Challenge of Fates — Stitia 666

edited November 3 in Sagas
Stitia's future is unknown. This world has been full of mystery and intrigue, death and destruction, and a past so stricken with grief that few dare to touch upon it...

But what was the past really like?
What heroes dared to face the first threat to mankind's survival?
To take on both heaven and hell?
To face the emissaries of gods as a mere mortal?

Who will rise above the rest, and claim The Souls' Bane?

These questions, and more, will be answered by you... Welcome to the year 666, to the dawn of the first major holy war in the multiverse's history... rise to the Challenge of Fates, where the victor will decide the very path of Stitia's first Holy War...

How To Enter

This Saga will be a six round, multilevel-inspired elimination tournament, where contestants are eliminated after accruing 2 losses. Your character(s) will be fighting for first place, be it for their kingdom, for their army, or for personal reasons, perhaps to claim the power of The Souls' Bane. They could be from Stitia or elsewhere, and they can be from the past, present, or future. They can even be from a canon MTG plane, so long as they aren't a cannon character and don't rely too heavily on canon MTG lore to work.

You will need to submit:
  • Your main combatant(s), represented by up to two cards. These cards can represent up to two characters total. The mana value of these cards are limited to mana value 3 or less in the first round.
  • One or more companions to your combatant(s) if you only submitted one card for you combatant(s), represented by one or two cards. You are limited to only one companion card if you submitted two combatant cards. These are also limited to mana value 3 or less in the first round.
  • Up to two cards to represent your combatant(s) weapons, armor, skills, strategy, etc.; these are also limited to 3 MV in the first round.
  • A card representing an item or event that your combatant(s) hold close. There is no mana value limit for this card. *
  • A story blurb describing your character(s) and their reason for coming to the tournament.
  • Your character(s) general combat skills, tactics, and abilities.
  • By submitting a character, you agree that I can take control of them to write story segments, within reason. (i.e. battles in the tournament, major events, etc.)
* With the exception of the item or event your combatant(s) hold close, all of these cards are limited to a two color identity of your choice during the first round. However, this is not the full potential of your combatant(s); every time they win, you may either submit a new card for them or a new weapon/armor/skill/strategy card with mana value one higher. Additionally, for every two matches you win, you get to add another color to your identity; this part is completely optional, however.

Guidelines for Making Your Character:
  • Practice reason. Do not submit an overpowered character, like a god, planeswalker, or other such deity, and do not submit an army.
  • Information will be given on the world in time as well. However, if you can imagine an area that isn't modern there's likely an equivalent location on Stitia!
  • Angels, demons, and the like require special care. If they are not from another plane, they will have deep connections to either the gods of the plane or the Archdemon Khantsievth. More information will be given on these gods in due time, but for those that participated in the previous Stitia Sagas, only one god is different; Conse is still a demigod, and instead, the Archgod is a mysterious figure known as The Many-Formed.
  • Extra special care is required for messengers of the heavens or hells. For the most part, these characters cannot actively support them unless they're doing so in secret. If a devout follower of either is found among the contestants, execution is likely, unless they have a change of heart and stop worship.
FAQ: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1m5PwIN8XGhLEkkbqf5Kowrnph7z6nqgWWiUlSx6tbt4/edit?usp=sharing
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Comments

  • edited November 8
    Stitia, the plane of thirteen deaths… This world is one raveled in mystery, mired in death, and caught in the waves of paranoia cast by distant gods. Distrust is common among even the most honest of trades, and deceit spreads like wildfire. Just as one might think they’ve grasped it all, that they can face the dark corners of the mind and soul, the world around them, they’re quickly mistaken. Even the world suffers from the horrible corruption, seeping into her land and contaminating her soul. Cult and church, devil and angel, demon and god… all vie for the worship of the people, competing for glory and power, and none are above committing the most heinous acts in the name of their faiths.

    “Live one life, die thirteen deaths”… this is a common phrase among the people of Stitia, and one from beyond might wonder how the term came to be. This stark saying originates from the horror that awaits all. Not even the strongest of wills have been able to escape a tragic end; all who have refused to succumb to Stitia’s horrors have become one themselves. A brave hunter might refuse to back down against the beasts of night, only to be turned into a vampire or werebeast. A devotee might swear to never stop following the light, to go mad and turn their weapons against the people they once cherished. And so the cycle goes…

    Death to light, death to innocence. Death to innocence, death to hope. Death to hope, death to faith. Death to faith, death to dreams. Death to dreams, death to reason. Death to reason, death to freedom. Death to freedom, death to heart. Death to heart, death to mind. Death to mind, death to self. Death to self, death to soul. Death to self, death to all. Death to all, death to tomorrow. Death to tomorrow, death to Stitia…


    Stitia is a plane deeply rooted in the myriad genres of horror. One day you may face a ruthless werebeast attacking the town, the next you’re questioning if you’re the one responsible for the deaths, as you’re the one who provoked the beast. One day, deep seeded traditions may make you an outcast from society, and the next, society may be beyond your understanding.

    There’s a silver lining to the barrage of horror elements on Stitia, however. It is also a world of dark and epic fantasy, where heroes perform legendary feats on a daily basis. Myths can’t exist when all of these extraordinary things are a regular occurrence… the problem is that most of these all-powerful beings are not on the side of the people. Angels and other celestial beings use their gifts selfishly, taking positions of power and silencing opposition. But all the same, a demon might be on the side of good, forging pacts only with those that swear to never draw innocent blood. Stitia is a world of unknowns, and you should never assume you know everything about anything… or anyone.

  • edited November 8


    Stitia is comprised of 13 kingdoms and two other major colonies. A brief description of each is provided below.
    • Aesthr (Population ~26,000): Aesthr first seemed like an innocent kingdom of merfolk. However, as time went on, more and more of them disappeared, walking into the waters and never returning. These disappearances were rumored to be the discovery of treasure or a mass migration, but soon, those that couldn’t breathe underwater began walking as well. Talk spread of glassy eyes, folks growing tentacles, and other disturbing changes to the people. However, no one seems to know what’s causing these strange things to happen, or what could be in the waters south of Aesthr…
    • Arcavia (Population ~63,000): The intellectual nation of Arcavia is facing a serious problem; to themselves, everything seems normal, but to the world, their ruler has disappeared overnight. Those that live there can’t be stirred to believe that their king is dead, for they believe the kingdom was always an oligarchy, run by the supreme court. The biggest concern is that Arcavia is the focal point of Stitia’s knowledge; to have that knowledge in the hands of those that refuse to confront reality could spell disaster.
    • Delvad (Population ~48,000): The Kingdom of the Duskwood is thriving, but only thanks to the Duskwood Clan. Spread throughout the kingdom and its outskirts, they're the only ones keeping the people here safe from the beasts of night. While most places only have to worry about werewolves and the occasional vampire, Delvad is cursed by The Howling, which causes all of the animals in the kingdom to become ferocious horrors during the full moon. What’s worse is that the Duskwood are at perpetual war with the Dawnwood and Bloodwood, which is leaving the stalwart forces stretched too thin.
    • Descoria (Population ~116,000): Descoria is a grand kingdom of robust cities and exotic locales, founded by ancient dragons and built by kobolds. One may think that they see a mirage in the deserts here, but it’s more likely a thriving community. In the cities here, however, intrigue runs rampant, and when these cities are governed by dragons, a small faux pas can quickly escalate to rampant murders or entire wars. In fact, the dwindling Rahskah Ori was sieged not even 5 months ago, and draconian nobles are scrambling to find the culprit before another attack happens.
    • Etsane (Population ~67,000): In the earliest years of Stitia, demons and devils roamed the surface rather than the underworld. When Khantsievth withdrew from Stitia, most were taken, but some remained. The people isolated them to Etsane, which was meant as a mass institution to teach them the ways of mankind. However, as centuries passed, the government went corrupt, abusing their power over the practically imprisoned inhabitants. Senseless laws were passed to justify cruel mistreatment and protect those in charge, and now, Etsane stands divided.
    • Hitcherald (Population ~14,000): With the last words of the Decider Ramesos, the Temple of Judgement has gone silent; “silence the pretenders”. Since that day, the Decider has not spoken, and news from the Pantheon of Stitia has been little to none. Different prophets, angels, and holy warriors bear their own interpretation of the Decider’s words, which has put Hitcherald at war not just with neighboring kingdoms, but with itself.
    • Owu (Population ~12,000): This isolated fey colony of wolfkin and moon elves is described by ancient texts to be not a kingdom, but a world. Almost none are welcome in, and once one leaves, they’re usually never allowed back. This has made getting information about its culture quite difficult. Some texts describe it as a prosperous kingdom, but it somehow thrives in the absence of religion, trade, politics, or any other degree of normalcy whatsoever.
    • Padetra (Population ~32,000): With every horrific thing under the moon plaguing this kingdom, the dead are restless. Covens and cults battle to be worshiped, spirits and undead scream out to be heard, and countless horrors make every night a fight to survive. Illness claws to reach anyone it can, and the people lash out at anyone more fortunate than them. Those that manage to keep their heads calm and their feet out of the grave, however, bear a strong resolve against evil, looking to solve the hauntings and occult mysteries surrounding their everyday lives.
    • Quince (Population ~37,000): The people of Quince fear rejection. Since the beginning of Stitia’s time, they have been shunned for their weakness and cowardice, which has raised a nation where only the strongest survive. Few laws exist here, and every year, a deadly tournament is held in the capital of Fresk to decide who will reign as the monarch. Despite the barbaric nature of this civilization, however, the entire country is covered in high rise cities...
    • Racrion (Population ~46,000): The Kingdom of the Dawnwood is considered the most peaceful in all of Stitia. It’s home to the Dawnwood Clan, which seeks to aid the less fortunate and leverage pacifism. The golden aura of peace here is not without its tarnish, however; people disappear with little a trace, and peaceful individuals suddenly become violent and deranged. Additionally, the leonin to the south tend to shun the beliefs of the Dawnwood, kidnapping those that venture too far out.
    • Sknotch (Population ~62,000): The Sknotch wilderness is incredibly unforgiving. Jagged rocks, switchbacks, and narrow cliffs dot the hills and mountains, which are hunted by apex predators and the fiercest tribes. Worse yet, the infamous Sknotch Mountain Range to the north is responsible for claiming many lives; so many lives have been lost there that it makes up over a quarter of wilderness deaths in Stitia's history. It’s no wonder that Castle Vanderbilt, which rested in the nation’s former capital of Bastard’s Pass, has been completely abandoned.
    • Sunset (Population ~31,000): Vampires are relatively uncommon on Stitia; that’s because their families war in Sunset. In other kingdoms, the creatures of night are commonly feared, but in Sunset, anyone who isn’t already turned must always be ready. The obnoxious six rulers of Sunset, all claiming to be its true leader, refuse to rest until they’ve killed everyone in the kingdom.
    • Woewedt (Population ~43,000): Perfection. It’s a word that means nothing when everyone strives to be perfect. Alas, the primal Kingdom of the Bloodwood has sought the council of Archdemon Khantsievth, augmenting their very souls with the rage of the wilds. These people seek to become one with nature in the most literal sense possible, physically bonding with animals and using their bodies to change their own. Few true civilizations exist here, outside of those controlled by the Bloodwood Clan.
    • Yrntrn (Population ~18,000): What happens miles underground, where miners may not see the outside world for months at a time? This is the question asked by many, who have seen the toll that the kingdom’s mining craze has had on workers. As much as the people are looking for answers, they can’t find peace. At day, other kingdoms threaten war, seeking the vast resources found under the soil. At night, cries echo throughout the mines and beyond, denying the people their rest.
    • Ystheria (Population ~24,000): Ystheria is a kingdom of the people, covered in massive tracts of farmland and dotted with too many small towns to count. However, the low density of this kingdom’s population, combined with the great distance between major communities, means that crimes go without justice. Many shady types have retreated here to lie low, but grudges die hard; it’s only a matter of time before someone comes looking for vengeance.
  • (insert tournament area info here)
  • edited November 15
    I think I'll drop out as well.
  • edited November 15
    [Redacted]
  • There is currently no deadline. Once we have at least 8 entrants I'll make one; that'll give me enough time to get materials prepared (including an art possibly)
  • edited October 31
    To ensure I understand this correctly, there's a handful of things I'd like to clarify:
    1. An entry consists of 3~6 cards across the various categories (minimum a main combatant, companion, and important item/event) + what amounts to a character sheet for the main combatant(s).
    2. The cards for the companion(s) and item/event have no mana value limit, but the other card(s) must have mana value 3 or less.
    3. Do all submitted cards have to fall inside a collective color identity of two colors or less, or is it sufficient for each individual card to have an identity of two or fewer colors? (Aside from the item/event card.)
    4. Is there anything in particular a character should or shouldn't know? (Not likely to matter for me, but just in case as I'm new to Stitia.) Similarly, is there anything they can't know or have been exposed to that wouldn't be covered by the "practice reason" guideline? (E.g. is there any restriction on eldritch entities like those a warlock might contract with?)
    5. What should one expect to be the focus with regards to judging? Card design, personal writing, interaction writing, or something else?
    6. Can old cards be submitted as part or all of an entry?
    Edit ~ After further thought, I have an additional question: Are the combatant/companion cards limited to strictly creature cards? I.e., could cards that transform into creatures such as Elbrus // Withengar and/or non-transforming cards that depict possessed or otherwise sentient objects be submitted for one or more of those slots? If so, what degree of sentience is required to be acceptable? If not, but someone wanted to incorporate such a theme into a character, how would they have to go about it?
  • I'll probably actually enter this one. By the way, how's old Ishka doing? 
  • @Tommia there is questions from the others
  • I think I might enter this, once I pull a character together. Question though: can the two character cards depict the same character but be functionally different cards?
  • Hello everyone! Actually checking on this today so I'll get questions answered!
  • edited October 31
    @cadstar369
    1. Correct. Entering more than three cards won't give someone extra credit for initial submission. As for the "character sheet" part it doesn't have to be extravagant; just a basic rundown of their skills is fine.
    2. I made this at 5 PM so I forgot to add companions as having a mana value limit of 3; only the item/event can have a higher mana value.
    3. All of the cards sans the item/event have to fit in the same color identity as of this moment.
    4. Your character would likely have some knowledge connected to their origins and lifestyle, though things on Stitia may warp in ways combatants can't understand...
    5. The judging system will be a bit complex, but generally speaking, it's a combination of challenge submissions, storytelling quality (including relevant cards that are part of the story but not a submission), interaction, and overall creativity. [These are listed in no particular order.]
    6. Old cards can absolutely be submitted, so long as you made them and they weren't submitted to the Stitia Saga. This is primarily because this Saga takes place so far before the Stitia Saga that things are a bit different.
    7. As long as your main combatant is capable of basic communication, and your other combatants can at least take commands from them, they work! Also, possessed objects/people are totally fine, even if the initial face isn't the creature side; one of the characters from the Stitia Saga were a literal statue, but they were a sentient being able to fend for themselves! The one caveat is that combatants have to at least be somewhat clear to the tournament; for example, a character as your main combatant with something like Elbrus // Withengar  as a companion would be fine, but in order for the Elbrus card to be a combatant, it'd have to be made clear to the tournament that it's Withengar entering the tournament.
    @KorandAngels Depends on how old she was in the Stitia Saga. This tournament takes place about 540 years before the first chapter of the Stitia Saga. While it's a possibility she was alive to partake in the Challenge of Fates, the odds of her surviving the Holy War of 666 are slim assuming she didn't win the tournament.

    @SpellPiper2213 That's fine as well. I wonder what you're storming up 🤔
  • @Tommia I wasn't asking to have her in this tournament, I was just interested in how she went after I left Stitia 1. Since she was directly responsible in creating one of the new gods. 
  • Ah, gotcha. That's somewhat tbd XD
  • edited November 1
    @Tommia I meant to make it 3 cmc. Could you pretend it is 3 cmc because I don't wanna find the art again. Thanks.

    The companion*

  • Character

    Companion

    "Event"

    Weapon
    https://mtgcardsmith.com/view/nos-nomadic-rival
    https://mtgcardsmith.com/view/unwanted-companion
    https://mtgcardsmith.com/view/reliquary-city-state
    https://mtgcardsmith.com/view/suicidal-spear

    Nos doesn't remember the name of the plane he came from. He has come to believe it was Rath. Kor are found on very few planes, to be fair. Nos travels between planes often. He is not a planeswalker. He merely gets lost in the fog that eventually gathers around him at irregular intervals of time. It takes anywhere from a few days to several years for him to lose himself this much. He can't predict it. 
    Nos has one single lasting friend, a flightless talking corvid named Baron. Nos has grown used to, and even fond of, Baron over the years. Baron's comic and fairly optimistic personality acts as a foil for Nos' dull and brooding one. 
    I'm not going to do as much lore for the other two cards. The Reliquary City is where he lived after his first planeshift, and the Suicidal Spear is his magic weapon. 
    And naturally, Nos is entering the tournament mostly just to pass the time, and because that's what he does. 

    What do I need specifically for a character sheet? 
  • @Tonysparks I won't hold it against you since it was my mistake XD
  • @KorandAngels You don't have to do up a proper character sheet; you just need to provide information on Nos's combat abilities, skills, etc.
  • @Tommia I would prefer if I had like a format for it though, I don't know exactly what to say otherwise. 
  • Something like what I posted for the "Abilities and Combat" sections in my Tournamnent of Champions entry works

    https://forums.mtgcardsmith.com/discussion/comment/220871/#Comment_220871
  • The map is finished for the continent of Tari'diska; I plan to have the world info finished by tomorrow evening or the day after.
  • Compiled a set of Frequently Asked Questions. I'll update them as more questions are asked.
       https://docs.google.com/document/d/1m5PwIN8XGhLEkkbqf5Kowrnph7z6nqgWWiUlSx6tbt4/edit?usp=sharing
  • @Tommia so this story will be about characters participating in a gladiator-esque tournament for a sword?
  • @Globert-the-Martian best way to put it! Plot details will come soon, but basically they'll be the chosen savior of Stitia's people... though nothing is stopping anyone from submitting a character with more nefarious motives
  • Nos - combat style
    Nos fights brutally, piercing and slashing with his oversized spear with very little regard for defending himself. However, when forced onto the defensive, Nos can indeed protect himself, although in this stance he can barely attack back. Nos hates acting defensive, but he does anyway as he does still have a scrap of self preservation. 
  • edited November 15
    [Redacted]
  • edited November 8

    Koku'en, Wandering Blacksmith

    Soulscream BladesKokuen Crimson SmithSpitfire Scimitar
    Chillbrand FiendFrenzied InspirationSmelter Wyrm

    (All cards have embedded links.)

    Combat Style ~ Arms Master
    While Koku'en's gruff, no-nonsense demeanor and unsettling artifacts normally ward off unwanted interactions, those that cross him soon learn that he wields a vast arsenal of handcrafted equipment, switching freely and relentlessly between them and their abilities to keep his foes off balance.

    Abilities
    Red Dragonborn ~ Koku'en has a fire breath weapon and moderate fire resistance.

    Expert Blacksmith ~ Koku'en crafts equipment in significantly less time than it would usually take.

    Walking Armory ~ Koku'en carries all of his equipment with him, including a collapsible fireplace, a small anvil, smith's tools, and his weapons and other artifacts. This allows him to craft new gear wherever and whenever inspiration strikes, while also ensuring he's never defenseless.

    Soulbinding Artifice ~ Koku'en can bind the souls of other creatures to his artifacts, granting them supernatural abilities and additional features reminiscent of the creature. (This is significantly easier when the creature is willing and/or dead.) The soul within is released when the artifact is destroyed, at which point Koku'en can either release it or rebind the soul into a new artifact (he carries a number of trinkets and ornaments that serve as soul traps when not binding a larger piece of equipment). Possessed artifacts can perceive their surroundings and communicate telepathically with both Koku'en and their wielder, even across moderate distances.

    Custom Mechanic ~ [Type-]Possessed (As this enters the battlefield, you may exile a [type] creature card from your graveyard possessing it.) 
    Mainly appears on Equipment and other artifacts; usually grants additional abilities when possessed. (Type restriction optional.)

    Backstory (WIP; mostly done)
    After uncovering a shattered artifact in an old ruin near his hometown of Jekah Pass, Koku'en was so capitvated by its exquisite intricacies and the residual power it contained even in its fractured state that he became consumed by the desire to surpass it and achieve true mastery of his craft.

    To this end, Koku'en left on an aimless journey. In Padetra he began practicing the arts of soul manipulation, imbuing his creations with the souls of creatures slain or befriended. In particular, the two depicted above have been his longest companions, each having inhabited multiple artifacts over the course of his travels. The dragon Yusei was an early traveling companion and fast friend, sadly slain in Aesthr shortly after leaving Padetra. The demon Mokan was spared a gruesome demise in Etsane, choosing to accompany Koku'en to see the outside world.

    Now he returns to his homeland of Descoria, drawn by rumors of a great weapon that will surely grant him profound insight into true artifice.


  • edited November 9

    ~ 1 — The First Hero

    #COF_Story

    At the light of the first dawn, Stitia was born into darkness. So many tales exist of her birth that no one knows the truth, with even the gods being uncertain of what really happened. Some say that the warring began when Khantsievth declared his sovereignty. Others say it had begun before anyone realized the plane was forming around them. Some even say the realm of Khantsievth collided with another, and seeing his realm shattered, he waged battle against the culprits. No matter what actually happened, however, one thing was certain; the plane needed heroes and governance, or everyone would die before they had a chance to live.

    Those that weren't fighting for their lives scrambled across a breaking supercontinent as death surrounded them; they needed to come up with a plan to seal Khantsievth away, and fast. However, when the council met, only one person among them was capable of sealing away spirits. His hands were trickling with blood, tears falling from his eyes as he looked at his crimson-sheathed blade. The fate of the people rested on this one, sorrowful individual, who was less there willingly and more dragged along. He didn't want to fight anymore, for his hands had drawn innocent blood. He was trapped on the plane against his will, as a punishment, and just wanted to die; with the council's reassurance though, he stood up and regained his composure. Six had held their hands on his shoulders, bolstering his confidence, and his gratitude was great enough to propel them into godhood with his promise.

    The tearstained hero that left the rumbling cavern that day fought with a resolve unlike any he showed before, and while the ramblings of his past were a mystery, all sources point to him as the first to strike Khantsievth down... he was The First Hero, Nezel, and as long as he stood, he would leverage his immortal life to make up for the wrongs of his past.



    "So he can't die of old age? Then he may just still be alive."

    The floor of the rather spacious library gently creaked as heavy pawprints tapped across it. The library was much, much larger than even most archives, but not for its contents; the source of the voice, and the pawprints, was none other than an ancient dragon. The brightness of his white fur practically glowed in the light coming through the sunroof, the gold patches of his body shimmering with whimsical luster.



    "No offence, my liege, but don't you think he'd still be well known if that were the case?"

    A scribe, overshadowed by the figure of the draconic king, sorted through ancient scrolls as he spoke with his ruler. These scrolls were fairly large, copies designed to be read by larger folk like Vedelfas while still being manageable for servants to use.

    "I know you have said it yourself that he disappeared without a trace. In your mind, that might spell his death, but for me it arouses suspicion. At minimum, if he is dead, or perhaps found a way to leave Stitia, it would curious to understand how it happened. At its best, we could secure a vital ally in the days to come."
    "Again, I have to ask you, Vedelfas. Don't you think the Six would have dealt with him if he's really as powerful as they say? Sure, he may have been against the first demon Khantsievth, but he took a vow; he swore to protect the innocent from the immortal, not just Khantsievth."
    "You have a keen eye, Donovan, but even then it's still worth an investigation. I want to know his whereabouts. About this crimson blade of his. The might of heaven and hell could be upon us at any moment, so any chance to stave it off will do."
    "If you insist, I'll notify Tori, then I'll keep looking through the scrolls."
    "I do insist. Ancient dragons do not simply disappear without a trace; I would assume that, whatever happened to Nezel, he might just still be out there. He must be excellent at hide and seek, however..."
    "Very well, my liege. I will speak to her as soon as I can."
    "Very good. I will be headed back to my perch in a moment. Let me know if you find any more clues."
  • edited November 9

    ~ 2 — Return of the First Hero?

    #COF_Story

    A week had passed since the king's request, which had been passed in private among King Vedelfas's most trusted allies; "Uncover the whereabouts of The First Hero, Nezel". The dragon had flown down from his palace, at the top of Roojkah Dahm, down to the desert below. He landed not too far from the top of the towering city's attached dam, and he began to drink in the cool, revitalizing waters. His drinking was interrupted, however by something strange. It was a creeping chill up Vedelfas's spine in the dead of summer, a deathly wind on a calm day. Vedelfas felt frightened as he tried to turn, but found himself barely able to confront the source of the chill. And yet, what approached was not a deathly figure, not the guise of a demon or reaper... but a figure in divine garb, holding a blade at his side that was covered in blood.



    The figure trembled as it spoke, its voice stern but weak. "King Vedelfas... why did you call me here?"
    The dragon looked down upon the figure, but still felt an air of death from them. They would appear as pious, and yet they hold a bloody blade and stare back at him with a pitiful look in their eyes. "Who might you be?"
    "Don't you know?... You had everyone searching for me, Vedelfas... why couldn't you just let me be?"
    Vedelfas's mood soured as he scowled. To him, this had to be some sort of poorly played prank, or perhaps this was some sort of undead? "You're telling me... that you're Nezel? The First Hero, Nezel?"
    Suddenly, the figure glared at Vedelfas, standing straight and showing the king his bloodied sword. "Don't call me a hero! I was called here to protect the innocent, and look at me! I've taken another life... If I would have stayed home, at least then it wouldn't have been my fault..." They bowed, trying to hold back tears, but ultimately failing.
    "Wh-who did you kill, Nezel?"
    "This blade... it won't let me use it unless I draw innocent blood... I..."
    "Calm down, Nezel. If that's what it takes, then so be it. My guardsmen will lend their lives to protect the kingdom of Descoria and its allies."
    "This isn't the same..."
    "I..." Vedelfas just sighed, shaking his head. "Look, it's not important. What is important is that we have you on our side. Come with me to my palace; I'm sure we can arrange something that will work for you, yes?"
    "I suppose, but... as much sway as I hold, my powers as a mortal are limited. I can't fight against the gods without the blade. I can't seal Khantsievth without the blade. And I can't use the blade without turning it against the very people I've sworn to protect with it."
    "This... wh-why can't you? This is the world we're talking about here! What happened to you?"

    "What happened to me?..." Nezel's glare turned into disgust as he dropped the blade in the sand. "That's a very, very long story, one you have no right of asking me about in that tone." Nezel stood up and approached Vedelfas, a look in his eyes... of horror, terror, and hatred. "I watched millions die because of this same sort of thing happening once before; if someone is going to wield that blade, it's not going to be me. Case closed. I will provide what assistance I can, but I utterly refuse to wield that blade's power ever again. Without it, I may not have the power of Stitia's champion, no, but that is a title I don't wish to hold."

    The dragon thought for a moment, groaning to himself as he huffed. "Is... that the only condition to wield the blade?"
    Nezel's ears poked up, and he gave Vedelfas a reluctant stare. "Yes, but... I wouldn't pick it up right now; I'm not innocent, yet you would likely still be guided to strike me down."
    "The blade has a mind of its own?"
    "Not quite... but it has impulses of vengeance to feed."
    "Ah. Well, I suppose if you will not wield it, I shall train one of my knights to-

    Suddenly, Nezel cleared his throat, imposing himself between the king and the blade. "I will allow someone else to wield it under one condition; they must prove that they aren't just capable of wielding a fancy sword, but that they can actually protect the people. If this blade is getting used, it will only be used by someone with the guts to face the gods head-on, the strength and speed to cut them down, and the determination to never give up no matter what it takes."
    Vedelfas gently smirked, letting out a tiny snort. "For someone who just tossed that thing on the ground, you're awful picky about who will be taking care of it next."
    "As I should be. If someone is wielding that much destructive potential I want to make sure they can handle it. We'll need someone who's willing to make the sacrifice, and able to do whatever it takes to fight the forces of heaven and hell."
    "In that case, I have a suggestion; how about a tournament?"
    "A tournament?... I think that would suffice, if I'm allowed to judge."
    "Demanding, are we? I suppose it won't hurt... though my officials will be the ones organizing the tournament if we have one. The question is though, if innocent blood needs to be drawn to wield the blade, how are we transporting it?"

    Nezel blinked rapidly, looking at Vedelfas. He looked back, then down at the blade. The two backed away from it, as much to say neither of them were carrying it, and eventually, they would end up having to cook up a creative solution. In the course of the coming days, the blade would be carefully encased in enchanted glass and displayed above a fountain in the center of Roojkah Dahm. After weeks of debate, the council of Roojkah Dahm gave approval for a tournament to be held. Despite the kingdom of Descoria's hostilities towards some of its neighbors, invitations were sent out to all of the world's finest warriors. Notices were put up in every major tavern, pamphlets were dropped over cities by griffins, and news echoed across Tari'diska; Stitia needed a new champion to claim the fabled Souls' Bane, and a tournament would decide who walked away with this sacred prize.

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