Author Topic: Pod 1 Conclusion--The Flame Dawn and the Firmament Foundation  (Read 440 times)

Offline Benionin

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Pod 1 Conclusion--The Flame Dawn and the Firmament Foundation
« on: February 23, 2017, 11:01:56 PM »
TURN THE LAST

Mark -1500 (1300 Local Time), Outside of Pyr
     It had been days since Erebus had received the message from the one called Ethan: "Ask what you will." The former Lord Commander worried over this message. The more he thought about the mysterious mage, the more he worried. Just how powerful is he, and how much collateral damage is he willing to condone? When he had sent his reply, all he could do was hope: "Keep the Overseers out of Talich." Preferably without killing all of us in the process.
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Re: Pod 1 Conclusion--The Flame Dawn and the Firmament Foundation
« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2017, 11:05:12 PM »
Mark -1500 (1300 Local Time), Great Fortress of Xia Han
     Syn stood in one of the grand audience chambers of the Great Fortress of Xia Han, which Erebus had assured him was the safest place in the entire multiverse. It was certainly true. The scale of the fortress's defenses still boggled the young leader's mind, and even the audience chamber he now stood at the head of was so large he could barely see the rear.
     Syn stood upon a dais at the head of the chamber, the new banners of the Firmament Foundation--and the Infinite Worlds Defense Force--hanging behind him. The immense chamber was supported by a practical forest of engraved jade columns, each one both a bulwark of strength and a work of art. 100 knights of his honor guard, their polished silver armor trimmed in gleaming black, surrounded the dais, with the last 100 lining the main aisle of the audience chamber--well, as much of it as they could, given the size of the room.
     The Warpath delegation stood to Syn's left, Aleta the Immortal Caretaker smiling next to a few packleaders. There were maybe fifty beasts gathered in the crowd, but their delegation had always been small. Small but vital, Syn noted. They control the Untamed World and access to Solace's Gate. Most of the negotiations for the formation of the league had centered upon the Warpath's reluctance over the terms of the mutually defensive alliance, particularly since it required them to declare war upon the Flame Dawn, who they had just concluded a treaty with.
     To his right stood the delegation from the Descendants of the Dragon. Gao Han, the Stalwart, the three sages, and Kung Ji, the Glorious Strategist. From what Syn understood, these were the most august members of Jinhai's society, surpassed only by the dragon sage Ao Shun.
     The audience chamber itself was filled with thousands of Descendants of the Dragon. Soldiers, monks, craftsmen, and even spirits stood in rapt attention, waiting upon Syn's next words.
     The leader of the Firmament Foundation took a deep breath, then began to speak. He had learned that the acoustics of the hall were such that, so long as he projected his voice properly, he could be heard even at the far end without a problem. Probably magic, he thought--it wasn't, but he found it hard to believe. At Pyr we just used microphones.
     "When I was very young," he said nervously, "I lived in Talich, in a city called Aubade. As I understood it, Aubade was the biggest, most populous, most advanced, and most prosperous city in the world. There, in the training halls of the Flame Dawn, I learned to fight, to attack, to kill, to utterly destroy, all in the name of victory and conquest. And as I did so, the brave soldiers of the Flame Dawn died for those conquests, died to take city after city, territory after territory, country after country, until only the Dawn and Genesis Industries remained. My older brother, Aberion, the tyrannical leader of the Flame Dawn, would throw away the lives of those under his command ruthlessly until he had crushed not only all who opposed him, but all who served him as well."
     Syn shook his head. "I swore not to repeat my brother's actions. At first, I thought it just meant that I would have to fight better, fight smarter, attack more swiftly and cunningly to avoid taking casualties, but that, ladies and gentlemen, is not the answer. An individual's strength of arms will never be enough. Since then, the opening of the rifts between worlds has led to an opening of my eyes. We live in a vast and diverse multiverse, with all manner of societies and cultures not only growing but also thriving, regardless of their circumstances. Here in Reish I am awe-inspired by the tenacity of the Descendants of the Dragon, who have for generations protected the flower of Jinhai from corruption at the hands of the vile Cult of Verore and now stand as a bulwark against the demons of Torment. Where Aberion and the Flame Dawn would only see more land they could conquer, I now see people. I see worthy allies.
     "And with the opening of the rifts I found that my eyes were opened in another, far darker way. For just as we are not alone in these worlds in terms of friends and allies, we are not alone in terms of enemies. The terror of the virus of Avarrach and the oppressive tyranny of the Overseers of Solace, who promised to be our saviors, have convinced me more than ever that we need strong alliances and to stand together against these multiversal threats, each of which, when faced alone, is on an extinctionary level. Simply put, we no longer have the luxury of acting alone. Not with the perils of this wider world.
     "None know this better than the Descendants of the Dragon, our honored hosts. I am indebted to you for your sanctuary and support in this dark hour, and in awe of your civilization. Even with the demons of Torment ravaging your borders, I can say with certainty that Jinhai--and Xia Han in particular--is the safest place in the entire multiverse." Syn clapped, and the audience cheered.
     Growing in confidence, he continued. "Even as the Flame Dawn set out to conquer all of Talich and eventually all other worlds, I and many others became convinced that conquest was not the answer. That aggression leads only to bloodshed. And that is why I have approached you in a call for unification, for alliance. For mutual defense, rather than selfish aggression. For cooperation, instead of competition. I have approached each of you seeking someone willing to stand beside me, rather than someone to kneel before me.
     "With the creation of this alliance, the Infinite Worlds Defense Force, we are not wiping away the proud cultures of our individual members. The Descendants of the Dragon, the Warpath, Genesis Industries, and the Firmament Foundation are not to disappear beneath these new banners. Rather, we are creating a new and glorious future of respect, interdependence, and cooperation. We are rallying together in strength so that no matter what comes through the void, we will stand ready, and none will stand alone. No sovereignty shall be ceded, no territory given away. Instead, we will learn from each other and strengthen each other from this day forth.
     "Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to announce the inauguration of the Infinite Worlds Defense Force, and I look forward to working with all of you as the future unfolds to ensure that it is as glorious and secure a future for all of us as it can be."
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Offline Benionin

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Re: Pod 1 Conclusion--The Flame Dawn and the Firmament Foundation
« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2017, 11:09:46 PM »
Mark -1400 (1400 Local Time), Pyr
     Within the fortress of Pyr, Mew strode into the infirmary. The Flame Dawn kept the most advanced medical equipment available on hand to treat their often wounded warriors, and the doctors had been hard at work keeping Ireul alive. Behind Mew was an Overseer who had introduced himself as Heimdall. A low-ranking squad leader, nevertheless he was the most powerful angel left within Pyr--until Sol's army arrived.
     "I understand that you worked with both the Descendants and the Flame Dawn during the Infestation," Mew said, walking forward and brushing aside a curtain that cordoned off a large section of the infirmary. Behind it, three nurses were attending to Ireul. His condition had stabilized after his duel with Kali, but he was still on death's doorstep. The nurses ignored Mew and the Overseer, concentrating on their patient--replacing bandages, adjusting an intravenous medicine drip, placing a wet towel on the feverish Ireul's brow. A still-full tray of food with an empty cup lay on a table nearby the bed.
     "I did," Heimdall replied, frowning at the sight of Ireul's mangled body. He had taken a beating when he crashed into the earth, and the wound to his chest was so severe it looked like at least three of the mortals' machines were dedicated to replacing or supplementing the function of the damaged organs therein.
     "Did you ever serve alongside this Descendants captain, Jiro? Mew asked. Touching a nurse's arm, he spoke in a low voice. "How is he?"
     "Not well," the nurse replied, before checking on the machines that kept life coursing through Ireul's body.
     Heimdall considered his answer. "There were a number of Descendants stationed at the rift between Reish and the Old World, which was where I was initially stationed. Later I was moved to the rift between Talich and the Old World, until I was transferred to your command. It's possible that he was there when I was, but I couldn't say for certain." I know him. I even imparted some of my own power to his spear.
     "Hmm... have you met Ireul before?"
     "Can't say I have," Heimdall replied.
     "He's a mighty warrior, and as you can see he is currently at the point of death. It is all we can do to keep him alive." Mew turned to face the angel. "But not all that you can do. I sent a message to Sol."
     "Is that so?"
     Mew nodded. "He's authorized you to heal and ascend Ireul, on the grounds of his victory over the traitorous Kali."
     Heimdall nodded slowly. "I see." Ascending an individual was difficult for all but the most powerful of Overseers champions, and Heimdall was not so strong. All those years ago when he had empowered Jiro's spear, it had taken quite a bit out of him. This was much bigger. "I'll start by healing him then. If you could instruct the nurses to step back and remove any machinery currently inside of him, please."
     "But that will kill him!" one of them objected, placing himself between the angel and the patient.
     "Step aside," Mew ordered. "This angel will heal him. Right?"
     Heimdall nodded. "But if I do so with those machines inside of him, it may not work correctly. This will require a lot of magic--I don't want to have to heal him twice, or accidentally kill him in the process."
     On the bed, Ireul's eyelids fluttered and he groaned. Immediately one of the other nurses rushed to his side. "How are you feeling?" she asked.
     "Terrible," he replied. "Is that... the commander?" Ireul struggled to move his arm to a salute and to sit up, but the nurse held him down.
     "Shh... you need your rest, try not to exert yourself."
     "At ease," Mew said. "Ireul, I need you to relax. The Overseers have promised to heal you as a reward for your sacrifices in the line of duty. We're going to remove your life support temporarily so he can heal you. Understood?"
     Ireul nodded. Taking a ragged breath, he closed his eyes. "I'm ready. For the Dawn."
     "For the Dawn," Mew echoed. Turning to Heimdall, he nodded. "Don't let him die."
     Heimdall gulped. "Of course not, sir." He listened to the alarms go off as the nurses removed the life support, then centered himself and began the healing process. It took a long time--it felt like forever--but when he was done mending the mortal's body Heimdall felt positively drained.
     "Well?" Mew asked as the Overseer looked up.
     "He is healed."
     "That's it?"
     "One thing at a time."
     "Well, the next thing is to ascend him."
     "Please, give me a moment. Let the nurses confirm that he is in good health. Let me take a moment's rest before I begin the process of ascension."
     "He's doing well," one of the nurses noted, surprise in her voice. "Life signs are better than ever. He even cleaned up an old layer of scar tissue we'd been worried about but unable to address due to its location."
     Heimdall smiled. "Well, I'm glad to be of service." Then, calming himself, he clasped his hands together and concentrated. Placing one on Ireul's chest, Heimdall began to empty himself of power, infusing it into the mortal before him.
     Ascension is a draining process, a siphoning of power from one source to another. Theoretically Heimdall would regain the strength he was currently giving away in time, but that was assuming he didn't kill himself in the process. Which, he noted wryly as he began to tremble from the strain of the magic, may not be a safe assumption.
     Heimdall collapsed forward onto the bed, still not removing his hand from Ireul's chest. To break off the spell in the middle of the process would be disastrous, killing both ascending and ascender. Well, it's been a good run, he thought. Maybe in another few years I'll be back on the front lines. Decade at most. Ending the spell, Heimdall passed out.
     "See to it that he lives," Mew told the nurses, and they nodded, carrying the limp angel over to another bed in the infirmary, outside of the curtain partition. Momentarily alone with Ireul, Mew looked at the man. An hour before he had been on the point of death. Now he was an ascended warrior, more angel than human and immortal than mortal. A pair of menials approached with a black set of mechanical wings which were to be fitted into Ireul's back to complete the process, a sign of his ascension and the Overseers' favor.
     "You'll be up and fighting again tomorrow, I'm sure of it," Mew said aloud. "Then we'll attack."
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Re: Pod 1 Conclusion--The Flame Dawn and the Firmament Foundation
« Reply #3 on: February 23, 2017, 11:14:28 PM »
Mark -0400 (0000 Local Time), Lanstead
     Lucca was sick and tired of Lanstead being a warzone, of the constant barking of guns and shouts of embattled soldiers, of the buzzing of radios. Washing her hands in what probably used to be a kitchen sink, she splashed water on her face. Her command center probably was once a restaurant, but Lanstead had been a war zone for so long that it was hard to tell. Even the time of peace during the Flame Dawn's occupation hadn't been enough to see the city restored to its former glory, and the return of Genesis forces to the city hadn't been long enough either.
     A soldier ran in--one of her veterans, James Sibello. "Ma'am, they're withdrawing."
     She ground her teeth. "Normally, I'd say that was excellent news, James."
     "But not now," he finished.
     "We need to keep them here," she nodded.
     James nodded, his face resolute. "I'll tell the men."
     "No, I'll tell them," Lucca said. She grabbed her radio from next to the sink. "All positions, listen up. This is Lucca. The enemy is attempting to withdraw from the city." She took a deep breath. "We need to stop them. At the very least, delay them. All units, advance. Do not engage the enemy directly, but skirmish with them. Keep their heads down."
     They had learned much in the past few week about the spectral soldiers the Flame Dawn had sent to take Lanstead. They didn't wield ranged weapons, but their spectral blades, coursing with white flames, could slice through both flesh and metal at close range. They did not tire, and hardly cared for their own lives. The Genesis Veterans had figured out how to kill them, but not after significant civilian casualties--and the loss of all of their combat robots. Now the factories were too embattled to continue construction.
     "It's too late for this," Lucca muttered as she grabbed an assault rifle and strode into the hallway.
     "It's too early for this," James replied. "It's after midnight."
     "Well, I guess when your soldiers don't sleep setting out on a march after midnight doesn't matter. James, where's the nearest enemy position?"
     He nodded northwards as they exited the building. "Corner house of the next block. We've been keeping an eye on it but can't advance while they control the intersection."
     "Why's that?"
     "First, taking the building is gonna be hell. More importantly, every time we tried to approach, flames shot out of the building and into our ranks. We think the mercenary is in there."
     "Well, find some battle music, 'cause we're gonna take that building."
     James grinned. "I know just the soundtrack."
     Lucca approached a squad of ten soldiers, skilled veterans all. Trusted, hardened fighters. "Alright, the enemy is trying to withdraw from the city to relieve the siege around Pyr. We can't let them do that. That building may contain the leader of the attacking forces. We're going to storm it and take him out."
     "Ma'am, he's got the intersection covered."
     Lucca smiled and fiddled with the gauntlet on her left arm. "Don't worry, I've got us covered."
     The soldiers grinned and moved forward, lining up in the shadows of the buildings across the intersection from their target. Lucca glanced at the broken windows of the building. No sign of movement. Lucca raised a hand and the soldiers all tensed, coiled springs ready to release.
     Dropping her hand, Lucca sprinted into the intersection, her pink hair waving in the wind, the veterans behind her. As if on cue, white flames shot out from the topmost window. Lucca stopped, letting the others dash past her as she tapped her gauntlet and held up her arm. It projected a flickering shield over the group, protecting them from the flames as they took up positions outside of the building's entrance. As the magical attack subsided, Lucca turned off the shield and joined them.
     James, grinning, saluted her. "Ready to go on your orders, ma'am." He handed her a grenade.
     Lucca held up three fingers, two, one, and clenched her fist. James kicked down the door and she threw in the grenade. As it went off, the squad charged in, checking that the rooms were empty. They gathered at the stairs to the second floor.
     "Let's go!" Lucca shouted, her gauntlet projecting a wall in front of her as the soldiers advanced. The building was four floors high, and it was here on the second that they first ran into resistance.
     Not that it mattered. Lucca and her soldiers had been clearing out buildings, had been fighting urban warfare, for longer than they cared to remember. Guns barked noisily and James fired up a sound system hooked onto his belt, the staccato of the guns accentuating the music's rhythm. All around them, revenants fell. There were maybe twenty on the floor. They would charge only to ram into Lucca's projected shield, while the veterans spread out and efficiently dealt with the ghostly warriors.
     Still moving, always advancing, the Genesis team started up the stairs to the third floor, led by a grenade. As they climbed the stairs, spirits jumped down onto their heads, killing two of her squad before Lucca and the others could eliminate them. They gained the landing and took a breath.
     "Situation?" Lucca asked, not taking her eyes off of the group of spirits barricaded behind a wall of furniture. That's what was missing from the first two floors.
     "Two dead, three wounded," James responded. "Looks like twenty spirits, barricaded."
     "That's what I make of it," Lucca said. "Got any grenades left?"
     She could almost hear James's grin. "Do I ever. Here, take two."
     Lucca lobbed them towards the huddling spirits, but white flames seared them out of the air.
     "You know," a voice called from the stairs to the fourth floor on the other side of the room, "I thought you didn't want us here. Now you seem to not want us to leave."
     Lucca gritted her teeth. "We can't let you return to Pyr."
     The mercenary laughed. "Well, you can't always get what you want." He snapped his fingers and the floor collapsed beneath him and the spirits, and then the next floor. And then they were pouring out into the streets.
     "Three wounded to the windows, suppressing fire!" Lucca shouted. "The rest of you, with me!"
     Dashing down the stairs, she sought to pursue the mercenary leader and re-engage him, keep him occupied. Keep him in Lanstead. But he had disappeared, leaving only a swarm of revenants in his wake. For the next three hours, Lucca and her veterans fought throughout Lanstead, doing their best to keep the spirits entangled in the most embattled city in Talich's history. Eventually, though, Silfurstar and his spectral army departed. They had lost three hundred trying to disengage, Lucca's forces estimated. The veterans had lost nearly two hundred.
     "Well, Erebus," Lucca growled as she finally laid down on a pallet to get some sleep, "my soldiers' lives bought you three hours. You'd better use them well."
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Re: Pod 1 Conclusion--The Flame Dawn and the Firmament Foundation
« Reply #4 on: February 23, 2017, 11:17:55 PM »
Mark -0100 (0300 Local Time), Outside of Pyr
     "Listen up!" Arkais, a former drill sergeant turned knight of the Firmament Foundation, barked at the recon squads. "Your job is to infiltrate the fortress, find a safe route inside for our troops, and then get out. If a route is compromised immediately inform us with your beacons so we can avoid it. You have one hour to find your routes and ensure that they're clear. There's no time to waste, understood?"
     "Yes sir!" shouted the recon squads.
     Arkais allowed himself a grim smile. "Very well, move out! Go, go, go!"
     The squads departed under the cover of darkness, locating secret entrances to the fortress that Erebus had remembered from his times spent there. They disappeared into Pyr, splitting up into groups of ten men. Arkais turned to the two hundred knights and three hundred members of Jiro's elite force.
     "Soldiers, I have watched you fight and train. If you maintain discipline, if you stick to the training I and others have given you, we will carry the day. The Lord Commander's entire plan rests upon your shoulders. Do me proud!" He glanced at a glowing wrist chrono. "Mark -0050," he noted. "That's an extra fifty minutes to work on your drill. Form up! About face! March!"
     Erebus nodded, sipping a cup of stimulant. It was going to be a long day. "Well, Captain," he said, raising his mug in a toast as he addressed Jiro, "good luck today."
     The Descendant of the Dragon nodded sagely. "Indeed. We'll need all we can get."
     "Remember, don't engage Aberion until--"
     "I know, I know. Don't worry, Commander. I won't let you down." Jiro smiled at his assembled warriors. "You know, I can hardly tell them apart from yours at times."
     Erebus smiled. "That's the hope. That they'll be indistinguishable from normal knights of the Flame Dawn. That's why I gathered all of that armor after the battle outside of Aubade." The warriors drilling before them bore the armor of knights slain on the fields of Aubade, the colors of the Flame Dawn concealing their true nature.
     Jiro extended a hand to Erebus. "In case I don't see you on the other side," he said with a small smile. Erebus took the hand and shook it, smiling warmly. "Discipline and Honor, Lord Commander."
     "Discipline and Honor, Captain. I hope to see you when this is over."
     Jiro laughed. "As do I, Erebus. As do I."
     As the appointed time of the operation drew nearer, the knights formed up once again. Jiro himself put on Flame Dawn armor, looking uncomfortable without his normal gear. Shrugging, he pulled the helmet over his face and became just one more among the masses of knights. Arkais approached Erebus. "Good morning, sir," he said with a salute.
     Erebus returned the salute. "At ease. How goes it, Arkais?"
     "Three of the recon teams were forced to turn back, but seven of the routes we explored were clear. We await your command."
     "Arkais, thank you for your efforts in training the soldiers for this operation."
     "It has been an honor, Lord Commander. To be placed in command of such a critical mission," Arkais shrugged, lost for words. "It is more than I ever dreamed of during my days in the Dawn."
     "After today, all of our dreams will be able to be that much bigger, Arkais," Erebus said. "Very well, you have my permission. On your mark, you may commence the infiltration of Pyr."
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Re: Pod 1 Conclusion--The Flame Dawn and the Firmament Foundation
« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2017, 11:22:05 PM »
Mark 0000 (0400 Local Time), Pyr
     Two hundred Knights and three hundred Elite soldiers from Jinhai marched into the bowels of Pyr like there was no other place in the world for them to be. It was early enough in the morning that only a skeleton of a watch was posted--the rest of the garrison was preparing for the upcoming battle. A battle that the five hundred soldiers now infiltrating Pyr hoped to win before it started.
     "Column left," Arkais announced, directing the troops towards the armory. The armories of Pyr were vast, meant to serve equally vast armies and equip nearly half the world for war. Immense treasuries of arms were stockpiled there, ripe for the taking. But the infiltrators weren't interested in the weapons.
     They were going for the armor.
     "Sir," a soldier said, saluting Arkais, "We've located 200 unattended sets of Morningstar armor."
     "Alright, have Jiro's men suit up and then we're out of here," the former drill sergeant commanded. "Captain, best of luck. I hope you find one in your size."
     Jiro flashed a smile as he removed his helm. "Oh, I'm sure I will."
     In fifteen minutes 200 of Jiro's Elites had been transformed into Morningstar Knights, the offensive technology of the Flame Dawn borne by the defensive masters of Jinhai. It would be, Arkais had no doubt, a potent combination.
     "Let's move!" the knight ordered, and the assembled soldiers filed back into the myriad passageways of Pyr's gargantuan underbelly. "If I remember correctly, the tank depot is in the northeast quadrant of the fortress," Arkais explained to Jiro. "Once there, we take as many of those new Goliaths as we can and let the Dawn think everything's ship-shape."
     "Assuming they're unattended," Jiro noted.
     "If need be we can bluff our way in, though you Morningstars won't be manning any tanks."
     The Descendant nodded. "Very well. I'm going to take my knights to Assault Point A while you commandeer those tanks."
     "Right."   
     Instructed in Flame Dawn drill and bearing the armor of the most elite soldiers Talich had ever produced, Jiro's men went unchallenged as they ensconced themselves in a set of passages overlooking one of Pyr's main courtyards, one of the key muster points for defending soldiers.
     The sun was beginning to rise as 200 knights of the Firmament Foundation in Flame Dawn armor made their way to the tank depot. Transports, old decommissioned vehicles, a fleet of motorcycles, and even some mothballed dropships littered the hangar, but once again the infiltrators only had eyes for the prize: the brand new Goliath tanks.
     Arkais nodded to a technician as the man tossed him a salute. "Bit early in the day, isn't it?" the technician asked.
     "The Dawn waits for no man," Arkais replied. "The tanks have to be manned for the battle today."
     "Four to a vehicle," the technician yawned, biting into a pastry. "Didn't think orders would come so early."
     "Well, orders are orders. You're right though, it is bloody early." Arkais and the technician exchanged a wry grin. "Men, form up and get into those tanks. Four apiece, like the man said. Move it!" He looked back at the technician. "More soldiers will probably be coming along later. There was a bunch of shuffling around of units at the last minute, so don't be surprised if more show up than there are tanks for--just send the others to one of the main muster points."
     "Yes, sir. Go show those Firmament Foundation flunkies what for."
     Arkais grinned. "Oh, I certainly intend to."
     He joined a group of three others and climbed into a tank. Taking a seat at the controls, he looked around. "Okay, these joysticks move the treads, here's the throttle... David, you see firing controls in that gunner's seat?"
     "Yes sir!"
     "Alright." Arkais grabbed the radio. "Hey, my son at home's working on a science project and is looking for minnows. Anyone know where he should look, over?"
     "That'd be a pond, over."
     "Pond'd be the place, over."
     "Ponds, over."
     "Nothing like a pond to find minnows, over."
     "What kind of science project asks for minnows without telling the kids to look in ponds, over?"
     Arkais smiled as one by one the responses came in, with each tank showing up on his navigation/radar UI as they radio'd in the code. Out of 200 tanks in the depot, 50 of them were now in the FF's hands.
     "Thanks for the tips, boys, I'll let him know later tonight. Now all we have to do is wait, over." I hate waiting.
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Re: Pod 1 Conclusion--The Flame Dawn and the Firmament Foundation
« Reply #6 on: February 23, 2017, 11:33:23 PM »
Mark 0200 (0600 Local Time), Rift Between Talich and the Untamed World
     The Flame Dawn had been exceptional allies to the Overseers, Sol pondered. There had been a time when it had seemed that the knights of the crimson and gold would overtake the planes and aid the angels in throwing the demons back into Torment. But with this inane, annoying civil war with the so-called "Firmament Foundation" progress had ground to a halt. What was worse, their allies the Descendants of the Dragon had thrown in their lot with the trumped-up Infinite Worlds Defense Force. "Don't they realize that's what we do already?" the angel grumbled.
     Mew's advice had been sound. Punish the Descendants indirectly by withdrawing support whilst crushing the Firmament Foundation, the Warpath, and securing the Overseers' rear before a final assault upon Torment. With luck, even the Hellmouth could be sealed and perfect order could be destroyed.
     Luck had not been on their side. The massive army that Sol had mustered during their withdrawal from Reish (surely the Descendants would be able to hold their base in Jinhai without the Overseers' help for at least a while--they had been doing so for generations, after all) had been harassed by beasts of the Warpath, delaying him far too long and resulting in the destruction of vast swaths of forest along their route from the Rift to Reish to the Rift to Talich. At last, they had arrived. It was morning, with the sun just barely peaking its way over the horizon. Scowling at the delay and the cost in lives of the march, Sol ordered the army through the rift. First one squad went through, then another. A third passed through to Talich, but then a soldier came rushing back, shouting.
     "There's a man out there!"
     "What?" Sol demanded, flying down to interrogate the soldier.
     "There's someone on the other side, a sorcerer of some sort. He just tore apart my squad. I barely escaped."
     Sol swatted the soldier aside with a powerful backhand, sending him sprawling. "Ex! Send in your heavy troops! Secure a foothold while we send the rest of the army through. Daclerius! Expand that rift so we can send more angels through at a time. Move it!"
     The Oppressor nodded with grim satisfaction and clenched his fist before waving forward twenty heavily armored angels, shock troops recently trained for the war against the demons and the corrupted of Reish. The squad disappeared through the rift even as Daclerius, Sol's most trusted lawmage, poured power into expanding the rift. The planar tear's edges crackled as it grew, and several angels fell to their knees clutching their heads or their stomachs, unnerved by the unnatural scar upon the fabric of the multiverse. Sol watched, unmoved. When it was wide enough, he personally led another hundred heavy shock troops through the gate.
     Who he saw on the other side gave him pause. It was the immortal riftwalker he had been tracking, trying to contain, for all of those centuries. But he had been as slippery as he was powerful and had evaded them at every turn. When Solace's Gate had been opened during the infestation, Sol had hoped to orchestrate a more thorough manhunt, but there had been too many other priorities.
     Why he was standing his ground instead of fleeing like he always did, Sol did not know.
     Ethan, for his part, had spent the last three days preparing the site of the battle. He had long since placed useful runes throughout the infinite realms, dormant spells just waiting for him to call to life, but never in such density as he would need here. Sol's army was thousands strong, and he needed to keep them at bay while Erebus fought at Pyr. If the general failed in his endeavor, it would be through no fault of the immortal’sand he would merely return to his previous plan. Plan B, however, was much more amenable to him than Plan A, so he hoped the Firmament Foundation's operations would succeed.
     When the first squad came through, Ethan activated a series of runes containing a storm of lightning, which lasted long enough to destroy the second squad as well. The third, however, he had to deal with using a few improvised spells while still laying the groundwork for larger magicks, including a rune that would close the rift and prevent it from being reopened for at least a few days. He fought as he worked, carefully imbuing the ground with power even as he cut apart the squad with slashes of magic. As one escaped, he looked up.
     "Well, that can't be good."
     During the following minute of calm Talich-side, which Ethan imagined was far less calm on Sol's side of the rift, the immortal returned to his work with zeal. Almost there, he thought. Just a few more symbols, a few more layers. Closing the rift would be a setback in his work, but he was patient. He had time.
     Then the first squad of shock troops came through, slamming into the ground and planting their shields in a phalanx. Magic learned from the Descendants of the Dragon shimmered in front of their ranks, protecting them--for a time--from his spells. So Ethan didn't cast any spells, instead choosing to finish up another layer of the runic circle. The shock troops cautiously advanced under Ex's command. Still, Ethan waited to respond, waiting for the moment. The moment when the protective magic would either wear off or flicker as it was being reapplied.
     The wards fell for a moment as they wore off, and as they did so Ethan unleashed a torrent of power, activating runes beneath the squad's feet to incinerate them where they stood even as another layer of protective magic was being applied.
     Very few escaped.
     The rift was widening, he noted, furrowing his eyebrows. "What're they up to?" Opening rifts was what Ethan did; the Overseers did their best to close them, to regulate them, to minimize their impact. Yet here they were, widening one so they could send in more troops at a time.
     Another wave of shock troops poured through the rift, about a hundred. And flying at their head was Sol. The Champion of Vengeance was scowling. We go way back, don't we, Sol? Ethan thought with a bitter smile. No love had been lost between the two of them. To Sol, Ethan knew, he was a maverick, a rogue who must be stopped. To Ethan, Sol was an annoyance who impeded his plans. Whenever they had met in the past, it had ended poorly for the plane where they fought.
     "Let's try to not destroy the world this time, shall we?" Ethan called out, and Sol's face stretched into something between a grimace and a grin. The angel was so serious, it was hard for Ethan to tell and it looked like Sol was in physical pain every time he smiled.
     "This ends today, riftwalker!"
     Ethan laughed. Even if Sol's army managed to overpower him, he could always just open a rift to another world with a wave of his hand. Admittedly, that would involve abandoning the IWDF, which he had recently put some effort into cultivating, but still, there was a greater purpose at stake. Even without Erebus' little alliance, the plan had to move forward.
     Of course, by taking the time to talk Ethan had allowed more angels to come through the rift, leaving a significant force arrayed against him. Naturally, however, the immortal had not been idle during this time. Another circle of the rune was complete. Ethan recalled a conversation he had had long ago with the Aleta from Reish:
     "Why do you insist on using those stuffy runes when there's so much raw power you can command?" she had asked. "Using runes reduces the power of the spells. It's better just to have the speed and flexibility raw magic provides."
     Perhaps she was right, though Ethan would be loathe to admit it to her face. As much as he valued the control that his runes provided his magic, a little speed wouldn't be unwelcome with even just the vanguard of the Overseers' grand army staring him down.
     Besides, she had turned Reish into a corrupt magical wasteland and gotten herself captured by the Demon Prince of Torment. So the results of her methods were, at best, questionable. And it was another mess that he'd have to clean up eventually.
     Still, he needed a bit more time, and with that many angels bearing down on him time wasn't something he had in abundance. Given his few remaining options, Ethan decided to see if he couldn't distract Sol by talking.
     "So, you finally catch up to me and you decide that you need to bring an army with you? Hardly fair, don't you think?"
     Sol's cold voice rang out. "I'm not interested in fair fights, Ethan. I'm interested in order."
     "Oppression, you mean."   
     "Depends on your point of view."
     "Now if that isn't moral relativism, I don't know what is. You're stifling the planes in the name of security, Sol."
     "And you're attempting to destroy them," the angel countered.
     Ethan shrugged. "At least I have the honesty to do my own dirty work. You weren't even part of your own vanguard until three squads and some shock troops had already died. Some leader."
     "You won't bait me into a fight, riftwalker. Nor will your prattle buy you any more time. Attack!"
     By now there were some three hundred angels flying on this side of the rift, and every single one of them made for Ethan. Shock troops thudded into the ground and planted shields, cutting off his retreat--as if--while other angels began firing upon him with their lightcasters. Waving a hand, Ethan activated a shield rune and hurried to finish the circle. The shield wouldn't last for long beneath the coordinated assault of Sol's vanguard. As he added in the finishing touches and an extra flourish, Ethan activated another layer of shielding to compensate for the initial shield, which was on the verge of collapse.
     Standing back to survey his work, the immortal nodded. "Perhaps my third best rune of all time," he said, smiling, then not. "Right, let's get to work." Snapping his fingers, he pulled power from the aether and activated the rune. Through his shields he could see the rift crackling and start to contract. It surged outwards again and Ethan scowled, pouring more power into the magic. Someone was fighting him. Odd. Annoying. Digging deep, he shoved power into the rune with a determination he had not felt in a long time. With a sickening lurch and what Ethan could best describe as a metaphysical burp, the rift slammed closed. It would stay that way for, at most, a week.
     "Plenty of time for Erebus to finish his war," Ethan said. Then he fell to his knees, drained by the effort of forcing the rift closed. Taking a deep breath, he dug his fingers into the dirt. Another heaving breath.
     And then the shields shattered and five heavily armed angels charged him. Ethan rushed to his feet, activating three binding runes to hold angels in place while a fourth he killed with a burst of uncontrolled magic he wasn't going to tell Aleta about.
     Still, there were five of the angels, and even with three straining against magical bonds and one disintegrated, one was still coming and nearly upon him, apparently trying to tackle him to the ground and bash him with his shield. As the angel hurtled towards him, Ethan slashed through the air with his hand, opening up a rift to... never mind where. The angel backwinged in an attempt to stop, but it was too late. He couldn't stop his momentum and went through the rift. As soon as he was through, Ethan resealed the rift.
     Bursts of energy from far-off lightcasters began to sear the ground around Ethan, one blast taking a chunk out of his patchwork cloak. Looking up, Ethan clenched his fist and activated another set of runes, these opening a rift to an ocean world, pouring seawater over the group of angels firing upon him and rendering their wings useless, forcing them to the ground.
     "It's a good thing those lightcasters aren't designed for long range," Ethan muttered, whirling around and sprinting to his right to avoid another group of angels. Activating another series of runes, he summoned a windstorm that scattered a large formation in his way.
     Sol watched the progress. So far the riftwalker was humiliating his soldiers, but that didn't worry him as much as the closing of the rift did. Most of his army--the vast majority of his grand army--was on the other side. Thousands of angels stranded in the Untamed World. Well, I suppose they can purge some of those incorrigible beasts while they're there, he mused.
     This wasn't the first time Sol and Ethan had fought, but the situation was unique. The immortal was clearly not using all of his power, and his earlier jibe about not destroying the world seemed to indicate why. He was pulling his punches.
     Not entirely. Another twenty-odd angels were engulfed in flames and killed by a set of activated runes as they charged over them. Sol snarled. That's how it always was with Ethan: preset runes laid days, years, even centuries in advance allowed him to fire off spells with ease.
     "We have to force him away from his runes," the Champion of Vengeance said. The trick was how. Lose soldiers by a brute force attack, shoving him out of the field, or simply ignore him and fly away, forcing him to chase us. He's clearly working for the Firmament Foundation. Sol smiled.
     "Ignore the riftwalker. We have other fish to fry." Not bigger, but other.
     As the angels began to withdraw, Ethan furrowed his brow. "Ah, puffy with a cherry on top. They're leaving." He'd certainly put a dent into the force--and closing the rift was no small feat--but they were still significant enough to give Erebus more trouble than he needed.
     And I'd like the Foundation to survive, if at all possible, Ethan mused. That way, well, she hopefully won't be as mad at me.
     "Alright, Sol," he called out, "I see you're running away. Have fun. Course, if you can't beat me, I can't see you doing much against the demons. Is that why you're here, Sol? Abandoning Reish to Vasir in a fit of cowardice?"
     The angel clenched his fists. This is smart. This is the right move.
     They're leaving the runefield, Ethan worried. "Too afraid to even fight me yourself?"
     "That might work on the Flame Dawn, immortal, but your tricks won't work on me." My pride can take it, Sol assured himself.
     "Some champion you are!" Ethan shouted, walking after the departing force. "I thought you loved the humans, Sol. Where were you when Avarrach fell? Just watching, too afraid to fight?"
     The angelic vanguard stopped. Ex, after barely surviving Ethan's earlier spells, shuddered. Now he's done it. Sol's ego could have ignored anything else.
     Sol, on the other hand, was reaching towards his holstered lightcasters almost resignedly. "The plan to lure him out of the runefield was working so well," he muttered sadly. Then, with a sudden turn, he was diving at the immortal, guns blazing, eyes full of wrath. "But he has runes everywhere anyway."
     Unlike the unfortunate angel who had earlier charged into a rift, Sol didn't fly directly at Ethan. Rather, he flew around him, darting and firing with his two lightcasters. The immortal threw up shields and opened rifts to absorb the blows, but the angel could tell that he couldn't keep up this defense forever. And by staying just outside of reach, Sol was ensuring that Ethan couldn't touch him.
     Then the magic started up. Binding spells leaped up from the ground to hold him in place and drag him down, but Sol spun and shot at the magic to hold it off until he was out of range. A firebolt flew towards him and the angel closed his two metal wings to create a shield around himself while his two natural wings continued to fly.
     Saltwater poured over him and Sol crashed to the ground, grunting on impact. His natural wings were soaked and useless, while his metal wings were sparking and useless. Spitting, he looked for the immortal.
     Ethan's chest was heaving as he fought for breath. Normally he wouldn't stick around this long for a fight--he had better things to do and all the time in the world to do them. And all the worlds to escape to. When you can step through a rift into another world without being followed, running away becomes far easier. Still, there comes a time to fight.
     Ethan's hands glowed with power as he stalked towards Sol, flickering blasts of energy absorbing the bursts from the Champion's lightcaster as he advanced.
     "You can't kill me," Sol laughed. "I'll just reform stronger."
     Ethan puffyed his head to the side. "Or weaker. One of the two."
     Defiant, Sol stared him down, his guns lowered. "You asked me where I was when Avarrach fell, and you're right, I failed to act. But where were you, riftwalker? Why weren't you there when yourprecious Aleta began to suffer for all of eternity?"
     Ethan snarled. "I was busy." He had been elsewhere, occupied for far too long. Hurt by her rejection. Annoyed with all of Avarrach.
     Sol laughed. "Busy? You let a world die in pain and terror because you were busy? With what, might I ask? Your little project?"
     "You know nothing of what I am!" Ethan shouted, more power swirling around his now clenched fists. "Nothing!"
     "I think I do, immortal. I watched. I was there when you ripped the world asunder, ripped your true love asunder, in order to make yourself live forever. You selfish, childish, brat. All you've done since then is try to fix your mistake, but even then you're just leaving a higher and higher kill-count in your wake. How many have you slain since then, eh, Ethan?"
     That might have been the end of Sol, for Ethan was by now lost to rage. But at that moment the immortal was struck from behind with a blast from a lightcaster. He took a step forward, stumbled, and spun. Sol's army had returned for him. Blasts of light began raining down, outshining even the sun in their fury.
     Ethan unleashed the power he had gathered to destroy Sol, and not a single angel was left in the air. The area around where the rift had been had, in the space of a few moments, been reduced to a charred, smoking wasteland. Even the sky seemed scarred from the magical outburst. The level of destruction was absolute. This is what had happened to the last world where Sol had caught up to Ethan. This is what he was trying to avoid. This is what had happened, over the course of centuries, to Reish, creating the Demon Wastes. And Ethan had done it in mere seconds. Behind him, Sol whistled. "Looks like we both know each others' weak points. How to lure the other into rage."
     Ethan shrugged and pulled the hood of his patchwork magician's cloak back over his head, his anger suddenly gone. "Indeed we do. See you in a few hundred years, Sol."
     A rune flashed to life off to the Champion of Vengeance's left and lightning crackled forth, shocking him and forcing him to his knees. Trembling as the lightning continued to wrack his body, Sol reached for his lightcasters and opened fire. But Ethan was gone. He had disappeared through a rift.
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Offline Benionin

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Re: Pod 1 Conclusion--The Flame Dawn and the Firmament Foundation
« Reply #7 on: February 23, 2017, 11:35:16 PM »
Mark 0300 (0700 Local Time), Pyr
     Pyr was coming alive with activity. Soldiers on watch sought a brief rest while thousands awoke from their slumber to wage cruel war. A buzzing hive of workers and warriors flitting about, with Mew directing their activity.
     Captain Jiro watched as soldiers formed up in the courtyard in front of his position, nearly 500 Aspirants by his estimation--an estimate corroborated by the helmet interface. He whistled. "This tech's pretty useful," he said. "Targeting, identification, specs. Automatic audio compensation for explosions, with a radio link between suits. Whoever made this Morningstar armor certainly outdid themselves."
     In the vehicle hangar, confusion reigned as more soldiers than necessary showed up to man the new Goliath tanks, which were to be instrumental in Mew's attack plan. Orders came buzzing over the tanks' radios.
     "Tanks G1-G50 are to charge the enemy lines while G51-G200 are to fire a rolling barrage."
     "David, what's our designation?" Arkais asked.
     "G-27, sir."
     The knight nodded. "Our men took the first 50 tanks, right?" He looked at the tactical display. "Excellent. We'll have the entire first group. The Commander wants us to deal as much damage as possible." He activated the radio. "Vehicular Command, Vehicular Command, this is G-27, over."
     "Reading you loud and clear, G-27."
     "We'd advise that the group of tanks for the charge start behind the others to build up momentum and speed while they begin their rolling barrage, over."
     "Re-transmitting those deployment orders as we speak, G-27. They should be coming up on your display presently."
     Arkais smiled. "Thanks, Command." He switched off the radio. "Alright, we'll get our shot. Let's try not to blow it."
     Outside of the fortress, the Firmament Foundation's army readied itself for battle. Armor was strapped on, weapons were checked, soldiers were mustered into formation. Soon, they would face those preparing within the fortress, would fight them, and many on both sides would die. Soon, the battle would be joined.
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Re: Pod 1 Conclusion--The Flame Dawn and the Firmament Foundation
« Reply #8 on: February 23, 2017, 11:40:38 PM »
Mark 0400 (0800 Local Time), Outside of Pyr
     Lord Commander Erebus, General of the Firmament Foundation and the Infinite Worlds Defense Force, strode forward from the siege lines of his army into the no-man's land in front of the fortress, prepared to face Mew's challenge. His armor was gleaming obsidian black edged in shining silver. Black, the union of all colors, representing the unity of worlds Erebus had begun. He had considered and discarded the idea of wearing a cape or cloak. On one arm he bore a sturdy shield, with the Firmament Foundation's emblem emblazoned across its face. Strapped to his side was a sword, a pistol, and a smoke grenade. As inspiring as he would look with it fluttering in the wind, a cape might prove a liability in the battle to come against Mew. He turned back towards his soldiers, the radio inside his plain helm capturing his words and broadcasting them to the men and women willing to fight and die for the ideals he represented. Drawing his sword and raising it high, he began to speak.
     "Warriors of the Infinite Worlds Defense Force!
     "Today we meet with fate. Beyond those walls lie the future of not just Talich, but of all life in this multiverse. Failure here means the relapse of the Old Empire, something the worlds can ill afford. There are threats greater coming our way, and we must overcome this obstacle quickly if we are to survive the coming storm. As I speak, preparations are being made with our Beast allies as well as the brave warriors from both Reish and Genesis who stand with you now.
     "In our sight is the last bastion of our foe--Pyr. Mew has made the foolish decision to hole up in his fortress. Make no mistake, there is no retreat from this place. We have the fortress surrounded and we await for the execution of our plans to finalize our victory. When Pyr falls, this war ends. Mew is no doubt expecting reinforcements to aid him in his greatest hour--but no such reinforcements shall come this day. To the south, Lucca harasses the Revenant armies so that we may proceed unabated. The Overseers will learn today that there exist powers in the world greater than they, and they will be taught a painful lesson in humility. Preparations for our plans are being made as we speak and thus far, our foe has not prepared for what is coming.
     "As many of you have no doubt heard, Kali was slain in a duel with Ireul, who won using treachery and cowardice. Regrettably, I have no doubt the Overseers will use their corrupt magicks to save him from the brink. I know such a loss is difficult for us all to bear, but from her we might learn a valuable lesson. Her death was an unnecessary one, caused by the old ways of the Flame Dawn Empire. Though in the end her spirit was free, her style of fighting was corrupted by the training of the old empire we she had perfected.
     "But we are no longer are we the Flame Dawn. When I look around I do not see Knights, Dragon Warriors or Genesis. No longer do we fight alone as a solitary torch in the dark. Instead, we have become like the dreaded Swarmers. Each of us covers the warrior to their side providing a different advantage, a different way to look at the battlefield. When we work and operate as one entity we become a greater whole that is indivisible and dauntless.
     "Kali died for a cause she believed in, as have many other brave men and women throughout the course of this war. Though tragic, she has done in death what no other before her has been able to achieve. She has united us, and not just our fighting abilities, but our hearts as well. When this rebellion started we were a ragtag group and often times, organizing this army to work together was a difficult task. Those of us formerly of the Dawn found ourselves at odds with our Genesis allies, and there were more than a few late night bar scuffles with Jiro's men. Despite this, Kali was able to make friends with all of them. Lucca originally refused to join our cause believing us to be no different than the old Empire. It was only through Kali's words and actions we stand beside our Genesis brothers and sisters now. Jiro's men, believed our troops to be of inferior quality and honor and had a difficult time adjusting. Any of you who have heard know of the five men she both beat into submission and then helped into the infirmary.
     "Indeed, Kali was the most influential figure in uniting us and bringing us here today. It is said that nothing unites us more than shedding blood together. This is partially true. It is our soul. It is our tears. It is our joy. It is our hope and it is our future. Perhaps more than anyone, Kali embodied this. Her passion for life was contagious as was her resolve in battle. It became synonymous with the soul of this army. However, as we have seen from our allies from Jinhai, the soul is immortal--and though her body may have failed I assure you that her Spirit is with us now, at this very moment. It courses through myself, through you--and you and you and all of us. I have no doubt that her spirit has become the very soul of this army. Let her spirit embolden you through death as it did in life.
     "I have often said that I would never ask from any of you that which I am unwilling to give myself. Today, I shall be joining you on the field of battle. Mew has foolishly decided to challenge me in one on one combat and I have chosen to accept. But as I have just told you, this is the way of the Old Empire. Though I go to meet Mew alone, the battle I fight will not be fought alone. Today, I am but a part of a much larger puzzle. Though I anticipate victory, whether or not I win this battle is irrelevant. What does matter is how you execute your orders with or without my presence. Do this, and I promise you that this duel with the Hammer of Dawn will be a mere footnote in the history we make today.
     "Though we fight for a just cause - today we fight for much greater things. We fight for freedom. We fight for justice, and perhaps most importantly, we fight for peace. If that is not enough however, fight for vengeance!
     "Kali Incorruptionae!
     "Now to arms! To arms my brothers and sisters and let us end this once and for all."
     The ground shook with the stomping of feet and the skies echoed with the soldiers' cheers. Smiling, Erebus turned to face the fortress gates. Slowly, they opened, revealing a lone figure.
     Mew, the self-styled second Hammer of the Dawn. Brashly he had claimed Aberion's title for himself, devotedly he had continued to fight for the empire Erebus now sought to dismantle. Bravely he had served the Dawn, and for many years. But the Dawn was no longer worth serving in Erebus's eyes, and now the former Lord Commander of the Flame Dawn prepared to kill his one-time comrade.
     Mew stood in the gateway of Pyr, looking out. Across from him he saw Erebus, and he fought to stifle his rising anger. Mew's own armor was polished gold and crimson, with a purifier sword blazing in its sheath by his side. Turning on his radio, he spoke, his words broadcast throughout all of Pyr.
     "I believe everyone knows what must be done. So I would like to keep this speech like our attacks: short and effective. I would like to let all of the members of the Dawn know how much they mean to me. It is you who I fight and bleed with in times of war and feast and drink with in our times of victory. This has been a difficult time for all of us, however the curtain is about to fall on it. We are going to make our attack on the Firmament Foundation today. No more will we try to negotiate with them or speak to them with reason. The time for that has passed--from this day forward the only thing the Foundation will receive from the Dawn is our steel. So let's go give it to them!"
     Turning off the comlink, Mew strode out into the morning. "Erebus!" he shouted. "It's been a long time."
     "Indeed it has," the other replied, approaching him in turn. They met in the middle of the no-man's land.
     "Only one of us will walk away from this," Mew vowed.
     "Well then," Erebus said with a laugh, "are you ready to die?"
     "I am," Mew said without hesitation. "The question is, are you?" He drew the flaming sword by his side. There were precious few of the magical swords of the purifiers left, but Mew had been able to find one for himself and another to equip Ireul.
     For his own part, Erebus raised his simple blade in a salute. "For the Dawn, Mew?"
     "It always was," Mew growled. "When did it stop being so for you?"
     "When the rest of the day became more important."
     Mew snarled and swung his blade, only for it to clang onto Erebus's upraised shield. Instead of slicing through the metal and consuming it with magical flames, the sword stopped, held back by a layer of defensive enchantment. Erebus smiled.
     Raising his blade high, Mew swung again, a brutal downstroke that could cleave a man in two. Erebus raised his shield and blocked the blow. All I have to do is waste his time while my men get in position, he thought, the force of the blow sending reverberations through his shoulder. Just hold on.
     "Fight me!" Mew shouted as Erebus took a step back and kept his shield upraised between them. "Fight me like a man, you coward! Stop hiding behind that shield!"
     Charging forward, Mew rammed into the shield with his shoulder, throwing Erebus back. As the Lord Commander stumbled, Mew swung his blade. Erebus attempted to parry, but failed to do so entirely. The flaming blade glanced off of his leg, slicing through the armor and nicking the flesh beneath.
     Erebus swung his own blade, an attack meant to delay rather than to cut down, but it clattered off of Mew's armor as the champion of the Flame Dawn charged again. Striking out with a gauntleted hand, Mew knocked Erebus backwards with a blow to his face. The Lord Commander stumbled, limping from his wounded leg, and took off his helmet, shaking his head to clear it.
     Mew laughed. "Some warrior you are, Erebus. I thought you were a soldier? A proud knight of the Flame Dawn?"
     The General of the Infinite Worlds Defense Force swung his blade, holding it in both hands in spite of his shield. The two councilmen locked blades, steel grinding on steel, magical flames flaring crimson against jade. "I am a soldier, Mew, but there's more I'm looking to get out of this fight than just killing you."
     Suddenly, a broadcast came through Mew's helmet. It was Erebus's voice, transmitting to every soldier on both sides of the conflict. "This is it. The Final Battle. After years of struggling, you have nowhere left to hide. Your pitiful forces sent to deter us and distract us from this moment shall go ignored. Today they are of no consequence. We will avenge our fallen brothers and sisters. We will avenge Kali. Today we will bring justice to the wicked and corrupt. You expect today to be saved by the heavens. You will not, and your servitude to the Overseers will be punished as I have always maintained. We are now no longer the simple Firmament Rebels you thought were weak and pathetic. We are the IWDF. We represent a unity among humans and beasts you could never be a part of. This war has been a pointless one that could have ended at any time--but you refused my entreaties. As a result many noble soldiers and heroes have died as a result of your inability to look at a greater picture. Your incompetence is a threat to the world of Talich and our very existence. And that you don’t see this only further demonstrates this."
     Mew growled. "You expect them to believe that drivel? You, who tore Talich and the Flame Dawn apart?"
     "The empire needs to die, Mew," Erebus growled, and he threw his opponent back. "It's old, sick, and unready for this new age."
     "Never!" Mew roared, but Erebus reached towards his belt and unclipped a smoke grenade, dropping it to the ground even as Mew charged. The self-styled Hammer of the Dawn swung blindly, his sword clattering off of metal instead of finding its mark as Erebus withdrew from the duel.
     Mew stumbled forward through the cloud of smoke, finally making his way clear. Erebus was limping his way back to his lines, which were beginning to advance. "Coward!" he roared, spit striking the inside of his helm in his rage. "Running away. Come back here and fight!"
     In the distance, a shot rang out, and Mew collapsed to the ground. Pain spread out in waves from his leg, and he saw a hole punched clean through his greaves. Someone had shot him. In the leg. Leaning on his sword, he struggled back to his feet. "The Firmament Foundation are cowards, the lot of them," he snarled into the radio. "All forces, attack!"
     Back at the Firmament Foundation's lines, Erebus smiled grimly as a medic attended to his wounds. "You heard the man," he said, for Mew's shouted order had carried. "Attack."
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Re: Pod 1 Conclusion--The Flame Dawn and the Firmament Foundation
« Reply #9 on: February 23, 2017, 11:46:20 PM »
Mark 0415 (0815 Local Time), Pyr
     The two hundred Mark-I Goliath Tanks rumbled out of the hangar with a dull roar, trundling out onto the open plain of Talich even as soldiers streamed from the sally ports to meet the Firmament Foundation's army. Arkais and the rest of the Firmament Foundation agents who had infiltrated the tank group waited patiently and formed up behind the others. With the order to attack, the 150 main-line tanks began their rolling barrage, their treads slowly grinding forwards.
     "Tanks G-1 through G-50, you are cleared for your attack."
     "Roger that, Command," Arkais responded. Turning up the engines, his tank began to move forwards at the head of the formation, building up momentum and speed. "Well lads, I sure do hope my son can find those minnows for his science project."
     Another tank chimed in. "What in the Dawn are you talking about?"
     One of the infiltrated tanks replied. "So long as he sticks to searching ponds, he should be fine."
     Arkais glanced back to David at the gunner's seat, then activated the radio again. "Open fire."
The fifty stolen tanks unleashed their powerful, armor-piercing guns, tearing into the line of tanks before them. Forty tanks were immediately destroyed as the Firmament Foundation's pirated Goliaths charged forward. The others tried to swivel their turrets around but their gunners weren't prepared to be tracking their own tanks, and at speed to boot. The stolen tanks fired off a second volley, destroying more of their brethren.
     Then, adjusting the controls, Arkais rammed his tank into one of the surviving loyal tanks. The collision shook the vehicles and disabled both, with the soldiers inside swinging in their harnesses--harnesses designed to reduce the impact of any collision and keep those within alive. "Move, move, move!" Arkais shouted to his men as all over the battlefield the tanks destroyed each other. Soon the no-man's land became a junkyard of smoking, twisted metal, approached on other side by the two armies.
     Within the fortress, Jiro's men surged out of hiding and into the courtyard, slaughtering the knights passing before them on impact. The powerful Morningstar armor only augmented Jiro's martial prowess as he tore through the unfortunate knights, who shouted alarms into their radios as they were slaughtered. Aspirants poured into the courtyard but were held off by more of his men while Jiro took one hundred and made to force the main gate.
     The defenders were taken completely by surprise, cut down even as they stared in shock at this 'betrayal.' In minutes the gates were theirs. "Set charges," Jiro ordered while others among his men formed a defensive perimeter. "And by the ancestors, make sure they fall outwards."
     Thirty seconds later, the immense gates of Pyr were blown off of their hinges from the inside, and fell, slowly, majestically, outwards, where they landed in an immense cloud of dust. Jiro nodded. "Xu," he said, "make sure the gate holds. I'm heading back to the courtyard."
     "From Discipline cometh Strength," the stone-caller intoned.
     "From Strength cometh Honor!" Jiro shouted, running back to where his other men were stationed.
     The rest of his elite were embattled, fighting for their lives against the forces pressing in on them. Knights and aspirants fell in droves as Jiro's elite warrior monks fought bravely and skillfully in their stolen Morningstar armor. Jiro surveyed the situation and took a glance at an adjoining courtyard. He clenched his fists and set his jaw.
     Aberion was coming.
     The Lord of the Flame Dawn was wroth with wrath that the enemy had managed to infiltrate his mighty fortress. Pyr, the supposedly unassailable stronghold, was now being torn apart from within. "Before conquering without," he muttered, "you must conquer yourself." He raised his voice. "Let none of the rebels survive!" he shouted, and he led the charge of one hundred fully equipped and loyal Morningstar knights. The other soldiers of the Flame Dawn fell back--or simply fell--as Aberion's elite soldiers charged.
     The two forces met with a crash of metal and clash of arms. Warriors used to the augmented strength and hard-hitting power of the Morningstar armor clashed with masters of war only newly accustomed to their equipment. The bloodshed was horrific on both sides in those first few moments, and Jiro witnessed the one called Nix at Aberion's side, helping to direct the charge.
     But then the proud warrior monks of Jinhai rallied, standing their ground as they had always stood their ground. Aberion's charge was broken upon the spears and shields of Jiro's elite, and the brawling melee quickly turned into an organized defensive line facing a disorganized assault. Slicing through an opposing Morningstar with his glowing spear, Jiro raised his fist.
     "Discipline and Honor!" he roared, and his warriors roared in response. Shaken, Aberion's knights began to fall back.
     Aberion, his wild hair whipping about as he fought, railed against the intruders. His hammer slammed through one soldier, then another, crushing all before him--yet those behind him were failing to follow him into the breach as they once had. "Fight on!" he shouted. "We've got them now!"
     Charging over through a gap between the two battle lines, Jiro slammed into Aberion, knocking him back with all of the force the Morningstar armor could bring to bear. "You," he snarled, slashing the air with his spear and forcing the tyrant to take another step back, "you killed my men."
     Aberion smiled and swung his hammer loosely. "You're the one called Jiro, are you not?"
     The Descendant of the Dragon nodded. "And you are Aberion."
     "Well, since we're already acquainted," Aberion said, suddenly swinging his hammer even before he finished speaking. Jiro swerved to the side, dodging the blow, and struck out with his spear. Aberion blocked the glowing speartip with his hammer and took to the air, his mechanical wings pumping powerfully to take flight.
     Flying above his adversary, Aberion sought to swoop down and end the duel with a strike to the head, but Jiro kept him at bay with swift jabs of his spear, the empowered weapon threatening the life of even one as mighty as Aberion. It had been a long time since Heimdall had poured some of himself into that weapon in order to enable it to purge the undead from the world, but the purifying power remained, and Jiro had always put it to good use.
     Roaring in frustration, Aberion landed and dashed forward, his wings propelling him with superhuman speed. Jiro planted his feet and leveled his spear, the weapon piercing deep into Aberion's shoulder as the tyrant charged forward with unstoppable force. At the same time, however, Jiro himself was thrown back and his armor dented to the point of uselessness on the left side where Aberion's hammer had struck him.
     Lurching to his feet, Jiro counterattacked while Aberion struggled to regain his. Wrapping his metallic wings about himself, Aberion blocked first one jab, then a second, and then a third, before reopening his wings and striking out with his hammer--this time in his non-dominant hand. Jiro's spearhaft spun up, blocking the blow, and just as quickly he spun the weapon's head around towards Aberion's face.
     The true Hammer of the Dawn scowled as he jerked back, the speartip taking some of his hair instead of his face. Growling in anger, he propelled himself forward once again to tackle the Captain of Jinhai, but this time Jiro was prepared. He ducked under the wing-powered charge and struck upwards with his fist, landing a blow on Aberion's midriff and sending the warlord tumbling into the courtyard's dirt.
     Not pausing to give the would-be interdimensional tyrant a moment's respite, Jiro charged forward and buried his spear in Aberion's chest. The purifying magic at its tip burned away that proud warrior's heart, and within a few moments he was dead.
     Shocked, the Flame Dawn warriors broke ranks and fell back. Nix, standing in shock, stumbled after them, the last to go.
     Outside of the fortress, the battle still raged between those who had sallied forth before Jiro's men seized the main gates and the soldiers of the Firmament Foundation. The majority of the Flame Dawn's Morningstar knights were stranded outside. They had led the initial charge, even without the tank support they had expected, and were thrown back with great losses by the Firmament Foundation, whose soldiers used the wreckage from the tanks as a defensive line.
     Arkais and a few others from the infiltrators had used some of the wreckage to dig in and create a vantage point from which they were harassing the Flame Dawn soldiers, whose charge had been broken and were now caught indecisively between trying to fall back to the contested Pyror continuing to charge. A group of five Morningstars rushed his position, but through judicious use of their assault rifles and laying of a tripwire over the edge of their improvised rampart, the group of soldiers was able to kill the Morningstars before they could overrun them. Two of the advanced knights made it to their dugout and jumped over the walls only to trip on the wire and fall to concentrated fire as the soldiers shot at point blank range.
     Arkais glanced around. The battlefield was a nightmare, with the Flame Dawn breaching the line in places and being thrown back in others. All of the Lord Commander's meticulous planning was disappearing in the harsh reality of war.
     A shadow passed over Arkais's position and he looked up to see someone he had sworn was dead. "Ireul," he whispered. "Shoot him down!" He shouted to his men, and the soldiers began to fire upon the ascended warrior. But Ireul was too fast on his mechanical wings and swooped down, his flaming purifier sword gouging into one knight's chest and laying him low before the others could intervene.
     Dropping his gun, Arkais drew his sword and gripped it in two hands. Climbing on top of the improvised rampart, he shouted at Ireul. "Come down here and fight!"
     The ascended champion landed in front of him, throwing up a small cloud of dust. His black metal wings shone in the sunlight. Slowly, Ireul stood. "Who are you?" he asked.
     "Captain Arkais of the Infinite Worlds Defense Force," the soldier replied, his drill-sergeant voice sounding far more confident than he felt. "I'm here to bring an end to the tyranny of the Dawn and the angels."
     Ireul laughed. "Well then, Arkais, have at thee. There's no better place to start than with me."
     The knight charged, swinging his blade with both hands. Ireul blocked it with his own flaming weapon, and the knight's blade shattered, small shards of metal embedding themselves in his armor and in that of his adversary.
     "That was quite the attack," Ireul chuckled, and he swung his blade, the flaming weapon cutting into Arkais's side with ease. The knight fell down as Ireul continued to laugh. "Mortals," he said.
     Then David fired a heavy gun, a tank-killer. Ireul's first instinct was to use his mechanical wings to shield himself, but the projectile punched through the metal and straight through his torso. Ireul's body fell to the ground, landing on top of Arkais's.
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Re: Pod 1 Conclusion--The Flame Dawn and the Firmament Foundation
« Reply #10 on: February 23, 2017, 11:48:15 PM »
Mark 0500 (0900 Local Time), Aubade
     The takeover of Bask had been one of the easiest things for the knights sent northwards from Aubade during the long retreat to Pyr. The city was now back under the Flame Dawn's control, after being frustrated so many times in the past.
     More importantly, it was time to restore the crown jewel to the Empire: Aubade. Latest reports had the city abandoned by the Firmament Foundation's military as they pursued Mew southwards. One hundred knights of the Flame Dawn now marched southwest from the remote Bask towards Talich's gleaming capital.
     Aubade.
     "It's simple," their commander insisted. "We do it just like Bask: march in, seize the center, then force them to capitulate. Easy. Even with the fortifications that intel tells us they set up, we should be fine as long as no one realizes we're not supposed to be there until it's too late. We do it just like Bask," he repeated.
     Calmly marching in good order, they entered the outskirts of the vast city, walking past various fortifications. Caltrops, tank traps, opened barricades, everything had been moved aside since the grand army had ceased besieging the city.
     And then they were attacked.
     Shots rang out from the buildings looming above them on either side, bringing several of the knights low. The others rushed for cover. "We have to keep going!" the commander insisted, waving them onwards. "Take cover, but don't stop moving! It's just a few men with guns, nothing that will stop us once we get to the city center!"
     Except that the next barricade was not dismantled, and was manned with ready troops bearing the uniforms of the Firmament Foundation. Fire rained down from all sides now, with the Flame Dawn knights caught in the center. There was nowhere to hide. There was nowhere to go. Fortifications cut them off from all escape, and the shadow of death loomed behind every corner.
     Attacking the heavily fortified city with so few had been a mistake.
     "There wasn't supposed to be anyone here!" the commander muttered.
     "Well there is, and now we're all gonna die! How's that make you feel, you moronic, boot-licking--agh!" another knight went down.
     Soon, the Firmament Foundation regular soldiers closed in on the surrounded knights. Those who would not surrender were killed--and the knights of the Flame Dawn do not surrender.
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Re: Pod 1 Conclusion--The Flame Dawn and the Firmament Foundation
« Reply #11 on: February 23, 2017, 11:52:05 PM »
Mark 0600 (1000 Local Time), Pyr
     After being shot by Erebus's sniper, Mew had limped back to the infirmary while his army charged--to victory, he had thought. With the Morningstar Knights and Goliath tanks on his side, even Jiro's elites wouldn't stand a chance.
     How bitter the morning's hopes seemed now, barricaded as he was within Pyr's keep, waiting for the enemy to come to him. Aberion's death had broken the Dawn's soldiers, and Ireul's destruction--brought about, he had heard, by the warrior's arrogant belief in his invincibility after his ascension--had led to a rout and surrender of the remaining forces outside of the fortress. Now only he, Nix, and a few hundred knights were left to lead the resistance.
     "Damn them all," he cursed. "We could have ruled the planes! Conquered the worlds and taken the fight to the demons within Torment itself! Our legacy could have been glorious, and they chose instead to tear it down. Damn them all!"
    Impossible, was the word that kept running through his mind. Aberion dead, Ireul slain, Pyr infiltrated, everything seemed impossible. The Overseers had failed to arrive to supply their aid, and had surrendered soon after the battle started.
     "That treacherous Heimdall," he muttered. "He must have done something to Ireul. Ascended him improperly. And now he surrenders his forces."
     Impossible. Even Silfurstar, who Mew had paid to fight and paid well, had failed to materialize--and given their losses, the mercenary's presence would be welcome indeed. Instead, he was en route from Lanstead, having been 'delayed' or some such thing by Lucca.
     "Excuses, excuses. I will not accept excuses."
     There was a pounding upon the gate. Knights had taken everything they could find and packed it behind the entrance to fortify it against attack, and it seemed that all of the Goliath tanks had been disabled. The armor-killer and siege-breaker would have had little problem breaking through, even with the reinforcements the knights had made.
     Nix strode up and saluted Mew. "Sir, we've fortified the entrances like you've ordered, but it's only a matter of time before they break through--or find another way in. I have men stationed at each of the windows taking shots at any who approach, but we simply can't keep them off." He took a deep breath. "My lord, it may be time to consider capitulating."
     "Never!" Mew snarled. His face softened. "Nix, I'm having trouble walking since that coward had me shot. I need you to help me do something."
     "Anything, sir."
     "One last charge."
     "Sir?"
     "In my very first operation, we took the city of Pallydium with a mighty charge, overwhelming the defenders. Bromich's tactics and Aberion's leadership led us to victory. I have never forgotten that day, nor how it felt." He took a deep breath. "I would have one last taste of such glory before the end."
     Nix nodded. "I understand, sir." Striding over to those reinforcing the doors, he instructed them to begin undoing their work. "I'll assemble the men."
     Soon, fifty of Mew's last knights--not all of them in the keep, but as many as could be spared from keeping the Firmament Foundation from overrunning it--were gathered in the entrance hall.
     "Knights of the Flame Dawn!" Mew shouted, leaning on his sword. "Long and hard have we fought, and without respite. Such is our way. Many were the times when I bled with you, when I celebrated victories with you, when I mourned our lost brothers and sisters with you. Many are the times when we charged the foe and smote them with our sure arms.
     "The glory of battle is the Flame Dawn way. Our way. Not the tedium of board rooms or of secret negotiations of treaties, but the visceral and true world of combat and bloodshed, where each man's measure becomes ruthlessly apparent. Many are found wanting, but time and time again we have risen above, we have succeeded, we have pulled through and earned our share of glory.
     "But glory belongs not only to the living, but also to the dead. When we charge forward and commend our lives to fate, those who fall share in the glory of victory and the glory of defeat--for death in battle is its own reward. To die with your boots on, fighting for what you believe in. The Flame Dawn empire is a dream now reaching its end, but I still believe in it. A world where your merits determine your success, where all who can rise to the top do so, where niceties fall away beneath the brutal reality of the sword and gun. I still believe in that world, where my strength of arms can carry me anywhere I will to go.
     "Brothers and sisters of the Flame Dawn, today we have been felled by the treachery and cowardice of the Firmament Foundation, but I will not die quietly. I will not surrender, nor will I wait to be hunted down like a dog. No!" Mew clenched his fist. "I will die the Flame Dawn way: with my sword in my hand and a war cry on my lips. Once more into the breach, my brothers! Once more unto the anvil of war, which forges us all into worthy men and women!"
     Nix quickly moved to Mew's side as the doors shuddered beneath another series of impacts. They would not hold for much longer. Suddenly, they burst, letting in the light of the sun.
     Mew leveled his sword at the doorway and the soldiers standing beyond it. "Charge!" The last knights of the Flame Dawn attacked, rushing forward.
     "For the Dawn!" Nix shouted, egging them on and taking the lead as Mew stumbled to keep up on his lamed leg.
     I am invincible, Mew thought, climbing back to his feet, and he rejoined the charge.
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