Riftwatchers - Tome of Chaos Story

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In the flickering light of lanterns that sat about the ground, Bera Dallin slumped against the wall of the Abyssal Canyon. The rest of her companions stood in a loose circle. Riklauniman spoke words of mourning for the warriors lost in the battle with the giant centipedes. Her mind whirled with memories of Delya’s fall, Fiafia barely catching her.

It could be them we mourn for, she thought. They were so close to death.

River glanced in her direction. Head bowed, he shuffled over and leaned against the rock wall beside her. “Don’t lose hope, my friend. They gave their lives for a cause. We’ll make sure it meant something.”

She sighed. “How many more must die before the Chaos Legion is brought down?”

River shook his head. “If it means putting a stop to them, I’d gladly give my life. I know you’d give yours, too.”

“I grew up listening to stories of my ancestors, all fighting and dying for one cause or another. I used to think they were an inspiration. Now, they’re a warning.”

A clatter resounded as Riklauniman picked up a lantern and held it high, illuminating his tired but determined face. His voice echoed as he said, “Our friends didn’t die in vain. We’ll bring the Riftwatchers here, and their sacrifice will live on in legend.” He turned to Joaken. “You know the way in

Nodding, the efreeti drifted toward the great doors of the ancient temple. The runes around them were pale in comparison to his fire. He unfurled the scroll the great wizard, Aggroedius Lightbringer, had given him and read it aloud. The doors shifted with a grating of stone that reverberated down the dark canyon. Small stones and silt cascaded around the threshold as the doors lumbered open to reveal a great maw of shadow beyond.

“Let’s do this,” Bera said. Her voice was steady, but she clenched her hands into fists to stop them from shaking

The group crept into the temple. Their lanterns and Joaken’s flames illuminated a disused and ancient corridor framed by angular walls and soaring columns made of tan stone. Perhaps it had been beautiful once. Now, the weight of time had run its course. Cracks, rubble, and worn edges marred the temple.

The corridor opened on a massive, rectangular room. A great carving of a swirling portal on a dais between two pillars adorned the far wall. Set into the wall beneath the carving, a stone staircase wound up and out of sight.

“I’m betting the portal is up there.” Rilauniman nodded at the staircase.

“Then we go up,” Bera said.

The steps led to another level of the temple, with several rooms and corridors leading off them, and another set of crumbling stone steps. It, too, was deserted. As was the next level. And the next.

As they walked up yet another set of stairs, Bera said to Joaken, “What exactly are we supposed to be looking for? What are we supposed to do when we do find it? Did the wizard tell you?”

Joaken shook his head, the flames flickering. “He did not.”

Bera chewed her lip. If they messed this up, Praetoria would never be saved. Even if they succeeded, they were putting their lives on the line. She had been through so much with River, Fiafia, Delya, and all the others. What if she lost them? Her stomach churned.

How can I celebrate the arrival of these Riftwatchers if my friends are dead?

Time passed as they continued their search of the temple. Still, the stairs led up to floor after floor. With aching feet and dwindling lantern oil, they pressed on.

Finally, when Bera was certain their search would never end, they ascended a crumbling staircase that led to a wide, circular room with no hallways leading off it and no staircases continuing upward. The ceiling rose into the shadows high above them. Arched pillars, cracked and scarred by time, lined the walls. An etched pattern of overlapping circles stretched across the floor, where drifts of sand had formed over the years. The smell of sandstone and dry earth hung heavy in the air. At the center of the room stood an enormous square dais with massive stone pillars flanking either side of it. It reminded Bera of the carving they’d seen in the first room of the temple: the pillars, the dias–all that was missing was the swirl of a portal.

“This is it,” River said, his eyes wide and his voice breathy. “This is the place.”

Bera and Joaken stepped toward the dias as the others spread out around them. Joaken unfurled the scroll. Bera stared at the runes, and her breath caught in her throat. Her heart hammered in her chest.

She held out her hand. “Give me the scroll.”

Joaken cocked an eyebrow and studied her face. Then he handed her the scroll.

She stared at the runes, her brow furrowed.

“What is it?”

Her mouth had gone dry. She licked her lips and swallowed. “I can read them. I don’t know how, but I can. Better I recite the ritual and you ready your magic in case there’s trouble.”

“Very well.” The efreeti stepped back and raised his hands, the flames licking off his fingers.

Bera looked from the dias to the faces of her companions.

Delya drew her bow and knocked an arrow. She winked. “I got your back.”

Fiafia drew her curved sword. “I believe in you, Bera

River nodded. “Together, my friend, as always.”
Swallowing against a tight throat, she nodded once, and then unfurled the scroll before her. The writing made no sense, strange symbols she had never seen before. However, when she opened her mouth to attempt to describe what she saw, words in a foreign language rolled off her tongue. Words she did not know the meaning to, but yet she spoke with authority all the same.
The divine blessing of my bloodline, she realized.
On either side of her, Joaken and River’s fingers traced sigils into the air. Symbols of ice and fire, charging the air with arcane energy. It made the hair on the back of Bera’s neck stand on end.

As she read the scroll, the portal gateway before her hummed to life. Runes slowly lit along its border in all the colors of the elements. The ground shook, and dust slid down the walls like streams of water. The group shuffled, weapons up and watching the area nervously.

Bera kept reading, focusing all of her attention on the task at hand. This was the moment. The moment they’d worked so hard for. She could feel energy pour from inside her, through the scroll, and out towards the portal gate, as if she was a canyon directing the flow of a raging river.

A great cracking sound resulted in multiple gasps throughout the room as the ceiling above began to open. Moonlight shone down in silvery pools, gleaming off weapons and armor. The entire floor shuddered and started to rise. Bera felt the sickening sensation of moving upward in the pit of her stomach, but she shrugged off the distraction.

“What’s happening?” Fiafia whispered to Delya.

“It’s working,” Delya whispered in return.

It is working, Bera thought, elation rising within her. We are doing it

As the ceiling parted, shapes dropped in from the badlands above. Bera got a brief glimpse of these figures as they fell. One glowed with fire like Joaken, another morphed like water, another had a green glow shining through a body made like chunks of the earth, one was a pearlescent white, and the last was dark and bony. Even though Bera could not see them clearly at this distance, she could feel them. An ominous presence. A tension in the air. A sense of evil.

“It’s the fiends!” Riklauniman shouted. “Take up positions! Defend the ritual!”

The fiends. Bera had only briefly heard about them through Joaken. Servants of the Chaos Legion, evil embodiments of the elements. Their quest to this temple had not gone entirely unnoticed.

All five of the fiends landed heavily on the ever-rising floor and charged directly at Bera, Joaken, and River. The dwarf braced herself, trying to read as quickly as she could. Delya’s arrows flew past her head as the Xenith Scale archer jumped on the offensive.

“We’ve got you, keep reading!” Fiafia shouted, rushing out to meet this enemy.

Riklauniman and his rangers pelted the fiends with a fierce offensive, slowing the charge. The fiends roared in all manner of strange and feral sounds.

Don’t lose focus, don’t lose focus, Bera repeated to herself. Her hands shook as she held the scroll. On either side of her, Joaken and River cast their sigils with more fervor.

The great burning Scorch Fiend sent rangers flying with one heavy strike of its arm, sending bits of lava pelting across the ground. Riklauniman engaged it personally, dodging and weaving its attacks while firing his bolts over and over at its middle.

The Torrent Fiend, its organs visible through a watery casing, slithered across the ground. Only rangers with shields drove back its progress, forcing the water to coil back.

The ceiling opened entirely, allowing an unobscured view of the inky dark sky. The floor rose, and the portal gateway started to flicker with magical energy. Wind buffeted against Bera, threatening to shove her off balance.

The Fungus Fiend made of the earth barrelled toward her, its mouth open in a green glow. One ranger dove before it, stabbing their blade through its chest. The blade broke and the ranger was crushed on the spot, leaving behind a bloody smear as the fiend didn’t stop its charge. Fiafia leaped onto its back, stabbing her sword over and over into its skull. It thrashed, throwing her off. The pirate’s daughter landed roughly, tumbling over and over before getting back to her feet.

A crossbow bolt shot through the air, spearing into the Fungus Fiend’s side with arcane force strong enough to throw it off course. Relief washed through Bera as she kept reading. They were so close.

Joaken and River both sweated on either side of her, struggling to maintain their concentration as a battle raged all around them. The Soul Fiend’s burning light incinerated one ranger on the spot, her scream cut short. The bones of the Corpse Fiend were strong armor against attacks, making anyone that wanted to stop it get close and stab into vulnerable spots.

“Do not give in!” Riklauniman urged his rangers, blood running from a wound on his head. “Hidana, watch your back! Skagrun, protect the portal!”

The floor rose up, drawing closer and closer to the surface above. Rocks tumbled free from the walls, and one collapsing column nearly crushed Delya. Bera could smell the blood in the air, and heard battle cries and screams of agony. As their own numbers dwindled, the fiends drew closer and closer to Bera, River, and Joaken. The dwarf’s voice wavered as one burning beam of light passed just above her head.

We’re almost there, we’re almost there!

The glowing runes along the portal’s gate lit the area in varied colors, shone off spilled blood, and cast their frenetic shadows along the walls. The portal thrummed with energy, the spiking magic around it rising in intensity. It bounced from the portal and off the walls, burning through the air.

Bera could see the end of the scroll. She was nearly finished. Movement before her caught her attention. The Scorch Fiend charged, leaving a trail of lava behind it. She tensed, pressing her reading with urgency. An arrow shot it but melted on impact. A ranger raced to stop it but was knocked out of the way with a sickening crack. It focused on Bera, each step shaking the already unstable ground.

With wide eyes, Bera tried to finish the scroll. But there was still too much to read, and the burning fiend drew ever closer. It towered above and raised one fist up to smash Bera. She braced herself for the impact.

River instantly dropped his spellcasting and threw up an arched shield of ice. The Scorch Fiend’s fist slammed into it, sending cracks along it. River recoiled but held his ground and the shield.

The Scorch Fiend bellowed loud enough to cause pain in Bera’s ears. It slammed its fist into the ice shield again. Chunks of it fell away.

Bera’s eyes rose from her reading. First to the chaos of the battle around her, then to Joaken absorbed in completing the ritual, and then to River. His shaking arms were raised, trying to hold the shield together. He looked back at her, tears at the edges of his eyes. A sad smile crossed his face.

Her jaw went slack as she stared back at him, the realization of what was about to happen hitting her like a punch to the gut.

The Scorch Fiend raised its hand again. The shield would not hold for this final blow. With a roar the fiend chopped down.

“No!” Bera screamed.

She dropped the scroll and shoved River out of the way. The ice shield splintered, shards tearing at her skin. She held one arm up defensively as the Scorch Fiend’s hand chopped down where River’s head would have been. A horrible pain seared straight through her arm. She heard her own scream as if it was far away. Bera fell to the ground in agony, as bits of burning rocks flew through the air from the fiend’s attack. River’s scream mixed with her own.

Riklauniman, Hidana, and Skagrun swarmed the Scorch Fiend, driving it back with ferocious attacks, their battle cries echoing into the night sky.

Bera’s vision blurred. She writhed on the ground, sweaty and panting. Blinking up at Joaken, she saw the efreet still casting his sigils, his brows furrowed in the effort. Her gaze drifted to the fallen scroll, to River who lay near holding his face, and then to her arm that had taken the blow. Everything from the elbow down was gone, and the wound was cauterized. A weak cry escaped her.

“Bera!” Joaken’s tense voice cut through her haze of pain. “I cannot hold the magic of the ritual alone for much longer! You must finish the scroll! We are nearly there.” Joaken’s form shook, cracks splintering along him as if he would explode in fire from the inside out.

The dwarf reached her good arm around, grasping for the scroll. She was so weak. So weak. She couldn’t get to it.

Two brown leather boots bounded next to Bera, and a dark hand snatched up the scroll. Words flowed once again, from the voice of Fiafia. Bera looked up to see the pirate’s daughter, the one requested by the wizard Aggroedius Lightbringer to be part of this ritual, standing tall and reading the words of power. Strange elemental runes lit up along her arms and down either side of her face. Her once dark eyes shone as blue as the ocean, then flickered to the deep green of a forest, and then to a raging fire. The elements shone from inside of Fiafia’s eyes, charged with magic.

The floor reached the surface of the ground with a juddering stop, the badlands open all around them. The portal gate shook with barely contained energy, a loud humming beating from it. Without River’s spellcasting support, Joaken took on the burden of the magic. His form splintered further, his face twisted with pain. With a few final words, the scroll burned away in Fiafia’s hands as she completed the ritual. Joaken staggered back, at last dropping his spell. Exhaustion took him, and he fell to one knee.

“Bera! River!” Delya slid to her knees beside them, face lined with worry.

A tall portal spun into existence in the center of the arched gate, casting a twilight glow across the stunned group. The fiends turned their attention away from the group and towards the portal, rushing toward the gate in an attempt to destroy it.

“No! The portal!” Joaken ran toward it and outstretched his hands.

Fire roared from him and assaulted the fiends. Bera broke out in a sweat from the intense heat. Her vision blurry and consciousness fading in and out, she craned her neck up to see the burning light that was Joaken. Like a wildfire, the efreet attacked the fiends. Joaken’s roar could barely be heard over the blaze of his fire. He was already so spent from the ritual, breaking apart before their eyes. It was the last of his magic. As the fiends grasped the portal’s gate in an attempt to break it apart, Joaken unleashed the rest of his flame. And in one shining, intense moment, he burst apart in a fiery explosion.

Bera could hear Fiafia and Delya scream out in grief. She could see the fiends as they were thrown back from the gate. There was nothing left of Joaken but a burn mark shaped like a great star on the ground.

Did he stop them from breaking the portal? That was the only thought present in Bera’s pain-hazed mind.

A bright flash shone from the portal. An airship suddenly burst through, a long shadow cast before it. Bera gawked, and she heard Delya swear. Movement could be seen on the ship’s deck, figures rushing to the sides. Bera watched runes light up along the airship, and weapons and magic were fired from the deck above. She could hear voices shouting, but her mind was slipping, fading from consciousness.

River’s face appeared above her, crawling to her side. His slender elven hand covered one eye.

“Bera,” he whispered, a soft smile on his face, “we did it. We did it.”

“We did it,” she returned weakly.

Riklauniman’s voice could be heard shouting, “The Riftwatchers are here!” The rangers cheered.

Bera slowly got herself to one elbow, her friends kneeling around her. They were all tired and wounded, but relief washed away the pain on their faces. They had succeeded, in no small part thanks to the wise efreet Joaken.

“We have completed the task of Aggroedius Lightbringer,” Riklauniman stated. “The Splinterlands have a fighting chance. And Joaken’s sacrifice will be sung of forever.”

As more airships came through, the fiends fled into the badlands and vanished into the night. The portal swirled a few more times, allowing in behemoths that were silhouetted against its light. A rope was flung off the side of the leading ship, swaying down to the ground. A slight figure slid down the rope with ease.

As Bera got to her knees, the figure approached. They were shadowed against the backdrop of the portal until the magic of the ritual was at last spent, and the portal closed. Each elemental rune flickered out. Bera and her companions, Riklauniman and his rangers, all watched as this singular figure strode up to them.

It was a younger woman, with pixie cut white hair and dark skin. She was slight but strong, confident in her stance and walk. She had goggles perched upon her head, and runes lit up along her forearms.

She gazed across them all with a serious expression that was then broken by a grin.

“My name is Oshuur Constantia,” she stated, “I am the leader of the Riftwatchers. So tell me,” she arched one eyebrow, “where can we find the Chaos Legion?”



Collect special Limited NFTs related to this story at https://www.splintertalk.io/nfts/


Credits:

Story: Ashley Roepel & Scott Roepel
Editor: Sean Ryan
Narrative Lead: Joey Shimerdla
Character Art (cover): Candycal
Illustrations: HPL Game Design Corporation
Graphic Design: Tamer "Defolt" Oukour
Voice Acting: David Dahdah
Ending credits song: AfterSound
Music: Blaudiss
Post Production: INFLUX Pictures
Creative Director: Nate Aguila




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(Edited)

This reminded me of some of the last boss stories from World of Warcraft. Legen-(wait for it)-dary.

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