Anima: Legends of Gaia

Book I - Prelude
The Coming Storm

A flash of lighting illuminated the night sky and the city of Americh. The thunderstorm was one of largest in the past decade, and heralded the coming of winter. Over a quarter of a million people lived here in one of the largest cultural melting pots on Gaia, and most of them had come here because they were running from something, or to profit at the expense of others.

For once Orn was in a foul mood. They had been travelling for 7 days straight and it had been raining for the last 4. They had been forced to take shelter earlier in the day, and now it was close to midnight. It wasn’t the cold that was to blame for his mood. Orn actually considered it the one positive thing about the whole ordeal. It was the continuous rain and the deafening cracks of thunder – it made it hard to speak to the others, and worse, it made everyone seem tense and uncheerful. He tightened his armor to prevent more water from soaking his clothes – a useless gesture. Orn let out a small sigh. They would reach the city in an hour or so, and then he would be heading for the nearest Tavern. Analise had told him that she knew the best Taverns in town, and right now he absolutely had no reason or wish to doubt her.

Analise knew that the best Taverns in town where located in The High Area – away from all the lowlifes and filth that lived in the other parts of town – and that they where expensive, very expensive. The rain was getting on her nerves, and arriving in Americh after dark, followed by thunder and rain loud enough to drown out your cries for help, and your eventual dying screams, didn’t exactly have a calming effect. It seemed like an appropriate welcome-home party. Pulling up her collar to shelter from the hard rain, she reassured herself that her friends would at least be able to defend themselves – and her – if thing should take a turn for the worse. She caught herself imagining what would happen if they were mugged by one of the street gangs. She smiled. It would be a short and bloody fight, unless they managed to escape fast. Yi Ling would probably try to stop her and Orn from chasing after the left-overs and dealing out a bit of wrong-party-to-mug justice. Yi Ling would most like succeed. Funny thing how she always seemed to come out on top of any discussion. She gave Yi Ling a sidelong glance. A burst of lightning flashed behind the small Shivaneese woman and lighted up her silhouette. Analise shook her head and kept walking.

Over a year of searching and she still felt like she was getting nowhere. Yi Ling took a deep breath and slowly exhaled. The rain wasn’t bothering her, but she felt tired and cold. Just focus and carry yourself with dignity and honor and the world would balance everything out, she told herself. Americh was not a place she would enjoy. So much poverty, selfishness and depravity in one place was not natural – a place born of fear and greed. It would be a perfect place for her quarry to hide himself. But she would find him, bring him to justice and restore the honor of the monastery and her own pride. Orn and Analise had proven to be good companions. Orn was a worthy fighter, a bit loud and uncivilized, but she had never seen anyone taken so many deliberate hits in battle and still laugh after all foes lay dead or maimed at his feet, claiming it was a good and enjoyable fight. And Analise always seems to be somewhere unexpected. She was a good kid, but lacked balance and patience. There were no doubt that she possessed great power, but she was wild and unfocused. In an odd way this appealed to Yi Ling's heart. The poor girl had lived a life where death, betrayal and pure survival was the agenda of the day. The last of her friends, the dark skinned Estegian was a completely different matter. She had bought him from a slave trader out of pity, and had given him his freedom. Now he travelled with her trying to figure out how to live as a free man. Yi Ling suspected that he felt he owed her a debt, and she had tried to explain several times that she wanted nothing for her kindness, but it seemed like he didn’t understand the concept of freedom.

He understood freedom. It was right here. Walking in pouring rain besides three other people that perceived him as equal. No, he understood freedom, but old habits die hard, and he did feel indebted to her no matter how many times she tried to explain it to him. But then again, he hadn’t tried to explain why he would like follow to her for a long long time. Where would he go otherwise? He knew how to fight and to serve, but being paid to serve and kill didn’t appeal to him. So for now he was content to follow and explore the world, knowing that he could go anywhere he pleased. Besides he liked Orn the Giant for his way of laughing at the world and seeing humor in the face of death. He enjoyed the company of Analise, She didn’t much require conversation, and she seemed comforted by that fact that someone she could trust was watching her back. Yi Ling was different. She had an air of composure, calm and purpose about her. Sometimes he felt that if the end of the world where upon them, she would remain calm. So, he would walk in rain and thunder enjoy a freedom he could not explain.

A lone shadow stood atop of a building watching the four walk into the city. The figure gave a satisfied nod, took a running jump across the rooftop to the building on the other side of the street and landed with the grace of a cat. A full 60 feet. So they had finally come. The Master would have to be told, and fast. Yes very fast indeed. The figure sat off with inhuman speed across the rooftops, jumping from one to the other – never faltering, never missing a step. The figure already knew the order that would be given: Capture the Ever-born, kill the other three.

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Book 1 - Chapter 1
The Arrival

Arriving in Americh we were all worn down, tired, exhausted even, and the rain wasn't helping… we walked down the street, and as we got to the first tavern, Whistler informed us that we were being targeted. So we decided to move on, to a tavern with a more centralized location. on the way there we were met by a couple of thugs who demanded a tax for using their street, Analise started to chat them up, but Orn grew nervous and prepared to draw his weapon, a rather oversized sword if you ask me. and they took that as a sign of aggression and thus began the quickest fight in the poor thugs' life, they never knew what hit them, 3 seconds later one was dead, and the other got blown away, quite litteraly…

and I went to the roof to check for shooters, but found none… arriving at the next tavern we decided to get out of the rain, so we stabled up our horses and went inside, to a bussling tavern filled with patrons, after chatting briefly with the innkeep I paid for a private lounge, hot meals, and some good malt beer for my companions, and a glass of wine i barely touched..

we were all pretty exhausted so as we waited for the innkeep to get back to us if he had room or not, a knock came on the door, it was the innkeep with the news that he had two rooms available for 25 silvers each, which we took.. one for the men and one for Analise and my self. once we'd finished our meals we turned in for the night, only to get our rest interrupted by whistler telling us to get up.. fighting soon insued in the men's room… so i hustled in there only to see a hooded figure stab Zahur, and shortly after Analise entered, making… yet again… an unnessecary show of force, by using her psychic powers on the intruder, however uneffectfully.. however seeing he was outnumbered and "outgunned" he disappeared out of the window and onto the roof. I briefly considered giving chance but everything considered it wouldn't be the wisest course of action, so i instead tended to Zahur.

After the incident we barricaded the window, and went back to sleep…

I went to sleep with a question on my mind, this latest incident was a targetted hit, the hooded figure had an idea on what to expect, otherwise he wouldn't have brought paralytic poison, since most of us are fighters… it begs the question.. who is interested in us here… there are richer targets so that's not it… could it be him?

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Book 1 - Interlude I
Mumei

The Psychic Matrices blazed like sudden light in utter darkness, and the signs of Zeon drawn from the Wake was clear as day.

Mumei observed the window at the Royal Cup from a rooftop on the other side of the street, and drew a sharp intake of breath. So, someone had found the group before him. The master would not be pleased.

A figure climbed out of the window and ran up the wall. The Ever-born and its companions had obviously send the intruder fleeing for its life. Well, they would be alert now, so he would have to find another way. However, the competition would have to be eliminated.

Jumping to the roof of the Royal Cup, he began the chase. 6 seconds later, in a small ally some two street away, a dead body fell out of the sky and hit the ground with a large thump. Smoke was raising from the corpse. He had expected a fight, but the electrical impact of Susano’o had stopped the heart of the competitor, and killed him outright. He would have to learn to strike with his other hand if he wanted people to live.

He set of toward The Darkness. Casting a short glance towards the city Cathedral an idea struck him. He smiled.

Dawn was coming and the rain had stopped. A thick fog was raising from the ground, and would soon enshroud the city in white mist.

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Book 1 Chapter 2
The Mess

It started as any other morning, until we left the tavern.

Shortly thereafter we ran into a patrol of Mercenary guards who accused Zahur of murder, after taking the testimony of a child, who apparently witnessed the attempted mugging last night.. they then put him in chains and dragged him to court, to face the tribunal the next day.

in the mean time we decided the inn wasn't the best place to stay, so while Whistler and Orn was looking for new accommodations, me and Analise went in search of a contract place, where she needed to dump an assignment and i needed to ask questions. 

however on the way there, we were beset by thugs, and they broke Analise's shin in half, and knocked her out cold..

This was something I could not forgive, so I mustered almost all of my strength and put it into a single blow, and delivered it right in the chest of the one that seemed to be in charge, his chest bones cracked like matches and he flew backwards, I immediately capitalized the situation, and managed to send one of them running in terror, however the one that stayed behind soon ran as well, when he saw that he was no match for me.

I then gently picked up Analise and started moving towards the exit… little did I realize that the exit, wasn't all that easy to find, so I walked and walked, and then as I turned a corner he was standing there, covered in darkness with a pair of gleaming red eyes, it didn't take me more than a heartbeat to know that I was outmatched, so I slowly backed away while nervously asking if he knew where the exit was, and that's when he told me to run.. with a Maliciousness in his voice that made my blood run cold.. and so I bolted the fastest I could, around the corner and down the alley, and then up the wall and started jumping from roof to roof, heading towards the safety of the nicer quarters of the city.. it took Whistlers guidance and a fair bit of good luck to find them.. and then the earth started trembling, and I instinctively knew that he was accumulating Ki, and a tremendous amount, so I set Analise down and prepared to face him off, when he simply looked at us and said "oh good you found your friends…. lucky you" and then he jumped 50 feet into the air and flew away, yes flew… he seemed to have been enjoying the chase enough to let us off the hook.

 in the mean time Whistler and Orn had been looking for a house to rent, we got analise into the house and Whistler had a look at her, he set her leg straight and started jump started her natural healing process with a bit of magic.. as we waited for her to recover.

 

whistler and i went into the basement, but we weren't alone, a dark spirit had taken up residence… one that didn't particularly like being disturbed, and lounged out at us, going through me, to hit Whistler.. we then escaped from the basement.

We waited till the next day, and in the morning we heard from Zahur that he was being taken to the tribunal, so we rushed there, getting lost a couple of times on the way.. but arrived just in the nick of time, and managed to dissuade the Tribunal from hanging Zahur, and instead fine us, although it was quite the fine. 

after that we went back to the haunted house, and held a meeting where we decided that it'd be prudent to change locations yet again, and we found a new house on the edge of the slums, completely unfurnished, so that night we slept on bedrolls, not ideal or comfortable. but at least there were no angry spirits in the basement, and yes Whistler checked it out, and then he started preparing for a ritual, and i went and got some materials for painting, that I then started doing.. the next day Orn and Analise, went to the "Contract office" so she could finish her assignment. upon returning, Whistler began his ritual, and managed to summon, control and bind a fire salamander, a cute little lizard.. and one that'll give us an edge in battle.. if we ever find ourselves in another pinch.

 

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Book I - Interlude II
A time to die - a time to fly

Paying the kid to frame them had worked like a charm. Separate them, pick them off one by one and the last one standing would without doubt be the Ever-Born.

The Masters genius was infallible, and Mumei knew it. He followed the other four and decided to follow the two girls as the party split up. Why where thy heading towards The Darkness? They were probably completely and utterly lost.

The two girls were walking into a trap set by the local scum. Well, this will be interesting, thought Mumei. Maybe he didn’t need to get his hands dirty then.

A few seconds later the youngest girl collapsed without a sound as a blow scattered her calf. The other girl’s aura blazed bright red and she defended her friend with a mixture of grace and wrath that Mumei had never seen in a human before. Could she be the one, the Ever-born?

The girl picked up her wounded friend and tried to find her way back to the more civilized part of the city – but her efforts only brought her closer to The Darkness. Mumei made a quick decision – let’s see what this one is made of. He quickly disposed of the hidden watch at the entrance to The Darkness and placed himself in the middle of the street.

The girl defiantly knew when she was out classed. She ran for it. Mumei reasoned that she would take him to her friends, but if he could wear her down, he would have a rough estimate of her power.

It was a good chase – easy but fun.

For a split second the girl looked over her shoulder, and Mumei felt familiar tingle running down his back, an instinct honed by the killing of hundreds of beings with links to the supernatural.

By Noah! Someone was watching him through the eyes of the girl! Was she only a pawn? Was she a willing subject, or was someone protecting her? If the latter was the case, he would have to spare her for now and find the source.

She finally took to the streets as if knowing exactly where to go. She had found her friends.

 “Oh good. You found your friends…. lucky you” Mumei said in a low tone. He surveyed the street and her friends. That old woman they were talking to would know something. He jumped into the air and let the Ki flow through him.

15 minutes later the old crone lay dead at his feet. So, they had rented a house. How convenient. The trick with the kid would really pay off now, as they would, without doubt, try and rescue their friend.

Mumei entered the house and quickly realized that he wasn’t alone. The young girl with the maimed leg was also in the house. He could feel her presence. He quickly made it down to the basement, slipped into one of his hidden pockets and pulled out a small black pearl. Carefully hiding the pearl under a few old molded rags, he spoke the words of invocation.

The companions where in for a small surprise should they ever enter the basement – they would die in the shadows, and no one would ever find their corpse.

The Master would only need the soul of the Ever-born after all…..

THE NEXT DAY:

Gone! They were all gone! He quickly searched the house – picked up the black pearl and ran into the street. Where could they have gone to? He would have to ask around, but they couldn’t hide for long.

This was turning into a more complicated matter than he had expected.

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Book 1 Chapter 3
out of the frying pan and into the flames.

An early rise after we moved to our new location, it was a rough night, and a rough yesterday..

after breakfast and a bit of morning practice I picked up where i left yesterday with the painting while the others headed into town, something about Whistler wanting a dog or something..

a while later everyone returned except Zahur, apparently he'd found work as a blacksmith's apprentice, I'm kinda happy for him.. Analise left to go pick him up a few hours later.

all the while Whistler was studying some kind of pearl, black as night and with an eerie feel to it.. at first I didn't give it much attention as I was focused on painting, but when I did turn to look, on Whistlers request, he apparently had also gotten hold of a rather large wolf… typical Whistler, he sets out to get a dog, and returns with a wolf almost the size of a small horse……. sigh

and this is where things started to go downhill… apparently as a reward for the job Analise did up north she'd gotten a bag of assorted gemstones, amongst them a white pearl beaming with power, like the black one, but a different kind of power.. they began to interact with each other when brought together, and then a black wall of shadow, and darkness filled most of the room, in the panic someone was paralyzed by the power of the white pearl, and once freed, the pearl whirled through the air, I took a quick step and a jump with a piece of cloth in my hand, trying to catch it, but I dropped the cloth mid air, and managed to grab the pearl as I landed, which resulted in me being paralyzed, Orn made a quick call and broke two of my fingers holding the pearl, with the hilt of his sword, and opened my hand so the pearl would drop to the ground shortly after Analyse was possessed by the shadows, and turned to face us, again quick thinking from Orn tossing the white pearl past all defenses and hit her with it, successfully breaking the enchantment on her.. and then we went into the street a moment later,  managing to pack up my belongings before hand.

We then decided that it'd be prudent to vacate the premises.. but as we neared the exit of the town heading south.. we saw smoke rising from the location, we collectively decided to return there, to assist however we could, a city fire is never pretty, and there's always casualties, and it'd be blood on our hands, since we unwittingly set it off.. 

Upon returning, the house we'd rented was on fire, and so was some of the neighboring houses, there were so many injured people, Whistler and I quickly began aiding the wounded, and Orn and Zahur began to aid with the damage control, of the fire.. Analise cast a quick glance about, noticing that no Templars from the church were present she got to work, quenching the flames of the rented house.. 
as the flames dropped lower and lower, A thought occurred to me, "no one could find the black pearl, it'd be a disaster.." so I leapt into the choking flames of the house with a piece of cloth in front of my mouth and nose, hoping it'd help with some of all the smoke.. I snatched up the pearl quickly as it apparently was rather easy to find (who'd have thought). Whistler spotted one of the High Inquisitors of the church approaching with an armed escort, and a few priests even.

So Analise and I each holding a pearl of power, decided to relocate to a place the Inquisition didn't plan on visiting, a mile or so south of the city. and there we waited for the others to catch up.

an hour or two later we were all gathered, in a disgussion on where to head next..

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Book I - Interlude III
The enemy of my enemy is my friend

The smoke was still visible from the tower of the Americh cathedral. From his chambers Nero observed the site and the highway leading south with interest.

Farther Menoran spoke with a hint of genuine concern “Are you sure it was the Ever-Born, my lord?”

“Yes, Farther. I am sure”, Nero replied without turning away from the window.

“And you are absolutely certain that we should let it leave the city?”. Farther Menoran didn’t seem disturbed by the fact that he was addressing a High Inquisitor.

So far everything had worked out as Nero had expected, except the fact that the Ever-Born had tried to flee form the fire. Getting the White pearl to the Ever-Born had been quite tricky, but gold could buy you anything here – including impossible favors. The one thing he hadn’t anticipated was, that the old enemy would move as fast as they did. The appearance of the Black pearl had shown one thing. They too knew that the Ever-born had come. He had expected the Magus order of Yehudah to find out eventually, but this open move was unexpected.

He knew that Samael had one of their primary meeting places deep in the Darkness, and they would most certainly be informed by now. What would their move be? Would they protect or kill the Ever-Born? Could they afford another apocalypse?

“I will go after them myself, Father. There is too much at stake to take any chances. Inform the 13th Cardinal that we need to move fast and with extreme care, and don’t let anyone here know that I have left”

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Book I - Interlude IV
The Harbringer and the Angel

Supreme Archon Matthew Gaul, Lord of Togarini and former Lord of War, walked with unimaginable grace down the hall. Accompanied by the two Azur Arbiters known as The Hands of Gaul. To the left walked Karlagne, and to the right walked Alzen. Both of them were wearing masks that covered their face attached with devices that slightly altered their voice – as was all Abiters.

Matthew glanced sideways at Alzen. “Is everything in place?”

“Yes, my Lord” answered Alzen, “The divination platform is ready, and he has already contacted us”.

Matthew looked slightly annoyed. “He is too early. This does not bode well”.

The three entered a small room where a small platform showed a blueish figure standing in a calm pose.

“So, how is Americh and have you completed your task?”, Matthew didn’t try to hide his apparent annoyance.

“No, Master. There has been a turn of events. It seem that the Ever-Born is already in possession of two of the Pearls of Essence…..and the Church has been alerted.”

Matthew took a few seconds to recover from that particular piece of information. “This is most inconvenient. Mumei, see to it that both The Order of Yehudha and Samael gets the information. They will probably try to destroy each other in an attempt to get the Ever-Born on their side. Who has the 13th Cardinal sent to do the job?”.

Mumei visibly hesitated, “The Hand of Azrael – High Inquisitor Nero, Master.”

So, the Church meant business. The Hand of Azrael was one of the most proficient warriors in all of Gaia, and known for his general lack of ability to see anything other than in terms of black and white. Azrael, Queen Of Swords, had chosen her champion well.

“You have done well, Mumei. Keep me informed.”. The image flickered and disappeared.

The Supreme Archon stared into the darkness. Soon it would be time. 


Somewhere deep below the surface of Gaia, a small red light pulsed gently in the darkness.

At the same time somewhere on the surface of the planet two small pearls – one black, and one white – touches each other. A seemingly insignificant event.

The small red light stops pulsing.

A dim steady green light takes its place, and a small screen lights up the darkness.

BOOT SEQUENCE INITIATED

ELHAZZARED PROTOCOL ACTIVATED

A small spark shows in the darkness, and for the first time in over 700 years, the slow hum of starting generators, and the ambient buzz of high-powered electrical circuits filled the large dome.

Somewhere in the darkness, there is a sharp intake of breath, followed by a heart-scattering scream that echoes through the entire dome. The screams of a young girl waking form her worst nightmare.

A single tear runs down her chin.

It has begun.

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Book 1 Chapter 4
The Hunt

we'd just arisen from a night of uneasy sleep a good few hundred yards into the thicket, on the far side of a hill on the borders of the forest, away from the road..

Something made snow uneasy, and he barred his fangs, so Whistler asked Analise to climb a tree to have a look at the road.

it didn't take long for Analise to confirm Whistlers concern, we were being followed by a small band of armed people..

we readied our selves, with Zahur and Analise hidden for a surprise attack in case "Diplomacy" failed.. we waited, and when the people rounded the top of the hill, they came to a halt,  and after a brief exchange of pleasentries the one on horse back (clearly their leader) ordered them to open fire, so I stormed up the hill and incapacitated one of them, with a clean punch to the throat. before i knew it, Zahur was standing next to me, ferociously attacking one of the others.. and Snow had jumped a 3rd man tearing out the poor man's throat colouring it's otherwise white fur with the colour of blood.. and Orn Cleaved the leader's horse in two, and sent the leader to the ground with his sword sticking straight through the chest.., Snow jumped another and started another feast. Analise paralyzed a few of the men and before half a minute had passed the battle was over and the only two remaining was on the run, but both Zahur and I were in persuit, as we came close to catching up, I noticed another group of "soldiers" approaching,  i'm a good fighter, but even I know when it's time to cut short and call it a tie.. as I turned around I told Zahur that it was time to run, my words seemed to snap him out of the blood rush he was in, and he turned with me and we headed back double time, readying the horses, and packing up our camp somewhat rushed, and headed deeper into the forest, we travelled in a rushed pase, for a few hours, until we hit a small creek and went with it, to try and loose our pursuers, with more or less success.

 

before we knew it, we couldn't hear our pursuers any more, and we when we stopped to breathe, we were standing in some very very very old ruins, Orn went behind a wall to relieve himself, but shortly after we heard a creak and a crack, and then Orn's voice as he fell into the darkness.. we looked at the hole, and then lit a torch as I climped down the passage, when I reached the buttom the ground was shifting beneath my feet, and i saw a glimpse of Orn as he went through a door and closed it behind him.. the ground.. was littered with human bones, a battle had been fought here, a bloody one.. and it was a very long time ago anyone… anyone living had been here…

 

my only hope is that Orn isn't lost to us..
As much as I want to find my quarry I cannot leave Orn to die in a place like this..

May Amaterasu watch over us… this place shouldn't be disturbed…

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Book 1 Chapter 5
A light in the dark.

slowly but securely the rest… meaning Analise, Whistler and Zahur joined me in the deep dark.. in the search for Orn, we spread out as much as our light sources allowed us, and started searching. after a few minutes we found a door, once in a while some of us could hear a feint echo of Orn..

we tried wrestling with the door, but it was Analise who managed to force it open..

on the other side we were met with a dread gaze, Orn Badly wounded, was holding his own against half a dozen skeletons… the undead, By Amaterasu! both Zahur and I as well as Whistlers little fire Salamander rushed in to help Orn, though he fell… for the first time since i left the monastery I lost my sense of cool, pushing and smacking the skeletons, little did it help, and it wasn't soon after that I too lost consciousness, only to wake up with the skeletons defeated, both whistler and Zahur where covered in blood. It was then, Neo entered the room behind us, shining a light in the darkest of places, if it wasn't because i knew how his order had treated people in the past I'd almost be convinced that he brought hope to us.. as he drew his sword, he began to speak, i remember little of that encounter truth be told, I was almost paralyzed because I knew that if he attacked, we wouldn't last a second… we might last 10 seconds in top condition, but half of us were exhausted, on the brink of collapse. All I remember is some of the words that came out of his mouth, – "so far you've proven to be walking the path of evil, this is your last chance ever born, turn to the light or I will hunt you down again, and next time I will not spare you, any of you"… as he turned to leave I regained my composure, and ushered the others through the door and closed it…

what are we going to find in the depths… and will we survive? I have to survive.. of that I am certain!

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