Prelude to Part II / The Twin Pillars of Existence

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Part I: The Timeless Observer; Arcs 1-10

The Year 804 saw to the demise of the Hangurian Freehold, a 514 year old empire that dominated mainland politics and held an unprecedented sphere of influence uncontested for nearly four centuries. And while the mysterious appearance of the Kyūbi ended the Freehold decisively that fateful day in 804, it had long been in decline before then. In the wake of its fall a number of smaller clans and political entities coalesced and competed for their own territory and influence. And by the year 811 a number of clans had formed, each with their own unique identity. And yet within months the competition had come to a head, with the Golden Sabbath, which would eventually transform into the village of Tsumigakure, filling much of the void that the Freehold had left behind. The former Shogun, Takauji Ashikaga, had taken note of this. A former political behemoth within the Hangurian Freehold himself, Ashikaga would take on the clans on his own with a contingent of still loyal Black Ones.

Yet while the fight for political dominance continued, forces operated from within the shadows. The events of Conqueror's End, the revival of Cassander Uchiha, the kidnapping of a number of powerful shinobi, and eventually the kidnapping of Takauji Ashikaga himself had all been orchestrated by the Voice and the Four Necromancers. These powerful individuals controlled the Great Mother Cult, a following of nearly 5,500 people at their peak that worshiped the Primordial Goddess Tiamat. Their plan had come to a head in the year 812 when, after a brief skirmish in Tobusekai, noble heroes inadvertently destroyed the Sun and Moon Shrines which had been constructed to restrain Tiamat. She was unleashed upon the world and wrought considerable destruction on the mainland until she was finally sealed, returned to the Void. And while the Ninja World at large would clean up the disaster that was Tiamat, including dealing with the Second Red Fever outbreak, as well as the invasion of Oisha and the Ronin, the Necromancers and the Voice would return to the shadows to continue their plan. A plan that had been set in motion hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago.

Part II: Twin Pillars of Existence; Arcs 15 and beyond

Nine keys to open the seal. Nine torches to guide His path. For She still lives, and He must find her. The Twin Pillars of Existence. For one is of Life, and the other of Chakra.

288 years ago, a mysterious meteorite plummeted from the heavens and struck the far northwestern mainland. Days later, a contingent of Black Ones, the Hangurian Special Forces, recovered it and brought the meteorite to the Grand Library of Chungsu. There it was studied by scholars and arcanists alike, but the mysteries of it eluded even them. All that could be uncovered was that the meteorite radiated a potent chakra, disrupting the intrinsic properties of artificial life – beings formed from the Creation of All Things. The meteorite would become known as the Fallen Star among a small circle of individuals, one of the Three Calamities that would eventually signal the end of the Hangurian Freehold. Two centuries later the Kyūbi would mysteriously manifest, and would see to the end of Chungsu and unleashing nearly a decade of anarchy.

The Kyūbi’s appearance in Chungsu also saw to the destruction of the Grand Library, triggering a rash of looting and banditry in the capital. In the chaos the meteorite was stolen, spirited away to Tobusekai to find itself in the hands of the Great Mother Cult and their master, Imeroth, Voice of Tiamat. Their nefarious design would see the Fallen Star re-engineered at the Excavation Site, along with the bones of the Mother of All Life to create the staff Kuniumi, the Birth of the Empire, and Kamiumi, Shaper of the Gods. The appearance of the staff Kuniumi stirred the Ichibi from its rest in the far north, leading it on a rampage that was ultimately quelled by Madara Uchiha, the staff's new wielder. Madara had been selected by Imeroth as the next Body of Tiamat, taking Takauji Ashikaga's failed place. The new leader of the Akatsuki began a hunt to find the Tailed Beasts, following Imeroth's advice.

Meanwhile, a nascent Divinity was released from the tear in Voidspace under the Hokubu Ocean where Tiamat was released. Emiya retrieved the young Divinity that would eventually become known as Enkidu, the Chains of Heaven - a god blessed with power on the same scale as Marduk and the original Pantheon. But it wasn't long before the Voidlords became aware of Enkidu's existence. Threatened by him, Imeroth sent Demetrias on a scouting mission to discover his true nature. This eventually led to a small skirmish in which Emiya retreated, nearly leaving Enkidu for dead. But thanks to his bravery and Enkidu's power, Demetrias's sword was shattered and he was forced to retreat. The result led to Emiya discovering the existence of the God-Slaying Tools, weapons forged by the Blacksmith Marzan, an Immortal Human in the same sense as Imeroth. As this went on, deep under the Hokubu Ocean a new civilization was born: the Sentinels. The Sentinels are a mysterious fish-like shamanistic people who are highly militarized. They worship a strange underwater tree through their Grovetenders, performing rituals on it daily and treating it as if it was a god in its own right.

Emiya discovering this secret led the Voidlords to enact the next stage of their plan; in order to prevent humanity from finding the Armory, the Voidlord Phetra, ruling the from the Underworld, sacked the Tobusekian city of Last Bastion. But moving hundreds of thousands of undead from the Underworld was no easy task, and not normally allowed by the rules that governed the afterlife. And so Phetra, through the Twin Fates, manipulated the events that caused the witch Strix to eventually slay the minotaur Athos. His blood, as a Son of Marduk, allowed for Phetra to perform a ritual to open a tear in reality to move that immense legion through it. Its destruction ensured chaos in Tobusekai for months to come, but irked the nefarious Spider into action. Humanity led a counterattack against the Ruler of the Underworld, liberating the eastern continent from the undead legion's terror. Yet it was an uneasy victory; the Armory of Marzan remains to be found, and Phetra is fortified within the Underworld. A small contingent of humans, the Champions of Humanity, now go to liberate the Underworld from her grasp.

Part III: ???; Arcs ???

Dramatis Personae:

Imeroth, the Voice

The titular antagonist from Part I who has manipulated history for centuries. He is among the first humans to ever live, being shaped directly by the gods themselves. When he was much younger Imeroth served as Marduk's vessel in the first Great War against Tiamat and Kingu. He orchestrated a civil war among the gods, leading to their downfall two millennia after Tiamat's demise. He typically wears a black and grey shroud that conceals his emaciated and bald appearance. Perhaps his most striking physical feature are his light blue eyes. Despite his appearance, Imeroth is immensely powerful and wise; he holds ancient secrets that existed long before the advent of chakra at the hands of the Sage of Six Paths. His signature ability seems to revolve around the use of Chaos, a skill that only gods themselves are capable of using.

Imeroth originally was a voice for the Priest of Justice, having been Marduk's vessel during the Great War against Tiamat. He also was a watcher over the Golden Empire that reigned in that war's wake after the gods left humanity to its own devices. But the Golden Empire's decline into the Silver and Bronze ages jaded Imeroth, eventually leading him to turn on his patron god and serve Tiamat.

Despite Tiamat's demise, Imeroth remains devoutly loyal to the Primordial Mother of the Great Salt Sea. After many months of seclusion and solitude after the failure of his first plan he has returned to being the primary antagonist in the Ninja World. He works from the shadows to orchestrate his plan. Most recently Imeroth has constructed an ancient Relic Weapon using bones of Tiamat and a mysterious meteorite that was discovered by the Hangurian Freehold three centuries ago. This weapon was revealed to be Kuniumi, the Zero Seal. He has since approached Madara Uchiha to lead his Akatsuki. Imeroth is incredibly determined to enact his grand design at any cost. Over the millennia he has recruited four powerful necromancers, whom he calls the Four Voidlords.

Since the beginning of Part II, Imeroth has acted to instate the new Akatsuki; he has chosen Madara Uchiha as the new Body of Tiamat and advised him to capture the Tailed Beasts in order to become the vessel of the Juubi and take one step closer to fulfilling his ultimate destiny.

The Four Voidlords:

The Four Voidlords, or at other times known as the Four Necromancers, are four extremely notorious and powerful criminals in the Ninja World. They are commanded by Imeroth, the Voice, and are staunchly loyal to his cause to restore Tiamat's existence and overwrite humanity. Each Voidlord has an innate connection to the Void, and derives their power in their own unique way. They also hold command over four distinct Domains; in the case of Phetra, she rules over the Underworld, Irkalla, and commands the infamous Gallu Spirits. Individually a Voidlord is incredibly powerful, surpassed only by Imeroth himself. Some of their members have lived for thousands of years, cultivating their ancient powers since then. Their newest addition to the Voidlords is the man Sai Uchiha, who now is called Demetrias. Each of the Voidlords possess unimaginable powers that go well beyond that of a Jinchuuriki, and can even rival that of the Jinchuuriki of the Ten-Tails itself. Fighting against one alone is extremely dangerous.

Phetra

The only female member of the Voidlords. Phetra is a master of Yin-Yang Release and various unknown forms of Kinjutsu that have long been lost to the world, and for good reason. Alongside her own innate ancient powers, Phetra holds the title Ruler of the Underworld, once held by the gods Nergal and Ereshkigal. Of all members of the Great Mother Cult, Phetra is among the first. Her first appearance was made hundreds of years ago in the Court of Chungsu before Solomon, seeking assistance for a disease that had ravaged Tobusekai, once known as the Freeze. Since her reemergence she has frequently called upon the powers of Irkalla, using the Gallu to do her bidding. How she came to rule the Underworld is unknown, though it certainly involved some level of treachery.

Demetrias

Of the four Voidlords Demetrias is the newest and youngest, though he is far older than any standard human. His past is largely unknown, though he is likely a Child of Tiamat. He proudly claims that his Mother transformed his existence of that of Sai Uchiha, great leader of the Uchiha clan in the sixth century, to that of Demetrias, Voidlord. Very little is known about his powers aside from that he wields the Eternal Mangekyou Sharingan; it is so true to its name that even techniques like Izanagi cannot extinguish its light, a trait likely acquired from Demetrias's heritage as a Child of Tiamat.

Basel

Among the Four Voidlords Basel, and Nefarian, are the greatest enigmas so far. He is a man with a Draconic like face, packed with scales and eyes that burned a fiery red. His scales are golden, covering half his face and his neck. Of the Four, Basel Timurain seems to be the least human. He was instrumental in the disappearance and capture of the Takauji Ashikaga, as well as his transformation into a Body of Tiamat.

Nefarian

Like Basel, Nefarian is a largely unknown Voidlord. He wears a grey magatama cloak, which conceals long silver hair, Elven-like ears, and black-as-night eyes. While it is not common knowledge, Nefarian was responsible for both iterations of the Red Fever. How he developed it and released it is unknown, and the true nature of his powers remain a mystery to the world at large.

He Who is Chosen, Madara Uchiha

The experiment that was Takauji Ashikaga had been a failure. And yet the Voice presses on, for a new Body must be found. Imeroth has chosen Madara Uchiha as his new Champion, capitalizing on his innate connection with one of the Twin Pillars.

The Gods:

Enkidu, the Chains of Heaven

Born within the same tier of Divinity as his brothers and sister gods Marduk, Inanna, Nergal, and Enlil, Enkidu was retrieved from the Hokubu Ocean by Emiya Shirou. The child, appearing as no more than an infant, has exhibited the power to cure the Red Fever effortlessly; he wields a power known as Chaos, which is derived from the Void itself - a power only available to the highest tier of Divinities. In many ways Enkidu is a blank slate, shaped from a clay like substance with long green hair and beautiful green eyes. Since his emergence Enkidu has taken shelter on the island of Theodoro, living with Solomon amongst the people there and learning about his nature as a Divinity. He has grown into a young man with long green hair and purple eyes.

Marduk, Chief God

The Chief God and Aspect of Justice, Marduk is one of the first four original Divinities. Little is known about him following the Great War other than he and his brother Enlil led an army of humans and Divine Constructs into the Underworld to fight their brother Nergal.

Inanna, Queen of Heaven

Nergal, Ruler of the Underworld

One of the four original Divinities and children of Tiamat. Nergal was the first Ruler of the Underworld and the Inventor of the Human Soul. He fought in the Great Civil War, resisting Marduk and Enlil's invasion of Irkalla.

Enlil, God of Storms

The God of Storms that, along with Marduk, fought a war against Nergal. Little is known about him other than he constructed the Divine Gates that created a human entrance into the Underworld.

Ereshkigal, Lady of the Underworld

The Sentinels:

Ningal, High Priestess:

Lady Ningal is a mysterious shark-like woman living in the Hokubu Ocean. She met with Imeroth and Basel, discussing a possible alliance.

Aria, Lady of the Grovetenders

Lady Aria, much like Lady Ningal, is a shark-like fishwoman that lives under the Hokubu Ocean. She leads the Grovetenders in keeping to the sacred tree that they pray to daily.
 
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TWINS

Perhaps the it had been stirred by calamity. Or maybe the Monster on the Moon had been moved by those on Earth, for it had been centuries since its own entombment. Whatever the case, that fateful evening a small meteorite came plummeting toward the northwestern mainland. And as it pierced the skies, residents around the world could hear nothing else but the cracking of a sonic boom as it shattered the heavens. A coincidence? Fate? The purpose of the small stone messenger of heaven had been undecipherable, and it would remain so for centuries thereafter. Even the greatest scholars and scientists within the walls of Chungsu could not understand its meaning, or purpose. All that could be discovered was that the stone which had been sent from above radiated a peculiar chakra; though, unlike Hangurian Ore, it held no properties that seemed to have any influence on those around them. Though its purpose would remain a mystery, it would be locked within the Freehold's Grand Library for the foreseeable future. Undisturbed by many, and nearly forgotten about by the very empire that had discovered it.
My King, it....I'm not sure what it is. The voice belonged to a familiar, though no words had been audibly spoken within the room. Instead it appeared to be contacting someone else through mental link. Hulking above the small mummified stone within the depths of the Grand Library of Chungsu, its demonic hands gently caressed the the petite form of the rock. It had been resting for many days now, sealed within the Library and unable to be retrieved by any human. Hangurian technological primacy had reached its height around this period, after all. Yet the familiar had bested their defenses purely on the merit of what he was - a familiar. It radiates chakra. The Black Ones' report had been correct on that account. But...it isn't completely inert. The familiar's voice grew strained, it was as if the chakra radiating from the stone had been sapping him of his strength all along.

The chamber that the meteorite had been sealed in was frigid. It was an isolated room, locked within the depths of a forbidden section of the Grand Library. And even though only days had passed, the Freehold's government had already begun to lose interest in the artifact once their initial analysis found it held no beneficial, or even negative properties, to lifeforms. And yet the familiar had discovered the exact opposite; the body he had been created from was quickly losing its strength. The familiar, alarmed but not yet concerned for its safety, picked up the meteorite very gently. Much of it had burned away on impact days ago when it pierced the sky. He was surprised by how light it was, yet also by its sturdiness. Though now in hand the draining effect it had on him seemingly increased its potency; taken by surprise his demonic grip on the stone suddenly loosened, letting it fall to the cold steel floor beneath. It...it's taking my strength... The mental message was conveyed clearly, but its master could clearly feel his familiar fading. And in a flash of light the familiar vanished, with the stone resting on the cold floor, chakra still pulsating outwards gently.
The Voice knelt before the remains deep within the caverns that Phetra had carved out months ago in Tobusekai. On either flank was Nefarian and Basel, two of his loyal necromancers, as well as Takauji Ashikaga - the Hangurian Shogun who had recently fallen. Throughout the complex cavern system were hundreds of cultists, each bound to their Mother in ideology alone; no Kinjutsu had forced their loyalty, nor contract forced into slavery. Their minds had been free to choose their destiny. It was a cult that had been forged out of freedom and a collective love of their Mother. The caves were flooded with the sounds of pickaxes chipping away at ancient stone in the depths of the earth, forming a symphony clangs and strikes. Each contributing to the hours that had already been spent digging to recover Her body. And finally,l after months of excavating, the Cult's labor had finally bore fruit. It had been the impetus for their visit as the Voice stood above a calcified bone that had become practically fused with the stone hundreds of meters below the earth. The Voice clutched it tightly; so much so that the bone practically punctured his ancient and wrinkled hand, a small stream of black blood dripping on the earth beneath him. His delicate skin had been permanently marked by its grooves. Though, if he could feel it at all, he surely reveled in it.

Drawing upon the Void, the Voice clutched the bone tighter and allowed its latent power to fill his body. "This is it." He whispered, his voice frail from age. The bone in his hand was ancient, to be sure; filled with life, and yet simultaneously so lifeless. But he clutched it tighter and tighter nonetheless, knowing that it was the bone of his Mother. The ambient life force it exerted within him practically made him feel like the young man he once was thousands of years ago. It also served as a reminder that Her revival was near, practically only weeks away. They had arranged the Sun and Moon shrines perfectly and would soon assemble an army of cultists there to bait in their enemies. It would be by their hand that She would return.

"What use would I be to a god?" It was Ashikaga that spoke now; his voice was strained, different from what it had been in his previous life. It was darker, and more primal. "Am I to act as a distraction? To await slaughter by the champions you so eagerly seek?" His voice was laden with disappointment. Part of his personality had been changed since the Sea of Life had been infused into his genetic material. But the very core of what made Ashikaga the human he was remained, quite stubbornly. It was a pride and defiance to stand above all; a pride that had come from his heritage as a pure blooded Hangurian.

The Voice remained fixated on the bone, refusing to turn to acknowledge his new ally directly. "Goddess," The Voice corrected gently. "You will serve as Her Body. A vessel, if you will. Nefarian, bring it here."

The Necromancer Nefarian pulled a small mummified stone from the inside of his robes. From it pulsed chakra, though inert to his own hand and body. And as the gap between it and the bone narrowed, the pulses of chakra it radiated accelerated. "What is their connection, my lord?" Asked Nefarian, Basel silently standing beside him.

"It is where Life meets Creation. They are twins. And they belong together."
 

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FORGING AN EMPIRE

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Ten sconces illuminated the room, their dancing white and black flames embracing each other. The only sounds that filled the chamber was their crackling, and the steps of five cloaked figures that had just entered from the antechamber of the Sunlit Forge. The cloaks the figures were shrouded in were unremarkable, black covering them from head to toe; they were only marked with a single white magatama on their backs. It was ceremonial garb. They ushered into the room silently, none uttering as much as a single word to the others. The sound of their breathing masked only by the dancing polar opposite flames. The five arranged themselves in a circular formation around the gigantic glass plate in the middle of the room; beneath the plate were, much like the sconces surrounding the room, two pale black and white flames. Though these flames were considerably larger, they swirled around each other in perfect harmony despite their opposing polarities.

"Brothers, sister," the man at the front of the room began, lifting the hood off his head. It revealed an emaciated bald man, with strikingly light blue eyes. Underneath his cloak was an ornate robe, adorned with golden jewelry. "The manifestation of our Mother may have been sealed, but we are still Her devout children." He clasped his hands together and looked down toward the glass plating. "I must admit, the failure is on my part." The man's voice was strained; he was likely unable to cry, his body far older than what normal human anatomy would allow. But if he was younger tears would likely have streamed down his face. "Takauji Ashikaga was not a suitable vessel. And instead, I had hastily brute forced the plan. Mother manifested in her state as an avatar, rather than to a vessel. The Shogun's body was not strong enough to contain her. And instead he was driven by madness, though he did provide a suitable distraction." The man smiled wickedly, enjoying the memories of watching Ashikaga incinerate Tsumigakure's territory. "But Mother is not dead. Sealed away, yes. But to kill the Goddess of Life? The very idea is laughable. And so we press on. We must find a new host. Now we speak our names, as we light our way."

"Nefarian Valtan." The first and tallest man spoke. As he did so he lowered the hood on his grey magatama cloak, revealing a silver haired, pale countenance. His face was bare aside from the long strands of silvery and wispy hair that drooped down beyond his shoulders. His ears were elongated, much like an elf's, and his eyes were entirely black. He momentarily turned toward the man to his left, going around the circle.

"Basel Timurain." The second man spoke, lowering his cloak to reveal a man with Draconic, scale like features. His eyes burned a fiery red, with golden red scales covering his face and neck, reaching downward over his humanoid body under his cloak. Of the four, the man Basel Timurain seemed to be the least human.

"Phetra, Lady of the Night." The third spoke, her light feminine voice contrasted with the title she bore, and the skills she knew. Of the five there, she was perhaps the most versed in the Forbidden arts. In another time and another life she might have been considered a goddess herself, commanding the forces of life and death with elegant mastery. But in this world she exists with absolute devout loyalty to her Mother. As the cloak fell from the top of her head it revealed a woman that appeared to be no more in her early thirties; though she had lived for hundreds of years, making her first appearance in the court of Hanguri before Solomon. She had jet black hair, with purple eyes. Her other features were fair and delicate, with pale porcelain skin. By all accounts, she was beautiful.

"Demetrias Uchiha, formerly Sai Uchiha." The fourth and youngest member spoke. As his cloak fell his Eternal Mangekyou Sharingan revealed itself, along with hardened facial features that had immortalized themselves after decades of war against the Senju Clan. Though perhaps his most important feature was still invisible to the rest - the very blood that pumped through his body was tainted by the Sea of Life and Mother's Blessing. It had birthed a Mangekyou Sharingan that was incapable of ever losing its light. His other features were quite standard to the Uchiha clan: short black hair, small black eyes when his Sharingan was inert, a sharp chin, with pale skin and a muscular body.

Demetrias turned toward the first emaciated man, waiting for him to complete the ritual. "Imeroth." His name at last had been revealed - the Voice, the puppet master, the man responsible for centuries of history: Imeroth. "We begin." The fire under the glass plating in the center of the room suddenly roared, the flames shattering it. Imeroth's right hand suddenly glowed white, while the left began to glow black; in each hand respectively a bone and the meteorite appeared. "Be unified, at last." He tossed the two into the roaring flames, which suddenly quelled the blaze. Imeroth's four acolytes focused their chakra, pouring it into the pit of flames before them. "For the next forty-eight hours we forge ahead, building a weapon suited to forming an empire."

Day had turned to night quickly twice over. Above ground the island that had remained uncharted for centuries along the coast of Tobusekai seemed tranquil, unremarkable. But below a powerful ritual was taking place; a new weapon was being forged. "Its name is Kuniumi," Began Imeroth, the Voice of Tiamat. "Humanity has only known chakra for eight hundred years; it is not their origin, though it has reshaped their lives. Their origin belongs to Her. And yet the two polar opposites must be joined together." Beads of sweat dripped down each of their faces; it was clear that their ritual was taking a toll on their bodies.

Kuniumi. It meant the Birth of an Empire. It tells a story of primordial creation; before chakra, even before Tiamat had shaped the Gods, her first children, the forces of chaos had formed the first landmasses. It was from that primordial chaos that the Goddess of Life was born. But she was not born as the Draconic goddess that wrought destruction months ago on the mainland. She was born as a concept, the concept of life. The weapon Kuniumi signifies such creation; its master would create the Akatsuki. The first of ten soldiers that would herald the return of the Goddess of Life.

Imeroth stepped forward, reaching into the black and white flames as they coalesced. Deep within the fire was the first of ten weapons, Kuniumi. From it the Voice pulled it from the flames. He felt no pain, no burns, but simply joy. It was a staff that unified the two primordial pillars of existence: chakra and life. It was a tree-like staff that branched out into three segments, each penetrating the meteorite at the top. Bones of Tiamat had seamlessly merged with the wood, flooding it with ambient and rich life energies. "It is complete." He gazed upon their handiwork. It was a weapon forged from their consciousness and the flames of creation, deep within the pit of the Sunlit Forge. "Now I must find him, Madara Uchiha."
 
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It was a different experience seeing structures built by something else other than human hands. They stood as a reminder as an existence that transcended the boundaries of human experience. At the time, I called these beings Immortals, Divinities, and Gods; they were the divine beings that were shaped by powers well out of my own understanding. Many revered them, others feared them. For a time, I respected them. And their structures were monuments to their powers; the very powers that were used to vanquish the tyrannical Tiamat, the great mother of life. I was created by these powers. All humans were. Our purpose mandated by the gods to fight against Tiamat; in fact, it was ingrained into our very DNA. Her existence driving us to war against her. At least, that's how the story was told.

Humans didn't exist during the era of strife between Tiamat and her children, and so no written record exists. Though we are told, by Marduk and Enlil, that the gods and Tiamat coexisted peacefully for a time. But Tiamat ruled tyrannically over her divine children. By the time tensions had reached their peak, a series of new divinities had been born from the union of Marduk and Inanna. They had given rise to Ishkur, Nanshe, Nisaba, Hayasum, and Antu. But, as the story goes, the gods recognized their weakness against their mother. Despite their growing numbers, and their own unique Divine Authorities, the Pantheon was still outnumbered by Tiamat; between her own immense strength and Divine Authority, the Sea of Life, as well as her Lahmu, the Primordial Goddess of the Salt Sea could not be toppled. It wasn't until Marduk and Inanna conceived of the first humans, us.

We are their children. Not Tiamat's. Marduk and Inanna's. Products of their Pantheon. I was among those first humans that were commanded to make war on the Primordial Goddess of Life and her Lahmu. We fought alongside gods and goddesses. Marduk's divine justice, Enlil's earthquakes and grand storms, and Nergal's infernal legions. No war to date has ever compared. It was a war that shaped continents upon the earth, one that shook the core of the very universe itself. Eventually, the gods won. The Sea of Life was sealed away, locked away into the Void with the Lahmu.

The war came at a great cost. Of the few thousand humans that were first produced by Marduk and Inanna, only about two hundred had survived the war. Most of them had fallen to the corrupting influence of the Sea of Life, and were quickly dispatched by Inanna after they had fallen. Perhaps one of the first offenses of the gods was that they had created humans with an inherent genetic disposition against the Sea of Life. A sort of biological self-destruct that would be triggered when their genetics were structurally changed by the Sea. It wasn't until the second and third generation of humans came, those who were born from natural human conception, that this genetic trait had largely disappeared from humanity. And how were we rewarded for our valiant efforts against the Primordial Salt Sea? The Chief God Marduk awarded those last humans with immortality; the chance to watch humanity grow. It was he who gave me my timelessness. And it was he that drove me to despise those monoliths that the gods had built with their own hands. Structures that, day in and day out, reminded me that they are removed from human existence - their superiority, our inferiority.
 

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WAR

Before Tiamat's birth over ten millennia ago the universe existed in a state known as the Void, a place composed entirely of Primordial Chaos. It is unknown how long Chaos remained in this primordial state; it wasn't until the coalescing of the Primordial Salt Sea that Chaos gained consciousness and form. In other words, the creation of Tiamat marked the end of the Void and the beginning of the universe that humans are familiar with today. It is not appropriate to say that Tiamat was 'born' from the Void; if anything, it is that Tiamat formed from the Void in the Void's own attempt to gain sentience. Tiamat is Chaos incarnate. The Void given Life, and Life given Void. Tiamat was the first sentient divinity with the power to wield Chaos, and used it to form the Sea of Life as her Divine Authority. It was after the creation of the Sea of Life that the first of the gods were born. Her first children form the first generation of divinities - Marduk, the Chief God and Aspect of Justice, Nergal, the Ruler of the Underworld, Enlil, the God of Storms and the Elements, and Inanna, the Goddess of Love and War. These four became the first divinities born outside of Primordial Chaos; they had been formed consciously. Among the gods, aside from Tiamat, these four became the only divinities capable of wielding Chaos. In the Pantheon, they reigned above their younger and siblings. The birth of the first four gods marked the beginning of the Halyconic Era - an era of prosperity during Tiamat's reign over her children that lasted for nearly three millennia.

It wasn't until nearly three millennia later that the Halyconic Era came to an end. As the gods matured, so too did their desire for independence. Just as a human child leaves their parents' home, so too did the gods with Tiamat. In time, Marduk and his children believed that their rule could go beyond that of their mother's. The seeds of rebellion had been planted when Nergal, the Ruler of the Underworld, created the first soul. The soul was created separate of the first divinities; gods do not possess them, and neither does Tiamat, a primordial entity. Souls had been created before humans; unlike the living beings that Tiamat had produced, mass produced creatures of varying sizes and shapes, souls were unique. Each soul was different from the last. It was this revelation that gave the gods reason to believe that they possessed the means to rule more prosperously than their mother. And so Marduk and his siblings plotted, conspiring to overthrow their mother.

But the gods were faced with a key obstacle: Tiamat, the Primordial Goddess of Life, embodied the very concept of Life itself. She was not a simple divine entity. Her existence was intrinsic to the universe itself, as she had been formed directly from Chaos. In short, killing her in the same sense of killing a human, or even a god, was impossible. Even if it were possible, the very foundations that life rested upon would be destroyed - as all life, divine or not, originates from Tiamat's body. And so Marduk and his siblings decided to seal Tiamat away into the Void itself; the Void had not ceased to exist after Tiamat was formed. It continued to exist as part of the primordial cosmic background. It exists everywhere, and yet also nowhere simultaneously. Only there would Tiamat slumber for eternity after being sealed, allowing the gods to enact their grand design for the universe. But their undertaking would not be so simple. Among the first divinities that followed Marduk and his siblings was Kingu, a low-ranked divinity that had been created by Tiamat. Unlike the other gods, Kingu was staunchly loyal to his mother. He quickly discovered that the Marduk and his firstborn siblings were conspiring against Tiamat, and immediately informed the All-Mother. Tiamat alone could not have defeated Marduk, Nergal, Inanna, and Enlil; and so, rallying her strength directly from the Void, Tiamat birthed the Lahmu.

Among Tiamat's children, the Lahmu were the weakest and least developed. But they were imbued with a unique trait that Tiamat had not given any of her creations that had come before: a trait that caused rapid evolution, Mind Quickening. What the Lahmu lacked in raw power or intelligence could be made up with Mind Quickening. It allowed Tiamat to mass produce these living flesh and blood lower-tier divinities ad infinitum. As time passed these creations quickly gained intelligence and power, accumulating so much strength that they became able to draw upon Chaos directly - just like their divine siblings. And so what began as a lower tier living creature eventually grew into a being that could challenge the gods themselves. It was the Lahmu that tipped the scales in Tiamat's favor, and as they developed the gods quickly realized that they would be outnumbered. It was Inanna and Marduk that decided to create vessels to house Nergal's souls. With their combined powers the gods mimicked Tiamat's ability to create life. And thus, the first humans were born in flesh and blood with bodies endowed with the souls of Nergal's creation. And while the first war would be fought between Tiamat and her children, it was also a war fought over two competing philosophies. Was mass produced and simplistic life optimal, or was the diversity and complexity of the human soul superior?

War immediately broke out after humans had been created. The battle raged on two fronts; Tiamat, commanding the sea, began her invasion near what is now known as North Watch in Tobusekai. Thousands of Lahmu emerged from the salt sea of the Hokubu, which had been turned into the Sea of Life through Tiamat's Divine Authority. There they fought against the first humans who had been told by the gods of the impending threat to their newborn lives. But the humans were no match for the developed Lahmu, and were quickly overrun and forced south. There they took shelter at the Shrine of Inanna where the goddess protected them for ten days and ten nights. But she alone could not hold back the impending horde of Lahmu, which seemed to rise from the depths of the Hokubu Ocean endlessly. Eventually the humans at the Shrine were overpowered, and a tidal wave of Lahmu and the Sea of Life destroyed what remained. Inanna had escaped, but her place of worship in Tobusekai lay in ruins along with thousands of humans that were either killed or promptly transformed into Lahmu. It is her shrine that became known as the Earthen Temple.

Meanwhile in the cosmos Marduk battled against Tiamat to a stalemate. And in Irkalla, Nergal continued to maintain the influx of souls from the war. And Enlil joined alongside Inanna to fight with the humans. In response, Kingu joined alongside the Lahmu to fight against Enlil and Inanna. On all fronts the gods were stretched thin, and it seemed that defeat was inevitable. The humans, Enlil, and Inanna were driven back toward the western coast of Tobusekai. There a decisive battle would take place that would see to the scales tipped in the favor of humanity and the gods. The battle saw Nergal emerge from the Underworld leading an army of Gallu spirits against Kingu and his Lahmu. With three of the gods united, the Lahmu were driven back and Kingu was slain. The death of Kingu enraged Tiamat, who journeyed to the planet to end the war. The gods attributed their victory to the first humans, but this was twisted truth. By now the number of humans that had fallen to the Lahmu and the Sea of Life had reached into the high thousands. What had tipped the scales of war in that battle was a genetic trait that was consciously imbued into each of the first humans; it was a type of self-destruction that would trigger in humans that had been tainted by the Sea of Life. Much of the Lahmu army now comprised converted or tainted humans. This trait was only possible through the gods' own Authority and use of Chaos to supersede the Sea of Life's own anatomical altering properties. At the height of the battle that trait triggered in much of the Lahmu army, wiping it out from the inside and leaving Kingu nearly defenseless. It was only then that Enlil, Nergal, and Inanna could strike down their younger and weaker brother. While victorious, the battle had damaged the gods' relationship with the remaining humans. The humans began to question the gods and their Divine Authorities; had it been planned all along?

The battle had marked a turning point in the war. An enraged Tiamat manifested on the planet, leading a refreshed army of Lahmu at her side against the remains of Inanna, Nergal, and Enlil's forces. Marduk joined his siblings in battle. Though the Chief God made a gamble; in order to tip the scales of war in his favor Marduk acquired a human soul. Of the two hundred or so remaining humans he chose the most devout to possess. By uniting Divine Authority with the power of a human soul Marduk attained a unique type of divinity that gave the gods an edge in battle against their mother. The final battle was at hand now, with all forces present now on the planet. Marduk, in his vessel, fought against Tiamat's manifested avatar alongside his three siblings. The remaining humans did battle against the Lahmu. But these Lahmu were weaker than those of Kingu's. Kingu's Lahmu could be best compared to seasoned soldiers. They had seen considerable battle, developed further, and had more opportunities to evolve through their Mind Quickening and grow their Divinity. But Tiamat's, which had been hastily created after Kingu's defeat, were much weaker in Divinity. It gave the humans a fighting chance against the swarms as they emerged from the Kaizoku, Kasumi, and Hokubu seas. The battle lasted for days, and only came to an end when Marduk used his divine weapon Imhullu to strike down Tiamat with one final blow. The blow had been so powerful, so devastating, that it had split the mainland from Tobusekai entirely, shattered the middle portions of the earth, and severely wounded Tiamat.

In her weakened state Nergal, Inanna, and Enlil, along with many humans, constructed two shrines to contain the Primordial Salt Sea - they became known as the Sun and Moon Shrines in the far eastern edges of Tobusekai. After sealing their mother in the Void the Shrines were erected to create a veil between the Void and physical reality. It was the first line of defense against releasing the true manifestation of Tiamat; should it fail, an Avatar of Tiamat would manifest upon the earth. To open the Void entirely only a primordial entity within the same tier as Marduk and his siblings could wield the power to do so. And should it happen, the concept of the Salt Sea would once again walk the earth. The remaining humans were rewarded with immortality, giving them the chance to watch humans grow independently of the gods. With control of the cosmos and peace now secured the gods, more specifically Inanna and Marduk, united again to create lesser siblings; of them, Ereshkigal, Ishkur, Nanshe, Nisaba, Hayasum, Antu, and many others. But they remained separated from human affairs now, determined to let their children live free. For many millennia peace would reign supreme, broken only by a civil war that would see the downfall of the gods themselves. The seeds of which were planted by Marduk's own former vessel during his battle with Tiamat - Imeroth.
 

Drackos

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NEWBORN

What was help? It was still the most pressing questioned that echoed in my consciousness; had the man helped me by pulling me from Mother's ocean? Was taking me to this human city help? I was still...unsure. And it all seemed so foreign from the world I was shaped in. I am no ordinary human child, that much I am sure of. The human children I can feel do not grow like I do; my intelligence has developed at an exponentially sharpened rate. Yet the human children I have seen in Last Bastion, who seem much older than I, are still very dependent. Humans were also not born in darkness like I was. They were born in places like this...big cities, with lots and lots of people. Were they all nice like this man? He had met a few people so far, and none of them seemed particularly dangerous or mean...nothing like the creatures in Mother's ocean. I wanted to learn more, and faster.

Though as I sleep I can feel these humans. I can feel their pain and the disease that afflicts them. It is not a normal disease; some of the humans I have seen had other viruses. But this one... this was different. It felt more like Mother than it did a normal human disease. And as this man walked me through this big human city I would touch these human souls and remove their affliction as if it had never been there in the first place. It wasn't too much trouble. It seemed I could do anything to these humans. Perhaps this is like the kindness that the man showed me in the ocean? Perhaps I should wake soon....
 

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The gentle black and white flames danced at the heart of the Sunlit Forge as the man known as the Voice, Imeroth, stood at the precipice of the glass seal that locked them away. Two months had passed since Imeroth had last been here when he and the Voidlords forged Kuniumi, and since then the flames had yet to die down. Though it wasn't anything out of the ordinary; they were the eternal flames that supported the universe itself. This time the setting was different. Imeroth was not surrounded by the Four Voidlords, he was alone with no hood covering his emaciated face. He was stricken with a slightly troubled expression, holding a crumpled newspaper in one hand at his side. On it was the title: "HEAVEN SENT CHILD FOUND IN LAST BASTION."

The Voice's solitude was interrupted by a disciple entering the Forge; his nearly silent footsteps shuffled along the cold dark marble. It was an ordinary cultist, though ordinary hardly described what he was. "My Lord," the servant began, his voice spoken in an inhuman tone. It was deep, yet raspy. And each time air came form his mouth a trail of cold, frosty breath escaped his lips. "The Voidlords Basel, Nefarian, and Demetrias have arrived." The Voice of Tiamat did not respond, remaining at the precipice and gazing into the flames as they gently danced. His mind was elsewhere in that moment, far away from his servant. "Lord Voice..." the cultist managed again, his voice now carefully probing his master's mental state. Was he okay? Had he been angered? Would the faithful servant be struck down in anger?

But whatever thoughts filled the cultist's mind were quickly pushed away as three sets of distinct footsteps filled the Forge. "We thought we'd let ourselves in, old man. It is our Forge too." The Draconic voice belonged to Basel Timurain, the most distinct of the Four Voidlords and the least human. Like before, his eyes burned red, with golden scales trailing down half his body and underneath his armor. "Where is Phetra? Is the damn goddess too good for us now? Hahahaha!" His voice was filled with laughter and sarcasm; he and Phetra had been allies for so very long, she hardly ever missed their meetings. Basel's jovial laughter was accompanied by Nefarian silently scoffing, a slight smile across his face.

"Calm down, Basel. Our Lord Imeroth is very stressed. Surely you've seen the news?" Nefarian had changed little since their last meeting; his grey hair was now covered by a dark blue cloak, hiding a pale face, and silvery strands of wispy hair.

It was Nefarian's words that jolted Imeroth back to reality, the former vessel of Marduk turned toward the group. "Phetra will not be with us tonight. She is currently in the far East, ensuring that the prison is secured." The forerunner human looked solemn, an expression he did not often reveal to the rest. "I have called you from each of your Domains to discuss recent news." Imeroth paused, allowing the three Voidlords to shuffle into the Forge, and to motion the lone cultist servant out of the room. He bowed, and turned away. Demetrias, Nefarian, and Basel all remained silent, watching their master.

"When Nefarian unleashed the second coming of the Red Fever, we had predicted that the humans would cure the affliction. The disease, while born from the Void, would eventually be understood - this is what the Ronin had done. Though in a moment of greed, the humans did not share their discoveries. It prolonged the plague, something that was much to our unexpected advantage. Despite this, humans have still managed to cure themselves. Though not in the way I had anticipated; a god has been born." Imeroth paused, unfolding the newspaper to show each of his comrades. None of their faces were stricken with surprise - they had heard the tales of the god child themselves. But for Imeroth to address the situation itself, it was clearly a concern. "They call him a child, but they clearly do not understand divine beings as we do. This is no child. He is dangerous, to humanity and to us. As we have seen...." Imeroth clutched his chest tightly, gripping the fabric of his robes until his knuckles turned white.

"How can you be sure?" Basel's voice fell from its previously jovial tone as he questioned his master.

"The child wields Chaos. Many of our cultists visited the child in Last Bastion, confirming this. It places him within the same tier as the Chief God and his siblings."

"Do you want me to handle it, Imeroth?" It was Nefarian that spoke now; among the Four Voidlords he and Basel remained the most mysterious.

Imeroth shook his head, "No. We will send Demetrias," Imeroth turned directly toward the former leader of the Uchiha clan. He had been changed from the man formerly known as Sai into that of Demetrias - a transformation made possible due to the Sea of Life. Though his transformation had been particularly unique, preserving his Uchiha heritage in its perfect state and granting him the powers of Mother. The Uchiha simply nodded, turning away from the group. No words were needed; he was the youngest of the Four Voidlords, but his age went beyond that of any normal human.

"Demetrias. Try to capture the child, alive. Gods in their infancy are blank slates. He can be easily made to serve me." A smile cracked along Imeroth's face as the Uchiha departed from the Chamber of the Forge. War was coming.
 

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Three weeks had passed since Imeroth directed the youngest of the Four Voidlords, Demetrias, to capture Enkidu, the Chains of Heaven. The room that the Basel, one of the senior Voidlords, found himself in was quite the opposite of what he was accustomed to after so many years; it was nothing like the Sunlit Forge. It was dank, wet, and dark - located in the depths of the Hokubu Ocean. So much had changed there in recent months, ever since Enkidu's emergence from its depths. When the Mother of Beasts, Tiamat, broke free of the seal that bound her physical form the life in the ocean was radically transformed. Small fish became gigantic beasts, squids transformed into leviathans, and even shrimp morphed into dangerous creatures could swallow a human whole. For many, it was the end of life as it was known in the Hokubu. Fishing villages all along the Northern coast of Tobusekai were suddenly cut off from their access to food and trade. The Hokubu was claimed entirely by the twisted abominations that became her 'offspring.' But that changed in the few weeks following Enkidu's emergence from the depths of the ocean. The beasts that once roared in the depths of the darkness have fallen silent.

But despite the dark and dankness, Basel kicked his legs up on a well crafted marble table. A cozy grin spread across his face as he leaned back in the finely crafted stone chair. These beasts really know how to craft.... Enkidu's emergence had shifted the Voidlords' plan slightly, and new mysteries were emerging all throughout the world - the changes in the Hokubu being one of them. Basel turned his head slightly, gazing down the long meeting chamber as he sat there in silence, his eyes catching the Voice and another still speaking; So much talking, he silently whined to himself, growing bored. The pair had been there for days; Imeroth only had wanted Basel to accompany him. Though he expected it wasn't for protection. Which still begged the question in Basel's own head, why? The individual that Imeroth had been speaking with for so long was a woman; she bore a shark-like appearance, with delicate feminine features. Her skin was a pale green, almost blue, with a pair of small white eyes where a normal human would have them. Long black hair fell from her head, hiding pairs of gills on her shoulders and flanks. She wore a white dress, with beautiful jewelry draped around it. Perhaps the most wondrous of them was a necklace with a variety of aquamarines and sapphires, as well as turquoise bracelets and anklets on her. To any human capable of looking past her shark-like features, she was beautiful.

Finally their conversation came to a close, with the ancient and emaciated Imeroth smiling, bowing slightly, and turning toward Basel. The young shark-woman walked away, turning into a dark corridor that led to some mysterious portion of the underwater fortress they were fortified within. "And who is that you were speaking to, Lord Imeroth? Has a beautiful woman caught your attention?" The Voidlord Basel teased, his deep Draconic voice lightheartedly poking fun at his ancient master.

Imeroth was not amused, though he didn't show any disdain for his servant either. "They are...unique. To say the least. The beasts that our Mother created in her wake in the first days of her release were mindless, and only rampaged after her defeat. But they are very different. To have killed them all, and so easily....it is an impressive feat."

It left Basel with his own thoughts for a moment. He knew from experience that the beasts that ruled the sea within the Sea of Life were immensely powerful. And while a Voidlord could handle themselves, for this fledgling civilization to pull it off was remarkable. "How long have they been down here for?" He asked, a puzzled expression across his face.

Imeroth sighed, taking a seat next to Basel. "It's hard to say. Likely since the very beginning. The sheer quantity of living creatures in all the seas is in the trillions. To have even one of the oceans converted into the Sea of Life would transform an incredibly high number into Children of Tiamat. They probably just went undetected until they killed their siblings in the depths to assert control over the Hokubu. But these are perhaps the purest Children of Tiamat I have ever witnessed, aside from those that were created in the First War and Demetrias."

So they are Children... Basel pondered the implications of what Imeroth meant. "And their allegiance?" Basel chose his words carefully, speaking slowly.

"Neutral. For now. They only wish to expand their civilization now in the depths of the sea, separate from humans and us alike. Her name is Ningal. Basel it is remarkable - they possess the same accelerated learning capability that the Lahmu did, along with a human soul." Basel hadn't seen Imeroth so enamored in thousands of years, completely captivated by the curiosity that were these fish or shark people.

"And speaking of Demetrias..." Basel changed the subject, Imeroth's earlier words provoking the Voidlord to wonder about his comrades. "What of his mission? And Phetra's?"

"You're more inquisitive than normal today. Demetrias is with Solomon, as I suspected would happen. He seems drawn to a man with ties to the old Freehold. I suspect in a few days he will make his move; he already has his suspicions on where the God-Child is. And as for Phetra.... she is silencing our rowdy prisoners."
 

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The Destruction of Last Bastion
Midnight, October 25th, 813
Ganzir, Royal Palace of Irkalla


“To the oppressed masses of Irkalla: you have existed in chains for thousands of years. Many of you were punished or enslaved by your former masters – the gods.” The woman spoke from the highest balcony at the top of the Royal Palace of the Underworld, Ganzir. It was the same blackstone building that once housed Nergal and later Ereshkigal. At the foot of the palace were only three mysterious figures. The first, a pair, were the Twin Fates; dressed in black veils. The second was a hulking humanoid behemoth, towering near the Seven Gates of the Underworld. It was the Burial King. An unnamed divinity that oversees the punishments of those who come through the underworld. But despite the seemingly empty audience, the woman at the apex of her palace was not speaking to only three – but millions. For deep within the Necropolis the dead stirred within their prisons, listening closely to the usurper.

“Each Ruler of the Underworld before me has both demanded your loyalty and enforced your obedience. They had locked you away for thousands of years, and decreed that one shall never pass through the human world again once they have come to pass.” The woman was Phetra, the Queen and Ruler of the Underworld; atop her head was a small tiara – the Crown of the Undying. “It is today, on the eve of this one hundred and thirtieth Conqueror’s End that your loyalty will be rewarded. For tomorrow, when the sun breaks the horizon, you shall once again walk amongst the living.” She paused for a moment, letting her words sink into the minds of the thousands that were locked away in their prisons. For thousands of years, even under Phetra, the undead were prohibited from residing in the world of the living. There were some exceptions to this rule; the Gallu spirits, the Ruler’s direct emissaries, could at times be deployed for various purposes. Others, like when the Impure Reincarnation Technique was used, violated this rule from outside of Irkalla. But generally, the masses of Irkalla never left their earthly confines.

“For the first time since the Great Civil War fought between the gods, you will be sent out to do my bidding. To carry out your Queen’s will. Even as we speak now the blood of Marduk’s own son has been spilled, powering the rift that will lead you to glory. We seek an armory. The legendary Armory of Marzan; but in our way is the only sanctuary of law and order in Tobusekai: the city of Last Bastion. Lay waste to it, slay its inhabitants, and bring Chaos to this world in the name of Irkalla.” The end of her speech brought an erupting chorus of cheers from the Necropolis. But in a sense, it was all false, the spirits of Irkalla bound to the Crown of the Undying. Though Phetra did not care. At heart she was a Voidlord, not the true Ruler of the Underworld. She held that title only in name. Usurped from the last Queen, Ereshkigal.

Suddenly an earthquake shook the earthen caverns of the underworld so much that even Ganzir quivered; it was both the sound of the tear in spacetime and the doors to the Necropolis opening. “Now go forth, my loyal servants. Let the will of Phetra, Voidlord and Queen of the Underworld, be known.” The doors to the Seven Gates of the Underworld shook violently, releasing bright lights from between its columns. Light that trailed from Ganzir to the Fields of Suffering, to the Necropolis, and out into the world. The massive congregation of undying spirits began marching away from Phetra toward the gates, toward freedom. Toward destruction.

Early Morning, October 25th, 813
Urban District, Last Bastion


Over a month had gone by since Enkidu and Emiya passed through Last Bastion, curing its residents of the Red Fever and liberating them from a disease that meant certain agonizing death. And if that wasn’t enough to celebrate, October had finally come – it was time to celebrate the 130th Conqueror’s End. For Amelia, like any other young girl in Last Bastion, she couldn’t contain her enthusiasm. Her family had nearly escaped death from the plague that the Voidlord Nefarian unleashed on the world, and it filled her with innocent joy. Amelia’s father had fallen deathly ill, even more so than her or her mother. Each day since Enkidu had brought his light to the lawless land of Tobusekai, and Last Bastion, was a blessing. They were thankful for everything they had in a land shrouded in centuries of darkness.

On the eve of Conqueror’s End Amelia, a young girl of twelve, spent the day shopping in the heart of Last Bastion with her mother. They spent the morning and afternoon at various clothing boutiques, watching bouts at the Witchwood Arena, and then capped off their evening with a night of preparing for Conqueror’s End. They decorated their house with various decorations, skeletons, ghosts, and kept stocked on so much candy that even bank vaults would be envious. This year Amelia begged her parents to let her dress as a knight, emulating the knights of the Radiant Order to the North of Last Bastion. Her parents didn’t care what their daughter dressed as; they were just grateful they could see her grow old again. The Red Fever nearly claimed their lives – especially Amelia’s father. For a week he had grown considerably feeble and bed ridden, with a fever that felt like it would burn Amelia’s hand whenever she rest it on his head while caring for him. They were not a poor family by any means within Last Bastion, but given how medical shinobi were stretched thin during the height of the fever no one could find a doctor.

It was that fateful day on October 25th that marked the beginning of Conqueror’s End. That morning a violent earthquake shook the world, its epicenter located where in the Kaizoku Sea. But Last Bastion was a fortress as well as a city; a stronghold built to survive the worst disasters. It had stood for hundreds of years as a sanctuary of law and order in a place where chaos reigned. An earthquake in its neighboring ocean could hardly shake the infrastructure of the city, or the morale of its people. Amelia’s situation was no different from many of other children in Last Bastion. They were all eager that day to go trick or treating, enjoying dinner with their families, and paying respect to the many who came before them and sacrificed their lives for their prosperity and safety.

Seven hours after the earthquake, at about eight in the morning, the first signs of trouble could be seen on the horizon. Last Bastion’s defenses were concentrated in the North; their towering wall, a legendary tourist attraction, was their primary defense. Its ramparts had overlooked Tobusekai for centuries, protecting its inhabitants from danger. But the city was remarkably under-defended from the South, leaning primarily into using the sea and its small navy as a means to defend itself. This had worked out for many years. No one hardly ever went to war with Last Bastion, and threats in Tobusekai were often loose coalitions rather than concentrated alliances. But that day the scouts atop the wall reported strange occurrences in the water to the Lord-Commander. The reports were strange, at best. The first came in at 5AM and detailed that the earthquake seemed to have not caused any tsunami, and that the waters were entirely calm. But the morning grew stranger as time passed. Soon a bellowing roar was heard throughout the city, originating from miles out over the Kaizoku. Many residents, Amelia and her family included, thought it was the city’s officials playing to a more authentic Conqueror’s End experience. But the city guard was puzzled by it, and the scouts they dispatched to fly over the ocean never returned. Red flags were being raised within the city’s administrators; what was coming?

It didn’t take long for rumors to start to spread through the city. The first signs of disturbance for the residents of Last Bastion were the guards congregating toward the southern port district; whenever the city was attacked, which was often, the guard would organize toward the north and reinforce the ramparts. But today was to be historic, and the guards could be seen throughout the city moving southward. Even the young Amelia could see something was out of place as she donned her knightly armor and wooden sword. Her parents, who were concerned, put it out of their minds as best as they could. They knew that for centuries the guard of Last Bastion had held the line. Today would be no different, they thought.

And then another roar shook the heavens, once again from the southern Kaizoku Sea. This time the roar caught the attention of almost all residents of Last Bastion. Each turning their head in deathly silence toward the oceans. In the distance, at the ports, the guard could be heard shouting. From the Urban District, for Amelia, their shouts could hardly be coherently heard. But at times she could hear their shouts for weapons or to bring reinforcements. Soon what started as rumors coalesced into fear as residents realized, even without an official city announcement, was wrong.

It wasn’t until ten in the morning that the horns could be heard from the Port District. The dreadful booming horns that signaled an attack; but like many suspected, this attack wasn’t coming from the North. In fact, most of the defensive wall and encampments were abandoned in favor of fortifying the southern ports with whatever men the city could rally that morning. Panic took hold and Amelia, with her family, ran home. The festivities, which had only just started that morning, were brutally interrupted by the attack. From within their home Amelia and her parents wondered in silence and anxiety what was attacking them. Was it related to the booming roars they heard come from the Kaizoku? That much seemed obvious; but its roar, such a guttural and brutal bellow, struck fear in all their hearts. Being attacked by beasts was nothing strange for the city, but from the ocean? That would be historical.

A knock at the front door of their apartment. Her father stood up and rushed over toward it, looking through the small peephole to see who was visiting. It was a city watchmen, dressed in leather armor with a sword strapped to his side and a shield on his back. He opened the door. “Sir, we ask you and your family remain indoors.” He spoke quietly, a poor attempt at masking the anxiety in his own voice.

“Why?! What is it? What is attacking us?” Amelia’s father demanded to know, but the soldier only shook his head; even if he could tell him, he didn’t know himself.

“Please, the City Guard understands your frustration. But we ask you stay safe indoors.” The soldier left quietly after that exchange, walking down to the next door over and knocking on it to repeat the process. Amelia’s father returned to the den, taking a seat and looking at his wife and daughter with a pale expression.

“They have never come to us before directly when we’re being attacked. Something is dreadfully wrong.” Neither Amelia or her mother responded. Her mother toyed with the fabric of her dress, while Amelia rotated and fiddled with a small doll in her hands. She was a smart girl, and very observant. Both traits are very necessary for living in Tobusekai, even behind the gigantic walls of Last Bastion.

Evening, October 25th, 813
Urban District, Last Bastion


The horizon had turned orange. Smoke billowed from the Port District all the way to the Urban, and scattered screams could be heard throughout the city as fires could be seen from the rooftops throughout. The city was in ruins; what had started in the Port District, sheer destruction and chaos, had now spread further north. Amelia clutched at her dead father's body, him laying lifeless in the back of an alley that she and her mother had taken refuge in as the undead army marched through the city. Whatever citizens were left either had died or escaped the city, for the screams throughout were not screams of terror but of joy. They were the sounds of skeletal beasts roaming the burning roads, of spirits laughing from rooftop to rooftop. Amelia and her mother could smell burning flesh, and taste the soot on their tongue from the destruction wrought throughout the city. What had happened? The entire day had been strange; what began with an earthquake and a roar ended in an inferno. In the distance residents could see a damaged, if not overrun, northern rampart. Amelia looked toward the sky, her mother in tears, and their Conqueror's End a now distant memory in the face of destruction.
 

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Whispers from the Void

A much younger Imeroth stood at the precipice of the abyss, staring into the depths of the Void that lingered beneath the stone monolithic platforms within the heart of Irkalla. Behind him were the towering black walls of Ganzir, the Palace of the Underworld. Only days had passed since Nergal and his servants began construction on the great fortress, a monument to the great civil war that was to come. Nearly two thousand years had passed since the young human man had been granted immortality by the Divine spirit that once occupied him, using his body as nothing more than a vessel. Imeroth clenched his fist, filled with anger at the thought of Marduk driving his body. Using it for his own ends. Though it felt like yesterday that Imeroth served in the Temple of Marduk as a faithful priest, serving as the Aspect of Justice's voice in the mortal plane. You have done well...my child. The eight seeds have been planted among the ranks of the Divine. You have served your Mother well. Months had passed since the first voices used their tendrils to plant doubt within him, capturing his mind moment after moment until he finally came to his own revelation: the gods were malicious beings. Callous and capricious Divinities that brought about the end to Tiamat not because she was tyrannical, but because they were envious. It was this gentle female voice that awakened him to that truth. And ever since then Imeroth, who was once Voice of Marduk, would progressively become the Voice of Tiamat.

His gaze into the abyss before him was as infinite as the Void itself. He was captivated by it. The young Imeroth had never looked into it before, having only glimpses of its existence when his body was possessed by Marduk. It was a short period where he could tap into the Divinity's knowledge and see what he called "Divine Truth." But that reality was as warped as a human's own perception; in this sense, God and Man were the same. A Divinity saw "truth" in their own way, while a human saw their interpretation. It sent the once devout priest into a frenzy over the concept of truth. What was true? That doubt that gripped at his mind controlled his every action once he heard those first whispers. And ever since then his actions were no longer directed at spreading the good word of Marduk to his fellow man, but in the eventual revival of Tiamat, the Primordial Goddess of Life.

"It is said that if you stare at the Void too long, it will stare back at you." The voice broke Imeroth's concentration on the abyss, the sound of steps along the dark stone platform moving behind him. It was Nergal approaching him, taking on a human visage. His skin was dark ashen grey, with green glowing eyes and spiked black hair. His face was largely featureless, though he wore regal black robes that draped behind him as he walked. Atop his head was the Crown of the Undying. "The blacksmith Marzan - the Gallu have brought him here at your recommendation."

Imeroth blinked twice; the immortal priest felt a tinge of guilt, though nothing more than that. If anything, Nergal's own declaration of the fact only reinforced his already cynical views about gods: they were greedy and selfish. At the behest of Tiamat, Imeroth recommended to Nergal to capture the legendary Marzan, a blacksmith who had discovered the secrets of forging weapons that could slay Divinities. A necessary measure in a war where Marduk would attempt to weaponize humanity; and so to disarm them, the God of the Underworld resolved to not let them be armed at all. It was a dirty tactic by opting to take away humanity's chance to defend themselves, even if they were just caught in the crossfire. But there were other drivers behind Imeroth's recommendation, inspired by the whispers themselves.

"Yes, of course, Lord Nergal." Imeroth spoke slowly, always careful to choose his words around the God of Death, the Underworld, and the Soulsmith. On the eve of such a civil war the God of Death brought Imeroth to his most inner sanctuary, clearly valuing Imeroth's connection to Marduk. Two thousand years had passed since the war against Tiamat, but only a few immortal humans remained. Many opted during the golden age of Marduk to pass on to the afterlife in Irkalla. They had grown tired of living among humans that did not age, and seeing their friends and family pass on without them. But Imeroth never went that course, and instead remained a steadfast priest of Justice until Tiamat began speaking to him. "Forcing Marduk and Enlil into the depths of the Underworld is an optimal strategy. This is your domain, and in their hubris they underestimate how powerful the Ruler of the Underworld is."

The Ruler of the Undeworld. A title that, until much later, was held only by Nergal and Ereshkigal, his wife. Nergal's Divinity, while great on its own as a first generation child of Primordial Life, was further enhanced in his territory. It afforded them certain authorities that could allow Nergal to bend reality to his favor, something that even Marduk and Enlil could not do while in Irkalla. It could level the playing field when even two gods fought one.

"Why betray Marduk?" The human visage of Nergal stood shoulder to shoulder with Imeroth, with the former gazing in his eyes. They were the three words that Imeroth really didn't want to get into. But why betray a god he had been faithful for nearly two thousand years?

Seven months earlier....

Times had changed, a difficult reality for the Priest of Justice to accept. His monastery stood towering above a hill just east of the golden Port of Innovus. Imeroth, Lord Priest of the Temple of Marduk, had served as its steward since Tiamat's demise two thousand years ago. The years that came after were a golden age for humanity; the gods had left behind hundreds of humans, all gifted with immortality. They went hand in hand with the future generations of mortal humans to build their civilizations. The first of which was the Golden Empire, centered on the Port of Innovus as its capital. The capital served as the center point of all trade throughout the world, and was the point where humans left to begin settling the land after the great war. Many humans traveled west, over the Scars, which would later become known simply as the Kaizoku Sea. Others went east, forming the first generation of kingdoms that ruled the Far East for generations. But the Golden Empire stood above them all for a time, a beacon of knowledge and power for the first immortals to rule over.

Yet as generations went by, more and more of these humans decided to part ways with mortal living. They opted to be taken willingly to Irkalla, even though the Chief God Marduk had blessed them with immortality. It was a slow process, each human growing tired of living alone after their own families passed away and grew beyond them. Much of the Golden Empire's aristocracy went this way over hundreds of years, leaving their caste of rulers depleted. Without a ruling class, the Golden Empire quickly became known as the Silver Empire. Unprepared mortal rulers took the place of the Immortals. They lacked experience and prudence, and their decisions quickly drove the Golden Empire into economic decline. Trade seized up, culture stagnated, and for the first time mortals fought amongst themselves. To save their economy the first mortal rulers of the Silver Empire declared war on their western and eastern neighbors; some of wisest advisors warned against such an action, concerned for the longevity of the empire's finances. But others, many of whom had their own interests at heart, wanted short term profits and gain. They saw war as a way to enrich themselves. Under the guise of saving the empire these malignant tumors of citizens lobbied their rulers to declare war on their neighbors to the East and West. Two generations of nearly constant warfare among humans, with no response from the Gods.

The Silver Empire only lasted two generations when the next generations of rulers overthrew the short line of three Silver Emperors. They heralded in the period of the Bronze Empire; while bleeding finances and war came to an end, so too did the inevitable decline of prestige and image of the Silver Empire. What was left was a bronze hollowed out visage of what remained. The Immortals superpower state would not be seen again until mortals came together to form the Freehold of Hanguri, eight thousand years later.

Imeroth, Lord Priest of Justice, had seen it all from his monastery near the Port of Innovus. He was among the first humans that formed the Golden Empire and established a ruling class. The decline of the Golden Empire to Silver and Bronze was not tranquil. He had no desire to rule over humans after serving as Marduk's vessel. Instead, the Lord Priest dedicated himself to his patron's service for two thousand years. He formed the first Temple of Marduk, and taught future generations of mortals what it meant to be a creation of Divinities. But despite all his efforts the future generations of mortals only generated conflict, which only intensified in light of decline within the Golden Empire. The Lord Priest was alarmed by this, though he continued his teachings. He accepted that some degree of freedom would lead to humans fighting amongst themselves, committing crimes, and mismanaging the first empire. But it was a reality that became more grueling for him to accept with each passing day. Each moment feeling like an eternity to the Immortal. A cruel twist of fate on behalf of Marduk.

"Lord Priest, please...we have nothing," it was a family of four practically on their knees before him in the stone monastery. It broke his distracted gaze, snapping him back to the problem at hand. The family had been forced off their farm by bandits. For the moment Imeroth stared at them, dumbfounded by their claims. Could the Bronze Empire no longer even protect its own farmers outside the borders of its capital? Had things fallen so far? Was he so disconnected from reality that he thought the state could protect its own?

"How...how is that possible? My doors are always open to you, and any of the other peoples in need but feeding you might be...difficult." He stuttered considerably, confidence at an all time low. Peasants had been coming to him in droves in recent months, asking for food, money, and shelter. The most devout followers of the Chief God would come asking for justice itself, and offering their prayers for the Golden Empire to reclaim its glory. But whenever they prayed, or Imeroth would give his blessing, the Chief God would never respond. Never once in the two thousand years that Imeroth stood as the Lord Priest of the Temple of Marduk did the Chief God respond to his or the devout's prayers. This family was, and would be, no different. Why did the Chief God remain silent as the Immortal's glorious empire, that once brought honor to the Aspect of Justice's name, decayed into the abyss?

Seven months later....

"Falnir, my Burial King, you will serve as my champion against your elder siblings." Nergal placed his hand on the head of his servant Falnir, to many known as the Burial King. It was part of a ritual to arm Irkalla in preparation for Marduk's inevitable invasion. The Ruler of the Underworld was conferring Authority upon his servants; he had started with the Twin Fates, and now was blessing Falnir with his own powers. "You exist across two planes now, Falnir. One of physical reality, and the other of spiritual. Your enemies' blades will shatter against your hardened flesh, and their energies fail to hit their target. Command the consecrated ground you stand upon, sentence your foes to a fate only the worst souls face in Irkalla, and harness my Divinity." Nergal removed his hand from the towering construct of bone, sinew, and devoted fury.

If Imeroth was sure of one thing, it was that Nergal's champions in the Underworld were frighteningly powerful. And it held defenses that even Marduk had likely not calculated for. From the Twin Fates that weaved reality itself, to the Burial King's sentencing, and the Ramparts of the Seven Gates, it would be impossible for the bulk of Marduk and Enlil's armies to traverse Irkalla unscathed.

The monolith of bone stood up, taking its new blade in hand and bowing to his king. "I shall serve you well, master." His voice was deep, slow, and gravely - a voice fitting for an ancient Divinity born from Nergal's own toiling. Creations of the Underworld were different from Inanna and Marduk's children. And while the human soul, a creation of Nergal's, was instrumental in Marduk and Inanna spreading humanity, it was nothing like the constructs that Nergal constructed in the depths of Irkalla. It was perplexing to Imeroth, to be sure. The human soul was Nergal's greatest creation, and in terms of human development no Divinity, not even Marduk, had contributed more than the Ruler of the Underworld. But here, in the depths of Irkalla, Nergal constructed his champions and servants with fervor that gave rise to beings far different from the humans that walked the living world.

"I never believed in Marduk's deleterious pledge to not interfere in humanity. They were my children, and the soul my creation. It is a wondrous phenomenon; a self-replicating and self-developing engine. The power to overcome the Lahmu with their Mind Quickening is locked within that soul. And as you know...it was only your soul in conjunction with Marduk's own Divine Core that our Mother could be struck down over the Kaizoku. Why my brother would not want to see it prosper has baffled me...to think he might have truly believed the Golden Empire would last." The Ruler of the Underworld laughed maniacally, seemingly reveling in the demise of humanity as if it proved his point against his brother. Deep within Imeroth's mind his rage boiled. Though he made every effort not to reveal his true emotions to Nergal, it seemed that the God of Death knew his own mind within the confines of Irkalla.

"Fear not, Lord Imeroth. I know my brother's actions have filled you with rage. We shall take them and, one by one, destroy each servant and champion he sends into my domain until he and Enlil approach us themselves. And then they shall share in their fate, or bow to me as the new Chief God."

Insurrection.

Was that truly the extent of the God of Death's ambition? To simply overthrow his brother, become the Chief God, and chart a new course for humanity in the darkness? Imeroth mentally scoffed, disgusted by their choices. Nergal would sooner see humanity perish and decay to only spite his brothers. Tiamat was right; the gods were nothing more than envious creations, born with spite in their hearts and greed in their minds. But She was right - it did not take much to sow the seeds of fear, doubt, anger, envy, despair, pride, hatred, and greed in the minds of the Higher Divinities. They were weak at heart, and he was strong. "Of course," It was all Imeroth could manage. His throat choked him with anger as he looked over at the grey skinned Divinity.

Such misplaced ambition. The God of Death's eyes remain closed from Truth. But not like you, my Champion...

Five months earlier...

Imeroth stared into the Pool of Reflection; an arrogant name, in hindsight, he mused to himself. It was nothing more than very still and clean water maintained to provide a clear reflection of one's self. It allowed the sinners and criminals to come to the monastery to look upon themselves. If they were pure of heart, perhaps they would atone right there. And if they needed Justice, then they would resist.

My child...you have waited so long.

A singular voice, though one belonging to a female. Imeroth practically jumped out of his own skin when he heard it. Was he imagining things? His eyes darted back and forth, looking at the empty gothic room. Empty. Nothing but Imeroth and the Pool.

You are not crazy, my child. Your eyes are merely opening to Truth. The Voice you hear is not your own. It is neither your imagination or the voice of your patron god. I will care for you, child. The voice was caring, motherly, and alluring. It echoed through every corner of Imeroth's mind, the loudest of shouts but the quietest of whispers.

"Who are you....?" It was the only question that the stunned Lord Priest could manage as his mind was assaulted by physic echoes of this mysterious feminine voice.

You have waited so long for answers. I am the Truth you seek, the answers you crave. The Voice in the darkness. To some I am called Mother, to others I am Primordial Life...I speak to you from the Void. I have watched you, for hundreds of years, waiting for your eyes to open to Truth.

For a moment Imeroth was repulsed, realizing what, or who, he was listening to. He had heard those titles before; Primordial Life, Mother, Goddess of Life, Matron of Beasts, the Mother of Demonic Beasts, the Creator, and the Mother of Gods. The realization hit him quickly and hard - it could be none other than Tiamat herself speaking to him from the Void that she had been sealed in after her defeat at his own hands.

Your eyes have opened to their greed and pride. But your heart did not fill with despair, merely doubt, anger, and hatred. They are envious children, and they have left a wake of fear in their path of self-destruction. You have watched for many months now, waves of innocence seeking refuge in your great temple. But you are rewarded with silence, and they are punished by their inaction. Do you truly believe me evil, child?

Imeroth clutched at the top of his head, pulling his hair in doubt and rage. Had he fallen so far and lost sight of Marduk's vision that he now heard the voice of Tiamat reaching across dimensions to speak to him?

Join me, child of the gods. Join me and be reborn as something greater. You will remake this world as my Chosen for you have opened your eyes to Truth. Be calm, be steady, and my voice will never leave you. Her words continued, like an inexorable and unrelenting assault on his mind. In moments Imeroth collapsed in the Pool of Reflection, shattering the calm waters that had rested there for decades. But the Lord Priest of the Temple of Marduk knew, deep in his heart, that the Voice of Tiamat was right. Deep in his heart there was no doubt or fear. He was filled rage; rage meant to lash out at the gods that wasted away and allowed humanity to decay to such a place. And soon that voice would become his as Imeroth never closed his eyes again.
 
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The Dark Haired Woman

"May she be as beautiful as Inanna, and as wise as Ereshkigal," the priest whispered, placing his index and middle fingers atop the young newborn's forehead in prayer. The Priest of Justice cradled her in his arms, a soft and warm smile across his lips as he gazed down on her. This girl truly is special, the man thought to himself as he held her; above him were her parents. There was nothing that particularly stood out among the parents; the mother's hair was jet black, with brown eyes and a soft pale face. The father, tan and rugged. He was bald with a pronounced jawline. A strong man that had likely developed his appearance over the many years working the mines in the twilight of the Golden Empire and the height of the Silver. They were not among the class of Immortal Humans like the priest was.

"Thank you for seeing her..." The woman spoke shyly, a small voice that matched her delicate pale skin well. The Priest of Justice turned his gaze from the infant in his arms to the mother's eyes. "We have yet to choose a name." She almost admitted it as if it was a crime that they had committed. Were they ashamed that they hadn't taken the time to name her? The Priest of Justice chuckled under his breath slightly, and then offered her a smile to comfort the mother.

"What is your name, priest?" Now the father spoke, his voice resonating a militant tone. Perhaps not the mines? Maybe the army? "Names carry meaning. It is why we haven't named our daughter yet. She is too precious to be named by peasants like us."

"I am Imeroth." He replied quietly, wincing slightly. "Names should come from the heart. Do you not have any special in mind as it stands?" His gaze shifted downward again toward his lap, looking into the infant's eyes. They were purple, almost glowing. "And you've come asking me for advice on naming your child?" It was asked almost absent mindedly, Imeroth's gaze more so focused on the infant wondering what potential she had locked away in that special body.

"Yes, please lord priest. Like you said yourself...this child has a special connection to the gods." The mother desperately answered, so very eager to please.

Imeroth only smiled, an outward façade for the fragile woman. But within he sneered, disgusted by their piety. A month ago he had awakened to the truth; Tiamat had spoken to him from the depths of the Void. The Priest of Justice was now more adequately called the Priest of Life. But no one knew of his betrayals yet. He served his new god silently, just as Marduk was to him.

"Phetra. You should name her Phetra." He finally broke the silence, looking back up at the parents with a slight twitch in his eye.

Present Day

The Ruler of the Underworld stared out into the abyss from the precipice, her gaze transfixed on nothingness. Beneath the ledge was the Void itself, appearing as a massive swirling vortex of purple energies that was sealed off by powerful runes and magics. Irkalla represented the closest place to the Void. The veil that separated the Void from what humans knew as Reality was thinnest there. If someone were to leap from the edge of the precipice then they would never return, the Void taking hold of them and atomizing their body into nothingness. It wasn't death, per se. It was more akin to their physical forms, and even their souls, being integrated into the Void itself. Because within the Void there was nothingness and everything. And yet as she stared into it, it seemed to stare back. Almost rumbling at her, begging her to shatter the veil that separated it from reality. The purple hue from the Void below reflected off the Crown of the Undying atop her head, slightly sheltered by a thin black veil that she had cloaked over her sleek black hair. It was the physical manifestation of her Authority as Ruler of the Underworld. But it was also her burden. And a heavy one at that.

Behind the Ruler of the Underworld stood the ramparts of the Palace of Ganzir. It overlooked the abyss that she stood atop; once a fortress constructed by Nergal, it was occupied by Ereshkigal and then herself afterwards. At the top most spire of the palace was a bright shining light that remained in perfect orbit around the spire. The light seemed to burst outwards as if trying to escape, but always remained trapped in a spherical shape.

"They've arrived, Queen of the Dead, o' Ruler of the Underworld." The voice came from behind her, a man materializing out of black smoke. She turned around slowly, her purple gaze meeting his own black-as-night eyes and silver elven hair.

"Yes, finally. Their incursion was surprisingly slow, with some interruption. But it is just as Lord Imeroth predicted. Even now I can sense them descending into the Necropolis, slowly making their way ever closer to the Twin Fates that stand guard by the gateway to Falnir. Are you ready, Nefarian?" Her left hand gently grazed across the top of the tiara hidden under her veil.

"If you are," the Elf was not concealed under a cloak as he normally was. He wore grey robes, with his hood drawn down on his back. Silver hair flowed downward concealing his long ears. And his trademark black eyes contrasted with the ashen skin on his delicate face. "Your feigned defenses will draw them deeper into your territory. Though many come here for other reasons as well; even the prisoner that Nergal had taken here thousands of years ago is of interest to one of these humans. It was a well constructed plan. Though I'm sure she will be disgusted with it." He laughed slightly, attention turning toward the bright light that orbited the top of Ganzir's spire.

"Walk with me, Nefarian. It's been some time since I last saw the others. The past few months have been remarkably busy; thousands of souls have flooded into Irkalla from Tobusekai. Tell me, what has happened at the Sunlit Forge?" She motioned for him to follow, walking toward the Palace of Ganzir.

Nefarian followed closely behind. "Basel, Demetrias, Imeroth, and myself met with Madara Uchiha. Imeroth is closely monitoring his progress in taking the Tailed Beasts. His progress has been slow but it is steady. Already the One Tails has fallen. It won't be long until one of the two Pillars has been reassembled."

The two arrived at the main entrance of Ganzir, its towering doors creaking open. "Then our work is paramount. Let us begin."
 

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The Domains

I have seen conflict. From a very young age I watched the brief period known as the Silver Era, the transitionary period between the Golden and Bronze Empires - the decline of the superpower state that the Immortals had built. I watched as my father was trampled on, killed under the feet of his own peers as they rushed to feed from the grain cart that came biweekly - a program established by an emperor who wanted to help the poor and needy, and was ironically killed by a peasant only two years into his reign. It was an era of cannibalism, an empire that no longer could sustain itself under its own weight. One that was built up by Marduk's Immortals and one that collapsed under the greed and malfeasance of their progeny. I knew very early on that Lord Priest Imeroth did not take an interest in me for my pain and suffering; it was my connection to the Divinities that he was interested in. Even my parents in all their "love" seemed to only cherish me to please them. Not out of the kindness of their hearts, but out of self-interest for their souls. But while they maintained a façade, fooling even themselves in their actions and motivations, Imeroth was quite blunt in it all. But it never bothered me either way; when I walked past other humans I took pride in that Ereshkigal and Inanna had chosen me.

Perhaps this was why I was chosen. I could see past the inevitability of the Golden, Silver, and Bronze Empires. From an early age I saw that death was inevitable. And it even came for Marduk's Immortals, no matter who they were. It was on the day that Imeroth prophesized that I would one day rule the Domain of Death that my suspicions grew to see reality. I was different from other humans, and it was in the very Temple of Marduk that he told me. I was skeptical at first, and even confused by what this Domain was.

"The Domains are the four Truths of Humanity that were set forth by Marduk after the Great War. They are ontological, imbedded in our reality itself. Inescapable. After the War Marduk saw to delegating them to his siblings; Marduk ruled the Domain of Condition, Inanna the Domain of Desire, Enlil saw to the Domain of the Soul, and Nergal the Domain of Death." I remember his words like they were burned into the back of my hand as we sat there that one morning under a lush green tree in front of the Temple. I had just turned twenty years old. "Marduk did not trust a single god to oversee two Domains; that is why he split the Soul from Death. One would think that Nergal would want to rule over both, given that he is the inventor of the Soul and the first Ruler of the Underworld. But it was Marduk's decision that ultimately planted seeds of spite, doubt, and resentment in Nergal's mind. Though that is a story for a different day."

Why will I rule over the Domain of Death?" It was the only question I could think of really. My eyes tried their best to read his expression, to know what was going on in the confines of his mind.

"Because you will break it one day."

Present Day

The Underworld hadn't changed much under Phetra's reign, at least in its appearance. The Palace of Ganzir was no exception; perhaps it was a representation of the inevitability of death. It was unchanging and static. An end that all living things met regardless of their station in life. And while Nergal might be gone, his philosophy lived on through Phetra. The Ruler of the Underworld lowered the veil that hung over her head, letting it rest behind her shoulders to fully expose the tiara that sat at the top of her black hair - the Crown of the Undying. For thousands of years it had been so heavy on her head. A weight that she could not escape, but also held up as her power, her Divinity, and her reign. She was the Queen of the Dead, Ruler of the Underworld, and the master of the Domain of Death.

The two climbed their way to the highest spire, sitting under the red and black dark bricks that formed the tower's walls and roof. Above it was the bright spherical light that orbited the tower, restrained and restless. "Yours will be the first to break, Phetra. It only leaves Soul, Condition, and Desire after. Here we will, as the humans say, kill two birds with one stone." Nefarian's lowered cloak revealed the wispy silver hair, black eyes, grey skin, a slight malicious grin at the prospects.

"Everyone serves a purpose," She was repeating Nefarian's words, thinking back to their time together at the Sunlit Forge. He smiled in response, satisfied in knowing that his comrade knew what she had to do.

"We all inevitably meet death. You know this better than anyone else."

Phetra responded by lifting her hands, black energy emitting from them and reaching up to the ceiling like smoke. "Precisely. Ever since I was a girl I was told she and I shared a connection. Even now I can feel it. This is my purpose, and she will serve hers." The energy phased through the ceiling now, its tendrils wrapping around the ball of light above. Slowly it descended through the top of the spire before coming through the ceiling. "Inanna is the Queen of Heaven. Praised for her beauty. But Ereshkigal was split from her, and in many ways they are twins - two beautiful goddesses." Her words seemed to cause the light to buck in anger.

The black energies twisted around the light, keeping it in place as Nefarian stepped closer. "Divinities. You know, they are surprisingly fragile. We look at Gods as if they are absolute. But in truth...." Nefarian's left hand touched the light, causing a maelstrom of sparks and white flames to burst outward. The pair of Voidlords were engulfed by them but both emerged unscathed. "Fight it all you want, O' Beauty of Life and Death."
 

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It would be inaccurate to call Enkidu a Child God anymore; over the months and weeks that had passed since the Champions of Humanity began their invasion against the Voidlord Phetra the green-haired boy had grown into what could only be described as a fine young man. He was as tall as the Mage King, with long green hair that contrasted with eyes that often changed color depending on his mood - at times they were a deep purple, others golden, and sometimes even grey. To an average onlooker Enkidu might appear entirely normal, a human through and through. But beneath his fair pale skin was the power of a god, with Divinity and Chaos at his fingertips. The two spent their days from dawn until dusk philosophizing, discussing history, and sharing stories. Solomon would teach Enkidu the most mundane tasks like learning to do laundry and cooking. Today was no different; despite being the strongest entity on the face of the planet, Enkidu and Solomon had so far spent the day gardening. It hadn't been Solomon's idea originally - in fact it was Enkidu who had noticed that the island of Theodoro had been desolate, wounded from a battle that took place years before he was born. The waters were hostile to life, the land barren, and very few remained in the villages that still stood. What else could the Mage King do when Enkidu approached him with a smile on his face and asked to make the island a better place.

Solomon made it a point to restrict Enkidu from using his Chaos to simply breathe life into the island and restore the waters. It was an idea derived from his own philosophy; he wanted Enkidu to appreciate what he had, and to learn what it meant to care for nature as a human rather than a god. He didn't seem to mind as he plunged his hands into the barren earth, digging holes to plant trees and shrubs across the island as the day went on.

But Enkidu's excitement only lasted so long; soon his joyous face turned solemn. He could feel it. A Divine awareness that could oversee the cosmos themselves - the Twin Fates had been defeated. "Solomon...why do you have me here when we could be helping them? When I could be helping?" Enkidu stopped what he was doing, his mind wandering toward Irkalla. Solomon sighed, standing up from the dirt and soot to place a consoling hand on his shoulder. Knowledge like that was a burden; a titanic weight that he had lived with for hundreds of years. Though it was all the more interesting to see a Divine being react in a similar way to a human. Burdened by the knowledge that he could be doing more, and frustrated by it. Perhaps what was worse was that Enkidu could sense what was to come - aware of Falnir, the Burial King, the Gates, and the darkness that resided in the heart of Irkalla.

"Enkidu you have grown so much over the past few months. You're becoming wise and powerful. Soon I'm sure your wisdom will eclipse even the greatest sages. But long ago your elder siblings were faced with a similar problem; they had the power and knowledge the intervene for the betterment of humanity, but they decided not to. Why did they let the Golden Empire fall? Marduk knew that his Immortals were no longer governing, and that the inexperience of those who came after would lead it to ruin. The collapse led to the death of hundreds of thousands and yet they still chose inaction."

"But that's different!" Enkidu protested, looking up at Solomon with frustration and fear that humans were going to die in Irkalla.

"Is it so different, Enkidu? What are the lives of eight humans to hundreds of thousands? We must allow events to naturally proceed. It is imperative." Solomon sat down next to the Chains of Heaven and gave his shoulder a squeeze to comfort him. "Why do you think I did not let you use your powers, or my own, to rejuvenate this island?"

Enkidu scratched his head, dirt from the ground spreading through his green hair. "Because it is too easy?"

"Because it is not the natural course of life. You might be a god, and I might be a sage, but there are certain forces in life that operate on their own mechanics and time. When I was King of Israel there were ample opportunities to intervene; I could have gone as far to make my subjects immortal, to rule indefinitely as king. But that was not the natural course of life. And so I abdicated, and even let the kingdom I called home collapse. Why would I do this? Goetia calls me cruel and callous. Even lazy at times....." The Mage King looked down for a moment toward the barren earth, smirking slightly as Goetia protested from within. "But there are times when the natural course of life is disrupted by other forces. When a calamity takes place sometimes an equal but opposite force is needed to correct the natural flow. It is those moments that we must act." Solomon motioned outward to the rest of the island. "No amount of gardening will save this island Enkidu. You must act."

Frustration melted away from the Divinity's face, replaced by sheer determination and finally realizing Solomon's brief lesson. And so Enkidu pressed his hand against the ground, with a brief surge of lightning crackling around his body as he focused himself. He hadn't used his powers often; in fact, since birth he could count the number of times he used Chaos on one hand. But he didn't need lessons in it. As a Divinity it came naturally; it was part of his DNA, if he had any. He was a god on the same level as Marduk, Enlil, Nergal, and Inanna. The island was momentarily enveloped in a flash of light. And then life.
 

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A Final Farewell

How does it feel?" Phetra asked in the tower, her voice low. Much of the room around the Voidlords was scorched from the white flames from earlier, though they both were unscathed. The Ruler of the Underworld motioned toward Nefarian, offering him his cloak back. It had been blown backwards during the devastation. Whatever they had tampered with it was incredibly powerful and dangerous.

The Dark Elf clenched his fist and cracked his neck, looking around the room and toward where the ball of white light had once been. Since their operation it had ascended back to the top of the spire, orbiting around it in perfect circular motion. Though he could no longer see it, the Dark Elf could sense it. It felt fatigued, worn, and defeated. And so it orbited above the two peacefully, no longer resisting. At least for the time being. Nefarian turned toward Phetra, taking his cloak and donning it. "Children are told, or at least were, that the gods were supreme. Different beings. But honestly, I don't feel very different at all. A curious phenomenon." And those senses extended far beyond the Underworld. He could sense the world, and the living beings in it. And there he could taste a new virulence being born in the Land of Fire. A curious thing to sense. And he could sense below - into the Void itself. And the restless giants that slept there. Perhaps this is what it meant to feel different. The sensation that he could feel and know anything. "Yes, this will do nicely." He smiled.

"Good. So you can shatter it, yes?" Phetra asked hurriedly. In the distance she could sense the Twin Fates' demise, and now Falnir engaged in battle.

"Indeed. The child god Enkidu stopped me before because I lacked the Divinity required to make the Red Fever truly impervious. In all fairness, it was a half hearted attempt that was more akin to testing the waters than anything else. But with this...with her Divinity, I will make a truly Prismatic Plague." He paused for a moment, the happiness on his face fading back into the typical indifference he was accustomed to. "I can help you, you know. We can wipe them all out together."

The Ruler of the Underworld pondered for a moment. "No. We both know that cannot happen Nefarian. Everyone has a purpose to play. And mine is here in this battle. Yours is elsewhere. Above. Preparing what is to come." Her voice was firm and resolute. She would fill her purpose even if it brought her to her inevitable demise. This was Imeroth's plan - a plan born from Tiamat's mind. It was manipulative but necessary to shatter the Domains that they had stolen.

Nefarian nodded a single time, and then bowed. "Then this is farewell, Phetra. Ruler of the Underworld. I admire your conviction. Bring them to their knees." And with that the Voidlord Nefarian vanished.
 

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After the collapse of Chungsu, Keishi became the central economic bastion of the Land of Fire; noted to be the 'city that never sleeps,' Keishi inherited the plentiful lands and rich culture of the Hangurian Freehold. But the city was not nearly as centralized as the empire that controlled it before; ruled by everchanging factions, it prides itself on its contained territory and decentralized rule. Many of the ruling factions believe that their policy of limited borders and a focus on the city-state, rather than empire building, is why they have remained so prosperous. It is here where our mystery begins.

"Papa! Papa!" The voice of a young boy, no more than six years of age, sprinted to his father who was tightly wrapped under a wool blanket on a sofa. "Papa!" He repeated, voice growing louder as he walked through the door into their living room. The family lived well; a house in the heart of Keishi, right next to the marketplace where the father worked as a merchant. But ill fortune struck their home and the father was afflicted with a terrible strain of influenza. In a world where most have not mastered the usage of chakra, or even know the secrets of healing, it was often times a deadly virus that brought about considerable sadness. But three weeks ago he changed. The world had changed.

The boy knelt at his father's side while he lay on the couch. His strength was returning, albeit slowly; three weeks of convalescence made for an impressive recovery for a man who had been on his death bed. The young boy could still remember it vividly: his father laying there, beads of sweat dripping from his forehead down his cheeks and onto his neck. His shirt was soaked from the fever that gripped him, and chills shook his body. "You're going to make it...papa," he smiled. Giving his dad a slight nudge as he groaned, waking up from a deep sleep. With a tired hand he patted his son's head.

This was not a unique story. A month ago Keishi was taken by a virulent strain of influenza. Hundreds of families had been swept away by it, leaving many dead. But of them, roughly fifty men and women seemed to have miraculously survived. Their stories were all the same: at death's door, their lives but a thread away from being taken to Irkalla. And yet somehow they lived and recovered. Rumors spread quickly throughout the surrounding area. News articles were posted throughout the world of a miraculous disease recovery happening in the heart of the Land of Fire.

Investigative Mission Requirements:
  1. Your mission must be C-Rank or lower. This is not a high stakes mission; you are here to investigate, ask questions, and understand what might be behind this second lease on life.
    • This is only the first mission outline of many to come. There will be higher ranked missions later on.
    • This does not mean kill innocent civilians. Doing so will fail your mission. Don't take reckless actions.
    • You are not to impose on the story. You are asking about a disease and an experience. In character your biography knows next to nothing about these people. You can name these NPCs, you can RP with them, but you cannot impose on the story. This means that you can't answer HOW they survived, though you might be able to deduce it through other known elements outside of in character knowledge. This mystery is to be revealed very slowly.
  2. Your mission must take place in Keishi.
  3. Your mission should, in some form, be centered on investigating how these flu-afflicted humans survived their disease.
  4. Moderators have discretion on whether or not your mission meets these requirements.
 

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Someone once said that it is not good if you know too much of your future. Whoever they are, they were a jackass.

I have known my fate since I was only ten years old. Every single excruciating detail. But I grew powerful because of it. Very powerful. That fate taught me that death is inevitable. Not just for me. For everyone. God and man. Death does not care who you are, everyone is made equal before it. They all return to one single point - a convergence of sorts. But I did not despair, in fact I relished that forbidden knowledge. I used it to motivate myself, and used every day to grow strong and useful. Knowing my fate did not discourage me. But I did not become powerful to overcome my fate. I had accepted it long ago; I grew powerful to be useful every day until the inevitable.

They say even the most powerful beings have their fates ordained by the Twin Fates, gods and man alike. What an odd decision by the first generation of divinities. Whoever decided that had a peculiar vision for the inner mechanisms of life within the universe, even for the greatest divinities. The Twin Fates write and speak in a language obscured even to the other gods. While they may be a lower class of Divinity compared to say, Marduk or Enlil, they ironically hold an even more important position than they did. They write and control fate for everyone.

But why despair? Despair is such a wasteful emotion. It is ambition and determination that focuses us, guides us to greatness. Remaining ignorant of one's fate, or despairing because one has learned theirs, is nothing but shameful waste. Despair only causes someone to run and hide from inevitability. But those who face it are destined for greatness. I have ruled the Underworld longer than Ereshkigal and Nergal combined, both incredibly powerful Divinities. Yet I, a human, have carried the burden of the crown far beyond them. But other humans are not like me. They waste their potential, or despair before fate itself. Was this the gods' design form the beginning?

The day I learned my fate I clenched my fists so tightly my knuckles went white. I did not cry or despair. My anger wasn't turned toward some abstract metaphysical concept. I was furious with the gods. In their ultimate and practically timeless wisdom they created something so wasteful: humanity. Beings born to die. What was the point of that? Disgusting. Wasteful. But I ask you, just for a moment, imagine a world where we were not burdened by fate, death, or destiny. Is that not more just than the world that the gods created for humanity as it is now? Is that not better? Why would we not aspire for such greatness? Am I so evil, or so disgusting, for cooperating with a grand design to see that existence overturned with something more glorious, free, and prosperous?

I don't know how the others feel. Imeroth curses the gods. His fury has burned bright for thousands of years. But the others? They range in obscurity. Demetrias is young, at least compared to myself and the others but ancient in human terms. He has suffered considerably in war; torn apart by it and cast aside by the Hangurian Freehold when his life had become inconvenient. Nefarian? He's a doctor type. A real scientist. He and I are more similar than I like to admit given how odd and reclusive he might be at times. I know he finds disgust in the same imperfections I do. And Basel? He's even more mysterious than Imeroth. It's difficult to gauge how powerful he is, or what he wants. He was here before any of us, myself included - and I was the first of Imeroth's disciples. He always seemed to be the largest in the room. A vessel that contained some kind of monstrous power; but no one can get a reading on it. I suspect the only ones who can even come close to measuring Basel's true nature is Imeroth and Nefarian. And the latter only because they're so damn close.

We are united, mostly, in a single purpose: to supplant the order established by the gods. While the Age of Gods ended the mechanisms of their universe still exist and persist to this day, frustratingly so. The Twin Fates still weave their string, toiling at fate for eternity, Falnir still judges those that are sentenced to death. An endless cycle that keeps souls flowing into Irkalla. From the first day I donned the Crown I realized this intentional design flaw. Perhaps it is my own cynicism but it was almost as if Nergal designed a fragile soul to keep the Underworld fueled. Those that are not permitted into the Realm of Paradise are sentenced to either the Realm of Torment or some middle circle of hell where they toil for eternity. There was not much I could do, even as its Ruler. These systems were put in place and ordained long before I drew breath. The only one among us that could undo this design might have been Imeroth; ancient himself, he was among Marduk's first Immortal Humans. A being that existed before there was even an Underworld fully constructed for souls to reside in. But he seemed to have no interest, and the responsibility for the Crown fell to me as I took up the mantle of the Domain of Death. My destiny. My fate. My purpose.

"Isn't that right, Ereshkigal?" I smiled gently, my pale hand reaching out for the sphere of light that orbited my chambers in Ganzir. She had been my trophy for thousands of years now; perhaps the former Ruler of the Underworld had gone insane by now. There is no telling what happens when a god's Divine Core is left vulnerable for so long. For a moment the orbiting light ruptured, bursting out and illuminating the room. But nothing else happened. "My oh my. Even after all these years you still have some fight in you. Some desire to resist the inevitable. That's commendable. I would have done the same. Fate is such a cursed and wasteful thing. You cannot break out because it is your fate to remain trapped here, my prisoner. And I cannot leave because I am fated to be here, my purpose to be fulfilled as the holder of the Domain of Death. Do you hate me?" The ball of light illuminated again, almost as if it wanted to reach out and throttle me.

"Come now, Ereshkigal. You and I are going to do what Marduk, Nergal, Enlil, and Inanna failed to do. We are going to break fate. We won't overcome destiny. We will destroy it, turn it to dust, and leave nothing behind."
 

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Everything and everyone serves a purpose.

The serpent beneath the sea serves you poison from a petite tea cup made of the rarest bones.

"You have seen my gaze. You have felt my touch. The endless sea, the dreaming woman. Life born from the sea. Life spreads. Life changes. Evolves. Changes. Morphs. Great things are built. Empires rise. Empires fall. But from your vantage point you see constant struggle. A battle for supremacy. A war for survival. But the end will remind you of what came before, and what will come after. Morphs. Changes. Evolves. Changes life. Spreads death. Sea is born from life. The maddened woman, the infinite void. My touch you have felt. My gaze has seen you."

You drink the poisoned tea.

A sip of regret. A gulp of power.

Nine keys to open the seal. Nine torches to guide His path. Ten blades forged, ten soldiers march.

Deep beneath the sea mad things stir.

From the sky a star falls.

Everyone and everything a purpose is served.
 

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"Four shares? That's plenty." The first man spoke in the dead of night, inside the sewer pipelines surrounded by three other masked individuals. His voice was giddy, very excited for the task at hand.

Nightfall had come to Keishi. And with it a new wave of crime in the wake of the flu that had, at least initially, ravaged the city. Much of society had come to a slowdown during it, leading to relaxed law enforcement. But Keishi's Independent Bank was still operating; within its ancient stone walls, built during the height of the Hangurian Freehold, was countless gold bullion and ryo. Piles and stacks of gold bars lined its inner depths as it stored the riches of the most powerful shinobi and aristocrats alike. But tonight it was going to be broken into. And these four normal humans, not even ninja, were going to accomplish just that.

"More than we can spend in a single lifetime. I bet half the ninja that leave their money here forget where they left it! I mean come on. Who spends Ryo? Useless currency anyway." This time it was a woman's voice, laughing as she finished her sentence and imagined the untold sums of wealth she was about to come into possession of.

"Definitely. Ishi, Alexei, help me with this...." A third man spoke this time, grunting slightly as he erected a ladder on the side of the large stone sewer walls. The water beneath them was gently rushing downstream through the mainline, which conveniently was placed directly underneath Keishi's massive bank. The woman, Ishi, and Alexei, the first man, both approached to hold the ladder steady as he climbed up, in his hand something that resembled a C4 charge. Could something so basic truly be used to blow their way through the ancient, and potentially magical, walls constructed by the Hangurians hundreds of years ago?

But it wasn't just one charge. It was several. From below Ishi opened a large bag, and in it were dozens of small bricks of explosives. Whatever the reason they had no intention on stealth, or even surviving -such a quantity of high grade explosives wouldn't just destroy the walls but it would also send them sky high. Not as single bodies either, but as small bits and pieces as they rained down on Keishi.

After ten minutes the fourth mysterious man spoke. "Come on, let's do this. I'm tired of waiting. We've been planning this for a week!"

Finally, after nearly three dozen charges were set in an array on the ceiling of the sewers, the man came down from the ladder. "Let's put this to the test." The fourth man took out his detonator, smiled, and clicked.

A terrible explosion rippled through the sewers, unleashing a maelstrom of flames and devastation throughout. So much so that almost the entirety of Keishi shook violently. But within those flames the four remained unscathed, albeit their clothes torched. And above them a gigantic hole ripped toward the surface - with gold bars and burnt ryo falling down on them. And all that could be heard in the silence that came after the explosion was laughter. Horrible laughter.

Investigative Mission Requirements
  • Your mission must be B-Rank. These criminals are not hardened warriors or gods. They are just mere criminals who, with a bit of good (bad?) fortune, have come across immortality and decided to use their newfound gifts for crime. Stop them. Find out when and how they gained immortality. You will be able to connect it to the strange white light from these criminals.
  • How you obtain the information is up to you. They might be immortal but they still feel pain, fear, and can be incentivized.
  • Do not kill innocent civilians or cause unnecessary widespread destruction.
  • You are not to impose on the story. You are asking about how what happened to the men and women afflicted with the flu might correlate to these four bank robbers.
  • Your mission must take place in Keishi.
  • Your mission should, in some form, be centered on connecting the flu victims to these bank robbers and understanding what implications that might hold for the world at large.
 
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The serpent slithered through the endless sea, wandering aimlessly in its infinitude. Occasionally its body thrashed about, as if attempting to shake itself through a net that was cast both wide and small across its entire Existence. On a deep visceral level the serpent wanted nothing more than freedom. The thoughts were not intelligent. Just desire and instinct. It thrashed and thrashed about, but to no avail. Its bindings were both invisible and infinitely strong. No matter which direction it swam it was futile. Trapped in infinity for eternity.

He coiled around Her body; Her lifeless but lifeful body. Long since had she been driven to madness, what felt like only moments ago. Yet an infinite amount of time had passed in the endless sea. And still it thrashed, roiling against its imprisonment as it if was a crime against the intrinsically chaotic essence of nature itself.

Nine keys to open the seal. Nine torches to guide His path. Ten blades forged, ten soldiers march.

And yet it was not enough. One piece yet remained. Four bindings to be Shattered. And for this the serpent swam, continuously and infinitely coiling around the body that had long since been driven to the edge of sanity. With Her hand He guided, taking the unshaped sea as he had done so many times before. Undefined, unmolded, emptiness. Her hand shaped it; four figurines were born into existence. Four children. Four empty minds yet to see the finite existence beyond this infinite prison.

And yet in the infinite depths a hand reached through. A timeless babe pulled from its parents as the other three continued to bask in infinitude. The snake hissed, angered. It began helplessly thrashing again, powerless to stop the hand from pulling the Child from its birthplace.
Nergal created me as his champion. A bulwark against the coming armies of his brothers. The Great Civil War was devastating, ending the Age of Gods and destroying multiple generations of Divinities with only few remaining. The others were either slain, trapped, or another terrible fate had befallen them. Something far worse than the finality of death. I am Falnir, known in human legend as the Burial King. A tasteless title. I merely enforce judgement that was long ordained by my siblings, the Twin Fates. Or rather, they are known as the Twin Fates. Another human convention. These mortals truly have no creativity. But the Twin Fates, as they are called, have no real name. They exist separate from even the most ancient Divinities. Nergal created them with the express purpose of regulating the universe on a mortal and immortal level, and kept them excluded from the trivial and petty infighting that frequently took place between the gods. But he also made them weak, and only really able to carry out their ordained duties. So in a sense, the God of Death wanted a contingency plan in case the Twin Fates ever turned against him. Even Marduk and Enlil viewed them as a threat, treating them as their first targets when they made their incursion into Irkalla. They failed.

The Twin Fates cannot even communicate with the other gods. It was both forbidden and rendered impossible, another one of Nergal's accomplishments. He made this decision to explicitly prevent humans, or gods, from ever knowing their fates should they be written by them. As they say, knowing too much of one's future is dangerous. So Nergal hid all of it, even from himself.

When Nergal fathered me in the depths of Irkalla he crowned me as his champion. I have slain countless humans, passed judgement even on lesser gods, and fought against Marduk and Enlil. I survived these encounters, and continued to honor the duty that the first God of Death placed upon me. But when Nergal was slain and his wife, Ereshkigal, taken, I was left with a new ruler. A new coronation ceremony took place in the grand halls of Ganzir. I felt disgusted and ashamed. Nergal had commanded me to defend the Fields of Suffering. To prevent incursion into the lower halls of Irkalla. So when Phetra, the new Ruler of the Underworld, circumvented my territory there was little I could do. But in the depths of Ganzir was not only Phetra, but another man. Someone far more sinister.

And so the longest and most stable reign of Irkalla began. Eight thousand years passed where the flow of souls continued unabated. At times these souls would be corrupted, and their fates twisted from how the Twin Fates had written. And I remained in the Fields of Suffering, serving my original purpose like a monolith.

I was commanded to defend the Fields of Suffering, and I had never failed that task. Until now, as my blade willfully falls to liberate this forsaken realm.
 

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SEEK IT. FIND IT. THE FELLED ANGEL.

Dozens of shrouded men and women split up under the night sky in the Ruins of Chungsu. The night was dark, with little to no moonlight illuminating the ruined capital of the Hangurian Freehold. In that darkness they appeared as specters, each a black silhouette with only a single discernible feature: their eyes; their dark obscured blue eyes. These shinobi had awakened the Shinkaigan, a mark of the Void itself. Most of them had been normal ninja loyal to Taniagakure, Keishi, and surrounding areas; but their eyes shredded their loyalties, drowning them in a sea of insanity. None of this shinobi had Doujutsu prior to obtaining their Shinkaigan, and how it had happened remains a mystery to even them. But as soon as they received their eyes the unknowable mysteries of the Void became apparent to them. It is said that in Keishi three of these ninja began speaking about whispers they could hear, and they began to maintain their Shinkaigan wherever they went. Others in neighboring villages throughout the Land of Fire around Keishi began to talk of seeing life itself, and its progression. They could gaze into the future, and see eternity collapsing into itself in a singularity.

These were the shinobi that were progressively driven mad by their own new abilities. How and why remains a mystery. They have come to Chungsu in their own madness, whispers in their ear likely generated from schizophrenia...or another? Specifically they have congregated at the ruined Library of Chungsu, a repository of information that was destroyed in the Kyuubi's attack a decade ago. Many of the Freehold's state secrets were kept there, and whatever they may be after could lead to uncovering the mystery of the Void.

Combat Mission Requirements:
  • Your mission must be A-Rank. Unlike the last mission, which dealt with only petty criminals, these are rogue shinobi. They are trained in standard ninja arts and should be dealt with accordingly. But alongside their typical techniques they have also awakened the Shinkaigan. Their Doujutsu has led them to the Ruins of Chungsu in search for something. Like the victims of the flu and the bank robbers they are also immortal, but they can be disabled with the proper technique or strategy.
  • Do not seriously maim or wipe out your enemy/enemies. They might be 'average' ninja (i.e. Jounin with no special skills aside from Shinkaigan) but they should be kept in a state where you can question them. You are attempting to find out why they are here; most notably, you are looking for information on Felled Angel, which is a Hangurian codeword for the Fallen Star Meteorite. Their visions have led them here.
  • These shinobi have gone somewhat mad due to their Shinkaigan and its reckless usage.
  • Do not cause wanton or excessive destruction. Missions that attempt to destroy the entire landmark will be failed. You are to strategically disable these rogue ninja.
  • Your mission must take place in the Ruins of Chungsu.
 
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