The story so far...
“Sit down, kids, the lesson has already started.” The teacher takes a friendly look at the group. This world amazes her time and time again: Humans, dwarves, fairies, orcs, various cybernetic and animal beings – children of all peoples in a single classroom. “Please open your books on page 27.”
“But Miss Varela, last week you promised us to tell us the story about the warlords!”, a child in the front row says. And the following murmurs in the class support the demand. “If we still have time after scho-” – “Pleeeease!”, the teacher is promptly interrupted, “You promised!” Again, the other kids seem to agree.
“Okay, okay, a promise is a promise. But you’re gonna pay attention, and no brabbling.” She takes a book bound in leather from the shelf, takes a seat in front of the class and starts telling the story:
“Well children, as you all know, the multiverse in in great danger. Countless cracks have started appearing out of the blue in all of the worlds! Wherever these gruesome cracks appeared, they syphoned the world’s vitality and turned wonderful landscapes into grey, desolate stains. Everyone who goes near them disappears forever and lands exactly here, in the Nexus, the center of the multiverse.
And so, many years ago, four children fell in one of the cracks and arrived in the Nexus, but separately. They were two pairs of siblings: courageous Helia with her brave little brother Tobias and bold Nicolas with his prudent twin sister Lucia.
While Helia and Nicolas landed somewhere in the wilderness, their siblings landed in the Shrine of the Guardians, which was actually thought to be destroyed. The Guardians, as you all know, are ancient beings who had been created by the old heroes to prepare the Chosen Ones for their quest: to defend the multiverse and the Nexus from the malicious cracks.
Tobias and Lucia successfully mastered all of the guardians’ challenges and were made the first Chosen Ones ever. Then, Tobias, Lucia had to survive a lot of adventures before being reunited with their siblings.
Together, they travelled back to the Shrine of the Guardians, so that Nicolas and Helia could attempt to accomplish the Guardians’ challenges as well. And they too mastered all of the examinations so that the Guardians decided to train the four children.”
“But Miss Varela”, one of the kids burst out, “I thought the warlords are in a feud with each other. If they were so close, what happened?”
She paused for a moment. “You know, kids, ambition is an important thing if you want to accomplish your dreams. Because you’re only going to reach them if you believe in what you do. Our heroes have always been very ambitious. And when such strong personalities collide and they’re all convinced that they’re doing the right thing, then that can create problems within that particular friendship”, she said, proceeding onto the next chapter.
“Everything started when the “Origin” appeared. In old times, it used to be a myth, only rarely appearing in tales and legends. The Origin is the source of the Nexus’ magic and has unique abilities. It allows the Chosen Ones to travel to the other worlds in the multiverse and close the ominous cracks once and for all. But travelling and closing the cracks always uses a lot of energy. The old scriptures say that heroic and benevolent acts fill up the Origin with energy.
And so the Chosen Ones travelled to distant lands and helped all the people that were in trouble in order to fill the Origin with energy. Fascinated by the exemplary teamwork and the Chosen Ones’ unstoppable willpower, more and more people followed their lead. Every year, more supporters helped them, steadily increasing the amount of energy collected year by year. But it soon became apparent that the two leaders of the group, Helia and Nicolas, did not agree on how to use the collected energy.
On one side, Nicolas saw all the problems that the Nexus’ inhabitants had to deal with and wanted to help them in their struggles. Helia on the other hand saw living on the Nexus only as a temporary solution and wanted to ensure that everyone could go back to their home worlds. But the energy was limited. And so Nicolas and Helia had regular discussions, if not to say fights.
Until one fateful day in the center of the Origin. No one except the four Chosen Ones knows what happened that day. But there was a gigantic explosion! All of the energy that the people had so tirelessly worked for was gone. And Nicolas was badly hurt.
The Chosen Ones’ supporters were furious.
They accused the Warlords of ruining the energy, because after all, their quarrels were the cause for this disaster. The divide between the two former friends spread across the whole population. Soon there were groups who supported Nicolas and others who thought Helia was doing the right thing. People who had once been friends started arguing about the future of the Nexus. Families shattered because of this hostility, which now hung over the entire population of the Nexus like a dark cloud. Tobias and Lucia tried to calm the people, but the unrest had long gone out of hand. Together with the Guardians, the four decided that it would be best to divide the groups altogether before something bad happened that could destroy everything they had worked so hard for.
The Warlords swore to their supporters that they would keep on fighting for their vision and do everything in their power to ensure success. And so, on the same day, archmage Helia founded the magnificent Solaris and praetor Nicolas created Nox, his pack of supporters.
But the Chosen Ones knew that something so bad could never happen again. They had to find a fair way to decide how to use the energy, and all of the parties had to accept this particular solution.”
“HeroFest!”, shout some of the children. “Exactly!”, Miss Varela answers. “In this annual competition both factions must prove their capability, courage and cooperation – each and every one of you kids should help. And remember: Everyone can be a hero!”
The four looked upon a sea of blue and red. Thousands of supporters had come to the ceremony. The coat of arms of Nox and Solaris stood proudly over the countless celebrators, decorated by the Guardians’ faces. Tension was rising, the people couldn’t wait. It was the last day of HeroFest and both factions had fought tirelessly for their party. Everyone just wanted to know who would be victorious.
Even though they looked calm, even the Warlords, sitting on their special platform, were secretly nervous. Which makes sense, since the price would be the dominion for the whole next year. Whoever would be announced as winners could use the energy collected as they liked. An honourable opportunity, bringing with it even greater responsibility.
“Where are they? They usually never take so long for the counting”. Helia was getting impatient. “You know how serious they take their task. And they’re only a quarter of an hour too late, now”, Tobias tried to calm his sister, who only sighed annoyedly.
Nicolas turned to his neighbour: “Well, that’s part of our job. The people have worked very har-“ – “Oh shut up, Nico”, Helia interrupted him. “I know that, but how can they always be so nit-picking about being on time when they’re late themselves, ugh.”
“Well she’s right about that, for once”, Lucia said, shrugging her shoulders. “I can imagine you two agreeing on that topic”, said Nicolas. “I can’t remember the last time you showed up to a meeting on ti-“ but Tobias interrupted Nicolas’ rant: “Pssht, they’re here!”
The partying mob of supporters went crazy as people started to see the Guardians appear over their heads.
Two impressive animal beings. On the left was a fiery bird, bright as the sun with wings spanning almost three meters across. Their edges were burning flames which emitted a comfortable warmth, calming people near them.
On the right hovered a female wolf of which even the very steps she took were a graceful movement. Her dark, blue and black fur was changing shades constantly and had a thin silver stripe. Her light blue, piercing eyes gazed upon the sea of colours as she raised her penetrating voice: “Residents, Heroes, Friends – the time has come! Warlords, stand up!”
The four Chosen Ones rised from their seats and tensely looked at their mentors. Again, the she-wolf said: “Each and everyone of you, who has come here today, can be proud of yourselves. You have fought bravely for your factions and the good of the community.” She turned to the Warlords: But only one of you can rise to power next year.” For a couple of seconds, the place was absolutely quiet with every single eye directed towards the Guardian.
“This year’s HeroFest winner is: Nox”.
As soon as she said those words, the blue side of the mob started shouting, screaming, even crying from joy! People fell into each other’s arms, cheered and the sky was lit up with blue fireworks!
High up on the platform, two more people celebrated their victory. Lucia flung her arms around Nicolas’ neck: “We did it! We won!” Nicolas cheered towards his people with a raised fist. “This is going to be our year”, he shouted. “The year of Nox!”
(female voice): Has she calmed down?
(male voice): Kind of, but she still doesn’t want to talk to him.
(f): This woman is making me crazy. How can she be so stubborn!
(m): *murmuring* Well look who’s talking…
(f): Did you say something?
(m): No, nothing.
(f): If she’s so sceptical, she should just assist us and help make it work.
(m): You weren’t exactly crazy about our ideas either.
(m): Look, I don’t want to argue. Fighting won’t help us either, we must get the two to talk.
(f): That’s not fighting! You know damn well for how long this has been a problem now. And thanks to the many people who have just recently arrived, we have collected more energy this year than ever before. I don’t understand how she can just let this opportunity pass! Because usually she’s the one who runs into dangerous situations head on without batting an eye.
(m): Hey, that’s not true. She always thinks twice about those things, don’t be so hard on her.
(f): What? Bullcrap! Why do you keep defending her?
(m): I’m not defending her. You know exactly how dangerous your idea is and if she’s thinking twice about it, she’s right.
(f): Maybe, but she should still be friendly.
(m): It always gets loud when these two meet. Your brother knows exactly which buttons to push for her to explode.
(f): That’s not an excuse!
(m): So what do we do now?
(f): Ugh, I have no idea. It pains me to admit, but we need her magical knowledge. Just… Try to talk to her and explain to her that we are the ones in charge now. The rules apply to her too – otherwise everything we do doesn’t make sense.
(m): Yea… I know.
(f): You could take Ben with you, he might be able to convince her.
(m): You know not to call the Guardians by name!
(f): Oh, come on, relax. Benny’s not here – or are you gonna tell on me?
(m): You’re the worst…
(m): Alright, you’ll hear from me if there’s anything new. Same place?
(f): No, just send me a message. But hurry up, we don’t have a lot of time.
(m): Okay, see you.
“The Abyss”, a monstrosity of a crack. The south-eastern deserts have been uninhabitable for years because of it. For miles and miles, the dead, grey Abyss spans the once so beautiful dunes of Guangko like a scar. Everything and everyone that comes near it is robbed of all vitality. Countless tribes and cultures used to live in the northern river delta. But what remains now is nothing but a trickle, slowly making its way through the abandoned ruins of extinct civilisations.
“Today, we are finally reclaiming a piece of our world. It’s about time! The desert people probably wouldn’t have survived much longer in their tents and sheds.” Lucia leaned casually on some rocks, presenting a perfect vantage point over the lifeless lands of Guangko. “Are you done with your preparations? Can we start already?”, she impatiently asked her brother.
Immersed in meditation, Nicolas was sitting in a magic circle close by. The Guardians and Helia had taken weeks to correctly calibrate the enormous amounts of energy needed to defeat this monstrosity. Seeing her brother without his armour was a rare sight for Lucia, but for this task, the added weight would only trouble him.
After a moment of silence Nicolas got up, took a deep breath and turned to Lucia: “Done”, he whispered, “I hope I’m ready”. Doubts? Now? Lucia shook her head and took another look at the gigantic crack they had to deal with: Is this going to work?
He could feel his heartbeat up to his ears. Doubts? Now?, he feared. No, it couldn’t be. His breath was calm, deep, his mind focused on the task ahead. No doubts, no tension, but pure adrenaline: an athlete’s shaking legs right before the whistle blows, the funny feeling in an actor’s stomach right before getting onstage.
Nicolas turned around to his sister. Lucia had already taken her position and nodded at him. Now or never, let’s go! Like many times before, he started concentrating on the slumbering power of the “Origin”. But this time, everything was different. Suddenly, as if a dam had broken, an enormous stream of energy gushed over him and his sister. They had trouble staying on their feet. “Wow!”, shouted Lucia, who had a sweaty face after no time.
Calm! Concentrate! Let the energy flow! Nicolas tried to remember his training with the Guardians. Never before had the energy felt so heavy and wild – at least now they knew that the magical circles worked.
Having recovered from the initial shock, they started focusing on the real target. But the Abyss seemed unimpressed by all of this energy. “More! We need more power, Lulu!”, Nicolas shouted. “Are you insane? That’s way too dangerous, you’ll fall to the ground. If we lose control now, they’ll have to carry us back to the Nexus in pieces.” But Nicolas didn’t have time for discussions. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath and started pulling at the stream of energy as hard as he could.
Another shockwave shattered through the siblings. Nicolas’s entire body was entirely electrified, every muscle contracted painfully. He almost lost consciousness. But it was worth it: “Look! It’s shrinking!”, he heard Lucia scream behind him. And really, with a half-opened eye Nicolas saw one end of the crack closing, slowly but consistently.
A couple minutes later the two Warlords collapsed. Out of breath, sweaty, but euphoric. “The first step is done, we can actually defeat the Abyss”, said Nicolas in between two breaths. “Yes, but there’s much more to do before we’re done here”. Lucia had already pulled a map out of her bag and spread it in front of her. The Abyss was surrounded by multiple circles on the map. Nicolas walked up to his sister and held out his hand to help her up: “Unfortunately, you’re right. Come on, we’ve got to go.” They dusted off their clothes, took their bags and started walking. “This is going to be a long day.”