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Essay on the Horizons, Pt 1

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An account of one particular Universe. An essay by Dr. Sa's understudy, so authenticity may vary (As with most of the records in this book) The Guardians of Zion

One (I) Edit

I: In The Beginning

Our Saga begins in the great northern Kingdom of Erkan, a economical and military powerhouse. During its first Golden Age, under King Aaron the great, a Council of the six greatest Wizards in the land served as an advisory body for the monarchy. Its leader, simply remembered as The Grandmaster, wielded magical and blacksmithery skill to create Thanatos, an enchanted sword of immense power. The Grandmaster gifted the weapon to the King, who in turn gifted it to his oldest and closest friend, the Chancellor Archontas. However, the Advisor had been unknowingly corrupted many years earlier by the brutal wars in the western islands. Armed with Thanatos and a growing lust for power, he became the King's chief enforcer and a symbol of fear throughout the Kingdom. Realizing his mistake, the Grandmaster set about crafting a second Sword, Ilios, imbued with light that would allow only a uncorrupted soul to use it. At the same time, Archontas had plunged Erkan into a civil war, driven on by the Council’s prophecy of Aaron being fated to destroy him. Before Ilios could be completed, Archontas slew the King in single combat and declared himself his replacement. The Grandmaster lead the Council in opposition, but was betrayed by one of it’s own. Unable to wield Ilios, because of his own pride, the Grandmaster reaffirmed the prophecy of Aaron destroying Archontas before being killed himself. Although the Council was apparently destroyed, two members escaped aside from the traitor. One of whom, Kylorn, discovered that the King’s son had survived his Father's “dethroning”. Aaron II was taken into the Wild South by Kylorn, along with his own two sons, before the great alchemist disappeared, presumably captured by the Chancellor's forces. Over the next two decades, Archontas consolidated his power and delved deeper into dark magical arts (Even creating his own Council of Six), while Aaron II, Jack and William grew up as slaves in the southern wilds. The last surviving loyalist member of the Council, Bearoz, spent the years setting up an uprising against the Counselor, before embarking on a recovery of the King's son (as well as his friends twins). The three young slaves agreed, more than willing to leave behind their currently torrid life and join the cause. Although Bearoz failed to survive the return trip, the three younger men successfully joined the revolutionaries and recovered Ilios, rallying Erkan’s citizens into a second Civil War. The final battle of the war was fought in the halls of Archontas palace, with Aaron striking the final blow against the Chancellor with Ilios. In any other story, this would be the end of it: Aaron II took his Father's place, Kylorn’s sons reformed and lead the military and Erkan began its second Golden Age. The three main leads even married Susan, Kathleen and Eleanor respectively, their betrothed since their time in the Resistance. However, Ixil’s new role as a Ranger on the Western border of Erkan lead to him discovering a secret buried deep in the mountains: A collection of his Father's life's work. This included a horrifying truth however: Archontas’s Dark council of six had escaped Erkan’s world using Kylorn’s greatest creation: enchanted Rings crafted via alchemy, allowing their wearers to pass between Universes. The method was not perfected, but it was refined enough to allow all but the original traitor to escape. William, Aaron and Jack soon followed using the Remaining Rings, determined to bring them to justice. To their surprise, they instead arrived in a futuristic, interstellar Republic. Before they could move on, they became embroiled in the conflict with the “War Droid Empire”, extragalactic invaders making heavy use of war droids (Hence the nickname). This proved to be a life changing event, especially for William. Never really moving on from his days in the Resistance, William became determined to aid any similar cause if capable. However, the original purpose of their Exodus was not forgotten, and the trio of adventurers traveled to a third, less advanced Universe in search of the Dark Six. This new reality came to serve as their base of operations, and a source of new allies. The P.T.D, a loose coalition of worlds and civilizations, gladly welcomed the trio into their ranks. Morgans Way, an ancient sect of sorcerers, were less trusting but occasionally willing to aid them as well. On a more personal level, three became five with the addition of two like-minded individuals to the crusade: Mike Sanders, a sarcastic engineering genius and former bounty hunter, and later P.s, a highly private but heroic agent of Morgans Way. Although they did not have the shared past the other three did, they grew to be close friends over the years. Eleanor, William’s wife, would also occasionally join them and serve as their team medic. But the new frontier also brought a host of new threats. The Shadowmen and Xoks represented two more Empires to oppose, while Shade and Refrain of the Dark Six resurfaced with their own plots. By far the biggest threat though was the Blade Guild, a massive criminal organization with more influence and resources than either the Empires or the P.T.D. The battle between the Guild and the self-styled Explorers (a name taken from their custom-built starship, The Explorer) became deeply personal when the Leviticus project lead to the lengthy capture and torture of P.s. She was rescued a number of months later, although it took some time for everyone to recover from the ordeal, and the ferocity on both sides increased considerably. The Explorers eventually emerged victorious, albeit not without great personal cost and the P.T.D’s destruction. The Hand, chief Guild military commander and Williams personal rival, took control of the Guild from his less honorable predecessors and reformed it into a more benign mercenary organization. This, combined with the capture or death of the remaining Dark Six (Save Kratoria, the Emperor of the War Droids) was enough to convince Aaron and Jack to return home and settle down with their families. The newly-wed Mike and P.s joined them, leaving only William. The only one of the group to truly adjust to the Adventuring lifestyle, William traveled solo for a while, helping to refound the P.T.D and attending the peace conference between the Republic and War Droids. He also further pursued Kylorn’s fate, having discovered that Archontas was not responsible for his disappearance, but failed to unearth what really happened to his Father. However, the unstable magic in the Rings eventually lead to a dark, corrupted version of William attacking Erkan’s heroes. The original version only narrowly prevented the death of his friends and family, realizing in the process that it was time for him to return home permanently as well. Thankfully, there was already someone ready and waiting to take his place…

II: Continuing a Legacy

Sometimes, the best way to study a legend is to first look at their closest friends. “Born” on the industrial world of Axess 12, Skid was  an experiment, genetically engineered to be the perfect soldier. As a publicity stunt, he was assigned to protect a conference between major corporate heads. This did not turn out as planned, as Skid turned out to have more free will than anticipated and fell in with an uninvited guest investigating the more shady businesses present: One “William Erkan”. In the end, the Axess executives allowed Skid to leave with the traveler, in exchange for his not turning them over to system authorities for tax evasion. Skid became a faithful companion to William during his later, solo travelers, and briefly considered joining him in retirement. However, his old friend had a request: Skid would continue his current role of ally and muscle, but with William’s son Jared. The soldier was at first reluctant, but changed his mind upon witnessing the younger man in action. The youngest son of William and Eleanor’s eight children, Jared was adventurous and outgoing as a child. As he grew older, this became a true lust for adventure and he followed his older brothers in their ranger work across Erkan. Unlike his Father, an intermediate swordsman, Jared proved to be a dueling prodigy and his skill in this area furthered his confidence to the point he was asking to accompany his father at the age of thirteen. His parents refused naturally, until an eighteen year old Jared “acquired” the Explorer and seemingly joined the Errant Prophets of Death. Upon confronting him, William learned that he had instead infiltrated the group, hoping to bring them down from within. Father and Son accomplished this together, and William reluctantly approved him as his successor. Skid, for his part, could see the potential in Jared, buried beneath the vigor of youth. Agreeing to serve as Jared’s bodyguard (Or just as often, advisor), the soldier leapt back into service as the two embarked on a series of peacekeeping and mercy missions. A return to Axess 12 saw the normal status quo reversed, as Jared kept Skid from angrily killing the corporation heads, who had engineered a second batch of Soldiers and strictly enslaved them as personal hitmen. Jared did agree to bring down the company however, and the two walked away with not only Skid’s freed brothers but also a squadron of Nightwing fighters to replace the ageing Explorer. The formerly unnamed Kid, Jobe and Boe agreed to join the duo and soon Skid found himself in the position of being a commander instead of a soldier. He also found some of Jared’s choices, such as partaking in a Multi-reality tournament to pick a new champion for the ancient Oni civilization, hard to agree with, but loyally performed his duty nonetheless. Skid was much more satisfied with Jared’s next ambitious endeavour: The freeing of Journeyworld, an endless fantasy era plain, from the cruel overlord Gisborn. Aside from the obvious benefit to the oppressed, it had a major positive effect on Jared in introducing him to Kate, an idealistic young revolutionary. As headstrong and outspoken as Jared himself, the young woman practically talked herself into the small group of soldiers and unanimously improved their overall effectiveness and unity. However, the small-scale revolution was still in the shadow of the previous generation of adventurers and their exploits. A far bigger issue Than lost fame and infamy were old enemies looking for revenge on the younger and supposedly less capable Night-wings. Lian, a mercantile warrior humiliated and crippled by William some years prior, staged a coup in the Centurion: one of the oldest, fiercest and effective orders of assassins in existence. Seizing sole leadership, Lian nominally reformed the Centurion, while secretly pursuing his own personal goal: the death of William’s son. With victory nearly in reach, Skid and the others were caught completely off-guard by Gisborne's new allies, arriving via Rings borrowed from Kratoria. Centurion assassins reversed almost every victory they had achieved, destroying resources, killing allies and frightening sympathizers away. Jared was targeted personally, his ability tested again and again by the lethal foes. Lian himself crossed blades with the young hero more than once, although he prefered to avoid battle directly. Even the Oni’s Tournament was affected, Jareds less scrupulous rivals freely hiring the assassins and providing them ample opportunity to fulfill their leaders desire for vengeance. The small glimmer of hope in all this was Wyvern, a centurion defector as bent on destroying Lian as he was on destroying Jared. With an in depth knowledge of how the assassins operated, she proved instrumental in keeping the revolution from simply being crushed. But Skid’s tactical mind could see the rising tension and pressure ready to pull the group apart from within. Tragically, he was proved correct when his own brother, Boe, was discovered to be a mole for Gisborne and Lian. Already driven to the breaking point, Jared abandoned the others on Journeyworld and set off on his own, looking for an escape. For almost a year, Skid did his best to hold together what was left of the group and offer at least token resistance against Gisborne. Even Kate considered abandoning her own home, before the unexpected happened: Jared returned. Nothing could have shocked the world weary soldier more than the formerly hot-headed young man returning as a mortified and reserved individual asking forgiveness for leaving in the first place. As he explained, Jared had joined an alliance of freedom fighters on the devastated world of Potrix, becoming particularly close to “One-shot”, a leading member of the rebels. Sadly, A disastrous ambush left the entire alliance decimated, and One-shot dead. Jared himself only barely survived, and The event had shaken him. After freeing Potrix, he eagerly stepped back into his role as leader of the Revolution, with more determination than ever. Skid gladly relinquished the title back to him, only remaining in command long enough to execute the treacherous Boe. The long fight for Journeyworld ended abruptly when Lian was forced to withdraw the Centurion assassin's, the other members of the Order fed up with his vendetta. Without their support, Gisborne's forces crumbled and were dethroned without ceremony. Not long after, in One-shot’s memory, Jared dropped out of the Oni’s Tournament, allowing a more deserving man to serve as their Champion. Not long after, he and Kate gave into long standing tension and eloped on a honeymoon that deserves a book in its own right. Waiting for their return in the family's home on Erkan, Skid took stock of his life and reflected that Jared, like himself, had been born a warrior, but made a Hero.

III: Chronicles

From an outside perspective, Kanos was nothing more than a crazy old hermit who just showed up on the outskirts of town one day. However, the truth was significantly more complicated. The third son of Kylorn, born to his second wife while captive in Azarium, Kanos is the lost step-brother of William and Jack. Although his parents felt to old to bother escaping from their reasonably comfortable imprisonment, Kylorn used his alchemic skills to craft another ring and send his son to his family in Erkan. William having passed away and Jared having already retired from Adventuring some time ago, Kanos could look forwards to a life of relative calm and peace, delving into mystic lore and expanding his considerable talent with the magical arts. However, the ceaseless coming and going through realities based around Erkan did not go unnoticed. The Cyids, mindless, ancient, all-consuming scavengers, arrived and began ravaging the surrounding lands. In order to save their home, Jared and Aaron II lead the various nations and adventurers in a desperate defense. By the time the last Cyid was destroyed, Erkan was saved but Kanos stood as the sole surviving member of his family. Broken by his experiences, Kanos simply left, traveling Universe to Universe in search of a quiet corner to isolate himself. He lived like this for centuries, refusing to get involved with anyone or anything, seeking out the next secluded wilderness. But two such trips forced him into action. First, he witnessed Kratoria’s Empire invading a defenseless primitive world, in identical fashion to the Cyid’s. Secondly, he arrived in the Place Beyond Time, a sky dimension home to the great Prophets. Brought before their leader, Kanos was informed that he was destined to slay Kratoria in single combat, at the cost of his own life. Deeply affected by his experience in the etherial plain, Kanos began iregularly performing heroics, slowly becoming more similar to the Adventurers of old. Debating whether to continue hiding or to prepare for one last fight, he sought out his farthest destination yet. This dedicated flight lead him to Frontier, a Galaxy sized planetoid, artificially constructed by a long forgotten race. Touching down near the largest settlement, Kanos buried his long time home, The Emperor, in the surface of Frontiers massive sand drifts. The Universe continued to conspire against giving him a quiet life almost immediately, as a squad of the locale defense Force came out to confront him. In the middle of a heated standoff, Kanos’s placement of his ship turned out to have awakened a hive of Makala, autominis metal scavengers fond of feasting on life. Kanos destroyed the hive, saving most of the squad. Initially dismissing the surviving Squad members, Kanos became intrigued by two of them, albeit for two very different reasons. In the leader, Isaac, he saw a prospective replacement should he indeed fall against the last of the Dark Six. Susan, the team's driver, survived a direct impalement that would have instantly killed a Human. With a little bit of examination, Kanos discovered she was a highly sophisticated Bio-android, much to her surprise. However, the weary traveler was still prepared to leave Frontier, if not for a most unexpected turn of events. While visiting the locale store one stormy night to pick up supplies, he witnessed a street gang chasing down a young woman. When they cornered her, Kanos intervened and rescued the girl, bringing her back to his ship for treatment. Quickly learning that she was an orphan, abandoned on the streets since birth, Kanos felt incapable of leaving the mute sixteen year old to fend for herself. Adopting her as his daughter, Kanos determined to stay on Frontier to raise her, and prepare for the future. With an obligation to stay anyways, he also began vigorously training Issac and investigation Susan’s past. Although still principly a loner, and less than fond of his new, desert laden home, Kanos felt continent for the first time since the Cyid’s arrival. His life continued to be frustratingly exciting though: The Settlement, Frontier Prime, proved inherently inclined towards trouble, with Kanos forced into helping the Defense Force against attacks from Makala, Off-world conquerors and Frontiers thriving criminal industry. Frontier itself, and the secrets surrounding its creation, proved an intriguing and dangerous mystery. Ancient cities, catacombs systems,seemingly endless waves of ruthless bounty Hunters: At times, Frontier was more dangerous than the war-torn planes inhabited by Kanos’s predecessors. One continual thorn in their collective side was Baron Rubert, a criminal mastermind bent on controlling everything within reach. Kanos slipped into his old pragmatism when confronting him directly, leaving the Baron to be devoured by his own vampiric bodyguards. On a much brighter note, his relationship with his daughter, Samantha, brought out the best in both of them. She grew stronger and more confident, overcoming much of her past trauma in his care. He gradually did the same, opening up and letting his past grievances go. Despite his responsibilities there, Kanos did leave Frontier, although only on occasional brief trips, always returning to his new found homeworld. All three of his “students nesitated these departures from time to time: His quest to discover Susan’s origins brought him to many different worlds, although she herself eventually decided who she was didn’t matter as much as who she became. Both Isaac and Samantha were brought off-world for mentoring, although Isaac eventually decided against becoming an Adventurer, on Kanos’s own advice. Samantha continued to be the closest person to her Father, and even accompanied him back to the Place Beyond Time. Wanting to clarify his future fate, as well as investigate the mysterious Seven Kings prophecy, Kanos used the dimension to augment his senses to see the future himself. What he saw instead was the Prophet's intended betrayal, their zealous leader's believing Samantha’s death was integral to the survival of reality. Kanos saved her just in time and Decided that prophecies had no real power of their own. He nonetheless saw that he was the only one capable of stopping Kratoria, who was now spreading his armies into multiple Universe’s. Enrolling Samantha in a naval Academy, and leaving Frontier in the capable hands of Isaac and Susan, Kanos left to confront the mad warlord. As predicted, the battle ended with Kanos emerging victorious, but fatally wounded. Seeing his last three years on Frontier as his best, he took just enough time to set his affairs in order before passing on. Years later, Admiral Samantha fondly remembered her Father as a great hero and attributed her success to his guidance.


IV: Mark

Using his last ounce of strength, Ishmael used his Enchanted Ring to travel to a ravaged and lifeless unnamed world, the last in it’s Universe to be consumed by the Omega-Maw. With one last defiant speech to the Nightmare Lord, he allowed himself and the Zion Shard to be swallowed by the reality destroying Black Hole, ending the Nightmare Lord once and for all. Any study of Ishmael and his career as an Adventurer must begin with this event, as it is the endgame he worked towards his entire life. Immediately before this dramatic finale, Ishmael had once again sent out a call to his loose collection of “friends” (Lacking a better term), with a surprisingly honest request: Help. Ishmael’s long chess game with the leader of Morgan's Way had come to a head, with the head mage preparing to enact a plan that would see the death of countless innocent lives, all in a mad quest to obtain the fictional Zion Stone and gain the powers of God. Ishmael needed the aid of Arthur, Violet and River to get past the ranks of scribes protecting the mad Sorcerer, hopefully in enough time to stop the senseless cataclysm. What made this call to arms unique was Ishmael’s uncharacteristic honesty about his ulterior motives: If he could get to the Head Mage’s Zion Shard, the last in existence, he would finally be in the position to destroy the Nightmare Lord and his influence, through his symbiosis with the powerful magical artifacts. The trio accepted and a successful covert mission resulted in the scene above. But Ishmaels game with the Nightmare stretched even farther back than the one with the High Mage: The later’s schemes only allowed Ishmael to bring the former directly into his sights. The High Mage and Morgans Way had begun with much smaller plots (Such as spreading their influence and beliefs to pre-space travel worlds, creating a massive, undetected empire) But over time, the Nightmares corruptive influence pushed them further and further towards more extreme measures. But the ancient sect of sorcerers was far from the first victim. The Nightmare existed in multiple realities for centuries and prefered to use one-off pawns to destabilize the laws of reality, bringing him closer to his ultimate dream of achieving corporal form. For a long time he went unopposed, and initially saw Ishmael as just another man to control. He only realized the truth when the last Zion Shard, the instruments of his influence and his only tie to the physical realm, plummeted into the Omega Maw. Before that, one of Ishmael's clearest prerogatives was damage control on the various breakdowns caused by the Nightmare. Armed with only a Enchanted Ring and River’s (A Starship captain he had hired for transport in exchange for providing her with the opportunity to see other Universes) help, Ishmael confronted alternate reality after alternate reality. Although briefly erased from history by Teckla’s own machinimas, Ishmael generally got by well with the constant changes and alterations. A bigger problem was a lack of resources: Although charismatic, Ishmael rarely informed others of his constant “games” and plans within plans, leading to more than one ally angrily storming away. River was only convinced to stay on by Ishmael straight up describing himself as a liar and highly manipulative, and even that had failed with Teckla (A mercenary who worked as Ishmael's agent, before swearing a vendetta against him for a perceived betrayal). For the most part, Ishmael faced the Universe alone, something he deeply regretted and strongly advised his successor against. But Despite this, Ishmael did not spend his entire career in long running schemes and repairing faults in space-time. The true danger of a man like Ishmael, as he himself admitted, was his ability to “play Hero”. A notable example was the crisis with the Kingdom of Everwinter, a medieval Empire using rifts similar to those created by the Enchanted Rings to expand to other fantasy planes. It’s Queen, Barbara III, was a warmonger, invading multiple countries at once. Her daughter was equally expansionist, but much more pacifist, leading to a small-scale civil war between the two. Ishmael successfully repaired the relationship between the two and convinced the older Queen to cease her conquests and return much of her stolen land. However, this event is again noticeable as the exception to the norm. From day one, when he ran headfirst into the devil-may-care smuggler and conwoman Violet, Ishmael was setting his plans to acquire and destroy the other Zion Shards into motion. He had been in the presence of a Shard since a very young age, and almost his entire life since (Perhaps explaining some of his unorthodox outlook) and was probably the one man in reality with the full picture of just how dangerous the Nightmare Lord was. Unfortunately, his tendency towards secrecy proved to be a large obstacle from the start. A member of the Paladin Order (descendants of the Republic William had aided against the War Droid Empire) by the name of Arthur was the sole survivor of a task force sent to neutralize Xerxes, Kratoria’s understudy and replacement as Emperor. Both he and Violet assumed Ishmael convincing them to band together with him was just the actions of a heroic wanderer, planning on taking down the young would-be warlord for it’s own sake. This new trio mostly operated out of a space station in Violet’s native Galaxy, fighting the barbaric Ravager tribes dominating the area. When the trio finally confronted him, Xerxes took great joy in taunting Violet and Arthur over their misplaced trust, and Ishmael over his doomed to failure plans. Ishmael payed it no mind and used Xerxes’s own Zion Shard to destroy him, only to find that his two compatriots had simply walked away upon learning the extent of his plans themselves. Happily, The three would meet again, and there final departure would be on amicable terms. But From this point on, Ishmael distanced himself from others as much as possible (Likely resulting in the rift between him and Teckla). After this series of disastrous early plots, Ishmael wandered relatively aimlessly, taking time out to “play Hero” on a number of worlds, before locating the last Zion Shard in the hands of Morgan’s Way. Although some saw him as cold and heartless, Ishmael’s point of View reveals his life as a series of determined choices, leading up to the destruction of one of the worst beings to ever exist. And it all began with a young boy named Ishmael being approached by a stranger named Kanos, claiming to be his Grandfather and apologizing for failing to realize how dangerous one of his heirlooms, a seemingly innocent stone, was. And That brings this tale of intrigue and guile to an end (Or its beginning?)

V: Acts

Some would say Zara was destined for greatness by her lineage alone: Her Mother was next in line for rule of the Golden State and her Father was the Great Grandson of Jack, famed member of The Explorers. None of this meant anything to a young Zara unfortunately, who grew up in a broken home. With a missing Mother, neglectant Father and abusive older sister, Zara took the first opportunity to leave home possible, enrolling in her homeworlds military. She found herself at home among soldiers and combat drills, accelerating through the ranks at incredible speed and being placed in direct contact with the primary Battle Computer. Zara paid no mind to her ancestry, up until her world was attacked by a horde of pirates. In the battle that followed, the planet's defenses were overrun and Zara sustained extensive injuries. Without outside intervention, she would have certainly died. As fate would have it though, the battle computer directing the military was far more than it seemed. Zara awoke in a deep underground compound, her injuries “repaired” by cybernetics (Including her left arm, right eye and spine). She found herself in the care of Venus, a highly sophisticated A.I dating back to before the world was colonized. Intelligent and self aware, with records from multiple Universe’s, Venus informed the young woman of the full extent of her father's family line, and the Adventuring dynasty he was a part of. With nothing left resembling a home, Zara eagerly jumped at the idea of such travels, convincing Venus to accompany her. After months of recovery and preparation, Zara and Venus Used the powerful artifacts stored in the Compound (Including one of the Mythical Enchanted Rings) to free the planet, before beginning their adventures. Despite her youth, and relative lack of resources, Zara quickly adapted to the lifestyle and proved a idealistic, heroic force for good. Although she ventured into numerous Universes, Zara mostly remained in her native dimension, exploring the intricate social and political situations that appeared to be leading to a war. Zara’s homeworld was only one colony in a large interstellar Confederacy, a mostly benevolent (If corrupt) faction promoting unity among all worlds and races. However, a crisis was forming in the shape of the conflict with the Heretics. A theocratic monarchy ruled by the titular Green-skinned “Heretics” (Merely a Confederate nickname, their real name being unpronounceable by Humans), this splinter faction abjectly refused to be a part of the Confederacy, remaining fiercely independent. Unfortunately, they as a whole and their unnamed Queen in particular were victims of one of the most effective smear campaigns in history, depicted as violent barbarians fond of massacring civilians. The Queen's own ruthlessness and practice of raiding Confederate worlds in retaliation to attacks on her people did not help matters and even Zara tentatively supported the spread-thin armies of the Confederacy. Despite her determination to remain neutral in the looming war, Zara was drawn into the conflict personally when her sister’s (Now a member of the Confederate Navy) suicide attack on the Heretic Queen resulted in open war, with the out-numbered Heretics making a desperate drive towards the Confederate Capital World. Forced on to the Confederacy's side by the Queen’s hostility and extreme tactics, Zara was uncomfortable with the entire situation and furious when the war ended in the near genocide of the Heretics, betrayed by their own double agent, Gip (A  killer for-hire with a deep-seated hatred from Zara’s entire family). Zara barely had time to take stalk of her life, including the additions of Mercantile sniper Wayne, charismatic duelist Clark and the Heretic former-slave Qiana to her and Venus’s team, before being confronted with an entirely new problem. Angered at her denouncement of the Confederacy's actions and support of the remaining Heretics, the zealous general Tharen began another smear campaign, this time directed at Zara and her crew. Depicted as traitorous terrorists, they were forced to cut all ties with the Confederacy and relocate to the Imperial Collective, a tiny three-system faction in unclaimed space. To everyone’s surprise, Zara was soon installed as the newest Emperor, their previous leader having abdicated and disappeared. Keeping her friends closeby, (Via reforming them as the elite “Emperor's Guard”) and adding the feline Sarah to the group, Zara was set to be a benevolent, peaceful ruler. Meanwhile, a war ten times the size of the Heretic incursion was brewing. The Golden State, the oldest empire in existence, was slowly decaying and looking to expand and survive. The Confederacy, whipped into a fervor by Tharen and his followers, was ready to begin another crusade, this time against the symbol of everything they were nominally against. The Imperial Collective’s attempts to intervene were ignored (And sabotaged, by Gip) and the two civilizations ignited the fires of war once again. Once again forced to the front lines, the soldier did her best to bear the heavy burden of wartime leadership, doing the best she could to intervene with her limited military and fleet. The pressure, as well as a humiliating near-death defeat from Gip, was enough to cause Zara to leave on a journey of self-discovery. But she was incapable of abandoning her responsibility and returned with, among other things, the advanced titian class warship Maiden Voyage. Bolstered by her return and the new equipment, the Collective used a major battle between the Confederacy and Golden State as a distraction to attack the State’s capital. Confronting it’s Emperor, who was her own mother by now, the younger Emperor proved victorious and left the State leaderless and disabled. With the Confederacy crippled by the battle (And Tharen dead) the two factions had little choice but broker peace. The celebration was somewhat ruined for the Guard by Zara’s collapse immediately afterwards. She reluctantly admitted that, in addition to her numerous still lingering war injuries, she had contracted a fatal virus during her Mid-War travels. Although she spent most of her life in perpetual (and pointless) war, Zara was content with her accomplishments, focusing on the good she had been able to do. After one final confrontation with Gip, Zara collapsed again and was rushed to a Oni medical facility. Although her life was saved, the Virus caused irreversible damage to her mind and left her amnesiac. With the original Zara effectively dead, the Guard made the decision to allow her a peaceful life on a unotable grassland world. Aside from a brief and torrid marriage to The Dark Father, she did indeed have a quiet and uneventful life, only occasionally wondering about where she came from or her origins. She was finally at peace, A fitting end for a soldier, really.


VI: Revelations

The final part of our Saga (For now) should be told by someone who was there and, indeed, was the center of events:

Before we begin, may I just ask our dear author (Who may or may not be my great, great, great, great, Step-mother I’m not sure) why they left the formation of the Triumvirate out of the last chapter? Since this book is about them, it seems like a important event to leave out. For those of you who don’t know, the Triumvirate is A) a really stupid name for a group containing more than 36 people and B) a family business. Unlike most family businesses though, it A) mostly includes friends of the Kylorn Dynasty, rather than actual members and B) mostly deals in heroics rather than trinkets or quilts. For those of you wondering how, it’s all due to those lovely little Rings which A) by nature create an almost infinite number of alternate versions of us and B) aren’t time relative (Meaning person A can travel from Universe 1 to Universe 2 in 100 AD and person B can do the same in 1,000 AD, and they could very well arrive at the same time in Universe 2). So again, A) pretty big detail to leave out and B) I just realized I’ve been rambling. Many apologies, let's get back to the story: Over 5,000 years before I came along, a member of Archontas’s Dark Six known as the Dark Father was captured and imprisoned in Erkan by the Explorers. However, the devastation of the Cyid’s invasion destroyed his prison and allowed him to escape that plain. Deciding he’d like to rule all of reality, he formed his own cult known as the Nomads, fashioned out of beings who shared his shape-shifting ability and delusions of grandeur. He remained in the shadows for centuries, avoiding the discerning eyes of the Triumvirate while planning his rise to power. For reasons I don’t quite understand, he then decided to marry and have a son with the mind-wiped Zara, leading to me. My childhood is my own business thank you very much, so let's just say that by my coming of age I was… less than fond of my predecessors. Although I have since come to learn my Father was the one responsible, I initially blamed the Triumvirate for pretty much everything (The corrupted version of William running around again helped with that). This lead to the in-hindsight embarrassing situation of me attempting to raise an army to oppose my own family. The only thing good to come from this was my encounters and resulting friendship with Grace and Tam, two of the most faithful, heroic, brave, smart, beautiful...okay, getting off track again. Grace was a blind Human, seeking redemption (Again, personal) while Tam is one of the legendary Samaritans, energy beings tied to physical forms, completely immortal (Barring something like the Omega Maw). Aside from meeting these two woman, who no one (Least of all myself) deserved as friends, my brief stint as a villain was pathetically unsuccessful. The Triumvirates chosen successor to Zara, Brian, walked circles around me, Before he fell in love with a princess and promptly retired. When I finally managed a direct attack on the Triumvirate, I...well, got a speech on doing the right thing. William may be a great man, but he’s also incredibly long-winded. I’d like to say this humiliating defeat was enough to turn me straight, but It took a much higher and nobler intervener to get me where I am now: Most know him as a man or a spirit, but I know him as The Great Lion. The meeting was personal and not really any of your business, but I had second thoughts about my crusade against the Triumvirate. Neither of my traveling companions were particularly fond of villainy (Tam only stuck around for my aid in rescuing her sister from Corrupt!William) and soon I was spending more time saving people than stewing in thoughts of revenge. At the risk of losing my humility, I could give the great Mike Sanders, builder of the Explorer, a run for his money in terms of genius. Fighting for the cause of good is a lot easier when you can build an army of combat droids and mobile Battle-Station to help do the “heavy lifting”. Naturally, they were put to good use against a host of much more successful villains than I: First Corrupt!William, than the insane Ex-P.T.D agent Diana and finally my Father and the Nomads. Although my lingering reputation as, well, evil, sometimes interfered with my work, (The Paladin Order had a bounty on my head for ages) life was relatively easy. Even My Father joining my small group of Adventurers (In the guise of a Paladin medic the Order was kind enough to inform me died years before hand) didn’t shake things up much. Than we discovered an undead plague spreading through dozens of Universe’s. What can I say, it's a strange life. On the bright side, saving countless people from being zombified redeemed us in pretty much everyone’s eyes. It also gained us an invaluable hero in the form of Jade, an adventurer who had the misfortune of falling under the control of the Dark Father. Eager to rejoin the good guys, she managed to break free of his control and carve an impressive legacy in her own right. Although my Father wasn’t responsible for the Outbreak (Agent Diana was), he did try to take advantage of it, repurposing one of my solutions to kill entire worlds. The only possible way to destroy it would douse the operator in, you guessed it, the power of an Omega Maw. Grace, may she rest in peace, sacrificed herself to save us and many others. Needless to say, my tolerance for dear old Dad instantly disappeared and he suffered from a severe case of decapitation soon after (On the bright side, this brought me a lot closer to my mother). From this point forwards, the story becomes more of Jade’s than mine. I largely stepped down as the head Adventurer and let her deal with the various conspiracies and sentient starships that always crop up. I’m told I go out in a blaze of glory saving the Imperial Collective from the Xoks, but obviously I haven’t experienced that yet. With the addition of the Triumvirate, that about sums up my story and this entire Saga. If there’s one thing I hope you take from all this, it's that Good doesn’t triumph over evil: Good PWNS evil.

Two (II) Edit

I: A Song Begun So Long Ago

Our Saga begins in the Great Northern Kingdom of Erkan, an economical and military powerhouse. By far the largest nation on its continent, Erkan was experiencing its fifth Golden age under the rule of King Aaron at the turn of the ninth century. With no real rivals, it’s culture and people flourished and reached into its border neighbors and even the uncivilized Southern Lands. Although Aaron was a ruler beloved by the people, he often defered to the judgment of his two chief advisors: Archontis and The Council of Six. The former was a friend almost since childbirth, a destitute orphan from the small Kingdom of Dorban, rescued during one of Aaron’s father's campaigns. The two men were fast friends, with Archontis serving as Aaron’s High General and Erkan’s de facto military leader. Infact, the great wars in the western Islands were presided over by the High General, rather than the King. Although lacking either man's popularity, the Council of Six garnered just as much respect and consideration as them. Lead by the Grandmaster, the Council was made of the six greatest and wisest wizards in the land. Although known for their magical prowess, each member was also accomplished in another area (For example, Kylorn was the greatest alchemist in the land and Gevan Dale was a masterful elemental). The Grandmaster himself was a remarkable Blacksmith, crafting the enchanted sword Thanatos as a gift to the king Aaron. The King, although appreciative, passed it on in turn as a reward for his friend. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to even himself, Archanots had been corrupted by the wars in the West, and his influence deeply affected his new weapon. “Neutral” by design, Thanatos received its bearers buried rage and amplified it, warping its wielder even further. Archontis became a symbol of fear throughout Erkan, a brutal enforcer who put down even the mildest resistance with lethal force. Seeing the King turning a blind eye towards the actions of his oldest friend, The Grandmaster began work on a second sword, Ilios, which would be protected from corruption. But the High General had eyes everywhere, and was soon informed of the Council’s work. Assuming that the King was moving against him, a fearful and enraged Archontis decided to make the first move. His forces stormed the King's Palace and the High General slew his friend in single combat, declaring himself the new regent of Erkan. The Council of Six was caught off-guard by this sudden coup, and further disarrayed when one of their own, Bear-Eyes, was revealed as an agent of Archontis. Although the Grandmaster had completed Ilios, his own pride made him incapable of using it, and the High General completed his takeover by slaying his last major opposer. Only half of the Council survived: Beareyes joined his master, Orn went into hiding and began organizing a rebellion, and Kylorn fled south. Having salvaged Aarons newborn son from the Royal palace and Ilios from the Council House, the Alchemist was determined to keep both from falling into the hands of the So-called Regent. The Sword was hidden deep in a system of volcanic caves, while Aaron II was brought with Kylorn into his hermitage. In order to further sully the trail, he pretended the young boy was his child, along with his own son, William, and the daughter of a servant woman, Sarah. Unfortunately, Kylorn was only able to raise them for three years, before he vanished without a trace. Without any guardian, the children were quickly sold into slavery, brought deeper and deeper into the wild south, home by home, market to market. The two “brothers” were eventually separated from their sister, although relatively kind masters allowed them to correspond with one another. At the age of ten, William and Aaron II finally stopped and stayed in the coastal city of storch, where they would grow to adulthood. They did so alongside their owners son Barrow, who became a good friend and another honorary brother. Although overall consistent with their lives, the three young men had an inner yearning that went unfulfilled until the arrival of a most unexpected guest: The great Wizard Orn. The last (faithful) surviving member of the Council had com a long way into the Wild South's searching for the King's heir, as well as Ilios. The strange traveler from the North told tales of their own history and that of Erkan, until all three were willing to return with him and aid the revolution against Archontis. It was Storch custom for young men to embark on decades long quests upon coming of age, so Barrow joined the newly purchased and freed William and Aaron on the long trek home. The journey was arduous, with detours such as the rescuing of Sarah delaying them till they had spent a year on the roads. Orn did not survive the recovery of Ilios from the ogres, but his four young prodigies continued on and made their way to Erkan at last. With Archontis unaware of their return, they managed to meet up with the generals of the Silver Army, the resistance founded by Orn. Although greatly saddened at the death of their greatest hero and initially wary of the wild Southern youth, the Generals did recognize Aaron as the rightful King, especially after proving he could wield Ilios. All four “siblings” were inducted into the Silver Army as knights, serving loyalty and capably as front-line foot soldiers. The gorilla Warfare waged by the Silver Army kept their identities secret for a long time, but the High General eventually became worried about the Rebels increasing amount of successes. Consulting his “Dark Six”, a Council made of the darkest warlocks in the realm lead by Bear-eyes, Archontis learned to his horror that King Aaron’s son had survived and returned, supposedly at the head of the Rebellion. Although this was obviously a misconception, the Silver Army's Generals immediately seized upon the idea once informed of it, placing Aaron and his friends at the front of their raids. News of the King's heir waging war on the Regent spread throughout the Northern lands, and soon the young quartet of simple foot soldiers had became a symbol of hope. Their newfound status as heroes changed very little for them, as they were still low ranked members of the Rebellion. Instead of spending their free time planning the Regents downfall, they relaxed, trained, explored their homeland and fell in love. By the final year of the Rebellion, all four siblings were involved in a romance of some sort, with marriage on the horizon for both William and Sarah. But with the rebels becoming bolder in their assaults, and Archontis ever more brutal in his responses, even the lowliest foot soldier was forced into a more involved role, as the war escalated towards its climax. With Erkan’s neighboring Kingdoms more than willing to pledge their support (Archontis’s “foreign policy” was extremely unpopular with them) and the general populace finally turned in their favour, the Silver Army decided it was time for a final, decisive battle in the first month of Fall. In a straight up battle between the two, the more experienced and numerous Erkan army would have most likely smashed the disorganized resistance army marching towards the Regents Citadel. However, the Rebels had gained favour everywhere, with many sympathizers throughout the lower and higher ranks of the Military. Rather than risk a serious, full-scale civil war, the Head Generals defied orders and waited, watching the unfolding battle to see which side would win. Now with the numerical advantage against only the Dark Six’s hand picked guard, The Silver Army made its attack, led from the front by “The Rightful King”, the moniker bestowed Aaron by his supporters. The battle was harsh and soon deadlocked, with the Dark Guards superior training and equipment giving them an edge. Recognizing that a stalemate would end in the Regents favour, Aaron went Against his own General's orders, and he and his small party made its way into the Citadel itself. While Barrow, William and Sarah held off a small tangent of bodyguards, Aaron confronted Archontis alone. The two faced each other down, with Aaron offering banishment and Archontis offering a quick and painful death. The two began their duel as the larger battle continued to rage outside. Although Archontis had considerably more experience, Ilios proved to be more powerful than Thanatos and Aaron himself a more skilled swordsman despite his youth. Nonetheless forced on his back foot, and with Archontis rejecting a second offer of mercy, Aaron had little choice and managed to finally slay his Father's killer. Having dispatched their own foes, his friends sounding the ceremonial horns, informing those outside of the duels results. Erkan’s military pragmatically decided its support was with the now victorious Rightful King, and joined the Silver army, forcing a surrender of the remaining loyalists. Not a week later, a crowning ceremony (Followed by a double wedding) cemented the victory and officially begun Erkan’s sixth Golden Age. Although he initially had turned down the throne, King Aaron II had won over even the most cynical Generals and was unanimously instated as King. With the Dark Six fleeing, Aaron reformed the Council a second time, this time filling it with the Kingdoms twelve best governors, effectively creating a parliament. Barrow was appointed the High General of Erkans unified military (Now collectively referred to as the Silver Armies), and his service went a long way to reversing the perception of Southerners as uncivilized brutes. Infact, the strong faith and bravery of all four of the wars heroes lead to a massive cultural push of settlers into the Wild South, lead by Sarah and her new husband. The ever-wandering William rejected an official posting in favour of exploring the northernmost mountains of Erkan as a ranger, alongside his wife Eleanor. And it is this that leads us to the second chapter of his life.

II: Where It Leads No Man Can Know

While his brothers and sister went about rebuilding the Kingdom, William concerned himself with another matter: The fate of both the original Council and the Dark Six. He knew that the original had been destroyed, save Kylorn who had simply disappeared. But where his Father had gone, no one could even guess. The more pressing matter was the Dark Six, all of whom were unaccounted for, last seen fleeing to the great arctic mountains on the upper northern border of Erkan. With the now pacified Thanatos in hand, William and Eleanor searched isolated villages and caverns for the missing arch villains. What they found instead was a greater, perhaps more terrible secret. Kylorn had been taken not by Archontis as some had supposed, but by the Duchess of Azarium, a far off Kingdom experiencing its own era of darkness. Kylorn had been taken to the Arctic mountains, where he was forced to spend several years devising a method of return to Azarium.  He left behind a hidden storehouse, filled with old scrolls and artifacts, as well as his own records and alchemical work. The Dark Six had followed rumours of the great Wizard, while William followed their trail. No sign of either them, the Azariumites or Kylorn, nor any other living person for that matter, remained by the time he arrived. Although the adventuring couple was soon called back by their King to directly aid the fight against a resurgence of Archontis’s followers lead by Bear-eyes, they discovered Kylorn’s greatest secret before they left: Based off of the primitive portal technology used by the visitors from Azarium, half a dozen Enchanted Rings with the ability to travel between plains. Although five had already been taken, William retrieved the remaining one and took it with him to study. Unfortunately, tragedy struck not long after. A field-physician since the Rebellion, Eleanor was leading a medical party when they were ambushed by Bear-eye’s servants. Eleanor covered the others escape, at the cost of her own life. William mourned the loss of his wife of ten years, but outwardly recovered quickly, throwing himself into the battle. Upon Bear-eyes defeat, William went against both his adoptive brothers advice and used his Enchanted Ring for the first time, arriving in another world, caught up in a industrial revolution. Although initially disoriented, he managed to adapt, partially thanks to his many unusual experiences growing up in the Wild South and partially due to his own acceptance of new places and people. He even discovered evidence that the five still missing members of the Dark six had also visited the area. William returned to Erkan and shared his experience with the King and High General, even convincing them to accompany him on a few short trips to other realms, witnessing a “Star Dragon” (Better known as a Spaceship) for the first time together. But Barrow and Aaron were unwilling to leave their homes and families, no matter how many new and strange wonders were out there. But the King could see that his restless friend was not going to remain content in their Kingdom for long, and gave him a directive that would take him on the travels he desired: Locate and neutralize the Dark Council. Although he did not really understand the specifics of how his Ring worked, William readily accepted the mission and embarked almost immediately. Although he would make regular return trips to Erkan at first, he would never again see it is as his home. This did not mean his task was easy: It was an uphill struggle to properly operate the Ring and he could find himself in almost any reality at a moment's notice. It did not help that what William saw as contemporary technology and culture was generally ancient history to most people. William, although still in mourning for Eleanor, found it easy to lose himself in the limitless destinations offered by his Father’s creation. With his quest to find the Dark Council all but forgotten, He indulged in everything from starship travel to Mermaid Civilizations. His trips to Erkan became less and less frequent. His friends were rarely seen. Even his Faith in the Creator Asteri, a belief he had held dear since childhood, began to slowly disappear. A darker shadow lay beneath his happy go lucky lifestyle. Erkan’s lost Warlocks were well aware that they would eventually be pursued by one of the insufferable “Heroes” that overthrew their Lord. Before even leaving their world, they had laid a trap in the form of the Nightmare Spirit, a demonic being  they had bonded to Thanatos, making the sword more dangerous and seductive than ever before. Bear-Eyes had remained behind to ensure the scheme worked, and had done so magnificently: William carried with him a corruptive power that slowly eroded his morals and took control of his mind without him even noticing. Combined with his own uncontrolled lust for adventure and lingering grief over his lost wife, William was closer to becoming the Warlock's pawn then their vanquisher. But reality reared its head at a most inopportune moment for the free-spirited dimensional roamer: Revant, like all the Dark Six members, specialized in a branch of magic banned by the Council, specifically necromancy. He excelled in his trade, and created an undead plague that he spread into many worlds at once using his Enchanted Ring (Although he himself was infected, becoming a Lich). William was bound to run into its path eventually, and did so by meeting the Gamma Order. When Revant’s plague spread to the Osiris System, its inhabitants split into twentyfour separate groups, in hopes that spreading thinner would increase their chances of escaping the Plague. Only the third survived, thanks almost solely to its Leader, known as The Hand. An extremely ruthless but also very honorable man, The Hand had done his best to lead his people to safety and had been forced to make difficult choices along the way, such as refusing to aid the other Orders. Although a certified genius, he rejected the idea of Right and Wrong when faced with the unrelenting tragedy of the plague. William, new on the scene, denounced The Hand and his methods, seeing them as extreme and unnecessary. The two men nonetheless respected each other, and in their ensuing feud acted more like rivals than true enemies. William was horrified when he discovered the Plagues source, immediately aiding guilt over his inaction to his growing list of issues. Although he would return to both aid and obstruct the Gamma Order several times, William was once again on track, following any leads on the Dark Six he could find. His flight path was still mostly random, and he would occasionally take time out to “Play Hero” for a world or group of people in need, but William was firmly on the trail of the Warlocks. Before long, he had caught up with Revant and destroyed the Lich. But before he struck the killing blow, the Lich gloated over William's impending fall. Unusually troubled by his words, William quickly informed Aaron of his latest victory before searching for an explanation. He found it when confronting the Grey Shade, another of the Dark Warlocks. Before escaping, the mad sorcerer mocked his foe for his failure to realize his own slow descent towards darkness, brought on by his own dreams and sword. Realizing Thanatos’s hold over him, William tried to discard it, but found himself incapable of doing so. At this point, the Nightmare Spirit began appearing to him directly in his sleep, slowly tempting him into his complete control. Unable to overcome his personal demons alone, William found himself adrift with nowhere to turn. The Hand could not concern himself with anythings but his own people’s safety, and his homeworld now felt to distanced from him to seek aid there. Seeing no other option available, William fought against time itself and sought to imprison or kill the last of the Dark Six before he himself became consumed. And outwardly, he was reasonably successful: The Grey Shade was killed in the inter fighting plaguing the Dark Six, and William himself incapacitated two others. But inwardly, even The Hand could tell William was slipping. Where previously he would spare anyone he could, now he engaged in assassinations. Instead of Playing Hero, he ignored any problems not directly related to the last Warlock. Empathy and mercy were replaced with a cold determination and justice. But it is often said that it is darkest right before dawn, and this proved to be the case for William. While searching a sparsely populated Galaxy, William saved a heavily damaged transport from the astral Warlock Gudack. It's captain, Vicki, was grateful for his assistance, but could tell that her heroic saviour was a deeply troubled man. She offered him the use of her ship, The Bright Day, in exchange for her accompanying him on the last leg of his quest. Initially reluctant, William soon agreed, longing for companionship. He even figured out how to jury rig the Rings he had recovered into the Bright Day's engine system, allowing it to pass between Realms. William and Vicki quickly grew very close to each other, sharing their past lives with one another. Vicki attempted to help Williams’s inner struggle, while William searched for a cure to the Triox virus, a eventually lethal diseases Vicki had struggled with since childhood. Despite these more cheerful times, William still had to deal with Gudack, eventually finding the last Dark Warlock and facing him down. Although he emerged victorious, he finally lost control to the Nightmare Spirit and was forced to kill the surrendering Warlock. Unwilling to live as the demons host, William planeshifted to a nameless planet orbiting the Omega Maw, the last in its dimension to be swallowed by the massive reality warping BlackHole. Although he fully intended this to be his death, William had underestimated his connection with the Bright Day's captain, who arrived at the last moment to rescue him and leave Thanatos and its spirit to be destroyed in the Maw.

III: The Broken One Will Be Recast

William had only barely survived his perilous entanglement with the Nightmare Spirit, and his soul might not have at all. Without its controlling influence, he could see just how far he had fallen. Immediately after Thanatos’s destruction, William spent a month just wandering with Vicki, avoiding anything more exciting than an engagement. But the Triox Virus had taken its toll, and the two were wed in a medical bay the day before she passed on. After the memorial, William sought out the most distant, isolated world possible and stranded himself there, disassembling the Bright Day’s engines and locked away the Enchanted Rings. He did this partially to properly deal with his grief this time, both for his second wife and the dark period in his life he had just came through. Another reason was that the backwater plain offered a place to quietly meditate on his Faith and self, hoping to recover from his own darkness. But the main reason was that his Mind simply needed an opportunity to “Catch Up”. He had gone so far, seen so much, that even the quick-to-adapt William needed time to cool off and process it all. He also needed to take stock and deal with the personal changes, and not just the moral and intellectual ones: The Rings nature tended to “shift” its bearers slightly, to make them fit better with a new reality. Before his extra-world adventures had begun, William did not have an ounce of his Father's power within him. Now, he found the constant changes had resulted in him having limited foresight and elemental lightning, in addition to a host of other alien abilities. So a long, peaceful rest to recover was definitely in order. Naturally, thirty minutes after arriving on his new home he was placed under arrest by the Locale Defense Force. His chosen landing spot was directly on top of a hive of autonomous machines known as Festers, vicious scavengers with a taste for Human flesh. Realizing his mistake, William worked with the small band of soldiers to keep the Hive from awakening and swarming. They proved successful in poisoning the ventilation system,shutting down the locale Festers. But William took no joy in the victory, as it resulted in the deaths of both the Hive and several of the Defense Force soldiers. It seemed a period of recovery of still needed. As his ship now sat on top of a permanently dormant Hive, William was free to convert it into a home and did so, preferring to tinker around in his isolation than move to the nearby settlement of Frontier. With the Bright Day now resting on a permanently dormant Hive, William was allowed to renovate it into a Home. He did so, preferring to tinker around in isolation then move to the nearby settlement of Frontier. He did occasionally visit the two, to pick up supplies or briefly visit the local tavern, but saw lonely self-reflection as the most viable path back to his old self. As a result, he quickly cultivated the reputation of a unsociable hermit, the general opinion being he was a wanted criminal fleeing the World's major Cities. Although isolated, William’s new world of residence was actually much more advanced than Erkan, sporting steam power, firearms, early automobiles and various other technologies that placed it in the equivalent Era of Nineteenth century Earth. Although Williams ship was a major point of curiosity, he never invited guests over and only described it as his Star Dragon, confusing the issue to the point most people simply stopped caring about its origins and decided it was an advanced airship. In truth, despite their own meager level of advancement, the people of this unnamed aird world had knowledge in some more advanced areas, thanks to the relics of an advanced Civilization that inhabited their world before them. For example, they understood robotics rather well, thanks to the Feeders. William picked up the general picture of the World in overheard conversations, mostly in the tavern. It had no official name, leading to William dubbing it Frontier after the small town, and had only 25% surface water, explaining its predominantly desert terrain. It sported numerous Nations and factions, exhibiting a diverse amount of societies and a lengthy, sometimes bloody history. William studied their records in his more bored moments, initially more to learn of the extraterrestrials that came before them. His two closest, indeed only, friends on the World were the young Co-leaders of the Defense troopers that had met him upon arrival, Isaac and Sarah. The two were weary of the strange visitor, but witnessed first hand his capabilities and decided keeping him near their town was more of a defense then they could ever provide. For his part, William saw much of his younger self in both of them and even played matchmaker a bit, before learning they were already engaged. But William still kept himself to himself, trying hard to figure out just where he stood. He found out one dark night, while walking home from a night of observation at the Tavern. Despite its strongly connected community, Frontier was still a farflung outpost with a continuous stream of criminals constantly passing through. A group of particularly vicious thugs had been passing through Frontier and practically drowned themselves in alcohol, deciding it would be good sport to hunt down the first person they saw. William intervened, but was told to mind his own business. Thirty seconds and half a dozen severed limbs later, and William was asking the young girl if she was okay. In the following conversation, William quickly determined she was without home or parents, and determined even quicker she was mute. Seeing no other option and unwilling to leave her alone, he took her back to the Bright Day and provided her with medical treatment and a warm bed. By morning, William honestly did not have a clue what to do. No one in the area was willing to take her in, and last night turned out to be only the first of many such encounters. Weighing his own continued solitude against helping her, William saw no other course of action but to adopt her as his own daughter. “Sam” had spent all twelve years of her life scratching and fighting to survive by herself, and jumped at the chance to have any sort of stability. The two found that they enjoyed each other's company and, although wary of the other, bonded quickly. William dealt with becoming a Father overnight in his typically quick way, teaching her of her worlds history and training her in self defense. Although a bit overprotective at times, he encouraged her to meet new people and explore new experiences. Sam in turn grew closer to William than anyone had since Vicki, allowing him to open up and share his past again. Both enjoyed his bedtime stories, which were retellings of the Rebellion in Erkan and his Childhood in the Southern Wilds. It was in Sam’s presence that William finally overcame his personal hangups, and the two began attending the locale Temple together (Although they did not teach of Asteri, It was the same basic ideology). Father and Daughter became inseparable, both raising the other in a way. The years passed, and William found himself continent for almost the first time. The Ancient Civilizations catacombs, discovered to run under much of the world’s surface, provided an opportunity for adventure, and the growing town of Frontier provided the opportunity for companionship outside the family. William became fast friends with the Tavern's owner, while Sam found herself the go-to babysitter for Isaac and Sarah’s children. Life wasn’t perfect of course, with Nomadic Feasters and criminal empires rearing their heads now and then. An unusual problem was a parade of hot-headed gunslingers, some from hundreds of miles away, come to Frontier to test William, who had cultivated the reputation of the fastest draw alive, thanks to his literal superhuman reflexes. William, when he actually remembered to pay it any thought, decided his recovery had been an unqualified success. He was happy with his home, enjoying the simple fruits of a simple life. But the Universe would not stand to give him a simple life, and the official first contact for his adoptive homeworld took place within the borders of Frontier. This encounter with extraterrestrials reminded William of the limitless destinations open to him, and stirred his old wanderlust again. Sam, now nineteen years old, was familiar with her Father's old travels and was eager to experience them for herself. But the choice was taken out of both their hands when the alien visitors, The Skye-Seerers, informed William that he was destined for a “Final Trial” that would prove his hardest. They also pegged him as being tied to the Seven Kings Prophecy, but he dismissed it and explained that another Plains-traveler by the name of Ranger was the focus of it. With the Bright Day far beyond the point of ever taking off again, William and Sam accompanied the Seerers back to their own world. In the ethereal clouds of Skye, quietly reflecting in the Capital's Highest Tower, William received deeper, clearer insight than he ever had before. Primarily, he saw that the Seerers had brought them there because of Sam’s place in their worlds prophesied destruction. They planned on executing her to prevent this future, but William managed to save his daughter and escape off-world using one of his Enchanted Rings. But among the Clouds, William had been shown by Asteri himself that it was time to return to his wandering. Frontier and its people were not forgotten, as both Father and Daughter would often pay visits, even saving it from the Seerers vengeful return. But Sam was ready to move on in her own life, enrolling in an Interstellar Alliance’s Naval Academy, and William was ready to face his Great Trial: his first Return to Erkan in almost a century. Although shorter, and certainly less eventful, than the other chapters of his life, William looked back on his times with Frontier and Sam as some of the best in his life.

IV: A Tyrant's Rule Can Never Last

William’s return to his homeland was a joyful one: Although put out at his long absence and, upon hearing his story, his unwillingness to come to them when he needed help, Aaron, Barrow and Sarah were glad to see their Brother again. Erkan had changed significantly in his absence, experiencing an ongoing Industrial Revolution, Brought on by the Kings glimpses of more advanced worlds years earlier. In many ways though, it seemed like no time had passed at all, as the four relived old memories and created some new ones in the farthest reaches of the Kingdom. The reunion eventually had to end though, as William would be returning to his adventuring lifestyle. But the others made him swear his return visits would be more frequent, a pledge he kept faithfully (Indeed, he would return at least once a month when circumstances allowed). Back on the road again, so to speak, William traveled farther than he ever had before. Largely giving up on controlling the Rings, he let them take him to whatever worlds they would. William decided he would have many years to fully explore the limitless Universe, and so took a remarkably laid back approach to his travels. His naturally long life cemented this outlook, as Erkan’s atmosphere was roughly equivalent to that of Pre-Flood Earth, giving its natives an average lifespan of close to a millennium. William would likely live even longer, due to the Rings “shifting” him upon arrival in every new dimension. Now fully accustomed to visiting entirely different cultures and societies on a regular basis, William helped when he was needed and went sight seeing when he wasn’t. But no life can be without consequences, much less one as far reaching as Williams. When he first set out on his renewed travels, William arrived in a Cluster of Galaxies far into the Futuristic Era, with a interstellar community larger and more developed than even other similarly aged Worlds, thanks to so many stars being so closely grouped. He drifted About for a while, helping to free the oppressed Xerloin race and slaying the bloodthirsty warrior-general Amme in single combat, before departing for other destinations. Much later, a cane-wielding William returned to find a political mess, to put things lightly. The Xerloin were attempting to form their own nation, but were being aggressively coerced into joining the Democratic People's Union. Even worse, The Golden State, Glorious Empire Eternal (More commonly referred to as just “The Empire) had stagnated and looked to expand its borders and economy, by force if necessary. William was strongly reminded of the Erkan Rebellion, as tensions rose between two aggressive factions, as smaller group sitting on the borders of both looked on in fear. William initially sided with the DPU as the lesser of two evils, but was forced to rethink his choice by the “Heretic Skirmishes”. The Xerloin were being lead by a benevolent but strong minded Queen, who had zero tolerance for the DPU and its offers. When supposedly autonomous extremists began terrorist attacks on her people, she angrily demanded their larger neighbor to put an end to it. When her request was dismissed out of hand, the Queen began raids on the outlying DPU worlds and colonies. A task force of Shock Troopers, genetically engineered clones designed to be perfect soldiers, was sent to deal with them and William tagged along. Befriending a particularly free-thinking Shock-trooper by the name of Skid, William investigated the full history of the Xerloin, who were know better known by the derogative term “Heretics”. Although he disagreed with the Queens extreme actions, he supported her long be-set upon people and tried to negotiate a cease-fire. But the DPU almost religiously believed in the idea of Universal unity, and saw such people as the “Heretics” as barbarians unworthy of anything but forced assimilation into their culture. The Queen, unwilling to ever back down, made a desperate push for the DPU’s  Capital World, and even begun an surface invasion. But she had the mistake of trusting the mercenaries she had hired to bolster her own people's military, who promptly sold her out. Given a free hand, the DPU’s Leaders ordered the genocide of the Xerloin, and were very nearly successful. Only a handful survived the following bombardments, including the Queen herself, and they were promptly imprisoned for life for “Crimes against the State”. Sickened at the needless slaughter, William denounced his former allies and relocated to the small border faction of the Systems Confederacy, planning on just leaving the reality and letting the two superpowers destroy each other. But a complicated turn of events resulted in a different outcome entirely. Consisting of no more than three Solar Systems, and fearful of both their aggressive juggernaut neighbors, the Confederacy required that anyone entering their space became an official citizen. But the Confederacy had originally been founded on the principles of total freedom, to the point that what little federal government it had operated as a Demarchy. With the leader chosen by random polling, theoretically any person within its borders could become its Head of State. As chance would have it, the day before he planned to leave, William was informed he was the newly appointed leader of the Imperial System Confederacy. Although having no prior desire for leadership, of the Confederacy or anywhere else, William indulged the delegates and eventually was convinced to take the position for the mandatory one year term. Although he had no true power, the individual Countries and planets governing themselves for the most part, William enjoyed the privileges of his office, which mostly amounted to attending expensive parties and giving suggestions to the locale Governors (Thankfully, he convinced most of them to place a greater focus on building up their Fleets and armies). But the same propaganda that had taken the Xerloin from victims to bloodthirsty anarchists in the eyes of the DPU was now on work demonizing the man who had dared to denounce their government. Lead by the fanatical zealot Tharen, William was painted as a traitor, dissident, fascist and, in one memorable broadcast, a practicer of child sacrifice. Although amused at the petty attacks, William was smart enough to realize what would happen if Tharen and his ilk managed to convince the people to launch an invasion of the much smaller and outgunned Confederacy. William fought back, on the surface by addressing and dismissing the many accusations hurled at him. Below the surface, he staged a jailbreak of the remaining Xerloin, extracting them to Confederate space, and convinced key members of the Confederate military to defect, including Skid’s team of Shock Troopers. The rising tensions between the Confederacy and DPU were reaching boiling point, and were only kept from breaking out into war by the looming presence of the Empire, which was beginning to encroach on DPU space. Tharen changed his focus to the perceived greater threat, while quietly attempting to end the Confederacy by having its supposedly elderly leader assassinated. As it turned out, Williams cane and old mannerisms had just been for show and he effortlessly dispatched the would-be killers before being unanimously elected to a second term. Not long after, the DPU populace, whipped into a frenzy by Tharen, demanded a crusade be launched against the Empire. He happily obliged and launched an invasion force larger than everyone involved in the Heretic Skirmishes combined. All-out war had begun. William Advised against war, wanting to keep the Confederacy out of harm's way, but was outvoted by the Governors, who pledged their combined Navy as a third party relief force for the world's besieged by both sides. William stayed in office long enough to repel a small attack force courtesy of Tharen, before refusing to serve a third terms and stepping down. Wishing to remove the target on the Confederacy's head brought on by his presence as leader, and eager to get “hands-on” in the conflict, William formed a special ops strike team mostly consisting of Skid and his “Brothers” and embarked on a campaign of their own. Operating everywhere from the Front-lines to the world of wartime espionage, Williams team fought for neither side, with only one objective: end the war as quickly as possible. To this end, they payed back Tharen by making sure he was at the front of a suicidal attack on the Empire's primary Shipyard. Without their chief motivator, the DPU suddenly became much less enthusiastic about their crusade against the Empire. William also got his long awaited chance to fly a Starfighter, and proved quite good at it. His Ops team soon doubled as the Confederacy's foremost Fighter Squadron, supporting naval actions whenever available. The only members of the Team to constantly remain, William and Skid proved an almost unbeatable pair, fighting side by side throughout and to the end of the War. The war would have to end eventually, as both sides were sustaining extremely high casualties. As it turned out, it ended sooner rather than later, thanks to Williams unintentional influence. On a mission deep into Imperial territory, William confronted the Emperor himself and discovered he was none other than Amma, the brother of the Warrior he had slain so many years before. The two proved unable to resolve their differences peacefully, and their standoff ended the same as it had with Amme. His much less aggressive replacement called for peace talks and a month later the War was over. Another month later, and both involved powers had collapsed, leaving groups like the Confederacy the dominate forces in the region. William left the Galaxy cluster, and ended the fourth chapter of his life, with a new friend and a healthy dislike of war.

V: Those Enslaved Shall be Set Free

During his time in the Imperial Systems Confederacy, William finally decided he needed more than one name. Thus, it was the newly christened William Jared Noble and Skid who left the laters home reality to continue their partnership. With no family, or any other remaining ties, Skid saw no reason to remain and sort through the myriad aftereffects of the war and quickly tagged along with William. The two traveled for a while, continuing Williams previous modus operandi and adding liberal and often unnecessary uses of alias to the mix (William had become a bit over obsessed with names). But Skid’s natural soldier instincts proved an invaluable tool in uncovering a potentially disastrous conspiracy. After William’s honeymoon with his third wife, the ancient, self-aware and more than slightly evil android Charity (A convoluted relationship that could fill a book in its own right) William had continued his adventures as normal. But the more observant Skid noticed that they were running across the same group in different realities, a newly founded religious order slash cult worshiping the Same Sun-deity, Re. William initially dismissed it as merely the same general idea developing multiple times (Asteri was recognized, normally by a different name, in every reality he had spent an extensive amount of time in afterall) but became concerned himself when it was discovered in Erkan’s world, which had no known similar leanings prior. After directly confronting one of the Cults “prophets” failed to get anything but a sermon, William decided to seek out a fellow Universal traveler for answers. The Zinovia sisters, whom William had been running into since before his time on Frontier, were a diverse group of female sorcerers using advanced portal technology similar to the Enchanted Rings to travel the various realms. Upon sitting down and talking with one of them however, William and Skid discovered that there was ONLY one of her: she was an Eternal, mythical energy beings tied to physical forms. Zinovia and other members of her race were effectively immortal, capable of recovering from any amount of damage (Save being thrown into something like the Omega Maw) even if their physical bodies were destroyed. This made them low-level shape-shifters, as any time their entire bodies were destroyed they could reform with a completely different appearance. Although secretive and somewhat ethereal, “Z” was willing to help the pair and provided them with more information on the spreading cult: They were known as the Blade Guild and did indeed have the ability to traverse realities. Using Rifts similar to those created by the Kridith, they were slowly spreading their influence to pre-space flight worlds, forming a massive empire without anyone even noticing. Shaken by the news, William was briefly left without any idea how to progress: He hadn’t dealt with a foe possessing the same reach he himself had since his battles against the Dark Six. A quick trip back to Erkan was all He needed to  recover his senses though, and soon he was swiftly creating plans on how to combat the Blade Guild, should their motivations turn out to be less than benevolent. The memories of the conflict between the GPU and Empire still fresh in his mind, William was desperate to make sure the situation did not escalate into warfare and began looking for additional allies. He had perhaps finally learned the importance of not facing difficult trials by himself and was ready to extend his offer of travels to more than just Skid and Z. Once again actively directing the Ring’s path, as best he could anyways, Williams first prospective recruit was his own daughter. After joining the Interstellar Alliances Navy, Sam had forged a reputation for herself and her immensely successful career had culminated in admiralty. Her life had not been without danger however, and she sported a number of cybernetic replacements and a desire to take a permanent leave of absensce from the millitary. Her Father provided such an escape, and Sam was gratefully welcomed aboard the team, so to speak. It was about this time that William realized that if he was going to be inviting more people on, he needed a more effective means of transport than just an Enchanted Ring. In his mind, this meant there was only one person he could go to, a very old friend. After the Plague crisis had passed, The Hand had stepped down from leading the Gamma Order almost immediately, feeling his leadership was unwanted and unneeded now that the crisis was over. The Hand was in a rather empty and purposeless isolation when William arrived, asking him to oversee the construction of a customized Star-Dragon. After clarifying that he wanted a spaceship, not a mythological creature caricature, William managed to convince The Hand to agree, any animosity they had in the past long since gone. William, Zinovia, Skid, Sam and now Hunter, A name unwillingly attributed to him by William, traveled long enough to pick up a small fortune and requisition a shipyard to begin construction on their Star Dragon. Upon it’s completion, William dubbed it the Titanic and worked with Hunter to tie the Enchanted Rings into its engines systems. It couldn't have been completed sooner, as a reconnaissance mission by Z and Skid confirmed that the Blade Guild’s motivations were indeed sinister: Whatever it’s higher ups were planning, it involved the sacrifice of thousands of innocent lives. With ship in hand, William and his “Pack” fully embarked on their primary mission, the foiling and if necessary dismantling of the Blade Guild. They had the advantage of being aware of their foes, having (marginally) more control of their reality traversing and a closer overall friendship. Although they started out very wary of each other, the Titanic’s crew swiftly overcame their differences and started to truly work together, playing off their respective strengths and covering each other's weaknesses. But more pressing than interpersonal relationships was stopping an insane cult of Sun god worshipers planning mass genocide. To everyone's surprise, a infiltration of the Blade Guilds mobile headquarters revealed that Re really did exist, and did have a good deal of control over Solar Energy, something they soon experienced firsthand. Although the Titanic and her operators made it out in one piece, the Guild was now aware of their presence and general planes, putting them on a more even playing field. Shying away from another direct attack, William and the others took a slower but more measured approach after that, thwarting independant Cells one at a time. This “slow war” cultivated them a fairly accurate reputation among the Blade Guild for fierce and decisive actions. When they refused to identify or name their affiliation, they were Dubbed “The Nameless”, a title William, and only William, become rather fond of and eventually adapted. But these small victories were soon overshadowed by another chance meeting with Re that revealed his endgame: He was going to create a energy wave that would simultaneously sacrifice thousands of suns, not people, and their inhabited systems to create enough energy he could then harness and use to ascend to true Godhood, overseer of the entire Universe. Needless to say, it also reviled Re as very, very mad. All attempts to convince the Blade Guild's leader that this wasn’t the least bit possible, and that all he would accomplish was the death of trillions, fell on deaf ears. Before departing, Re made it abundantly clear he cared nothing for the “lower life's”, except as worshipers. William and the others tried frantically to find his new Headquarters and stop him, but were too late to stop the beginning of his ritual. Hunter then attempted to neutralize the particles making up the wave of energy that would trigger the mass supernova, but only succeeded in opening a small window into it. At the last minute, william hurled one of the Enchanted Rings into the Wave in a last desperate attempt to stall it. Although it did not stop Re’s wave, it did give them a measure of control over it through the other Rings and managed to redirect it to uninhabited Systems. With the mass slaughter barely averted, the Titanic’s crew located Re’s temple on a desolate world in a lifeless dimension and decided to end the would-be god before he could make a second attempt. William confronted Re personally in his chambers, giving him a last chance to surrender. Re countered this with a rant about how he was beyond mercey as the Lord of Suns. William simply dared him to “prove it” before escaping at the last moment, before the Ring controlling the Wave arrived in Re’s Chamber and exploding, releasing the full energy of his Solar Wave. William, Z and the others celebrated and watched the creation of the “Alpha Maw”, a giant perpetual SuperNova. After the Nameless finished dismantling the rest of the Blade Guild, they faced a question they had all been avoiding asking: What now? With the immediate threat passed, there was no reason to remain as a group. Before they parted ways though, William offered each of them one of the five remaining Enchanted Rings and the opportunity to permanently join him in his travels. Each of them, in turn, flat out refused and returned to their own separate lives (Or started new ones), albeit with the condition that he stayed in contact. He graciously accepted, with the condition that he got to keep the Titanic, something the other had no problem with. After paying a visit to his oldest friends and their ever growing families, and a quick trip to prevent his wife from conquering the Daylight Dimension, William J. Noble closed another chapter in his life with a sense of success and eagerness for what the future had to offer him. He would no doubt go on to further adventures, but those are stories for another day. For now, he was content.

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