A Different Neverending Story

Do I sense the start of collaboration forming where we get to witness the birth of “A Different Neverending [Poetic] Story”?

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Negative’, I know

I don’t know? :joy::sweat_smile: I could hunt down some photos and then it could become an illustrated series :upside_down_face::orange_heart:

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Stealing this for my dance of squeeeee

Valk story, Birdy poems AND pictures… I’m cancelling my Netflix now :slight_smile:

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Hey, I just noticed something! If you tap a tower while in Upgrade view, the tower will fire it’s supershot :smiley::smiley::smiley:

Not sure it this was mentioned before, but it was a nice surprise!

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This was a lot of fun! I’m planning on making a separate post on where some of the lores are from, thoughts and some photos. Sort of like an Extras I guess? :sweat_smile: Stay tuned :wink::joy::orange_heart:

Weekly Forums Contest Thing: Shadow's Light

KALLISTO
The Moon’s Shadowlight

Deep within space, two dragon eggs lay nestled on the far side of a Galilean moon. Harsh, cold and inhospitable to most lifeforms, let alone a newborn dragon. Which made it the best hiding place as none would think to look there. Born from a Celestial and a dragon from the Underworld, they were hidden away to spare them from the ravages of the Celestial Rift, even if it meant leaving their fates to the unforgiving tundra. And they met a tragic end as star-crossed lovers are wont to do. Both persecuted by their respective clans.

Eventually the eggs hatched and new life stepped forth into the world. Kallisto, The Moon’s Shadowlight and Io, The Sun’s Solarflare. Kallisto was mostly clad in black scales with streaks of silver like glimmering stars on a inky midnight sky. Io had golden scales which transitioned like an aurora borealis, depending on how the light reflected on her scales.

Barely a week old and Kallisto was forced to learn a cruel lesson. The indominus snow leopard shark, a White Death that stalked through the perpetual frost on Galilean moons.

Caught like a deer in headlights, they stared at the beast with equal mixture of fear and despair. Then instinct kicked in and both dragonlings bolted like their lives depended on it (quite literally). They ran as fast as their little hearts could, but there were two uncomfortable truths. A predator was hot on their tails and only one dragonling was faster. Kallisto whipped back when she heard Io yelp in surprise. The snow leopard shark had sunk its claws into her sister. Kallisto watched hesitantly, her last familial bond warring with her survival instinct. Instinct won, just barely. Kallisto tore her eyes from the scene and fled, before the beast was done and started looking for a second course.

Cold and alone, Kallisto survived by preying on lesser lifeforms until she could handle bigger game. That was how she grew into her claws over the years.


Standing upon a crater filled with snow leopard sharks, Kallisto was now a fearsome dragon in her own right. Adding the last of them onto the ivory mountain, Kallisto spread her wings and departed for the realm of Atlas where it all began. There she stumbled upon an unattended Archives that contained the records of all dragonkind since the dawn of time. And she learned. The failings of the Celestials recorded in great detail from the time of Withermoon and beyond. The fruitless war between the Celestials and the Rebellion. The fate that befell her parents and consequently left two dragonlings to fend for themselves. Everything.

Kallisto was a special dragon gifted with the intelligence of a Celestial and the cunning of the Underworld. Taking the scrolls with her, she began to hatch a plan. A plan that would take decades to weave. A plan that would ultimately bring ruin to Celestials and Rebellion alike.

All dragons inherit the knowledge of the location of the treasure vaults of their predecessors. Perhaps a safety mechanism to increase the chances of survival for their direct descendants. Kallisto delved into the Underworld where the guardian Cerberath let her pass, having recognised her lineage. Deep beneath the Glowing Cradle, were mounds of gold and diamonds that extended throughout the caverns.

Kallisto sought out Hunters from various clans and guilds to enact her plan. They did all sorts of odd jobs for gold. She posted requests on notice boards of taverns throughout the realms. Under an alias, the scrolls and payment were passed through many intermediaries, ensuring that nothing could be traced back to her. Soon, all of Atlas would know of the crimes of the Celestials and their counterparts. Now that the scrolls were in the open, the cogs of destiny began to turn.


One cloudy afternoon found Kallisto was making her way through mist in the Northern Prairies. Things were going according to plan. Murmurs of discontent and whispered accusations were flying across the realms. She had her own dragons planted in every Hunters’ guild to stoke the flames off and on. Never to forget. She was also travelling to all trade routes to intercept any shipments that were either headed for the Celestials or Rebellion camps. She had already bought over a ton of rations and medical supplies from travelling merchants, redirecting them to groups who were discontented with the civil war. Dragons weren’t exactly known for their loyalty, so it was easy enough.

The sun was nearing its peak. She dived towards one of the crystal springs to rest her wings. The simplest way to defeat an army was not a bigger army. (A smooth boulder in the middle of the spring caught her eye). It was doubt. (She channeled some mist into the rock). Once it seeped through the cracks, it would spread like poison. (Kallisto sent an icy wind towards the structure). Over time, they would tear themselves apart and the whole system would collapse from within. (The stone shattered).

Celestials who neglected the cries of the people. The Rebellion who instead of raising the various issues at the council meetings, decided to plunge the entire realm into a war. They may have justified their cause with some self-righteous claim, but weren’t the Rebellion also former Celestials? No matter. They would all pay their debt and she would collect. Her tail flicked in glee. The stage was set. She would watch from the shadows. The day when they fell from their own folly, she would rise as the Dark Overlord. The true master of Atlas, mobilising pawns from behind the scenes.

Kallisto relished at the thought. Or tried to…

Can’t do any revelling with all that racket going on. It sounded somewhat like a cross between a strangled cat and a baby camel. Kallisto’s eye twitched in annoyance. With great reluctance, she got up and went to see which poor unfortunate soul dared to disrupt her daydream, because if it wasn’t dead already, it would be.

From her vantage point on a cliff’s edge, she could see a small dragon, the source of the god awful cries, was running away from a sabretooth viper. Probably got separated from its brood or orphaned by the war, more like. About the size of a large horse, the sabertooth viper was lethal to mammals and humans, but hardly made a decent snack for dragons, as it was mostly made up of bones and scales. Kallisto dived down and dispatched the beast in one fell swoop and proceeded to brunch.

She was still chewing her first morsel, when the little dragon came running over, wagging its tail. What, was this a dragon or a dog? The dragon was as ordinary as they came. Covered in dark, leathery hide, a long neck, four legs, wings and a tail. With no noticeable spikes or horns, it could easily pass off as a sauropod.

Poor, defenceless creature. Kallisto slowly extended her claws. It probably wouldn’t last long in the wild. She sauntered over and pushed down on its chest. The dragonling immediately rolled over onto its back. Seriously, did some canine DNA get mixed up in there or what? A bright, unguarded gaze looked up at her. So vulnerable, weak with eyes full of trust. Reminding Kallisto of everything she had wanted to forget. A frozen, barren moon. Her one moment of weakness. The loss of kin. Never again. She would do it a favour and put it out of its misery. After all, the weak had no right to exist. Her spiked tail rose in an arch, poised and ready…and then lowered it again.

In a time of scarce resources and dragonpower, she’d need all the help she could find. It wasn’t that she couldn’t kill it, because she totally could! She was just making a strategic choice not to. Absolutely strategic! It would be a waste. The dragon population was at an all time low and she could probably use the little one. After all, didn’t all Dark Overlords need a minion?

Kallisto let up on the little runt and bade it to follow.

“Hi, thanks for saving me back there. I don’t have a name, but it’s really nice to meet you!”

Of course it just had to be a chatty one. Of course. “Keep up, runt. We have a lot of ground to cover. Fall behind and you’ll be left behind.”

"Okay!” After three steps, “What should I call you?”

Without turning back, “Master.”


The runt was running through the courtyard and entered a study. “Master, did you hear the news? They’re saying…”

“That The Partisan has left the Rebellion. Yes, I heard. If it’s in Atlas I know, so don’t bother me with such trivial gossip in future.” Kallisto went back to writing her letter. The runt had grown slightly and could fly short distances now, but still had no defining features. Just a bigger sauropod.

“Aww…Okay, so can we go hunting today?”

“No, you aren’t ready. Go study your spellbooks some more.”

“But I do that everyday. Please, can we go hunt just for today? I’ll even settle for sheep. Anything.”

“You’ll no sooner be shot down by a Ballista.”

“That was one time.”

“One time too many.”

“Aww…Then how about pie? That’s definitely within my abilities.”

Kallisto resisted the urge to roll her eyes. “Good luck on your pie-raiding expedition. Try not to get hit by a trebuchet on your way out.”

“I won’t need to dodge anything, because I can make it myself. I already learned the recipe yesterday.”

Okay, that time she did eye-roll. If the runt wasn’t so good at potions, she would have prohibited her from such idle pastimes. “Why would you learn that?”

“Didn’t you ask me to learn the culture and history of every species?”

“To gain a tactical advantage. What pray tell, is advantageous about pie?”

“You can use it to throw at lame jokes?”

“…”

“But it’s a lot of work to make pie just for throwing. They also throw tomatoes and an assortment of rotten food.”

Kallisto made an internal groan. What did she ever do to deserve this?


Kallisto was in a chipper mood, even humming as she strolled down the hallways. She’d received intel of the Celestials’ defeat at the Stygian Sea. With rations running low, they apparently resorted to fishing along the shores to feed their army. The Celestial army. Fishing! Then Barnov showed them why they shouldn’t. The Celestials almost immediately turned tail and fled for their lives. Oh, happy days!

Kallisto wondered where the runt had gone off to. She usually loved bringing her news despite telling her repeatedly that it was unnecessary and outdated. The runt had grown some more. Not so much a runt now, but almost a decently sized dragon. She had two stubs on her head where her new horns were growing. The tip of her tail was also hardening into a four-pronged spear, so she was finally graduating from a sauropod. Which was a great improvement, because it put a stop to random hugs and other forms of close contact in general. Especially since the runt could cause injury by recklessly doing so. No more days spent almost tripping or half-limping, half-struggling to get across the compound with the little foot warmer wrapped around her leg like some giant hairless cat. Kallisto swore she had never met a dragon this clingy throughout her lifetime.

Strangely the runt was nowhere to be seen. She wasn’t in the kitchens or the fields or any of her usual places. Kallisto widened her senses to help her pinpoint her location. She followed a faint scent that led her to an abandoned stable on the outer edges of the compound.

When she pushed open the wooden door, large garnet eyes met hers in surprise. The runt quickly dived into a nearby bale of hay. Her tail was left sticking out though.

“Look, I can see you, you know.”

After a few heartbeats, the runt shuffled her way out of the straw. There was nothing out of the ordinary except for the mess she was in. Feathers lay scattered all over with flecks of blood staining the leather.

“You look like you’ve just returned from the Battle of Waterloon. Did things run afowl in the poultry section?”

Met with heavy silence, Kallisto sat on her haunches and waited.

“You hate Celestials right?”

Unsure of how it was related to this, Kallisto neither confirmed or denied it.

“Azrael, Kinnarus and Nucifera… Aren’t a lot of Celestials plumed divines? Now that I have feathers growing too, what if that makes me part Celestial? Please don’t send me away, Master. I’ll find a way to ungrow them.” The runt pleaded as she clung to her claws. Although she had grown, she was still as clingy as ever.

"Listen up, runt. The self-appointed Celestials gave themselves the title only to lord it over all the dragon classes. Residing high upon their lofty perch, living a life of excess, they pride themselves on a principle of non-intervention, yet never around when they’re actually needed. The whole of Atlas can burn and they’d probably add it as just another observation to their precious Archives.

“Whether you turn out to be part turkey or part flamingo, it doesn’t matter. It’s what you do that defines you. Now stop this nonsense of plucking out feathers before some foolish human mistakes you for a Thanksgiving meal.”

“Did you just make a human joke?”

Kallisto cleared her throat. “You misheard.”

“Speaking of Thanksgiving, did you know that there are 28 recipes for stuffing a turkey? Master, where are you going? Master?”


It was a snowy Winter’s night. The latest update from her spies was the best one yet. Both Celestials and Rebellion were driven to desperation to the point where they actually attacked the Spinal Peaks. An extremely foolish move as everyone knew that while The Ninth Guardian stood watch, none shall pass. Naturally, both sides suffered a devastating defeat and were forced to retreat to one of their last few strongholds. Everything was falling into place. Kallisto continued to control the trade routes and spent many months sending out letters to every dragon tier and class. To all the abandoned dragons of Atlas, she redirected them to the nearest Hunter’s guild within their district. She supplied her forces with all the appropriated supplies and gold. All anonymously of course. The web she weaved was tightening around her foes.

Kallisto was overjoyed by the positive turns in events, so much so that she even humoured the runt by letting her celebrate one of those human traditions. Nothing could dampen her mood, not even the cavity-inducing cocktail the runt concocted.

She took a sip from the mug of hot chocolate she was very slowly nursing. With every mouthful, she could feel the substance seeping deep into her molars. She suspected the runt dumped an entire cart of chocolate into the cauldron. Why did humans have so many festivals? Did they have that much free time?

“It’s a day to spend time with family after a whole year and come up with new year resolutions we won’t keep. It’s tradition!”

Oh, she must have thought that out loud.

“It’s terrible. What’s the point of making a goal without accomplishing it? Thought without action is just a dream.” It was warm and the crackling fireplace was hypnotic. Maybe humans drank this stuff to knock themselves out. One could only fathom the mysteries of the human mind.

“It’s also a time to reflect and to remember loved ones. I think it’s pretty neat.”

“Remember, huh?” Kallisto muttered to herself as she looked up at the moon outside. It was a full moon. Its enchanting luminescence covering the land in a soft, gentle glow.


The pair were flying halfway across the Atlas sky continent. Now that the runt was fully grown, Kallisto had commissioned a set of armour from the master metal workers of the Fire Fields.

Kallisto had her try on the set of dark armour to make sure that it fit. The black armour was magnificently crafted. It provided ample cover, even for the twin sets of wings. It was lightweight, but strong, providing an almost invulnerable defense.

“Are you sure this stone is working properly? I thought it was supposed to glow.”

There was a mythic glyph set into the breastplate. The gem was supposed to greatly enhance a dragon’s magic. However, right now it was dull and colourless like a piece of glass.

“It’s not activated, because you haven’t unlocked your core magic yet. That’s why I kept telling you to study your spellbooks.” Every dragon possessed a spellkit unique to them. Once unlocked, the gem would glow according to the user’s inherent nature.

The runt laughed sheepishly and quickly tried to change the subject. “Since we’re here, why don’t you choose something too? I feel bad being the only one getting a present.”

“Armour is for Sorcerers and Warriors. Hunters have no need for them.”

“Then what about accessories? Lots of Hunters wear shiny jewelry.”

“No. I’d rather not have some useless piece of deadweight suddenly blocking my field of vision or getting caught on something, thank you very much.”

The runt continued to browse the wares on display for a while. Kallisto thought that she had finally given up on the idea when she retrieved a silver bracelet.

“Wook, ish woarm on yeour taele sho ish woan’t geurt een yeour waey (Look, it’s worn on your tail so it won’t get in your way).” The runt muttered around the jewelry.

It had an intricate design that looked like it was engraved with a lot of care and inlaid with a luminescent chrysoberyl. A white band of light ran down the middle of the gem like a dragon’s eye.

One of the master blacksmiths came in just then. “She has a good eye. That piece was commissioned by a Mythic Dragon Lord and Lady from the noblest of lineages. They ordered a pair. Hang on.” The blacksmith ducked under the counter and emerged with a matching bracelet. Only, it was gold and inlaid with a fire opal. “That was many moons ago, but they never came back for it. They’ve already been paid for so they’re yours if you want them.”

Not one to pass up on something freely offered, Kallisto wore the silver band and marvelled at how it fit perfectly as if it was made for her. She kept the piece with the fire opal for now, thinking that she’d find a purpose for it someday."


Faced with continuous defeats, thousands from the Celestials and Rebellion defected over to the rising forces of Huntrriorsorinv. Not the most eloquent of names, but it served its purpose. It represented the commitment of all dragon classes, united under one flag.

The remaining Celestials had retreated to the Twilight Woodlands, hoping that the dense tree cover would provide additional protection. They must really be desperate if they thought a few pieces of lumber could stop the Alliance.

On the other hand, The Rebellion was making their last stand at the base of the Ninth Pass where the Peaks ended and the Glowing Cradle began. A more formidable stronghold, having to maneuver through a treacherous gorge while avoiding flying lava. Still, it wasn’t something they couldn’t handle. They had plenty of dragons with fire resistances. The master metal-workers even lent them some of their inventions like the fire-eating Wydrian and Redrian. They were well prepared.

The Alliance would be moving in on the easy ones first at Twilight Woodlands. After that, it was Xul at the Molten Chasm.

The runt was leading an army of her own now. Hailed as the Lord of Battle, if only they knew what Kallisto had to put up with over the years. The Alliance was set to gather at Northern Prairies. They would meet up with The Partisan’s army as well as every lineage dragon who had answered the call.

Kallisto had just returned to their fort only to find it deserted. A sinking feeling started to form, but she waved it away. They were probably somewhere nearby. Kallisto searched the entire keep, but it was indeed empty. She felt icy cold deep within her spines as if she had been plunged into the rivers of the Frigid Narrows.

She took off immediately for the meeting point. Many questions ran through her head. Why had the runt left with her army already? The Partisan wasn’t set to arrive for another day. Surely she wasn’t thinking of starting the siege without him? Though dwindling in numbers, their enemies had some powerful Mythics left.

No one was at the Prairies either. Kallisto changed course and headed East. By the time she arrived at the forested castle it had already fallen. Smoke and burning embers were the only signs that a siege had taken place. This was bad, really bad, because that only left the Molten Chasm.

Without pausing, Kallisto started towards the heart of Atlas. Flying through the Burning Sands and the Glowing Cradle, many scenarios haunted her thoughts. What if the Ever Burning descended from its forest in the Sacred Ridge? Known for its cruelty and spiriting away armies, what if the runt got lost during the fog of war?

Nights turned into days and turned into nights again. Kallisto hardly took notice, already set on a single-minded goal. However, the more time passed, the more her psyche was eaten up by despair. Thoughts of the war were far, far away. Strangely enough, memories of silly little nothings replayed in her mind. Early days where she spent a crazy amount of time trying to dislodge a living foot warmer. The runt picking up some other useless human hobby. Another kitchen burned down. Sickeningly sweet concoctions and warmth.

Ah…so that was family.

It was nightfall when she reached the Molten Chasm. The gorge lit aglow from blazing fires and lava making it seem as if the canyon walls were burning as well. Kallisto wasted no time in diving straight into the heart of battle. Phasing through cycles of the moon, she moved swiftly like a silver blade through darkness. The only sign of her approaching was a burst of moonlight. There was no strategy involved, only bloodlust. She cut through her foes until none were left standing.

When she looked up, dawn was already breaking through the clouds. The armies of the Alliance cheered, but she could not find it within her to rejoice. She still hadn’t spotted the runt in the skies or among the bodies on the ground. She was listlessly meandering through the rocks when the cheers of the crowd finally registered through her ears. They were singing praises of what sounded suspiciously like Calypso. Ah, she must have fallen in battle and gone to the afterlife, because there was no way for the name Kallisto and hero to exist in the same sentence otherwise.

No sooner had this thought arose, when a familiar dark dragon descended from the lightening sky. Clad in magnificent black armour and at its heart, a mythic stone shined a resplendent pink. This was definitely purgatory then. Before she had fully landed, Kallisto rushed forth and embraced her runt.

“I thought you didn’t like hugs?”

“I don’t.”

“A lot of dragons want to meet you. There’s talk of appointing you to a really important position for all your contributions during the war.”

“Impossible. There’s no way they know who I am. I signed off on every letter with an alias or anonymously.”

“Oh, I told them everything.”

“You did WhAT?!” Kallisto jumped back in shock. Well, there goes her Dark Overlord title.

“What do we do now, Master?”

Fighting for peace was one thing. Keeping the peace was a whole other issue with its own set of problems. To have peace, one needed power. But too tight a leash and you’d have stirrings of a revolt. Too lax and everything would grow complacent, leading to an uprising as witnessed with the Celestials. They needed to find someone who could preside with authority over the numerous Dragon Lords. Someone with all the right connections and had foreknowledge of the inner workings of Atlas and the realms beyond. A dragon who could rally the army. Someone beloved by all and trusted to lead. A dragon who could inspire others to follow their vision wholeheartedly.

They had a lot of work ahead of them. Just thinking about it was enough to make her head spin. That aside, there was a far more important matter at hand…

“Call me, Sister.”

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The long awaited Extras is here! :partying_face::joy: Beware of :bangbang: SPOILERS :bangbang:

Shadow’s Light: A Glimpse into the Journey

The Atlas Map! Nearly all locations were taken from this. Except for Molten Chasm which I made up, because there wasn’t a name for it…or there wasn’t one I could find in time for the deadline, lol :joy::sweat_smile:

Two of four Galilean moons. Discovered by Gal in the 1600s :joy::heart_eyes:

Callisto is mostly covered in rocks and water ice which gives it a silvery kind of effect, I think?

Io is covered in sulfur and sulfur dioxide which makes it appear yellow.

Callisto

&

Io

+

It’s canon! :joy: Azrael left the Archives to join the Celestial Rift :smiley:

Deep underground, Cerberath guards the treasures of Atlas.

Apparently they used a baby camel :dromedary_camel: for the sound effects of the baby T rex in The Lost World. Here’s a recording of a baby Kinnarex from the wild, lol :rofl:

+

Towards the end, it’s mentioned that Jaalkan went off on his own.

Yes, you read that right Kallisto! It is mentioned that Barnov chased away the Celestials from his territory in the Stygian Sea.

Definitely a life of excess. Look at all that gold. Celestials are loaded! :joy: :money_with_wings::moneybag::money_with_wings::moneybag::money_with_wings::moneybag:

Nucifera’s lore even includes a Path of Tranquillity where their chosen path “impacts everything from how a person dresses to their chosen profession.” Hmm…Decisions, decisions :thinking::joy:

It’s recorded in Tzumat’s lore that both the Celestials and the Rebellion launched a raid on the Spinal Peaks…and failed miserably.

:joy::rofl::joy::rofl:

The master artisans of the Fire Fields! Located in the North West of Atlas.

For all Hunter Elitists our there, lol :joy::orange_heart:

I knew a chrysoberyl would suit Kallisto. However, it took some time to look for a stone that suited Io. I wanted a gem that had a solar flare effect. The closest one I could find was a Fire Opal. It has green, orange, blue, red and yellow swirling within the gem. Kinda like a solar flare :orange_heart:

Oh and Kallisto left the Fire Opal in the family mausoleum. She placed it in front of the memorial stone that she made for her.

Chrysoberyl with a Cat’s Eye effect
image

Fire Opal

Anybody gonna create this team? :joy::sweat_smile:

It’s canon! Look at all that lava pouring out from the Spinal Peaks! The perfect location for a last stand :fire::fire::fire:

image

NIGHT FUUUUUUUURRYY! :zap::zap::zap::rofl:

Kinda like this…:heart_eyes:

I was thinking of inserting another conversation after this, but I thought that would be too many “I thoughts” so I didn’t go through with it :sweat_smile:

Deleted convo:

“How could everyone have changed the plans without informing me? What if something went wrong?”

“I thought you knew everything?”

“…”

"We didn’t leave earlier. We set out right on time. Didn’t you adjust your time for Daylight Savings?

I think the song Rainbow from the MLP movie sort of suits Kallisto’s story :relieved: Spoilers if you haven’t watched it.

image

And so Kallisto and Kinnarunt ruled the whole of Atlas from the Castle of Two Sisters :sunny::crescent_moon:

Love that quote! :heart_eyes::orange_heart: Well, that wraps up this Extras portion. Hope everyone enjoyed reading this. No refunds! :joy::money_with_wings:

Next, we will return to our regular programming of Neverending Series, lol :sweat_smile::hugs::wave:

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SPOILER

And thus Kinnarunt was born! Lol :heart_eyes::joy::sweat_smile:

I’m kinda curious, but when did everyone figure out what sort of dragon the runt was? :thinking::sweat_smile:

Was it her first appearance? The turkey episode? When her horns and tail spikes started growing? When they went shopping? When they went to war? Or was it during the ending scene?

Feel free to let everyone know here :smiling_face_with_three_hearts::hugs:

Section 2

Journey to the Farthest Land

In the small hours before the dawn, when the canvas was still in shades of midnight blue and inky black waves that reflected the night sky like a parallel solar system, a tiny rowboat was slowly headed towards the huge mass of rolling fog on the horizon.


Calamity had struck the lands. Be it the sands, seas or skies, no one was safe. To make matters worse, alchemists could no longer craft vital healing potions despite using the same ingredients. Their healing magic had just suddenly stopped working.

It was the reappearance of an age old curse. A long forgotten dark illness from the past. From birth, inked lines appeared on the skin in maze-like patterns. Once the maze enveloped the entire body, well…that was the end of the line. With the average lifespan reduced to 30, life came to an end before it had even begun. Reigning monarchs became younger and younger. A world in which none dreamed of the morrow. It was the crisis of the century.

Faced with dire times, rulers gathered seers, shamans, healers and mystics from all across the lands. Anyone and everyone who could provide some insight into this mysterious malady.

A blessing from Heaven’s dragons…a fall…terra caligo…eight crossings…a knight…

These were the results after countless divinations.

They interpreted the first two keywords to be a reference to either the Celestials or Rebellion and so envoys were dispatched to both factions. However, it proved to be a false lead as neither fared any better. Unable to decipher its meanings, the greatest shaman was summoned to the highest court in all the lands. Apparently the age old curse had an age old prophecy. A legend that he recounted to the court. Prophecy foretold of a knight who would find the elixir of life from Isla Nebula. He even divined a path to said island.

This island could not be found by normal means. A place that even dragons could not enter. However, if a vessel sailed to certain coordinates and lost its way, they would happen upon the isle they sought. Over the course of time, generations upon generations of soldiers were deployed, but none returned. Soon, there were nary any left and no one wanted to become a knight for fear of being shipped off on a hopeless expedition. Due to the severe shortage of volunteers, they chose people for the mission instead. Those who had no influence nor wealth and who would not be missed were prime candidates.

And that’s where our young friend ended up greeting the day upon the shores of an island in the mist.

As he sat up, loud clanking noises followed with every movement. He had apparently been geared up in extremely worn out armor. They were clunky, ill-fitting and the amount of rust was probably enough to give someone tetanus just by looking at it. He’d sooner trip and fall than gain any form of protection from these pieces of scrap. Dark markings could be seen past his sleeves. The curse having already spread over more than half his torso. After tossing the gear in the dinghy, he dusted himself off and proceeded to scout around. The thick mist that blanketed the island was so dense that it painted the landscape in a subdued palette.

It was a typical island with forested jungles on one side and sandy beaches on the other. The skyline was mostly linear, broken only by the hard-to-miss towering statue. It was a monument of a four-headed dragon and the only major landmark on this side of the island. Actually, it only had three heads left. The other piece had broken off at some point. As he approached the statue, he noticed something glimmering on the fallen head. Upon closer inspection, there seemed to be a sword stuck in the stone block. The weapon appeared pretty extravagant as it had a ruby encrusted gold hilt. Sadly, the blade must be stuck really hard since no one had taken it yet. Deciding to try his luck anyway, he heaved the sword with all his might…and stumbled a few steps backwards. The sword had easily slipped free. It was an exquisite weapon. The blade was a deep crimson with gold trimmings and a fiery glow emanated from it. He had never seen such an exotic sword in his life. One could only fathom how much it was worth.

It would be cumbersome to carry it as it was so he gathered some pieces of cloth to bundle it up and a few extra strips so he could sling it over his shoulder. There were enough scraps of cloth strewn across the sands. As he was collecting, he tried not to think too hard on who they belonged to.

When he was done, he headed up a path towards the forest. The path was lined by what seemed to be the ruins of a civilisation. What were once dwellings had been reduced to rubble, looking more like an archeological site. As he entered the forest, he wondered if he would ever make it home again.


In these times, orphans were adopted out to serve noble households as soon as they could walk. He had ended up in a mansion where he and a few others helped with the daily upkeep. Today he was on an errand to pick up some orders from the tailor’s. He could already see the dragon fountain in the townsquare when an arm slung over his shoulder.

“Sir!”

“I told you not to call me that. It makes me sound old”

“But Anton, you are old.” In a town where the eldest was 32, Anton could be their grandparent many times over. Anton slapped a hand to his chest in mock hurt, but bounced right back in the next instance.

“Hey lad. Are you free today?”

“Actually, I…”

“Well, you are now. It’s fine, it’s fine. I’ve already notified the guys at your estate. Come, come. There’s a new shipment of rare magical ingredients that need testing.”

Anton was a shaman by trade. With the arrival of the curse, rulers gave shamans all the authority and resources they needed to unravel this mysterious illness. Every citizen was required to provide any aid possible if requested. His role as the shaman’s guinea pig wasn’t as bad as it sounded. It gave him a break from his usual duties and testing mostly consisted of being fed various fare which looked suspiciously like normal food.

Shamans were revered the world over, but the townspeople were still hesitant in approaching or having any interactions with Anton. However, that could be due to his dress which was wildly unusual even for shamans. He wore a lot of skeletal accessories. Bones, ribs, skulls; basically a lot of dead things. The most remarkable one he had was an elaborate antler headpiece which had neon blue engravings.To top it all off, he was draped in an olive cloak with roses lining the edges.

Anton conducted his research in a little workshop provided by the king. Upon entering the establishment, there were already many things going on all at once, as per usual. A bubbling cauldron, bright green liquid running through a hundred apparatus like a roller coaster, live specimens in fish tanks and cages, 75 clocks adorning the wall and a roaring hearth.

“Have a seat. It’ll only take a minute. Try some of these. They were made from the wheat fields of Elysium.” They looked like ordinary country bread, but oh well…

“Cockatrice stew makes a perfect accompaniment.”

He tried a bit of the soup. “Tastes like chicken…”

“Hahaha. Yes, it has a remarkable flavour strikingly similar to the common fowl. The key to making it is to remove the eyeballs or it’ll leave guests stunned beyond compare.”

Anton had a peculiar way of speaking and said a lot of strange things. Half way into a conversation, he’d jump across entirely different topics before orbiting back. Sometimes he spoke of things that didn’t exist in this time or place. Nevertheless, he was already used to Anton’s brand of storytelling and enjoyed listening to the shaman’s tales.

“Here you go. Mammoth steak from a mammoth.” The steak was probably the size of Atlas.

“Thank you for the food,” he said as he cut up a piece of Windblown Shroud. “Aren’t mammoths extinct though?”

“Well, it’s your lucky day! Must have been the last one. Know what else is extinct? Dodos. Funny that, because I still see them around. Dodos everywhere.”

“What are dodos?”

“Poor flightless creatures. Didn’t need clairvoyance to predict that outcome,” he chuckled. Somehow, he got the feeling that the shaman wasn’t talking about an extinct species. “Know what caused their eventual demise? Apathy. It’s a disease worse than any curse. You can’t just sit around waiting for stuff to happen. Sometimes you’ve gotta take life by the horse.”

“Horns…” he chimed in while working his way up to the Fire Fields.

"Eh, what? What would you want horns for? That’s silly and not to mention self-defeating. Ah, that reminds me of another silly thing. Just because you have a sword doesn’t mean you should swing it around like an idiot. Courage without thought is just plain foolishness.” He then launched into a heated account of all the senseless troop wipeouts in Atlas.


Nary a sound could be heard. Neither birds, crickets nor amphibian frogs. It was deathly quiet. There was a silent stillness to this place as if the entire island was frozen in time. He also hadn’t come across any living creatures since he arrived. He wasn’t heading in any particular direction, thinking that he would find something if he headed inland. After hours of walking, he reckoned that he had covered enough ground for today. It would be dark soon, so he searched for a spot to sleep. In the end, he settled under an ancient oak tree. It’s broad leaves would probably shelter him should it rain. The exotic sword’s glow also radiated warmth, making it an excellent portable heater. He hugged it close and soon fell into slumber.

When next he awoke it was still dark. For some reason he was already standing in the middle of the forest. The exotic sword had also been unsheathed at some point and was flared brightly in his hand. His movements were sluggish and everything seemed hazy as if still half-asleep. Then, from within the woods, it appeared.

Beware, beware the endless nightmare

He still remembered the nursery rhyme describing this creature. Frosty blue eyes that could freeze hell over, armour as black as night with red markings scattered all over like glowing hot coals appearing as some demonic engine. It definitely fit the description as a creature from the underworld.

Faced with the thousand year nightmare, one thought kept replaying… Just because you have a sword doesn’t mean you should swing it around like an idiot.

And burst into laughter. For some reason, he found that line to be extremely hilarious. He could not stop laughing. He was doubled over, clutching his abdomen. Oh lord, his stomach was starting to hurt.

He could hear Nockmar giving an incredulous snort as if she too were questioning his sanity.

In that moment, all hesitance evaporated. For some reason, he felt that no harm would come from her. Though the rhymes always spoke of how Nockmar chased people in their dreams; Did they run because she was chasing or was she chasing because they ran? He glanced at the mare again. She looked as if she was waiting for him to make a move, so he turned around and continued heading inland. He could hear a steady plodding of hooves a few paces behind. Whenever he went in a direction she disapproved of, she would bolt forwards, blocking the path. Other than that Nockmar would follow in companionable silence. It seemed that he was being shepherded?

When he blinked, it was suddenly morning. Was it all a dream? However, the tree he was resting against wasn’t the same oak tree, it was a birch. It seemed that when he walked in his dream, he somehow also travelled the same distance in the real world. Picking up his sword, venture further towards the heart of the island.

Days and nights passed in similar fashion. He’d travel alone by day and at nightfall, Nockmar would follow in his footsteps.

Eventually, the forest opened up to an enormous lighthouse with flames that never seemed to burn out. It would definitely serve as a beacon for lost seafarers. On the left of the plains was a bridge that led to another part of the island. He took a short breather, just enjoying the sea breeze and lull of the waves before setting off again.

The bridge turned out to be very, very long. He couldn’t even see the other side. Still, this was the only way forward so he pressed on. After walking for some time, he could start to make out the cliffs on the opposite side, meaning he was probably at the midway point. He stepped up the pace, eager to be on solid land when suddenly there was a thundering crack. A section of the path in front of him was crumbling fast. With no time to think, he sprinted forward the remaining steps and leapt towards the other side. He made it and consequently slammed into concrete blocks. He clung on for dear life while having the wind knocked out of him. When he regained some strength, he reached upwards trying to climb back up, but the stone he grabbed also gave way. He cried out in dismay while slipping into the watery depths.


“Achoo!” His sneeze echoed through the snowy landscape. It was a cold winter morning and here he was doing the laundry while the young masters were sleeping in. Boy, was it freezing. Coincidentally, the other helpers had other chores to attend to.

“G’day ma’am! Mind if I borrow this lad for a bit?” A familiar voice hollered across the lawn. He must’ve gotten the response he needed as he was striding towards him. “Let’s go! We’re wasting daylight.”

With the fireplace at full blast and twenty two cups of hot chocolate later, he finally felt like he could live again.

“Hey, do you believe in fate, mate? That some people are meant to live a particular life or that certain things are preordained? Stuff like that?”

Everyone in this town called him, Boy. Other children his age made fun of him for having no name. He probably had a name, but there was no way for him to get ahold of the registry at the orphanage. Plus, it would have been long gone by now. Strangely enough, Anton had never once called him that.

“Well, yeah I guess I do. What about you? Do you believe in fate?”

“Nope, I don’t. Not one bit. I decide my own fate. See, today you were about to turn into a living popsicle, but I changed your fate and now you’re here. We can be the masters of our own destiny should we choose to do so.”

“That’s easy for you to say. You’re you and I’m me. There’s no way I’ll ever get to decide anything.”

“Nonsense! Do you know why the townspeople let me get my way?”

“Because you’re a great and wise shaman, highly regarded by the king?”

“Wrong. Well, you’re partially right, because I am wise and great! But that’s not the reason. They look at me not with respect, but fear! I could turn them into a piglet on a whim and they wouldn’t be able to do anything about it. Even if they squealed, nothing would happen and they know it. It’s a shaman’s world right now. People will treat you nicely when you’re powerful and in order to become powerful, knowledge is key. Don’t build a dark flak in the back row. That’s Dragonlord 101.” Anton facepalmed. “Oh and just so we’re clear, if you ever have the misfortune of being caught flying a Hunter on autopilot, please don’t tell anyone that you know me. The same goes for any dragon class that’s not a Sorcerer. They’re dragons, not some car that you can shift gear as you please.”

“Okay, I won’t. I promise.” He hid a smile behind his hand at Anton’s highly exaggerated pleading face. “What’s the point of learning all this stuff though? It’s not like I’ll ever be able to afford a dragon, let alone fly one.”

“Never say never. I know a friend of a friend who’s bringing in a new batch of Embers next week. Lots of stuff happened. Anyway, they owe me a favour so they’ll be willing to spare a dragon for practice flights. Embers are the perfect Hunters for beginners.”

“Really?! I’ll actually get to fly a living, breathing dragon?!”

“Yes, really…Right after we review your assignments.”

“Whaaat? But that was last month! I didn’t know I was going to fly a dragon!” He cried in disagreement.

“It doesn’t matter whether or not you have a dragon. You’re supposed to know these things. Worse is if you have a dragon and don’t know.”

He sulked at the unfairness of it all.

“Well now, let’s see how you did.”


When he regained consciousness, he found himself washed up on the shores at the bottom of the cliff. Thankfully, he wasn’t injured too seriously. Just minor scrapes and bruises. He was at the base of the canyon with huge twin guardian statues that spanned the height of the entire cliff face. They overlooked the waters coming in from the sea as if guarding the channel.

As he looked closer, he noticed that there was a flight of stairs at the foot of the statue. He dusted himself off and made his way over. There were embrasures carved throughout the statue so the climb wasn’t too difficult.

When he reached the end, there was a ladder leading up to a hatch. He climbed up and found himself inside a vast library. It was massive. The ceiling was a tiny pinpoint in the distance with an ocean of books as far as the eye could see. A real tower of learning.

Books and scrolls were haphazardly sprawled across every visible surface. It reminded him somewhat of Anton’s house. He called it organised chaos. He must have had some kind of system, because he could always find what he was looking for. He thought fondly of his mentor who was thousands of miles away.


“Don’t touch that, mate.”

“What is it?” He asked, while putting down the bottle containing a red liquid. It certainly wasn’t a healing potion as it was a different shade.

“It’s…juice.”

“What kind of juice?”

“Tomato juice. Though it’s not for young’uns. Don’t know how it got over there.” Anton whisked the bottle away, locking it up with his stash of dangerous potions.

“Can I ask something about the prophecy?”

“Fire away.”

“If shamans know the route and all the answers to the puzzle, why not send a group of elite guards with shamans leading the way?”

“Look, mate. Say we lead them every step of the way and solve everything for them, what then? Healing potions aren’t the answer to everything. In fact, back when we had healing potions, we had lots more wars. Now that there’s none, times have been pretty quiet, so that’s an upside of the curse. Nobody wants to kick the bucket faster than they necessarily have to. Besides, this is humanity’s struggle. Our role is only to point the way. Also, if we solve every riddle of the universe, we remove humanity’s option to choose and if we take away their choice, we also remove human will. Let’s say, if I gave you all the rare candy in the world, would you be able to reach the Indigo League?”

“Is that a famous guild? I’ve never heard of them.”

“Oh, right. That’s from another timeline,” Anton muttered. “Okay, different example. If I gave someone (a total novice) a Mythic dragon with maxed gear and everything, would they know how to fly them? Of course not. They’d probably complain in the town hall that their dragon is glitched and demand for a refund. Human will is a vital human component. It enables the creative juices to work, leading to some marvelous discoveries. There was this extraordinary guy, Tom who after failing 999 times, finally created light.”

“So God’s name is Tom?”

“Ye– What, no! You see, it all started with a tiny copper wire…”


When he dreamed again, Nockmar was there waiting as usual. She seemed joyous at seeing him again as she nodded her head repeatedly in excitement. Had she known about the fall? Anyway, they soon fell in step and continued down the path. The scenery gradually changed from the usual greenery to golds and reds of an autumnal forest. The landscape was even more brilliant during the day with a cool breeze brushing past the dancing leaves, creating a soothing melody. The days spent in the radiant forest was like floating through a dreamlike stained glass painting. He was completely captivated that it took him a while to notice that the forest had opened up to a shrine by the lake.

It was a magnificent temple with a huge outdoor dais which had golden engravings on the floor. Rows of columns flanked the stage on both sides, decorated with countless dark crystals. This place must have hosted many grand and luxurious festivities for very important occasions. At the head of the dais was a large stone structure carved out from the rock face. The stone was etched with glowing words of an ancient tongue. At the foot was a small shrine that still seemed to be in good shape.

The interior of the shrine was extremely dusty, as expected with a hundred candles that were already alight. At the back wall of the shrine was a large, very detailed painting of a divine. Spear in one hand and hope in the other. It was none other than the glorious Antiope Des Cieux, the patron goddess of resolve. He lit an incense in a brass incense burner hanging at the altar and offered up a prayer for good luck, because quite frankly, he needed all the luck he could get. Then he found a not so dusty corner and settled in for the night. A soothing lavender scent followed him into his dreams where he was greeted by a familiar night mare.


“Say, mate. What would you do if you had all the gold in the world?”

“I’m not sure. I guess I would buy a house?”

“That’s all? No thoughts of vengeance or payback after technically being forced into child labour? Most people would hold a grudge for that. Some commit violence for lesser things.”

“Not at all. The family has been pretty nice to me. They’ve given someone like me food and a roof over my head.”

“If that’s your definition of nice, then I’m practically a saint,” Anton stated with an exasperated expression. “Think bigger. Think all-powerful immortal demigod.”

“Well, if it’s just pretend, then I would acquire a fortress in every element.”

“Aye, that’s a good start.”

“All with max towers.”

“Aye, max towers!”

“And all the ice-cream I could eat.”

“Aye, all the ice– wait, what now?”

“I heard that it’s a rare dessert they serve in the palace. They say that it’s the most wonderful treat in the world.”

“That’s because nobody else knows how to make it. Luckily for you, I do.”

“Err…thanks, but I think I’ll pass.”

“Now, now. No need to be modest. I’ll have you know that I’m a five star Michelin, certified patissiere. Now pass me the jellyfish.”


Past the shrine of Antiope, the scenery changed once more into a scorched landscape. The land was barren with nary a tree. Rivulets of lava pierced the land here and there. He was probably getting closer to where he was supposed to be. Even Nockmar was getting antsy the further they walked.

Carefully skirting around the fiery pits, he eventually arrived at the city of Three Towers. There were three towers in all carved into an active volcano. Their windows glowed from the lava flowing within. It was midday, so he would be taking this path alone.

Inside were a set of winding stairs and at the top…seemingly a dead end. There was simply nowhere else to go. To the right was an open window and to the left, a pool of lava that stretched beyond the horizon. He circled the room a few times before coming to a stop at the edge of the pool, stumped. Suddenly, the sword on his back pulsated and started glowing like crazy. It flew towards the pool and was engulfed in a blinding aura. When the light subsided, it had morphed into a shield suspended above the molten lava.

It looked like the shield was wide enough to carry a person…No way! Did the shield expect him to do what he thought it was expecting? Falling off the bridge was one thing. Falling into lava was instant vaporization, melting and flambéed all at once. He took another apprehensive glance at the river of fire. In the end, he decided to wing it. If he didn’t, he’d be stuck here anyway. As an extra precaution, he took off his shoes before stepping on so that he wouldn’t slip.

The shield started moving. He was crouched on all fours, focusing really hard not to lose balance. Fortunately, he wasn’t affected by the heat of the lava, which may have been due to the aura of the shield. Further down the stream, the walls disappeared and for the first time in who knows how long, he saw the sky. It was a clear sunny day. On both sides of the river were white puffy masses. This place was high enough that it was above the clouds. He passed by several archways and just when it seemed like it was never going to end, the shield came to a gradual stop in front of a platform. He leapt onto the other side and almost nearly kissed the floor. Almost.

The shield transformed back into a sword and glided to him. The room he was in was circular with murals decorating the walls. Five suits of armour were spread out across the walls. The most prominent feature was a large golden statue of a five-headed dragon with thousands of precious gems decorating its body, right at the centre of the room. It stood as high as the ceiling and the oculus directly above illuminated its splendour. He just stared at it for a while. Since coming to this island, he had the chance to see a lot of luxurious things, but this one took the cake.

After a while, he went off to study the murals. He found what he thought was the beginning and started from there. The first mural began with a depiction of the five-headed dragon. Each of the dragons were carrying a sword in their mouths except for one. There was someone kneeling in front of it and holding up a sword in offering. Next, was a black three headed dragon. Water flowed from their powerful jaws. There was an opening in the wall leading to a deck outside. The sun deck was surrounded by a curtain of water. The next scene showed the same three-headed dragon, but this time sparkles were added to the falls. The next set of murals was an entire map of Atlas. Small dragon fountains dotted the map and were shown to be sparkling just like the waterfall. The last set showed a healing potion. A dead dragon on its left and a flying dragon on the right.

He thought for a while and realised their message. He would need to give this sword to one of the dragon heads that was missing a weapon. When he did, it would trigger a mechanism which would change the ordinary water of the falls to have magical properties. And this water would flow throughout all the fountains in Atlas. He had seen this design before. Even his town had a dragon fountain of similar design. After that, they just needed to craft potions using this altered water and the new healing potions would work again.

He was about to walk away when he noticed some writing at the bottom of the mural. It looked like some sort of recipe? Celery, lemon, lime, tomatoes, horseradish…He wasn’t sure what this was about.

He stepped towards the dragon statue. Each dragon head was a different element. Each holding a sword, save for one. The ice element. The ice dragon jad its head lowered to the ground. When he thought about it, he didn’t necessarily have to go through with any of this. The prophecy said that someone would find the elixir. There was nothing written about sharing it. Therefore, everything that happened from this moment forth was his choice. He placed the hilt of the sword in the ice dragon’s jaws. It secured the weapon and rose to join its brethren. In the next few moments, the whole island seemed to quake. And then, the falls started spewing out glimmering divine waters. It was done.

Before he knew what was happening, pieces of armor flew towards him. They morphed to fit him and suddenly he was clad in silver and red. He jogged towards the sun deck to get a better look at the glittering falls. The water rained down like a gift from the heavens. As he looked at the crystal clear waters, they seemed to be shifting in shape.

They morphed and swirled and a steed burst forth from the shining liquid. With divine cerulean armor and crystal wings spread heavenwards, it was a dragon he knew all too well. Nockmar had shed its dark shell and transcended dreams, becoming the Divine Engine and he, the Unknown Soldier.

The endless nightmare had ended, but their journey had just begun.