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Humanity's Reprise

Glyphical Oct 26th, 2018 (edited) 229 Never
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  1.     One. Two. Three. Four.
  2.  
  3.     The drums beat, the boots march to that same thump; it is your beating, burning heart that drives the revolution that trudges behind you. It is your divine fire casting flickering, surging golden warmth onto rain-slick brick and rotten wood, a spark in a place graced by no warmth, no love, for so long.
  4.  
  5.     “O King, we have not forgotten your crimes! Pray as you will, to the Gods you have forsaken, to the last of them that will still hear your profane voice, to the Withering Tyrant, but we will never go away!” you call into the night.
  6.  
  7.     Your allies beat their shields, defiant yells cutting through the battering rain just as the divine light you hold cuts through the eternal dark. In this decrepit city, drowned under twisting arcane clouds, among souls bound to this world only by their hatred, you and your finest warriors will march on the Lost Keep. You see glimmers of motion flash in window panes, shadows grazing the edges of your ward and glowing red eyes flitting through the rain, an unseen army of spirits waiting in the wings. Silent but boiling with rage, the shades skitter about your ward, but not one claw reaches past the harsh edge of its light.
  8.  
  9.     You can see it there, sinister against the backdrop of thousands of vulturous red lights infesting a horizon of shrouded, decaying buildings. The King’s castle always stood tall in the heart of the city, a constant reminder from anywhere therein of the King’s sovereignty, and one from which he now presides over his kingdom of ghosts.
  10.  
  11.     Winding on stone paths through the city districts, you come across some vestiges of the town’s attempt to survive their blight. In one plaza is a massive pile of charcoal and ash, watered down into a thick, dark sludge; the rudiments of wagon pieces, furniture, anything which could be burned for warmth lie amongst the remnants. As you march up to the peak of the city, and through the more well-off district, skeletal remains washed clean by the rain litter streets filled with barriers and traps, deep, heavy gashes left in their bones.
  12.  
  13.     The signs of struggle are far more blatant, here. Where the commoners died starving, freezing and desperate in the outer reaches of the city, the nobles survived among barricades, guards and stockpiles of resources, only to be overwhelmed by the resulting wave of shades. Together, all that remained of the Kingdom, in their rage at the apocalypse they’d been subject to, coalesced into the hunting shadows that blindly guard their vast and harrowed cemetery. It is not just they who died, it is the idea of human superiority as well, and it is that toxic beast whose shallow and soaked grave they violently defend.
  14.  
  15.     You and your procession approach the castle.
  16.    
  17.     Two massive, barred wooden doors await you. Piled up around them are the corpses of your comrades, strung up on the walls and impaled on pikes to serve as a reminder of your past failures. You spare them no mind, and urge your entourage to do the same, as you plant a hand against the doors.
  18.  
  19.     That divine light suddenly flickers out, and from within your chest and down your arm travels a bright, golden light. You steel yourself, and warn your allies to hold their ground. Just as the shades would begin to descend upon your position, ravenous as they are for any who would dare let down their guard, a blast of divine light sears them and sends them howling and scrambling away, as the doors are thrown apart.
  20.  
  21.     “King Hakhar Reimer IV, under Fanekh’s light, the last vestiges of power to which you so desperately cling will slip from your fingers, and you will finally have to face the judgment of a God you have so long profaned!” You call into his courtyard, well aware that he can hear you. You see his sickly tendrils about the entire area, slithering within a long-dead garden. Flashes of memories strike you, as you march on—you remember the beauty of this garden, once flourishing with all manners of exotic flowers and towering cherry trees, now a withered, sodden ghost of its former self, in line with the rest of his domain.
  22.  
  23.     The guards quickly come out of the woodwork, seemingly forming out of the many shadows; shambling, thickly pouring, gnashing, cruel mockeries of the human form constructed hastily from poorly sculpted Ichor in vast amounts. They wield rain-rusted blades and clamor in ill-fitting steel plate, descending upon your party in numbers.
  24.  
  25.     The crack of steel on steel and calls of war quickly begin. A heavy ax blow to the head sends one toppling into a lifeless puddle, and a deftly placed blade lops the arm from another, a flurry of motion holding at bay a tide of clattering darkness. Atop the ramparts, archer constructs trade arrows with blasts of divine light from the mages among you, and among the garden more and more of these wretched things rise. The largest of the thralls, a brute dragging a hammer much like your own behind it, engages you directly; it barrels straight through your allies, seeking for you in particular, and it is only a contest of herculean strength that prevents it from toppling your entire formation.
  26.  
  27.     You slam the haft of your hammer against it and dig your heels in, baring your sharpened teeth and narrowing your bright eyes in divine defiance. It tries to throw you back and off of it, but you bear down on it and send it back. You return its gesture, and charge at full force, giving a war cry with your hammer high over your head, its intricately engraved head crashing through the thrall’s aged armor and ramshackle body, knocking its head straight off of its shoulders in a clatter of metal and splatter of Ichor.
  28.  
  29.     It, however, just as well brings its hammer down on you, only staggered by the loss of its head, and it thunders against the plate armor over your chest, sending a shock of pain through you. One of your followers, predicting the strike, throws herself at you and keeps you from being knocked over, tossing you back up onto your feet.
  30.  
  31.     With a surge of divine force filling you, you howl and stomp your foot to the ground, a ring of bright, golden spears bursting from the ground and brutally impaling each of the thralls, immobilizing them in the air and searing every last drop of magic from them until they decay into useless mass and metal. You waste no time moving past them and up the steps, your allies close behind, throwing yourself through the next door and into the banquet hall.
  32.  
  33.     The war drums keep beating, never interrupted by the combat. Each thundering beat urges you forward.
  34.  
  35.     This hall is just as familiar to you; you remember the political climate of the kingdom before its fall, bountiful feasts barely touched by arguing nobles who could scarcely contain their snarling, shouting rage. An exercise in faux civility and excess at once, you attended each as the head of Fanekh’s clergy, barely able to stomach the food over your simmering anger at the hubris and foul politics. Once one of the most frequently inhabited components of the castle, it serves as nothing more than another obstacle now, another hall in which to be surrounded by the King’s guards.
  36.  
  37.     Bursting through doors at the back of the room are four such creatures, but these ones are different. Pillars of well-sculpted darkness, crowned with beautiful helmets adorned with thousands of runes and exposing bright white eyes, blaring into the dusty gloom of the hall like floodlights. Emerging from the deepest darkness in the room are yet more of their younger, more makeshift counterparts.
  38.  
  39.     Your procession charges forth, but the spring in your step is robbed as a thick black beam emerges from one of those wide white eyes, cutting across several of your allies and splitting them in half, a chorus of screams filling the air as they decay into Ichor. Another beat of the drums refreshes your resolve, and you remind your compatriots to have no fear by rushing into the combat. Jumping up onto long table in the center of the room, you charge across it directly for the Old Guards at the back, distracting them while the remainders of your march engage with the weaker thralls.
  40.  
  41.     In concert, four separate beams of forbidden magic strike your armor, and though you feel them sear at your skin and tear across your soul, your stride does not break. You leap off of the table, and at the end of your leap slam your hammer down hard onto one of the four guards, shattering its helmet and watching its body fall apart. Quickly, you whirl about, swinging your hammer wildly at the two adjacent ones and sending them scurrying away from you.
  42.  
  43.     You look back, briefly, and bear witness to the thralls paring down your allies. In your distraction, one of the Old Guards reaches out, its inky black tendril snaring your hammer and ripping it from your hands, casting it across the room. In retaliation, sparking with divine magic, you take a hard swing and shatter its helmet with your fist, banishing it.
  44.  
  45.     Increasingly surrounded, your entourage fighting a losing battle, and two Old Guards remaining, you realize that this will be your only opportunity. Fanekh’s divine countenance washes over you, and encourages you; even as the drummers fall to the thralls, you hear those pounding war drums within you as if they were a part of you. The thralls turn their attention to you, and you turn your attention from them.
  46.  
  47.     You sprint, your armored body crashing shoulder-first through the doors and onto the bridge to the Throne Room. Moldering over an intimidating drop to a gushing, rain-bloated river that had carved out a deep canyon, and battered by howling, freezing winds, you remember this bridge well; the intricate work carved into it had been all but worn away by the monsoon, the history of the kingdom told through a mural that ran its entire length. Across the way, on the peak of this mountain, his keep waits. Tendrils of unholy flesh span its walls like mold, a spattering of glowing golden eyes among them like fireflies glittering against the darkness.
  48.  
  49.     You see little forms, scrambling for the bridge controls on the other side, and you have no time to waste. The weak bridge bows beneath your heavy form as you thunder across it, slowly starting to slope upwards. By the time you reach its halfway point, you can barely keep your footing, and yet you perch yourself atop it, teetering over that canyon, and hurl yourself across with everything you've got.
  50.  
  51.     You catch yourself on the edge of the other side of the bridge, your hands digging into the rotten wood. Your head peeks over it, at two robed mages who stare in disbelief, quickly scurrying back into the keep. You pull, and pull, until you send yourself sliding down the other side of the bridge and land on your feet.
  52.  
  53.     Alone, at the top of the world, you approach the door to his keep.
  54.  
  55.     Your fingers flex in your gauntlet. To the beat of the war drum that is your divine and immortal heart, you pound your fist into the door.
  56.    
  57.     One. The door groans.
  58.  
  59.     Two. The door cracks.
  60.  
  61.     Three. The door dents.
  62.  
  63.     Four. The sallow wood splits around your hand, and you push the bar up and kick the doors open.
  64.  
  65.     You slowly step into the hall. A length of fine red and gold carpet leads your eyes to the wretched seat of power in this lost kingdom, a mass of writhing, pulsing flesh, sculpted haphazardly atop an overtaken throne, only the faintest glint of its once gorgeous details visible beneath him. His tendrils infest every part of the room, flooding from the foot of his throne, twisted around pillars and crawling up the walls, millions of eyes all settled on you providing the only light. His presence is loud, among his strained and wet breathing a dizzying buzzing that rattles your skull and shakes your eyes, but that presence must too contend with the steady thump of the drum inside you.
  66.  
  67.     There you stand, tall and unafraid, fists clenched tight, before the King. His remaining aides start to slowly and solemnly flood into the room, one by one, until eighteen individuals stand between you and him.
  68.  
  69.     “Hakhar… your kingdom has long since died, and yet it clings to this realm by a thread—you. By Fanekh’s divine order, I have come to put this land to rest!”
  70.  
  71.     You take your first step towards him, and as you do, the tendrils in the room flex and churn. His form glows strikingly, and a sharp pain wracks your mind… until you find yourself standing in a gilded hall constructed of gaudy marble, and confronted with an aging man, the centerpiece of a shrine to a crumbling royalty in the form of his ornate throne. A mural, no longer marred by a sea of tendrils, hangs over his head, depicting the romanticized history of his exalted and tainted bloodline.
  72.  
  73.     “Orrari… don’t you see what you are doing? Are you truly so blind?” he speaks, his voice warm and low. He stands slowly from his throne, and looks down at you. “You see what you want to see, like everyone else. You think our kingdom rotting, our dominion dying… yet you don’t see the truth at the core of it all.”
  74.    
  75.     You approach him, and he approaches you. Without the ever-present rattling of the rain, it is deathly silent here.
  76.  
  77.     “What truth is that?” you ask.
  78.  
  79.     “This kingdom is humanity’s ascension. What you see as a blight is an opportunity. For too long, we have been bound by inscrutable rules and fickle, useless gods. Humanity deserves something real, something so much more than the cosmic pittance we’ve been afforded.” You stare into his eyes, as gold as his throne. He reaches out to you, with wiry, pale hand. “Direct that faith of yours somewhere more deserving of your ardor. Put your faith in humanity’s future, and your hammer to all who would stand in its way. Doesn't humanity deserve a voice?” he asks.
  80.  
  81.     You lift your own hand… past his, to seize him by the throat.
  82.  
  83.     “What humanity deserves is to be free of you,” you speak calmly.
  84.  
  85.     The illusion dissipates, and you stand surrounded by his mages. Fanekh’s divine fire burns through you now more than ever, your gauntlets glowing white hot. Your eyes open, and immediately you plow through the circle of mages, breaking into a full sprint with your fist cocked as Fanekh’s intervention casts their magical shackles off of you, his fury boiling in your limbs and roaring in your skull, even as magical attacks strike your back and desperate attempts to restrain you are made, you charge with singular purpose.
  86.  
  87.     You have died in this room before.
  88.  
  89.     It is his turn.
  90.  
  91.     You leap at his throne.
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