The Academy of Caldera

Edit* This piece was written before the character of Anya was established and as such may be different to more recent pieces.

The Academy’s newly appointed subsidiary; the Geneforge, would be the new avenue of scientific discovery. It’s crowned masterpiece. Along with the newly development of genetic manipulation equipment, and procedures to filter out flaws in new hatchlings. The young of the Caldera, would be altered to coincide with the intuitions believe; that true progress of their species was through forced evolution. This wasn’t widely accepted by everyone but the Academy of Caldera would undermine the efforts of anyone who would protest of otherwise hinder it’s creation.

Inside of a sterile laboratory chamber, sat centre back of the room, was a large cylindrical tank.Tubes and wires feeding in and extruding out from the top and sides, that melded the whole contraption into the wall. Filled with a semi-translucent green liquid with bubbles of gas rising to the surface. Held aloft with a mirage of tubes and mechanical arms, sits a large egg. The bright lights spread around the room illuminating every possible corner, make out the moving silhouette inside the egg. A new born in it’s final developing stages.

One of the scientist stood outside the tank, decorated more than the others to indicate his seniority. Taps in on the console a series of commands with his curved pointed nails. With the last press key stroke, one of the idle mechanical arms inside the tube springs to life. It’s end tool; a large hypodermic needle, coupled with a long tube slowly filling with a viscous liquid substance, a deep red in colour with an accompanying ambient glow. Injected into the egg with absolute precision. The display monitoring the process indicates it’s completion rate.

Moments later the new born inside starts twitching with an agonizing spasm, the creature writhes in pain unable to vocalize to it’s overseers. Displays showing the heartbeat of the newborn’s life would periodically slow, ending with a whining high pitched tone. Many of the scientists around the room sighed as their lead member punches the console leaving a crack, forking out from the epicentre of the impact.

Seconds later proceeds to press a large button prominently placed on the console and the process begins anew. The egg it’s released and is sucked through the bottom of the tank along with the liquid in to a black void, flushed away to be discarded like a half eaten piece of food, now unwanted and disposed of.

Afterwards a new egg shortly takes it’s place inside the tank which starts to refill with the same liquid as it’s predecessor, the mechanical arms grasp the new egg and the displayed promptly display a new rhythmic beating tone. The same process repeated once again as the room is again filled with activity. One example of the many failed attempts at the experiment with in the Geneforge that day alone and the look on the scientists narrowing faces suggesting it won’t be the last.

The egg that was given up so hastily flushed out, continues down a snake into the cities sewer. Bobbing upon the waters surface as it slowly drifts down to an unknown exit. Remnants of previous attempts discarded and abandoned to what ever creatures inhabited the foulness below the city streets.

There was no need for a sewer treatment system, most if not all refuse was simply dumped into the fiery bowls of the active volcano to be incinerated. Constant vents and columns of steam rose up leaving most of the atmosphere in this particular grimy biome hazed over with a dense fog that filtered up through to the city streets above.

There are residents of the sewer, beyond the the rodent, insects and crustaceans.A few types of life feeding on any scraps of food disposed of, that were unfit by the cities inhabitants standards. Many of the exiled mages and the homeless would live in the larger chambers of the sewer network, creating a self sufficiency subterranean society. Life her was hard but not impossible, the mages would use their power to create a habitual life for those who felt forced to live here.

The pre-hatched egg was chanced upon by a couple wandering the cities underbelly. They brought to the rest of the sewer-folk to be cared for, although many at first glance considered eating it until realising that inside the hatchling was still alive.

Protected from it’s harsh environment for month the hatchling would emerge from it’s hardened cocoon. It’s head pieced the shell, mucous and egg shell parts spilled over as one of it’s protectors clears it’s covered face preventing suffocation.

For year afterwards the young hatchling would be the focus of the undercities attention, because of the rarity of the occurrence of the event leading up to her discovery. Equating her as a saviour for the magic welders against their oppressors. She would train with the other mages upon realising that she possessed as innate level of magic, skill of which would take years for others to master.

She would not be able to live up to their expectations however as shortly after her twelfth birthday, the section of sewers she called home would come under attack from solders of the Academy. In the event of an emergency her adopted parents had an pre-made escape plan. Upon realising there was no escape, they sought to hide her in a pipe leading up to the surface.

While out of sight from the soldiers of Caldera who had stormed the place, they managed to seal their child away. The soldiers finally reaching her parents trained their weapons on to them and were gunned down in front of her. With their dying breath they issued a desperate blood curdled command to climb through the pipe to safety. With her reluctance the young girl done so and slithered away.

Upon ascending through the pipe she reached a drain cover, she prized it open to be blinded by the brilliance of Sol’s light creeping through the narrow gap. Recoiling momentarily in discomfort before exiting into an alleyway, away from the prying eyes of everyone but the old drake standing next to a makeshift bonfire. From here on out she would be alone with no one to trust she would be forced to fend for herself.

The Order of Lumis and the Fallen Paladin.

Edit* This piece was written before the character Ayron Gloran was established and there may also be changes and continuity differences since I’ve written additional pieces.

The Tower of Lumis is a magnificent structure of white smooth durastone, twisting skywards in a cylindrical fashion. Inside and out the surface was lined with intrinsically carved ornaments, laced with highlights of radiantly polished gold. The constant of clear skies is no hindrance to the barrage of Sol light – Hexterra’s primary star, from reflecting of every angle, showering the city in a spectacle of amber rays. The tower was quite literally the beacon of the city, both metaphorically and literally. The chamber at the very peak of the tower held the cities very own Magicron, the sixteen sided orb radiated with an aura of brilliant white light. The chamber had a series of closable partitions that prevented this light from keeping the city permanently lit during it’s night life.

The city was protected by a large towering squared wall, scaling over the horizon of the largest buildings, encompassing the entirety of the cities boundaries, broken only by the strategically placed watchtower. The city was in the middle of a open flat plain, so vast that no invading army would be able to approach without first being seen, during the night the Magicron would be used to illuminate any potential threat. It’s main use of protecting the city from invaders.

This wasn’t the limit of the it’s power, as the cities scholars eventually realized it’s true potential. The Magicron’s aura could be harnessed with a large lens than was positioned to pivot around the housing chamber, it could be focused to a point. The beam was capable of disintegrating any hostile force with an intense beam of super heated light and with complete impunity.

The city surfaces were meticulous cleaned and polished regularly. Every road stemming from the Tower’s base had lush greenery running parallel, from grass, shrubs and tall trees, breaking up the monotony of white marble and gold inlays. Every home had hanging gardens on every free balcony and ledge. It was truly a paradise to behold. However one that would came at a high cost.

The cities population consisted of a hierarchy, first there was Serfs. The Serfs were little more than a over controlled workforce and if they didn’t have enough money to buy full citizenship, they were basically slaves, and were only allowed to leave the city with permission from a sponsor. Most were even punished for the sightless of mistakes and there was no repercussions from anyone mistreating a serf, beyond murder, which was still illegal regardless of stature.

The rigorous attitude needed to maintain this high level of maintenance and in having to perform their religiously strict routines, would breed contempt from lesser serfs. Merchants and smiths were those who would craft anything required from; pottery and utensils, to weapons and armour, or furniture and decorations. Traders would only be allowed to leave with permission and even then they were required to have an armed guard service. Who would also act as chaperones, to prevent unwanted anti-Lumis propaganda or escape. Last was the ruling body of the city; the Order of Lumis.

The Order of Lumis dedicated to the Goddess of the same name, is the religious trinity that have absolute control over the city of Solaris. Promoting all the positive things that was expected of the general populous, by preaching goodness and respect. Those who did not comply were silenced with a ruthless authority that left many unable to express anything other than praise for the Order’s absolution.

The religious leader the High Priestess oversees the largest Cathedral in Solaris, consisting of priests and priestess’s tending the Shrine of Light; acting as the guides and heralds of the goddess of light; The Conclave. It’s members would also provide all forms of religious services such as weddings, festivals and seeing off the recently departed. Through the use of the Lumicron. An artefact in the shape of any standard leather bound book, although it has no pages beyond the two covers. Text would flow on either of the inside in a barrage of glowing cascading  columns.

The Inquisitor Council. A select group of members who write the laws in which all citizens must comply. Who also act as judge and jury for those who would commit crimes against the state or those who would refuse to believe in Lumis. They were feared by everyone and only those of whom were fully devote did not hide when one graced the streets.

The policing force of the city is the Kinship of Paladins, men and women of whom act as the enforcers and executioners of every law currently in effect. As order of extremely well trained elite warrior’s they are all trained both in the use of an wide array of weaponry, firearms and Sol magic. Magic which when used can both heal the wounded and smite the wicked. They become living examples of what everyone should aspire to be. The paragons that carry the eternal light of Lumis with in their souls to show the people just what it was to be a good honest person.

Paladins were also the force to impose the ideals and beliefs with impunity and if needed; a brutal resolution. One that left the cities general population uneasy around them. This had over time cause a development of a secret group with non-worshipers, members who wish to live their lives without the oppressive attitude of the Order, with in the cities walls. Hoping to do so without the strict rules and regulations imposed upon them.

One venerated paladin, who had become the Champion of Lumis after years of service to the Order, would soon start to question the strict jurisdiction of one particular member of the Conclave; Inquisitor Zhidar.

 The two never saw eye to eye and many of their arguments were broken up via third parties, whenever they would become heated. Zhidar was widely known for his rather callous methodology and almost zealot styled belief. Both were given the order to scrutinize a manor just inside of the cities wall. Under suspicion of harbouring anti-Lumis protesters. The Champion and Zhidar argued over the proposed methods of inspection, and after their debate both reluctantly agreed to a means, proceeding to the manor with a handful of squires in their charge.

After a rather vigorous search of the premises no trace of residence was found. No piece of furniture was over turned, no room ransacked. Zhidar however still judged them to be anti-Lumis sympathizers, such was his paranoia. So sure was the Inquisitor that he ordered that the family members of the house be immediately taken to the city square to be tried for their crimes. With out any indication of their guilt the Champion’s immediate protest that they could not be guilty.

The family; including two small children, were dragged through the streets by the other squires while constantly pleading their innocence. This was done so without the Champions order but Zhidar’s. Even though the squires themselves hesitated they continued through fear of punishment, they followed their ordered with a nervous compliance. The Champion and the Inquisitor would continue to rally their argued points to each other while storming to the cities centre. At this point a crowd had starting to form, following the noise from the streets.

The family was lined up in a row in front of everyone, they had silenced their persistent defense with a morbid sense of their impending doom, the children couldn’t help but wear tears on their face, streaks of salty water flowed down their faces to crash onto their crooked knees dirty knees. Regardless of being told otherwise many people had started to scream and hiss at the family. Pre-assuming their guilt. Such was the un-wavering loyalty of everyone of who saw no reason to question the cities authority. Others in the crowd merely stood still, petrified of not seemingly acting as one with the crowd.

The Inquisitor who was a rather stocky and over bearing type, with a bellowing voice that when speaking almost made the lungs of everyone in ear-shot to vibrate. Started to spouting various passages from the Luxicron. The revered book was a guide to some but viewed as a doctrine to many, saying so would result in extreme punishment. After a few minutes of preaching, Zhidar started to denounce the family as heathens and made statements to the fact, citing the reasons for his belief, and slandering their otherwise good nature with unproven facts.

Zhidar ushered the squires to strike down the family in front of every one. The Champion would take exception, his experience was far greater than that of the rest of his unit and called for a stay of execution. Defying the orders of an Inquisitor is at best a death sentence, worse still is to become a Penitent; someone who is punished by wearing a extremely heavy suit of made of thick plated gold, the armour would at best cripple those who could not wield due to it’s unwieldy weight. Those who were not as fortunate died an excruciatingly painful death.

The stay was at great expense to the Champion, as he became aware that Zhidar was merely using the family to cause his downfall in front of everyone. Forced to choose; condemn an innocent family to death, or face expulsion himself, for not complying with his oath to follow the Order in it’s entirety. The conniving Inquisitor had not anticipated what would happen next. The squires had also halted in confusion, unsure of how to proceed.

A frustrated Zhidar attempted to continue the execution of the family himself, by casting a magic spell. The area lit up blinding most of every who wasn’t quick enough to react by shielding their eyes. The spell built up charge but before it was cast the Champion had drawn his sword and cut down Zhidar. The spell fizzled into stray streams of light, as his upper torso tore away from the lower section of his body, collapsing in a heap of internal organs, the once stainless marble floor was covered in a enlarging pool of blood.

Members of the crowd who had up until now,  not regretted being there. Everyone including the squires were horrified, their faces wore a masked mixture of fear and awe at the powerful display of the Champions shear strength and ferocity. The Champion himself was at a lost. With no idea of what to do after his impulsive reaction to help those in need. He chose to remain disarming himself before the squires, knowing they were required to arrest the Champion sought solace in the fact that he would at least be given a more fair trial.

Under normal circumstances members of the public would only face a Inquisitor at a trial, however this was a rare occasion. The Champion was standing alone and in chains in front of committee of the Order’s highest members, the High Priestess, the Grand Inquisitor and the Prime Archon – lord of the Paladins. One after another respectable eye witnesses were summoned to accounted for what happened in the city square. After many had given their worded evidence, it was a full day before the three returned from their deliberations and in front of the court issued the punishment set before the Champion.

Much to his relief not to be executed or even given a penitent sentence. Knowing that the people of the city would not accept his execution, due in large to his reputation and valiant past deeds. Nor would he be imprisoned or forced to become a Penitent, to remain in the city as a symbol of defiance. Stripped of all of his past honours armour and he would be forced to leave the city never to return, an exile to everything he knew and loved. As the first in many centuries to become a member of the Fallen.

After the sentencing, his punishment was put into action immediately. With few clothes, no weapons and little money, he was compelled to walk the streets with an armed escort in tow. Streets which were lined with a plethora of citizens, polarized with a variety of views and objections of his innocence or guilt. Given his one remaining possession; a Luxicron. Held with both hands to his tightly to his chest. He would have to brave the wilds beyond the city wall alone.

Unsure of his future, he walked through the city gates. Turning once to see one remaining group of people. The family he had a day since saved, who had stayed to see him off, the children had refreshed the tears on their cheeks but now accompanied smiles and waving hands. Hoping that he might be able to assist those in need far from the boundaries of Solaris. The newly Fallen Champion walked further and further away, until the city had grown small in the horizon. Knowing he had lost his home he was not dishearten, his persistence of seeking justice in Lumis’s name was still intact. His internal light would still remained.

The Knifed Skull and the Unknown Rogue

Edit* This was written well before I had established the character of Laurena Reaver, and as such she is not mentioned so in this piece yet

Deep in the merchants quarter, among the crooked streets, lined with stalls of all types astride the cobble paths, was an over-crowed tavern. One of much fame to the locals, or infamy if your an outside. It wasn’t the biggest in the city or even the prettiest. Not that there was anything to look at in this city beyond the towering Blackspire in the centre of the city. But this particular public house had it’s history. The Knifed Skull it was called. Mainly due to the large Torporc skull that was the priced trophy above in the loft space in the main hall. The grand centre piece, the main attraction, one that made every new patron crack their heads back upon first sight of the monstrosity.

How it was ever placed in such a building was subject to many a opinion and the instigator of just as many fights, some say the tavern was built around it from the ground up, the original owner couldn’t tell you, not from his grave. The wooden beams holding it aloft had buckled over time under it’s shear weight, only to have makeshift replacement planks patch up it where the split wood now grew. Adorning the now tarnished bone was with the famous longsword of swordsman Fedrick Spatose or so legend says.

Protruding at the acutest of angles in the beast’s right eye socket, it’s point exited through the left of the jaw bone wedging in it firmly. Age had covered much of the once polished blade to rust, however it’s value to the current proprietor or the aesthetic of the décor had never diminished. The odd tooth had been prized away from its large sloping jaw but enough remained to show off its gaping bite. Needless to say the Knifed Skull was home to many a drunkard, lured in to see this magnificent sight. Some one not so taken back by the splendour was a lonesome rogue, who used this place as a common retreat.

She always wore her leathery wardrobe, always worn with the hood up, one that covers the majority of her head. Her long bristre satin hair draped down through the hoods opening gape, flanking the sides of her face, one which nobody could see the true beauty behind. Her tight fitting outfit extenuating her slender figure, one that wasn’t made with the cheap leather in found stores. Nearly everyone in her profession most certainly wore a garb of much less quality.

Clothing not made from Vis or even regular cotton, was normally made with leather sourced from locally farmed Ferrisus, The six legged Ferrisus swine was also one of the main food sources for the city not for it’s irony taste of course. It’s leather was often used for armour and heavier clothes, it was tough and flexible as the same colour as flaking rust. The perfect material for creating garbs for those who wanted some measure of protection. Seedier persons would often darken their attire staining it with colour from the almost black crushed Noxweed petals, mixed with soot as an offset additive. To this stylish rogue sat in her corner wearing her more pricey regalia; and to someone of her experience, they were just in a childish costumes.

Her own outfit was made from actual Ferapex hide, it was the much prized material for those sordid types of a darker disreputable profession. Hide that didn’t come cheep either, not because of the rarity of the source animal but the stealthy ferocity of it’s nature, sulking the forests preying on large game or the a wayward caravan traversing the paved route through the dense foliage. A nocturnal predator of almost unbeaten prowess. Many people die when hunting one of these beasts is pursuit of it’s skin, claws and teeth. The veteran hunters of the creature, have an on going inside bet to see which of the rookie hunters fall prey to it first. The inexperienced unknowingly aware that they are but fodder for the Ferapex, as a means to slow it down. Survivors of a successful hunt were considered by many to be heroes, when in reality they had been lucky no to fall prey to the beast ferocious apatite.

It’s highly valued chameleon like skin retained this adaptable property even after the creatures death, as was like it was permanently alive and aware of it’s surroundings. Covering the skin was semi-light bending fur, each strand refracted light away from it’s body. The perfect predatory disguise. It’s special quality imbuing the rogues own attire as it would scantly blend the rogue in with her own surroundings, to the point that she rarely seen by even those who had not drunk a drop of liquor and although the fireplace blaring light and embers didn’t even cast a shadow of her.

There in the far corner however did seat someone, the quietest of rogues, she spoke when needed and only entertained the idea of chit chat with those of whom she most trusted. There was no one of that description here. Nursing her ale as if it was the last in the world. She sat alone, with one the male maids occasionally bringing her a renewed beverage. Leaving with the previous empty container and the four required coins already cascading on the table, a pre-order for the next.

Her feet resting crossed on the short and narrow, thick planked table. Her feet acting as the bouncer, guarding her from the rest of the taverns clientèle. So relaxed and laid back you could swear she was sleeping, her eyes were wide open of course. When her roguish paranoia kicked in her eyes scanned the room of it’s occupants, broken back up again by staring inside of the tankard. Occasionally when she felt comfortable enough she would stare blankly into oblivion as some of her past regrets that couldn’t help but take up the majority of her concious mind.

Strategically is was the most optimized place for a person who’s business generated a small amount of notoriety, very few knew of her true occupation,. Most of those who have, had taken that secret with them in their untimely swim in the Deadflow. Backed by the taverns brickwork and a lack of a shadow. Both of her sheathed serrated long swords rested by her side, making sure both hilts with always with in reaching distance. All entrances could be seen, along with the wall length bar. No one was going to sneak up on this tactful advantageous individual. She made sure that even while at her most drunk, no one could blind-side her. Her fast hand could reach for either of the twined pistols strapped to each side of her hips. Inebriation didn’t dull her reflexes least of all her aim.

The last person to try; attempting to force himself upon her. Even after she made it abundantly clear she wasn’t interested. Had to hastily vacated the tavern while screaming in agony. Both hands cupping the remains of his genitalia. At the same time being laughed out by those more wise to leave this woman alone. No one made that mistake any more. It was due to the combination of acknowledgement of previous deeds around the city and that type of fear that was rooted in the unknown. The sure-shooting woman in her colour changing leather left alot to the imagination about her past. Everyone knows her speed is unmatched save for an ignorant few, and all of the locals afforded her an un-leveled amount of respect…and she liked it that way.

Thanks for reading.

This is a short side story to a larger one I am working on, and may or may not be changed at any time to co-inside with it, nor is it indicative there of.

Laura Steel.