|December 13th, 2004, 05:30 PM||#1|
Join Date: Oct 2004
The Nexus: A Homin's Tale
You never really believe it until you see it, you know?
I’d heard about the call. About our allegiance to the Karavan. And I knew that the price of their support would be a few requests. Tiny favors, you might say. But I was content to remain in the refugee lands. I lived like a king there, like most of us do. The most dangerous thing I’d ever faced was the foul breath of the Ragus, but I was strong enough that even that didn’t bother me anymore. Oh, I was going to stay in refugee lands forever. I’d even dreamed of a little empire I could call my own, with everyone buying the best materials I could rip out of the ground, wearing armor I crafted, and paying me for the privilege.
I had another thought, though. If hundreds of Karavan followers were going to go fight these things called kitins—still just rumors as far as I was concerned—then they were going to need weapons and, more importantly, they were going to need armor. My specialty. Salivating at the possibility of hundreds of people begging for my services, I walked on over to the Karavan teleporter. I’d seen her around town. She sent people to Yrkanis. Even told me about the Karavan. I said all the right things, said I’d answer the call, but the only call I was answering was the one that’d put more dappers in my pocket.
You’re laughing, aren’t you? Yea, it’s pretty funny. Don’t tell me you weren’t like this once. Nastiest thing you’ve ever seen is a Yubo on a bad day and that armor looks pretty good when those itty bitty Raguses are chewing on them and you think to yourself, “Well, alright. I’ve got this under control.”
“Well, alright,” I said as she gestured or whatever it is they do. Karavan are mysterious kinda folk. “I’ve got this under control.”
I was already counting the dapper, feeling the weight of it in my pocket, when the world went a little crazy. If you haven’t teleported, you will. You’ll know that crazy-sick jolt your stomach takes as you’re launched across space and time, the way you come out a little dizzy at the end of it, and the way you just have to stop for a while and make sure the world is whole again at the end of it.
Yrkanis. I’d heard a lot about this place, but the rumors and whispers on the refugee island don’t quite do a city justice, much less one like Yrkanis. Some kind of strange Karavan cube hovers by the teleport area, though no one’s quite sure what it does. The city itself is full of trees with beautiful leaves and hills you can climb on and see what seems like the whole world rolling out around your feet. You think the trainer building is pretty neat, and then you’re surrounded by a bunch of buildings that put that little trainer tree to shame. Right about then, I was beginning to realize that maybe I’d been a little too confident.
That assessment was confirmed when a small group walked by, ignoring the new refugee gawking around the city like they’d seen it before, which they probably had. Every single one of them was in armor so nice that I can only hope to wear it someday. Making it seemed to be out of the question. But the weapons they carried, oh, that was another thing altogether. I saw swords doing things that swords, back on my island, just should not do. And weapons besides those, great pikes, guns that seemed like they’d mow down whole herds at a shot, shields I could throw over my head and call a home.
I figured out a few things then. One, I’d gotten a little too big for my Vestini pants back on the island. Two, that I was going to need a lot of help. I figured out one thing more, too, when the Karavan teleporter asked me for a favor. Even free things have a price. This one was something about a mysterious object in the Nexus and more of these quasi-legendary creatures called kitins. I still didn’t believe they existed, so this would be easy enough. But just in case they did, I’d probably need some help.
Considering the group that just passed me looked like it could take down every kitin ever without breaking a sweat, I decided the prudent thing to do would be ask nicely for their assistance. Once the leader of the group untangled me and had a passionate discussion with me about my habit of begging for help and messing up good armor—I’d never seen armor like this, with all these colors, and the materials seemed strange and new and foreign—I asked, humbly, if he and this group were going down to the Nexus and if I could join them.
“Nexus? Shouldn’t you still be on the island?” I saw him smirk, saw the knowing look on all the faces around me.
“I’ve got my sword,” I said, drawing myself up and trying to face down this man, knowing very well I’d probably die if he wanted to press the issue.
“Fine. Come on. Just stay out of the way.”
That didn’t seem very nice, but I had some sense and shut my trap, falling in with the group at the back of the line.
We went through terrain of all kinds, seeing strange and dangerous creatures that didn’t exist on the refugee island. After my five hundredth “What’s that?!,” the leader of our little band turned and snarled at me.
“You’re not on the island anymore, kid. Time to start acting like it. Stay close to the group, don’t get their attention, and try not to bother anyone.”
I wanted to yell at him. Tell him to stop treating me like a kid and all that. But he was right. I shut up, stayed close to the group, tried to avoid getting attention from the gingos that were almost as big as I was and, most importantly, tried not to bother anyone.
I’m not quite sure where we went, as I was busy gawking like a child, but somehow we made it to another teleporter and down to what they told me was the Nexus. And if I thought Yrkanis was a surprise, well, this was a much bigger one.
I was in the middle of an army and everyone there had equipment us refugees would give our right arms for. And the people, I can’t even begin to explain it all. I saw lots shorter than me. Judging by their size and behavior, I thought they were children of some kind. But then I saw they were all as well-armed as my Matis cohorts and didn’t make my observations known. Fortunately, my group leader took a little pity on me.
“Trykers.” He said. “Don’t talk too em too much. You’ll wind up as crazy as they are. And here.”
He dumped a pile of armor into my hands and added a pike to the top of the pile, which nearly knocked me onto my rear. I swore all that armor had to weigh more than I did.
“Guild healers figured they’d have less to do if you were properly outfitted,” perhaps he was insulting my handcrafted, Yubo leather armor, but then he’d just shoved armor that cost more money that I could even dream of into my hand. “It’s not much. Might keep ya alive a while.”
Maybe I was learning, but I kept my mouth shut, except for a couple of thank yous, and scurried off to put on my new equipment. It didn’t all fit, but the armor sure made me look like I knew what I was doing. Instead of my now almost embarrassing sword, they gave me a pike that radiated danger. As I pulled the helmet over my head, I wondered who had worn this last. All the armor was loose and I was already thinking about the improvements I might make if they let me keep it, but it would keep me safer. I wonder about the foes we had to face, if powerful armor like this was required. Even the biggest raguses back on my island would be hard pressed to scratch this, much less punch through it.
Armed and armored and feeling almost proud of myself, I went in search of my group. They were in a circle, talking among themselves, and I saw them glance at me as I walked up.
“Looks almost like a fighter now, doesn’t he?” The group leader said, causing chuckles all around. “Going to be a shame when the kitins take a chunk out of him.”
“Kitins,” I said, and for once my mouth got away from me. “Well, I don’t think they really exist.”
If you’ve never heard the sound of a hundred people of all races and guilds and occupations laughing at you, well, I am glad for you. I turned as red as the fine armor I wore and was grateful for the helmet hiding the red sheen of my cheeks.
“Why don’t you take a look over there and see if you still don’t believe in kitins?” My groupleader said, pointing off into the distance with a bemused look.
I saw where he pointed was a large, sweeping swath of brown, marring the fine ground of the Nexus. I didn’t think anything of it at first. Dead grass and trees are as common as the changing of the seasons or the shifting of resource nodes. I stood on the Nexus, in my magnificent armor, with hundreds of powerful Karavan warriors around me and looked off into the distance. All I saw was a large brown field. So this was what we’d all came down here to fight? Dead grass?
When the dead grass started to move, I saw the error of my ways. I saw now that what I thought was a field was a teeming mass of some kind and, when I narrowed my eyes and used a hand to shade them from the burning sun, I gasped and nearly fell backwards, much to the amusement of my groupmates and fellow Karavan fighters.
What I saw is nearly impossible to describe to those who haven’t seen them. It was a swarm of giant kitins, I knew that now, the entire plain seemed to be covered with them. Huge, teeming things, swarming over the occasional unfortunate homin that got in their way. Each seemed bigger than the buildings I’d seen in Yrkanis and, as I watched, I swore I could see a similar army of figures far, far on the horizon, watching the kitins, too.
“Kami army,” said my group leader. Yes, I remembered the Kami well. You can’t trust anything Kami, as I knew well. I nodded and came to a decision.
“I’m going home. Back to the island.” I stuttered. But there was no way I could fight even a single one of those things. Even the mighty pike I held paled in comparison to one of the tremendous beasts that surged across the plains.
“Gonna be a nice long walk back to Yrkanis. And even if you make it back, you’ll have to talk them into sending you back.” Here, he pointed at one of the Karavan around our arrival spot. “And they never have.”
I looked at that Karavan and saw her turn her head and watch me. It is hard to read their faces through the mask they wear but, well, I swore I could feel her watching me. But it went even deeper than that. Like she was weighing me. Like, well, maybe I’m just being paranoid, but I felt like all my life was going to be judged by the actions I took now. And even though I was a greedy, grubby little refugee, the Karavan had always been good to me, though I don’t know if I cared or if I was afraid. The mask did not react, of course, but she was watching for my decision. And it would be so easy to just…forget to ensure I came back once death was upon me. Paranoia again, but who knows what feelings lurk behind those masks. I turned back to the group.
“LET’S GO!” said a shout. There’d been no picking of a leader or any process like that. Just the will of the mob made evident. I stayed as close to my group as I could and a long, snaking column of Karavan soldiers moved out towards the plain. I wasn’t sure what we were supposed to do, but moving with this column I wondered how we could lose…but then the Kami were also supposed to have a powerful army, and those who side with the Kami cannot be trusted. Perhaps kitins would not be our only enemy today.
My blood started to race and I felt my heart pounding, felt the cold chill of excitement as our column moved along. We cut down a few minor creatures, but nothing got close to me, but that swarm of kitins loomed on the horizon. It was even more terrifying here on ground level, watching those terrible creatures looming on the horizon and as we got closer, they just got that much bigger.
The time came at last. I hoped they would go on ignoring us, as the Bodoc will just wander around you, but I saw one turn and look at our column. I saw a terrible intelligence about it and felt, knowing it was ridiculous, but feeling it just the same, like it was looking at me. And then a whole swarm of them began to move toward us, like an irresistible wave rolling along the seas of Tryker.
Once again, the group seemed to have a mind of its own. I felt myself carried forward with the rest of the fighters, my legs leading me on before my mind could even protest. My group mates were around me, waiting. Time seemed to stretch out, as I’ve found it does in combat. I had what felt like hours to contemplate my death, shoulder to shoulder with two people I didn’t know, here on the muddy fields of the Nexus. I didn’t belong here, didn’t even want to be here. But I would fight.
Kitins swarmed toward us and I had time to tense and ready my pike and make my peace with the world, just in case the Karavan decided not to favor me. The rush of the kitins ended with an audible SMACK of kitin into a line of Matis warriors. I was confused and disoriented in the chaos that followed, the screams of men and women around me, the strange hisses and clinks of magic, and the wet, slick crunching sounds as weapons tore into flesh. Something snapped in my mind and I leapt into the fray, slashing wildly at the kitins all around me. Fortunately, they were ignoring me, focusing on the—it does pain me to say this, but I must—better fighters. I began to think I would survive, even got a little cocky when the terrible creatures began to fall, one by one, cut down by our weapons and magic.
I was a little cocky, that is, until the first one hit me. Wounded, a kitin bigger than anything I’d seen before lashed out, knocking me backwards with tremendous force. I left a little trench in the mud and dirt before I came to a stop. The line of warriors closed in front of me, protecting me, while a tall and serious and beautiful Matis mage cast her mysterious spells, lifting me back onto my feet and healing the surely deadly wound across my chest. I said my thanks and hurried back to the line of fighters, stepping over one of my fallen comrades. He would be alright. We were in the hands of the Karavan, but more so, we were working with each other. Nobody conspires like the Matis but nobody works together like them either.
A second wave of kitins slammed into our line, but we defeated them easily. I was terrified, as any sane homin would be, but my comrades picked me up when I fell and healed me when I lay on the brink of death. And what could I do for them? I could fight, a jab here and a slice there with my pike did not do much, of course, but felling one of these beasts is like felling a great tree, a series of little strikes will eventually bring them down. We finished off this wave, too, and I dropped to a knee, supporting myself with my pike. I had to rip my helmet off, allow the cool wind to take away some of the sweat that had accumulated in my hair.
The group leader marched over to me and lifted me up by the shoulder. My legs were shaking now, every bruise hurting ten times worse than it had, and I didn’t know if I could pick up a pike again.
“Not tired, are you?” He said, seeming concerned.
“More than I ever have been,” I said.
“Ahhhh, come on. Things are just getting good. We’ve got all those to get through. And somewhere in there is their leader.”
“Kitins usually have leaders. They’re more organized than they look.” He pulled me to my feet and clapped me on the back. “Come on. There’s a whole lot more where that came from.”
There were, as he said, a whole lot more of them. The whole of the Nexus seemed to be covered in kitins, and all the fury of the Matis and Tryker and even their Zorai and Fyros allies was hurled against them. It was a swirling confusion of blood and death, man and monster, and I think we all felt the cold grip of death five or six times. I found, even in my fatigue, that I was growing stronger, my swings grew sharper and more deadly. I was being made into a weapon, much as I had shaped the bodies of gingos and yubos and even Atys herself into the first sword I made, now forgotten in my bag with my harvesting pick and the cocky arrogance with which I’d left the refugee island.
This wasn’t a series of battles, as we hear of wars being. Instead, it was a whirling tide of conflict and death, the kitin hordes slashing into us and the Karavan forces rising to meet them, felling them like grain before the reaper’s blade. We took our losses, too, do not doubt that, sometimes most of our army lie sprawled on the ground. But through the grace of the Karavan and our precious healers, our dead got up and continued their fight, whittling away at the kitin hordes, driving them back through sheer force of sword and blade, gun and magic, through nothing but our will to go on when we had to.
I thought my arms would come off, that my legs would give up, but each time I flagged, someone picked me up. We cut through the kitin, driving on and on, then turned when our scouts found a great blue kitin, bigger even than the ones we’d seen before. I could feel the thrill going through every one of us, feel the excitement in me rise. Karavan forces turned as one, slashing through the guards surrounding this great kitin, the enemy of all the homins on Atys. Surely this would avenge the loss of all those who perished in the Swarming, which we still speak of only in whispers. Some fell, as they always must in war, but each time one fell, another stepped up to take his place.
You know, in the last moments, I almost felt sorry for that kitin. Our mages were unstoppable, the fighters uniting as one to hack and slash at the terrible creature, and our healers ensured there would be no escape. Even something as great and powerful as that would fall before the might arrayed against it. It began to reel and I heard cheering all around me and found I was cheering, too. The kitin gave one last great heave before it thundered to the ground. I felt the ground shake from the impact of that tremendous body and then…silence. From somewhere, I heard the voice of the Karavan Commander telling us we’d won, and I saw the kitins were in full retreat, but all I could do was shout and cheer with everyone else. Victory was ours, the kitins slain or in retreat, and the Karavans repaid for their generosity. An infiltrator apparently got through, which did dampen our spirits some, but there was no denying the great victory we’d won.
Our joy could not last forever, of course. Joy is a passing thing. But I caught a glimpse of the Kami forces in the distance, shuffling back towards their teleporters with their heads hanging down. Ah, I think I will always enjoy the look I saw on their faces, but I did feel a twinge of sorrow for them. But even though I ached in every limb and had the bruises and a thousand cuts, I knew I could not be beaten. I would’ve fought the kitins with my teeth, if it would’ve helped bring about our victory.
Slowly, we made our way back to the teleports and the waiting Karavan. I think I would’ve fought for my group alone, but knowing our Karavan allies would remember my service made it that much sweeter. The dapper didn’t hurt either, I must confess. I knew now that I was in a world of creatures much stronger than I was and all I had was some sadly inadequate equipment, a pick, and my name commited to Karavan memory.
I was almost sad when I changed back into my old armor. What once seemed incredibly fine seemed sadly inadequate in the face of all the wonders I’d seen today. I hunted up my group, resting under the strange Karavan craft, that hovered above our arrival and departure spot, intending to return the equipment they’d so generously loaned me.
“Well, well. Better catch the teleport home before they disappear,” said the group leader cheerfully.
“Thank you. For everything.” I said, offering the pile of equipment back. He looked at it. Looked at me. And shook his head.
“Don’t worry about it. Go on and get back to Yrkanis. And look us up if you ever need a guild. We’ll be around.”
I nodded and moved towards the Karavan teleporter, feeling every ache magnified as the excitement of battle wore off. The first thing I was going to do was find a place to sleep. The Karavan teleporter looked at me and, again, I felt as if I was being watched, even through the expressionless helmet.
“We will remember you for your service, young homin. Do you wish to return to Yrkanis?”
“Yes.” I said. And added, “Victory to the Karavan.”
I felt, rather than saw, the smile through the helmet.
|Thread Tools||Search this Thread|
All times are GMT +2. The time now is 09:43 PM.