HerziQuerzi's Set Hub

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Mon, 2016-07-25 20:07
HerziQuerzi
Creative Direction Award Best Mechanic Award
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HerziQuerzi's Set Hub

The Dark Years
(Completed, Unfortunately)
Cretio Created - March, 2011
The first set I ever designed. Taking place on a Plane formed of excess mana leaked into the Blind Eternities gathering together, it was meant to be a battlecruiser style environment. Poor mechanics, weak story, wildly varying power levels.
Rating: 2/10 (Exceedingly Poor)
Intrigue of Ahmed (IAH) - January, 2015
My second set, a multiplayer focused set about the push and pull politics between five seperate nations. Decent in most regards, but nothing special.
Rating: 4/10 (Poor)

The Memory Block
(Completed)
Memory's Tyranny (MMT) - October, 2015
An attempt at actually involving story in my sets, and displaying said story solely through the cards themselves. Focusing on the struggle between the planeswalkers Felice and Aerida upon the plane of Adira, Memory's Tyranny is a tale of immortality and stagnancy, rebellion and purpose.
Rating: 6/10 (Good)
Memory's Collapse (MMC) - March, 2016
After Aerida's machinations succeed in the death of Felice at the end of Memory's Tyranny, it is revealed that the plane-wide immortality was only a side effect of Felice's attempts to hold a crumbling plane together. With her dead and Aerida nowhere to be found, Adira begins to dissipate into the Blind Eternities. Whereas Memory's Tyranny was almost entirely story focused, Memory's Collapse is more focused on the limited environment, with the only "story" being nods towards the general state of the world.
Rating: 7/10 (Very Good)

Rhyse Block
(In Progress)
A Tourney at Whiterun (TWR) - September, 2016
Another attempt at telling a story solely through the cards. Tourney came out much better than Memory's Tyranny in this regard due to having a more straightforward story. Focused on a medieval tourney in a low fantasy world, it's a set where individual glory and skill trumps all. Meanwhile, decade old jealousies, long forgotten oaths, and grudges lasting centuries begin to rear their heads, culminating in a midnight attack upon the tourney by a neighbouring kingdom in a bloody grab for power.
Rating: 8/10 (Exceptionally Good)
Plagues of Fretport (PFP) - 85%
N/A
Rating: ?/10
Caravans of Rhyse (CVN) - 35%
N/A
Rating: ?/10

Arcanum Block
(Upcoming)
Carpe Arcanum (CAC) - 30%
N/A
Rating: ?/10
{REDACTED} (???) - 5%
N/A
Rating: ?/10

The Stranger Block
(Upcoming)
Barten's Paranoia (BTP) - 50%
N/A
Rating: ?/10
{REDACTED} (???) - 0%
N/A
Rating: ?/10

Other Products
(Ongoing)
Claren's Travels (CLT) - 10%
N/A
Rating: ?/10
Harvest Festival (HVF) - 15%
N/A
Rating: ?/10
HerziQuerzi's Commanders: Leader's Burden (HQC) - 25%
N/A
Rating: ?/10

Community Sets
(Ongoing)
Mious (MIS) - Previewing, Led by fluffyDeathbringer
N/A
Rating: ?/10
Radurdum (???) - TBA, Led by fluffyDeathbringer
N/A
Rating: ?/10
Pyrulea (???) - TBA, Led by marioware2
N/A
Rating: ?/10
Reverse Alpha (???) - TBA, Led by jacqui-pup
N/A
Rating: ?/10

Phasing
This phases in or out before you untap during each of your untap steps. While it's phased out, it's treated as though it doesn't exist.
Set Hub

Wed, 2017-04-05 11:02
HerziQuerzi
Creative Direction Award Best Mechanic Award
HerziQuerzi's picture

Supplemental Information

Notable Characters (Or more particularly, characters of enough influence or power to be of some importance beyond their home plane)


Felice White mana symbol
Homeplane: Adira
Species: Human (Planeswalker)
Gender: Female
Age: 234
Sets Appeared In: Memory's Tyranny

Bio Summary: A highly powerful planeswalker who's work to prevent a plane from dissipating into the Blind Eternities resulted in effective immortality for the inhabitants as a side effect.
Design Philosophy: WIP
Current State: Dead, Adira
Cards: Felice the Binder



Aerida Blue mana symbolRed mana symbol
Homeplane: Arcanum
Species: Human (Planeswalker)
Gender: Female
Age: 231
Sets Appeared In: Memory's Tyranny

Bio Summary: A planeswalker who's powers and goals remain largely unknown, but at the very least is highly cunning. Machinated a highly convoluted plot that resulted in the death of Felice and the destruction of the plane of Adira.
Design Philosophy: WIP
Current State: Alive, Arcanum
Cards: Aerida the Releaser



Caryn White mana symbolBlue mana symbolBlack mana symbol
Homeplane: Adira
Species: Human
Gender: Female
Age: 42
Sets Appeared In: Memory's Collapse

Bio Summary: A powerful mage who, after the death of Felice, has found a way to tap into the Blind Eternities and harness it as fuel for her magic. Currently working on stabilizing and reworking the crumbling Adira into a "flawless" world, with herself as it's god.
Design Philosophy: WIP
Current State: Alive, Adira
Cards: Caryn, Dismissive Prodigy



Claren Ziegler Black mana symbolGreen mana symbol
Homeplane: Mious
Species: Tiefling (Planeswalker)
Gender: Female
Age: 26
Sets Appeared In: N/A

Bio Summary: Originally from the plane of Mious, Claren was an adherent of Ni'Ama's clergy, tasked with testing the virtue of those around her. Though more often she simply mocked and aggravated those around her for her own amusement. After her brother was murdered, however, she set out on a pilgrimage for holy retribution, eventually tracking her brother’s murderers to Bahet’s holy mountain, where she took them by surprise and overcame them, only to drag them up the mountain and murder them at it’s peak in defiance of Bahet for letting any of this happen. When doing so captured the attention of both Bahet and Ni’Ama, their combined influence was enough to trigger her spark.
Sent to the plane of Rhyse by her awakening, she found herself trapped due to the planes strange interaction with mana. Or rather, it's near complete lack of mana. During her years there, she joined the Ordealist cult, a group of people determined to achieve five impossible tasks in order to achieve spiritual and natural harmony. During her years of training and attempting to complete the tasks, she moved past her brother’s death and became more like she was before. Albeit less actively aggravating to those around her, and more concerned with personal improvement. Eventually she managed to complete the five Ordeals, and the mana infused pool she found at the peak of the final challenge let her leave Rhyse and enter the Multiverse proper.
Design Philosophy: Abilities should not be free to use; there should always be some pain involved. Both of the major defining periods of her life were focused around struggling through adversity to strengthen oneself, and her cards should reflect that. At the same time, once you’ve made it past the challenge, you should be rewarded in a way that helps mitigate what you lost along the way. Bonus points if parallels are drawn between one of her abilities and the trial mechanic from Mious.
Current State: Alive, Rhyse
Cards: Claren, Twice Tested // Claren, Thrice Born



Rahit Blue mana symbolGreen mana symbol
Homeplane: Kaladesh
Species: Human (Planeswalker)
Gender: Male
Age: 34
Sets Appeared In: N/A

Bio Summary: A natural-born teacher, Rahit excells at guiding others and encouraging them to succeed. While his technical prowess was nothing remarkable, he had a knack for the manipulation of aether. However, an experiment gone wrong nearly cost him his life, only saved by the ignition of his spark.
In the years since, he has made Arcanum his home, becoming a well known face amidst the academics of the plane. Believing that all have the potential for greatness, no matter their walk of life, he hosts free to attend public lectures on a wide variety of topics when he’s not busy writing thesises.
Design Philosophy: Not being one interested in supremacy, his abilities should reflect his helpful nature. Effects should be group-hug in style. More specifically, letting everyone do the same thing, but with him doing it slightly better.
Current State: Alive, Arcanum
Cards: Rahit, Immaculate Architect



Salva Toré Black mana symbol
Homeplane: Festenya
Species: Elf (Planeswalker)
Gender: Nonbinary
Age: 25
Sets Appeared in: N/A

Bio Summary: Born in the slums of Stalbrit on Festenya, Salva was a protester against the oppressive social structure, especially in how it affected the elves. During a riot, Salva was trapped inside a burning building, igniting their spark.
Now, whenever they returns to Festenya, they are caught in the uncomfortable position of being allowed to move amongst the higher echelons of society due to their spark while still being isolated and scorned for their local elvish blood.
Is currently on Arcanum to make use of their vast knowledge on magic as part of her continuining attempts to extend the elvish lifespan on a wide scale in order to put them on par with humans.
Design Philosophy: Since her bio is based upon feeling resentful towards the privilege and power humans have over elves on Festenya, her abilities should focus around the idea of taking from others to bolster herself. More vaguely, they should also try to reflect the idea of extending lifespans.
Current State: Alive, Festenya
Cards: Salva Toré, Outcast Advocate



Ardy Red mana symbolGreen mana symbol
Homeplane: Arcanum
Species: Human (Planeswalker)
Gender: Trans Male
Age: 17
Sets Appeared In: N/A

Bio Summary: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ WIP
Design Philosophy: As a bright and cheerful character, Ardy’s abilities should not be overly aggressive in nature. No burn, no fight, very limited destroy effects (if any). The abilities should also feel loose and full of potential, to reflect Ardy’s creative mindset.
Current State: Alive, Arcanum
Cards: Ardy, Youthful Geomancer


Mechanics (Or at least the ones that I'm not ashamed of)

Call to Arms -- Whenever ~ attacks, create a tapped and attacking {creature token}. Exile that token at end of combat. x

Recall (As this spell resolves, you may discard a card with converted mana cost equal to or greater than this card's. If you do, return this card to your hand.) x

Vestige {cost} (You may pay {cost} and discard a card to cast this card from your graveyard.) x

Reborn #--{cost} (You may cast this card from your graveyard for its reborn cost. If you do, it enters the battlefield with # additional +1/+1 counters on it and becomes reborn. When it dies while reborn, exile it.) x

Weave {cost} (This spell costs {cost} more to cast for each mode beyond the first.) x

Fabled {cost} (Then, if you cast this for its fabled cost, put it onto the battlefield transformed attached to that creature.) x

Cripple {cost} (You may cast this card for its cripple cost if an opponent has lost life this turn.) x

Phasing
This phases in or out before you untap during each of your untap steps. While it's phased out, it's treated as though it doesn't exist.
Set Hub

Tue, 2016-12-27 18:22
HerziQuerzi
Creative Direction Award Best Mechanic Award
HerziQuerzi's picture

Figure I should probably have short stories related to my sets in here as well, so posting this one from the Tourney at Whiterun updates. Warning: Graphic violence

Copper Black - A Tourney at Whiterun
Spoiler:

She paced back and forth in the small circle of dirt allotted for her, guards stiffening every time she drew close. Six of them, forming a loose circle around her. Each well armoured, and hands holding tight to the hilts of their swords. Sheathed for the moment, but still a harsh reminder not to do anything stupid. At the edge of her vision, the light of the rising sun pricked at her, glanced off the copper discs hanging from her neck. Morning mist kept close to the ground, eddying around her scuffed boots.

A short stone's throw away, a man leaned casually upon the hilt of his long steel, the accompanying short steel still sheathed at his waist. His eyes tracked her as she paced, an easy grin on his clean-shaven face, brown hair rolling down in carefully maintained waves to his shoulders. Unlike her, no circle of guards kept him under watch. A free, Cauldish man.

Spoiler:

Around them, people jostled each other upon the stands, eager for a better view. Nobles, dressed in vibrant colours off to one side, and commoners in drab greys and brown to the other. All kept at bay by a wooden fence, thirty paces across from one end to another. Inside, nothing but a circle of dirt, carefully flattened. Here and there, darker patches could be seen, a faint red tinge to them. Left over from yesterday's fights, fallen from broken noses and split lips during the Ladder of Swords. Soon, Sera knew, there would be fresh patches in the dirt.

Far more, for while blunted blades had been used in yesterday's duels, the steel held now was keen and sharp. A proper fight, rather than a mere recreation.

The crowds quieted and grew still as a figure stepped forward upon the raised dais in the heart of the noble's stands. A lavish gold and red cape draped the man's shoulders, and a diamond encrusted crown rested upon his head. King Visserine of Daeland, the famed mediator and proponent of peace. A wave spread around the circle, as those present knelt as well as they could, crowded together as they were. All except Sera and the Cauldish man opposite her.

She, because defiance was all that was left to her.

He, because Visserine was not his king.

Spoiler:

King Visserine looked out over the crowd, a look of mild distaste upon his soft face. As though the entire affair was an unfortunate annoyance he'd rather do without. "All may rise," he said, voice carefully neutral. He waited, as the crowds present rose with a loud rustling. "We are gathered here to bear witness to a trial by combat. Issued by Sera of Coppercove-" the guards around Sera stepped back, to better reveal her to the crowd, "-against Prince Beren of Caulder, represented by his champion Ser Lorel." The Cauldish man gave an extravagant bow to the crowd, to shouts of approval and scorn, depending on the individual's class and loyalties..

Working his mouth sourly, the king moved as if to speak again before shaking his head and sinking back into his chair, an enameled and opulent affair. Beside Sera, one of the guards stepped forward and offered Sera her sword, belt strap wrapped around the sheath. Sera grabbed the hilt, felt the familiar grooves in the leather hilt, the hard core underneath. Calloused fingers tightened, flush as an old glove, and pulled the sword free, leaving the sheath in the guard's hand. She'd have no need of it here.

Across the ring, Ser Lorel finished basking in the nobles’ praise and drew his own twin swords, their ornate blades making Sera's sword a cumbersome hunk of dull steel in comparison. With one final flourish, Lorel bowed to someone amongst the crowd. Following his gaze, Sera saw Prince Beren - the lecherous bastard, she thought bitterly - looking on with eager bloodlust, nose crooked and bruised where she had planted her boot last night.

As one, the guards pulled away and left her alone in the ring with Ser Lorel, who was already walking towards her. Strolling even, his movements arrogant and languid. His blades hung loose in his hands, the tip of his long steel only barely kept above the dirt. Sera gritted her teeth, pride flaring at his carefree attitude. With a shout, she hefted her heavy sword and charged. When she was only a few strides away, she twisted, throwing her entire body behind the cleaving weight of her sword.

But Lorel smoothly ducked underneath the blow, his short steel lashing out in reply. Sera shouldn't have been surprised to see a sword coming at her. She had seen plenty yesterday, during her success in the Ladder of Swords, and moreso had been anticipating this moment since she issued the challenge yesterday evening. Yet still, the glinting sharpness of the blade shook her, so clearly deadlier than the blunted blades she was familiar with. She lurched a pace back, and the steel flicked past her, skidding across the chain of copper discs around her neck.

Behind it, Lorel's long steel came swinging around, Sera only just getting her own sword in the way in time. Before the shock of their blades meeting had even finished travelling up her arm, Lorel was spinning around, continuing the attack. Sera diverted one strike into the ground, the next into the air, and stabbed forward into the opening left in their midst. But the Cauldish champion danced past it, and nicked Sera in the leg with his long steel as he passed.

Stumbling back, the roars of the crowed crashed over Sera, their excitement fueled by the sight of blood. Commoners, hoping to see her take the nobles down a notch. Cauldish dignitaries, eager to see her lowborn blood spilled. Hate, hope, support, scorn; all heaped upon her simply because of a brief brawl with the drunk prince of a foreign nation.

As she struggled to ward off several more of Lorel's blows, Sera could already feel weariness beginning to set in. The bruises and batterings she had taken in yesterday's events piled on top of a night rendered sleepless by worry, and the heavy length of steel in her arm dragged her down, and down, and down. With each laboured breath, the weight of copper crushed her chest. Choked her.

Once more the short steel lashed out, catching Sera's sword and dragging it to the side, the long steel swinging in through the gap. Sera closed her eyes against the blow, and felt it strike her in her left shoulder, set her spinning to the ground. She waited for the agony, gathered herself for it as she dragged herself onto her hands and knees. But when she opened her eyes, there was no blood. Lorel had struck her with the flat of his blade. Was making a game of it, of her. Even now, he strutted around the ring, shaking his steels at the crowd. Urging them to cheer harder, shout louder. He was making a fool of her. Nobody makes a fool of me.

Anger boiled in her chest, pounded in her heart. Anger pushed her to her feet, brought strength back into her arms. Noticing her, Lorel smirked and faced her once more, turning his back on the surging crowd. Over his shoulder, Sera could see Prince Beren leering down at her, face mottled red and purple from passion and bruises.

Refusing to let Lorel continue to dictate the pace of the fight, Sera leaped forward, blade swinging upwards to split the man from hip to shoulder. Yet once more, he casually shifted out of the way. The short steel retaliated once, twice, opening cuts on Sera's cheek and shoulder. Shouting, screaming, Sera let go of her sword with one hand and grabbed Lorel by the collar. Dragged him close and slammed her face into his.

Once, twice.

A sharp pain shot through Sera's side, and Lorel tore away, his short steel red with her blood. Gasping, Sera staggered back, clutching at the wound in her stomach. There was a glint of light, and Lorel's long steel caught Sera above the eye, continued past and removed the top of her ear. She managed to catch the next blow on her sword, only for his fist to crack her in the jaw, send her fumbling to one knee.

Lorel was no longer smiling, as one eye swelled shut and blood dripped from his broken lips. His heavy boot caught Sera in the ribs, sent her sprawling on her back, sword falling from numb fingers. More kicks caught her in the shoulder, her stomach, her hand. Sera curled tight around the blows, face sticky with blood, limbs numbs, the wound in her side turning cold. Above her, she was dimly aware of Ser Lorel stomping around her. Shouting at her. Berating her, as her hand scrabbled for her dropped sword. Cursed her, as she rolling herself over and onto her knees. Goaded her, as the cold spread across her body. Challenged her, and upon receiving no response, raised his sword to deliver the finishing blow.

But when he brought it down, it found Sera's sword held steady in it's way, a wailing shriek echoing out across the ring as the blades slid across each other. They stood there, frozen for a moment, both straining, muscles taut and pink-stained teeth bared, before Lorel found himself pushed back and away, stumbling. Then stumbling some more, as Sera’s heavy blade stabbed forward and left a shallow cut down the side of his chest.

Before him, Sera rose to her feet, dangling like a loose marionette. Her head drooped forwards, tangled black hair hiding her dark face. Blood stained her tunic, soaked her hose, dripping from her chin. Her hands held her sword close, cradled it against her chest, one hand twisted and broken from Lorel's boot. And for a few moments, she stood there, silently swaying.

Lorel began to raise his steels, and like that, the spell was broken. Sera's body grew rigid, and her head snapped up, teeth locked in a rictus of fury. Screaming, laughing, crying, her blade danced forward, it’s heavy weight forgotten in her rage. Screamed against Lorel's blades, tore through flesh and skin, left half a dozen cuts and then came back for more. The crowd had fallen dead silent, enraptured. Horrified.

Inside, Sera's body was a battleground of it's own. Excruciating fire and numbing cold swirled and surged through her veins in turn, the world reduced to a blur of red and grey. An opportune strike from Lorel struck her in the shoulder, scraped against the bone, before she wrenched away, the pain quelled beneath her fury. Her need to unleash the fire within. To strike back after years of being spat on, overlooked, put aside, and left behind. Years that had left her stronger, harder, but brittle too. And now she had cracked, been shattered by the open wounds in her flesh, and the burning within surged out, scorching the world to ash. The morning light seared white-hot patterns through her eyes and branded her skull as the cold silhouette of Lorel danced and flickered, drew away.

"Come on, you coward!" She screamed, her voice steel scraping against stone. Her spit flung like sparks from an anvil. "Finish what you started!" Her sword cleaved downwards at the grey shadow of Lorel, but it faded away and her steel shattered through the wooden fence, the sea of cowards behind it scrambling over themselves to get away. A line of fire flared up across the small of her back, and she whirled around, her steel returning the favour and catching Lorel in the shoulder, wind cleaving through fog. Triumphant, the blade lumbered back for more, impossibly hungry. Insatiable. The short steel came down to meet it, but too slow. Ever too slow. Sera's sword cut through Lorel's forearm with the sound of shattered bones and tortured metal.

Spoiler:

Confusion reached Lorel's face far before the pain, his gaze dull and jaw slack as he stared at his arm, at the thin cords of meat and gristle that left his hand uselessly dangling. Befuddled, frozen, he did not even react as Sera's blade curved back once more, and sheared off the top of his head at a sharp angle, one eye still staring downwards while the other soared into the sky, reproachful. Almost peacefully, it tumbled through the air and fell lost amidst the stands.

Sera and Lorel collapsed as one, fell forward into each other’s arms, both their strings slit in a single practiced motion. The fire in her bones turned to ash, the ice in her veins to blood. Pain seeped back into Sera's consciousness, body too weak to scream, or even whimper. She simply lay there, gasping, as the searing light in her eyes faded away, and the grey shadows swelled to take their place.

The last thing she heard, before she lost consciousness all together, was a single piercing scream from the crowd where Lorel’s lost head had sailed. The last thing she saw, a familiar worried face surrounded by a nimbus of blond hair leaning over her.

Spoiler:

Phasing
This phases in or out before you untap during each of your untap steps. While it's phased out, it's treated as though it doesn't exist.
Set Hub

Mon, 2017-01-23 20:21
HerziQuerzi
Creative Direction Award Best Mechanic Award
HerziQuerzi's picture

Another short story, this time for the Mious community set. Also has a violence warning.

Pilgrims

Part I: Greetings

The mountain rose steeply from among the frosted firs, its cliffs stark against the pale sky. It wasn't a large mountain, but its peak was still lost amidst the snow laden clouds. Further down, a small gathering of buildings had been carved into the stone, the craftsmanship inspiring to behold. And even further down, at the base of the mountain, rested another scattering of buildings. Though where the others were stone, these were wood and dirt. Where there others were beautiful, these were squat and bare. Where those stood proud before the world, these sat behind a wooden palisade and barred gate.

Leading up to the gate was a simple dirt path, winding between trees and partially obscured by drifts of snow. Three weary travellers made their way along the path on foot, burdened both by heavy packs and weeks of travel. At their fore was a sallow man of middling years, swaddled in dark cloth and bearing a staff of blackened bone. Close behind him was a sombre woman in full plate, the steel of her armour and the colour of her hair matching the snow clouds above. And in the rear, a young red haired woman armed with simple sword and wooden shield, looking more cheerful than her two companions combined.

As the three drew up to the gate, a lounging tiefling atop the palisade made herself apparent as she called down to them. "Greetings, travellers!" A simple leather vest left red arms bare to the cold, the only concession to the winter chill behind a large black scarf wound loose around her neck. Black hair was pulled back into a wiry ponytail, and sharp green eyes appraised the travellers with amusement.

"Greetings," Red Hair called back, as Black Cloak and Grey Steel continued forward.

"Have you come to test your virtues with an adversary’s trial?"

"Merely passing-" Red Hair began, before being cut off by Black Cloak.

"We've come to have the gate opened," he snapped.

"Oddly specific reason," the tiefling joked. "Didn't think Bahet's war priests were so prone to frivolity."

"Don't mock-"

"Then again, it is quite a nice gate. Our Gusman friends up the mountain carved it for us. In fact-" the tiefling leaned over the parapet to look at the gate herself, "if you look in the upper-right, you can see a depiction of a nine winged seraph done by my very own brother. Excellent workmanship, if you'll excuse the family pride."

"Girl," Grey Steel spoke, voice measured and calm, "we are here for supplies before continuing east. Not to bandy words with devils."

“Devil’s daughter, actually. Earned my skin through birth and not through sin,” she sang, "and anyway, the devil's daughter is here to bandy words with you. But my apologies. I let myself get distracted, and failed to give the proper greeting. Welcome to Tativ and Khorrad, home to the followers of Ni'Ama and Gusma, respectively. If it's fine wine and food you're after, a guide will happily take you up the mountain path to Khorrad. But if you find yourself too weary for the climb, we modest residents of Tativ have salted pork and stale bread to offer. And of course the previously mentioned trials, for those looking to prove their virtue."

"There will be no trials for us," Black Cloak answered curtly. "The pork and bread will suffice."

"I would be happy to do it for you," the tiefling continued, heedless of the war priests' mounting frustration. "After all, I'm already testing your patience."

Before Black Cloak could snap off yet another retort doomed to fall on deaf ears, another voice spoke up from behind the gate, obscured from the travellers. "Claren! Open up, will you?"

"Of course," Claren answered cheerfully. Climbing to her feet, she grabbed hold of a wheel set into the palisade and began slowly turning it hand over hand, muscles shifting beneath her red skin as she strained. Before the travellers, the gate slowly swung open to reveal a half dozen other adherents of Ni'Ama, dressed as simply as Claren, alongside a male tiefling dressed in the eye catching dyed robes of Gusma's followers.

Locking the gate wheel, Claren lightly dropped down to join everyone on the ground, and quickly went to embrace the other tiefling. "Gahar! I thought you were too busy with your carvings to come to join us pig farmers."

"Don't be cruel," he said, smiling as they stepped apart. "It's only been what, four days since I last came down? Surely you're not that desperate for your brother's company." Gahar looked towards the three travellers. "Who are these?"

"War priests of Bahet," Claren said, before they could answer for themselves. "They only just arrived."

Red Hair stepped forward. "Your sister was showing us the craftsmanship of the gate."

Gahar took a few steps out from under the palisade to get a better look. "It really is quite the gate, isn't it?" He paused for a second before pointing to the upper-right corner. "In fact, that carving of the nine winged seraph was done-"

"By you, yes," Grey Steel cut in, "your sister already mentioned as such. Now, if you could let us pass so that we may talk to the Superior about supplies..."

"Of course. There are so few hours of light in a day this late in the year, I'd hate to be responsible for wasting them." With a wave of his arm, he motioned the others in the gateway to move forward and out of the way, pulling a heavy handheld cart behind them.

"What's in there?" Claren asked, curious.

"Gold and silver," Gahar answered, nodding politely to the war priests as they passed into the compound. "Some for the Superior of Irah's Abbey, to celebrate the delivery of their child," he shrugged, "as well as quite a bit more to buy spices and wine. The pork and bread you provide isn't enough to satisfy our chefs, it seems."

"How gluttonous," Claren teased. She rapped her knuckles on the cart before stepping away. "Good travels then, and I'll see you in a few weeks." Gahar nodded in agreement before setting off down the dirt road headed east, four of the adherents of Ni'Ama following, leaving Claren alone at the gate with the last of her fellows. One of the catlike qith, her fur was a patchwork of warm browns. Raising a brow, Claren motioned after the others. "Not going with them?"

Spoiler:

The woman shook her head before tossing Claren a bow, quiver, and satchel. "I'm taking over the gate while you go hunting."

"This late in the season?"

"Well," the qith said, whiskers twitching in amusement, "there's the reason I don't want to do it, and I imagine you'd rather be out there than wait here for the Superior to hear about your harassment of our guests."

Claren grimaced. "They did seem like the kind who'd pass along their complaints."

"Exactly," the qith said, heading back inside the confines of the palisade. "There should be enough food in there to last you until the eternal night. I imagine that's more than long enough for the Superior to calm down."

In the heart of winter, days grew shorter and shorter eventually until the sun disappeared altogether, leading to a night lasting almost an entire month. With the eternal night not quite two weeks away, days barely even lasted an hour. Claren double checked that there indeed was enough food in the pack before nodding her thanks and slinging everything over her shoulder. As she set off, she could see the war priests through the slowly shutting gate, discussing something quietly among themselves.

Spoiler:


Part II: Tracks

Not long after setting out, Claren had come across deer tracks heading east. It had taken a few days to catch up to it, and another two to fully sneak up on the beast and shoot it down. Now, as she tied it’s limbs together to keep it from becoming an ungainly mess, she was faced with the daunting prospect of carrying it back to Titev.

As she settled in for another long night, letting the cold keep the deer safe from rot, she spotted a pale light far off through the trees. At first she couldn’t help but wonder if the sun was impossibly rising half a day earlier, but the flickering quality of the light quickly gave it away as a campfire. “Salvation,” Claren breathed.

Heaving her kill over her shoulders, Claren dug her feet in the ground and began carrying the deer toward the fire. Once she was warm she could get started on field dressing it to lighten the load. As she drew closer she could make out the crackling of flames, as well as the smell of roasting meat.

Pushing through the last of the bushes, mouth salivating, Claren was greeted with a massacre. Blood stained the snow, trees split with rot, and dark splashes of ash marred the clearing, reeking of sulfur. A motley of arms and legs dangled from the fire, blackened into little more than lumps of coal and ash. And across the fire the red haired war priest sat, sword resting on her lap, face somber.

Claren let the deer fall, food forgotten, as she stumbled forward onto the scene. "What is this?" She asked, "Gods, what is this?"

Red Hair looked up, tears steaming from the fire’s heat even as they tumbled down her face. "That's your brother," she said, looking away in shame as she gestured at the fire. "As well as his guards. We killed them, then lit this purging fire to cleanse both bodies and souls." Her hand shook as she raised it to her face, shoulders hunched. "We killed them," she repeated.

In an instant Claren found the bow in her hands, arrow drawn. "I should return the favor," she hissed, "and I will, as soon as I get you to tell me where your friends went."

Red Hair shook her head and pointed east. "They continued towards Bahet's holy mountain. And they're no friends of mine, especially after this." She took a shuddering breath before meeting Claren's eyes. "Shoot me if you will. I can't say I don't deserve it. But I swear, I didn't intend for this.

We had caught up with your fellows a day ago on the road, and agreed to travel together. Then, tonight, while I was out gathering firewood, I heard fighting. I assumed we were being betrayed and robbed." She stopped for a moment before continuing. "I didn't realize it had been the opposite until after the purging fire had been lit, and my companions began breaking open your brother's cart."

"You're lying," Claren snarled, "desperate to save your own skin."

Red Hair shrugged. "I have no proof. And even if I did, in the end, I still helped kill them.” She gestured to Claren’s bow, “at ten, fifteen paces, against an unarmoured foe? The choice is entirely in your hands."

Spoiler:

With a curse, Claren released the string and let the arrow fly over the fire and into the darkness beyond the clearing. She stood there for a moment, tense and impotent, before falling to her knees before the fire. "He's gone," she whispered.

Dimly heard through her grief was the sound of Red Hair rising to her feet and walking around the fire to squat by her side. "I don't know how much you have for supplies," she said quietly, resting a hand on Claren's shoulder, "but Bahet's peak is another week's journey. Whatever you need, you can take from what I have."

"For what?"

The hand on Claren's shoulder tightened, tight enough for the two of them to feel each other's heartbeat through the leather vest. "To make this right," she said, voice hoarse. "For vengeance."

Spoiler:


Part III: Accusations

In the week it had taken for Claren to reach Bahet's peak, her grief had hardened into something brittle and sharp. A blade without a hilt, cutting all who came near it. And none more than the wielder. It was the final day before the eternal night, and even at noon, the sun only partially dared to rise above the horizon, half of it still tucked away out of sight.

As she had drawn closer to the peak, the sparse cloisters had grown even more rare, as it was sacrilegious to build structures within sight of the holy peaks. Some still chose to take a more literal approach to the practice, and built their cloisters underneath heavy canopies or within shallow canyons, but even then no compound was closer than a full summer's day ride away from the peak.

Claren avoided them all.

Before they had parted ways, Red Hair had told Claren that her former companions would spend a few days at the base of Bahet's peak fasting, as was tradition after the taking of lives, justified or otherwise. If she wished to enact her revenge away from prying eyes, it was at the base of Bahet's peak where she'd have her best chance.

The mountain, rather than being shaped like a shallow cone, was more akin to a wedge. It's northern slope slid smoothly into the surrounding landscape, while the southern face was a steep cliff harshly descending into the ground below. It was near the base of the northern slope that Claren found her prey, on their knees with heads bowed, as distant angels swooped in and out of the clouds above.

Hidden in the bushes some thirty paces away, Claren watched them pray for awhile, thoughts of different ways to kill them running through her head. Ways to do it efficiently, or violently. Quietly, or slowly. But recalling the rot and charred blasts that had marred the clearing, she knew in the end she couldn't take risks. Give them too much time to react, and their magic would destroy her. Incapacitating them would have to done quickly. Only then could she decide how best to kill them. How to present them as both an accusation and a plea to Bahet.

Rising to her feet, she carefully notched an arrow and crept out from the bushes, watching her steps to avoid kicking loose stones. Once she was close enough that missing was nearly impossible, refusing even to breath lest she give herself away, she drew the bow and aimed at the thankfully unarmoured Grey Steel.

And released.

The arrow lunged forward with a whisper, catching Grey Steel in the lower back and sending her to the ground silently screaming, sparks of lightning coursing from her fingers in panicked reflex.

Even as Black Cloak turned in surprise, Claren was upon him, a heavy kick knocking his head back with the sound of shattered teeth, followed by the string of the bow being pulled over his head and against his neck. Dazed and caught off guard, necrotic magic raced along his arms but went no further, stunned and directionless.

Twisting the bow, Claren bore him to the ground, knee digging into his back as she forced his face into the stone, bowstring still steadily choking him. Behind them, a faint crackling sound could be heard as small bursts of lightning continued to arc out from Grey Steel’s hands, as aimless and impotent as Black Cloaks attempts at resistance.

After a few moments, he became still, face purple from lack of air, and Claren fell back onto her haunches, lungs heaving from adrenaline. And still the angels traced strange shapes in the clouds, unconcerned with what was transpiring beneath them. Remote. Uncaring.

Once her heartbeat had returned to something approaching normalcy, Claren retrieved her pack from the bushes and pulled out a length of rope before heading back to her felled prey, the inklings of a defiant finale against the god that let this happen forming in her mind.

As Claren bound Black Cloak with rope, Grey Steel continued to gasp quietly, upper body writhing while her legs remained unnervingly still. Claren lightly brushed the handle of her knife, contemplating a mercy kill, before deciding against it and continuing with her work.

Spoiler:

Once she was satisfied with her knots, she slung the remaining length of rope over her shoulder and began to drag Black Cloak’s unconscious form behind her. Rocks shifted beneath her feet as she went, gaze locked onto the peak of the mountain.

While it was far from a tall or steep mountain, the footing was treacherous, the sky dark, and the stone sharp. Several time she slipped as she made the ascent, and each time another small wound was carved open, spilling red blood onto red skin and grey stone. It took many hours before she reached the peak, and while it had been near midnight when she started, a pale blue light could be seen over the horizon once she finally stopped to cast her breath. With the eternal night underway, the sun itself wouldn't be seen, but it still drew close enough to the horizon to lighten the sky and let one see their surroundings.

Many winged angels circled the heavens far above, unmoved by the slow spectacle that had been unfolding beneath them over the past half day. The rhythmic beating of their wings and their soft calls could be heard as an ethereal melody to those below, creating a persistent buzzing sensation in Claren's mind. It sang of endings and oblivion. A requiem for a world of emptiness and voids. The song of Bahet.

Tearing her gaze earthward, fearful of drifting into the unfathomable in this holy place where reality and divine blended together, she focused on her injuries to center herself and turned to Black Cloak. If the climb had left her battered, it had left him tortured, spared only by his persisting unconsciousness. Cuts and bruises coated every inch of exposed skin, relentless in their brutality.

"Bahet," she cried towards the vast heavens, heaving Black Cloak’s limp form up to its knees, "I have one of your own! A war priest sworn to your service!" She shook the man, causing drops of blood to fall from his numerous wounds and a low moan to sneak through his stupor. "A murderer," she continued, voice ragged, "who took my brother from me!"

With a shaking hand, she pulled her knife from her belt and pressed it to the unconscious man's throat. "And who I'll take from you, as punishment!" And with that, whipped the knife across in one sharp moment, cutting deep into flesh.

The heavens remained unchanged.

Claren fell to her knees, letting Black Cloak’s body tumble to the ground and desperately shaking the red knife at the sky. "Purge him! Bring my brother back!" she shouted. "Smite me! Anything." Above, no grand figure split apart the clouds. No retributive angels descended to slay her.

"Fix this," Claren begged, and, finally, the world answered. Rising from the distant hills and woods as if a mirage, two gigantic forms began to take shape. Bahet, the God of Destruction, shrouded in shadowed cloth and bearing bird’s skull in lieu of a face, all scaled to impossible proportions. And next to Her, Ni’Ama, the God of Adversity, a male form entwined by red serpents, eyes obscured and body similarly colossal in size.

Spoiler:

For what seemed like eons the three stayed motionless, a faint burning sensation forming in Claren’s heart. And gradually, she became aware of another layer of thoughts skimming impossibly fast over her own. Too vast and ancient to truly comprehend, but still she was able to recognize it as the two gods conversing amongst themselves. The ideas reflected on her, were about her, but were not meant for her. As they talked, the burning in her heart grew hotter and hotter, and Claren felt herself being pulled further apart and away from reality with each breath. And amidst the crushing weight of their thoughts, only two words became clear.

A̸̗͢ẃ̡̪̥̜̩̲͚͡a̧̖͕͈̯͡k̢̠̬̦̀͠e̜̱̦͇̘̞̟͠n̢̧̞̮͍̰̞.
̛̬̪̻̦
̬̤͇͕̣͢B̷̀҉͖̪͔̥̬a̼̲n̳̜͈͕̬͖i̝̯͕̯͙̠̜̣͕͟s̴̪̠̕͠h̫͜.

Then the gods combined presence became an unbearable flood, a catalyst to ignite her blood beyond what she could bear, and she felt herself torn from Mious body and soul, flung uncontrollably into the abyss.

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