Beneath the temple of the Urkans, there lay a small chamber with a statue of the goddess. In the centre of the room was a stone table and, currently, Ryu was atop it, unconscious. Metal straps restrained him at his wrists and ankles and he writhed in agony as energy flowed through his body, but despite pain he did not awaken. At equidistant points, the three masked priests, Buliarus, Kilanirax and Serpentarius, stood each holding a staff from which energy flowed into Ryu and into the other staffs; creating a triangular barrier. Within the barrier, by Ryu's side was the Sudama. He chanted in an ancient arcane language, his hands motioning above Ryu's chest. A bright light erupted from Ryu's chest and a small glass rose out of him. Within the orb was a flickering flame, even without oxygen it burned brightly. The Sudama levitated the orb over to the statue of the Goddess where it settled next to a similar orb, which had lightning within it.
"Another of the vile brood's power has been removed, soon this child shall be free of its destructive influence." The Goddess Myria said, though she could not be seen. "Remove the next one; the strongest of the violent Brood powers, Anfini, will not hold this innocent child much longer."
"But milady, removing another Brood power so soon may damage him." The Sudama pleaded.
"Do not question me, Sudama. The child is strong; he will persevere. Removing the destructive Brood influence must be our first priority." She said, her voice melodious.
"By milady's will." Sudama said and he and the three masked priests resumed chanting.
Energy flowed from Bulliarus' staff to Serpentarius' and from Serpenatrius' staff into Kilanirax's staff. The triad energy then flowed into Ryu's body and still bound, he writhed. A small glass orb began to rise out of his chest and as it did, mist exploded off of its icy surface, as though extreme hot air and extreme cold air met. The mist's disruptive appearance distracted the Sudama and he raised his hands to protect his face. The orb rose out of Ryu's chest, unguided by the Sudama's mystic chants and gestures. It had what appeared to be a sliver of ice within it. The orb rose, the priests stopped their chanting, the spell disrupted, the energy dissipated and, as all things that rise do, the orb fell. The Sudama caught the orb in his hands and he cried out in pain, dropping the orb. Kilanirax rushed to the Sudama and examined his hands.
"Frozen..." The bird-masked one said.
The Sudama's hands were rimed with frost, so cold that they might break if handled roughly. Delicately chanting over the Sudama's frozen hands, Kilanirax repaired the damage. Serpentarius picked up the orb and sustained no damage at all, though mist still peeled off the orb. He placed it alongside the other two at the base of the Goddess' statue.
"Sudama... Complete your work, remove the final brood power than we can save the heart of this child from the ever-consuming blood-thirst of Anfini." The Goddess spoke.
"Milady... I am sorry, but I cannot recast the spell again so soon. Not only would the trauma kill the boy we wish to save, but my own body and soul would be torn asunder as well. I am sorry, Most Holy... I have failed you." The Sudama, tired and defeated, lowered his head in shame awaiting his Goddess' punishment.
Myria let out a melodious laugh and the Sudama raised his eyes to face the statue of the Goddess. Her phantasmal self stepped down from the statue and kissed the Sudama on his forehead. Elation and blessed ecstasy filled his being as he knew she did not feel he had failed.
"Kilanirax, return the Sudama to his apartments. He shall need his rest, for on the morrow he will perform another Ceremony of Guardianship." The Goddess said.
Kilanirax escorted the Sudama out of the chamber, being very gentle with the elder Sudama. The shackles that bound the unconscious Ryu vanished and Buliarus moved to remove him from the table.
"Hold, Buliarus." The Goddess said, blocking his path. "I must bind them once more together before you return him."
From the shadows, behind the Goddess' statue a figure emerged. It was Jasmine; her eyes were half closed and glassy as though she did not see anything around her. She walked over to the table and remained at Ryu's side awaiting Myria's will.
The dawn following, everyone was gathering at the temple in the centre of the city once more. Another Ceremony of Guardianship was to be held, the previous night's concerns, that is to say the incident where Ryu fell unconscious, was swiftly forgotten by those who knew. The Ceremony itself would not begin for hours; however, they first had to see Gaw and his caravan off. They would arrive at the port of Kombinat, but they would also be the last ship to the Inner Continent. The question on everybody's mind was how would the Sudama get them all to the port if they weren't leaving today. There was another rumour as well; the three masked priests were not going to stay in the city after everyone was gone, but rather were going to return to Myria's holy city of Caer Xhan. These changes in a plan that had been formulated generations ago worried the people, but their fears were lessened by this ceremony. However, not all were going to be in attendance: Ryu and Jasmine were going to stay in their apartment.
"I'd rather avoid another fainting spell if that's okay." Ryu had said jokingly.
"What about you Jasmine? You are the one who usually sings the opening hymn." Garr said.
"Well, someone has to make sure nothing happens to Ryu right? So I'll be staying here too." She said.
"But it..." Garr began.
"Drop it Garr." Gaist said jovially. "I don't mind if they aren't there. It's not a big deal."
Garr and Gaist had walked away without much argument. Garr felt that since it was Gaist's ceremony it was his decision. However, there was something about all this that felt... wrong in his mind.
"This has to be a bad omen." Garr thought he had spoke quietly to himself.
Gaist laughed out loud at his friend's comments as they walked to the temple; the streets were not crowded, as everyone had already taken a place at the temple.
"I make my own luck and I don't rely on omens to dictate my actions." Gaist said.
Garr took his place among the crowd and Gaist took his place on the empty walkway, preparing to ascend the steps to the dais. The last note of the hymn sounded, to his and Garr's ears it sounded off-key, simply not right. Gaist stood before the raise circular stone and awaited the Sudama's ceremonial questions.
"Will you follow the Goddess' will, Her desire and Her will?" The Sudama intoned.
"I will." Gaist said solemnly.
"Will you follow Her into fire, will you follow Her into darkness, will you follow Her into death?" The Sudama asked.
"I will." Gaist replied.
"Then follow." The Sudama beckoned.
Gaist stepped onto the stone and light erupted from beneath the dais. It became a column of flame and though it visibly touched him, he did not burn. Suddenly, to his perspective, he was not on the dais, but before a great golden throne in a world of light. Upon the throne sat an indescribably beautiful woman with golden blond hair and two pairs of wings. This was the lady Myria, Gaist recognized her from the statues and books he had seen with her likeness painted in them. The radiant goddess rose from her throne and approached him.
"You have come to me today to become a Guardian." She said. It was a statement of fact.
"To better serve the people and you, milady." Gaist replied.
"You do not believe you need my power to protect them." Another statement.
"If we have to rely on another to protect us or to help protect us, than we are not worthy of that aid." He replied.
"Everyone needs help sometimes. This is what I have asked of you, would you defy me?" She asked, mildly amused.
"Of course not Milady, this is merely my way of thinking. If I cannot rely on my own strength, then what would be the point of relying on the strengths of others?" Gaist smiled.
"Quite the consummate soldier... Which is why you make an excellent candidate for Guardian. As you are different from the others, so shall your form be different. Go and follow my will with my blessings, Guardian Gaist." She said.
The white light of the area brightened and for a moment he could not see. When he could see, he saw he was again in the temple and he saw that he had changed; his body had grown more muscular than it had, not as much as Gatz or Gaw, but he was not weaker than they. His skin had turned the colour of grey stone and was more durable than steel. He had wings and a draconic face, but his own mind had not changed, he was still Gaist. The crowd waited expectantly for him to do something. He materialized his Beast Spear and raised it. The crowd roared and he made a vow to himself, silently, that no matter what, he would protect these people, his people. Gaist also remembered what Ryu had said about the Goddess and this ceremony the last time it was held and he smiled.
"Perhaps not hokum after all." He whispered to himself.
Weeks after traveling through the desert, centuries, maybe even millennia of a nomadic life, the travelers had at long last found the oasis in which they would settle. This oasis lay within sight of the machine city called Caer Xhan, which was once their ancestral home. They made it to the oasis and took not one step more, their journey done. This infuriated Katt; they had come so far and they were stopping right before the city that they once inhabited, she just couldn't understand them.
"So, explain it to me." Rand said as they walked away from the village the nomads were constructing. "Why are we going to visit an abandoned city?"
"Don't look at me." Sten replied. " I'm just the comedy relief."
"We're going to the city 'cause I wanna know why they don't wanna go any further." Katt said leading the way.
"And we're here to keep her out of Trouble." Bow smirked.
To the east was a small group of warehouses, but Katt wasn't particularly interested in those. The once great city of Caer Xhan lay before them, its streets broken, many of its buildings destroyed and there was no evidence that anyone remained there. The breeze of the desert wind was the only sound as it blew over fallen stone and whistled through open windows.
"Okay, we're here. Now what?" Bow asked.
"We split up and see what there is to see. We'll meet in the middle of the city in a few hours, okay?" Katt said as she dashed off.
"I call dibs on any shiny treasure you find!" Sten cried out as he dashed off in another direction.
"I guess I'll check to see if they have any armouries or weapon shops." Bow said nonchalantly.
"Whatever. I'll... just wander, I guess." Rand said.
Katt had wandered into one of the less trashed areas of the city and for the most part it looked like the people had just dropped what they were doing and left. She entered one of the buildings, looking for clues as to what happened. It was school, all the desks were still perfectly lined up and there were even some books still open, though many were illegible from years of dust and neglect. She walked over to one of the desks and looked at the underlined paragraph in the book; it must have been what was being studied at the time. Katt hadn't learned to read until the last two years, there simply hadn't been any reason for it; survival had been the focus of her life and things like reading and writing simply had no place. Then she met Ryu and had a child with him and reading and writing was something she learned because it was interesting and Ryu could teach it, being a pastor's son.
"Most human sc-scholars believe that the Gobi Clan are the survivors of a sunken city, humans ad-ap-ted to the water." She read aloud; she was still learning to read after all. "The Gobi Clan, how-ever, believe that humans sp-sprang for-th from Gobi Clansmen who ad-ap-ted themselves in order to explore their last fron-tier."
Looking at this classroom, imagining the children learning about history and she wondered what history would say about her and Ryu. She wanted her son to learn to read and write; she wanted him to have a better life than she did, one of peace without fighting. At least part of her did, the fighting instinct was always a part of Worren blood, even more than it was in other Clans.
'The path of least resistance will seldom lead you beyond your doorstep.' Her mentor, the one who raised her after her parents died, had once said.
"Stupid scholars... Gobi Clan doesn't look anything like humans." She murmured to herself.
On the other side of town, Sten was looking through broken shops for things that might be of value: a souvenir for his betrothed. He found himself in a shop that sold, what looked to him, thin, shiny disks with holes through the centre of them. He picked one up and bi down on it, he then spit it out.
"Bleh... Definitely not edible." He said.
He went over to the counter, where there were many disks, panels and buttons. Out of simple curiosity he pressed a button and music began to play. It was disjointed, fragmented, but still very enjoyable.
"Hey, nifty." Sten said, lamenting that he could not return home with this device.
Bow had indeed found a weapon shop and it was badly damaged; remnants of weapons, ammo and armour were strewn everywhere. He walked past the debris and picked up a black metal crossbow and examined it.
"What's this? Where do they put the bolts for this thing?" He asked as he examined it.
There was no place to put the bolts though it looked like a regular crossbow. There was, however, a square slot on the back of it. Looking around the shop, he saw a case marked 'Crysm magazines' and he picked up a rectangular cartridge and slid it into the crossbow.
"Weird thing..." He said.
At the meeting place Rand waited for the others; he had seen everything he wanted to of this place. The destruction and desolation of the city were depressing, at least in his mind. In his musings, he did not notice a figure in the shadows observing him. Rand's thoughts were interrupted as Katt, Bow and Sten came from their explorations.
"Find anything interesting?" Rand asked.
"They had to learn weird stuff in school." Katt said. She didn't seem to be paying attention, but rather distracted but some smell she found in the air.
"I found a new weapon... Not sure if it works though." Bow said, displaying his new crossbow.
"I found music playing, disk thingies, but I can't take 'em home with me." Sten sighed, a little bored.
"In other words, zilch, zero and zipall, right?" Rand smirked. "The places is so rundown, I'd have been surprised if you actually did find something... Katt? Something wrong?"
Katt was sniffing the air as she walked around the trio. Suddenly she dashed passed them and around a corner.
"RYU!?" She cried out.
Rand, Bow and Sten could merely stand there gaping at what they heard. And then the Wanderer, who was being hugged fiercely by Katt, rounded the corner.
"Call me crazy, but unless Ryu got real old, real fast, I don't think that's him." Sten said.
"Not that Ryu, stupid." Katt said, sticking out her tongue at Sten. "He's also named Ryu, he's the guy who raised me. Funny, huh?"
"Yeah... Funny... Right, whatever you say." Bow said, nodding his head slowly.
"I don't know about you guys, but I just don't believe in coincidence anymore." Sten whispered to Rand.
"Coincidence? What's that?" Rand said sarcastically.
"Well, Pretty Kitty, it seems you've found yourself some good friends." The Wanderer laughed.
"'Pretty Kitty'?" Sten stared at Katt.
"It's a nickname!" Katt blushed.
"So what are you doing out here... er, Ryu?" Rand asked awkwardly.
"Call me Wanderer, if it's too confusing for you. I came to bring you back to your friends. Though at the moment, I'm here to warn you about that." The Wanderer pointed behind them.
They turned and they saw, charging towards them: a large mechanical dog, a guardian of the city. The mechanized mutt was easily taller than Rand, who only came up to its shoulder. The thing charged and Rand darted out of its way. It screeched to a halt and swatted Sten away like was a pitiful insect.
"Why me?" He said, before he passed out.
The Wanderer was blocking the mech-dog's blows with his sword, Katt was trying to look for an opening and Rand held back, what he was waiting for, even he was not sure of. Bow aimed his new crossbow and fired. The crossbow sparked and a continuous barrage of energy shots fired. However, when he released the trigger the crossbow did not stop firing because the trigger was stuck. The mech-dog, seemed unaffected by these attacks, but it was more or less annoyed. It turned on Bow and as it did so, it's tail hit the Wanderer, sending him flying. It snapped at Bow, biting his crossbow in half. Bow jumped back into the building behind him and the entrance collapsed. Now Katt found herself the object of this mechanical menace's ire.
'Damn... I can't use my dragon powers now, we're too close to Myria's power base.' The Wanderer thought.
Rand simply stood there and watched as the behemoth approached Katt, what stopped him from saving her? A memory of his mother getting crushed by the wall trap in Evrai froze him. Fighting brought destruction and death to the ones you loved, but if he did nothing, Katt would die.
'Don't just stand there, knucklehead, save her!' A voice, that sounded remarkably like his mother's, yelled in his head.
He decided then that he would lose no one else. He tucked himself into a ball and hurtled himself into the mech-dog. The impact threw the machine off its feet and Rand rose to his feet, getting ready to fight again. The dog, a dent in its side from Rand's hit, rose and charged at Rand. Rand unleashed an uppercut with his right fist and used his left hook to floor the behemoth. He drove his fist into the machine's skull and it caved in, wires and circuits sparking. Even though the beast was down, Rand did not stop attacking, he punched over and over again. An immense rage was being unleashed from within him, one he had buried since he had seen his mother die. A hand held his back and he turned, rage in his eyes, to see whom the interloper was. It was Katt; she had a look of desperate concern and a hint of fear in her eyes.
"Rand... stop, its dead... Just stop." She begged, pleaded, desperately.
He stopped and looked at his fists: the knuckles were bloody. For the first time since his mother's funeral, he shed tears for his mother.
"Ugh... did anybody see the super sludge that ran me over?" Sten said, groggily on his feet.
"Well that piece of junk wasn't of much use. I prefer the traditional crossbow anyways." Bow said, referring to the weapon the mech-dog had just eaten.
"No sense in staying here." The Wanderer said as he placed his hand on Rand's shoulder. "Come on, I'll get you back to the rest of your group very quickly."
"How?" Katt asked, relieved that Rand had calmed down.
"There's a teleporter in the warehouse area southeast of here that connects to the Dragon's City. From there finding your friends should be no problem" He replied.
"Teleporter? You know how to use it?" Bow asked cautiously.
"Well... Sort of." The Wanderer smirked.
"Sort of? Oh joy... we're all gonna die!" Sten despaired.
Artificer Urza's Fanfiction