Worldeater

A story of magic, of rot and decay, and the hope for redemption.

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  • Worldeater


    Book 1: The Traveller’s Tales


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    Prologue


    The grinding of gears was all that could be heard in the darkness. The little spoked wheels rattled away, impervious to the world outside, continuing their own machinations in bliss. What they were, they didn’t know. They were happy just turning, rubbing against each other. For an eternity now, they have toiled, the world in which they were made, gone, long forgotten.

    A pale ray of moonlight shone in through a broken shutter, illuminating the column of machinery running from the floor, through to the ceiling above and beyond. The moon—that was one of the few things left unchanged in this world of barren lands and ravaged forests of charred stumps. The tower still stood, bespeaking a world long passed. An object of mystery and terror, the few surviving people stayed away from it, and all travellers gave it a wide berth. It still belched out plumes of grey smoke at regular intervals, an indication that it was still alive. It stood 200 metres high, black against the sky. It’s once blemishless surface was cracked and black granite littered the ground around it as weather took its toll on the walls. But still it stood, ominous, threatening. It stood atop a steep crag, a single black rock, looking down on a brown, barren plain. The ground stretched bare, empty as far as the eye could see.

    But it was not always so. After millennia of drifting through the sky, a dark omen for all, it had come crashing down to rest. The last remnant of the old world was dying. A plume of dust could be seen in the distance, moving toward the crag, rearing up like a fang from the ground. The horse covered distance quickly, and the rider soon stood before the crag. His weathered face belied his youth. His rough clothes hung loosely from his thin frame, and a thick white scarf covered his head. His horse neighed, edging away, nervous. It wanted to get as far away from this place as possible. But his master led it on, tying its tether to a stump. It watched his master go to the crag, and start climbing. It whinnied in fear. His master kept getting smaller, a white speck on the monstrous wall of black. Then his master disappeared completely.

    Footsteps. They echoed in the empty hallways. The gears heard. The door creaked open. More footsteps. Closer. The gears heard. They shuddered, and with them the building shook. The intruder stumbled, but kept on. The footsteps kept coming closer. There was a thud. Like something heavy falling on the floor. The footsteps came closer still, with the sound of something being dragged. The sounds stopped. There was a release of breath, as something large crashed into the gears. There was the sound of rending metal. The gears groaned, and gave way. The machine started falling apart. The earth shuddered as there was a series of explosions somewhere far beneath. The floor gave way, as the metal fell with the boy. There was a release. A blinding flash of light swept across the land, rending the sky asunder. The energy was concentrated on the tip of the staggering tower for the briefest of moments before erupting into millions of ribbons of light, illuminating the night sky as it spread, a web of incandescence. The ribbons pulsed with life, before growing dimmer, and fading away into the night. Soon, only the moon was left. It shone down on the ruins of the tower. An age was at its end. The horse whinnied mournfully.
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    It hurts. It hurts! IT HURTS! He clutched at his chest, his face a twisted mask of agony. 

    ‘I wish I could die. Aaaah, it hurts!’ He fell to his knees, and began mercilessly pounding his head against the stone floor, until his face was masked with blood. 

    ‘Why won’t I die? Why can’t I die?’ He knelt staring at his hand. Strange distortions began to appear in the space around him. The cramped, cell-like room he was in began to shake, the solid stone blocks which made up the walls and floors seemed to melt into themselves. The very air seemed to heave and compress itself into a point near his hand.

    Suddenly, a massive surge of energy blasted forth from his hand, vapourizing his head. His body fell to the ground twitching; the stump of his neck causterized by the immense heat.

    Almost immediately, he began to heal. Ropes of muscles broke through the raw skin, twining themselves alongside the vertebrae which were appearing. Before long, he was up and about, flesh reforming around his grinning skull.

    ‘Fuck! Still not dead!’ Obviously displeased after his latest ‘rebirth’, he tore a rift in the fabric of space-time that constitutes our universe, and disappeared.
    ____________________________________________________________________________

    I trusted that angel on crack, I really shouldn’t have done that. He’s been constantly wrong about everything.

    Hahaha! What else did you expect? He’s an angel on crack
    ____________________________________________________________________________

    He opened his weary eyes to the darkness of the void. How long had he been alive for? He had long since forgotten. He went on in the cold silence. ‘What is ‘God’ but a rumination? An abstract idea? A program made to endlessly manage data? And how was anyone else different from ‘God’? Every sentient being to ever exist was nothing more than a collection of chemicals that was able to process information, yet how were they able to do so? Is it that capability that separates us? That living beings can function only in their physical bodies while you do not? Are they any different from you? Or are they a part of you? Do they return to you after their death? Are they all but instances of you? And if they are, what is their purpose? Why even bother with this farce of a dream?’

    He snapped out of his rambling reverie abruptly, and squinted ahead. There in the neverending darkness was the tiniest glimmer of light. With a shrug, he went towards it.


  • edited November 2019
    Chapter 1




    The merciless sun beat down on the dead lands of Dreyj-akhur. Over 3000 years after the Great War, and the earth still remained barren. A few trees dotted the plain, bent and sickly. There were no living things to be seen, save for the birds of carrion, circling the skies ceaselessly, looking for their next meal. A small band of people made their way across the wasteland. Dressed in white, shawls draped around their heads, they stood out in the desolate land. There were two wagons, each drawn by two skeletal beasts. The old and the sick rode in the wagons, along with everyone’s possessions. They were a wandering folk. They had been travelling for as long as anyone could remember; never settling, always moving on. Why, or for what purpose, even they could no longer remember. All they had to lead them on were old, half-forgotten legends.

    Suddenly, one among the group fell. But the band didn’t stop. A child’s wail could be heard, but was cut off as a sharp slap rang through the air. This was a cruel world. Those who could not keep up were left behind. And those who were left behind died. It was the way of life. All you could do was move on, and live another day. If you were lucky. The vultures swept down. Soon there would be nothing left but tattered robes, and bones left to bleach in the sun. Young Diab looked back, his bright, cold eyes glittered uncannily on a young boy’s face. He turned away, as they trudged on.
     
     
    The fire blazed away into the night, which was as cold as the day was hot. More people died because of the extreme cold at night rather than the blazing heat during the day. Thin gruel was served to everyone, as the rations ran short. A little child tugged at an old patriarch’s sleeve insistently. “Tell me story!” he asked, “Story time! Story time!”
    The old man’s eyes softened. He got up, and the babble of voices died down.

    “Once, long ago, there was a land

    Rich and green, lush with life

    Abrim with magic, in trees, in the sand
    In the very essence of the earth.
    Streams trickle down, a thousand colours under the sun
    Clear and sweet, nectar flowing through the earth
    The trees dance in the wind, swaying, singing
    Singing along with the keen eyed birds,
    A melody. A melody of the earth, of life.
    Of magic.

    Strange bright creatures roamed the land,
    Bright eyed and curious. Figments of imagination, brought to life.
    So do creatures of the shadow, dark and terrible.
    They too roam abreast, seeking, hunting.
    And there are men. There are mages. Witches. Magicians.
    For magic runs strong in their blood.
    Tall they stand, in all their glory and power.
    Masters of the world. Creators of magic.
    Fair they stood, one with the world.
    And the world flourished.
    Drinking deep the magic.
    Tall towers they built,
    Stretching into the sky,
    Far above the clouds
    Reaching, reaching out to God
    To his realm.
    Magic flowed through the towers,
    Mingling freely with machines,
    Whirring contraptions, fed by magic
     
    But in the dark seeds of dissent grew
    For there were those that coveted magic for themselves
    And they shunned the light, their minds poisoned
    Twisting, dark roots creeping through the soil
    Leaving dust and decay in its wake.
     
    The shadow of evil fell upon the world
    Even as magic reached its zenith.
    Dreams. Reality. Magic.
    They were one.
    Man had gone forth to other worlds.
     
    A child was born on a cold night
    He who would be the greatest mage of all,
    And he who would rip away the magic,
    And bring forth an age of despair.
    The fisherman’s son, Greinn.
    The architect of the black tower.”
     
     
    Raedja, the patriarch, refused all further pleas for stories from wailing children, and the blaze was soon naught but embers glowing in the dark. The two men on watch sat dozing, cradling crudely made spears. But Diab lay awake, his mind filled by visions of magic, power and glory. Somewhere, he thought to himself, there exists the tower, and it holds the key that will turn my dreams into reality. And I will find it.
     
    A comet made its lazy way across the sky, trailing stardust. Diab put out his hand and stared at the comet passing through his fingers, making a wish. Little did he know that somewhere, the great tower’s thrum now faltered, and life was starting to creep back into the diseased world, little blades of grass pushing their way through pockmarked earth and sand. And along with it, the tiniest tendrils of magic, wafting out like puffs of smoke, dispersed by the wind. 
    ____________________________________________________________________________

    The dwindling caravan slowly made their way towards the city of Rathkar. There were still cities and towns in this purgatorial world, although they were few and far between. Any large community needed a source of food, something that was now almost non-existent. Rathkar was situated on the banks of the river Fleir; the silt-filled water allowed life to exist, if not flourish in its vicinity. The river originated from the steep mountain ranges to the north. The city itself was a walled monstrosity that lay on the western banks, surrounded on all sides by slums that extended across the river. Beyond the slum dwellers on the eastern bank lay dead land, stretching out as far as the eye can see. It was the slum dwellers that grew the sickly crops that the city depended upon, but while the walled residents, or ‘Wall Rats’ as they were known in the slums, lived lives of lusciousness, the people outside the city lived, bred and died in filth, unable to see even a tenth of the grain and crops they  produced; most of it was sold for a few stone chips, a currency useless outside Rathkar. Even that had to be quarried for by those unwilling to farm.

    Diab walked alongside his grandfather, one of the few surviving to old age. His parents had died during a scavenging expedition a few years earlier; they had been caught in one of the sudden, devastating sandstorms that raged through the continent, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. They were gigantic things; huge waves of sand reaching heights of over 50 meters spiralled around tornadoes that joined the earth and the sky. At the time, they were in the Plains of Rathalos, on the way to this very city of Rathkar, which lay east of the plains. To the north, Rathalos was bound by the sky-scraping range of Kre-ar, which extended out past the plains, before dipping to the south-west, where the snow-clad mountains gave way to rolling hills and plateaus, which would become the dust-ridden Rathalos to the east, and give way to a bog-filled peninsula to the west and southwest. The land there was diseased beyond redemption; bogs and mires oozed radioactive sludge and belched out fumes noxious enough to corrode flesh down to the bone in seconds. If you made your way past the treacherous mountains of Kre-ar, you would reach the northernmost part of the continent, ice-bound and fractured. Huge cliffs of ice towered above the horizon, like misshapen fingers stretching towards the sky. Strange lights danced across the sky here, secrets hidden behind their colourful veils. The continent was bound on all sides by an ocean. Were there other continents? There might be, but no one had ever travelled to one and made it back. The nomads had named the continent Dreyj-akhur, or Prison of Evil. 

    The nomadic tribes were few, and wildly different in behaviour and custom. Each had their own stories and legends; some of the tribes claimed that their purpose was to find the ‘Heart of the World’, or Narlbarn, and that whoever found it would have the power to restore balance to the world. Some claimed that Greinn was still alive, and if he was found and killed, life would flourish once more. Many bizarre theories were bandied about and scoffed at. But one thing they all agreed upon was the legend about Greinn, and how he brought ruination upon the world. Everyone had heard stories of the dreaded black tower, and how it journeyed through the sky, masked by thunderclouds and heralded by drought and famine, although it had been many a decade since it was last seen.

    The shadow of Rathkar stood out against the harsh sky like a sleeping behemoth. “Almost there! We should reach the city by before sundown, before the gate closes. I can’t wait for a hot bath! I mean cold, but it’ll be freezing by the time we reach. Hot.  Aaah!” yodelled Ydelle. Her pretty face peeked out of her voluminous fait, a long, hooded overcoat. Her voice melodious even through her incessant rambling. How she didn’t just drop and die from dehydration was beyond Diab, as he frowned at her. Noticing his dour expression, she turned her nose up at him with a pretty humph. ‘Stop it! Annoying, not pretty!’ Diab’s scowl deepened. “Anymore and you’ll end up looking like grandpa Raedja instead of a little eleven year old boy!” Howling with laughter at her own quip, Ydelle ran ahead. Shaking his head, Diab trudged on, hiding his face under his scarf. He was too young and small to wear a fait, which is a shame because all you would see of him would be a walking hood.

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