d be desolate and grey. That was what the church told them. “The cold helps me think.” Avery’s replies weren’t very welcoming, but they also weren’t hostile. “What you thinking about…?” he asked, trying to pry for something. “You don’t want to know.”,

“Know what?” Desmon’s voice called out, a thick black cloak covered his body nearly to his feet as he walked up to the pale tree in awe. “What this world is.” She said solemnly. He couldn’t read what she was thinking. Her face was expressionless, as beautiful as the most exquisite painting.  “Maybe I could help you, I know a lot about history if you’re curious. I am a mage as well,” he said a little proudly, trying to look good in front of her, but he kept his distance. He wasn’t great around strangers, but he sort of developed a crush on her – mainly due to her good cooking.

“Since the time I… ” Her voice trailed off sadly, catching both the boys’ full attention. “Died. I didn’t expect to be back. To be honest, you four should not have been able to enter this place, but you did.” She turned to them, her eyes narrowed thoughtfully. “My bars are gone and I no longer have an interface nor are the summoning gestures working.” She turned back to the vast spanning lands before them. “This shouldn’t be here as well.”

She nodded to the lands. Both of them were now confused. Died? The Demon lands shouldn’t be there? “Wait… What do you mean died?” Ter’Yut asked. “Why shouldn’t the demon lands be there?” Desmond asked, both of them interested in two completely different things. Ignoring Ter’Yut, as the topic was still quite sore to her, she answered Desmond. “This is the end of the map. There shouldn’t be more land. Fable’s End was to overlook the world and galaxy. Sort of a perch above the world. Yet now there are lands spanning on in all directions.”

She got to her feet and walked to the platform’s railing, leaning on it. “I can cook, I can dress properly, and I can feel the mana, but I have to learn how to use it. It’s almost as if this world is real. Theoretically, practically, and in terms of reality. None of you people should be real.” She turned to them

“But it’s obvious this world is real and you’re real.” The two men looked at her, even more, confused to what she was rambling about. “I’m one-hundred-percent sure you’re both not players. You’re not NPCs, and your not my parents.” She clarified looking at their faces. “You do… know how Eos was created right…?” her head tilted. She was sure NPCs would have known she was the daughter of their creator, that they were just fictional characters to fill the world, players talked about it often. How could they not know?

“Nothing is known from the Primordial Age. Most records were lost or destroyed. Fable’s End was supposed to be our holy grail of an archeological site, but…” Desmond trailed off, a strong desire to disregard the events of yesterday. It weighed on him, even though he didn’t show it. He was good at not displaying such emotions, but the mention at the loss of life… He felt horrid.

“When was this ‘Primordial Age’?” Avery asked, a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. “If I remember correctly, this year should be the three-thousand-year mark,” Desmond said after a minute of calculating. “Do you know what was the earliest record?” She asked. “That would be the Hearth Mother, Glacier, fighting the Undead Litche King of High Garden.”

Avery fell silent for a good minute, the ominous aura surrounding her and now they too were starting to feel something was off. Desmond was too timid to break the silence, but Ter’Yut wasn’t. He was not a smart man, but he did understand that this line of questioning was leading to something; something he wasn’t going to like. “How was this world created?” She asked with a strong tone, her eyes burning with a strange new light. One that seemed to know everything now.

Desmond looked at her, feeling what he was about to say was wrong. He thought it over and over for a couple of seconds, but every answer felt completely wrong when he looked into her eyes – that scared him. Finally, he bit the blade. ” There are many different versions, however, the most prominent was the God Alistair dreamt the world into existence.” He said. He noticed her beautiful feline eyes narrow dangerously like that very story was an offense to her existence.

“B-But primordial records say that Glacier was the one who created the world.” He spat out, trying to soothe over that brewing storm in her eyes. She turned away, for a moment. She couldn’t look at him. The dots were connecting in her head, and what was there was just verifying her thoughts already. Something that she wished was real, but in her heart, wish wasn’t. Once her heart became a still lake, she turned back to him.

“No, I didn’t create this world. Rather, the world was created for me by my father. Eos wasn’t actually a world then. It was my tomb, a place where I could die as I lived. “

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