This article was written by Shadowmaster. Please do not add to it without the writer's permission.
The very beginning of history was a murky one, at that. Billions of years could have gone by, but none would have known, or could say so. All that was known was that eventually, as time passed, the universe had come to be populated by a vast number of organisms. Of course, there was to be a dominant species - the Kestora, with the greater subspecies of the Netorrian. This species lived a scattered, nomadic life. Some lived as loners, while others saw it fit to band together and rely on their own skills. They thought that this would be how they, and their descendants, would live their lives until some new species became dominant. But this would not be so.
With several tribes scattered about, there was also division. Division led to disagreements, disagreements to arguments, arguments to conflict, and conflict evolved into war. Soon, all were locked into a war - everyone fighting for their own life and none other. Eventually, too many lives were lost, and one - an apparent Netorrian by the name of Eden - stood up and convinced the people that useless fighting would accomplish nothing. The others agreed. At first, a decision was reached that Eden, being the one who had united the people, would be the sole leader of a new tribe, but this was met with protest. Many had found themselves uncomfortable with a single being governing, and decided to go their own separate ways, to the environment that suited them best. And so, society had split once more, across the land - some settling in the jungle, some near the oceanic regions, others made their homes in the volcanic plains, some in the eternal night forest where they could gaze upon the stars, and some in the chaotic, windy aerial plains.
Eden herself had managed to obtain a following, and she convinced the people that there needed to be unity, although not under one leader. Several beings tried to attain leadership and prove themselves, most rebuked. But some had stood out. Figures of authority or wisdom. Eventually, it was shown that their own prominence was not just coincidence - destiny had brought them to this position, as proven by their abilities and the actual control of the environments in which they had settled. The very world changed according to them, and society had known that these beings were the ones destined to lead. Eden herself had been one of the destined leaders, the physical essence of light. Her own pacifistic ways had shown through the gentle, calm waters. Vius was another, the essence of life, and the jungle sprung as ecstatically as he had - lively. Kairos was the essence of time itself, and the ancient volcanic regions acted as a representation of this. Astrax was the calm, intelligent, calculative essence of space, vast and knowledgeable, and the forest stood out as so - in eternal, calm night where the world around could be observed. And Chaos, the essence of disorder and turbulence, strong yet without order, was the leader of the floating, shattered plains in the sky, constantly battered by winds as chaotic as Chaos himself. Society, and as it seemed, destiny itself, had chosen these leaders, and so they were appointed to rule 5 separate tribes due to both their power and wisdom. A pact was made, one that would establish that the tribes would live in peace, but fend for themselves.
And so it has been for millennia. Minor skirmishes and threats from nature itself had been the worst of these people's worries for countless years...until now. Soon, events would occur, the outcomes of which would shape the very universe, and many universes to come.
The being stood at a stone podium which overlooked a number of beings. Some small, some taller. Each one unique, yet similar, wearing various badges to represent their allegiance to their tribe, and their leader, be it the color of their armor or their signature weapons. Each was similar. She could see her own reflection in the river which flowed nearby. She was like them, almost. Clad in gray armor, she stood taller than them, and she knew her powers exceeded theirs. But she was just the same as them at heart. Unfortunately, some did not believe this. She didn't argue, she understood. Her own position of authority had evidenced this. She had been selected to lead this tribe by destiny itself, and she could shape the land around her to whatever suited her desires. But she saw no need for this. All she sought was peace, and the decision she was about to make, she thought, would be the best to make sure of this.
"For millennia, we have thrived. We have fended for ourselves, and we have fought hard when we have needed to. Unfortunately, we have also had losses. A recent raid by loners on our camp has resulted in the death of one of our founding members. One that I could have called my deputy. Vicar, our most trusted and among our oldest warriors, has passed, and now I believe that in order to maintain our stability, I must appoint a secondary leading figure to support the authority. For ages, this being has proven himself, stood out among the masses, as one of the strongest, the most determined. I hope that he will one day follow in my footsteps. His name is Shadow," Eden spoke to the masses. As she finished, another being, clad in ebony armor and wearing a silver mask, slid out and took the spotlight, standing before the crowd. Eden hoped that she had made the right decision, knowing that if anything were to happen to her, this being would take her place as leader. He was strong, yes, and certainly smart. Although his own ambition had stood out. Perhaps he'd wanted the best for his tribe, and she was willing to give him a chance. What was the worst that could happen? Reassuring herself, she stepped down and allowed Shadow to speak.
"I assure you, that Eden's choice was for the best. I know that some of you have been here with us for longer than I, but she has shown her confidence in my abilities and dedication to my tribe and she knows that I am the best suitor to help lead you into an era of peace. An era where war will not arise, and we shall stand united. Eden's decision was not in vain. I will do my best to reinforce the leadership," Shadow spoke, his deep voice echoing throughout the region. Eden noticed the tone of his voice when he spoke - it was in confidence. Yet strange confidence...like he'd had something planned. "However...since I'm speaking in front of you all now, I'd like to bring an important matter forth," he hissed, confirming her beliefs.
Shadow paused for a long second. "I think...that the recent raids on our establishment were no coincidence. We've been in low supplies of equipment and food recently. I know this is a time of hardship for the land. For the first time, the trees are growing bare, the warmth of our land dissipating. And its people have experienced the full wrath of these climate changes. Wouldn't you think that it would be logical for the others to be leading direct attacks on us, in order to steal our supplies? We're in the best, the superior, of locations and our inferior opponents know this." Eden's eyes narrowed. Not only was he calling the other tribes inferior, he had referred to them as enemies. He'd shown aggression to the other tribes before, yes, but never like this. Had the rivalries between the tribes driven him the wrong way?
Another voice broke out from the crowd. "Are you suggesting we go to war again? After what happened last time?" A shudder erupted through the mass, and cries of protest broke out. Someone else replied. "We'd best show the other tribes not to mess with us. Walk straight to their bases and teach them a lesson. Perhaps war is best."
An old, frail voice tinged with wisdom was the final reply to settle the crowd. "Mindless violence is not the answer." The one from which the voice had come, a fragile, hunched light green-armored figure, walked up to the podium, and stared directly at Shadow, his eyes burning into his. "Do you think it's for the best of us all to wage war on the others, with whom we have made a pact? To waste lives on a matter so uncertain? Or perhaps is that your intent? Are you the right one to come to lead us?"
Shadow sneered. "What would you know of it, old one? We may not be certain. But we must be certain. I believe it is for the benefit of us to settle borders down around our land and place guards to ensure that the borders are not crossed beyond necessity. Any raids will not go unnoticed, and we will know the perpetrators. I think this is for the best, and there is no harm to it. And perhaps the other tribes should do so as well. Your word, Eden?"
Eden returned to the podium, taken aback by what had just occurred. Of course, there was no harm in setting up borders - was there? At least the raids would be stopped from there and the identity of the attackers could be discovered. But had she just appointed a monster as deputy? Was this really the young, determined being who had once attempted to become leader of the undeveloped tribes? The one who had tried and fought harder than the others? What had she created? She calmed herself knowing this was only for the best. She had chosen Shadow for a reason, hadn't she? "I - I'll discuss this with the leaders of the other tribes. They'll know what's best and we'll...we'll decide from there. Thank you for your words, Shadow."
Shadow bowed his head and walked off. "Naturally," he mumbled. The older figure who had confronted him earlier eyed him with suspicion as he walked off. Eden's thoughts mirrored this suspicion. Surely, this was for the best. But was Shadow up to something? And what would the other leaders think of this?
Eden let out a sigh as she entered the convocation chamber. Soon, she would likely be reprimanded by the other leaders for allowing such a monster seize the position of second-in-command. But was she truly to blame? Shadow had never taken this behavior before. Ambitious, he had been, but ambitious to help his brethren. Or so it seemed. Now he was trying to implement something that could spark a war. Hopefully, the other leaders would peacefully find a way to ensure this did not happen. For some reason, though, Eden knew this was not going to happen. Vitus, and Chaos were both hot-headed and ignorant, and Astrax and Kairos were both quite the contrast. They always seemed to disagree. It was amazing that the leader meetings did not end in bloodshed already.
The chamber was clouded in shadows. She had been the first to arrive. It would be best, she thought, since she was going to be the one to share the news. She took her chair and waited. Soon enough, another being clad entirely in black armor entered the room. His crimson eyes slowly scaled the room, locking on to Eden. "Hmph. I see you're doing well," he hissed sarcastically.
"I wish I could say so, Chaos," Eden let out with a sigh.
"Oh, so the tables have turned now? I thought you and your tribe were supposed to be the ones who lived in paradise, while we stand against disasters. Hunger. Hm, has a recent...disaster struck your tribe as well now?" Chaos taunted. The edge in his voice, and the look in his eyes, showed Eden why Shadow had made this choice. Chaos, and perhaps the other tribes, had been knowingly stealing supplies and launching raids, and he wasn't even trying to hide it.
"Has Eden ever taunted you about your troubles, Chaos?" said another voice. The figure that emerged was a tall figure clad in white and crimson armor. This one was Kairos, the embodiement of time. Eden had always admired his resilience. Even though faced with climates tougher than the other tribes, being settled in the midst of a volcano, Kairos and his tribesmen always seemed to be some of the more peaceful people. "Eden's own tribe may have fared better than us, but they never did anything to you. After all, you chose to settle where you did and live like you live. You - we, only brought this on ourselves," Kairos reminded him.
"Pitiful. So now you're siding with her? Clearly, you understand my argument. We have more in common than you do with her, so why do you side against me?" said Chaos.
Kairos made a move to speak again, but another voice silenced both of them. "Enough! The meeting shall begin now," he said. The voice came from a being clad in dark blue and orange armor. Astrax, embodiement of space. He stood next to a smaller being, adorned in green armor. Vitus, embodiement of life. Both took their respective positions at the table.
"Let us begin the meeting," Kairos said. "Our tribe faces a lack of water, and food. Worse, there has been volcanic activity recently in our lands. This has all begun in the past year," he continued. "We may have to settle elsewhere."
"As if. Our own tribes are suffering enough," Astrax snapped.
"Indeed. My tribe has noticed a change. The very trees that we have made our home are becoming bare. The leaves have changed their color and become fragile, weak. Our native creatures have become scattered, and there is little to hunt," Vitus remarked. The last word - "hunt", Eden was unfamiliar to hearing. Vitus' own tribe was an oddity in itself. Instead of partaking in what seemed to be normal activities, the jungle tribe obtained their food through hunting - killing the native creatures and eating them. It was repulsive, especially for the tribe that was supposed to represent unending life. But what worried Eden more was what Vitus had just said. The trees had never become bare before. For several thousand millennia, never such a thing had even been mentioned. And the volcanic activity too.
"Why should we care? What does it matter if the leaves are changing colors? Does it even make a difference?" Chaos scoffed.
"Yes, it does. Think of it. Increased volcanic activity, the trees having lost their leaves, and our own tribe having our own troubles - is it a sign? Is something coming?" Eden pondered.
Astrax was always a skeptic, but even he agreed. "For ages, we have studied the stars. One might think they would give us a sign...and they have. Although it's not quite the sign one might look for. Perhaps the worst kind of sign," he sighed.
"I never got what you people saw in the stars. So what makes you think something's coming just from looking at the sky?" Vitus inquired.
"There are no stars. We can see nothing in the skies, but the occasional cloud and lightning. Two things we have never seen in our own skies. I fear we have a situation on our hands," Astrax replied.
"And what honestly makes you think this all means something? We're in harsh times, that doesn't mean we're all going to die," Chaos said.
"Who said that? We just think something's coming. After all, have your people seen any changes, Chaos?" Eden asked.
Chaos rolled his eyes. "Yes, we have. The winds have been unnaturally harsh and some of our people have died. The creatures have fled. The grass has stpped growing. You can't be telling me this actually means something. We're just having harsh times. That's it," Chaos said.
"Is it? Tell me a coincidence that all of this has happened at once, and it's never happened before. We must be alert. We must be ready for disaster. Is there anything you've noticed, Eden?" Kairos said.
"Nothing environmental. But we've been experiencing a lack of supplies lately...and raids," she said, flashing a look at Chaos. "We...we believe some of the other tribes may be responsible for it."
Chaos laughed. "Ha, and they'd be justified. But who's to say they did any of this? You have no evidence."
"Well, Chaos, there are five tribes in this land. There may be rogues out there, but it's reasonable to assume that one of the tribes did it. What do you think needs to be done, Eden?" asked Astrax.
"We lost a deputy," Eden said, as if she had not heard the question. "And I have appointed a new deputy. His name is Shadow. He joined our tribe after saving some of the Kestora from a flood a few months ago, and he has become one of the most trustworthy members of the tribe since. He suggested a solution. In order to prevent raids from occurring, we - the tribe who lives by the river - will be arraging borders around our land to ensure that there will be no raids. And we will enforce it. This way, the other tribes cannot cross and there will be no further raids. The other tribes are free to do the same with their own land."
Cries of outrage broke out in the room. "What? You can't honestly suggest that's a good idea. We will be divided. We need to work together, don't we?" said Kairos.
"I think it's necessary. Nobody from the other tribes comes in to our lands no matter what. They could be the ones doing this," replied Vitus.
"I think it's madness. Why the extra security?" hissed Chaos.
"Maybe you just don't want to be found out stealing from the other tribes," remarked Vitus.
"I think it's a great idea, actually," Chaos quickly added to avoid suspicion. "But anyone who crosses our border won't come back alive."
"Now, there's no need for that," Kairos assured.
"All in favor of setting up borders around our tribe's territory?" Astrax asked. "I say no. This will only incite violence. We can work things out another way."
"I say yes. Maybe the signs are saying we're meant to be divided," Vitus replied.
"I say yes as well. We need to establish our strength and show that nobody challenges us," Chaos said with pride.
"You realize that this is for all of us, not just you," Kairos corrected him. Chaos replied with a sneer. "I say no," Kairos continued. "This is just bloodshed waiting to happen. We need to work together in times like this, not divide ourselves."
All eyes in the room fell down on Eden now. She had been the one to bring this suggestion, would she oppose it now? Her move would be the decisive move. Kairos' pleading look, and Chaos' taunting sneer...
"I say yes," Eden answered.
Not asking for an explanation for Eden's choice, Chaos concluded the meeting. "Then it's an agreement. We'll all establish borders around our tribe's territory. Nobody will pass, and thus all tribes stay in their own land. Violators will be punished."
The leaders filed out of the room. But as Eden walked out, she looked back and her passing eye caught Kairos'. Not the look of pleading she had seen in him earlier, but now a look of suspicion that told her he shared her own distrust of Shadow. Either way, now, the decision was made and it was final. But what was to become of the tribes now? And what of the recent changes in environment? What did it mean?
Slowly, Pluvia, Netorrian of Water, walked around the edge of the gorge, eyes on the lookout for intruders. This gorge had been one that unofficially separated Eden's and Chaos' tribes before, and now it was the official border. Thankfully, intrusions were quite unlikely, as the gorge was almost impossible to cross from the other side. Eden had made a secret entrance into the tribe from her side of the gorge, but it never had to be used, and it would never be uncovered by the other tribes unless it had to be used. Pluvia did this every day, even before the border establishment, but the serenity had been taken out of this, knowing that the tribes' hostility extended even here now. Here, she did not have to worry about arguments within the tribe, or the inter-tribe cold war that had been going on for so long. Now even this place was not free of that hostility, that air.
All was clear. The river at the bottom of the gorge was flowing fine and no members of other tribes were in sight. Pluvia veered off to the left to return to the village, eyes on the ground as the terrain slowly changed from a rocky surface to a soft mat of grass, the mat that enveloped the entire village. The bickering within the area became louder as Pluvia approached, distracting her. She looked to the side to see two Kestora fighting over a tool, something that happened daily here. Arguments never escalated, but it was still nothing pleasant to be around when it happened. Her eyes were still fixed on the two Kestora as she continued, and she never saw the tall figure in front of her until she walked right into him.
She stumbled backwards, taken by surprise. She had walked into Shadow, the newly-appointed deputy of Eden's tribe, by accident. Obviously, he did not seem to know this, as he turned around, with crimson eyes blazing as he glared down at Pluvia.
He turned his eyes to the stone tablet in his hand for a second - something was carved into it - and then looked back at Pluvia. "Is there something you need?"
"Um, no, I was just walking. Sorry, I didn't see you," Pluvia muttered as Shadow slowly walked towards her. Shadow had never been quite the social being, from the reports of others, and they all agreed that they felt at unease whenever they were around him. Now Pluvia knew why, and not just because the tribe's deputy's blazing eyes were fixed on her.
"I don't believe that you should have had any difficulty seeing me, when I was standing right in front of you, hmm?" Shadow inquired with an edge of sarcasm in his voice.
"I was distracted," Pluvia elaborated. This did not deter Shadow, as he edged closer and leaned down to meet her eye level, his crimson eyes boring into her's.
"You can not be distracted in times of war, Netorrian," he said in a berating manner, placing emphasis on the last word as if he was uncomfortable saying it. He had always had a tendency to call others by their species name for reasons unknown. "Then again, who am I to berate you...it's not a time of war, is it?"
Pluvia only shook her head, not sure of what the answer should be. "Well, dear...friend, I'm afraid to inform you that you are wrong!" he shouted. "These are darker times than you may think." Shadow glanced once more at the stone tablet in his hand, this time looking more intensely at it. Quickly, he changed the subject. "Tell me. How did you become what you are today?"
To an ordinary being, the question would have been quite odd, but Pluvia knew exactly what Shadow was asking. Long ago, she had been imprisoned somewhere, and used as a test subject for some horrible plan. The experiments resulted in her having to wear the water-breathing apparatus she wore now, being unable to breath air. "I don't exactly remember. But I remember I was taken away from my home long ago. I was imprisoned, I was tortured, I was interrogated, and I was experimented on. That's a pain nobody should have to endure. Now tell me," she said, with an edge in her voice. "Why do you want to know? What business is it of yours?"
"I'm sorry to hear that," Shadow said, unmoved. "My point is, have you noticed any changes since then? Are you not stronger than the others? Do you not feel that you are superior than them? I mean, after all, you endured so much suffering, and now you are better than them, are you not?"
Pluvia couldn't believe what she was hearing. Yes, she had noticed that she excelled in physical combat, but she in no way viewed herself as a superior to her friends. "No. I was made stronger, yes, but for no rational purpose. I should never have to had endured that suffering, and nobody else should have."
"Listen, my point is that in times of war, you must be prepared," Shadow said. "You must be strong. You must be stronger than others. And you may never know...who is your ally or your foe. And sometimes...sometimes the weak are a setback. Sometimes the weak are your enemies. Whoever did this to you may have had no good intent, but what they did should act as a sign to you. Your time of suffering is at an end, and perhaps it is time for the others to suffer."
"What? What are you talking about?" Pluvia asked, baffled.
"Oh, you'll understand in due time. Just remember what I have said to you today. And be prepared," Shadow hissed, standing back to his full height. He turned away, but looked back for a brief moment. "Oh, by the way...you may want to check by the back door. We have visitors."
Pluvia shook her head in confusion. Any trust she had once held in Shadow had deteriorated. He knew there was a war impending, somehow. But if he was right, then there would need to be preparations. She continued, his final comment nagging at her thoughts. "Back door"? "Visitors"? Suddenly, it dawned on her. The secret entrance. Was Shadow saying the camp was under attack again? And why wasn't he acting to stop it? Quickly, she turned back, running back towards the gorge.