Fragments of Time: Part One of ???


A clamour was heard in early Niuran, scraping metal and clanking gears stirring the citizens of Bloodloch, then Enorian, and finally Duiran to a state of alarm as a strange figure roamed in pursuit of something known only to itself. Though the citizens’ initial search proved futile, the following week saw the appearance of a mechanical figure on the streets of Esterport, stumbling upon a sermon to the Underking while in the midst of its exploration.

Masses soon gathered to hear what the construct had to say. It introduced itself as Copperhead of the Third Spoke, an emissary of Kalchos, explaining that its purpose was to locate something known as the confluence. Little of substance followed as the Cogger failed to impress its meaning upon those present while rebuffing unwanted contact and executing Teflin Vyktaire in the process.

Another week passed and time itself crawled to a sluggish halt, violent storms causing rain to fly upwards in a bizarre moment of temporal fragmentation. As reality reasserted itself, Copperhead appeared once more in the Ruins of Masilia, where a metal door with of five locks barred the entrance to a newly revealed alcove. Upon communication with the doorway, the construct explained to the growing crowd that while it could pass the gate unharmed, critical danger would befall any other who tried.

It set the adventurers to the task of deactivating the barrier, and the first of five challenges – each allegedly designed to be solved at a certain time – ensued. After solving a complex riddle, unravelling a numbers problem to balance weights with blood offerings, deducing the ingredients for a potion, and manipulating the rings of a peculiar wall to align with the various incorporeal forms, only the fifth remained. Copperhead, ever observant and smug, announced that this would be the easiest and – sure enough – forty nine turns of a moonlit mirror, in keeping with the recurrent theme of seven that had appeared throughout, opened the main door.

Triumphant after days of gruelling riddlery and puzzle work, the adventurers flooded into the newly opened chamber where the aeonic confluence deviced hung suspended in mid air, electricity crackling around its shifting form. An oily smear daubed the skies to herald a coming focus, and no sooner had Copperhead begun inspecting the device, noting that it lacked the marring it had expected, when piping notes sounded out, and the Cogger immediately fled.

Bamathis the Warlord appeared in a flash of silver, accompanied by the skulking figure of Severn, the Manipulator. Strife immediately began surveying the device and with Caelestis ablaze in His hands, attempted to cleave it in twain only for His weapon to pass right through its centre, unharmed and unaffected. The Artificer explained that it was not truly present, not yet real, but a mere shadow, waiting for its moment. With the imminent focus making its presence known, the click of metal announced the sudden arrival of Damariel, the Unbound, manifesting to confront His siblings.

Scolding Bamathis with the tone of a disappointed parent, Damariel counselled caution, issuing enigmatic reminders to His Twin about something owed. A heated argument ensued between the three Gods, the approaching focus almost fully manifested. After a vexed growl from the Artificer, Strife and Truth agreed to let the mortals settle their dispute on the field of unstable ley, from which the confluence device was drawing power to anchor itself. The opposing Divine mustered Their forces for battle, troops soon marching in through opened gateways as a geyser of ylem pushed up through the ground and the fight began.

Violence erupted through all of Masilia with the clashing of troops and adventurers alike. Spirit and Shadow clashed again and again and again in pitched battles, attempting to wrest control of the geyser’s surrounding points. Chaos reigned while death reaped its terrible harvest, divisions arranged throughout the Ruins awaiting orders that came in haphazard bursts as their commanders fought on with relentless energy.

Few moments of respite came, reprieve found only in scattered interludes as those recently defeated regrouped at their command posts, regathering their forces to once again join the fray. Division after division poured out of the portals to reinforce the fallen, the ylem geyser looming implacably over the area all the while. Each time it seemed one side had the advantage, yet more soldiers fell to their opposing legions, the bones of unshackled soldiers and argent legionnaires forming broken heaps across the bloodsoaked streets.

As their Gods watched on anxiously, the brutal exchange seemed unending in its ferocity. Magics elemental and esoteric ravaged the area. Hordes of Chaos and Astral entities rampaged. The clashing of countless blades and the roar of innumerable creatures drowned out all other sound. Victory seemed at hand as Spirit took control of three points, yet their final division patrolled without orders. Shadow then took the lead yet they too, could not cross the final bound. The butcher’s bill continued to rise, the reek of death intense and pungent.

Desperation struck as the geyser began to lose strength, both Shadow and Spirit marshalling their forces for a final stand. Both pressed on without restraint, felling each other countless times as yet more troops sallied forth in search of victory. Yet it was not to be. The focus collapsed in on itself, the geyser disappeared with neither side laying claim to its energies, and the world released a held breath as the conflict ended without decisive result.