Eden: Civil War
Part II – Broken Alliances
The morning rays of the rising sun shone through the Amerythian crystal windows of the Eden’s bridge. Where the enchanted crystal panes were joined, light refracted sending dozens of small, scintillating rainbows dancing about the room. A tall man with a bushy, black beard dressed in a red doublet stood behind the wheel. A dusty, brown tricorne hat sat atop his head as he kept a thumb hooked on the broad leather belt where his ornate cutlass hung in its scabbard. He idly watched small motes of dust float in the air and sparkle momentarily as they passed through the sunbeams shining into the bridge when a quick movement caught his attention in the cloud bank ahead. The helmsman pulled out a looking glass and peered through the magnification lens. A glimpse of scales darting between the towering white clouds confirmed his fears.
“Rat!” he called.
A small white furred banga appeared at the doorway to the bridge. “Yes Darksail?” Popo asked.
“Fetch Squid for me and alert the captain! We’ve got a dragon, sound the alarm!” Darksail barked as he began to loop the heavy restraining belts around his shoulders. “Also, tell that crazed gnome we’re going to need all the power this girl can muster. Go!”
Popo darted out of the doorway and a few moments later the alarm bells began to ring across the ship as a figure clad in a dark grey robe glided into the room, their features obscured by a heavy hood and long sleeves.
“Tentickles, I need you to initiate the defensive protocols and get the shield up immediately.” Darksail ordered as he clinched the last buckle and gripped the wheel with both hands.
Ten black tentacles slid out from the sleeves of the robe and began to flick switches and turn dials. A clipped, irritated voice echoed from the darkness of the cowl. “You know, I have a name pirate. I was known on the Marinos Isles as Arcadisus Belsephrous Talovinius Vishninstein Drake, and that name commanded respect as befitting a sorcerer of my renown.”
“Would ye prefer I call ye Squid?” growled Darksail as he scanned the horizon.
A deep sigh escaped the hood, “Tentickles is fine.” A hollow voice replied in resignation.
“Now that we have that sorted, is the barrier up?” the pirate asked.
In response to his question, a shimmering barrier of translucent hexagons encased the ship and the ampoules of mana glowed brightly on the instrument panel. “It is done, the forward guns are also powering up as well.” Tentickles replied.
Darksail gripped the wheel and whispered under his breath “Let’s hope it is enough.”
* * *
Alarms sounded off all over the Eden as the guards escorted Ramge to the brig. “What is going on?” the disgraced King’s Guard asked.
The guard behind Ramge pushed him roughly with a halberd, “Never you mind, just keep moving.”
The trio moved through the halls quickly as others rushed past them, forcing them to take an alternate route to the brig. Ramge cooperated with the guard’s efforts to make haste until they walked by the trophy chamber where the air squadron displayed its greatest achievements and treasures. Ramge dared a glance within the room as they passed by and had his suspicions confirmed, resting on a weapon display laid the very item he had sought and had allowed himself to be captured. A golden staff, six feet in length, topped with a bladed head that housed a golden jewel that gleamed with an unearthly light rested quietly on a pedestal. A black and leafless, twisted branch wound its way around the length of the staff and every so often emitted dark purple and black motes that quickly faded into the air. The Chaotic Destiny, a fabled relic from another dimension, infused with the power of the Misty was aboard the Eden. The disgraced King’s Guard information had proved correct, he almost regretted killing the informant. Almost. He smiled to himself and stalled moving forward to once more catch a glimpse of the weapon he had sought for so long when one of the guards, irritated by his lack of movement, shoved Ramge forward.
Before Ramge could respond, a massive black shape soared past the porthole in the blink of an eye that caused the ship to rock violently back and forth in its wake. Both guards and Ramge crashed against the walls of the ship and in the moment of confusion, Ramge seized the opportunity and attacked. Ramge, his hands still bound in the anti-magic braces, leapt onto one of the guards and began to hammer both hands against his opponent’s face. Blood splattered Ramge as the metal braces crunched loudly into the guard’s face and throat. A white-hot pain lanced through his arm as Ramge felt the bones in his left wrist snap and the metal brace twisted violently causing one of the purple gems to break free and bounce along the floorboards.
Ramge sensed the anti-magic enchantment break as the other guard surged to his feet, halberd in hand. Summoning the dark magic within him, Ramge thrust his good hand forward and hurled a bolt of black energy at the guard. The bolt struck his assailant directly in the chest and hurled him several feet back where he landed with a thud. The guard stirred weakly then stopped moving.
Ramge got unsteadily to his feet, every step caused waves of agony to wash over him from his broken wrist. As he stumbled towards the staff, his teeth tore at the buckles on his right hand to free it from the mangled bracer. As the restraint fell free a fresh jolt of pain hit him as his fingers, after being locked into an immobile state for weeks, finally were able to bend and flex. Taking a moment to collect himself, Ramge channeled a thin thread of mana and uttered an incantation of sending.
“Sia, can you hear me?” Ramge sent the mental thought.
A feline voice purred happily and echoed in his thoughts, “Ramge, you have escaped! Do you have what we seek?”
“Almost, I stand before the staff. It is glorious Sia! I can feel the power of the Misty.” Ramge’s excitement was bordering on mania.
The feline voice again filled his thoughts, “Shall I inform your father you have the prize?”
“Not yet, I have not taken the staff into my possession yet.”
“Be quick then! Take it! With it you will be unstoppable! Nothing can stand before the darkness of the Misty! No one shall be able to ever deny you what you desire with that staff. No one, not even your father!” Sia’s voice was almost a shriek and Ramge winced slightly at the force of the cat’s thoughts.
Ramge reached out to grab the staff with his good hand. As his fingers neared the haft of the weapon, a searing pain caused him to cry out and he fell back as a flash of magic filled the room. Confused, Ramge looked at his hand to see the flesh of his hand blackened and scorched.
“Did you get it yet?” Sia purred.
Ramge swallowed hard, his entire body radiated pain as the aftereffects of the magical warding slowly began to fade. “No, the weapon is warded. I should have thought of that before reaching out.”
“Tiber” the feline voice hissed in disgust. “That damned magus must have cast a sigil of protection on it to prevent it being stolen. Can you break the enchantment?”
Ramge whispered a small cantrip and the magical warding circle revealed itself around the column upon which the staff was placed. “Yes, I think I can. The magic is strong though. I do not know if I will be able to break the circle without the caster knowing.”
“Then you will have to kill him my friend. Tiber, that filthy rat-friend. You know he thinks he is better than you. Everyone thinks he is better than you. You will not let that stand, will you? You can’t let that stand!” Sia’s voice took on a hiss as the last thoughts filled Ramge’s head. “I am the only one that believes in you Ramge. I am the only one that cares about you. You must obtain that staff my friend. It holds the power that only you can unlock. No one understands the connection it has to the Misty; no one can manipulate it. But you can. You, my best friend, you can unlock the staff’s potential and become the true power in this land. That is what you want isn’t it? You want to be in control. You want to be respected, nay…feared do you not? No one will laugh at you again. No one will send you away because they are ashamed of you. With that power, you will be not feared but …loved! All will love you for you shall be the new king!”
“King” Ramge whispered out loud. He smiled, then began to giggle. Sia’s thoughts had infiltrated his feelings and had delved into the deepest desires of his heart. Sia, a talking cat, the only friend he had every been able to trust. Sia knew him so well. The giggling became a crazed laugh as Ramge’s eyes grew wild and his face peeled back in a maniacal grin. “I will be king!” he declared before he came to his senses and looked around. No one had come by the area since his brief melee with the guards.
“I shall break the enchantment; we shall talk soon my friend” Ramge echoed in his thoughts before he began to channel dark magic once again. The wizard began to chant as motes of dark energy began to float from his form. The runes of the protection circle lit up with a golden light and their magic began to combat the counter spell woven by Ramge. The runes began to burn fiercely as Ramge channeled more and more dark magic into the circle. The magic circle flashed brightly once more then the light of the runes dulled to a soft glow.
Ramge slumped to the ground, he had failed to break the enchantment but had been able to weaken it, but he did not know if it would be enough. He took a deep breath and stood up while summoning his courage. He extended his blackened fingers forward and met slight resistance as the spell’s protective barrier still held. Ramge frowned and pushed his hand further and penetrated the barrier. The protective sigils burned brightly as agonizing pain jolted Ramge’s body. Patches of flesh began to smolder and blacken as the wizard pushed his hand further towards the staff. A piece of bone was visible as the skin on his hand began to burn off and char. He was about to pass out from the pain when a chorus of whispers echoed in his mind. As if in response to the whispers, the black and purple motes that radiated from the staff began to react to his presence. The motes began to drift towards his tortured hand, where they touched his flesh the sensation of cold served as a counter to the burning wrath of the protective sigil.
Ramge set his jaw and pushed forward one final time and felt his fingers grasp the staff. A rush of power filled his body and he pulled back hard. The staff broke free of the protective circle and shattered the enchantment. It took several moments for the wizard to catch his breath and when he looked down at the prize in his grasp, he was horrified to see that what held the Chaotic Destiny was a skeletal hand. All the flesh and muscle of his hand and forearm had been burned away, tendrils of black magic emanated from the staff and wrapped themselves around his bones.
“You desire our power, yes?” a chorus of whispers echoed in his mind. “We will need a sacrifice to give you what you seek.”
“A sacrifice?” Ramge asked out loud.
“The mortals nearby still breathe, feed us with their life force and our power you shall awaken.”
Ramge stared out into the hallway and saw the two guards laying unconscious. He staggered over to them and felt the staff in his grasp throb with hunger. “Feed us…let us grow strong again…so hungry we are…we wish to feast…grant you power we shall…but first…we must feast…” The voices again echoed in his head. The Prince of North von Frosty however was no fool, despite the pain and exhaustion that racked his frame, he focused his thoughts and spoke.
“You shall serve me as master and provide me with your power.” He demanded. “We shall enter into a pact of binding before I let you feed.”
The voices hissed angrily in his head but Ramge knew that without him to command the power, the staff was useless. The voices went silent for a moment then as one whispered “An agreement has been reached. A pact shall bind.”
Ramge used the remaining strength he had to utter an incantation;
I bind ye once to my flesh, which shall wield thee.
I bind ye twice to my spirit, which shall command thee.
I bind ye thrice to my name, from which our fates are entwined.
Thrice bound, the pact thus be forged.
As Ramge uttered the spell, a circle of power formed around him. With each sentence the circle flashed with power. On the third flash, Ramge felt the staff being bent to his will and their fates entwined. He smiled weakly and lowered the staff “Yes, now you made feed.”
Black tendrils of power creeped from the head of the staff and buried themselves into the body of the unconscious guards. Ramge could feel the staff drawing out the guard’s lifeforce which filled the staff with power. He watched in amazement as the flesh on his hand began to grow back and his broken wrist mended itself. As the guard’s body became a dried out and lifeless husk, Ramge turned his attention to the other guard.
“Sylvos.” Ramge growled. “your ruination is at hand.”
* * *
The dragon fire washed over the Eden in a burning wave. A shield of shimmering, translucent hexagons flared to life as the ship’s magical barrier protected the crew from the flames, but the heat still struck those on the deck like a hammer. As the flames enveloped the ship, the dragon sped past the ship to avoid the barrage of cannon and chain gun fire from the Eden’s defenses. The Eden rocked violently as the dragon sped past it, the passage leaving a turbulent wake. As the beast circled around for another pass, chain gun and artificer cannons send burning metal projectiles towards the creature that shattered ebony scales and punctured the dragon’s hide.
On top of the flight deck, Sylvos stood along side Tiber and the human blackguard Qvaza. The Ranger General of Eden nodded at the wizard and Tiber raised his staff high into the air and began to chant as gigantic runic circles formed in the air around the dragon. With a final phrase, the archmagi of Eden completed his spell as thousands of ice shards erupted from the portal to pierce the dragon’s hide. A roar of pain echoed across the sky as the dragon spread its wings wide and then dove directly towards the ship, it’s eyes blazing with unbound fury.
As the dragon drew close, Serraphine flew directly towards it and swung her rune graven scythe in a murderous arc. Blood fountained from the dragon’s shoulder as Serraphine then spun away as a hail of chain gun fire peppered the dragon’s neck and chest from Sadurm who stood there grinning as empty bullet shells littered the deck around him. Sylvos drew an arrow from his newly replenished quiver and sent it streaking towards the dragon. The arrow embedded itself in the creature’s right eye, rupturing the orb and partially blinding it. The dragon slammed against the magical shield of the ship and shattered the protective barrier. The sound of broken glass filled the air as the ship rocked violently as the dragon’s weight bore down on the main deck.
“Now Qvaza!” Sylvos shouted as the blackguard sprang into motion. Qvaza dove from the upper deck and drew her massive greatsword from its scabbard. The enchanted sword named “Twilight” flared to life as it encased Qvaza in a magenta sheen. Twilight, an ancient weapon forged in the elder days, imbued the human with the strength of ten men and filled her with a berserker fury. She clove the enchanted blade into the left wing of the dragon, severing muscle and bone as it exited in a crimson spray. The dragon roared in agony as the Qvaza spun and swung the blade in a vicious arc cutting once again into the dragon’s hide. A battle horn sounded, and the warriors of Eden descended upon the dragon.
Tiber began to chant another spell when he felt one of his powerful warding enchantments break. He halted his spell and turned to Sylvos, “I just felt one of the wards I had placed in our trophy chamber fail.”
Sylvos glanced at the mage, “Let us worry about it after this beast is slain.” The ranger watched the battle unfold before him, both Eden’s squads had converged on the beast with both sword and spell. The dragon however was reaping a deadly toll in response as several dead lay unmoving at the beast’s feet.
The gnomish artificer nicknamed Xtraboom worked feverishly on the forward chain gun to get it operational when the dragon had damaged it in the attack. As he used a crowbar to bend piece of panel away to access the controls, he felt a tapping on his shoulder. He turned around to see the black eyed, brown furred banga Kythe standing before with a large cannister of gun powder roped around his body and wearing an oversized backpack.
“What is it?” the gnome asked, avoiding eye contact with the rat man.
Kythe pointed at the catapult and made a gesture of flying into the air.
“You want me to launch you from a catapult?” Xtraboom asked incredulously.
The black eyed banga nodded fervently and bared his teeth frighteningly. After a moment, the gnome realized the banga was smiling. The banga bounded off to the catapult and sat in the bell. It was then Xtraboom realized what the banga was wearing on his back. “Are you insane?”
Kythe again grinned and began to giggle which only unsettled the gnome further. “Very well, may the gods smile upon you Kythe.” Then Xtraboom hit the lever and sent the banga soaring high into the air towards the dragon.
“Aaaayeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” Kythe shouted as he hurtled through the air.
The banga then pulled a cord on the backpack and two mechanical wings sprouted from the sides and sent him gliding high above the melee below. The banga flew above the battle and using a slingshot of explosive capsules, began to pelt the dragon from above. The dragon smashed its tail against a group of defenders and sent them crashing against the deck. Kythe then pulled out a grapefruit sized gunpowder grenade and lit it using the magical firebrand from his pocket. The banga hurled it at the dragon and it exploded as it struck the creature above it’s remaining eye. The explosion made the dragon look up at which point Kythe then lit the gunpowder cannister bound to his body and entered a nosedive towards the dragon. The dragon opened it’s massive maw to swallow the impertinent pest. Moments before Kythe would have been swallowed, he cut the bindings to the lit cannister and sent it into the creature’s maw, then he pulled up and glided past.
The dragon’s jaw slammed shut then a moment later an explosion rocked the creature as the cannister of gun powder ignited and caused the creature’s jaw and part of it’s skull to shatter in a violent eruption that littered the deck in bone shards and blood. The battle quickly halted as the dragon reared back momentarily, half of it’s head destroyed in the explosion. Then slowly it tumbled backwards off the deck of the Eden and began its lifeless plummet to the earth below.
Kythe glided to where Sylvos stood wide eyed at the scene before him. All the warriors of Eden slowly turned as the banga landed on the deck and held up a single finger. “The kill is mine!”
Tiber appeared next to Sylvos, “We should dispatch a group to investigate the trophy room and check on our prisoner. I have a bad feeling about this.”
Sylvos shook his head to clear his thoughts, “Yes, yes. Serraphine, please collect your squad and do a patrol of the ship. Tiber is concerned one of the wards in the trophy room has failed. Then when done can you provide me with a damage assessment? I will keep my squad here to clear damage and tend to the wounded.”
Serraphine nodded in agreement, “As you command sir.”
As the winged elf turned to depart, Sylvos called out “Oh yes, in case you had forgotten. Kythe is Iron Wolves. Enjoy latrine duty.”
Serraphine moved through the hallways of the Eden quickly. The ship had not sustained any major damage that she could discern but Tiber had shown concern regarding the trophy room so that gave her agency to make haste. The winged elf rounded the corner to see the lifeless husks of two guards laying in the hallway. She immediately drew her weapon and crept cautiously towards the bodies of the slain guards.
The bodies of the guards had been completely drained of life; their bodies were desiccated. She looked around before kneeling to examine the nearest body. As she knelt, Ramge materialized silently from the shadows and touched the tip of the Chaotic Destiny to the back of her head. Serraphine felt a cold hand claw at her mind as she felt her consciousness spiral into blackness.
Serraphine opened her eyes to find herself in an oubliette of complete darkness. Spectral shackles bound her to a floating rock as she saw a hazy portal looming before her. The portal flared to life and she saw a scene looking through eyes that she realized were her own and she gasped in horror. Ramge stood there smiling as he held one of the artifacts from the trophy room. The disgraced King’s Guard no longer wore the anti-magic bracers and bent down to look directly into her eyes.
“Sylvos is your enemy. He has failed you. He must be destroyed.” Ramge intoned.
Serraphine gasped in horror once again as she heard her own voice respond “Sylvos is my enemy. He has failed me. He must be destroyed.”
Ramge grinned again, “You must protect me from Sylvos. He wishes me harm. You do not want me to come to harm do you?”
“No, you must not come to harm.” Serraphine’s voice echoed hollowly.
“Excellent, bring me members of your squad one by one. We must rally together if we are to defeat the tyrant Sylvos and his loyal followers.” Ramge whispered in her ear.
“As you wish.” Serraphine said.
“As you wish, what my dear?” Ramge asked sweetly.
“As you wish, my master.” Serraphine responded and within the oubliette the real Serraphine screamed in horror, helpless to do anything about what was to happen.
The deck of the Eden was in shambles, two of the forward guns had been disabled when the dragon had crashed into the ship and there were several crew members slain in the ensuing battle. The wounded outnumbered the healthy and many had been brought below decks to be cared for by healers. Sylvos walked around the scene, speaking to members of the Iron Wolves here and there and getting an assessment of damages done to the ship. The dragon normally did not deal this much damage, but they had been caught unaware and had been unable to choose where to do battle. Nonetheless, Sylvos would need to develop plans in the event an attack like this happened again.
The ranger was lost in thought when Tiber tugged at his elbow, “Sylvos, is that one of our skiffs flying away?”
“What?” Sylvos said as his eyes caught site of the craft. They widened when he saw the figure piloting the stolen vessel. “Ramge!” he hissed. “How did he get free?”
Tiber began to back up and said “Uh Sylvos, we might have a problem.”
“What do you mean?” the ranger replied.
Tiber said nothing but merely pointed over Sylvos’s shoulder. The ranger turned to see Serraphine and her squad the Verdant Rage massed together with weapons drawn across the deck. Their faces were masks of hate and anger.
“Sylvos Tahl’Veras, you shall pay for your crimes against the Eden.” Serraphine growled and her squad raised their weapons.
“Their eyes Sylvos, they are under enchantment.” Tiber whispered.
“Enchantment? Are you sure? Can you break it?” Sylvos backed away as members of his squad began to form behind him.
“I’m not sure. Something malevolent has taken hold of them, something powerful. I will try.” Tiber said as he retreated behind the group and drew his staff.
Sylvos drew his blades, “These are our comrades, give Tiber time to dispel this dark enchantment. Defend yourselves but do them no harm.”
Sadurm hefted his axe, “I don’t think they share the same sentiment ranger.”
Serraphine screamed a battle cry and both squads rushed towards one another.
End of Part II of Eden: Civil War