The Guardians of Zion

O: Foreword

A Song Begun So Long Ago

Where It Leads, No Man Can know

The Broken Man Will Be Recast

A Tyrant's Rule Can Never Last

Those Enslaved Shall Be Set Free

By The Lion, From ‘Cross The Sea

-Common Erkan Proverb, a Favorite of William's

By the time he reached adulthood, William J. Nobel displayed the general appearance he would retain for much of his life. Thanks to his long life, even centuries later he was recognizably the same person, on the outside at least.

He was not a tall man, standing only six feet one inch, short by Erkan standards. He could appear taller though, with a slim but firm build, the result of the hard outdoor labor he was commonly assigned during his younger years, and the physical demands of his later lifestyle. His skin was golden but fair, owing to his mixed heritage (His father hailed from Erkan, but his mother was a native of Jinu, a smaller border Kingdom). His jet black hair was mostly kept short and combed back, tucked under his various headgear. Dark Brown eyes, the wrinkles of a near permanent smile and a prominent chin completed William’s facial features.

Not exactly undistinctive, but average enough to easily fit into a crowd. It’s with his common apparel that William begins to standout. Even as a youth in the South, William held a fondness for hats, wide brimmed western-style ones in particular. This became something of a trademark accessory in his later adventures, and long before that the people in Storch could generally identify the young slave man from a distance thanks to the unusual headwear.

His other articles of clothing were more fluid, although generally kept to a single “theme”. Plain black shirts and dark blue pants were a favorite, while some kind of bandolier or belt tied across his chest would also regularly mark his appearance. A preference for long brown or black great coats emerged early on, adding an air of ruggedness to his overall appearance. This was in fact common apparel in the cold port city of Scorch, and later in the tall Northern Mountains, but was much rarer in the lands between and most of the worlds he traveled to later.

Shorter jackets and vests were generally substituted in warmer climates, or when a Long Coat was deemed impractical.

It has been remarked more than once that William appears ridiculously out of place outside of frontiers and wildernesses, sticking out like a sore thumb in more “civilized” realms. He will, when this is a true problem, dawn more era and area appropriate clothing, although he only very rarely foregoes the hat.

His equipment accents his general “free roamer” style, with various blades and firearms never far from reach. Two to four late-nineteenth century Earth style pistols and a Jinu long sword held in a back scabbard make up his standard armament, although he remains well versed in a wide variety of other weapons, both standard and exotic.

More peaceful tools, such as gold coins, artificial lights, small books, maps, Fire Powder, Storage Cubes, bits of rope, assorted artifacts and miscellaneous items far too numerous to list, come and go from his Coat pockets at regular intervals. The younger William, of course, lacked much of these, instead only carrying the various tools and equipment required for his duties, occasionally with the addition of a short sword for protection. The only jewelry to be found on his body, and only in his older years, are a set of four Rings prominently displayed on his right hand. Three are clear bands of metal, either silver or gold, beautiful in their simplicity. The fourth is significantly more ornate, it’s surface inscribed with ancient text and runes. It is set with a single, perfect sky blue Gem. And it is this last, seemingly unimportant ornament that brings us from the shallow matter of Williams appearance, to the tale of his life and his deeds. Leastwise, the tale of all that has so far been written.

I: Chapter One

Our Story 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: Bear-eyes 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 life stations, 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 come a long way into the Wild Souths 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 who? 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 road.

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 loyally 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 duel’s 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 began 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 Scout, alongside his wife Eleanor. And it is this that leads us to the second chapter of his life.

II: Chapter Two

While his brothers and sister went about rebuilding the Kingdom, William concerned himself with another matter: The fate of both the original Council of Wizards and the Dark Six. He knew the former had all been slain, save Kylorn who had simply disappeared many years earlier. 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 almost forty 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 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 Elven 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. With no way of knowing of this scheme, William continued his travels far and wide.

He spent a long period of time in a futuristic Galaxy Cluster, enjoying the numerous technological advantages his contemporary world lacked. He got his long held wish to travel in a Star Dragon, and even became a decent pilot in his own right, especially of smaller, more nimble Fighter craft.

Aside from a long series of bad dreams, the first effects of the Nightmare Spirit’s presence, William enjoyed his time in the Galaxies, up until the war started.

He had not payed much attention to the political tensions of the area and soon found himself embroiled in a war between the Golden State Empire and the Democratic People's Union. William had initially sided with the Union, even forming a fast friendship with some of his regular partners on the battlefield. But William had never seen true war, at least not in a long time, and certainly not on the scale of the interstellar conflict he was now involved with. Lasers and Starships somehow did not make the constant death any easier to bear.

What’s more, William was gradually becoming fed up with the Union's brutal, uncompromising tactics. Their ideals were more agreeable than the Golden State’s, but their wartime actions were no better. William was simply unwilling to sacrifice any more for a conflict he had no real stake in and simply moved on again, abandoning the war for brighter horizons.

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, a colony of Human civilization similarly advanced to the Galaxy Cluster, 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 there being an absolute Right and Wrong, good and evil 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 friendly rivals than true enemies.

William was horrified when he discovered the Plagues source, immediately adding 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 anything but his own people’s safety, and his homeworld now felt too 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. He was not alone in this crusade even now though, and could generally count on anyone the least bit familiar with his foes to aid him, including other Dimension hopping Adventurers.

The Zinovia sisters, whom William had been running into almost since leaving Erkan for the first time, were a diverse group of female sorcerers using advanced portal technology similar to the Kridith Rifts to travel the various realms. Upon sitting down and talking with one of them however, William discovered that there was ONLY one of her: she was an Eternal, mythical energy being tied to physical forms. Zinovia and other members of her race were effectively immortal, capable of recovering from almost any amount of damage even if their physical bodies were destroyed. This made them low-level shape-shifters as well, as any time their entire bodies were destroyed they could reform with a completely different appearance, although she favoured the appearance of a white haired Human woman.

Secretive and somewhat ethereal, “Z” was still willing to help and implied she had her own reasons for taking on the Dark Six.

The two would not travel regularly with each other, but their occasional team ups did bring William closer to victory than he ever could have gotten by himself. 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 engines, 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 Black Hole. Although he fully intended this to result in 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 gapeing Maw.

III: Chapter Three

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 come 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 was 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. Double paragraphs 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 it, 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, 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 Martha. 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 each other, bonded quickly.

William dealt with becoming a Father overnight in his typically quick way, teaching her of her world’s 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 himself again. Bit by bit, she chipped away at his buried past, learning of where he came from, why he was there and what had brought him on his long travels.

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 (Asteri was recognized, normally by a different name, in every reality, so it was a relatively easy transition).

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 Civilization’s 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, who came to Frontier to test William, who had cultivated the reputation of the fastest draw alive, thanks to his literal superhuman reflexes. He did his best to dissuade them and, if push came to shove, merely disabled his opponent, only increasing his reputation.

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 later explained to Sam 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 a spirit he later came to believe was Asteri himself that it was time to return to his wandering.

Frontier and its people were not forgotten as both Father and Daughter would occasionally pay visits, even saving it from the Seerers vengeance.

But Sam was ready to move on in her own life, enrolling in an Interstellar Alliance’s Naval Academy. She proved a excellent student and graduated early, going on to an extremely, nearly legendarily, successful career that culminated in a admirality. She attributed her accomplishments to the upbringing and guidance given by her Father, who would still visit her often.

William, meanwhile, 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.

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 King’s 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 was eager to return to his adventures. 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.

During his time in on Frontier, William finally decided he needed more than one name. Thus, it was the newly christened William Jared Noble who embarked on the newest 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, such as a honeymoon with his third wife, the self-aware and more than slightly evil android Charity (A convoluted relationship that could fill a book in its own right), witnessing the birth of  the Supernova Alpha Maw as it consumed a dead Universe, and battled the would be Sun-god Re and his Blade Guild. But those are stories for another day: For now, William couldn’t be happier. And that’s always the best place to end a story.