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  1. 80 points
    Hello! Ever since Classic has been released in North America I've felt that something was wrong, after spending the last two days testing things out I decided to do this little project today to illustrate how much the western versions of Classic differ from each other. So I made a Classic on Aden and one on Skelth and set out to see what the differences would be in their early leveling process. Whenever I'm talking about the character on Aden I'll be referring to it as NA from this point forward. Whenever I'm talking about Skelth(the european server) I'll be referring to it as EU from this point forward. The acronyms will also be used for their servers (Giran/Talking Island/Aden as NA) (Skelth as EU). Whenever I'm talking about the Japanese Classic servers I'll be referring to it as JP from this point forward. A few points to consider before reading any further: NA had a VIP level of 0 during the test. EU's level 5 XP/SP Rune was not used. NA and EU consumed their daily hunting fruit. NA and EU leveled after drinking Adventurer's starting potions. With this test I wanted to check the differences between both western versions of Classic, special attention was put into: XP/SP Adena Drop Rate One Human Fighter was created in both clients and killed the same amount of enemies. They completed the Cedric's Training Hall Newbie Quest and talked to the Newbie Guide in TI, then completed the level 2 Newbie Quest and picked a WAND as reward. 5 Over-hits were performed during the entire test for both NA and EU. The testing wielded the exact same results early on, which confused me. But as soon as the characters started fighting higher level mobs the XP disparity became apparent. By the time the quest was completed, this is the difference between the acquired XP/SP and Adena. And here's the differences in drops: Hello again! Now we've added JP to the list of tests! Please pay attention to the conclusions! (This test wasn't conducted by me, credits goes to Fragola. Stream link: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/320497699) A few points to consider before reading any further: JP had a VIP level of 0 during the test. JP completed the quests after drinking Adventurer's starting potions. The Test Goals and Test Format are the same as NA and EU and so I won't repeat those portions here, only the findings from the JP test. Same XP as NA/EU on Gremlins. Same XP as NA on VIP 0 but the adena drop is almost double and even higher than EU's! While the difference in XP will definitely become more noticeable and bothersome at higher levels, the difference in adena and drops is what truly makes both Classic versions feel alien to one another. EU had 4 full item drops including a weapon while NA had a single full item drop. The materials acquired by EU were also in higher amounts and diversity than in NA. The difference in adena only becomes more noticeable as the levels grow higher and the difference increases exponentially. VIP Level 4 gives exactly +25% XP/SP which is what is needed to make NA's experience the same as EU in terms of leveling. The VIP Drop Rate bonuses however do not fix the disparity between the adena/drop ratio. JP matches NA when it comes to XP/SP at Vip 0 but has over the double adena drops. JP is also a F2P server much like NA, with different VIP tier bonuses that are compared under these conclusions. To acquire VIP Level 4 one must spend 50$ and sustain it monthly by spending at least 15$. Per account. To even be allowed to play in EU one must pay a 10€ subscription or a 25€ three-month subscription fee. Per account. Below you can see a table comparing the VIP benefits of JP(on top) and NA(under). You can see how the drop rate is much more dramatically affected in JP than in NA. *Please don't take the results of this small test as hard facts, instead try your own testing and see the results you can achieve. This post was made to try to better inform the staff members and players of our current situation. I hope NA Classic will get patched to be more similar to EU in terms of drops and adena. I also believe the Vip system should be a bonus and not a return to "normal" rates. For this test the monster Goblin Brigand was killed roughly around 30 times by both NA and EU. This time NA had a VIP 3 bonus. XP in EU was doubled for some kills because of the level 5 100% XP/SP rune. The characters were level 12 dwarves. Here are the results NA was actually able to buy 10 BSS not 9. Full test: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/319666259
  2. 38 points
    I could make a wall of post, but I will save the time. @Juji @Hime please remove the pay to win Dragon Pendent from our L2store. We recognize that the server needs sustainable revenue, please bring back subscriptions, or if you are unable to do that, make VIP status more attractive with larger drop/adena rate bonuses such that enough players will purchase NCCoins (And spend them on more innocuous items, like tp scrolls, shots, cosmetics). Classic was not what we really wanted, but it's closer than anything else. Please, anything but pay to win. You will kill the game that we all love so much, so much faster than is necessary. That's all I have to say about it, but I'm sure I echo the community, I can say for sure I echo my party and my clan.
  3. 33 points
    Game servers will be down for maintenance beginning Thursday, October 11, 2018 at 3pm PDT / 6pm EDT / 2300 GMT+1 and ending at approximately 4:30 pm PDT / 7:30 pm EDT / 0030 GMT+1. Estimated downtime is 1.5 hours. With this maintenance: A potential fix for the queue kick (‘client will be closed) error will be applied. Fixed an issue where the XP Loss Upon Death was 10% instead of 4%. Adena Quantity, Item Drops, and Spoil Rates have been permanently increased for all monsters. All raid bosses and quest rewards will remain unaffected by this change. Several monster types will have a range of 50%~150% change in their drop table Fixed an issue where monsters gave significantly lower XP in the following hunting zones: Dion Hills Ancient Battleground Wasteland Plains of Dion Bee Hive Windy Hill Immortal Plateau, Southern Region Eastern Mining Zone If you have any questions about the changes taking place during this maintenance, please feel free to post them on the forums. We also encourage you to follow @LineageIIOps for maintenance and server status updates.
  4. 32 points
    Since the launch of Lineage II Classic, we’ve received tons of your feedback regarding Adena, drops, and spoil rates in game. Based on that feedback, initially increased those rates by more than double, and addressed key group areas that had lower than intended rates. After observing the impact had in-game, and discussing with the development team, we concluded that no additional rate changes will be made. Our rates for free players are parallel with the other regions that offer Lineage II Classic as free-to-play. Ultimately, the nature of Lineage II Classic is that acquiring Adena and items are meant to be challenging, as players must decide strategically how they spend their Adena. We recognize the concerns of our players, and we will be running the Attendance Checklist event along with weekend server boosts for the remainder of 2018. There will also be seasonable events that we run from time to time to acquire various reward items. The Attendance Checklist event will start after maintenance this week and the first weekend server boost event will start this Saturday. Information on the Attendance Checklist and Server Settings can be read here: https://www.lineage2.com/news/winter-holiday-events-2018
  5. 28 points
    Hello all, We will be rolling a few changes to the servers to mitigate the long server queue times. The changes will not require any server down time, aims to reduce the wait time. The effects may not be noticeable immediately. In the meantime, we are also considering additional options to further reduce the queue time or the eliminate the queue all together. Thank you for bearing with us as we work through these issues to get you in game as soon as we can.
  6. 23 points
    After playing at EU and RU versions of classic at different chronicles (1.0, 1.5 and 2.0), and then playing here since the begining, you can clearly notice that this version that we were given is a complete mess. It's an awful mix of few versions, which caused our version to be unbalanced. Firstly, we have our famous drop/spoil/adena rates. They were adjusted for up to 40 lvl and are perfect as far as adena/drop rates go. I don't know about spoil rates, but I've heard they are still 'a bit' off. But as soon as you hit 40+ rates become riddiculus. Mobs 40+ giving 100-200 is a complete joke. I made a new char today and killed some 15 lvl mobs that were dropping same amount as 40+ ones and it took 1-2 hits to kill them. I made 100k adena in 1h at lvl 15. At level 40 it would take me 3-4 times more time. This is pefect for botters. This is a crucial moment for servers lives - a lot of ppl would quit after hitting that 'wall' at 40+. Imagine 1 hit from Emi Bow costing 120 adena, while mobs drop 100a. There are also some x2-5 HP mobs at 40+ dropping same amount adena as x1 ones (5x Krator drops the same as 2x Nos). Secondly, RBs. We have RBs from latest 2.0 version of classic (there's no 3.0 at EU/RU, it's still 2.0) with celestial barrier and buffed PDef/HP. RBs were boosted at 2.0 versions of classic to make them harder and to make farming for runes harder (also decrease pwlvl on them). We have a 1.5 version of Classic, without runes, but yet we still have 2.0 RBs. They are extremely hard to kill and since they don't drop runes, there's really no incentive in killing them. Next, we have DYEs. Now, this hasn't be 100% confirmed by me yet, but I've heard that there is a cap for DYE at +5 for a single stat here. And while this is consistent with older L2 chronicles that most of us remember, this isn't consistent with any other classic versions. Ever since Classic was introduced, there was a +12 cap for a single stat DYE. It allowed for some more differences in same classes builds. Some liked it, some didn't. But still - it was meant to be 1.5 Age of Splendor, and yet we didn't get any info about +5 cap for DYE. Some people lost money because of that. Another thing I don't understand is the complete lack of L2wiki, or any database for this strange version of classic you gave us. It's pure chaos out here. This server looks nothing else as those private/pirate cashgrab ones that open for a month or two and then get closed. People already started quitting. And don't get me wrong - I love classic and I'm having a lot of fun here. But I can already see a lot of issues going forward if no changes are made. To sum up: they gave us a mix of 1.0, 1.5, 2.0, without thinking it through. Some aspects of the game like adena drop, rbs, etc are completely unbalanced because they don't fit to each other.
  7. 20 points
    Nice joke about banning bots There are 55+ bots farming 24/7 Cruma 2 getting reported by many people everyday and nothing happens.
  8. 19 points
    Other high priority issues are still under review: Adena drop rate 10% EXP loss rate on death (instead of 4%)
  9. 19 points
    Game servers will be down for Live maintenance and Classic launch (hype!) beginning Wednesday, October 3, 2018 at 4am PDT / 1200 GMT+1 and ending at approximately 2:30pm PDT / 2230 GMT+1. Estimated downtime is 10.5 hours. Patch notes can be found here. Additionally, Account Management and NCoin purchasing will be unavailable until 9 am PDT | 1800 GMT+1. If you have any questions about the changes taking place during this maintenance, please feel free to post them on the forums. We also encourage you to follow @LineageIIOps for maintenance and server status updates.
  10. 19 points
    This is an updated Known Issues thread. If you do not see an issue listed here, don't be alarmed. We are still working though and adding information to this thread. If you are still experiencing the resolved issues, be sure to restart your client and update via the launcher. Some issues may take longer to resolve as it may require a patch. Please note while L2Wiki is a great guide, it currently does not support NA version of Lineage II Classic where our rates and localized names may differ. XIGNCODE3 Issues If you are experiencing an issue logging into your game client due to an XIGNCODE3 error, please contact support. Gameplay Issues The Refund tab does not allow you to buyback any items you sell to Vendor NPCs. Localization Issues There is a cosmetic bug on the quantity number for the Starter Pack, Tracker Pack, Hunter Pack, and XP/SP Rune Bundle in the L2 Store. The quantity displayed is from the items inside the pack and not the actual quantity of Packs you will receive. Clan Coins show up as Daily Coins on the NPC menu for the High Priest or Grand Master NPCs. The NPC to start the Whisper of Dreams quest line has the wrong name in the quest dialogue box. The NPC name is Banutu.
  11. 18 points
    Currently Juji has stated the above time zones for the two servers. I think we can all agree that we want a server more oriented towards the North/South American gaming community. With North and South America spanning from GMT-2 (Islands off of Argentina/Brasil) to GMT-8 (West Coast of Canada and US), a server timezone of GMT -4 seems like a happy medium for all players. With Talking Island as a GMT -4 Server.... If you lived in Sao Paulo, Rio De Janeiro or Buenos Aires: Castle Sieges would start at 9pm on Sunday. Olympiad would be from 9pm to 1am. Daily Raids would spawn at 10pm. If you lived in Puerto Rico, St Kitts, or Bolivia: Castle Sieges would start at 8pm on Sunday. Olympiad would be from 8pm to Midnight. Daily Raids would spawn at 9pm. If you lived in Toronto, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, DC, or Miami: Castle Sieges would start at 7pm on Sunday. Olympiad would be from 7pm to 11pm. Daily Raids would spawn at 8pm. If you lived in Chicago, Dallas, or Mexico City: Castle Sieges would start at 6pm on Sunday. Olympiad would be from 6pm to 10pm. Daily Raids would spawn at 7pm. If you lived in Denver, Edmonton, or Salt Lake City: Castle Sieges would start at 5pm on Sunday. Olympiad would be from 5pm to 9pm. Daily Raids would spawn at 6pm. If you lived in Vancouver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Seattle: Castle Sieges would start at 4pm on Sunday. Olympiad would be from 4pm to 8pm. Daily Raids would spawn at 5pm. Show support for a -4 GMT Talking Island by replying to this thread or putting a Heart as a reaction to this thread!
  12. 17 points
    Hi all, While we are working on addressing some of the priority issues affecting players, we are also in the process of catching cheaters trying to game the system through illegal third-party usage. We have been and will be closing accounts found cheating. Please note, the use of a VPN or ping-reducing programs are not related to this. If you have any question pertaining to your account closure or general account inquiries, please contact our Customer Support.
  13. 17 points
    Game servers will be down for maintenance beginning Wednesday, November 7, 2018 at 5am PST / 8am EST / 1300 GMT+1 will be unavailable for approximately 2 hours. With this maintenance: Standard database maintenance and application restarts will be performed. Puss the Cat is here to help apply or remove Greater Dyes from your character for three weeks. Read the details here. Adena quantity, item drop, and the spoil rate will be raised by more than double in these affected areas that had lower than intended rates: Ant Nest Anthraras' Lair Forgotten Temple Cruma Tower: 1st Floor Cruma Tower: 2nd Floor Enchanted Valley Plains of Glory War-Torn Plains Fields of Massacre Fixed an issue where the reward for the Sweetest Venom quest was greater than what was advertised in the quest rewards. Fixed an issue where the Halloween Weapon Appearance was not applied for several magic weapons. The requirements for taking the Brothers Bound in Chains quest (Sin Eater) have been reduced from 30 Gemstones (B-grade) to 5 Gemstones (B-grade). The Launch Attendance Event will come to an end. The Memorable Raid Boss Event will remain in-game permanently with the current respawn time. This is the final week for Gludio Server Boosts of XP/SP/Drop Increase +30%. Read the details here. Free Teleports are available for all servers for one more week. Pumpkinface Curse or Candy Event will continue for one more week. The XP/SP Rune 50% (30-day) Pack has been added to the store. If you have any questions about the changes taking place during this maintenance, please feel free to post them on the forums. We also encourage you to follow @LineageIIOps for maintenance and server status updates.
  14. 17 points
    Hello all, We have rolled out another fix for the 'client will be closed' issue while players wait in the queue or once they've reach the character screen. You should no longer be kicked from the queue while you wait. Queue times may be longer as players will no longer be kicked as they wait. No server downtime was necessary, but you will need to update the game client through the NC Launcher to receive the fix.
  15. 17 points
    Hi Kabal, We have not confirmed whether the current adena drop rate is intended or not. We are still looking into this issue.
  16. 16 points
    So, with the adena/drop rate horse already beaten to death, it's time to resurrect it and beat it down again, from a different angle that is actually very important and I have not yet seen discussed (I'll admit, I did not read 100% of all the posts). Lets take what we know: Adena/Drop/Spoil rates appear to be anywhere from 1/10 to 1/3 of what they are on the EU classic version, on the server Skelth. Many player testimonials have confirmed this, but more importantly, it has been empirically proven by @Maya here: This has been proven not to be intended as the game's "original intent" by the PRIMA guide to Lineage II C1: http://www.lineage2media.com/Downloads/Lineage Ii - Prima Game Guide 2004.pdf For example, spiders that everyone hunts for the Dark Elf Village adena quests drop between 80-110~ adena in C1, and they drop ~25 on Talking Island Server. Whats the point of this post? The real effect of the reduced drop rate has not been yet felt, only a few players are truly experiencing it yet. They are grinding out the upper 30s in NG gear maybe with a D weapon, this can be done but it is not fun, nor how the original game was intended to be played as hundreds of players will attest to, who played C1 and on. Within a few weeks, a majority of the playerbase (especially those on melee classes) are going to get level 40 and have perhaps a D weapon (if they farmed a lot on alts) and their Moon Knight armor set. This will be fine for a few levels, due to the power spike at level 40-44 with new skills. Then those players are going to hit a wall. A huge one. They will no longer be able to kill any mobs but light blue, even with soulshots they cannot afford. Eventually, dark blue. Some will make alts and desperately try to farm small amounts of adena, most won't. We will lose 90% of these players, myself perhaps included. Only those who are either willing to spend $100s a month per account or are in the top 1% and can raid farm at that point will be willing to continue. The result? Dead server, just like Chronos and Naia, and a dwindling playerbase, which is a damn shame, because I've missed this game in its true form for years and this is our best hope. If the game is still not fixed before that point, we will lose our hardcore population, the more casual players will be gone long before 40. Good luck with the re-launch, I don't think you'll have that much interest. This is a situation of dire interest for NC. *I am aware some of you love this "ultra hardcore" version of the game, I'm also guessing you're the same ones with 10k+ NCCoins on your account :-) But this is a post for the health of the server as a whole, not you (0.1% of players). Consider yourself considered and bypassed. @Juji @Hime @NCWest @anyonewhocanhelp
  17. 15 points
    Hello all, In the past couple of weeks we’ve received lots of your feedback on the rate that Adena is acquired at level 40+. After researching, we concluded the Adena scaling at these levels should indeed be higher. As we continue to make adjustments, a free teleport event will start as of today and continue until November 14. During this event period, you can speak to any Gatekeeper NPC and teleport to your desired location without spending Adena. Once we confirm the improved Adena scaling changes, we will provide additional details in another announcement later this week. Thank you!
  18. 15 points
    Please, do not neglect the Drop/Spoil. Please..
  19. 14 points
    Scammers There are unfortunately unsavory individuals looking to make a quick Adena by gaining your trust or by misrepresenting what they are trying to sell or buy. The best way not to get scammed is to be extremely careful. Take an extra look before pressing okay, and be aware of the potential risks you’re taking on. Be wary of any character who asks to talk about a trade outside of game (Via Facebook, Discord, Skype..etc), as they maybe trying to gain personal information or hide their true intentions from our in-game logs. Our Support team will not be able to help you restore items lost as a result of a scam. Bots There are some individuals trying to game our system for personal gain and profit. We do not support any kind of automated gameplay in our game, and any accounts found doing so will be closed. Our team closes numerous accounts daily for illegal third-party usage, and will continue to do so. We have an in-game system that allows you to report cheaters and automated gameplay. You report them using the ‘Report Auto Hunting’ action button. Only use this system to report characters you think are being suspicious – abusing this system may result in actions being taken against your account. You can also report illegal automated gameplay through our Support system, and if you chose to do that, please clearly indicate what you’re seeing and the offenders’ names. Please include screenshots if possible. Adena Sellers Unfortunately, the same individuals who exploit our system with illegal automated play are also trying to make a quick buck at your expense by illegally selling you Adena. We handle these accounts the same way we handle illegal automated gameplay—by closing the accounts as soon as we discover the activity. While it might not be the account that has been spamming you, we close accounts daily and will continue to close them. You can report Adena Sellers through our in-game system by right-clicking their name in chat and select ‘Block Adena Sales’. You can also report illegal automated gameplay through our Support system, and if you chose to do that, please clearly indicate what you’re seeing and the offenders’ names. Do not buy Adena from Adena Sellers as that supports these illegal activities along with putting your own account at risk. We understand that seeing this type of behavior from other players can lead to a frustrating experience. We are continuing to mitigate the impact of these types of activities as we continue to improve our detection methods and use the information provided from the reports that come in from our players. If your account has been closed, please contact Customer Support.
  20. 14 points
    How is it that you're so fast to comment on something so useless as this but can't respond to you community? This game is going down the chitter at an alarming rate and you tell us you changed your email!
  21. 14 points
    3k boxes(or even more) on 6k server is f-ing ridiculous. stop making this server garbage, hardcore grind? then stop letting ppl use 9 f-ing accounts (they even talk about it PROUDLY on global). why tf would you guys though it was a good idea? looking at this makes me sad, jokes on me that i was hyped for that, forgot you can f-ing ruin everything you did good @Hime @Juji
  22. 14 points
    Hello, this will be a daily status update on the priority issues reported since the launch of Classic last week. For other known issues, please click here. Client will close (during/after queue) - this issue is remains under investigation after the fixed failed during the maintenance this morning. 10% EXP Loss on Death - we are working with the dev team in Korea on this. Adena/Drop/Spoil Rate - we are in the process of adjusting the rates and the changes maybe reflected as early as tomorrow. Full details of the changes will be available when the changes are rolled out. Accounts Blocked/Locked - Our Support team is experiencing a high volume of tickets. Please hang tight and a Support team member will get to your issue as soon as they can. Do not bump your ticket in the meantime. Current response time is between 24 to 30 hours. I am signing off for the night and will return tomorrow.
  23. 14 points
    A list of things that u won't understand with common sense * -12% exp when u die *Some mobs (example Dion Eye Searchers, wolfs, rangers , bears, orcs etc.) give 100-150 xp * By playing SOLO lv 22(not being VIP) not that u can't afford equipment or atleast a fkin upgrade to 70k sword, u can't even afford SOULSHOTS. Adena drop rate is retarded. (Might be fked up on purpose fk knows) * not only the adena drop rate is fked, items too. Can't remember a server when u have to kill 20-30 mobs to atleast get a coal or a fkin stem and this is not my first classic server x1 .:) have a good day and keep sayin that u farm 100k when u reach 20 , yeah right.
  24. 13 points
    This post is not to criticize or insult anyone, but I just wanted to share my experience and the reasons that push me today to stop playing L2. I speak as a player who has played for several years in this game from its birth in open beta. I do not leave because of .... 1- Bots: They have always been part of L2 and although very little has been done to fix it, I learned to live with and I can deal with it. 2- Multiboxing: Again, an inerrant facet to L2, which is much more present now with the F2P, but still I can deal with it .... 3- Drops / Adenas .... Frankly, I experienced worse when the game was born ... We did not do easy 150k a day with a quest to pick up top NG in 2 days. The problem comes more from the fact that people are hitting up level 40 in 2 weeks, which would have been unthinkable in the good old days. I leave because ... - Lineage 2 was a real hardcore game where everything depended on your player skills and the time you spent playing, nothing to do with today's classic pseudo version that comes much closer to the P2W of GoD that results of the supposed F2P version that comes with an insidious cash shop. In my memories of L2 classic, everyone received the same experience per mob, had the same chance to drop, etc .... Now everything depends on how much you pay (VIP, Packs, cash shop, etc ...). It is precisely for this major reason that I stopped playing L2 in the past. I was hoping naively that it would be different with a classic version, but we can all be wrong as they say ... And please do not tell me that someone who receives nearly double XP per mob, not counting the drops, damages, and other bonuses are not like P2W. Can you please keep yourself a little discomfort? -I am still trying to understand what fishing is doing in a classic version of L2, apart from encouraging bots, multibox and AFK. Probably my memory plays tricks on me, but I do not remember that we rewarded the players for being AFK, I thought it was the opposite .... I would have liked to have a "real" classic version with subscription, as before, where everyone was on the same footing, without cash shop or other and could only rely on their players skills. While I realize that the generation of players nowadays is perhaps not as hardcore as in time and that this business model would not have fit to all, but we should have at least been able to offer us the choice, this possibility; that of having a server with sub. as in the golden age of Lineage II. I think we had the right to expect no less! In short, I wish you all to enjoy your experience in this "new revisited version" of L2 and enjoy it, because for me, it is now impossible!
  25. 13 points
    https://www.captiongenerator.com/1127042/NcSoft-Lineage-2-Classic-3-October
  26. 13 points
    GM Marie Today at 17:22 Hello there, I've checked this matter and verified that there's no error with the drop rate of adena nor the experience gain from mobs. However, if you think that there could be changes or improvements to the system, I encourage you to post it on our official forums, where our community team gathers player feedback so they can suggest game improvements to our development team ..then I'm afraid i'll be going to ask for a refund with paypal for all my 3 "launch packs"! I still have faith and i'll be waiting till this week maintenance, but if nothing is changing, then I'm out. NcSoft is starting to look more like Webzen. I loved NcSoft since I first played L2 in 2005. In 2009, I P2P'ed Aion for a good 2? years. LOVED that game, until NcSoft decided to sell the EU rights to ............................... gameforge. Wow. That was the first time I hated NcSoft for what they did. Next thing you know, they switched Lineage 2 from P2P to F2P with the pathetic GoD expansion. I played a good few months into GoD and spent some pretty decent amount of $, but the way GoD changed Lineage 2, made me to /quit it , and so, that was the 2nd time NcSoft has dissapointed me. Now, now! I was SO excited when I saw that banner on mmorpg.com about NcSoft opening a L2 Classic server. Made all the necessary "plans" for the launch. Bought 3 packs for 3 accounts, so I can be ready to start farming and having a blast in this new adventure. Up until .. 20 it was .. O.K , even so, I saw people start posting about how bad the Adena/Drop/Spoil rates are. I even defended NcSoft when I was level 15. But now? At level 23 ? Nothing has any sense in this game. Like nothing. You can't say : I'm going to this place to farm for X mats so I can be able to craft Y item or to sell the X mats because of people needing them. Nope, you can't. You just ..go outside and kill mobs, with no logic on how to improve your character. And that's bad, because Lineage 2 is all about the economy, where, as of now, there is NONE. I'm sorry NcSoft. As I said, you are taking the Webzen approach of things. Which is VERY bad. They launched Mu "Classic" at the beginning of 2018 and since I played it in .. 2002 or so, for 1-2 years, I said to play a bit for nostalgia sake. I did..for 1 week, because the cash shop and things was as bad as yours. When I first saw the SS's in shop, I said they are there just for the very LAZY people who don't mind paying $ to buy them. But as of now, I am very much starting to believe that you put there knowing that most of the players could NOT afford the adena needed to buy SS's in order to XP and somehow, forced them to pay real money for SS's. And that .. is the worst decision ever. Listen, I am all for making money in the view of a company. BUT, make them with style, with common sense. People would of GLADLY pay if there was a decent cash op and launch packs. Talking about launch packs, I believe you earned a big $ out of them, right? And that was before servers were live. See? People blindly gave you their hard $ because they had faith in you. You said nothing about the adena/drop/spoil nerfed stats and of course, people was taking exemples the other 1.5 official version of the game since you promoted this Classic Server as being 1.5 version with 3.0 QoL and server improvements. Do not blame players for believing that they will get a similar experience here. as they had in say L2 Classic Innova. The Blame is all yours, NcSoft. Fix it. And do it fast. /rantoff Edit: Plus, the VERY lack of communication from your team, is very , very bad for business. Communication is everything. You do not go silence for day's. You keep replying to people concerns. Arrogance is not good and I .. believe this is what you "have" now, because you are kinda "full of you" because the servers are full right? Well , take a look at launch day from L2 Live and today players. Exactly!
  27. 12 points
    Spoil will be included in the adjustments as well.
  28. 11 points
    Hello All, I have been reading all of your replies in this thread and looking into different options with the current 15th Anniversary event. The dev team requested that we quickly remove the cake raid event to prevent further instability and abuse on the Classic Servers. I tried spawning the Fioti NPC manually today, but there was no message prompt for claiming a reward or the instant XP/SP. The Fioti NPC seems to be directly tied to your character's participation in the Cake Raid. I will ask the Dev team if they can adjust the raid without the top rewards, while only granting the XP/SP. In the meantime, we plan to add a compensation pack to the store next week. Apologies again for these recent changes to the event! Best Regards, Juji
  29. 11 points
    First of all you need 2 accounts. - Start a first window of lineage, and press "agree" (then DON'T press "ok") - Start a second window of lineage with the second account, and press "agree" (then DON'T press "ok") - On the first window, click "ok" to join the server. It will opens the error message : "the client will close, continues ?", press "ok again". The client will close. - and quickly press "ok" on the second window, and you will access to the character page ! Enjoy.
  30. 11 points
    Hello All, Apologies for my delayed response. We plan to resolve all of the issues above including drops/adena/spoil and the XP Loss Upon Death this week. I will share more details on these two once we receive the patch from Dev. Best Regards, Juji
  31. 11 points
    @Hime@Juji Are you guys taking a look into spoil and drop rates as well? Spoiling and mats dropping from mobs is the backbone of the L2 server economy. Without drops, how are we to be able to craft gear, how are people supposed to advanced their character? As it stands now, people are 30+ still using the Novice weapon received from the newbie quest because we cannot afford to buy a new weapon and we cannot craft a new weapon because parts, recipes, and materials do not drop. Please look into fixing this asap with the maintenance. Even with adena drop rates being fixed, that will not save the server from a mass exodus of people because they cannot craft new gear.
  32. 11 points
    Hi all, there will be a scheduled maintenance tomorrow that will resolve some of the issues. Confirmation of the issues and fixes will be in the maintenance notice that will be available in a few hours as we finalized the details.
  33. 11 points
    So I've decided to go through all L2 Classic and major 3rd party Lineage 2 servers, including Official forums and warn people about malicious behaviour of NCSoft. Let's start with server launch: The guy said loudly and clearly (27:30) that launch pack wont be sold after launch. They are still in store rignt now as I'm writing this post 10/8/2018, in my country this is a crime. So all of you that pre-ordered packs and have '"Anti-scam rights" in your country, you can sue NCSoft. They refused to give us the patch notes. We've got the patch notes only few hours before launch. They've delayed launch of the game 2 times with webpage completely down so you had no idea what is going on They changed Launch packs price from real world money to in-game currency to make people harder to get around the actual price. Server rates are modified to make people buy items from Store. As a VIP member I was absolutely stunned that they were unable to deliver NCoins instatntly. I was waiting averge 6 hours to get NCoins... I have never saw such thing in any online service since 2009. You are unable to connect after tens of minutes of waiting. Without any explanation. As soon as the queue ends, the game says: "The client will be closed. OK" Unacceptable amount of bugs. For such an old game this is unacceptable. I saw far better support, bugfixing and overall quality on private servers. And the biggest crime against people is that YOU don't care. At all. You launched Classic in a hurry, just to make as many $$$ as you can in a short period of time because you know that L2 Live is extreme Pay to Win and the playerbase is reducing very fast and L2 is no more profitable for you. So why not to quickly launch few Classic servers and get twice as much money as you're getting in just couple of days.
  34. 11 points
    Awesome post dude. Irrefutable proof of the shady, monetization schemes that NCSoft and NCWest have implemented. As long as the money keeps flowing from the stores, as long as the CEO's take home their massive bonuses, big business simply doesn't care about providing a fair product to the consumers.. Look at Electronic Arts, willing to take on a nations legal system to protect their golden goose (Fifa). I've quit until this greedy business undoes this, and even then i'm not sure i want to support a company like this.
  35. 10 points
    Please +1 if you would like this issue fixed. So the 15th anniversary reward for 15 year old players today was a raid master outfit, which can neither be destroyed or put into your warehouse. With all the gear in this game, my toon is almost always 120/184 inventory. Yet to switch class I need to be down to 95 inventory. Switching class from main to dual class, something that should be simple is very difficult. This is very annoying mechanic to the game that I feel can be easily fixed. Can I get some support? Maybe the Dev team can look into this. This 95/184 cap, makes it difficult to keep buying gear. And the most bound items added to my toon the worse the situation gets. Pretty soon Top players will not be able to switch class. This is a very simple quality of life issue, ncsoft can fix. We just need to tell them as a community that it is important to us that they fix this.
  36. 10 points
    Hello everyone, I want this thread to be a Guide to new and returning players. Everyone is invited to post useful Quests or even tips about Lineage 2 Classic. Since servers will be live soon, any help will matter So if you are going to post a Quest for exemple, please specify the Class , Level and Link of the Quest to L2wiki or Youtube. I'll start and before I do so, the below table is taken from a @Taunt post he wrote on this forums. ( So thanks goes to him ). The most important hands down, will be the Starter NoGrade Weapon Quest. Everyone should do this quest once they hit level 10. Starter Weapons and Quests (Level 10) Weapon Type P. Atk M. Atk Race Quest Eldritch Dagger Dagger 11 10 Dark Elf Forgotten Truth (Level 10) Sword of Solidarity 1H Sword 12 9 Human Sword of Solidarity (Level 10) Butcher's Sword 1H Sword 13 10 Orc Merciless Punishment (Level 10) Blood Saber 1H Sword 14 11 Dark Elf Spirit of Craftsman (Level 10) Red Sunset Sword 2H Sword 16 10 Light Elf Skirmish with the Orcs (Level 10) Silversmith Hammer 1H Blunt 13 10 Dwarf Jumble, Tumble, Diamond Fuss (Level 10) Wand of Adept 1H Blunt 11 13 Human Spirit of Mirrors (Level 10) Red Sunset Staff 2H Blunt 13 14 Light Elf Skirmish with the Orcs (Level 10) D-Grade Armor Quest (Level 25-40) Moon Knight Quest Guide Video Guide Help with Temple Restoration ( Level 11-20 ) Human Only - Any Class - https://l2wiki.com/classic/Help_with_Temple_Restoration Reward 80,000 Earring (Novice) — 2 pcs. Reward at your choice depending on your class: For warriors: Warrior's Armor , Warrior's Gaiters , Soulshot (No-grade) (Novice) — 1000 pcs.. For mystics: Medium's Tunic , Medium's Stockings , Spiritshot (No-grade) (Novice) — 700 pcs. Grim Collector Quest ( Level 15+ ) Normally, this should be a pretty decent quest to make some Adena early in the game. https://l2wiki.com/classic/Grim_Collector Reward Talk to Samed: Map Skull - 25 adena Deadman's Spine - 5 adena Thigh Bone - 5 adena Deadman's Arm Bone - 5 adena Ribs - 5 adena Deadman's Complete Skeleton - 100 adena Zombie Head - 8 adena Zombie Heart - 5 adena Zombie Liver - 5 adena Talk to Varsak: Map Skull + Deadman's Spine + Thigh Bone + Deadman's Arm Bone + Ribs = Deadman's Complete Skeleton Xp/Potions/NoGrade (B)SS's ( Level 15 - 20 ) Note - A player can only complete their race Quest Chain - Exemple : Perfect Leather Armor Quests can only be complete by Humans Quest Levels Start NPC Restrictions Perfect Leather Armor (1 of 3) - Humans Only 15 - 20 Magister Harrys Complete Help with Temple Restoration Perfect Leather Armor (2 of 3) - Humans Only 15 Weapon Merchant Lector Complete Perfect Leather Armor (1 of 3) Perfect Leather Armor (3 of 3) - Humans Only 15 Weapon Merchant Lector Complete Perfect Leather Armor (2 of 3) Loser Priest (1 of 3) - Dwarf Only 15 - 20 Head Priest of the Earth Zimenf Complete Temple's Decorations. Loser Priest (2 of 3) - Dwarf Only 15 Head Priest of the Earth Gerald Complete Loser Priest (1 of 3) Loser Priest (3 of 3) - Dwarf Only 15 Head Priest of the Earth Gerald Complete Loser Priest (2 of 3) New Potion Development (1 of 3) - Elf Only 15 - 20 Sentinel Starden Complete Preparation for Dungeon New Potion Development (2 of 3) - Elf Only 15 Grocer Herbiel Complete New Potion Development (1 of 3) New Potion Development (3 of 3) - Elf Only 15 Grocer Herbiel Complete New Potion Development (2 of 3) Red Gem Necklace (1 of 3) - Orc Only 15 - 20 Blacksmith Sumari Complete Blacksmith's Request Red Gem Necklace (2 of 3) - Orc Only 15 Blacksmith Sumari Complete Red Gem Necklace (1 of 3) Red Gem Necklace (3 of 3) - Orc Only 15 Blacksmith Sumari Complete Red Gem Necklace (2 of 3) Prepare for trade (1 of 3) - Dark Elf Only 15 - 20 Armor Merchant Payne Complete Surprise Gift Prepare for trade (2 of 3) - Dark Elf Only 15 Grocer Vollodos Complete Prepare for trade (1 of 3) Prepare for trade (3 of 3) - Dark Elf Only 15 Grocer Vollodos Complete Prepare for trade (2 of 3) All of above quests gives the same rewards. All of them have restrictions - See Restrictions section Tab Above! Reward Healing Potion (Novice) — 40 pcs. Scroll of Escape (Novice) — 5 pcs. 70,000 3,600 MP Recovery Potion (Novice) — 40 pcs. Reward at your choice: Soulshot (No-grade) (Novice) — 1000 pcs. or Spiritshot (No-grade) (Novice) — 700 pcs. So .. don't be shy guys. Post your tips too! Thanks!
  37. 10 points
    @Hime I don't know who did your research for you to come to this conclusion. But there is a huge difference in drop rates being challenging and adena rates being incorrect. VIP does not effect the drop rate of adena or the amount. So why would adena rates at lower level be much higher than most level 50+ areas? That a massive imbalance. If you sincerely think this, you will be signing the death of Lineage 2 classic.
  38. 10 points
    @Hime So it's intended that level 30 mobs give more than level 50+ mobs? Please tell me this is some poorly-timed April Fool's joke. I seriously recommend you take down this post and reconsider again, otherwise you're going to be getting a LOT of paypal/cc chargebacks over the coming days.
  39. 10 points
    Game servers will be down for maintenance beginning Wednesday, October 17, 2018 at 5am PDT / 8am EDT / 1300 GMT+1 and ending at approximately 7:15 am PDT / 10:15 am EDT / 1515 GMT+1. Estimated downtime is 2 hours and 15 minutes. With this maintenance: Standard database maintenance and application restarts will be performed. The respawn time for boss monsters in the Memorable Raid event has increased from 20 minutes to 12 hours. We found that players were logging multiple characters in the raid boss area to receive its rewards without actively participating in the event. If you have any questions about the changes taking place during this maintenance, please feel free to post them on the forums. We also encourage you to follow @LineageIIOps for maintenance and server status updates.
  40. 10 points
    I started on Bartz the day it opened. I still have my chaotic chronicle CDs and played for years on live Lineage 2 servers from day one. Let me assure you, there is nothing broken. THIS IS HOW LIVE WAS. When you got to level 20 you were lucky if you had top no grade equipment. And people complaining about drops, you are in for a real treat when you get to lvl 40. I wore top d grade gear til almost lvl 45 before i started crafting pieces of C grade. This is live, nothing is broken. This is how lineage was. We had cruma parties (with no soulshots) that ran for hours. Solo you could not afford to hunt alone and you had a buffer AND and healer because a buffer couldnt keep a party healed. Welcome to real Lineage. (I am a lineage 1 player [lineage 1 is abandonware and nonmodified clients/servers are legal]of 20 years and a lineage 2 player of 13 years). Ive been sitting here rolling since rerelease.
  41. 10 points
    Lineage II Lore (2003~2012) The Legend Prologue: By the Bonfire. He drew a deep breath, inhaled the smoke, and let it out slowly. Most of his face was hidden under a thick, old hood, and behind him there was only pitch darkness. In the dim glow of the pipe it was impossible to see his features. He introduced himself as a bard - yet no one believed him, as his voice was thick and ragged - and we were suspicious that he traveled the dangerous forest alone. However, he offered to tell us a story if we shared our meal and the warmth of our fire. We agreed, if only because we couldn't leave this traveler to the cold forest. We made ourselves comfortable by the fire, holding our weapons at the ready in case of danger, and waited for his story to begin. The night was ice-cold, and his low, thick voice carried quietly across the mountain as, setting aside his pipe, he opened his mouth and began to speak. Episode 1: Genesis The story I'm about to tell you is about those who we call gods. Listen carefully as this is the true story... Long ago, in a time before thought, there was only a globe in which all creation was mixed. As there was nothing with which to compare it, the globe was big and small, dark and bright, everything and nothing. Over a hundred million years, the globe began to grow and eventually two powers slowly began to form within. As they grew, the powers developed consciousness and ego and separated into white light and darkness. White light formed as female and called itself Einhasad. The darkness formed as male and named itself Gran Kain. These two beings marked the beginning of the entire universe, and all that we know today. Einhasad and Gran Kain pooled their strength to break out of the globe. In this action the globe was shattered into pieces of all kinds. Some pieces rose to become Sky, some fell down to become Ground. Between Sky and Ground there was Water, and some parts of Ground rose up to become Land. The spirit of the globe was named Ether, also shattered with the breaking of the globe. This brought the various animals and plants into being. "Genesis Creature" was formed of this spirit, and giants were the best of this kind. They were known as the Wise Ones, for their intelligence was as great as their strong bodies. The giants promised to keep faith in Einhasad and Gran Kain, as it was the actions of the two gods that created their life and world. Einhasad and Gran Kain were satisfied with the giants and appointed them to be the masters of all living creatures. This was before death and true paradise existed. Einhasad and Gran Kain gave birth to many god-children between them. The first five of these children were empowered with the authority of the earth. The eldest daughter, Shilen, was in charge of water. The eldest son, Pa’agrio, controlled the fire, and the second daughter, Maphr, controlled the land. The second son, Sayha, became master of the wind. For the youngest, Eva, there were no elements remaining, so she created poems and music. While the other gods were busy with their responsibilities, Eva wrote poems and serenaded them with music. And thus the era of the gods began and there existed no place on earth unknown to the gods. Episode 2: Creation of Races Einhasad was goddess of creation and created forms using her own spirit. Her children used their own powers to create life from these forms. Shilen instilled the spirit of water into the first form that was created. This is how the race of Elves was created. Pa’agrio instilled the spirit of fire into the second form that was created. This is how the race of Orcs was created. Maphr instilled the spirit of earth into the third form. This is how the race of Dwarves was created. Sayha instilled the spirit of wind into the fourth form. This is how the race of arteias was created. Gran Kain was a god of destruction. When he saw the work of Einhasad, he became curious and jealous. He imitated Einhasad and created a form in his own image. Then he went to see Shilen, their oldest daughter, and asked her to instill spirit into the form. Shilen was very surprised and told him, "Father, why do you want to do such a thing? Einhasad, my mother, is responsible for creation. Please do not covet the type of work that is not yours. A creature who receives life from a god of destruction will only bring about disaster." But Gran Kain would not give up. After much cajoling and persuading, finally he was able to obtain Shilen's consent. "I will do it then. But I have already given the spirit of water to Mother. So the only thing I can give you is the leftovers." Shilen gave the spirit of stagnant and rotten water to Gran Kain. Gran Kain gladly accepted it. However, Gran Kain felt that it was not enough to give only one spirit to his creature. So he went to see Pa’agrio, his oldest son. Like Shilen, Pa’agrio also warned his father. However, he could not refuse Gran Kain. So he gave the spirit of dying fire to Gran Kain. Gran Kain gladly accepted it. Maphr also pleaded with her father with tears in her eyes but ended up giving the spirit of barren and contaminated earth to her father. Sayha, in his turn, gave his father the spirit of wild and violent wind. Satisfied, Gran Kain took everything that was given to him and cried, "Look at the living creatures I am making! Look at they who are born with the spirit of water, the spirit of fire, the spirit of earth and the spirit of wind. They will be stronger and wiser than giants! They will rule the world!' Gran Kain shouted with great pride to all the world and instilled spirit into the creatures of his own image. However, the result was terrible. His creatures were weak, stupid, sly, and cowardly. All the other gods despised Gran Kain's creatures. Overcome by the shame of his failure, Gran Kain abandoned his creatures and went into hiding for a time. These creatures are called Humans. The race of Elves was wise and knew how to perform magic. But they were less wise than giants. Therefore, giants let the Elves serve them in politics and magic-related activities. The race of Orcs was strong. They possessed inexhaustible strength and great will power. However, they were not as strong as giants. Therefore, giants let Orcs serve them in warfare. The race of Dwarves was skilled. They were good engineers, skilled mathematicians and excelled in fine craftsmanship. The giants allowed them to serve in banking and manufacturing work. The winged race of arteias was freedom-loving and possessed undying curiosity. Giants wanted to capture and subjugate the free-flying creatures, but as soon as an arteia was locked up in a cage, it quickly lost its strength and died. Giants were left with no choice but to allow the arteias to fly free. The arteias visited the city of giants to give them news from other parts of the world. Humans could not do any one thing well and thus become slaves to the giants, doing all sorts of menial labor. The life of Humans was not any better than that of animals. Episode 3: War of the Gods Gran Kain was a free and uninhibited god. However, he made a very great mistake by seducing Shilen, his eldest daughter. They conducted an affair, avoiding the eyes of Einhasad, until Shilen became pregnant. When Einhasad found out, she became enraged. Stripping her daughter of her position as water goddess, Einhasad ordered Shilen banished from the continent. Gran Kain turned his back on the situation, and Shilen was left to deal with her fate alone. While pregnant, Shilen fled to the East. Deep in the middle of a dark forest, she gave birth -- cursing Einhasad and Gran Kain with each excruciating labor pain. The babies born of Shilen's horrible labor bore the despair and anger of her curses and became demons. Among them, the strongest creatures were called 'dragons.' There were a total of six dragons born with curses against the six gods. Shilen was filled with wrath towards Einhasad who banished her, and towards Gran Kain who seduced and then abandoned her. Gathering the strength of her children, she created an army to punish the gods. The strongest dragons were ordered to be at the front of the army of demons to fight against the gods. Hearing this, Aulakiria, the dragon of light, looked at Shilen with sad eyes and spoke. "Mother, you don't know what you are doing. Do you really want the eternal destruction of the gods? Do you really want your father, mother and siblings to fall down on the ground in pools of their own blood?" Her appeal did not change Shilen's mind. At last, the demons invaded the palace where the gods lived, and a fierce battle began. The six dragons destroyed everything in the gods' palace. Even the gods were intimidated by the incredible power of the dragons. The battle seemed destined to continue forever. Yet, if the war did not stop, the world would cease to exist, and all living things would be annihilated. Numerous god's messengers and demons were destroyed or vanished. Every day there was thunder and lightning, as strong forces clashed violently in the sky. Giants and the other living creatures of earth trembled as they observed the terrible fight in the sky. The fierce battle continued for several years, and eventually the balance gradually tilted towards one side. In spite of suffering many injuries, Einhasad and Gran Kain, had stronger powers and destroyed many demons. The dragons kept fighting, though they were deeply wounded and riddled with scars. Their fatigue became more and more apparent. After a time, it seemed like the war would come to an end with the extermination of Shilen's army. In the end, the dragons spread their wings and flew to the earth to escape. The surviving demons followed. The gods wanted to kill the retreating army. However, due to their own injuries, all they could do was watch as the dragons and demons departed. As Shilen's children perished one by one and lost the war, Shilen could not stand her sadness. She invented The Underworld and ruled over it. Episode 4: The Great Flood After Shilen was gone, Eva inherited the authority to rule over water. But Eva had a timid nature and after witnessing her elder sister's terrible demise and the war among gods, she became even more fearful. In order to avoid the weighty responsibility that fell to her, she dug a tunnel at the bottom of a lake and hid. With no goddess to rule over them, the spirits of water were without purpose and began to wander aimlessly. Too much water flowed to one place and formed a great marsh. Water did not flow at all in another place and there a desert formed. Often times, part of the continent suddenly sank into the ocean or a new island suddenly sprang out of nowhere. In some places, it rained day and night until everything except the tips of the highest mountains were submerged. Where any piece of land remained above water, all the living creatures flocked to preserve their life and the piece of land fell to pandemonium. Both on the continent and in the ocean, all the living creatures were suffering. On behalf of all the living creatures, giants petitioned the gods for help. Einhasad and Gran Kain searched everywhere in the continent and finally found the lake in which Eva was hiding. "Eva, look what happened because you avoided your responsibility. You are destroying the harmony of this continent that we created with all of our efforts. I will not tolerate it if you continue to disobey me." Einhasad was so enraged that her eyes burned bright with roaring flames. Due to the floods, countless giants and living creatures departed to Shilen's world. This made Einhasad very envious of Shilen. Trembling with fear, Eva ended up surrendering to her mother. When Eva took over her authority to adjust the waters, the disasters gradually ceased. However, it was impossible to restore the continent that lay in ruins. Episode 5: Challenge of the Giants The giants began to harbor skepticism in their hearts. Gran Kain had already proved his own stupidity by making a lowly living creature called Human. In addition, due to Gran Kain's lewd conduct and Einhasad's jealousy, The Underworld was created and various demons came into existence. Due to Eva's weakness and incompetence, the continent was badly out of shape. Seeds of doubt began to sprout in the minds of giants. Did such gods deserve their worship? Giants could ride chariots made with their own hands and freely go in and out of the gods' palace. They could use magic to lift up an island and live in the air like gods. They could prolong their life span until it seemed like they would live forever. The giants began to think that their power was equal to that of the gods. In spite of their wisdom, they became excessively arrogant. And thus the giants set out to become gods. They began to experiment by modifying living organisms to create new forms of life. Giants called the magic to make such miracles possible 'science.' Intoxicated by power, the giants organized a strong army to fight against the gods despite the failure of Shilen, the six dragons, and numerous demons in the same task. The gods saw the preparations and were enraged. Einhasad, who claimed the sole right to create life, was speechless with fury. She swore to destroy all giants along with the continent and the entire world. Gran Kain pleaded with her to remain calm. "Much as you are the Mother of Creation," he argued, "so is destruction my responsibility. You know too well what I had to go through when I coveted your task. I will punish the giants for their arrogant conduct. Yet if you still want to destroy the entire world, I will fight you with everything I have." Gran Kain did not want to allow the destruction of the continent no matter what and Einhasad was greatly offended by Gran Kain's intervention. However, as they were of equal status, she could not stop him. Einhasad compromised in the end. In order to punish the giants, she decided to borrow Gran Kain's hammer - known as the Hammer of Despair. Due to its great destructive power, even Gran Kain had never used the weapon. Yet in her fury, Einhasad lifted the hammer high above her head and brought it down in the center of the giants' city. Episode 6: The End of Ages Only when red flames rained from the heavens did the giants realize that they had committed a foolish error. They reached up with their combined strength to thwart Einhasad's angered delivery of the Hammer of Despair. Yet even with the giants' might, they merely altered the direction of the hammer slightly, and it still grazed the cities as it descended upon the world. That was enough to destroy the world's greatest city; countless giants and other races were instantly crushed. A large hole was left in the earth and immense waves covered its surface. In the end, almost all the giants had perished. Those giants who managed to live fled to the east to avoid Einhasad's anger. Their route paralleled that of Shilen in her earlier flight. Einhasad continued to hunt them down and burned the giants to death one by one with bolts of lightning. The remaining fugitive giants trembled in fear and prayed to Gran Kain. "Gran Kain, Gran Kain! We have realized our erroneous ways. Only you can halt the rage and madness of Einhasad. Do not let us perish, we who have been born from the same place as yourself, we who are the wisest and strongest creatures in the land!" Gran Kain suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of pity for these poor creatures and thought that the giants had suffered enough for their transgression. He lifted up the deepest waters of the southern seas and blocked Einhasad's path. Einhasad shouted in anger, "What is this?! Who dares to interfere with me?! Eva, my beloved daughter, rid the water that blocks my path this instant or be ready to follow in the footsteps of your elder sister!" Eva feared Einhasad and immediately returned the waters to the sea. Einhasad continued to chase the giants, killing them one by one. The giants cried out to Gran Kain again. "Gran Kain! The mightiest of the gods! Einhasad continues to chase us, determined to exterminate us! We pray to you, please have mercy and save us!" Gran Kain lifted up the earth on which the giants stood. The great cliff hindered Einhasad's chase and she shouted in a loud voice. "Maphr, my beloved daughter! Who dares to interfere with me?! Set the land down this instant. Or be ready to follow the path of your sister!" Fearful at these words, Maphr tried to lower the earth, but Gran Kain stopped her. "Einhasad, why do you not give up? The whole land knows your anger and trembles before your wrath. The wise but foolish giants feel their wrongdoing to their very core. See for yourself! The race of proud and noble creatures that at one time ruled the earth are now hiding on a narrow strip of land and shaking in fear as they seek to escape you! No longer can they challenge the gods. This place will eternally be the giants' prison. Calm your rage, your revenge is complete." Einhasad continued to rage, but she could not act against Gran Kain's wishes -- he possessed strength equal to her own. She decided that, as Gran Kain had said, it would be better to leave the giants on that narrow, barren land to forever repent their sins rather than to kill them all. She ended her hunt and returned to her home. Afterwards, Einhasad rarely interfered with happenings on Earth, as she had been deeply disappointed in the Earth's beings. Gran Kain also agreed not to show himself on Earth. The age of the gods was coming to an end. Episode 7: A Return to the Campfire The stranger paused in his story. Enthralled by the tale, we had not moved while he related the history of our world. His voice, though soft, penetrated deep into our heads -- as if magical in nature. The myth he spoke of was completely different from that which we knew, yet none protested. We, the most seasoned warriors in all the lands, were drawn to the stranger and yet on-edge, nervous, even fearful of this mere man. When a nearby owl took flight, we flinched at the sudden flapping of wings. The stranger chuckled, raised the smoldering pipe to his lips, and continued his story. "Do not automatically cast aside my story because it is different from those you know of the gods. There is no proof that your priests are closer to the truth than a wandering poet. The history of the gods is the will of the gods, not that of Humans. And thus, how would mere priests know the truth? Listen again as I continue. This is the story of the land after the gods' disappearance. It is your own history." Episode 8: The Aftermath The world fell into great turmoil following the sudden disappearance of the giants. Accustomed to the rule of the giants, the Elves, Orcs, Dwarves and Humans were faced with the harsh reality of fending for themselves. On top of this frightening new change, the world in which they lived lay ravaged with the strike of the Hammer of Despair. Many died during the disasters wrought by Einhasad, and many more died in the ensuing confusion and chaos. The races of the earth pleaded fervently to the gods for salvation, but the gods did not answer. First to take control of the situation were the Elves, as they were the race responsible for politics during the time of the giants. The Elves were successful in unifying the races and continued on with their lives. But as time passed, it became apparent that the Elves did not have the same capabilities to rule that the giants had. The first to stand against the Elves were the Orcs. "Are the Elves stronger than we? No! Do the Elves have the right to rule over us? No! We cannot bear that those who are weaker than we dare to stand above us!" The military might of the Orcs was powerful and, having lived only in peace, the Elves were no match for the proud and fearless Orcs. The majority of the land became Orc territory in an instant and the Elves were driven to a corner of the continent. There the Elves sought aid from the Dwarves who, with their great wealth and superior weapons, would stand a chance against the Orcs. "Race of the earth," the Elves cried, "Come to our aid. The violent Orc hordes persecute us with their sheer might. Come -- let us fight them together." But the Dwarves coldly refused to aid the Elves. To their eyes, the world had turned in favor of the Orcs. There was no reason for the pragmatic Dwarves to side with the weak. The Elves were enraged, but could not sway their decision. The Elves decided to seek help from the race of the wind - the arteias. Their reconnaissance skills and aerial attacks would be sufficient aid for the Elves to triumph over the Orcs. An Elven delegation traveled to the ends of the earth to seek the help of the arteias. "Race of the wind, come to our aid! The barbarian Orcs are oppressing us with their sheer might. Let us join together and teach them their foolishness!" But, as always, the arteias were not interested in the politics or wars of the earth. They determined to take neither side and hid themselves deeper in the inlands. The Elves despaired. "Alas, no one will aid us! Is this the end of our kind? Are the filthy Orcs to take over the lands and claim every glory and wealth as their own?" Episode 9: A New Alliance Turned down by the pragmatic Dwarves and neutral Arteias, the Elves were left with no allies to wage war against the Orcs. Left to bemoan their fate, the Elves were surprised by the appearance of a stranger among their ranks. The stranger knelt before the Elven king, who peered closer to discover the stranger was a representative of the Humans. The stranger wore a crown made of tree branches. "What is it, leader of the lowly Humans?" the Elven king asked. "Do you come to mock our plight?" The Human bowed his head and spoke, "No, wise king. We come to see if our feeble forces may be of any assistance." The Elves rejoiced, for though the Humans were foolish and weak, their great numbers could be of help in battle. "Very commendable of you, Human king," the Elven king acquiesced. "Insignificant beings you may be, but your devoted loyalty and willingness to sacrifice your lives for us is admirable. Go forth in battle to victory and you shall gain standing directly beneath the Elves." The Human king bowed deep before the Elven king, then lifted his head, facing his Elven counterpart. "Most noble Elven king," he spoke, "We Humans have but one request to make before we battle for the glorious victory of the Elven race. Our powers are too weak. Our teeth cannot even scratch the skin of the Orcs and our nails are useless against their muscles. We beg of you, grant us the power to stand against them. Teach us the knowledge of your magic." This bold proposition left the Elves shocked and infuriated. Teach magic to Humans? Never! They gestured, invoking the spells to turn the Human to a heap of ashes, but the Elven leader Veora interceded. She felt the request was no threat and should be honored. The Humans were too weak, and it would be doubtful that they could beat the Orcs without help. And with their inferior minds, the Humans would be no threat were they even able to learn magic. And thus she made a stand that would later cost her life. The Humans quickly absorbed the ways of magic, learning much faster than the Elves had anticipated. The Human bodies, though not as strong as those of Orcs, had been strengthened through constant labor and infighting among their kind. They were adept with their hands and could skillfully wield weaponry, and more than anything else, their numbers were huge and impressive. In a short amount of time, the Human army became a formidable force. Episode 10: An Ally Turns Foe The Human-Elf alliance gradually began to overtake the Orcs. As the tides of battle turned in favor of the alliance, the Dwarves shifted allegiance from the Orcs and began to craft battle supplies for the Humans. With the stronger armor and sharp Dwarven weapons, the Humans could now defeat the Orc army without the aid of Elven forces. The Elves grew uneasy, even as the alliance victories grew in number. They could sense the Humans growing stronger and beyond their control. Yet the Elves did not allow their uneasiness to grow to concern, for they could not imagine that the lowliest of them all - the Human trash - could conceive a revolution. And with final victory over the Orcs within reach, the Elves had no time to dwell on worries of the Humans. The Humans continued to learn higher forms of magic, and eventually the war ended with the victory of the Human-Elf alliance. The Orcs were forced to sign a humiliating peace treaty and quickly retreated to the safety of their lairs in the northern parts of Elmore. The leader of the Orcs laughed as he departed, "Foolish Elves. This victory is not yours, but that of the dirty Humans. How do you propose to control these monsters of your creation?" True to his bitter words, the Elves now faced a new threat - the Humans. But after the long battle, the Elves were left too weary and weak to fight. In contrast, the Humans with their new powers of magic were strong. And thus, the Humans rose up against the Elves. Too late, the Elves realized they had taken under their wings the offspring of dragons. A fierce battle of magic versus magic once again shook the land. But the Elves were too weak to suppress the forces of the Humans. The Elves were slowly pushed back until they were forced to retreat to the safety of their forest. From their secure position, they prepared for the final clash against the Humans. Elven magic was strongest in these woods and they sought to use this advantage to victory. The Elves dug deep dungeons that quickly echoed with the clanging of swords and shouts of battle. But the ultimate victors in the three-month siege were the Humans. Neither Elven pride, nor the magical powers of the Elven woods, nor even the superior magic of the Elves could stand against the endless stream of Human armies. The Elves suffered great damage and eventually escaped deep into the forest. In retreat, they cast strong barriers around their woods to prevent the trespassing of Humans and other races. And thus, Humans became the conquerors of all the land. Episode 11: A Return to the Campfire The stranger looked up, his latest story completed. The tale was different from any we had heard, yet strangely familiar. The beautiful Elven maiden in our company sat quiet, tears brimming in her eyes. The night had deepened as the stranger spoke and now the cries of wild creatures were nowhere to be heard. The wind had ceased to rustle the tree branches overhead, and even the water flowing in the nearby stream seemed muted and soft. Only the sound of our breathing and the crackling of the burning campfire rang out through the night. It seemed as if all nature around us held its breath to listen close to the story told by the campfire. We leaned in close as the stranger, clearing his throat with a low rumbling cough, began again. "So... Is it not ironic that the lowest creatures of all, the Humans, ultimately attained ownership of the land? But that is the result of Human will. Even the gods did not imagine that Humans would ever become rulers of the earth. "Now, I will tell you the tale of the most brilliant Human kingdom that ever existed. This is the story of the Humans who walked the same path as the giants." Episode 12: History Rewritten During the long battles against the Orcs and Elves, the Humans began to form primitive kingdoms among their numbers. The central group was composed of the Athena clan and Humans skilled in magic. They protected their numbers with their power, kept order through threats, and occasionally became involved in small and large battles. Order was resolved quickly when the Athena leader, Shunaiman, united the regions currently known as Aden and Elmore. He called his kingdom Elmoreden and enthroned himself as emperor. The tree branch crown adorning the brow of his ancestors became a gold crown with glittering jewels to set upon his brow. He became known as a presence nearly equal to the gods in the lore of his followers. Emperor Shunaiman worried over the life limitation of the Humans. The fact that Gran Kain, god of death and destruction, was their creator gave the Humans an inferiority complex. Additionally, the tales that they were created from the leftovers of other races was deeply humiliating to these new rulers of the land. For their new kingdom, they needed a new myth; a new history that would prove them noble beings. Eventually, and through large-scale religious reform, Shunaiman made Einhasad the goddess of Humans instead of Gran Kain. Myth and history were changed and those practicing black magic, as well as the followers of Gran Kain, were persecuted. The religious reform continued for generations and eventually all Humans believed that Einhasad, the goddess of good, was their creator and Gran Kain was simply the god of evil. When learning of this, Gran Kain laughed in acceptance. "Even if they do not serve me, I will not be angered. But foolish Humans, no matter how you try to cover the sky with your hands -- is the sky truly smaller than your grasp?" Episode 13: Elmoreden and Perios While Emperor Shunaiman and the Elmoreden kingdom grew and prospered, the Gracia region across the sea still rumbled with turmoil. The geography of Gracia was varied and dangerous and while many Human groups battled for control, no strong power had emerged to unify the government. Small kingdoms dotted the landscape, claiming parcels of land as their own and conducting minor skirmishes and greater battles as they struggled for dominance. The day came when Elmoreden's strong army invaded the land through the western sea bridge and the kingdoms of Gracia were forced to ally in their own defense. Much of the land's royalty and aristocracy were slain in the process. The surviving aristocracy grew in power. In the end, the Elmoreden invasion was repelled, yet it served to create a foundation for a unified kingdom of Gracia. This kingdom was named Perios. Thereafter, Perios and Elmoreden became locked in an ongoing struggle for domination. Elmoreden, which had first established a unified kingdom and possessed great military power, was far superior. But Perios had advantages of its own. First, the sea separating the kingdoms limited Elmoreden's pathways to attack. Also of great importance, the people of Perios possessed powerful relics left behind by the giants that could be used to their military advantage. Even with their overwhelming might, in the end the military of the Elmoreden kingdom could not conquer Perios. Episode 14: Beleth and the Ivory Tower The kingdom of Elmoreden was home to the Ivory Tower, an institution for learning magic. The mages working within the Ivory Tower labored to recover, study, and improve upon the magic of the ancient giants. The magical prowess of the tower's scholars was great, and at one time their influence in the kingdom was near that of the Elmoreden emperor. Among those from the Ivory Tower was Beleth, the strongest mage of all and one of the greatest geniuses to ever walk the earth. He became obsessed with the magic of the giants and managed to acquire nearly all of their strengths. But the power of the giants was a cursed power unfit for Humans, and having attained it, Beleth's ambition and thirst for control grew rampant. Alarmed, the kingdom and the mages of the Ivory Tower combined forces to rid themselves of Beleth. But Beleth held extreme strength and power in the dark arts. Finally, the Ivory Tower magicians used forbidden black magic to succeed in suppressing Beleth's powers just enough to trap and seal him in the dungeons below the tower. Yet despite the knights and magician's guarding the seal, Beleth succeeded in breaking the seal and escaping. He fled to Hellbound Island to recover his strength and continue in his ambition to conquer the land. The black magic cast to trap Beleth had another lasting effect. The southern portions of the region now known as Gludio were laid waste by the black magic, and many Humans were killed when the spells were cast. The kingdom blamed this on Beleth and spread the word that Beleth was a devil among men. Episode 15: Elven Discord A great change occurred in the Elven woods around this time. Having lost control of the continent to the Humans, the Elves gradually lost their confidence. They all but forgot their ambition to rule the land and became content with their peaceful lives in the woods. There was a group known as Brown Elves who were dissatisfied with the complacency of the Elves. Possessed of a strong ambitious streak, they insisted that battle with the Humans must continue - even if it meant the use of banned black magic. However, this stance met with violent opposition from the other Elves. During this time, a Human magician appeared among the Brown Elves and, approaching their leader, spoke. "King of the Brown Elves - you desire power. But the weak Tree Elves and their supporters fear you attaining the great power you deserve. They only worry about whether you will attack them or bring on even greater plague by provoking the Humans. It is those weak thoughts that have created the current weakness in the Elven race." The Brown Elven leader responded warily, "Who are you, Human magician? What goal do you have to fool us?" "My name is Dasparion and I am a mere magician. But I possess the strength that you desire. I can help you acquire your ambitions in return you must give to me that which I desire." "That which you desire? And what may that be?" "Your youth; the secret to eternal life." A slight smile touched the corners of Dasparion's mouth. "Though I may be skilled in magic, I am still Human and my lifespan is not even one hundred years. So, King of the Brown Elves, what is your decision? We can help each other attain what we desire." Seduced by the powers of the black magic that Dasparion possessed, the Brown Elves accepted his proposition and learned the dark arts under his tutelage. Dasparion in turn acquired the knowledge of immortality and left the woods satisfied. Learning of these events, the Elves banished the Brown Elves, who had abandoned Einhasad and came to follow Gran Kain. A battle ensued among all Elves. The Brown Elves, acting on a plot of Dasparion's, used a deadly spell to annihilate the Tree Elves. But the Tree Elves, with their dying breath, laid a curse upon the Brown Elves. The curse rotted the woods of the Brown Elves and they became a race of darkness. Thereafter, Brown Elves were known as Dark Elves. Episode 16: End of a Golden Age The golden age of Elmoreden came about a thousand years after its establishment, during the reign of Emperor Baium. With great charisma and leadership skills, Baium created the strongest army in the history of the kingdom. This army drove the Orcs, who had considerable influence in the northern parts of Elmore, into the black woods, known later as the Orc Kingdom. In addition, Baium's army led repeated attacks against the kingdom of Perios, and eventually occupied the southern parts of Gracia. In his later years, Baium lost interest in conquests and used his kingdom's forces to begin construction of an elaborate tower rising into the clouds. "My name inspires fear in every corner of the continent. Tens of thousands of lives can be lost or saved by the movement of my hand. My power is absolute. That I can only have this power for a few decades, I cannot bear! No -- I shall obtain everlasting life from the gods and rule my kingdom forever!" The magnificent tower of Baium's design took thirty years to construct. He intended to use the tower to climb to the residence of the gods and obtain the secret of everlasting life. When he climbed the tower, the gods objected to his plans and gave him this response: "Child of lowly Humans, and a lowly Human yourself: You dare to soil our abode for your own everlasting life? Have you learned nothing from the lesson of the giants? Very well, if eternal life is what you desire, we shall grant you your request. But you shall never leave your tower." Having brought the fury of the gods upon himself, Baium was trapped for all eternity at the top of his tower. After the sudden disappearance of the emperor, a fierce competition broke out among members of the royal family as each vied for ascension to the throne. Numerous aristocrats also seized the opportunity to stake their claim to the throne, leaving the entire kingdom of Elmoreden enmeshed in internal conflict. The costs and labor requirements for construction of the tower had already weakened the kingdom. The added conflict and backbiting over the vacant throne was the last straw. The resplendent kingdom of Elmoreden, powerful on the continent for more than a thousand years fell into rapid decline. Within a mere twenty years, the kingdom was in shambles. Episode 17: A Return to the Campfire The story, traded for a meal and a warm fire, continued to unfold in an unpleasant direction. We did not know the identity of this stranger, nor did we know why he was telling us these tales. Yet we listened, a captive audience, unable to look away or move as if an unseen force kept us pinned to our seats. The man acted as if we were not even there. He gathered dry twigs and tinder from around his feet and tossed them into the dying fire. The flames, which had nearly died out, blazed up with a renewed vigor. The man did not even glance in our direction as he began to speak again. "My tale is now nearly at an end. The story which I am about to tell is a familiar one - that of the power struggle of the Humans which continues to this very day. This is the story of the continent after the fall of Elmoreden." Episode 18: Battle for the Continent While the demise of Elmoreden worked to slow the fall of the Perios kingdom, nothing could stop the oncoming plagues from the Gracia regions to the south, nor the devastating cold that swept through from the north. Like Elmoreden before her, Perios disappeared into the dusty tomes of history. After the fall of these once-great kingdoms, the land was embroiled in a horrific turmoil, and the dark times evoked memories of the aftermath of the Great Plague. The Human aristocracy fought amongst each other for supremacy and some even granted lands to non-Humans in exchange for military might. The Orcs seized this opportunity and gaining a foothold, brought their strength to bear. Reorganizing their armies, the Orcs once again waged their campaign to dominate the continent. Their armies were mighty and they soon occupied the northern parts of Elmore, but fighting between the noble Orcs and the lowly Orcs weakened their power. Amidst the conflicts, the Elves could do nothing but fight for their own lives in the endless battle against their Dark brethren. And the Dwarves were no match for the rampaging Orcish army and were easily pushed aside. In this time, a dominant Human faction emerged, known as the Elmore kingdom. Their claim as direct descendents of the Elmoreden emperor, whether truth or myth, was widely accepted for they had the truth of strength and the truth of steel behind their words. The Elmore army clashed with the Orcish army over many terrific battles. The war waged on for many years, costing each side heavily. The armies were evenly matched, for although the Humans outnumbered their enemy, the sheer strength of the mighty Orcish army made for a formidable foe. In the end, however, badly defeated, the Orcs were again driven back to their own lands to bide their time and plot their vengeance. As for the Dwarves, what few remained were banished from the Human continent into the depths of the Spine Mountains. With its now diminished military force, the Elmore army finally gained control of all the northern lands and marched south in the quest to reunite the continent under the Elmore flag. But unification of the divided continent was not to be. The Oren, the most powerful of the southern kingdoms, fended off the invading army with their strong magicians and well-trained soldiers, and the Elmore could not match the ferocity of an army out to defend its land. The various southern kingdoms prospered under the protection of Oren and together began to take the form of a nation. These kingdoms maintained balance amongst themselves, and grew strong and prosperous. Episode 19: The Rise of Two Kingdoms The many wars lasted through numerous generations, and out of the chaos, Gracia became the first to thread together the strands of unity. A man called Paris, with his military prowess and tremendous strength brought glory to his people, winning many battles and claiming lands in the name of Beheim. Paris achieved legendary status when he and his army faced off against the vicious highlanders of Quaser. In a desperate fight against Tor, Quaser's mightiest warrior, Paris struck a decisive wound. Having never before lost a fight, legend has it that the wounded Tor uttered, "Can you really be Human? Such strength, such speed!" Standing before his enemy, Paris looked out over the battlefield and replied, "I desire that much to unify this land... Brave warrior of the North, pledge me your loyalty, and together we shall conquer all who oppose us." Thus Paris led the White Hawk Knights, the Wind Knights, and now the newly allied highlanders across the lands of Gracia and achieved many military victories. The lands of Beheim swelled to more than five times its original borders, and as for Paris, he staged an uprising against the royalty and ascended the throne. Meanwhile, the southern lands were also bursting with activity and many were concerned with news of the turbulent tidings from Gracia and Elmore. A charismatic leader named Raoul appeared, and led his own campaign to amass a personal force under his flag. A fiery speaker, Raoul defeated those who opposed him not with weapons but with words. One of his speeches usually went like this: "Lords of the land! Do you not see what is happening beyond our borders? Formidable enemies march down on us as we speak! The kingdom of Elmore has long sought our wealth and our lands and is only waiting for the right time to strike. If the Gracia region across the sea should also decide to move, we will be overrun! There is no other option than to join our armies together under one flag and to prepare for war." Raoul used persuasion to steadily tie the southern lands together. But the perceived threat of the Elmore kingdom was not as great as it appeared, as they were too busy dealing with the mass uprising of the Orcs to focus any attention on Aden. Nonetheless, Raoul first combined forces with his loyal ally Innadril, and together these lands established the kingdom of Aden. Unlike Paris, Raoul waged a bloodless campaign and he easily progressed west to acquire Giran and Dion. It was in Oren that Raoul first met upon resistance to his plan. Oren claimed itself to be the leader of the southern lands and did not accept any leader other than their own. Eventually, the two kingdoms came to blows, but the Aden kingdom maneuvered a remarkable victory. The Gludio kingdom, witnesses to the might of the Aden army, voluntarily chose to ally itself with Aden, completing Aden's unification. Thereafter, Raoul became known as the Unification King. Episode 20: The Heirs to the Land Soon after the unification of Aden, Gracia solidified its own lands when the last remaining opposition, the Hwuh, fell into the hands of Paris. Paris moved the capital to Arpenino and reorganized his kingdom's structure. Newly powerful Aden proved themselves as a force to be reckoned with in their successful defense against Elmore's advance. However, a new page was turned in Aden's history when tragedy struck Aden with the sudden death of Raoul. Sensing the moment to strike, Elmore repeatedly invaded into the northern lands of Aden. Raoul's successor, Trabis was able to fend off the invaders, but he soon passed away from a mysterious illness. The next in line for the throne was a sixteen-year-old boy named Amadeo. Upon hearing the news, Paris exclaimed, "The heavens are aiding our Gracia kingdom! A sixteen-year-old king? That will be the downfall of the Aden kingdom!" But Paris gravely underestimated the young Amadeo. The boy king succeeded in brilliantly defending a large-scale Elmore attack and Paris sensed his opportunity to conquer Aden was slipping away. Ignoring the advice of all, including his trusted right hand man Dillios, Paris launched a massive attack on Aden by land and sea. The results were disastrous. Asteir, the ousted king of Elmore, had joined forces with Aden, his father's long time enemy. "Have you no shame? You should fall on your own sword for standing at the side of your father's enemy!" shouted Paris in anger. Asteir brushed off the comment and replied, "The cub can be taken care of later, but for now you are my main prey." The battle of Giran proved to be the turning point in the war, and the Gracian troops, beaten and demoralized, retreated to their own lands. The failure of the Aden invasion left a deep wound in Paris's pride, for he had never known defeat. Eventually, Paris became ill and died soon after. The Gracian heir was a frail man named Carnaria, whom many deemed unfit to rule the kingdom. In opposition, Cucarus challenged Carnaria's claim to the throne. Backed by Paris's once-trusted advisor Dillios, Cucarus gained popularity with the Gracian people, and he and Carnaria split the kingdom into two factions. North and South Gracia became bitter enemies and their struggle would consume all their energies. This was the best news for Amadeo, and he used the break in fighting to strengthen the Aden kingdom. Through his efforts, Aden, Elmore and Gracia entered into a peace treaty and an uneasy age of peace came to pass. Episode 21: Epilogue When the man had finished his story, light had begun to creep into the dark sky. The long night had passed and dawn was coming. Nothing remained of the fire but smoldering ash. The storyteller lit his pipe once again, and took a contemplative puff. "So my story comes to an end for now. As time passes, maybe the story will continue? Who knows, perhaps someday your names will be in my story?" The morning sunlight came creeping forth and I could sense an urgency that a significant event was passing me by. It took an effort to find my voice, and I dared to ask, "Who are you? Why do you tell us these stories and, and how do you know them all?" The man wordlessly rose to his feet. As he stood up, he was growing in size! He seemed a normal man while sitting, but now he was a giant, almost twenty feet tall - casting a shadow over the entire party. His features remained indistinguishable beneath his hooded cloak. Then slowly, subtly, he began to disappear! I can only describe it now as a withering away at the edges, and then suddenly in a gust of wind, he was gone like so much dust. He did not tell us anything at the time, but now I think I know who he was. Disguising himself to tell histories to the races of the world was exactly the sort of act that would appeal to one who had existed since the beginning of the world. Perhaps even to the one who had created Humankind? Prelude (A letter) <Previous sections omitted>… We remember that year—which was just a few years before the start of a new century—as being the first of the era of chaos. Although that year was no different than any other in recorded history, the “prelude” to the disaster that was to come was already before us. We could not have been prepared, even had we known what to expect… In Aden, the kingdom of Humans, the priests of the god of light gathered at the great Temple of Oren. All of them said they had already dreamt the nightmare that foresaw the ominous future. Some of them said it was a revelation of the gods, others that it was the delusion of evil spirits, but everyone was united in their feelings of insecurity. In an effort to deal with that lack of confidence, the morose gathering decided to recover the trust between the races that had been cast aside for so long and dispatched an envoy to the leader of each of the races. In the forest of the Elves that shimmered with an emerald light, it is difficult to imagine how severe the shock, when the Elves discovered that the World Tree—the mother of all the forest, had started to die. This beautiful forest race gathered up the curtains along the boundary that had hidden them for so long and sent many of their young to the kingdom of the Humans to find a way to save the World Tree. Although it was revealed to late, there is no doubt that at least some of the Dark Elves already knew the truth that could only be told under one’s breath until now—which was the secret surrounding their goddess. As soon as the Human priests gathered at Oren Castle, their countenances revealed that they had already received the Revelation that prophesied the “dark fate that was to come.” The Orcs that know no feat were no less troubled about the winter that was to come, not knowing whether spring would follow. Pa’agrio, Lord Kakai of the Orcs sent his envoys to unify the Orcs, who had separated into various factions in preparation for the “eternal winter.” It is uncertain what the Dwarves were doing at the time. There are those that say they would have just pressed on with their business without knowing anything of the situation. But that would only profane the business acumen of the Dwarves. This is just a guess, but that tribe of the land, so eager to possess the forgotten knowledge of the titans, excavated the “Maphr Table” that had hidden the traces of that civilization for thousands of years, and were believed to discern the beginnings of absolute geometry. Now in the year of the “prelude” that no one would name, the brave men of each race joined forces. Although hostile to one another, they fought harder still in opposition to the despair that was to come. These heroes achieved many small victories in succession, even as they bowed to a foreboding of the dark fate that awaited them. Hindemith, writer of Dasparion (student of Hardin), Year of the Empire 1640 Chronicle 1 – Harbingers of War Chapter 1: The Battle for Giran Due to Cardinal Seresin's efforts, the seeds of trust seem to have finally taken root - if only for a little while. The ominous feeling of an approaching crisis was shared by all of the races. The infernos of war that consume the entire land was sparked in a place that no one could have expected - neither the border regions nor the cold northern areas where the monsters roam, but deep in the realm of Humankind. History is the most severe teacher of stubborn lessons oft repeated. Humans seem to need enemies like the air they breathe. If they can find no likely adversaries, they will begin to agitate those around them. Ever since I learned of the disaster at Giran Castle, the words of my only teacher follow me, taunting with his perverse sense of wisdom: Since Humans are made of the refuse of the gods, they are naturally dirty... After the Elven ambassador passed through Aden's splendid castle gates, Duke Lewin Waldner, who had maintained control of Gludio, was driven out of the territory. The new lord was but an adventurer of unknown roots. In Dion, Duke Ashton was forced to relinquish his throne to rebels, fleeing to Aden. Blocked by the Ol Mahum mercenaries, King Amadeo's soldiers were unable to come to the Duke's defense. The rules of siege are cruel - a rebel leader who captures the castle becomes the lawful ruler for the entire territory. The king can only confirm the outcome. Humans would do well to take heed - even rebellions beyond the outer reaches of a territory may cause the kingdom to promptly collapse. Fate was already stepping toward chaos - an important battle was occurring in the richest part of the kingdom, marking a vital turning point in the events unfolding. Many suspicious matters attend the battle for Giran Castle. With neighboring lords so abruptly replaced, how could Baron Carmon Esthus needlessly expend his forces in an excursion to conquer Antharas? Where did those who survived the attack afterwards roam? Where was the Baron himself and why did he entrust his castle to Lionna Blackbird, whose importance is yet unknown? Why do those on the battlefield blithely revel in the fact that things have always been this way? The answers are as apparent to Sieghardt, a mercenary who traveled from Elmore to fight in the siege, as they are to the young princess who struggles to defend the castle at the Baron's request. For both of them and many others alike, the reasons are Harbingers of War. - Student of Hardin and Writer of Dasparion, Hindemith, Order of the Empire, 1640 Chapter 2: Erica Innadril Lake borders Giran and Innadril. A huge wasteland stretches north to Death Pass. A river of tears flows south to Innadril Lake. On a hill above the northwestern shore stands the castle with a view of the lake in all directions. It was a hot summer day when the sun cut through skin like an arrow. The moat surrounding the castle shone brightly, yet dark mountain clouds in the north foretold of heavy rains soon to come. Crows cawed nearby and both armies braced like blades in battle, waiting for the steadily approaching moment of conflict. Graham was but an old man wearing expensive clothes, representing the castle lord like a merchant visiting a palace. Upon arriving at the tent, Sir Graham adjusted his cloak and complained of the severe western wind. In contrast, Erica Ken Weber tied her hair together to fly in the wind. Her disquiet before the battle was exacerbated by the grumblings of Sir Graham. The clan flags around the encampment roared like fierce campfires in the wind. To the side, mercenaries handled a cache of supplies, dispersing arrows. "Thanks to the lord's goodwill and ample investment, we'll not face material shortages. If only other things were as adequately handled by you mercenaries. Or those second-class fighters." Graham blew his nose, directing his unpleasant gaze over the encampment. Another clan promised to this siege quietly prepared for battle. A group of thirty Dark Elves equipped with thin, polished swords and mithril armor were arrayed beneath a black flag bearing a red wolf crest. At the forefront, a silver-haired Dark Elf female commanded the group. "You need not worry. They are the mercenaries of the Red Wolf Brotherhood. It is said not long ago they overwhelmed a group of griffon knights of high standing in clan battle." "Oh... That is amazing," Graham retorted with an unseemly gaze. "It is also said they have neither pride nor compassion, but an evil reputation for becoming annoyed and abandoning those who employ them. Not long ago, someone from a commercial guild attempted to hire them, but found his tongue cut out. He must have said something wrong." The Dark Elven female directed her gaze at Erica as if noticing her glance. With a deliberate movement, Erica placed right hand to left breast, bowing in acknowledgement. Sir Graham turned his head quickly. "Enough of the inspection - we shall return to Sir Sieghardt." "If that is your wish, my lord." Before she could finish her response, she was already looking at Graham's back as he rushed to the head mercenary's camp. Erica smiled. Of the various Dwarven guilds, the Black Anvil was famous for concocting and employing particularly strange mechanical devices. The Black Anvil was rumored to have participated in the great tragedy that occurred in Dion Territory, when the Core of Cruma Tower was resurrected. "Alright, whatever you want. I have nothing to say about that otherwise." Sieghardt raised both of his hands and the three Dwarves in attendance raised the flats of their hands as well. On the back of their hands was a black tattoo inscribed in the shape of an anvil. They moved their short legs as they talked and Sieghardt shook his head from time to time as the Dwarves explained something. Finally, the leader of the Dwarves shook hands with Sieghardt and the Dwarves departed just as noisily. Erica coughed dryly and spoke carefully in a somewhat loud voice. "We're ahead of schedule, but Sir Graham feels that the inspection is finished, general." Sieghardt looked surprised but Graham nodded his head in affirmation. "I have seen enough of the dignified appearance of the troops of Sir Sieghardt. I look forward to the results of the battle. But..." Graham paused and looked toward Erica. Erica nodded her head softly. "I will step out for a moment." "No," said Sieghardt, "It is alright. She is a trusted servant." "In that case..." Graham opened his mouth to speak, but hesitated again. "How is it that you can trust Dwarves?" A smile spread slowly on the face of Sieghardt. "I have not depended on Dwarves like this before, but it would be an offense not to accept them, considering the sincerity they have always shown me." Seeming satisfied, Graham departed without another word, leaving Sieghardt and Erica to themselves. "I did not mind going outside, general. But I was thankful you said I was a trustworthy servant." "We will have to speak of all sorts of things during the fighting, but it is more trouble to have to explain everything again later." Sieghardt then added, as if he had thought of something suddenly, "Things are well ahead of schedule. I think you have done a thorough job accounting for even the last potato in supplies." Erica touched her hair softly in a show of modesty. She wanted to ask about the Dwarves but decided against it, as Sieghardt would tell her soon enough. He always devised his strategies alone and gave instructions to his underlings about only what needed to be done. She had been surprised many times before, but had lately grown accustomed to his unexpected commands. The Dark Elf woman that led the red wolves was waiting for the two when they emerged from the camp. She approached Sieghardt and put out her hand. After pressing his lips softly to her sekaman skin gloved hand, Sieghardt spoke a few words of greeting. It was in the Dark Elven language, with which Erica was unfamiliar. The woman smiled unnaturally but did not speak, returning to the encampment where the races were gathered. She seemed to like Sieghardt. The defending mercenaries were deployed on the castle walls. As she covered her eyes from the sun with her hand, Erica inspected them carefully. She could see many Elves that had light, soft physiques and pearl-colored skin, which the Rune women envied. Some mystics in pure white robes also stood nearby, holding their staffs in hand. "There are twenty or more archers above us. We must be prepared for many casualties when we attack the castle gates." "Not to worry, Erica," Graham spoke with a confident voice. "That is the extent of their forces. You can be certain they have handled little more than farming tools before. Their bows cannot hide their numerical weakness." Without speaking, Sieghardt looked over the forces arrayed on the castle wall and allowed a smile to cross his face. "Lionna... She is not bad." Erica had heard that name only recently. When she heard that responsibility for the defense of the territory had been entrusted to a girl of not even twenty years by the lord of Giran, she laughed in sheer disbelief. Although Lionna Blackbird had commanded forces successfully in many other clashes, Sieghardt and Erica had defeated rivals much more formidable than her. However, they were troubled by a rumor that Lionna received divine protection from the Fire Dragon Valakas. Erica forced all such rumors from her mind. Perhaps she knew the stories too well. Regardless, her general who stood before her could kill an opponent while laughing. She did not know what he was thinking; only that he would win. She would entrust the fight to him and concern herself with the work of which she was given charge. Suddenly, the restless soldiers become startled. Several pointed toward the castle walls with expressions of disbelief. With a high-pitched screech, the castle walls opened and an Elf emerged, wearing Elven chain mail over his porcelain skin. Standing in platinum boots and wearing a long sword on his waist, he raised his empty right hand in a peaceful gesture. "It seems as if he has come to surrender." The Elf crossed the bridge over the moat and headed towards the place where Sieghardt and Erica were standing, approaching carefully with nimble steps. He bowed courteously to Sieghardt, as he was the leader of the attacking side. Sieghardt nodded, but the Elf stood straight and spoke in an elegant voice. "This is a message from Lionna Blackbird, who as representative of the lord is in charge of the defense of Giran Castle." The Elf pulled a scroll from his waist and unrolled it with both hands. "Brave commanders and soldiers, I wish from my heart to praise your orderliness and dignity. As the defender of Giran Castle, I beseech you, please put your weapons away and go back to where you came. The owner of this castle was decided long ago and there is no reason for this to change. Whatever you want, it is not something you can obtain through military might. This declaration is also a warning: If you insist on your reckless attack, you will certainly suffer a cruel fate. On behalf of Lionna Blackbird, commander for the defense of Giran Castle. Nothing more!" The distorted face of Graham contrasted with the refreshing laugh on the face of Sieghardt. The Elf who finished reading aloud had no expression. Like all the other tribes of the forest that Erica knew, this Elf had a face with which one could not judge his mind in the slightest. As if waiting for Sieghardt's reply, he just stood there without blinking an eye. Sieghardt prepared his voice and then yelled loudly. "Go and tell that young woman who you regard as your leader that I will cause little trouble if she will kindly hand over the castle! That is all!" Laughter could be heard throughout the attacking camp at Sieghardt's thundering cry. However, the Elf replied without hesitation or even a hint of agitation. "I will convey that you have rejected the request of Lady Lionna. I will go." The Elf returned quickly toward the castle gate, showing his undefended back. Erica came to Sieghardt's side. "If you were trying to make them angry, would it not have been better to cut his throat before sending him back?" "What anger? This is all just the formality of siege battle." "Is that so? Is there a principle that must be followed even with this Lionna girl?" Sieghardt nodded his head. "It is a rule. Everything must take place according to the will of the castle. They will protect the castle. We will invade. We express our intentions and decide on the date and time. Those who break the rules can never be recognized by the castle." "But doesn't that make things more advantageous for the defending side?" Erica hesitated, but Sieghardt laughed knowingly. No matter how she looked at the possible outcomes of today's battle, she could not discern any reason that they would lose. Erica sighed and stretched out her shoulders. Suddenly, a damp wind blew in from the northern mountains. Chapter 3: Lionna Lionna looked down from atop the parapet of Giran Castle, watching Vellion's return from the attacker's camp. The Elven knight soon arrived and stated formally, "The leader of the enemy forces rejected Lionna's request." She let out a short sigh at the confirmation of what she already knew. Vellion's face looked a bit distraught and Lionna wondered if he had also received some insulting words from the enemy. She looked out at the enemy camp sprawled outside the castle. "So, we will have to fight. Thank you for your efforts, Vellion." The Elven knight courteously bowed his head in response. "As discussed earlier this morning, Vellion, I want you to direct the foot soldiers. If the enemy breaks through the castle gates, you must prevent them from reaching the inner castle. Baron Esthus entrusted the defense of this castle to me and I would like to prevent the enemy from ever reaching the inner keep." "I will do my best. All else is in the hands of the gods." "May the blessings of the stars be with you always." The Elf descended the stairs gracefully and disappeared from view. Lionna sighed again, much deeper than before. Less than half the defensive forces remained in the castle. Even Cardia de Hestui and others on whom Lionna could always rely were outside the castle. The enemies had suddenly appeared when least expected. Could spies have infiltrated the castle walls? Were that the case, could she trust anyone? For a moment, her suspicions ran loose and all sorts of doubts began seeping into her consciousness. This girl, who was thrown into the role as lord of the castle, tried to shake the thoughts tormenting her. Anger surrounded her entire body like a mist enveloping a lake. Her knuckles turned white as she grasped the stone railing of the parapet. "I stand ready to assist in the castle defense, Lady Lionna." The declaration from behind her came from an Elf whose voice she had not heard for a long time. Turning around, she realized he was wearing the green ceremonial dress permitted only to the high priests of Eva. "Ah, Ellik! You have arrived!" "I am sorry, but we were greatly delayed in Dion." "Do not apologize. You know of our... situation?" Ellik nodded. "I met Dubian upon my arrival." The two comrades walked slowly through the castle. "As you know, this layout is very similar to that of Gludio Castle. The fiercest battle in that siege took place at the entrance to the inner castle. That was the weakest link in the chain of the castle's defenses." "I regret the disappearance of Duke Waldner. He was a good man. Is he still missing?" The silence of the Elven priest revealed what he would rather not say. Her voice became somewhat severe. "The castle gates cannot be defended." Lionna tried very hard to fight back the tears suddenly welling up inside of her. "Is there anything we can do?" "It would be good to gain some time at the castle gates and thin out their ranks from the protection of our castle walls. As soon as the enemy breaks through, we must be prepared to withdraw our forces to the entrance of the inner castle." "Those are my thoughts as well. We really have no other choice." Ellik nodded his affirmation. Lionna returned to the castle walls. Looking across the battlefield, her gaze came to rest on a flag with the head of a golden sheep emblazoned on a black background. She carried her thoughts like heavy burdens. "That is where the enemy leader waits." "I suppose those thoughts are also shared by our counterparts." "Their actions are those no ordinary leader would dare, or common adviser would recommend. Ellik, this unreasonable war is a dangerous force that looms before our eyes. We must find some way to prevail." Ellik regarded Lionna for a moment - a Human girl whose age was not even one tenth his own. "I follow your charge, Lionna." She resolutely returned to the ranks of soldiers and assigned combat positions to the archers and mystics. Later, as she was giving final strategic instructions to the foot soldiers in the castle's inner court, Ellik brought a female Elf to meet her. During the introduction, Lionna noticed she had long golden hair and fine features. On her neck was an amulet of Eva, the goddess of the lake. Many of the young foot soldiers found themselves staring, as this was the first time actually seeing an Elven woman in the flesh. "Would that you were half as attentive to my instructions," Lionna quipped wryly. The soldiers all lowered their gazes, suddenly embarrassed. Lionna smiled as she motioned the Elves to follow her in order to make their introductions elsewhere. "This is Luellin, the oracle of my command." Lionna could see she was an elder of very high position in Elven society. She bowed her head to greet the Oracle, hoping to hide how nervous she was. "During the battle, she will shield you with her protection and healing magic." Lionna extended her hand. "With our meager resources, the archers and foot soldiers would benefit more from such protection. Please assign this person to Vellion's inner castle defense. Receiving such unwarranted consideration does not seem right to me." Ellik's reply was polite but firm. "You are our leader. We take the necessary measures to safeguard you from injury. To not do so would threaten the safety of us all." Realizing he had spoken too loudly, he quickly glanced toward the foot soldiers, who were too busy appearing disinterested to meet his gaze. He spoke again in a lower tone. "When the siege starts, this will become a scene of mass confusion. Frankly, I abhor this kind of battle. Young and old alike, whose lives have already faced so many hardships, will be destroyed in an instant. Throughout all of these uncertainties, one thing is absolute: Your life must not be sacrificed." Reluctantly, Lionna nodded her head without speaking. A horn blared in the distance. Its low, wailing resonance alerted everyone in Giran Castle to prepare for battle or run before the ensuing chaos. The steady reverberations inspired the forces on both sides with renewed purpose. Many of them would soon join the rows of forgotten headstones in some unkempt cemetery. Archers on the parapet set arrows to bows, aimed for the masses and pulled back with all their strength. Blue energy from soulshots commingled with spells recited by the mystics until a golden energy coursed through the bodies of the archers. Units of attacking soldiers arrayed in groups of thirty, awaiting the signal. Finally, the commanders in the field raised their swords and the soldiers began marching toward the castle in an arrhythmic crescendo of footsteps sparsely punctuated with cries of war. Hundreds of arrows sliced through the sky in a cruel rainbow. The battle had begun. Chapter 4: Erica As expected, the first to reach the castle gates was the Red Wolf Brotherhood. The warriors intended to tear down the gates quickly, but when they crossed the bridge, Elven foot soldiers suddenly emerged from hidden side passages and blocked any possibility of retreat. The defending foot soldiers wore light armor, making the greatest use of their dexterity. The Elven knight, who had entered Sieghardt's camp alone to convey the declaration, was their commander. Rather than clash directly with the Dark Elves, they moved skillfully to prevent them from retreating. As a result, the Red Wolves were battered by arrows pouring over the castle walls and they fell one on top of another. Had Sieghardt sent the supporting troops any later, the Red Wolves would have been wiped out completely. Seeing the first attackers so cruelly decimated, the morale of the other soldiers quickly fell. The weather seemed to change in accordance with events on the ground. Gathering clouds billowed by northern winds blocked the sun, coloring the sky in hues of flaming ash. As these events unfolded, Erica contemplated Sieghardt's expression. His face looked like he had bitten into something extremely bitter. She could not contain her surprised disappointment. "This is not at all what I was expecting!" Still silent, Sieghardt seemed to be deciphering some unfathomable code in his head. Erica decided to observe the events without saying anything more. Graham, who was standing nearby, looked very dissatisfied. He sputtered awkwardly and finally exclaimed. "Those mercenaries came at a high price! Make use of them now, lest they go to waste!" Sieghardt ignored Graham completely and gave instructions to his assistant. "Red Wolf Brotherhood, retreat. Archers to the front. Aim for the feet of the enemy soldiers and shoot three burst shots. Then fire at the archers on the castle walls. Twisted Claw fighters - prepare to discharge." The messenger delivered Sieghardt's commands loudly to the troops. Soon multiple units of Rangers moved forward to fight in three groups of five. Responding to the commands of the Hawkeye and the Phantom Ranger, they loaded their arrows, pulled back the strings and poured forth like water. Their shots flew into the wind and broke into hundreds of pieces, lighting many fires at the feet of the Elves. Fortunately, the survivors of the Red Wolf Brotherhood and the units that had risked their lives to rescue them escaped without great losses. Graham stomped his feet, frustrated at being ignored. Reaching the end of his patience, he put his hand to the back of Sieghardt. The ears of the black panther that had been sleeping next to Sieghardt stood up. The animal straightened its back lethargically and interceded Graham and his master. The panther bumped into Graham's leg with his shoulder, throwing him off balance. Stretching out his neck, the beast brushed himself against his benefactor, yawned and gave Graham a disdainful look. Graham caught himself and stepped back silently, his belligerent attitude quickly dissolving. Some time ago, Sieghardt had summoned this panther from the world of the dark. Although Erica felt some sympathy for Graham, she took noticeable pleasure at his cold sweat and sudden silence. In long strokes, Sieghardt kneaded the thick, lush fur that covered the immense cat, which purred loudly in response. Calmed to an almost trance-like state by this therapeutic activity, the leader addressed Graham in a detached, sublime tone. "Do not worry, Graham. Since they are expendable, we will use the mercenaries as we see fit." Sieghardt signaled his attendant to bring him a chair and his voice became more authoritative. "The full-scale battle has not yet begun. Now, for the sake of your own well-being, please have a seat and watch the action from a comfortable distance." Confounded, Graham could do naught else but seat himself and remain silent for the time being. One drop. Two drops. Rain started to fall in earnest. Thick humidity that blanketed the conflagration became a torrential downpour, harsh drops stinging charred and weary faces. The field of battle became a mire of brown mud. Without regard to the capricious winds, clashes of iron rang ceaselessly and screams of the dying grew louder with the passage of time. An Orc crouched in the rain some distance from the agonizing screams. Shakdun, who had received the title of Destroyer from his race, was deeply immersed in meditation. Contrary to his silent disposition, thoughts of malice permeated his inner being. Were he able to join the fight, the Destroyer would have already shown the enemy the true meaning of his name. Erica was curious what he could be thinking at this moment. About his brothers who were rebuked as betrayers? A shameful memory of the day he was exiled by the prince of flames? Perhaps he thought about his fiancé left back home. Blood poured from his shoulder, glistening against the tendons of his wide, powerful back. Shakdun was ready for battle. His finest troops, numbering slightly more than twenty, waited patiently in their raincoats for their general's command. One of them held out an extra raincoat, but the leader raised his left hand without turning and spurned his subordinate's offer. Erica witnessed this and decided she would rather follow Sieghardt's lead than that of the Orc. "If you do not hurry up and send them into battle, Shakdun may come running with that club." As if waiting for an ideal moment, Graham spoke up. He held an oily shred of paper against the rain as he stooped in the chair provided by Sieghardt. "That Orc is the Destroyer who ruined one of the Taik Orc villages in the Forest of Mirrors!" "One does not use a glaive to kill flies. This is not the right time for Shakdun to step forth." Graham stood up abruptly. "When would be the right time?" Without blinking, Sieghardt remained impassive for what seemed an eternity. Finally, Graham shrugged his shoulders and collapsed again into his chair, muttering drolly. "As usual, our infallible leader knows all and says nothing. But if he loses -" "We will win." Erica cut him off. In disgust, Graham sulked off and disappeared behind the camp. Erica was glad that he had left, even though he had escaped physical rebuke. The rain fell in a torrent. As the heavens flashed in the north-west, the landscape changed to a white hue. Thunder boomed in the distance like the dull thump of beating drums. "The intense lightening and rain reminds me of a heroic scene from the songs of the bards." Erica mused to herself. A messenger approached, saluted Sieghardt and called out in a loud voice. "Our Osori unit was destroyed! The leader of the Sigh of Hag unit is dead!" "We can see that, you idiot!" Before Sieghardt could say anything, Erica approached the messenger yelling shrilly, having lost control of her emotions. The leaders of the units still awaiting the commands looked in the direction of the sudden commotion. Erica was silenced by Sieghardt's black panther, which nudged her with his head and growled with a low rumble. At last, Sieghardt spoke. "And what of the Elves?" "You mean the enemy?" Shaken, the messenger barely managed to reply. "They began to retreat. But it seems a few of them are still resisting outside the castle." Sieghardt gave a faint smile. "Of course, that is the way the game is played." He told the guard on duty to bring a lantern. Taking the lantern directly, he headed for the edge of the lake and gestured toward the mist-covered lake. A flame appeared from the middle of the lake as if to reply. Suddenly, a massive flow of water splashed, throwing rocks toward the base of the mountain facing the military encampment. Something churned continuously in the water. A new sound was added to that of the waves and the rain, like the cawing of a bird. This changed to a creaking noise, as if hundreds of wooden doors were opening and closing. The water splashed again and a vibration emanated from within the earth. An enormous body, like a large column, rose up through the thick mist. Erica looked for the end of the column, but realized it was part of something much bigger. Already beside her, she had to turn completely around to see the entire thing. It vaguely resembled Human form, but with strangely long arms. Its entire body was covered in mud and vegetation, like some ancient giant appearing from the bottom of the lake. The maleficent streaks of rain washed it of these impurities. As the lightning struck again, Erica could clearly make out its face. "A golem?" The behemoth passed well over their heads, making its way towards the castle wall in heavy, lumbering strides. Chapter 5: Lionna All words were forgotten in the empty thickness of battle. Sounds of rain and the clashing of weapons seemed remote and insipid. As soon as she saw that thing, Lionna felt a huge anvil drop from outside existence to land with the forgotten harshness of reality on her head. An enormous iron leviathan, towering over the castle walls, lumbered slovenly towards them. Soldiers protecting the castle fell into panicked chaos, disregarding their duties, only able to stare at the thing. "Shoot! Shoot now! No need to aim at something that size!" Someone managed to scream a command to the archers. Shocked into reality, Lionna gathered her wits and instinctively held up her spear. "Maintain order!" She yelled with all her might. "Think about our comrades, those who fought and died against Antharas, never to return! Act in a manner befitting their sacrifice!" With one foot on the parapet, she aimed her spear at the mechanical blight. Her officers were first to respond, commanding soldiers to let loose with arrows and magic. However, the arrows bounced off the giant behemoth's iron hull like mad flies. The mystics sent flaming balls of crimson that rode the hot moisture, only to leave faint scorch marks on their target. The gray golem disregarded their combined resistance, treading heavily towards its destination. As it approached the moat, a crossbeam supporting the bridge creaked ominously. Suppressing her urge to scream, Lionna ordered her forces to continue their resistance. Suddenly, the somnambulant automaton crashed into the castle walls with the full force of its brutish mass. Lionna staggered near the precipice, collapsing into someone who grabbed her tightly and brought her down safely on top of himself, breaking her fall. Gathering her wits, she realized the person underneath her was sorcerer Dubian of the Ivory Tower. His robes were completely muddied from the rain and his wet hair stuck to his face. Lionna stood up and returned to the parapet, forgetting to thank her supporter. The berserk machine slowly raised its huge arms to pummel the castle gates. Magic and arrows sent against the giant abated, leaving flames only on one arm, which soon extinguished. Dejected, Lionna could spur her soldiers no further. Looking off in the distance with a languid gaze, she felt despair consume her entire body. Dubian spoke. "That golem was created by Dwarven blacksmiths of the Black Anvil Guild. Look at the mark on its shoulder - it represents the black anvil itself. But to move a body so large requires an extraordinary power source." Cutting short the lengthy explanation, Lionna replied sharply. "What does it matter? That thing is going to raze the castle gates. We must find a way to stop it!" At that moment, the entire castle shook fiercely, with a force much stronger than before. Many soldiers collapsed in their places and sorcerers fell like coins from the Ivory Tower. Lionna held the stone columns of the parapet with both of her hands, barely able to endure the onslaught. With every rise and fall of the golem's huge arms, the thick boards that made up the castle walls were splintered and scattered all around. Dubian called out while supporting his body against the wall of the lookout tower. "The one controlling that thing must be a Dwarf of the Black Anvils. We must find him! If we can stop him, this golem will become nothing more than a lifeless iron heap!" Lionna paid no heed to the arrows that flew in from the attacking camp. Pushing her upper body over the edge of the castle wall, she inspected the scene. Due to the fog of the lake, she could only see a world completely awash in a milky-white haze. Another violent crash added to the sounds of destruction, resulting in visible cracks on the castle gates. Lionna blinked uncertainly, blinded temporarily by a sudden burst of light that came from the direction of the lake. She ran along the castle wall to determine the cause. Dubian followed behind her, reciting spells that formed a magic column of circular light. A cat-like creature with unusually large eyes emerged, standing on two feet. The sorcerer uttered more commands and the creature leaped upon the parapet, put its paws to its forehead and gazed across the lake. After a short time, it approached the sorcerer and communicated mentally with its master. "The Dwarf is at the lake." With that, Lionna sprang to action. "Bring me a swift horse!" She hurried toward the stairway. "Fighting an opponent you cannot see is a futile endeavor. One must go directly to the source." "No, you cannot do that! It is too dangerous!" The Elven oracle Luellin, who had not spoken until now, blocked Lionna's path. Lionna roughly pushed her aside and shouted, “Get out of my way!" Luellin staggered slightly, but refused to allow Lionna to pass. She looked intently into her eyes and yelled in desperation, "My life, as well as that of everyone in this castle depends on you!" Soldiers on the castle walls followed Lionna with their eyes, supporting Luellin's pleas. Ice-cold drops of rain stung her neck, shoulders and chest. As Lionna muttered to herself, an archer extended his hand and took a position. "Bow!" The archer handed his bow to Lionna. She walked quickly to the north end of the castle wall. "Dubian. Pen and paper." The sorcerer and oracle followed behind. "Speak. I will write what you say." Lionna reached the north side of the castle wall and tied the completed letter to an arrow. She relied on memory to find a small thicket located northeast of the castle and pulled the bowstring. The arrow followed an arc as it disappeared into the fog. A short time later, she looked in the direction the arrow had flown and headed again for the west side of the castle wall. She still had much to accomplish. Vellion lead a few more than twenty Human and Elven foot soldiers, concealed in a small thicket between the castle and lake. The attackers would not have expected numerically inferior defensive forces to expend a separate unit. Vellion and the foot soldiers departed from the castle through a secret gate to the north, where they awaited further orders. Having read the letter attached to the arrow, Vellion headed for the lake immediately. They avoided the attackers, which were concentrated mainly in front of the castle gate. Bypassing the eastern side of the castle walls, they traced the edge of the lake according to Lionna's instructions. Fog concealed the group's movements until they reached their destination. They came face to face with the attackers. A Dwarf held a lantern that was covered to protect it against the rain. In his other hand, he held a strange mechanical device, shaking and gesturing with it in the golem's direction. Vellion's eyes met those of the Dwarf. The Dwarf looked back at the Elf, opened his eyes wide in surprise, but began to laugh. A huge Orc with fierce claws of steel appeared from behind the Dwarf, which quickly turned and hid behind him. The head lieutenant of the foot soldiers also appeared, whose body was encased in heavy armor, emblazoned with the crest of a golden sheep. Vellion looked at the lake that stretched behind the Orc and sighed. He slowly lifted his sword. Chapter 6: Erica The Elf emanated a surprising ruthlessness. The edges of his Elven Longsword ran with blood as his opponents ran for their very lives. Erica watched with amazement as the Elf slew six of her fellow soldiers. A wiry rogue approached the Elf from behind, moving stealthily through the fog. His grip tightened around the hilt of his long, serrated dagger. Erica watched as the rogue raised his dagger for the killing blow. Without warning, the rogue's neck was sliced open and his weapon flew haphazardly. A shining, fist-sized orb returned to the Elf of its own accord. He stood as still as a statue, except for his eyes, which were scanning for a new target. His expressionless gaze fell on Erica, who was mostly enshrouded in fog. "Come here." With sword outstretched, a faint aura flowed from the Elf's body. The soldiers raised their weapons and approached the Elf. The mercenaries, once possessed by bloodlust, were suddenly satiated. The sight of their fallen allies, scattered and broken across the battlefield, did nothing to deter them as they approached their own demise. "Be careful!" Even as these words left her lips, Erica became aware that she was no longer hidden by the fog. She too walked toward the Elf, carrying nothing but her pitiful dagger. One after another, the mercenaries died on the Elf's sword. Erica strained to restore her own will, managing to stop the movement of her feet. It was all she could do just to remain still as the Elf engaged her Dwarven ally. As the killing stroke was about to fall, she saw the Destroyer Shakdun appear from the mist. He swung a hammer at the Dwarf, knocking him into the lake and out of harm's way. Shakdun took out his two-handed Jamadhr as the Elf recoiled. A strange battle cry, half yell, half song, burst from deep within the Orc. The two-edged sword slashed toward Shakdun's neck, but he crossed his metal claws, catching the blade. The small shape that hovered about the Elf emitted a light as it dove towards the Orc's chest. Stepping back, the Orc seized the offensive. The six claws of the Jamadhr flashed time and again. The Elf evaded and parried the attacks. The Elf's face seemed made of clay and the Orc's forearms seemed like dragon leather. Each was marred with countless cuts, and with each clash, fresh blood flowed, spattering the ground. "This is not going to work," Erica thought. Erica picked up a dead archer's bow, and found a stray arrow in the mud. She drew her shot and aimed for the Elf. But the Orc and the Elf moved so quickly that she could not track her target. Knowing she could not seriously injure the Orc, she released the arrow. The arrow sliced between the warriors, breaking the flow of Shakdun's onslaught. The Elf paid no attention to her as he attacked with a single-bladed sword. Shakdun stood his ground, lashing out with the Jamadhr. The blades collided in an eruption of unnatural flame. Metal slid across metal as the combatants maneuvered their interlocked weapons. With a deft twist of his hilt, the Elf broke the guard of his own sword against the durable claws of the Jamadhr. The Elf withdrew his blade, cutting the Jamadahr's leather bindings, and gouging flesh beneath it. Blood flowed between the claws of Shakdun's Jamadhr. The straps unraveled, slick with blood. The weapon slipped from the Orc's hand, falling to the ground, heavy and useless. Erica let out a scream and ran toward the Elf. The single edged blade arced toward her with stunning precision. Erica felt the tip of the blade whip through the loose strands of her hair as she ducked and rolled to the ground. Shakdun lunged, thrusting the remaining Jamadhr forward. The Elf parried with one sword, plunging the remaining blade into the Orc's flank. He howled ferociously. Erica rose to one knee, and then pounced. "Die!" She threw her entire weight into the dagger, penetrating the Mithril armor, cutting flesh and breaking bone, finally touching the very life of the Elf. The Elf slowly collapsed. As he dropped to his knees, a strange sadness came over his face. His eyes fluttered and he fell to the ground. Looking at Shakdun, she saw that he was gazing down at the corpse of his enemy in silence. Blood flowed from the spot the Elf had stabbed him, but it was not a mortal wound. The Orc unfastened the remaining Jamadhr and threw it into the lake. Erica wondered if the Orc was angry at her for having intercepted his opponent. She stood for a moment and decided to approach him. Touching his shoulder, she spoke with purpose. "He would not have killed you." Shakdun looked at her with a severe gaze. His eyes bespoke his uncertainty. Erica turned her face without knowing why. "I am sorry." Shakdun walked toward the edge of the lake, where the Dwarf he had saved was nursing a wound. The Dwarf was holding a huge weapon that was twice as tall as his own height. Shakdun took the weapon, waved it around in the air and then looked directly at Erica. "Victory." He spoke as if it was a declaration written in stone and then laughed. Erica let out a smile. Then she turned her thoughts back to the battle. "It looks as though there was more resistance in the castle than we expected. Many foes still remain." A Dwarf sat in a tree near the encampment, a pipe clenched between his teeth. He held a cylindrical item to his eye and looked out toward the lake. "The operator seems to still be alive," said a voice somewhere near the base of the tree. The Dwarf removed the device from his eye and looked down at the source of his interruption. A Human stood next to the tree trunk. "What did you say?" the Dwarf asked. "The golem operator seems to have survived." The Dwarf let out a hearty laugh and put more tobacco into the pipe with his thumb. His fingertips, long-since calloused from doing a Blacksmith's work, could not feel the heat from the burning ash. "That is a stupid thing to say." "What? Why?" The man standing under the tree spoke. "What possible reason could there be for shaking a lantern while operating a golem?" The Dwarf took a deep puff from the pipe and spoke slowly and deliberately. "And why did the Orc take the device from the Dwarf? Because it was too heavy?" The Human under the tree opened his eyes wide and looked out over the lake as if in disbelief. "Then… why did Sieghardt use the lantern?" "Because he is a fox. With nothing more than a lick of flame, he lured the enemy's finest soldiers to their death." "But to risk the life of the golem operator…" The Dwarf sighed. "It was the enemy who assumed that the lantern's light came from the golem operator's hiding place - an assumption that Sieghardt predicted and intended. The enemy has paid the price for their folly." The Dwarf jumped down from the tree. The Human hurriedly reached out to him, but the Dwarf pushed him away as if to say he did not need the help. "Quite a successful field test." The Human nodded in agreement. "I trust you will speak well of it to those who have invested." The blacksmith of the Black Anvil Guild smiled with satisfaction. Chapter 7: Lionna In the hallway behind the throne room, the tension was thick. Only ten remained, including Lionna. She wondered how many of them would even have the strength to raise their weapons when the time came. The damage was severe, and the situation was grim, but hope remained. If they could prevent the leader of the invading force from seizing control of the castle's heart – a holy artifact – they would emerge victorious. But Sieghardt's forces were very strong. They had swarmed through the courtyard and smashed the inner door. Now they were headed straight for the relic, and the only way to reach it was through the hallway Lionna's group guarded. Lionna could not help but notice the precarious condition of her rag-tag group. She feared that injury and exhaustion might take them before even having the chance to face the enemy. Some had retreated here out of loyalty, while others had been driven here by the happenstance of battle. Behind Lionna, the Oracle Luellin was still standing. But Dubian had been lost in the chaos. And the report of Vellion's death had come as a blow to the troops. Even as she surveyed the scene, Lionna noticed that she was bleeding. Luellin spread out her arms to cast a spell of healing but Lionna stopped. "Save your strength for the others." The nearby soldiers who had protected them had suffered even more seriously. Luellin did what she could to heal their wounds. The clashing of swords was replaced by the echo of swift footsteps. Their enemies had dispatched the last remnants of the castle's outer resistance. Lionna lifted her sword. The soldiers created a defensive perimeter around Lionna. The enemy appeared from around the corner and Lionna summoned the strength to shout. "Glory to Giran! Attack!" The first wave of enemy soldiers was cut down by a row of spears. The charge was broken, and Lionna's defenders held their ground. A massive Orc waded through the melee, wielding an enormous glaive. Lionna doubted he could put it to good use in the narrow, crowded hallway. But she watched in horror as the Orc broke through the defensive perimeter. "It's dangerous! Get back!" Lionna pushed the soldiers and ran out to meet the Orc, tearing away from Luellin's protective grasp. The Orc's glaive cut through flesh, and smashed the granite walls. Blood and dust filled the air. Half of her remaining force lay amidst the rubble. Another wave of enemy soldiers followed in the Orc's wake. Lionna ordered her unit to retreat to the Relic Chamber. They stood in a tight circle, surrounding the Holy Artifact, as the enemy surrounded them. Lionna could see that the time to recognize defeat had come. Lionna slowly looked around her. Even in the second-floor railing that encircled the chamber had been completely overrun by enemy archers. The arrows that were directed at her all glowed blue together with a brief, low hum. "Hold your fire." The enemy soldiers that had been blocking the entrance stepped back and Sieghardt Ein came forth, followed by his black panther. He looked at the Orc and spoke. "Shakdun. There are still some forces resisting in the east of the inner castle." The Orc didn't budge. "There is no need for you to remain. She has already lost her will to fight." The Orc didn't take his eyes of off Lionna. "Shakdun!" The Orc turned his back and left the Chamber. Sieghardt moved his gaze past the corpses to look at the girl who stood holding a sword. He gave her just the slightest smile. "It's been a long time, Lady Lionna. Or does the occasion require that I call you sir?" "Sieghardt." "It is too bad that we meet this time as enemies." "There's nothing to feel sorry about." Sieghardt furrowed his brow and looked once again at the girl before him. Her hair was damp with sweat, her skin stained with blood. "Even scarred by battle, you are no less beautiful than you were on the night we spent in the ruined fortress." Lionna attacked Sieghardt. He gracefully side-stepped her blow. He drew his sword and parried her next attack as well. In the space of that moment, the entire room erupted into chaos. Luellin cast her gaze on Sieghardt and began an incantation, but Sieghardt's panther leapt at her. The exhausted oracle was unable to dodge in time. The panther knocked her to the floor, pinning her under its giant paws. The Oracle flailed her staff desperately, but the panther swatted it away. The panther sunk its teeth into Luellin's throat. The Oracle went limp as her blue robes turned to red. Lionna heard Luellin's last cries, but had no time to feel anything. She was the only one left. She knew that she was surrounded by enemies, but she kept her gaze locked firmly on Sieghardt as she attacked. For some reason, his response came a split-second too late. The tip of her sword grazed his temple. A drop of blood rolled down Sieghardt's cheek. Catching her breath, Lionna noticed that Sieghardt's men were no longer focused on her. They began stumbling incoherently, and dropped to the ground one by one. It was only then she noticed the faint purple light that lingered in the air, clinging unnaturally to the unconscious soldiers. At the same time, the archers that had been trying to shoot her from the second-floor were attacked by a strange, catlike creature. "Lionna! This way!" Entering the Chamber was Dubian of the Ivory Tower and an Elven Elder. A writhing ball of flames appeared at the end of his hands and flew toward Sieghardt. Together with the explosion, the entire body of the dark avenger was engulfed in dark red flames. Sieghardt crossed both arms to protect his head and rolled to the ground. His black panther sprinted toward the Elven mystic. Dubian let out a scream and collapsed. Lionna ran over to Dubian. Sieghardt, who had extinguished the flames, blocked her way. Lionna's sword was filled with the energy of the spirits. Her weapon flew toward the dark avenger's head. Again he blocked it. Suddenly, a red shimmering caught fire under his feet. The ghostly red tendrils spiraled upward and around his legs, immobilizing him. The Elder finished reciting the spell and called to Lionna. But Lionna was rushing to Dubian's aid. Dubian rammed the end of his staff between the panther's bared teeth and pushed with both hands. The panther fell to the ground with the staff still in its mouth. Dubian rose to her feet. A white flame arose to the side of her body and then a bright flash hit the panther hard. The panther was consumed by a cloud of black smoke and it disappeared – sent back to the nether realm from whence it came. As Lionna put her arm around Dubian, she saw one of Sieghardt's sleeping soldiers begin to stir. It wouldn't be long before his entire force awoke. Before leaving the Chamber, Lionna turned around to look at the dark avenger. His dark eyes gleamed as he smiled. "Goodbye, Lionna Blackbird." Lionna knew he was looking for an emotional response. She had no intention of giving him the satisfaction. She broke away from his gaze and said nothing. Lionna, Dubian, and the Elder fled through the corpse-strewn hallway. Chapter 8: Epilogue The dark clouds that poured rain over Giran slowly dissipated. Sieghardt, leader of the mercenaries, gathered with his fighters in front of the holy artifact of Giran castle. The soldiers eyed Sir Graham suspiciously as he entered the room to find Sieghardt receiving a report. "The defending officers have all died or run away. A few continue to resist in some areas of the castle, but they are soon defeated." Graham clapped his hands and walked over to Sieghardt. He placed a hand on the dark avenger's shoulder. "You're amazing! Truly amazing! It was a complete victory, Sir Sieghardt!" Sieghardt smiled humbly and looked at Graham. Graham went over to the holy artifact before speaking casually. "The Lord will be very happy. There were some misunderstandings in the beginning, but they mean nothing after this great victory. I will be sure to tell the Lord about your hard work." "Do you really need to trouble him?" Sieghardt stood next to Graham and observed the holy relic quietly. It had the form of a woman standing on a jeweled pedestal. This object was no ordinary statue. It bestowed absolute power to the holder, over the rich land of Giran. "How curious." Graham opened his eyes wide, as if to ask what he meant. "Looking at it this way…" the dark avenger removed the glove on his left hand, facing the holy artifact and took a step closer. Graham quickly put out his hand in a defensive gesture. "What, what?" He laughed nervously and spoke. "Sir Sieghardt, your work stops here." Sieghardt smiled without speaking. "Stop joking around. Take my share of the compensation. I'll give you as much as you want. Wait until the Lord has communed with the holy artifact, as planned." Sieghardt's right hand went to his hip and then moved forward again. It was a natural and flowing movement, as if taking out a handkerchief to wipe away sweat. His smile remained as Graham's head fell to the ground. Sieghardt placed the sword back into its sheath without a drop of blood on it. "I had grown used to his nagging voice. I'm almost sad we won't be hearing it any longer." His underlings laughed heartily. Sieghardt put his left hand softly on the holy artifact. The statue and jewels turned red and a faint light started to shine. Light spread to Sieghardt's arm, was absorbed into his body, and that was all. Those in the vicinity realized that the castle had just changed ownership. Sieghardt and his mercenaries walked out. In the middle of the imperial room, a golden carpet was spread. At the other end was a table inlaid with gold. In front of the table was a dark green billowed insignia. Under that insignia, there was a red base and a footrest created in the shape of a wolf's head. Near the throne were the servants and chamberlain who service the castle lord. "Do you have anything to say?" The chamberlain smiled softly and shook his head without speaking. Sieghardt slowly went up to the throne and sat down. He rested his chin on his left hand and lifted one leg up over the other. Satisfied, he smiled. With the chamberlain leading the way, the employees of the castle expressed their courtesies to the new castle lord. Twenty or so wooden boxes were scattered around in a disorganized way in one room on the second floor of Giran Castle. Erica Ken Weber shook off the dust gathered on the last box and opened the top to see what was inside. There were old tools for maintaining a garden. Erica exclaimed and hit the box with all her might. She checked again for the items in the box; after a short time, she sighed with resignation and simply left the room. The item she was looking for had already disappeared. In the hallway, corpses were lying all around, of both friendly and enemy troops slain in battle. She avoided the corpses in the hall and stopped before a window. Outside, she could see the soldiers reveling wildly in their victory. The noise of celebration in honor of the new lord was very loud. If the object she was unable to find was still in the hands of the enemy, she would have to leave the castle before the year was up. So too would her allies. Erica shook her head and returned to her comrades. Chronicle 2: Age of Splendor Chapter 1: Prelude If you plow the fields, seeds will sprout and new growth will occur. The land of Aden, once devastated by those bloodthirsty for war, has blossomed into prosperity. While the feudal lords and aged knights, bound by tradition, lamented the collapse of the old order, others aspired to cause destruction behind the scenes. Merchants were willing to placate anyone to make a profit. Sieghardt Ein had been recognized as the lord of Giran Castle, but he did not actually rule over its territory. He neglected to perform the duties of a castle lord, such as collecting taxes or managing the manor. After three months, he abandoned the castle, disappearing with his soldiers. However, the lord who succeeded him was overly ambitious. While brushing off strong opposition from Giran traders, he treated their decades-old trade war with Innadril as a mere diplomatic issue. Innadril, the manor of water, had been unable to trade with other territories without first going through Giran. Now the lord of the manor made a pact with the lord of Giran and commerce resumed between the two territories. With the re-opening of Heine Harbor and the completion of Giran Harbor, trade routes connecting Aden, Giran, and Innadril extended to Avella of the Orient. The method of raising striders was propagated among the populace, making it possible to transport a large volume of freight by ground much faster than before. Tea, silk, and spices were accepted by the rich as their favored luxuries. Traditional methods of blacksmithing were revolutionized, thanks to a brave sailor who stole Avella's secret for hardening metal. One of the exotic items that became indispensable was the symbol of Avella, said to have mysterious powers. This symbol gradually spread to the general population, ushering in an era overflowing with money and goods in the eastern region of Aden. In the fields of Dion and in the Coliseum of Narsell Lake, the Age of Splendor was proclaimed with wild enthusiasm. The brighter the light, the darker the shadow, it is said. Under the bright light of fireworks in the festival called the Age of Splendor, they conducted arrogant explorations. My one and only mentor, in his book "The Eternal 1,000 Days," alluded to what Baium, the accursed emperor, had symbolized in this world ruled by lazy gods. The crimson-hued treasure flowing in the blood of the most god-like Human absorbed not only the essence of the five tribes fated for death, but also that of angels and otherworldly beings. The names of these creatures will be linked with hatred and fear when they are entered in the chronicles of later days. The first to appear was the one named Hallate. The three holy arks were once hidden away in Giran, the Cursed Forest, and Aden, the Capital City. They were lost during times of war, then reappeared when the struggle for the emperor's throne commenced. According to rumor, the arks contain the relics of the saint who sold Baium to a god. Many sought the arks, but even the zealots such as Athebaldt and Rodemai made the mistake of underestimating the true difficulty of their objective. They dispatched mercenaries and traders to track down the holy arks. Many of them died during this pursuit, when they clashed with formidable beings called Ark Guardians. My guess is that Aria FirstMatter is not one of them. Her passionate sense of destiny, noble dignity and blind love would have made her deny herself any form of compromise. Two dark Elves from the north approached her. One of them was Scride, a knight of Pavel who was once a Bladedancer, recognized by the elders of the underground city. The other was Esen, who was better known by his nickname Crow Feather. He was once a Phantom Ranger, active in Rune. It is a great irony that the one who contributed the greatest for this cause was Tetrarch Thifiell of the underground city. We all experience success and failure in equal measures. After obtaining something we desire, we realize it was not what we truly wanted after all. Quite often, many are simply dumbfounded when this happens! Chapter 2: Shadow Fang On the plains, the wheel of a toppled wagon made a labored, groaning sound. The mountain peaks, crowned with cold rock and permanent ice, were soon cloaked in darkness, as the sun dipped below the ridges. Darkness: a solvent that can melt cruelty where blood and tears are cheap, allowing avarice to rear its filthy head. Even simple mundane pleasures sprang from this harsh environment. A gang of thugs, whose trade is fighting and killing, slowly approached the wagon, still making its tortured noise. Another gang that had already settled in this territory, but they did not have a warm welcome for people of the same profession. Especially as they turned into lifeless corpses that can no longer shake hands with anyone, nor kill to make money. The thugs, freed from the yoke of their humdrum lives, seemed uninterested in collecting any relics. A young Elf grabbed the wheel to stop it; else, it might have spun forever. Standing within twenty corpses, he listened to the murmuring whispers of his fellow mercenaries. They were looking for a certain chest. One within the group, who liked to boast of his knowledge, said that the chest was an object that Baron Lewin, former lord of Giran, concealed before he lost the castle. However, he failed to attract his colleagues' attention. They were not interested in the contents of some box stuck in a mud hole somewhere. Rather, they chatted enthusiastically about the women they would woo and the booze they would drink when they returned to the village. "Natalie's strawberry pie is the best in Aden. I know some accuse me of being unmanly when I go crazy over just a pie. Ah, well. I used to have an attitude like theirs, until the day Natalie baked a pie for me! According to Natalie, the secret of making a delicious strawberry pie is -- Aarggh!" A gigantic arrow, as big as a javelin, drove through the chest of the pie-loving mercenary, exposing its evil crooked tip. The dying mercenary looked at it as though he had never seen such a thing before, and then turned his eyes toward his fellow mercenaries. He did not have the opportunity to say farewell to his fellows. The other mercenaries sprang to the opposite side of the wagon to ready themselves for the next volley from their unknown attacker. The mercenaries were hesitant. They were not stupid enough to rush towards the forest without knowing what was lurking there. However, they could not just sit around the wagon without locating their hidden enemy. Again and again, sharp sounds, like the ripping of silk cloth, were heard. Each time, some part of the wagon was destroyed. The wagon caved in on itself, as if it were made of paper. Arrows came from across the road and the mercenaries ran in the opposite direction into the forest. Although the forest looked safe enough during the day, when night fell it turned into an ominous monster. A small root connected to an old tree stump that looked like a witch's hand stretching low on the ground, caught the feet of passersby. Dead dried-up tree branches poked their eyes, and rotting water under fallen leaves besot their shoes. The insects, whose rest was disturbed, expressed their displeasure by violently attacking the mercenaries' eyes, ears and noses. Surrounded by such formidable enemies, they expected the mysterious archer soon to close in on them. They split into groups of three or five and went into hiding, waiting for the archer's attack. Feeling his chest tighten, the Elf looked up. Unlike those it contained, the forest looked peaceful. The wind-filled sky that ushered in the night was clothed in fine deep indigo fabric studded with pearls. Soon the round, full moon poked its head between the trees. When the wind died down as though it was proclaiming someone's fate, the forest let out the sound of a lonely beast's cry. Birds hurriedly flew away, roused by the angry shouts, screams of death throes, terrible wails and moans. The shadows showed their sharp fangs and rushed in like lightning to rip, slice, twist, bite, claw, hurl, kick, break, and finally to kill. A few minutes later, the forest was filled with gasping and moaning, soaked in dark red blood. The full moon grinned, coloring the scenery in a lifeless, colorless hue. The Elf was confused, unsure if he was alive or dead. In the scenery that had turned hazy gray, the two eyes of the wolf he suddenly faced sparkled in bright green neon. The Elf was curious why the gigantic wolf was meeting its eyes with his. This question was soon answered by his head, which felt like it was about to fall off, and his legs that helplessly dangled in the air. The wolf stood up on its two hind legs, grasping the Elf's head with one hand. With its other hand the wolf held a bow that looked similar to the one used by rangers, except much larger. When the wolf opened its mouth, the Elf could see its teeth, which looked like countless daggers covered in dark blood. A phrase was whispered in his ear. "... World Tree Glade is..." It took the Elf a little time to realize that the wolf was talking to him, so he missed most of what the wolf had said to him. "... if you don't want to see the World Tree Glade uprooted, do not touch the Seal." The wolf threw the Elf carelessly to the ground. The Elf attempted to stand up, but realized he could not control his legs. Barely able to support his upper body with his two arms, he glared at the wolf. "Why do you threaten me?" The wolf, having already walked away, suddenly stopped. Each step he took was imprinted with dark red footprints. The wolf answered. "It was not a threat." Then the wolf disappeared, leaving the Elf behind. Some time later, when the Elf managed to remember why he came to this place, he returned to where the wagon had been rolled over. Then he realized he had been following the footprints of the wolf. The wagon was lying on its side and dead bodies of mercenaries were strewn all around. Everything appeared the same as it did before, except the chest had disappeared. Chapter 3: Aria In order to meet with Warehouse Chief Gesto, she had to waste four days, but not because Gesto made her wait. From the moment angels first descended into the Tower of Insolence, watchful eyes followed Aria from an imperceptible distance. Among them, those who made her especially nervous were the two pursuers who had followed her since Elmore. Aria hid herself in a shabby room at an inn and did not leave until she was certain they had given up searching for her. Pavel's legendary Knights of Moon Tears, unlike the knights of Aden that consist mainly of Paladins or Knights, consisted of various backgrounds and skills. This must have something to do with the fact that this manor has had a good relationship with the mercenaries of the Rune. Two of the major supporting forces of the Rune mercenaries are the Cursed Forest and the underground city of Dark Elves. Aria could only guess at the circumstances of the time. The important question was, to what extent did the Underground City show its true intentions to Pavel or Rune? Aria could not predict anything regarding this one way or another. Fifteen minutes after entering the warehouse, Aria came out through the back door and returned to the hazy night air of Giran. During the twenty minutes of her walk to get back to her lodging, she was almost sure that she had evaded all of her pursuers. When she returned to the inn, she did not see the old Dwarf, who usually dozed at the counter. Holding a small, lit candle in one hand, she climbed the squeaky stairs and walked down the hallway. When the candlelight flickered, her own shadow seemed to waver above her as though it were trying to speak to her. The bluish light of the night poured in through the last window at the end of the hall, providing illumination ahead of her. Finally, she arrived at her room. She passed by the door of her room without stopping and reached for the doorknob to the next room, which was empty. A sharp sound was heard and a small hole appeared in the window facing the street, causing her to let go of the doorknob. Suddenly, an arrow with a black flag attached stuck in the doorframe. All of this occurred in the blink of an eye. "Crow Feather?" Muscles flexed and tensed. Blood pumped into her ears and eyes, creating a throbbing sensation. From her fingertips to her arms and shoulders, an electrical current traveled up and down her nervous system. In order to avoid being hit, she braced her body against the wall, jumped down and reached the landing of the stairs in one breath. Using her dagger, she cut the candle to extinguish it and lowered her body under the candleholder. The hallway embraced her in an abyss of darkness. An arrow came through the window and destroyed what was left of the candlestick. The next arrow flew above Aria's head as she crouched like a frog against the wall. Breathing a sigh of relief, she rolled onto her side. She could sense that the last arrow was targeted where she was just a moment ago. Aria stopped moving and remained silent, holding her breath. The bedroom door burst open and a knight of Pavel flashed out like lightning, brandishing two swords. Aria aimed for the knight's back and plunged her dagger into it. The knight used both of his swords to cover both his front and back, so he could defend himself against whatever might be lurking in the dark corridor. Although somewhat clumsy, this blocked Aria's dagger from causing a fatal wound. Through the window of the bedroom where a curtain was closed, a very faint light leaked into the room. As soon as she stepped into this poorly illuminated area, another arrow shot towards her. In spite of the risk that he might hit his own people, the archer shot his arrow where he guessed she was going to move, which was surprisingly accurate. While running into the bedroom, Aria was hit in the leg and thrown into the wall under a window. The knight who chased after her into the bedroom immediately brought down his sword while she struggled to regain her balance. She deflected the knight's attack with her own dagger and with a loud outcry quickly slashed across her enemy's throat. A disgusting sound spilled out of him, but her tactic was met by another sword. Aria was able to see her opponent's face for the first time. The young Dark Elf seemed less than 200 years old. He appeared to be strong and surprisingly calm. The young knight slowly glided the blade of his sword across her dagger. The center of balance shifted and the tips of the two swords trembled dangerously against each other. "Give me the Book of the Saint." When the sword blade danced across her eyes, Aria grimaced. "Don't ask me! Go to a bookstore!" With her dagger, Aria drew a big circle and let go of it from her hand. The sword blade of the young knight touched her wrist, creating a long, deep wound, spilling forth much blood. Aria buried herself into the chest of the young knight and embraced him tightly with both of her arms. With an eerie cry, she threw herself against the window. The window shattered and the entangled combatants rolled down on the eaves and fell down a level. With both of them still in mid-air, Aria gained control of her body and climbed on top of the knight. Just before they hit the ground, she put all of her weight on her knees and crushed them against her opponent's shoulders. Gripped with pain, the young Dark Elf clenched his teeth, with his eyes opened wide. From her wounded wrist, another burst of blood gushed out. "The Abyss Walker of the greatest power is…" While pressing down the knight's shoulders with both of her knees, strangling his neck with her left hand, she pulled another dagger from inside her boot. The bright red blood spilling out of her left arm covered the knight's face in red. Without hesitation, she brought the dagger to the knight's neck. "…the one who walked in Hell for 500 years." At that moment, as if she were falling on top of the young knight's head, she rolled her body. A burning excruciating pain traveled down her spine and filled her entire body. From this new wound, something lukewarm spilled out and soaked her armor and undergarments, which gave her an eerily vivid sensation. The arrow of Crow Feather was surprisingly quiet. Aria was only able to detect its faint wind-like sound when it was very close to her. Once she was outside, it was hopeless for her to look for a safe place to protect her from an arrow. She stood up and ran for her life. Although she could not see or hear it, she knew that an arrow was flying directly towards her. After kicking a wall and hanging down from a tree branch like a cat, in one swoop, she sent her body over the wall. The last arrow struck her in the back. "Sir Scryde!" The Bladedancer from the cold northern manor stared blankly at the mercenary guide he had hired -- Esenn, a Phantom Ranger, known by the nickname Crow Feather among the Orcs and mercenaries of Rune. Scryde's body betrayed the will of its owner. Both shoulders screamed with a grinding sensation of bone against bone. He felt nauseous, as though his intestines were being twisted. His lungs breathed discordantly, as if playing an Orcish marching song. Overwhelmed with all of these sensations, his head throbbed as though about to explode. "Oh, my!" When the Phantom Ranger saw the back of his employer's neck, he dropped the object he was carrying, ran to his employer and sat down next to him. Scryde could only manage to raise his right hand. "It's all right. The blood is not mine." Scryde thought that in order to forget the pain, he would rather pass out or try to focus on something else. But the former would only make him look weak. So, instead he posed a question to the Phantom Ranger. "Did you get her?" Esenn shook his head in shame and pointed to the item he brought. It was blood-soaked leather armor, torn to pieces from the recent struggle. He slowly explained how FirstMatter, with an arrow stuck in her body, still eluded him and ran away. "A ranger, unable to catch an injured woman… I'm so ashamed of myself." Scryde wanted to shake his head sideways but when he heard an awful noise come from his shoulders, he decided against it. "Without you, my head would be rolling around at your feet by now." Sitting beside Scryde, the Phantom Ranger quietly began to sort the arrows he had gathered. Since his arrows were custom-made, he treated them like rare treasures. He divided about thirty arrows into groups that were either still usable, needed repair, or to be discarded. The Phantom Ranger put them back into his quiver and spoke again. "Then shall I continue the hunt?" Chapter 4: Martien Originally, Dion was not a rich manor. There were no expansive tracts of farmland. With the exception of Mandragora, there was no unique local product. Mandragoras were mainly bought by Wizards, Shamans, or Herbalists. Considering the risk of growing it, the amount of profit the crop generated was not much. The Mandragoras' blood was wildly strewn by Duke Byron Ashton. The lord of the manor considered them only a source of headache rather than an asset of any value. Since trade with nearby manors or other countries was mainly done through Giran Harbor in the south, it was hard to expect much profit. As a Human, Duke Byron Ashton was a terrible failure. Others said the worst mistake he ever made was believing he could improve the finances of his castle and manor by squeezing the poverty-stricken farmers. The farmers fought hard against him by rising up, armed only with rakes, hoes, sickles, and pitch forks. The duke ruthlessly executed the rioting farmers with spear, sword and guillotine. When the number of farmers he could exploit dwindled, the Duke even tried to sell his daughter to King Amadeo Cadmus. Around that time, the era of chaos began, and people who dreamt of war came to Dion. They were thugs who had no loyalty to any country or manor. They overflowed with lust for power and uncontrollable ambition. It was not long before one of them beheaded Duke Byron Ashton and took over his castle. Even if a goblin were crowned and danced upon the throne, the farmers of the manor would have been so happy they would have hugged each other and wept with joy. They enthusiastically welcomed the arrival of the new lord of the manor. However, when the era of war began, or even after it ended and the Age of Splendor began, the residents' pockets did not get heavy overnight. Dion was still a poor manor where downtrodden residents lived. The new lord of the manor firmly resolved to raise Adena. He started a construction project to build a strange looking building in a vacant section of the village. Then he dispatched mercenaries and soldiers everywhere to catch monsters. After that, the only thing to do was to tame the captured monsters. "Go, Wind Rider, go! Try harder! Faster, faster!" The Monster Race Track was crowded with many people. Every movement the monsters made, the crowd reacted, either with joy or sorrow. Along with the names of unknown gods, all sorts of blessings and curses spilled from their mouths. But the amount of Adena they so willingly used for their bets gave Dion manor and its residents some hope of escaping the poverty long inherited from previous generations. "Go! Go! Go! That little rabbit can't catch up with you! Yes! Yes! Yes!" With the winner decided, surging throngs moved wildly, like waves in a high wind. Some of them tore up and threw down their worthless tickets, while others cheered and hugged whoever happened to be nearby. Some of them suppressed smiles, hiding their joy from others, while secretly checking the numbers on their tickets again and again. Martien, the owner of the South Sea Store, was one of those who jumped about until finally knocking down the person he was embracing. Then he ran to cash in his ticket, cautiously avoiding the scrutiny of others. "Congratulations, Mr. Martien." The race manager smiled and casually checked Martien's ticket. From this winning, the race track had to actually give out a significant sum of money. But her face showed no displeasure. Not because she didn't care if her organization suffered a loss. The profits the race track made were significant enough that they could treat Martien's prize money as only a minor write-off. "My eyes met the eyes of the unicorn in the paddock and my heart almost stopped beating!" "Really? Why?" "Because her eyes looked like my mother's eyes." She laughed aloud, and then her facial expression seemed to imply, "How silly." She handed him a sizable bag of coins. "After deducting taxes, your prize comes to 328,000 Adena. Please double-check the amount and sign the receipt." When he did not quickly reach his hand out to receive the bag, she looked at him with a puzzled expression. Martien took two steps back and looked up at the racing timetable dreamily. A moment later, he spoke again to the race manager, his voice filled with excitement. "Look!" He raised his finger and pointed to the bulletin board, although it couldn't be seen from where she was sitting. "It says right there that in the next race the odds are 204 times. What does that mean? My mother - I mean, Wind Rider is running in this race, correct?" While organizing race tickets into bundles, she briefly answered, "That's because it will lose for sure." "What?" With a sudden glimmer in her eyes, she started to speak. "Think about it. It's a double to win, right? But you cannot win. Cyclone Thunder, in the third lane, is a great prospect that has been very popular lately. In addition, lane two, six, seven and eight - I'm sorry to say this about your mother - but their level is way beyond hers. I think somebody made a mistake to include such a sluggard. Although I shouldn't say this out loud, the odds of her winning the race would be..." She used her thumb and index finger to show Martien, "not even this much." Martien, whose face had gradually turned red, retorted with an anger-filled voice. "Hey! You're out of line talking about my mother like that!" "Why are you raising your voice? I was just telling you what other people are saying. Please calm down, Mr. Martien." With that, she calmly went back to work, sorting the race tickets. "There is no guarantee that she will always lose. She seems to be in good condition today. When I saw her eyes earlier today, they were burning up with firm resolve to win, no matter what! I believe she will surprise us with her performance in the next race!" The race manager replied, "What's the point of deciphering the eyes of an ant larva? Mr. Martien, you're Human, aren't you?" "Be quiet! Because of your nonsense, it has now become clear to me! I have made up my mind that today will be a very special day for me, one that will completely turn my life around!" For a moment, Martien looked up at the sky above the race track. Like bubbles in a sewer hole, clouds started to gather, blocking the sun. When the wind began to blow in the forest surrounding the race track, leaves of grass flew up in the air with a soothing, calm breeze. For a very brief moment, totally isolated even from the noise of the race track, Martien was gripped by the notion that he was looking directly at something absolutely unchangeable. Martien decided that when he looked back at this moment later in his life, he would call it the Time of Revelation. Chapter 5: Scryde "I've done this for over 30 years. It will be done in no time. After getting a customer ready, you poke them with a needle a few times, then it's done. Anyway, the real problem is that…" The Symbol Maker sat on a stool, took out a pipe from his pocket and put it in his mouth. With a leisurely motion, he stuffed tobacco leaves into his pipe and set it afire with a cinder. As he puffed on his pipe, bluish smoke flowed from his nostrils. In the darkened room, the smoke slowly moved up towards the ceiling and danced around in snake-like patterns. "You dislocated your right shoulder and collarbone. Two or three ribs seem to be fractured, as well. Ah, your pelvic bone is also cracked. Even after they are all completely healed, you will have aches during rainy weather." The wick of the lamp made crackling sounds, while outside the window an ominous rumbling sound emanated from the sky. Soon it started to drizzle with night rain. Inside, the room fell into an absolute silence. Scryde blurted out his response after a bit of a delay. "You're talking like a doctor." While still biting the pipe in his mouth, the symbol maker mixed magic dyes in a flask. When the gold and silver liquid were mixed together, it became transparent. He dropped a blood-red dye into the liquid, which began to shine brilliantly. The liquid changed to purple, indigo and then finally to black. The symbol maker held the flask in his hand as though it were a bottle of fine liquor and shook it briskly. Soon, the liquid became transparent again. "The abilities of the body are finite. You have to sacrifice one ability to obtain another. The essence of a symbol is balance - within the limits of destroying your body. You have to draw out a certain ability, while also minimizing the side effects that are always generated in this process. That is the technique of symbol making, the most important aspect of this work. Only novices try to create the strongest power or the fastest speed, without considering anything else. People like that often end up engraving a Symbol of Death." The symbol maker stopped for a moment and inhaled his smoke deeply. Blowing it through his nostrils and mouth, he resumed talking. "What you need to know is that nowadays, we are about two or three levels higher than most doctors. This is because we have a keen understanding of how the Human body works and the principles behind it." Scryde rose from the exam table. Since the table was typically used for making symbols, it was worn out, had spots of various colors, and smelled unpleasant. "I realize you are a capable person," Scryde made an effort to button his shirt only with his right hand and then gave up. "But, what are you trying to say?" "You are in very serious condition. Although you are an Orc who looks like a Dark Elf, I can only guarantee recovery from your injuries if you agree to rest for at least two weeks." Scryde had a strange attitude that cannot be characterized in either Dark Elf or Human terms. Was it because he had lived in a Human territory, killed Humans, while serving a Human lord? Scryde shook his head and smiled. He was about to say something when he heard the sound of a strider snorting nearby. Outside, someone dismounted and walked towards them. Esenn looked at the Symbol Maker to check his reaction. "I don't have any customers reserved at this hour." The mysterious visitor lifted the rain-soaked hood of his raincoat and looked up and down at the building that contained Scryde, Esenn, and the Symbol Maker. He seemed to be trying to decide if it was where he needed to go. He started towards the building. As Esenn noticed the visitor was a male Human, he decided the purpose of his visit was not to attack them. He glanced at the Symbol Maker again, who nodded his head with irritation, still holding the pipe in his mouth. Esenn opened the door for the visitor before he knocked, catching him by surprise. He raised his hand with an embarrassed air, then strode as though he were a vagabond just returning home. Although he looked a little gaunt at first glance, his gait exuded a strange air of ferocity. His skin was relatively pale, but it was difficult to guess his age, due to countless wrinkles and small scars criss-crossing his face. Esenn felt the visitor was extremely wary as he stood behind him. "Did you close the door?" the Symbol Maker grunted. The visitor pretended not to understand and looked back at the door he had just entered. When Esenn pushed the door with the tip of his foot, it closed with a loud thud. When their eyes met, the visitor grinned and shrugged his shoulders. Esenn eyed his bow and quiver in a corner of the room. The visitor spoke to Esenn's employer. "Are you Scryde, the Knight of Pavel?" The owner of the house looked offended at being flatly ignored. Scryde also showed displeasure, realizing everyone always seemed to already know him. "Who are you?" "Oh, great! I wasn't sure. You came a long way, eh? You look very different from another Dark Elf I know, who is a total basket case." "Once again, who are you?" The air in the room seemed to turn to ice. Esenn was torn between the idea of grabbing his bow or pulling out the dagger in his belt. At the same time, he suspected the visitor might be hiding something inside his raincoat. However, nothing happened. "Very well, Sir. This servant of yours is called Gustin. My master is a very noble person, but I just carry out some trivial errands. My master said that he was very grateful to the loyal support and cooperation your lord has provided and sent me to offer you a little help. Heh, heh, heh!" It was obvious that his speech was filled with sarcasm. Scryde spoke without blinking an eye. "I don't need any help from a servant, or whatever you are. I don't know who your master is, but say whatever it is you have to say, and then be off with you." Gustin clenched his teeth. Esenn felt some sympathy for him. If an Orc were to receive such a rebuff, a fight would have ensued, that would have lasted until only one of them was left standing. Only a Human would endure an insult to such a degree. "I heard that the woman you have been chasing has gone to the Manor of Water." "Why should I believe you?" "There is no reason that you shouldn't believe me." Scryde looked at his Human visitor for a while. Some say that the eyes are the window to the soul, but the pupils of Scryde's eyes looked like bottomless wells. "Is your master the Witness of Prophecy?" "Oh, my!" Clicking his tongue, Gustin turned his gaze to the Symbol Maker. "You found me out. You shouldn't have said it aloud, though. Thanks to you, no one will have symbols engraved on them here in Giran for a while. My master told me to execute those who spread evil heathen customs like yours." The blade of a sword with a bluish gleam suddenly appeared from the visitor's raincoat. An unexpected torrent of vile curses spewed from the mouth of the Symbol Maker as he picked up the largest needle for symbol making within reach on the floor. "You Bishop's mongrel! Would you like me to carve out a heart symbol for you?" Gustin smiled coolly and gave a broad grin showing his teeth. "With both your arms cut off, I wonder how you will do such a thing." Without clearly knowing why, Esenn felt the need to help the Symbol Maker. However, he was just a hired hand and couldn't tell what was on the mind of his employer. Scryde used his uninjured right arm to lift the three legged stool and throw it down with a loud crash upon Gustin's head. "What are you doing?" Gustin screamed in anger. "This is none of your concern!" "I don't like your master." Looking at Scryde's wrinkled brow and the Symbol Maker's concerned expression, Esenn realized the patient's right shoulder was dislocated again. "I don't like the way the two of you behave, either," he said, with a voice devoid of any emotion. Blood gushed from Gustin's forehead, traveling past the wrinkled corners of his eyes and protruding cheekbones, reaching his mouth. A quivering sound leaked from Gustin's throat, but it was hard to tell if he were sniffling or snickering. "Dark Elves are all the same. You can't help yourselves. Even when you are about to die, you have to show your temper!" Gustin muttered darkly. Rather than address the others in the room, he was actually talking to himself. "But, what would your master say? Humans are much more complicated and cunning creatures!" "I guess you don't love your master," Scryde mocked him with laughter. "I truly feel sorry for you." Gripped by a sense of defeat, Gustin left, unable to take the Symbol Maker's life. Sometime later, Scryde received another painful treatment that lasted several hours. Afterwards, he told Esenn to leave for Innadril. Gustin may yet have the opportunity to satisfy his cheap desire for revenge. Esenn thought that if the gloomy Human were there to witness the ordeal of Scryde's treatment, even he would have found no joy in it. Chapter 6: Martien The cat pounced on the wolf. Like a circus clown, the cat did a somersault in the air and landed on the back of the wolf. The wolf growled loudly and turned on the cat. A wasp saw what happened and danced wildly, flying in a figure-eight pattern against the sun. A shadow beast ran towards the finish line, with a unicorn following close behind. Further behind, a little white rabbit and a strange-looking clockwork doll with a clock embedded in its belly ran after them. "Isn't one missing?" Back at the starting gate, a dust-covered caterpillar wriggled forward. In the afternoon, cicadas chirped loudly from the trees near the racetrack, as if to cheer for the caterpillar. "Stop it!" Someone screamed and hurled a glass bottle. It hit Martien's head and bounced off, flying onto the race track and landing on the back of the caterpillar. It curled its body into a ball and rolled itself into the next lane, which was probably a better racing tactic, all things considered. "Ah, Brother! Are you okay?" "Come on! Come on! Over the Top! You can do it! Wind Rider! Go! Go!" At the front of the pack, the unicorn and the shadow beast competed heatedly for first place. Covered in snow, the unicorn ran frantically. The two beasts ran side by side for a while. Slowly, the unicorn gained on the shadow beast. The caterpillar continued to roll down the lane in its spherical shape, until it was run over by the clockwork doll's small single-drive wheel. The doll fell forward and the flame from the torch that the doll was holding kindled the wick attached to its head. Tick tick tick... BOOM! The doll exploded, throwing its wheel into the crowd of spectators. Parts of the doll's body flew into the decorative sign above the race track's main gate. The doll's droll-faced head bounced past the finish line with a loud clatter, distracting the already confused crowd's attention. All eyes turned to another round object flying in the air across the racetrack. The caterpillar barreled ahead of the unicorn, like a nightmarish orb on some mad, ill-fated mission. The sun blazed down upon the white unicorn, speeding along at full gait, as if chasing after something long forgotten. The shadow beast was once a ravenous predator of the night, more accustomed to ripping apart the fabric separating this world from that of the spirits. Presently, it continued the chase for the sheer anticipation of capturing its assumed prey, the unicorn. "Pounce on it now? Not now. Just a little closer..." "The first arrival: lane number five, Over the Top! The second arrival: lane number four, Wind Rider!" A tremendous tumult of victorious screams, curses, and laments congealed to generate a raucous uproar that seemed to shake all of Dion. The torn up pieces of race tickets the spectators threw away flew about the racetrack like confetti. A few wolves loitering about the racetrack were startled by the noise and ran away with a flurry. The crowd pushed together tightly, wildly shaking the wooden rails that separated the spectator area from the race track. The wooden rails finally collapsed. A few unfortunates were buried in the wreckage and trampled as the rest of the crowd disappeared from view. Some spectators rushed to the monsters and their owners, but were soon restrained by mercenaries hired by the race track. While hugging, kissing, and dancing around with whoever happened to be standing next to him, Martien burned with a religious fervor so powerful that he could have instantly converted to the clergy. He was deeply grateful to the being who bestowed upon him the Time of Revelation. He hereby determined that from this day forward he would perform many works of charity in an effort to become a respected member of the community. He would also be generous to his subordinates, who had long suffered financial hardships. "I will obtain a cozy clan hall and buy them all shiny, high-quality weapons!" he promised to himself. Across the lanes, he saw a female Dwarf near the offices of the race track, fending herself from the guards attempting to restrain her. She pointed to the finish line, complaining about something. Well, since the result was totally unexpected by everyone, it was understandable for someone to become upset. Martien even felt sorry for her. A little later, the judges gathered around the Dwarf, and before all was said and done, even the highest-ranking officials were called down into the fray. Huddling together, they shook their heads and argued for a while. Finally, they seemed to reach a consensus. "Attention! We have an announcement to make." A race manager stood at the center of the racetrack, shouting in a booming voice. "We have corrected an error that was made when we announced the winner for the 12th race." Silence seemed to rule the whole world. "The first arrival was lane number one, Light My Fire! The second arrival was lane number five, Over The Top! "According to the rules of the Monster Race, when any part of a participating monster's body crosses the finish line, that monster is considered to have crossed the finish line. Therefore, we have determined that Light My Fire, whose head first crossed the finish line, won the race. We would also like to inform you that those who bet on Wind Rider, the third arrival, and missed your fortune by a very narrow margin, will be given a lottery ticket as a token of our goodwill. The winner of that lottery will be drawn tomorrow." In the blue afternoon sky, a brilliant sun sent golden beams down like indiscriminate arrows. "Why would you want to read the eyes of an ant larva? Aren't you a Human?" The race manager seemed to ask no one in particular while sorting tickets. "Let me give you a lottery ticket as a token of solace. Missed it by this much!" The female Dwarf said as she lifted the ruined doll head. "Come over here, sir. It's a lot of fun." In the red-carpeted VIP room located at one side of the coliseum, Sir Athebalt and his guards danced about like clumsy Orcs. When his eyes met those of Martien, he flew into the air and shook his waist while drawing the shape of a figure-eight. "Hey, would you like to meet an angel?" He asked, looking down from above Martien's head. "This is all because of you," the unicorn said to Martien with sad eyes. "Why didn't you become an angel as I told you? When you were young, you were such an angelic child!" "In order to become an angel, you have to train for three years in Cedric's Training Hall, another three years at the Ivory Tower and then another three years in the Servitor's Village. After completing all that, you must still win a game of chess against Hardin! It also takes a lot of money!" Martien wanted to run with abandon in the opposite direction of the sun. While he was thinking that he wanted to run and run, he suddenly realized he was already running and howling like a crazed animal. The startled crowd hurriedly moved out of his way, yelling and cursing at him. "Ouch!" A young female Dark Elf that Martien collided with moaned with a somewhat seductive voice. With a bewildered expression on her face, she stood there for a while and looked around her. "Ms. Leirynn! Ms. Leirynn! Where are you?" "El! El! I told you not to wander around on your own, didn't I? It's very crowded here. You can easily get into trouble, and then what are you going to do? A place like this attracts a lot of weird characters!" Although someone who looked like the young female Dark Elf's companion showed up a few steps away, the young female did not open her eyes and continued to hold steadfastly onto her cane. "Yes, the person in front of me is acting strange. I think he went crazy after losing his money." "You shouldn't talk like that about a person while he is right in front of you!" The young female's companion was an ordinary-looking female warrior. She wore light armor and carried a sword. She looked Martien up and down and added, "He does look like he has lost his mind." "Huh? Does he really?" Something exploded inside Martien's head. This was a terrible nightmare. While screaming ugly things that would go well with his nightmare, he turned on the girl, blubbering loudly. He felt a terrible pain between his legs like he was pierced by a spear and crumpled into a ball. "Oh wow, that must hurt." The girl and her companion looked down at Martien, who was writhing on the ground. "He was hit by the Staff of Evil Spirit! If he can never function as a man, will you take responsibility for it? We told you not to make trouble!" "When someone attacks you, they should be willing to receive a counter-attack. Wouldn't you agree?" "What kind of ignorance is that? You're older than me. Don't you even have a shred of sympathy?" "What about you? If you have such great sympathy, why don't you even make a gesture to help me up? Here I am, in pain on the ground!" The words pushed up to his throat, coming out as a muffled groan. The companion put both hands on her waist with a perplexed expression and looked alternately at the girl and Martien. Then, with a sigh, she turned her back on them both. "Let's go back. Our captain must be worried about us." The girl seemed confused, looking left and right. Then she slightly lifted her rather imposing staff. Martien, who still sat on the ground, was startled by her action and quickly put his legs together. The girl bent on one knee and carefully groped the ground around her. Her hand touched Martien's foot. "Hey! What are you doing?" "I am sorry about everything. I thought you were trying to attack me. Are you still in pain?" The girl bowed her head deeply to him and added as an afterthought, "What are you going to do if you cannot function as a man anymore?" At a loss for words, Martien opened and closed his mouth without uttering a word. It suddenly occurred to him that the girl was blind. She was shaking the tip of his foot with a worried look. "Are you badly hurt? If you haven't lost consciousness, please answer me!" "Ah, I'm, ah, okay... down there." She sighed deeply with relief. "Is she really a Dark Elf? For a Dark Elf, she has incredibly diverse expressions." As soon as he was thinking that, Martien noticed her expression darken. "Something bad must have happened to you. But it's dangerous to attack someone like that." He thought the girl was going to reprimand him for trying to hit a blind girl. But that was not it. "I could have been a murderer who enjoys killing Humans for sport, for all you knew. Were that the case, your limbs would be scattered about and your heart would be bouncing up and down over there." Her wild imagination reminded him of illustrations from some bloody fairy tale. Martien shook his head, regretting his irrational behavior. He tried to explain why he ran around the race track in such frenzy. Martien was extremely embarrassed. If the girl were not firmly holding onto his foot, he felt for sure he would have run away screaming once again. After listening to his story, the girl fell into a contemplative state. Rummaging through her shirt, she took out a piece of paper. Martien became distracted by the Dark Elf's well-developed bosom. He quickly looked at her face, and then looked away, remembering that she was blind. He looked at her again, but was disappointed to find she had already adjusted her clothing. The girl patted him to find his hand and told him, while placing the paper in his hand, "Here, take this." ----------------------------------- After waking from his sleep, Martien carefully opened the piece of paper he was holding. The surface of the road was uneven, causing the wagon to shake wildly. Afraid of losing the paper, Martien held it with both hands. "Brother, are you looking at it again?" "Yes." His man let out a sigh and switched his gaze to the window of the coach. His mind was troubled by the sixty-million Adena that evaporated, thanks to the evil mischief of the gods. "Sir Gustaf Athebaldt said that if you failed again this time, he would let you meet with an angel. You must feel the same as I do, don't you brother?" "Yes." The thing that Martien received from the girl was a ticket that correctly named the winner of the nightmarish 12th race. Written on the paper was a monetary figure that seemed to be a month's allowance for the blind girl. She had given him the paper in an effort to make amends for an injury she mistakenly thought would prevent him from functioning as a man, and promptly left. Having missed the chance to explain himself, Martien felt a little guilty at the thought of selling his sexual identity for money. But was that all he was worried about? The wagon rushed forward at breakneck speed towards the capital city of Aden. When the traces of their conversation had almost faded from his mind, Martien suddenly opened his mouth. "If a goddess suddenly appeared in front of our eyes, she might be in the form of such a thing." "What?" The voice of his man clearly showed irritation over this foolish talk. "Blind, unfeeling, and severe, but also filled with good intentions." "That's certainly a philosophical way of looking at things, isn't it?" Martien's man folded his arms and buried his shoulders in the back of his seat. Thanks to the coachman who put forth every ounce of his energy and skill, they were already past the White Tower of Wizards. "Oh!" the man who was looking out the window lightly exclaimed. A huge, gray pillar appeared on the horizon. The top of the pillar was buried in the clouds, invisible. In the past, it was a bridge that connected the heavens and the earth. But it had long since been cut off. "Brother, that's the Tower of Insolence." Chapter 7: Aria "Go and report that we found the woman." Shadow Fang slew all the mercenaries who were searching for the Holy Ark. Six days after Aria FirstMatter disappeared from the streets of Giran, she showed up again in Innadril. Sir Gustaf Athebaldt, knight of Aden kingdom and head of the historic Athebaldt family, hired several mercenary units to find her. They found a Dark Elf at the Heine Wharf who fit her description. "Are you sure?" "Yes. When I last saw her, her hair was tied back. She looked like she didn't have a care in the world." The ocean breeze and southern sun must have loosened the vigilance of the Abyss Walker, who was supposedly the most powerful around. She strolled among the exotic street items and novelty toys the Dwarves made with skillful hands. When she entered a more extravagant area, she bowed respectfully toward the display cases. Meanwhile, several members joined the team of pursuers. "Isn't this enough manpower? Why don't we get her now? If we wait any longer, others may come this way." Did she find something she liked from a display case? While her trackers hesitated, Aria stopped in front of a clothing shop by the canal for a moment, and then disappeared into the store. About three or four mercenaries also entered behind her, pretending they were customers. The store carried armor and various types of equipment for adventurers, in addition to beautiful garments for classy ladies and gentlemen. The two types of customers were not always clearly distinguishable. For example, one can often observe the sons and daughters of rich merchant families admiring shiny armor, or female warriors engrossed in front of satin dresses. Inside, the store was noisier than the mercenaries had expected. They were thrown off-guard by the surprisingly large number of customers in the store. "Where is the female Dark Elf who just came in here?" One of the mercenaries grabbed the store owner by the throat. The unafraid Elf calmly gestured toward three Dark Elves, who glared back at them fiercely. Aria FirstMatter was not among them. One of the mercenaries sent a signal and several of them rushed into the store at once. Some of the customers screamed, while some scowled with irritation. The mercenaries were a little discouraged to realize that some of the customers carried sturdy objects that could be used as weapons against those who disturbed their shopping sprees. However, the customers did not attack them. Surely their joyful shopping experiences would have been ruined for the day, so the customers seemed to suppress their irritation as much as possible. "Is there a back door?" Shoving aside boxes piled inside the store, a few mercenaries found a door in the back and walked outside. Gulls soared across a clear blue sky while gondolas leisurely glided on the peacefully flowing canal. Noble ladies dressed in white shielded their heads with parasols, enjoying graceful promenades without knowledge or interest in the mercenaries' activities. One mercenary crossed the store, approached the fitting stalls and violently pulled off one of the curtains. Standing inside was a terrified female, about to burst into tears. The other mercenaries pulled off the second and third curtains of the fitting stalls. The moment they pulled off the second curtain, a piercing scream pounded the eardrums of all the people in the store. A tiny trembling female Dwarf scrambled to cover her almost nude body with a tunic. When the mercenaries looked inside the third one, they froze like frogs facing a snake. A huge male Orc stood there naked, glaring at them with fierce eyes. The Orc must have been in the process of changing. On the shelf was a pile of tattered clothes and a pair of iron gloves. The unfortunate mercenary who tore off the curtain gazed at the awesome abdominal muscles and huge green chest covered with scars. He should have stopped his gaze right there, but the mercenary looked further down. When he managed to look back up again, his eyes me those of the Orc. He wanted to apologize, but instead his lips twisted into a foolish-looking grin. He attempted to return the curtain he was still holding, but it fell unrequited to the floor. "Uh, sir. I think there has been some misunderstanding." The mercenary's tongue betrayed him. The tattoo engraved on the Orc's head crumpled into an odd design. Green fists, bigger than a child's head, clasped in front of the mercenary's eyes, as the Orc made an ominous sound. ----- "That store seems very busy today. Perhaps some new fabrics from Avella have arrived. Would you like to go take a look, My Lady?" The gondolier viewed Espen & Verona's Boutique with narrowed eyes. He seemed motivated to satisfy his own curiosity rather than that of his customer. "No, I don't like going into crowded places," the woman replied. The gondolier seemed somewhat disappointed, but like one typical of Innadril, he started to hum a tune. The wind blowing over the river was unusually cool and refreshing, and the customer who had suddenly boarded his boat gave him a generous fare. Having a female Dark Elf aristocrat as one's customer was also a rare experience that he could later brag about to his fellow gondoliers. "Where can I take you, My Lady?" Aria FirstMatter gathered her skirt, covered her ankles and lifted her head. She held a parasol that protected her against the strong sunlight. When the gondola passed under one of the countless bridges of Heine, she folded the parasol and brushed her hair back with her fingers. Although she was tempted to stay in her current location under the bridge, she felt her pursuers were still too close for comfort. She looked around and pointed to another bridge above the canal about two blocks away. As soon as he received her answer, he skillfully pushed his pole, sending the gondola forward. Aria felt the tension in her body slip away a little at a time. She thought it would be good if she could just enjoy her cruise on the canal without any worries. A little later, when the gondola arrived at the destination, the gondolier silently put the pole in its place and waited. Perhaps the bag of coins she threw to him helped him become an easygoing and pleasant person. She felt tired from being pursued relentlessly, so his consideration was a welcome luxury. Aria did not become upset even when Piriel Aurura showed up half an hour later than their appointed meeting time. "Finally! How am I supposed to find you in a place like this?" "You're a Scavenger." Aria replied briefly. After a moment, she added, "By the way, your scream was excellent, as usual." "The trick is to put your heart into your voice. Once you realize this, even you can do it." Piriel jumped from the bridge into the gondola. If the gondolier had not skillfully manipulated his pole to balance the boat, they would have been showered with water from the impact. Although Aria regarded this Dwarf highly in terms of her skills, she was generally annoyed by her personality. After Aria expressed her desire to tour the entire waterways of the city, the gondola started to move again. As soon as they were out of the shadows under the bridge, the sun greeted them with a welcoming smile. Aria unfolded her parasol again to shield her skin. The gondolier introduced different places along the way, as the gondola traveled at a leisurely pace. "You caused an inconvenience to other people, doing what you did." With a grunt, the Dwarf pulled her backpack, which was bigger than herself, onto the floor of the gondola. The boat bobbed up and down from the weight, once again. "I know; you're right." The Dwarf started unpacking her provisions. Aria had always been surprised by Dwarves' ability to carry great loads on their shoulders. On the battlefield, she even witnessed a Dwarf use the supplies from his backpack to equip all the soldiers of one unit with armor and long swords, as well as to feed them. She guessed this was the reason Dwarves do not grow in height as they grow older. "By the way, Espen was moping around whining to me. If perverts hear rumors about Dwarves and Orcs getting naked and wild in his store, they will flock to it. It would ruin his business." Piriel finally found the item she had been searching for in her backpack. She blew on it and polished it with her sleeve. It was a glass flask containing some dark red substance. Arial could tell that it was old, dried-up blood. Before handing over the Blood of Saints, Piriel seemed to have suddenly realized something and spoke. "I know that this is a funny question to ask a Dark Elf, but I'm still going to ask it. Your complexion doesn't look so good today. Your face is deathly pale. Am I right?" "Yes," Aria willingly agreed, quite unexpectedly. "I was severely attacked by two men from the north." Piriel clucked her tongue and said, "Because of those damnable relics, two innocent lives have perished." Aria put away the Blood of Saints, with a peculiar expression on her face. Piriel became startled and spoke loudly. "Don't tell me! You let them live? What has gotten into you?" "Nothing. And don't talk to me like I'm some kind of murderer, all right?" Recently, some emotions had been churning inside Aria and she found herself expressing them aloud before she could suppress the urge. "I must have become weak," she decided. "Although I may look young, I have lived in the same era as that crazed monster that’s locked in the tower. I feel like an old hag whose insides have rotted away." "One thing is for sure," Piriel took out her pipe and put it in her mouth. "Both you and I cannot claim to be young sprites any longer." Piriel was going to take out her tinderbox, but realized she had put it at the bottom of her bag. The gondolier, silent up to that point, took out a burning twig from the box of coals on his belt and gave it to her. While still holding the pipe in her mouth, Piriel brightly smiled at the gondolier and lowered her head. "If that's what you think, perhaps you should quit this line of work." After giving it a little more thought, Piriel added, "What you really want to do is meet up with that crazy guy in the tower and talk about old times." Aria snickered. "I can't deny I've thought about it." "It is the privilege of old ones like us to let young ones work while we sit back and watch." When Piriel said this, the gondolier could not hold himself back any longer and let out a laugh. From Human standards, she looked like a girl of about ten years old at most, but she sounded too mature for her age. "That is a cowardly act of escaping reality." "What's wrong with that?" Piriel mumbled while looking at the office of the Commerce Guild across the canal. "Some elderly Humans often talk like that. Such as Heine, Athebaldt, and yes, Rodemai too." Aria shook her head with a sad and tired face. "This work should be done by our own hands. The youth are our hope for the future." Piriel snickered. "Don't be mistaken. Whether you cause a problem or fix it, you should do it on your own. I would say that at least half your motive is to save your old boyfriend. I know you are anxious to get rid of Tetrarch Thifiell. Honestly, I don't entirely disagree with his mode of conduct. After all, what's wrong with Dark Elves allying themselves with Elves? Equality for everyone, I say. Happiness for all! It's even written in Maphr's Tablet." "Perhaps we have talked too much," thought Aria. A chasm clearly existed between Dark Elves and Elves. Piriel did not force the point any further. However, when Aria handed her the money, the Dwarf uttered an unexpected remark. "Be careful of your own people, now that you don't have many allies left." Aria already knew that. What surprised her was the fact that this seemingly cold-blooded Dwarf was concerned for her safety. "Humph." Rather than expressing gratitude, Aria responded sarcastically. "You should worry for your own welfare. I also heard who the Black Anvil is desperately chasing." "I think that Master Brikus and Magister Xenovia of the Dark Elven Guild were also ordered to terminate you on sight. The two who attacked you earlier must be heading this way by now. Younger members of your own profession have also showed up in this city's back alleys. I mean the Abyss Walkers. Even when you cry over your own weaknesses, I can't help you. Understand?" "I know." The sun slowly sank below the skyline, and then disappeared beneath bridges in the distance. The canal was a ruby river tinged with brilliant red light. Aria felt glad that in this water city of Humans and Elves, beauty could even be felt by Dark Elves such as herself. The Dwarf turned to her and suddenly flung her arms around Aria's neck. Their difference in height made this an even more awkward gesture. Piriel buried her face into Aria's belly. She resisted her initial urge to toss the Dwarf out of the gondola and stopped her arm in mid-air. She didn't know how to handle a situation like this, nor did she comprehend Piriel's true intention. "Don't… die… Okay?" The Dark Elf put her right hand on the Dwarf's head. She wanted to caress it, but didn't know quite how to go about it. After a moment, she slowly pushed the Dwarf away. "I told you I feel weaker than my old self." Aria attempted to stand up, but the gondolier quickly motioned her to sit back down. Instead of obeying him, she slowly started to undress. The gondolier quickly looked away, but this wasn't necessary. Underneath her dress, she wore leather armor. "That's all I meant to say." She noticed another bridge approaching and slowly turned around, showing her back to the Dwarf and gondolier. "Whether the enemy is one or many, Human or Dark Elf, young or old..." Aria FirstMatter gathered her hair and tied it into a pony tail. "I am still, at least up until this point, the most powerful." Then, like the shadow of a bird passing overhead, she suddenly disappeared. Chapter 8: Martien Countless aristocrats and saints have been buried in the Cemetery of Aden. The tombstone that Martien touched was hidden in a small area of the forest, surrounded by tall trees thick with needles. A few years ago, when Martien first visited this grave, he had the impression that the cemetery was a clean and spacious place. However, he realized that this was only due to its large scale. "The only grave keepers in this place are those freakish creatures." Martien and his men held their collective breath as a huge creature whose upper body was that of a female Human and lower body was that of a snake slithered away silently. They did not move until the beast completely disappeared from sight. The keepers of this graveyard, unpaid and sleepless, burned with equal hostility toward unfortunate grave robbers and innocent visitors alike. They infested this place around the time when the war between Elmore and Aden broke out. Aden sent as many soldiers as possible, neglecting this vast graveyard. Near the war's end, some argued that the safety of the cemetery should be maintained. However, it was too vast. In order to completely drive the monsters from the cemetery, they would need enough manpower to build a castle. So, a plan for maintaining the cemetery was pushed down the list of priorities. By the time the war had ended, the plan itself was lost. Once all traces of other creatures had completely disappeared, Martien's attention was again drawn to the small tombstone. "I wonder what kind of person is buried here. Surely, they must have been highly distinguished. Only such persons could be buried in this cemetery." But they could not have been a member of the royal family. A separate section was designated for those of the royal family, and it was still completely preserved. So they must have been someone dignified enough to have their name mentioned in the annals of history. But Martien knew nothing about this. Those who live in the Age of Splendor have no interest in such matters. Martien was strangely relieved by the thought that the passing of time fades a person's life over time. He continued to caress the tombstone, trying hard to determine why he had such sentiments. "Are you sad? You must have been a great person who was willing to sacrifice yourself. But now nobody remembers you." Suddenly, the tombstone opened its eyes and then its mouth. "What kind of foolish talk is that, you idiot? I'm dead. Why would I need to bother with such trivial matters?" "But those who buried you here must have erected this tombstone so they could remember you." "Can you even guess how much time has passed since the gods created this world? A person's lifespan passes in the blink of an eye. Even were my name written in books, how long do you think my memory would last?" "You must have been a great person. That's why you are at rest here." "Perhaps I was, or maybe not. There are no absolutes for greatness." "Did you not try to live an honorable life, so you could be buried in a grand cemetery like this? Although, it has since turned to ruins." "Who would think such depressing thoughts while they're alive?" "Only those who devoted their lives to accomplish something." "You are confusing consequences with purposes." "You mean each of us has our own purpose?" "That's a trite way of putting it." "I could die today or tomorrow. What do you think I should do?" "Aha! Finally, you are getting to the point." "Answer me!" "Haven't you been thinking about this all along? You should already know. I'm just a reflection of your mind. Let us take leave of each other. Your men are calling you." "Brother! Shouldn't we get going?" Martien and his men moved stealthily through the graveyard, using moonlight as their only guide. They loaded the stolen goods they had collected from the graveyard into their wagon and departed. When they were far away from the cemetery, one of the three wagons headed south. One wagon headed north, and the last one, carrying Martien, headed directly toward the eastern castle gate of Aden. When they arrived in the city, Martien and his men were to be paid some compensation from his employer. If everything went as planned, he would divide his share of the rewards and pay his men, for they had need of food and clothing. "This can't be…" The wagon stopped suddenly. Inside the wagon, Martien started to laugh aloud. Soon, the sound of weapons and armor clashing mingled with the sound of angry voices. "Stop!" He shouted at the top of his lungs from inside the wagon. The fighting suddenly stopped. Martien was overwhelmed by a feeling of satisfaction and excitement. He concentrated to hear what was happening outside. No one was actually attending to the wagon. The top of the wagon was pulled up and one of the men looked inside. Within the darkness of the wagon, someone was sitting on a holy ark. Martien yelled at someone outside of the wagon, "I am Martien, owner of the South Sea Store! Let's have a talk!" There was no response. Martien's heart pounded in his chest. His temples throbbed. In the midst of the deafening silence, someone snickered. "This is getting interesting. I am Staris, from the 'Association of People Concerned About the Forest'." Martien stood up from the Holy Ark. He walked to the back of the wagon and lifted the flap to look around. When his subordinates saw him, they brightened up greatly. He asked if everybody was okay, and they slowly nodded their heads. A female Dark Elf's cat-like, shiny eyes glared at him fiercely. A young male Dark Elf stood next to her. "Staris?" The Dark Elf nodded, with a faint smile on his face. Martien gestured for the Dark Elf to approach him. "Why don't you come inside?" The Dark Elf lightly strode into the wagon. Martien's men remained outside the wagon, unsettled by this development. "Brother…" They looked at Martien with desperate eyes, at a loss for words. "Take it easy, guys. Take it easy!" A moment later, Martien and Staris faced each other. Martien sat atop the Holy Ark while Staris stood in front of him. His gaze rested upon the treasure of the Ancient Empire, upon which Martien sat. Martien lit a lamp that hung inside the wagon and observed the Dark Elf's appearance. "Your face… I remember you from somewhere." "I worked at the South Sea Store some time ago. Your pay was cheap. Dirt cheap." "What did you expect? When business is meager, so is the pay. There was nothing I could do about it. Anyway, why did you pick this wagon? You didn't happen to roll dice to decide, did you?" "If I tell you that I also sent people to the other wagons, would that make you feel better?" "I can always check to find out. But I get the feeling this is not the case. Why don't you tell me, honestly?" Martien had devised a trap when he was assigned to move the Holy Ark from the cemetery to another location. He came up with the idea to prepare a fake wagon as bait, in case a scenario like this were to take place. He discussed his plan with his employer, but did not disclose it to anyone else. Although the details of the plan had changed many times, one thing that did not change was placing the Holy Ark in the third wagon. "Was I deceived?" The Dark Elf asked incredulously. "So, this holy ark is a fake?" Martien was overcome with the taste of victory, which he had not felt for a long time. Rubbing his hands together, he tried to calm himself enough to speak. He knew that his next move was extremely crucial. "Who sent you here?" "A highly distinguished person in Giran. Shall I say more?" This was an unexpected answer. The Dark Elf might be lying to him. He could easily have come up with some other name. While Martien considered various possibilities, the Dark Elf spoke. "Some time ago, a messenger from a society went to see Hierarch Asterios. You don't need to know the reason for this. But the society was a sort of association in which distinguished people gather to promote something more than just friendship." Martien smiled bitterly as he stood up, and kicked the Holy Ark. He cursed at someone who was not there. The Dark Elf just stood there with his arms folded during this outburst. "If the Holy Ark is indeed a fake, why should I care if it's broken to bits and pieces?" "Can I tell you a secret?" Martien breathed heavily and looked around. An old hammer caught his attention. When the Dark Elf saw Martien heaving the hammer on his shoulder, he tilted his head with a puzzled look. Martien gave him a broad grin and brought the hammer down upon the Holy Ark with all his might. Although it sounded like something was being smashed, the ark did not even show a scratch. But the floor was broken beneath it. Martien continued grinning broadly at the Dark Elf, showing all of his teeth. "Oh, this is the real one, all right…" A little later, Martien and Staris exited the wagon. The gangs from both sides looked at them quizzically. Martien called over his subordinates to make sure they weren't badly hurt. Although some of them had fractured arms or legs, and some had even been struck by arrows, but none were fatally wounded. After whispering a few words to the Dark Elf, Martien left with his men. He uttered some randomly contrived phrases loudly, such as "Aaarrgh… they're too strong!" "We're no match for them!" and "Let's get out of here!" Staris left with a few of his men, to the outskirts of the graveyard. In a small forest located at the northwestern section of the Forbidden Gateway, he found a tombstone, deserted long ago. With the tip of his boot, he pushed aside the soil in front of the tombstone. The "Association" obtained the key to the Holy Ark. Chapter 9: Aria The crescent moon smiled radiantly. From the wharf, a horn signaled a boat's departure. Heine's lighthouse, the most beautiful of its kind, sent out a bluish beam that illuminated the night sky. To most citizens of Heine, the day was just like any other. However, a few of the more sensitive types felt that the atmosphere on the street was slightly askew. The Dark Elven Guild usually appeared vacant, since few people passed through its doors. It was locked as soon as the moon arrived. Even the few adventurers who usually hang out at the stores had not shown up since earlier that morning. On the wharf and around the castle gates, an unusually large number of Dark Elves milled about. "It seems like everybody is expecting a party to begin," said Flauen, Gatekeeper of Heine, looking at the moon, curved like a Shamshir's blade. As her gaze lowered, she noticed the backs of two Dark Elves walking away from her. One of them seemed badly injured, walking with difficulty. The other Dark Elf helped his companion, carrying an impressive bow, a black quiver, and arrows with black flags tied around them. "Are they good people, or be they villains?" Flauen mumbled to herself, gesturing at the two Dark Elves. "When I see those who are struggling in their lonely fight called life, I feel the urge to lend a hand." "I can't believe I get to fight FirstMatter!" Master Brikus mumbled, slowly tightening his belt. After adjusting his clothes carefully, he rubbed the blood on his armor from previous combat with his thumb to remove it. To Xenovia's eyes, he was charged with tension like a trainee about to be tested by his master. "Have you ever met her?" With a gloomy face, Master Brikus counted with his fingers and said, "It was 15… or maybe 18 years ago, when I was working as a Sentry. She was invited over as a special instructor." "What kind of person was she?" Master Brikus pursed his lips and looked up in the air. Noticing the deep wrinkle that formed between his eyes, Xenovia guessed that perhaps he was remembering some very bad memory. "The only thing I remember is that, throughout the training session, she looked very tired. Initially, we thought she wasn't interested in teaching us. For my part, I simply didn't like her." Xenovia gathered several spellbooks and potions and put them in a pouch attached to her belt. She fastened her sword to her side, hoping she wouldn't need to use it. She could not make up her mind whether she should wear her armor. "Leave that behind!" Master Brikus told her, and she gave up the heavy armor that would only hinder her from casting magic. "I will always be there between FirstMatter and you." "If I were an Elf," Magister Xenovia smiled, "I would have said something like 'I will always protect you, no matter what.'" "What a strange thing to say," Master Brikus clucked. When his eyes met those of the Magister, he laughed aloud. After recovering from his amusement, he placed his arm around the Magister's neck and gently pulled her toward him. Xenovia received his kiss. "Even when you get old, don't ever become like that woman." Master Brikus told her, held her face gently in his hands. "A tiresome woman?" "A woman who is preoccupied with herself and treats herself harshly." Master Brikus felt discomfort between his shoulder blades and adjusted the position of his armor. He carefully wrapped a long strip of cloth around his torso to minimize potential bleeding. He wore two swords on his side, hiding two daggers in his boots. A small bow hung from his back and its quiver hung from his hip. He donned a pair of gauntlets and then his coat, which adequately hid most of his weapons. "We didn't leave anything behind, did we?" When Xenovia shook her head, he locked the door of the guild. While he put his key back to its usual hiding place underneath the stairs, she hung a sign on the door that read "Closed Today" in burnt letters. About two hundred guards were divided into four units, each consisting of around fifty men, lined up in a lattice formation. They awaited their leader's commands. When Captain Gosta appeared, at the direction of Duphis, a higher ranking guard, everyone saluted him in unison. They marched through the western castle gate of Heine and moved toward the Field of Reeds. "Oh oh, they are on the move. They're going!" Inside a wagon, Iason Heine watched this procession with great interest. His wagon was pulled over to the western side of the road, blocked to civilian traffic so the army could pass through. When Innadril was constructed, the Heine family donated a large sum of money to the lord. For this, their name was bestowed upon the city. They also contributed to the large-scale construction project of the Floating City. Presently, Iason Heine held the position of twelfth lord of the Heine clan, the wealthiest in Innadril. "You'd better pull down the curtain, Sir. If they recognize your face, you may be in danger." Iason Heine guffawed loudly at his secretary's concerned urging and replied, "What kind of trouble can befall me? They are willing to fight for me, risking their own lives against the Tasaba clan, my enemy who stole my goods. Don't you think I should at least see them off? After all, in order to mobilize the guards for this mission, I had to bribe the new lord with a great deal of money!" The secretary's face darkened as he tried to warn his employer. "Sir! If someone overhears you!" Iason Heine closed the window and sat back in his seat. It was nearing time for them to leave. Tapping the window separating his compartment from that of the coachman, he yelled loudly, "Let's get out of here!" The beasts were urged forward and the coach moved ahead slowly. From outside the wagon, the rustling sound of the Field of Reeds seemed to soothe their minds. While closing his eyes, the great merchant imagined the reeds as they danced. He also imagined the pale-faced assassins trampling the dancing reeds in their march towards the Floating City. His imagination was not far from reality. "It's slow…" After taking the sign that read in big letters "Just Arrived! New Products!" back into the store, Verona put her hand on her waist and straightened her back. She heard her bones crack. "Ouch!" She rubbed her lower back with her fist and went into the store. Closing the door, she locked the bolt and hung up a sign that read "Closed Today." "What? You're still here?" "Well, now what should I do?" Verona looked around the store. The Elf Espen put both his feet on the counter, leaned back in his chair and flipped through a magazine. Two customers still remained in the store. "Didn't you say you would be leaving today?" "No!" Piriel Aurura, a Scavenger, sat on the floor and rolled dice with a sulky look. "I don't even want to see the shadow of a Dark Elf. I'll just stay here today." "You're upset about something, I can tell." Verona gently patted the head of the Dwarf, who had lived several times longer than herself. "I can't stand it, really!" Piriel could not get over her frustration. After playing alone with her dice for a while longer, she finally determined the source of her foul mood, although it didn't make her feel any better. She looked at the iron hammer, her favorite tool. She imagined herself striking the head of an old female Dark Elf. Somehow, this thought greatly improved her mood. "Piriel Aurura." The shop owner was surprised to see the Dwarf laughing to herself. She looked at him as if she had just awakened from a dream. "Do you happen to know anything about Dreviant Wine? Piriel replied that it is the wine produced in small amounts by hand in the Cursed Forest. Its ingredients are the Pinot Rouge grapes only grown in Gludio. The poison is extracted from a spider, fermented using secret methods taught by demons. She also mentioned that the taste has a silky texture and a unique, unforgettable fragrance. The Elf merchant nodded his head and smiled. "What if I tell you that one out of the twelve cases of wine that were made twenty-nine years ago at a winery called Astaron is now hidden underneath this counter?" The Scavenger's jaw dropped and her eyes opened wide. Espen asked Verona to bring wine glasses. The three sat on the floor of the store and poured the legendary wine into glasses. "Hey, Tushku!" Espen called to the Orc High Prefect. The burly Orc was still feeling guilty that half the store was destroyed as a result of his actions earlier that day. To make amends, he had been working on repairing the store. But, proving the common adage that you cannot expect Orcs to do a good job that requires manual dexterity, he only managed to increase the scale of the damage. "Unless you are trying to develop a new combat technique with that hammer, please put it down. Come over here and have a drink with us!" The Orc silently sat down with the others. "It seems like we have one extra glass." "No, we are just about right." Espen poured wine for the group, and then filled the remaining glass to the brim. "She should show up by daybreak. Why don't we get started drinking while we wait for her?" With nightfall, the temperature dropped and the wind blew out to the sea. One by one, the townspeople and the guards disappeared. The only creatures loitering among the streets were the Dark Elves with their moonlight-colored skin. About a dozen Dark Elves rushed out of the alley near Brikus. In secret, they reported the results of their search. Brikus was aware that one of the units dispatched to the city had not returned. It was the unit that left to search the area near the wharf. Brikus felt his chest tightening. Three hours had passed since beginning their search, still without a glimpse of FirstMatter. During the course of the night, many of the them were disabled from the fight. The searchers were overcome with tension and frustration. Soon, their sentiments would turn to fear. In the canal, a fish jumped into the air, twisting its body, reflected by moonlight in sparkling, silvery colors. When the moment passed, the fish disappeared into the depths of the canal. Brikus gnashed his teeth in a curse. Suddenly, he realized what FirstMatter's tactics were. "Everyone, we will refine the search area!" He divided the canal into different sections and assigned each one to a search unit. "Make your movements as discreet as possible. No units are to make contact with any other. Bear in mind, we are the hunters!" Brikus couldn't shake the feeling that he was the target. Along with Magister Xenovia, he boarded a gondola and searched the area between the eastern and southern sections of the canal. The Dark Elves had acute vision, even under moonlight. FirstMatter may have turned herself into a slippery fish, for all Brikus knew, but he still felt he could catch her. He watched a small school of fish quickly dart away as the gondola approached. "FirstMatter is unpredictable. Maybe she wants to slay all 99 of us with her bare hands." A young Elf asked with both admiration and disbelief, "Why do you say that, Sir?" "Because she doesn't want to run away. She wants to impress Tetrarch Thifiell, to prove that she is right. There are many other reasons, but she has only one real motivation. Because she can." From a distance, Aria watched the gondola carry her pursuers. Two of them were conversing, while the female attentively searched the bottom of the canal. Aria tensed when she noticed the woman suddenly lift her head and look in her direction. However, she could not see through the veil of deception Aria had created around herself in the darkness. When the boat approached, Aria could identify two of the three on the boat. She knew well the face of Master Brikus and could guess who the woman was that accompanied him. When the gondola finally passed under the bridge, Aria removed her veil of deception, swooped down and stabbed the young Dark Elf as he held the pole. She was about to attack Magister Xenovia, but Master Brikus blocked her path, brandishing his sword. Since he wore heavy armor, the gondola shook wildly. Aria wavered, trying to regain her balance, as Brikus laughed triumphantly. Having lost its gondolier, the vessel drifted aimlessly, following the flow of the current. While Master Brikus protected her front, the Magister chanted a spell. Aria abandoned them, escaping up the bank. When the spell of the Magister was completed, an ear-splitting roar issued forth, like thousands of arrows shot at once. The buildings made of white marble were defaced with ugly scratches. The paving stones that once boasted beautiful patterns were marred by large gashes, as though a giant had jumped up and down on them on one leg. "Why did you blow her away like that?" The air pocket of tremendous pressure inflicted enormous damage to the appearance of the city, and pushed at FirstMatter's back with great force. Like a scarecrow engulfed in a tornado, she was blown across the canal, smashing through the second story of a building. Brikus jumped up on the bank after FirstMatter, signaling to the nearby Dark Elves. Magister Xenovia followed Brikus up the bank. The streets connecting many corridors and stairs in a convoluted maze. The two pursuers jumped across the canal, climbed the walls and walked atop buildings that separated them from their prey. Brikus found shattered glass and a pool of blood on the floor. As he touched the blood, an arrow flew through the broken window and lodged into his shoulder. With his thick armor, no serious damage was inflicted. "What a cheap move!" Brikus yelled. "FirstMatter, you must be getting old, too!" "You don't need to remind me of that, you bastard!" For several hours now, Aria had been playing hide and seek against numerous top-notch soldiers. How exhausted must she be? Was her sheer bravado a disguise to ensnare him? In the attic in an old abandoned building, the ceiling was so low that it was hard to maneuver. The smell of decayed paper was overpowering. A door suddenly slammed shut as soon as Brikus entered, enveloping him in utter darkness. Brikus was thankful Xenovia still lingered behind. As she had never trained as an Assassin, to be thrown into a situation like this would be walking naked into combat. However, Aria was injured, and the scent of blood is stronger than any other body odor. "It's no use!" Brikus was confused, because the direction of her scent was apart from where her voice emanated. He walked sideways, to discover another pool of blood on the floor. "You can deceive, but you can't hide." With some effort, he undid the buckle of his shoulder armor, which made a loud noise as it fell to the floor. His opponent did not attack. He removed his skirt and thigh protectors, also putting aside his alternate weapons. "You must have learned something from the training I gave you on that day." Again, her voice came from a new direction. Some sixteen years ago, he and his platoon refused to receive FirstMatter's instructions. The elders took this as an act of rebellion and imposed what they considered suitable discipline. The captain of the sentries suggested a punishment that could potentially save their lives, but it also inflicted a permanent scar on their pride. As it happened, the captain later lost his life in combat with marsh zombies, attempting to seize an underground fortress. "All members of the platoon will be locked in the underground fighting complex while fully armed for thirty-eight minutes. Enjoy your punishment." Locked in pitch-black darkness, they met with Aria FirstMatter. Completely unarmed, she gave them the most painful and humiliating thirty-eight minutes they would never forget. "Thank you for your compliment." An arrow whistled toward Brikus, interrupting his reverie. At first, Brikus thought it was some sort of a joke or deception, but more arrows continued to fly towards him with deadly accuracy. She obviously knew his exact location. Brikus haphazardly brought down his sword, causing chips of old paint and wood fragments to fly up and generate much dust in the air. "Well, if you do that, you will hide the smell." As soon as Brikus heard her voice, another arrow came towards him. He rolled his body to escape the hit. "But smell is not the only thing you need to disguise. One can get a hint from the flow of air or one's body heat." "What nonsense!" Brikus couldn't believe anyone could possess such abilities. "The objective is…!" The sound of a bow string being pulled back several times successively could be heard in an instant. Five shots? Six shots? Brikus was hit in his left arm and leg. His left ear was also injured. "... If you are focusing on only one sense..." Suddenly the voice was very close. "…you can never catch me, you fool!" The next moment, Brikus received a shocking impact and flew backward. He fell to the floor, gathered himself and readied himself for the next attack. Meeting and evading the sword Brikus swung at her, FirstMatter's dagger almost split his jaw in half. He stepped back and thrust his sword directly forward. At that moment, his opponent's dagger stuck into his wrist. FirstMatter twisted it with full force, digging between the bones and tendons with a sickening, cracking sound. Crying aloud in pain, Brikus swung his fist, surprising Aria with a blow squarely on the face. She spit out blood with a grin at the notion her opponent still had the will to fight. "Yes." Brikus mumbled as though he were spitting the words through his teeth. What fell to the floor was not his weapon. "This was the problem." He kicked small capsule-like objects across on the floor. The capsules broke for a moment, illuminating the room in bluish aura from the spirits. "Yes, although it is certainly a great invention, nowadays, young assassins seem to rely excessively on it." Aria pulled out a large glass fragment stuck in her thigh and tossed it aside. From the wound flowed another gush of blood. She did not want her opponent to realize that she had already bled too much. She maintained her composure and turned in the direction of the door. "Among them, at least you were the one with the most potential, Sentry Brikus." "I will gratefully accept your teaching, FirstMatter." The Master's face was smeared with blood and sweat. He unwrapped the strip of cloth from his waist. He roughly wrapped it around his tattered wrist and tied it with his teeth. "However, I still have the use of my left arm." Attempting to finish the fight before the light of the spirits disappeared, Brikus picked up his sword with his left hand and while limping on his wounded left leg, he charged at Aria. At that moment, a black flame flickered and the door turned into ashes in the blink of an eye. A spell-induced tornado flew in, blowing away the walls and the ceiling. Untold moments passed as the mass of detritus settled. Slowly, Brikus extracted himself from the collapsed attic. "Xenovia! What about FirstMatter?" Brikus faced a scene that he never wanted to witness. Aria held the Magister from behind, and several pursuers lay dead around her. More soldiers floated on the water, the canal scarlet with blood. Aria's dagger caressed the Magister's neck. "You know that taking a hostage won't do you any good." Brikus was going to continue his talk but Xenovia slightly lifted her hand to stop him. "You know what; I don't think I'm a hostage." "You're right." Aria whispered something into the Magister's ear. The Magister opened her eyes wide as blood gushed out of her mouth. Pulling the dagger out of the Magister's back, Aria pushed her limp body into the canal. The water splashed ungracefully and the Magister's body was carried away by the current. Brikus cried out and charged toward Aria with an expression of hopeless abandon and deepest hatred. "Calm down, Brikus. She is alive." Aria attempted to wipe away the animosity her opponent was harboring. Aria clucked her tongue because the owner of the voice was the person she never wanted to see again. A familiar face came out of the shadows of the shattered building where this latest tumult had occurred. "Knight of Pavel…" "I'm Scryde." "I'll remember you as that from now on." "Yes, do that." Brikus, Scryde, and Aria. The three Dark Elves maintained a peculiar stand-off. It was Brikus who made the first move. Masking his intention to attack, he took a step towards the canal. Aria reacted instinctively, positioning herself closer to him. She was aware how dangerous it was to confront multiple enemies so completely exposed. She found herself especially wary of Crow Feather, the other Dark Elf who came from the north. Scryde informed Brikus, "Her dagger is under a spell of bleeding. You'd better hurry and finish this." "I don't know who you are, but I already know that without you telling me." What Aria could not understand was Scryde's rapid recovery. She was confident that she had inflicted enough damage on him to hospitalize him for a month or two. "Must be some kind of potion that's aided your recuperation." Some potions had the effect of letting one forget pain temporarily, or greatly enhanced their physical capabilities. But most would turn their users into addicts, with serious side-effects that cause permanent brain damage. The Master and Bladedancer surrounded Aria from both sides. They were both originally users of Dual Swords, so they could use swords with both hands. However, neither of them could use both of their hands. Aria wondered briefly if maiming and destroying male bodies had become a strange hobby of hers. The two Dark Elves attacked. Arrows tied with black flags flew toward her continuously from across the canal. Rolling her body to barely escape the arrows, she looked across the canal where the archers might be hiding. The blue light from the lighthouse sharply passed overhead. Aria attacked Brikus first. Turning backward, she kicked Scryde's leg. With a graceful leap, she plunged into the canal, arrows penetrating the water, several of which struck her. Crawling on the bottom of the canal, she headed for the lighthouse. Esenn picked up his bow, but had lost sight of his enemy. When he leaned his upper body out of the lighthouse window, he came face-to-face with a profusely bleeding female Dark Elf. She smiled and grabbed his right hand. She reached her other hand toward him, but Esenn struck her several times with his bow. Her head bled profusely, her arms were blackened with bruises, and her face was disfigured with ugly swelling. She desperately grabbed with both hands. With a snap, the finger that guided the string of Esenn's bow could no longer move according to his will. His hunt had failed. Aria walked out of the lighthouse and flopped down on the ground. "Oh my love, my dearly beloved!" She wanted to hear the voice of her lover. Not the hollow shell currently locked up in the temple, repeating the same words over and over, but that of the greatest and most fearsome man she ever met, in the way she still remembered him. "Only a little more to go. Just a little longer." She buried her face in her hands, her shoulders shaking. She lifted her dazed eyes up to the sky. The light of the lighthouse had faded as the sky brightened. She could hear footsteps, heavy and strong. She could tell who it was. With the palm of her hand, she wiped away the tears from her face. "Did you leave the woman to die?" Aria said to Master Brikus. "That wasn't very nice of you." To Scryde, who had a concerned look - at least that's how she interpreted his expressionless face - she said, "Just like I dealt with her, soon I will deal with you." She stood up, but staggered, lost her balance and fell down into a wet gulley. Her vision blurry, she could still see much fear and hatred on the two men's faces, but not much sympathy. Their hands were coming after her - not to offer goodwill, but to apply their weapons. "All these things are too tiresome for me." She raised up her dagger. "Let's finish this quickly and rest." Chronicle 3 – Rise of Darkness Chapter 1: Children of Shilen After the Fall of Giants, the Elves, Orcs and Humans fount endless wars for domination of the continent. Many thousands died on the battlefield. Humans experienced and unprecedented level of destruction, yearning for the next world. Just as the souls of brave Orc fights are consumed into the fires of Pa’agrio, so too did the Humans need a god to promise reprieve after death. They began to raise their prayers to Shilen. These devotees of death called themselves the Children of Shilen, and in time their influence became widespread. Fierce wars between the races reached a catastrophic end, as the Humans emerged victorious from the pile of ashes, with the Children of Shilen an important part of their society. History of the Empire 1731, from “The Hidden History of Elmoreden” As recorded by Historian Mateo of the Ivory Tower Chapter 2: Awakening of Shunaiman A miracle appeared at the crowning ceremony of Emperor Shunaiman, the great emperor of Elmoreden. A girl with three pairs of wings came down from the heavens surrounded by holy fire. With a clear, bright voice, she explained she was Anakim, envoy of Einhasad. She had come to the land to bring the blessing of the gods to Shunaiman, the leader of all Humans. Shunaiman announced that the worship of Einhasad was the one religion, and all others were cults. He declared holy war on all those who worshipped the darkness. Other forces refused to bow to the Emperor’s might, continuing their resistance to the end. Known as the Children of Shilen, they were far more numerous and fanatical than the Emperor realized. In order to deal with the insurrection, Shunaiman performed miracles with the power of Einhasad, forming a religious army with Anakim. These warriors of steel were abetted by the grace of light, wearing giant suits of armor. They were called the Nephilim, which means army of strong angels on land. The army of Shilen was repeatedly defeated by the overwhelming power of the Nephilim. Many devotees retreated to the sheltering embrace of Shilen, scattering throughout the land, hiding in temples hidden deep underground. History of the Empire 1731, from “The Hidden History of Elmoreden” As recorded by Historian Mateo of the Ivory Tower Chapter 3: Seal of Gnosis As outside threats eventually dissipated, Emperor Shunaiman applied his efforts to strengthen his empire internally. In the ten years that followed, the new empire became strong, controlling the entire continent through large-scale development and territorial expansion. Castles were built and lords appointed, taxes collected and the empire’s economy steadily grew. Around this time, some proclaimed the faith of Shilen among the populace. The Emperor ordered his lords to punish them, but they were unable to drive these zealots from the kingdom. Though many died, the Emperor would not relent. Following Anakim’s gnosis of the gods, the emperor mobilized the Nephilim and discovered the six underground temples of the worshippers of Shilen. Shunaiman called these underground temples the Catacombs, for they were the final resting places of those cult members who rejected the worship of Einhasad. Shunaiman’s military attacked the gangs of Shilen worshippers who had already faced defeat at the hands of the Nephilim. However, ultimate victory was not an easy task to obtain. New enemies appeared, called the Lilim. The Lilim were created from the dark magic of Shilen, and they were unaffected by the Nephilim. As they were unafraid of death, these warriors knew not how to retreat on the battlefield. After an extended and all-consuming battle, the emperor finally subdued the six Catacombs, but his forces were decimated in the process. Countless corpses of the Lilim and Nephilim were scattered about the underground temples. Certain there were no other forces to challenge his authority, Shunaiman cast a Seal of Gnosis on all the Catacombs. The first of the seven seals was so-named because it was a miracle achieved through Anakim’s gnosis. Entombed in the deep underground, the groups of immortals that followed Shilen began to disappear from memory. History of the Empire 1731, from “The Hidden History of Elmoreden” As recorded by Historian Mateo of the Ivory Tower Chapter 4: Seal of Avarice In the process of casting the Seal of Gnosis, Emperor Shunaiman and his followers are said to have gained the ability to tell the future. Perhaps this was derived from the power of Einhasad, that of Shilen, or from the gods themselves. Soon after the Seal of Gnosis was cast, the followers of Einhasad foretold a black snake slithering on the ground. This was a sign of an unfortunate threat soon to be revealed true. The followers of Shilen thrived under Lilith’s leadership, greatly enhancing their forces and reestablishing the army of Lilim in the eight underground cities of the Necropoli. They performed ceremonies to call forth Shilen from the afterworld. The emperor, having forfeited the majority of his army for control of the Catacombs, was unable to force his citizens into war, yet again to deal with this new threat. A Dwarf appeared before the emperor. As representative of the Dwarven guild called the Merchants of Mammon, he offered to lend the king funds to form a new military. The suspicious emperor asked about his motives. The Dwarf of Mammon explained that his guild had been supporting the Children of Shilen, but the starts overseeing the fate of times had changed. Therefore, they decided to do business with the forces of Einhasad, who were newly foreseen as the victors. Although this mysterious Dwarf group seemed untrustworthy, the emperor could discern no falsehood in the Dwarf’s words. The weapons and armor he offered were of such high quality they were difficult to refuse. The emperor and the Merchants of Mammon were said to have signed a contract of unknown details. Few records of the Merchants of Mammon exist, but they recognize the Mammon and tell that the future of wealth and business flow with the movements of the stars. It is know they were expelled from the Dwarven kingdom. Surprisingly, this guild is said to survive even to this day. Emperor Shunaiman was the sponsor for this guild. He was able to form a new Nephilim army and launch an attack on the Necropoli. That he was able to lead such a holy war was thanks to none other than Anakim, the representative of Einhasad. In the darkness of the underground, the armies of light and death fought fiercely. Blood scattered in all directions, filling the rivers, seas, and even the skies with a red energy. The multitudes trembled, but the emperor saw that a new era was beginning. Silently, he waited until the time was right. Finally, Lilith, the daughter of Shilen, cloaked herself in the power of the darkness and arose, but Anakim came forward to block her. This girl of pure white flew through the sky on three pairs of wings. But the final victor of the battle was not Anakim or Lilith. Emperor Shunaiman cast a spell of sealing as the forces of light and death entered into the Necropoli, entombing the forces of Shilen, along with Anakim and the Nephilim. This second seal was called the Seal of Avarice. One might guess this is due to the secret contract between the emperor and the Merchants of Mammon. History of the Empire 1731, from “The Hidden History of Elmoreden” As recorded by Historian Mateo of the Ivory Tower Chapter 5: Seal of Strife Lilith and the forces of Shilen were imprisoned underground by the Seal of Avarice, but the Children of Shilen remained above ground. Those who rejected the revelation of Shunaiman, the black magicians that worshipped the god of death, and the Elven tribes that returned to Eva and followed Shilen, all challenged the absolute authority of Einhasad. Some of them insisted they had received the revelation of Lilith, but since they collected huge treasure, it is certain they received some assistance. Emperor Shunaiman controlled the enormous territory of the empire because he harnessed the power of Sacredness by communing with the Sacred Article. The emperor widened his control to the outer reaches, demonstrating more absolute power than ever before. The emperor taught others in his employ how to commune with the Sacred Article as well – a decision he would live to regret. During this time, the emperor did not age, an effect that was tied to the power of the seals. Perhaps as punishment of the gods for Shunaiman’s arrogance, the Children of Shilen took the West Sea Bridge and invaded the empire. At first, Shilen’s army seemed unable to attack the castles, but Gludio and Dion were soon taken. Somehow, the followers of the god of death had learned the mysterious powers of the Sacred Article and were employing it in their sieges. Finally, after the fall of Giran Castle, Emperor Shunaiman made a fateful resolution. He cast the magic of a seal that would tie up the power that controlled all the castles of the territory. As a result, although he gave up most of his control, the enemy forces could not control the castles they had gained. His army counterattacked and recovered the castles, successfully pushing the forces of Shilen out of the empire. A third seal was created, given the name Seal of Strife, which controlled all the castles and territories on the continent. History of the Empire 1731, from “The Hidden History of Elmoreden” As recorded by Historian Mateo of the Ivory Tower Chapter 6: Lilith, Daughter of Shilen Many theories have been raised about the birth of Lilith, but the most prominent opinion is that she was an oracle who served Shilen during the Era of Giants. However, when she became active in the Elmoreden era, she appeared as an Elf of ashen-colored skin. IN the time of Shunaiman, she was born as the ninth daughter of the goddess of death to the Children of Shilen. She was thought of as a central figure, with religious and military control over the followers of Shilen. In the revelations of Kaisha, the following is explained about Lilith. On the battlefield of the heavens before the armed might of the angry gods, the creatures of Shilen collapsed one after another. Facing defeat, Shilen established a realm of death on the floor of the abyss, where she hid. She commanded Lilith, the daughter that she loved the most, to remained on the land and prepare for her return. Shilen cursed Lilith with immortal life. Under Lilith’s guidance, the Children of Shilen erected the Necropolis and Catacombs, forming an elite army called the Lilim. This force grew quickly, threatening the Human populace. Conflicts between the followers of Shilen and the stakes of the empire that intended to control them gradually became more frequent, finally erupting into a full-scale war. One follower of Shilen left the following record about the situation. Deliver death unto those who oppose us. Sacrifice our lives for the goddess. When the blood of the enemy turns the rivers, sea and sky red, great Shilen will return to the land from across the river of death. May the fellowship of Lilim gain ultimate victory. The Necropolis was the living site of the Children of Shilen, both a holy temple and military fortress. The followers of Shilen believed that, because the Necropolis was neither of this world nor of the underworld, they could not truly die, even if they were to be killed there. During wartime, most of them became undead, or they were recreated as Lilim. Lilith and Anakim were both trapped in the Disciples Necropolis. Lilith opened her eyes again as a forgotten relic, hidden underground in the Era of Chaos. History of the Empire 1731, from “The Hidden History of Elmoreden” As recorded by Historian Mateo of the Ivory Tower Chapter 7: Anakim, Envoy of the Gods The dispute over the nature of angels was tumultuous. Human priests insisted angels were children of Einhasad, the goddess of light. The Magisters said angels were higher spirits of light. In the Revelation of Kaisha, the following reference to the creation of angels is believed the most appropriate means of reconciling the two arguments. Einhasad, who stands above all creatures, emitted a light to the heavens and earth. The rays of light that emanated in all directions had their own will and formed bodies according to that of their creator, and became angels. Their light was very bright and did not belong to this world, but because they had bodies, they would not remain in the light. Those who wandered around aimlessly were taken up by Einhasad and regarded as her underlings. Einhasad had another nine children and set them up as leaders of angels. The first reference to Anakim by the scribe of Lilith follows. The last of the nine was Anakim, who shone with the form of a woman wearing three pairs of wings. Einhasad is said to have regarded her youngest daughter as her voice to carry out her will to the creatures of the land. Anakim was an agent of light, surrounded in flames of the spirits, sending down the power of revelation to the lands. Anakim shared her blood with Emperor Shunaiman and permitted the Nephilim to rule. She kissed his forehead and gave him the right to speak with the authority of light. Therefore, Anakim served the first-generation Human emperor, providing knowledge for creating the Nephilim army. The existence of Anakim provided Shunaiman holy author to his power of control. For his, this was a weapon as important as the magic of light. However, when Anakim was sealed with Lilith in the Disciples Necropolis, would she have accepted it as her desire? Would she have cried out entreaties for the salvation of her discarded children? Or would she have cursed Shunaiman for trapping her in darkness? From “Analysis of the Revelation of Kaisha and Verse of Lilith” Written by Dark Elven Tetrarch Thifiell Chapter 8: The Lilim and Nephilim Looking at multiple records, Lilim are thought to have been modified Humans created in the era of Giants, through the use of Shilen’s dark magic. The nature of the Lilim was similar to that of the undead. The Lilim were not dead, but since they did not eat or breathe, nor did their bodies grow old or get sick, they are difficult to regard as living things. The following excerpt from the Revelation of Kaisha explains the Lilim as having immortal bodies. Lilim, soldiers that gave up their lives for Shilen, could not die, as their names had been removed from the list the dead. If a Lilim expired, he returned to the side of Shilen in the netherworld… The number of followers applying for rebirth as Lilim was great, but that opportunity was not provided to them all. Those who were not selected became a lower tribe called Lisch. Lilim formed the main fighting force that resisted the army of the empire. The Lisch repaired and managed the Necropolis and Catacombs. The Nephilim were soldiers created by the power of Einhasad. The following verse can be found in the narration of the empire recorded at that time. Emperor Shunaiman gave a holy blessing to the heroes of the day with the magic of light received from Anakim, messenger of Einhasad. He created an army of angels, whose dignified appearance featured platinum armor and wings of swords. They were swordsmen who carried out the order of the gods, clerics that enhanced the grandeur of Einhasad. The Nephilim were a fusion of the spirit of light into Human form. They were divided into roles of foot soldier, knight and priest, corresponding to the three roles of Lilim. There was also a lower tribe called the Gigant, which assisted the Nephilim. Gigants were the weak ones, not able to become Nephilim. Neither could they become knights. They were soldiers that received the holy blessing of Anakim as injured beings and slaves. Gigants served the Nephilim in the holy war to rid the empire of cultists. The Nephilim and Gigants lost their own nature in the process of creation, with only the will to kill and destroy. Shunaiman’s’ control over them was absolute. They were an army of soldiers that unfailingly server the honor of their leader, in an effort to removed rebellious forces and maintain order in the empire. From “Analysis of the Revelation of Kaisha and Verse of Lilith” Written by Dark Elven Tetrarch Thifiell Chapter 9: Necropolis and Catacombs The building style of the Necropolis resembles an ancient style used widely in the early days of the Elmoreden Empire. Rooms and passageways of standard size are connected in irregular ways, so seems to have been constructed over many eras. The structures and preservation of the detailed decorations are in very good condition. Even though the Necropolis was constructed for religious purposes by the followers of Shilen, sculptures and frescos depicting Shilen are not found here. The culture of the Giants avoided direct representation of religious beings. Instead, multiple rock status are scattered throughout, depicting guardians of the temple. Rather than having a decorative function, they are considered related to the orders for preservation, as well as enchantment. Next, some of the details of the clay tablets excavated here in the Saints Necropolis show well what the meaning was of this building to the followers of Shilen at the time. This place is the most holy cathedral for Shilen to live when returning to the real world after crossing over the river of life from the land of death and is the palace of immortality from which to reign as the queen of the dead. The believers that suffer under the torment of the hypocrites of light and follow Shilen, e. Even if they were to die here at the sword of the cultist, they believed they would gain the glory of immortal life, living in this place under the authority of Shilen. To the followers of Shilen, the Necropolis was recognized as a holy place, located between the land of the dead and that of the living. They believed the divine providence of Shilen was with them into the Necropolis upon death, and that the afterlife would be no different from their previous lives. The Catacombs resemble a prototype from a hundred years before the Necropolis. Ironically, it is possible to read more clues about the history of the Catacombs than the Necropolis, although it received much more damage. The clues of the fights that took place between the army of the empire and the followers of Shilen yet remain. Emperor Shunaiman named this place the Catacombs, meaning the graveyard of the cultists. It is as if he knew from the beginning what the outcome of his bloody war would be. From the travel diary recorded by Dubian Etbar of Fighters of Dawn During the excavation of Saints Necropolis and the Catacomb of the Forbidden Path. Chapter 10: The Seal Stones Emperor Shunaiman, who had the power to control all seven seals, was like a god of the land. Yet, he knew the risk that all this incredible power could drive the world to ruin, if held by only one person. Toward the end of his rule, Shunaiman searched for a way to pass control of the seals to his successors. As a result, only those linked to the emperor by blood would inherit control of the seals. This is the Secret Held in the Empire Bloodline, reference d by the Fighters of Dawn. For nearly a thousand years, the ancestors of the family of the Emperor Shunaiman of Elmoreden held the power to control the seven seals, thoroughly educated in the methods of using them. However, the inheritance of the emperor’s bloodline ended with Emperor Baium. Baium used the Tower of Insolence to absorb the power of the Lilim and Nephilim, which was sealed in various places underground. But his plan, both grand and foolhardy, ended in failure due to the intervention of Saint Solina. The Tower of Insolence collapsed while the magic reversed, so the power flowing in the blood of Baium was transferred to the bodies of the Nephilim and Lilim. With multiple Seal Stones gathered together, one could gain the power to control the seven seals. Through the ancient documents excavated from the Tower of Insolence, those who discovered this secret formed their forces into the Revolutionary Army of Dusk and the Lords of Dawn. They dispatched teams to the Necropolis and Catacombs, holding various festivals to determine who could gather the most Seal Stones. This is how the fierce competition between the two sides to control the seals first began. History of the Empire 1731, from “The Hidden History of Elmoreden” As recorded by Historian Mateo of the Ivory Tower Chronicle 4 – Scions of Destiny Chapter 1: Fate’s Whisper When we look back at the Chaotic Era, we can understand how our ancestors were ignorant of the great danger that was about to befall them. We owe our very existence to the rise of the great heroes who guidance ushered forth the peaceful world we live in today. Although we are uncertain of the specifics of this time, we do know that many adventurers from all around the world appeared to have been following a calling of fate. Without understanding whether it was a call from the gods or indeed the hand of fate, these courageous men and women learned the secret of Mimir's Elixir and found the ancient inheritance of the Giants, allowing them to break the bonds of their race and learn powers outside of their calling. Among this enlightenment, the Noblesse arose with the virtue and strength to create a bright new civilization for all of us. Whatever it may have been, the so called ‘Fate’s Whisper’ made it possible for the Noblesse to break the bonds of their race and gain unheard of power. The Beginning of the End of the Chaotic Era Professor Alkaid Carbeni Chapter 2: The Chaotic Era As the name of the Chaotic Era implies, the records are, at best, obscure and unreliable. We are left to rely heavily on word of mouth and the wealth of stories that have been passed down to us. Although the exact origins of the Grand Olympiad are unknown, the many stories of the black knight and blonde noblewoman that called the Noblesse together lead us to assume that they played a crucial role in its establishment What is most important is that because of the Grand Olympiad, many true Heroes were born among the Noblesse gathered there, and through their leadership, the way to a glorious new era was revealed. The Beginning of the End of the Chaotic Era Professor Alkaid Carbeni Chronicle 5 – Oath of Blood Chapter 1: Clans and Cabals After the gods gave Humans free will, the adventurers had no choice but to fight evil creatures without the gods’ protection. They lived through the ages by banding together, while others declared war against each other. Adventurers bound by acquaintance, friendship, or blood formed a ceremonial group that came to be known as a clan. Some of these bands attacked clan halls or castles by forming alliances with one another in order to gain more power in the territory. Other clans remained focused on defending the citizens against evil, and their main activity was forming raids to hunt gigantic monsters that were dominating the territories. As time passed, the two cabals, the Revolutions of Dusk and the Lords of Dawn, recruited these clans into two main groups. These two cabals held contradictory values of resistance and rule and succeeded in grouping all the revolutionaries and all the rulers into one place. Many clans joined these cabals, sparking fierce battles and political feuds between clans. The cabals’ power remains active and strong as long as they rule the seal stones, the Necropoli and Catacombs, and the power of the seals. But as adventurers grew weary of antagonizing and fighting against each other, they began to disbelieve the empty promises of utopia through revolution or rule. The cabals’ strong solidarity started to collapse. - The Oath of Blood Unknown Chapter 2: Heroes Arise As the solidarity of the cabals fragmented more and more, the power of clans grew stronger. Clan leaders joined or withdrew from the cabals in pursuit of their own interested, or used the two cabals to their advantage. Heroes and Noblesse suddenly appeared at this time and roused the interest of the clans. They were powerful and excellent leaders who understood adventurers better than anybody else, since they were long-time adventurers themselves. Most of them had important positions in the cabals due to their outstanding skills and capabilities. Some of the tried to change the cabals, or some of them dedicated themselves to fighting for the cabals’ ideology. Others wanted to leave the cabals to find their own path, which varied from defeating powerful monsters to saving innocent people from a lord’s tyranny. Heroes rose to prominence within the clans, and the clans with those heroes were preeminent among alliances. Clan leaders realized the important importance of the Heroes and listened to their advice closely. The Heroes needed the power o the clan in order to achieve their goals. At this time, some sensible clan leaders and Heroes gathered and discussed new ideas. Various complaints and alternatives came to light about the hierarchical relationships among alliances and the sentiment that stronger clans monopolized the newly-joined adventurers. In order to make things better, the experience clan lords and Heroes who were in top command posts in the cabals gathered to create a new type of clan. - The Oath of Blood Unknown Chapter 3: Honor and Dedication This new type of clan was implemented as a test in the Oren Territory where the militia is very strong. After its success it soon became known in every territory. The new clan type focuses on strengthening clans, empowering the existing clans to promote their power as the territory’s major military force. The territories supported the existing clans through organization and enhancing their power for castle and clan hall management. Rulers felt that this plan would save enormous military costs for the management and defense for the each castle and that they would gain powerful military force by including the new clans, who put honor and dedication as their utmost important priority. Naturally, this plan gained strong support from the clan and castle lords in every territory, and this was implemented sooner in the territories where clans were more active. This clan enhancement policy was also desirable for clan members; if they work hard for the clan, then they can attain wealth and fame and can be close to the adventurers whom they admired. Clan leaders also benefitted, leading their own organization without compromising. All these things were good enough to satisfy everybody’s interest, and it was even attractive to those who never considered joining clans. The creation of the clan academy, an educational facility within a clan, was fully supported by and popular with clans that were already stable. Clans that wanted to establish Academies actively participating in more dedicated people who dream of making a difference. Clans quickly assigned their training to sponsors with rich battle experience to teach clan members to with their lives on the line to raise their clan reputation. - The Oath of Blood Unknown Chapter 4: Age of Clans Clans continue to attract new clan embers; they can transfer their class to a higher level, contribute benefits and honor to their clans when they earn accolades in a siege war or in a large-scale battle with powerful evil creatures. This means that personal merit is directly related to the benefits and honor of their clan. Some intellectuals have predicted that clans that were once only a small group of people with common interested will be transformed into a huge organization that prioritizes order and honor of the organization. They have made the claim that this new clan structure is an organic body that links individual lives all together. It is now the age of clans, with new clans forming and existing clans gaining power and prestige. Members dedicate their power and their lives to the clan, willing to die for their clan and its members. This is the Oath of Blood. - The Oath of Blood Unknown Interlude Chapter 1: The Chaotic Era Chaos. Prophet foretell of its coming. Historians record it passing. But the only ones who can fully understand it are those who survived its reign… and they are often few and far between. The so-called Chaotic Era stemmed from the erosion of royal power, that final vestige of the Elmoreden Empire. With each passing year, the kind and his court saw their sphere of control shrink further. They could still influence fashion, but ultimately little else. Nor could the ecclesiastical rulers, no matter how full their temple treasuries. The world had simply become too large, too fragmented, and too diverse for any single group to dictate the course of events. That was the nature of the chaos that permeated the age. It was the Battle for Giran Castle that finally showed the truth of a world turned upside down: even an unknown adventurer of common birth could aspire to—and attain—the power hitherto reserved for nobles. Groups of adventurers, bound together as clans, demonstrated their ability dominate local and regional affairs, particularly when they harnessed the power of the castle. - The Chaotic Throne Unknown Chapter 2: Protection Against Darkness The clans became numerous, but most were politically naïve. Shadowy cabals sought to manipulate them in order to advance their own agendas, sparking widespread conflict and disorder. Like a shadow creeping across a darkening room, chaos spread inexorably across the land. Strange new monsters appeared to wreak destruction, and ancient terrors were reawakened. But as the clans grew stronger, they also grew wiser. They threw off the controlling influence of the cabals and asserted, consciously and intentionally, their own power to shape events. New Heroes and Noblesse gained positions of power and leadership within the clans, imparting a higher moral standard. Once the bane of villages and townspeople, the clans gradually became their protectors against the forces of darkness. As their power waxed, even foes like Antharas, the terror of Giran, and Valakas, the lord of Goddard, fled before them. Once merely the hirelings of lords, the clans had eventually supplanted their masters. Authority was no longer an accident of birth, but the result of merit. Power resisted with those who could not only grasp it, but hold it. History had pronounced its verdict… or had it? - The Chaotic Throne Unknown Chapter 3: The Giran Reunification The fact is that other, less visible forces were also at play. A new spirit of cooperation between the Five Races – Humans, Elves, Dark Elves, Dwarves, and Orcs – began to grow, particularly following a secret meeting between the elders of each race. This ‘Giran Reunification’ occurred thanks to the efforts of a mysterious woman in blue, who gathered the elders together and revealed to them the existence of a sixth race, as well as powerful primitive creatures dwelling on a remote island who had somehow survived the ancient War of the Gods. Faced with new opportunities and potential new threads, the elders began to covertly assist the clans with potent new mass-produced weapons and key strategic information. Far from the final result, the clans were to be the building blocks of a new Golden Age, one that blended the best attributes of each of the races: the wisdom of the Elves, the strength of the Orcs, the cleverness of the Dwarves, the knowledge of the Dark Elves, and the versatility of the Humans. Whether that Golden Age has yet been achieved is a topic for another day… The Kamael & Hellbound Kamael Race · Appearance of New Race o As born in the Era of Myths, these mysterious creatures have preserved their own unique culture living within the fence of the Isle of Souls that was located in the western side of the Dark Elf. They appeared on the continent under the guidance of the goddess. · Creation o Unlike the other five races that were created by gods, it is speculated that they were created for the purpose of battling against some unknown creatures. · Guide of Kamael o There is a speculation that Kamael was thrown into the world by Grand Kain who enjoyed causing chaos and reckoned the Kamael would serve its purpose excellently. o Yet there is another possibility that the Kamael was guided to this world by Eva, the Goddess of Water, in order to put a stop to Shilen’s destructive behavior. · Religion of Kamael o They are born into their destined religion that serves absolute ruler called “Mother Nornil”. o Under the Mother Nornil, they devote their faith in the Goddess of Past, who rules the history, the Goddess of Present, who records everything happening at present moment, and the Goddess of Future, who proposes a road to future. · Connection to the World o Since existing races and Kamael agreed to begin their battle with monsters in full swing, the embassies of each race were established in their cities and accordingly, the Teleportation Magic to the Isle of Souls was informed to hierarchs. Isle of Prayer It was originally one of Fafurion's nests. Because Fafurion was born with the energy of Water, it inherited the Character of Shilen's God of Destruction as well as God of Water's strong and beautiful characters. Fafurion was always haunted by this fact. Righteous spirit and temptation for destruction were always whirling inside Fafurion. But always the temptation for destruction prevailed. This temptation got even stronger as Eva built Crystal Castle. Fafurion that was born with the Shilen's curse had burning hatred against other gods. This made Fafurion lose control when it saw Eva's castle and go wild. When Fafurion was back to itself together sometime it regretted what it did. Fafurion chose one of the Innadril's Elves and sacrificed its woman. The woman dedicated her life to the Fafurion and in return she obtained a power to prevent Fafurion's fury. Fafurion gave her the power to control its own madness through a contract with the Elf. The Elf obtained a few special powers to control Fafurion. A woman chosen from the tribe would be sacrificed and spend the life with Fafurion. The woman would be soon called as Fafurion's Shaman. (Just as Dragon Raza) She would share part of Fafurion's spirit. Fafurion ordered Reefs to make an island where the Shaman would reside. The island was made out of blue crystal reefs and very beautiful. Fafurion built a crystal house on it so that the Shaman can live in it. Its henchmen would guard the Shaman. The Shaman soon became an object of faith by the people around the area. Crystal Caverns As Fafurion's Shaman controlled the Fafurion's heart according to people's request, she would drift away from Elf's character due to the Dragon's Energy. She was the one representing the Human at first but as time goes by, she would represent Fafurion against the Human. Halloa spoke in Fish Languages and got to learn to communicate with Fafurion Kindred. She slowly became one of the biggest powers in Innadril. Beleth was much interested in the Fafurion Shaman who became a powerful figure. Beleth planned to heal the injury with needed strong power to heal the injury under sealed condition, and a way to bring Fafurion's power was searched. It was to lie Parme and let it send the Fafurion's power to Beleth. Beleth created an avatar of own and sent it to Parme to succeed in fooling it. Beleth fascinated Parme with many kinds of ways. Magic, Evil Magic Items and other ways were used. Parme was fascinated by Beleth and spent good times. At first Parme took care of Beleth but the relationship was slowly reversed as Beleth got control. The final blow came when Fafurion attacked Beleth. Parme had more days thinking about Beleth than Fafurion. It made the link between the Fafurion and Parme a pathetically weak one. (In short) When Parme fell, Beleth created a prison with a strong wall that cuts off psych energy wave. It is currently the Crystal Prison. Hellbound Hellios Island was located in the South and was famous for its abundant natural resources. Hellios conducted much business with the vineyards of both Rosthern village (which became the Ruins of Despair later) and Bernice village (which became the Ruins of Grim later). Abundant production of sweet tropical fruits, cereals and nuts - especially almonds - helped in this. Because of the abundant natural resources on Hellios Island, the Four Spirits of Fire, Water, Wind and Earth were very powerful. In the thick tropical rainforests, the inhabitants lived and died with vigor. Beleth from the Ivory Tower was interested in Hellios Island and its natural Power. He invested enormous amounts of money in the construction of a huge town there. It was much bigger then than the Town of Aden is today. It was a reproduction of the Arbiter's Core and the Cruma's Pillar (The Cruma Tower + the Cruma Marshlands). It used to be a top-secret research center in the Period of the Giants. The trees began to disappear as the town was built due to the enormous amounts of lumber being consumed. The entire ecosystem was affected. But this was just the beginning of the sharp decline that occurred later. The people under the power of Beleth tried to conciliate the Elders. They threatened or killed the Elders who were worried about the poor harvest, so the Elders stopped talking about it. Altshutar began absorbing the natural Power of Hellios, and Core Naia became more powerful as the Castle was built. The people's lives slowly began to depend more and more on Beleth's construction project. Altshutar began absorbing the Power of Hellios' natural resources, slowly but surely. Core Naia became more powerful as the castle was built. The people's lives slowly began to depend more and more on Beleth's construction project. As Altshutar began the operation, the island began to dry up. This began at the outskirts and moved inward. The dried-up land started to become a desert. Beleth The Ivory Tower was a group of ancient Giants that tried to restore, research and develop Magic. Their Magic was very powerful and influential. Beleth had the most powerful Magic of all the members of the Ivory Tower. He was the smartest man in Human history. After he became interested in the Giants' Magic and learned how to practice it, he gained their power. Beleth was locked up by the Empire and the members of the Ivory Tower. They worked together and used the Forbidden Dark Arts because they were alarmed by Beleth's vanity and ambition. But Beleth successfully escaped to Hellios Island, even under this surveillance. He is there recharging his Magical Powers, which he used up in his escape, so that he can conquer the mainland again. Hellbound Island – other places of interest 1. Hellios Port The Caravan uses this Port to trade with the mainland. Although it might have been used as a Port in the past, it isn't anymore. It has not been a safe place since Beleth occupied it. 2. Enchanted Megaliths There are pillars there to absorb the island's Energy. The effects of these Enchanted Megaliths can be observed. Its role is to absorb the Magical Power of the island and send it to Core Naia. 3. Ancient Temple Remnants This is the Temple where the people of Hellios used to have their religious services. After Beleth occupied the island, the Temple was closed down. The Victimized Ghosts who used to occupy it now simply wander the island. The Victimized Ghosts cannot be seen at first, but they become visible as your Reliability increases. 4. Hidden Oasis In this area, you can increase the Native's Reliability and initiate friendly relations with the Caravan. 5. Native Village This village is where the Natives of Hellios live, but it has been completely destroyed. Depending on their Reliability Stage, the Ghosts and Natives trade-off ownership of the area regularly. 6. Sandstorm Hill This place suffered the most damage from Core Naia and it is uninhabitable by any life form. If surrounded by a sandstorm, flying and hunting in the sky becomes very difficult. . After Stage 3, if you acquire the Ring of the Wind Spirit as a Native Treasure then you can use the Storm Skill to fight against the sandstorm. This place gets damaged by the heat and sun during the day. (It cannot be applied at night) 7. Caravan Encampment This Caravan Encampment is located in Southeastern Field of Hellios. You can receive information or purchase goods here if you maintain friendly relations with the Caravan Guild. You can increase your Reliability with the Caravan by doing favors for them. 8. The Quarry: This is where the Slaves collect minerals for maintenance, repair and extension of the Steel Citadel and Altshutar. Monsters patrol certain areas inside the Quarry. You must attack them or avoid them to save the PC slaves. . 9. Battered Lands Before Beleth occupied Hellios, Magical experiments were performed in this area without the Natives' knowledge. Magical Creatures appear here. The route from the Port to the Battered Lands is a narrow valley. It is protected both by Monster Guards and a locked gate. So ordinarily, PCs cannot pass through. At Stage 6, as the strength of the Enchanted Megaliths diminishes, Hellinak appears to protect them. The route to the Battered Lands opens when you kill Hellinak. (It opens at Stage 7) 10. The Steel Citadel's outer gate Although you cannot usually pass through, if you have enough Reliability and kill the Captain (exactly how much Reliability is required is to be decided by the Maker), the Rebel Army's Spy is spawned. Gracia Part 1 Kamaloka, the dimensional bubble washing ashore The darkness of Shilen covering Gracia (refer to Gracia setup documents) began to spread beyond the lands of Gracia. On the Gracia continent, there was a location connected directly to Shilen's world, called the Seed of Darkness, which emitted the energy of darkness. The darkness that began in that place just covered the Gracia continent at first, but it soon began to appear on the Aden continent as well. There are Seven Seals on the Aden continent. These seals had been created by Emperor Shunaiman using the power of Einhasad in order to seal Shilen, and they would not disappear as long as a descendent of Emperor Shunaiman sat on the throne. However, the Seven Seals were being broken one by one. The world was greatly affected by the breaking of two Seals and the appearance of Necropolis and Catacomb. Shilen's Altar was also greatly influenced by Kamaloka. If Gracia had the seed, Aden had the dungeons of the Seven Seals. Originally, Shilen's dimension could not escape from Gracia, but it began to appear on the Aden continent through this resonance. But this dimension could not melt onto the Aden continent. Though the dungeons of the Seven Seals were blocked by a Force Field of Water, they appeared in the real world and directly influenced it. This world created in a bubble could not sink directly into the Aden continent. (Implies an independent space) * Why it could not sink directly into the Aden continent This was due to the power of the Seven Seals, or the power of the contract between Emperor Shunaiman and Einhasad. The power of Shilen could not enter because of the power of Einhasad that protects the entire Aden continent. Shilen's dimension pressed onto the Aden continent from across a thin wall called the Seal of Shunaiman. Therefore, strange things began to occur in the place where this dimensional wall was thin--a place connected to dreams or Shilen's dimension, where monsters reside. Many people suddenly disappeared, and some even died in their sleep. Types of Kamaloka 1. Kamaloka: Kamaloka is a bubble from Shilen's dimension where monsters reside. It is located between dimensions. It refers to the dimension of darkness existing in Gracia that also exists in the Aden world as a bubble. 2. Near Kamaloka: This is one of the Kamalokas that have special entry requirements. It is a little closer to reality than the actual Kamaloka, so it contains somewhat weaker monsters. However, it is very difficult to enter due to the dimension's extremely thin membrane. (For PC cafe) 3. Rim Kamaloka: This refers to that which is revealed through the Passageway of Dreams within the Kamaloka dimension. The Discovery of Kamaloka 1. Kamaloka: At first, a certain place that had been created by the power of darkness was discovered. That place sunk into the Aden continent with the weakening of the Seals surrounding Shilen. It was a mass of dimension just like a soup bubble that was blocked completely. Sages called it Kamaloka, or a place that exists between this world and hell. 2. Near Kamaloka: According to a few people in the Ivory Tower and the people who conduct research with the priests of the Seven Seals, it is neither completely shaped like Kamaloka nor part of the Aden continent. Instead, it exists in an unstable form. That place is basically shaped like Kamaloka, but it is unstable because it is not completely separated from the dimension. Thus, the monsters there are generally weaker than the Kaneus that are found in ordinary Kamaloka. However, a special requirement must be met in order to enter. (PC cafe) 3. Rim Kamaloka: The will of darkness within Kamaloka was to invade through a spiritual route rather than a physical one. It was very difficult to find that spiritual invasion route. The Sages of the Ivory Tower came to the conclusion that if they could attack first, there could not be an invasion, regardless of the route. Therefore, those in Hardin's Academy created an inhuman yet effective method to contact the will of Kamaloka by experimenting on the adventurers who were dreaming of the invasion. This was the result of a certain magic method and a piece that had been accidentally revealed in one adventurer's dream. It produced an unexpected result, permitting adventurers to teleport to that created dimension. As a result, prepared adventurers were able to challenge Rim Kamaloka. Also, it was possible to limit the damage within an expected range (physical type). Part 2 Pailaka – Forgotten Temple The Forgotten Temple has become unstable since the Elves used the incompatible magic’s of Fire and Water to suppress the Orcs. Once sustained by the Elves' magic, the maintenance of the Temple has become neglected. The balance of power the Elves once protected was shattered, and the elemental Sprites became increasingly violent. Unable to leave the Temple, the Sprites posed little threat until the creation of Kamaloka spread the imbalance. Now the Elves are threatened by a mysterious creature that somehow wields both the power of Water and Fire. Pailaka – Devil’s Isle A ship carrying an important cargo sank somewhere near Devil's Isle. The PC must find the wreck and recover the lost item. Pailaka – Varka Silenos Barracks PC learns from Ketra Orc about the Varka Silenos' attempt to use dragon as weapon; PC must defeat Varka Silenos and the dragon to demonstrate bravery. The ultimate goal is to put the dragon that injured its wings out of its misery. Final A new path where one can go from the west of Gludio territory to the Gracia continent has been opened. One cannot go into the Gracia continent via land or sea because the continent has been sealed and changed due to Seeds, the bases for evils. The seeds which were constructed in various places in the continent are buildings of the different world, which have been summoned by descendants of the Shilen worshippers who had been kicked out to Gracia. In order to fight against them, the Human race has allied with the Gracia Lord and Kucereus and formed Kucereus' clan. Storm Dragon Lindvior occasionally appears in the Kucereus' clan outpost. Seed of Infinity The Seed of Infinity is a devil's territory governed by Ekimus, the Lord of the Dead and subordinate of Shilen. It is a closed area which is composed of organics and the entire area has undead characteristics. The liquid made of Human souls is used like blood to maintain the entire area. Hall of Suffering - Klodekus is an older brother of Klanikus and the two brothers got along so well. They used to depart for numerous wars courageously with their weapons, and returned after achieving distinguished services. But one day when older brother Klodekus was watching his bother Klanikus receiving a reward, he started thinking if he was not better than his younger brother. On the other hand, younger brother Klanikus noticed a change in his brother's attitude toward him. He shook his head in disbelief. One day, Klanikus witnessed his older brother talking affectionately with 'Derna', the one he's in love with. He started thinking that his brother might be trying to take what he has away from him. Because of this, the two brothers started to compete against each other. Even though they didn't harm each other, they started to evaluate each other. At this time, the power of darkness started to degrade the two brothers. The two fallen brothers regained their brotherhood instead of submitting themselves to the power of darkness. But can you really say that is brotherhood? Anybody who follows orders of Ekimus is only a lost outrageous undead warrior soul. Seed of Destruction The Seed of Destruction is a region where it is ruled by Tiat, the Lord of Mounted Troupe. It is not a hunting ground where continuous and repetitive hunting is possible. Its concept is to have a hunting ground where situations to take away and to be taken away between PCs and NPC are repeated through specific events like clan hall or castle siege wars. The seed of destruction is consisted of break-through type fortresses where PCs should continue to break through. Its structure is to go deep inside of the seed gradually by going through several obstacles. A large scale castle siege is included in the middle. One can meet Tiat after completing the castle siege. Two types of situations arise: First is where PCs are grouped in 5 - 6 parties to infiltrate into the Seed of Destruction while NPCs are defending, and second is where NPCs are trying to regain their stronghold which was taken by PCs. The seed of destruction is divided into an instance zone and non-instance zone depending on situations. The entire situation of the Seed of Destruction uses the field cycle system. A situation can be changed depending on efforts of PCs. Tiat The final commander of the Seed of Destruction He commands the Seed of Destruction on behalf of Skelus. Power and authority of Skelus are great because he is under the direct supervision of Tiat. Tiat transforms according to a battle situation. Initially he appears to be a female shaman. A real battle does not occur. Instead, the opening is just presented via camera effects. The first transformation of Tiat can be seen after the completion of opening. When Tiat's HP falls below 50%, he undergoes 2nd transformation. Epilogue Mithril Mines revamp - Kanemika, the Grave Robbers They came to mine Mithril ore but lost their minds when they started to unseal the Seal of Lucien and influenced by Earth Wyrm Trasken. Evil spirits and bugs swarmed by earthworm's evil spirit when Kanemika, the Grave Robber unsealed the Seal of Lucien. Gracia Story The goddess Eva so loved the world—especially Aden—and its creatures, that she summoned the Kamael, a race who should never have been freed. Her desire was to bend their original purpose to a better end by harnessing their immense strength to protect Aden from the rising tide of monsters. The results were inevitable. Still, who could blame her for an act of desperation? Twisted creatures seemed to spring up as thick as summer wheat, threatening villages, towns, even the content’s foremost cities… There was something that even Eva herself did not foresee; despite their numbers, the monsters were not overwhelming the forces of Light. From the Forbidden Gateway in the east to the icy windswept land of Rune far to the north, the Human-led civilized races were joining their strength and, beyond all expectation, winning the desperate fight to survive. Ironically, in their success lay the seeds of their doom. The Humans boasted that their civilization had surpassed even that of the Giants—and still they wanted more. In their greed, they attempted to harness the eldritch power of the Forbidden Gateway of Shilen, queen of the monsters. In so doing, the Humans unknowingly became a far greater threat to the world the gods had created than any of their enemies… With the perfect clarity of hindsight, Eva’s decision to summon the Kamael—beings created to destroy the gods themselves—seemed careless and short-sighted. They were potentially a far greater thread than the monsters that were dispatched to fight, and a far more potent danger to the established order of the world. Their awakening did come at a cost. The Kamael, after all, are children neither of Light nor Darkness. To push them into the service of the Light shifted the natural balance. Just as there cannot be light without shadow, or summer without winter, so the benefits of the Kamael’s service for Aden offset the balance elsewhere… But the gods had chosen Aden as their special preserve: Einhasad’s pledge to Emperor Shunaiman, the expulsion of the Shilen cult, the Ivory Tower’s magical prowess, the counsel of the Lady and the Black Knight, even the rise in the castle system. All of these things contributed to the success of Aden’s society—and, ominously, all were limited to Aden alone. The Doom of Aden Without warning, the easy confidence of the people of Aden was shattered. Sudden disasters were reported throughout the land: whole fields of healthy crops blighted overnight, unknown plagues laying waste to villages, the weather itself becoming strange and unpredictable. People began to pay attention to what they have previously dismissed as the ravings of a lunatic fringe. Now those same dire prophecies of revelation and doom took on fresh and terrifying meaning. The sages sought to reassure the people, but their words lacked conviction—they had gazed into their crystal globes and read the cards, and they too felt foreboding deep in their bones. The Orc shamans prophesied that the long winter was finally about to descend. Meanwhile, the land’s adventurers dreamed… In those dreams, they fought an unending battle against shadowy enemies that they slew only to see rise again. Those adventurers who held out until morning woke mystified but whole; however, those who suffered defeat in this strange dreamland were not so lucky. Some felt as though they had just endured a night of hard drinking. Others actually found themselves covered with real wounds. And some never awakened again. This phenomenon was not limited only to adventurers. Stories flooded the land of common folk who found themselves in this strange realm while they slept. A lucky few escaped to open their eyes at the call of the morning rooster, but many more did not. The sages studied the bodies of the dream-killed and listened to the tales of the survivors. They offered a slew of competing and contradictory theories, speculations and conjectures, but there was one thing all agreed on: this was an omen of great evil advancing towards Aden. To discover the exact nature of the threat, the sages feverishly scanned the stars and gazed into crystals, and even consulted with the Orc shamans. The Discovery of Kamaloka It was a tremendous undertaking, but the sages’ efforts finally bore fruit as the symptoms of the crisis revealed their true nature one by one. The deadly dreamland was, they determined, a realm created by the power of darkness. It had crept into Aden like a thief in the night, able to do so because the seal that imprisoned the goddess Shilen had weakened. It was not of this world, but clung to it like a parasite. And it was growing in power and strength. The sages named it “Kamaloka,” the place between the world and Hell. It was an apt name—the monsters encountered there were the stuff of nightmares. The sages called them Kaneus. More disturbingly, there were some sages who said that there was not one Kamaloka, but many. One in particular featured an especially complex structure with many more Kaneus. The sages were unified in viewing Kamaloka as a threat. Some grasped the truth: it was a dimension that had broken off from the cosmic ether through the power of Shilen. Although similar to the subterranean dungeons of the Seven Seals, it was far more dangerous—those, at least, were controlled by the Priests of the Seals, while this hellish dimension was under no one’s control. According to the Priests, the doomsday scenario centered on the possibility of Kamaloka joining its power with the dungeons of the Seven Seals. If that happened, they said, it may rupture Shunaiman’s great seal. The course of action was clear: Kamaloka must be stopped before it collided with the Seven Seals. Though the sages still did not fully understand the dream dimension, they reasoned that anything born of power could be defeated through power. The continent’s brightest minds began to jointly fashion a plan. Follow the Giran Assembly, representatives of the Ivory Tower contacted the Priests of the Seals with the Assembly’s demand: since this darkness threatened all life on the continent, the Priests must share their knowledge of the Seven Seals with the Wizards of the Ivory Tower. The Priests agreed. Armed with this information, the sages of the Ivory Tower discovered how to penetrate the Kamaloka and quickly spread the knowledge to the guard captains of the various villages. But their strength was not, not had it ever been, sufficient for a task of this magnitude. Ss always, it would fall to the world’s adventurers to save it from danger. They would fight for money, for fame, for pride—but what mattered is that they would fight, and they would win. Still, that was not a complete solution. The sages discovered that the Kamaloka threatened more than just physical well-being; the invading darkness attacked the minds of its victims, gradually ending their consciousness and will. The sages of the Ivory Tower raced to discover how to combat this threat, but weeks passed without success. Finally, the Kamael elders suggested another way. They argued that attempting to thwart the enemy’s attacks, whether physical or mental, was misguided. Better to strike directly at the foe’s heart, they said; better to defeat the enemy before it comes. The magicians at Hardin’s Academy subsequently hired masses of dreaming adventurers and used them—inhumanely, perhaps, but certainly effectively—to find the best route to strike deep into Kamaloka. Fortune smiled on their efforts, and through a series of favorable accidents they finally found the combination they sought. In fact, their results exceeded all expectations: they managed to create a new dimension adjacent to Kamaloka into which adventurers from this world could teleport. They named the discovery the Rim Kamaloka. Now adventures could challenge Kamaloka with greater confidence and less risk. The threat seemed to be contained, if not wholly destroy; however, the Kamalokas’ full nature and origins remained a mystery as did the Kaneus who seemed to endless come back to life. Of course, this was a source of anxiety for the sages. The adventurers exulted in the danger and rejoiced in their victories… and in the spoils of victory. They felt they had the upper hand and cared little for the sages’ concerns. The Source of Darkness To the west of Aden lies the land of Gracia. Ages ago, the empire of the Giants flourished here, making it a terrestrial paradise—a seamless wonderland of technology and magic that rivaled the realm of the gods themselves. But when the Giants dared to rebel against Einhasad, she smashed their civilization into ruination with the Hammer of the Stars. More recently, Gracia became infamous as the wretched place where Emperor Shunaiman of old Oren expelled the worshippers of Shilen. It is hard, harsh, and barren land where survival is equally a matter of luck and skill. For the peasants who try to coax a living from the meager soil, the intrigues of the noble families and the feuds of ambitious warriors mean little but additional hardship. The divine protection bestowed upon the Elmoreden Emperor Shunaiman and his realm in Aden never extended to this land. There was little time or reason to look beyond the boundaries of field and forest, and little hope in anything but to be left alone by rapacious lords greedy for conscripts or grain. But suddenly, Gracia was again thrust onto the world stage. After the death of Paris the Great, the first king of a unified Gracia, the throne was contested by Karneia, the king’s heir, and Keucereus, the king’s brother. The resulting civil war caused a new level of suffering for a people already accustomed to hardship. Worked like slaved, pillaged by both sides and left undefended against the attacks of monsters, the people of Gracia grew increasingly embittered toward their rulers. Then the harvest failed throughout the land, and hardship gave way to starvation. In the midst of these troubles, the darkness began to whisper to the people of Gracia. The worshipers of Shilen, long hidden but still faithful to their dark mistress, began to spread their gospel of destruction. Inexorably, their influence spread across the land and the seeds of discontent flowered into hatred. Factions in Aden skilled in necromancy and the Dark Arts of the Dark Elves also infiltrated Gracia. They sensed Shilen’s time was coming, and they planned to present Gracia as both an offering and a tool to the goddess of death. But the scales of the gods could not bear such heavy darkness. The scales shifted, creating a crack in the very fabric of the world. Through it, the power of death and Shilen’s darkness seeped into Aden. Only the Seven Seals kept it from being submerged completely; however; Gracia had no such protection. It was plunged into darkness and chaos. Having digested its latest meal, the darkness then turned its eye elsewhere… The darkness affected monsters, commoners, royals, adventurers, and even magicians. Though she did not fully recognize its significance or origin, it was her anxiety over this supernatural darkness that prompted Eva to summon the Kamael. Eva believed that Einhasad had prevented Shilen from waking. But she did not realize that across the great sea, in Gracia, Shilen’s realm was already descending upon the world. Even after enveloping that land, it still possessed the strength to create Kamaloka. Like the outermost ripple of a great wave, Kamaloka was simply the first indication in Aden of a far greater threat beyond its shores. The land of Gracia had been reborn, as a land of darkness and death… Freya Seed of Annihilation The Seed of Annihilation is an enormous, parasitic creature that absorbs bio energy by placing its roots into the ground. At the center of this organism lives Istina – the mother creator. Istina has a symbiotic relationship with the land. The energy Istina has leached from the earth she then uses to create the creatures that will inhabit her host. The races created by Istina are forced to engage in fatal competitions for survival. The Seed of Annihilation is located far north of Keucereus Alliance Base. It can be accessed by airship or flying transformation. There is an icon on the map to designate its location. Preview site: “The Seed of Annihilation is an enormous, parasitic creature that absorbs bioenergy from the ground through its roots. Istina, the mother creator, lives at the center of this organism. Istina has a symbiotic relationship with the land. She uses the energy she siphons form the earth to create the creatures that inhabit her host. The races created by Istina are forced to engage in fatal competitions for survival. The Seed of Annihilation is an extremely dangerous place, but it will be your primary site for obtaining Vesper crafting materials. If you are a pet enthusiast, you’ll want to check out the new Maguen pet, obtainable only by hunting in the Seed of Annihilation. Freya The crystal orb that was used to transform Felicia into Freya shattered into a million pieces. Some of those pieces seeped into the walls of Felicia's sanctuary, converting this once peaceful sanctum into a cold and hostile cage from which Freya plots her revenge against those who have wronged her. Preview site: “Felicia was a young princess who showed great promise in magic. As her thirst for knowledge grew, she spent some time dabbling in the dark arts. Labeled a witch by those who would see her kingdom fall, Felicia was exiled from the only home she’d ever known. Accompanied by her faithful bodyguards, the Kanna Knights, and her servant, Sirra, Felicia took refuge in the Summer Labyrinth, waiting for the day when she could smite her enemies and regain what was rightfully hers. One day she received a message from the great wizard Saiyan. She agreed to meet with him in order to further her power because she believed he could help her. Unknown to Felicia, Saiyan had joined her political enemies. On the day of their meeting, Saiyan secreted a magical orb filled with enchanted icy water in his cloak. He hurled the orb at Felicia’s feet when they met face to face. As it broke, freezing magical water poured over Felicia, and a small shard of ice struck Sirra. The powerful icy magic in the orb should have killed them, but they survived. In the process, they absorbed the ability to manipulate ice. On this fateful day, the Summer Labyrinth turned to ice, becoming the Frozen Labyrinth. Just as the labyrinth was transformed and renamed, then newly empowered Felicia began calling herself Freya. The Kanna Knights became the Jinia Guild on that same day, and the Guild dedicated itself to the return to Princess Felicia. Members of the Jinia Guild believe if they could restore Felicia to her original self, the Frozen Labyrinth and all land surrounding it would be restored to the beautiful and beloved Summer Labyrinth. As the years went by, Sirra controlled the Frozen Labyrinth for a period of time, but now Freya has reclaimed her throne in the Ice Queen’s Castle. Sel Mahum The Sel Mahum tribe used to inhabit the area North of Aden, but they were forced to move south after losing the territory war against their cousins, the Ol Mahums. During their journey, they discovered the Plains of the Lizardmen which is inhabited by the Tanta Lizardmen. Wanting this land for themselves, but realizing that the Lizardmen are a force to be reckoned with, the Sel Mahum have setup a training camp just South of Oren. Here they mercilessly train so that they can gain the fertile lands occupied by the Lizardmen. Plains of the Lizardmen Mutated by the magical properties of Antharas' blood, the Plains of the Lizardmen has evolved into a deadly and toxic region. Infected with the Poisonous energy of the land dragon, the Leto Lizardmen have also been transformed into a new race called the Tanta Lizardmen. Throughout this area, there are stone pillars that emanate noxious fumes from Antharas' blood. The Tanta Lizardmen are naturally drawn to these pillars, like bees to pollen. But for everyone else, inhaling these fumes produces an adverse affect called Curse of the Plains. While under the influence, this caustic substance lowers one's HP, but increases their Bow/Crossbow abilities. Herbs are dropped throughout the region. But because of the poisonous energy that permeates the plains, absorbency is immediate; meaning that herbs are not dropped on the ground. They are automatically applied to your character. Besides the Tanta Lizardmen, other forms of life now call this area home. The Rainbow Frog contains an enzyme that counteracts the Curse of the Plains. The Energy Plant restores 70% of your character's health. Hitting a Fantasy Mushroom will cause all aggressive monsters in the area to flock to its location. However, once the effect has worn off, they will target you next. And a Sticky Mushroom recovers 90% of your HP, but will cause immobility for 5 seconds. Pavel Ruins Pavel Ruins are the place where a huge research center was built in Ancient Later Giant period, Dwarf and Dark Elf Exploration Teams have been studying this place. But with the appearance of the Mad Scientist, Dr. Chaos, who dreams of conquering the world, Pavel Ruins become occupied with his own creatures, Golem Corps. Later, a Dwarf named Dorothy assists Chaos to develop Golem Corps of Horrors. Monastery of Silence Priests of Einhasad who follow St. Solina foresee the end of the world after prayers and meditations for a prolonged period. The priests offer a prayer to the God in order to prevent destruction. As if it is an answer to their prayer, a new angel appears at the upper layer of the Monastery. Also, a rumor that there is a treasure between Room of Secret and Solina Knightage starts to spread among the adventurers who covet the Holy Grail. High Five Changes to Game World “Plants were perished, water and soil were contaminated, and seams of buildings, weapons and even ores deep in the earth and cave were corroded by Red Rain called by the Goddess of Destruction.” – Quoted from the dialogue of High Priest ‘Maximilian’ during a meeting of High Priests Nevit’s Blessing "A rising number of Shilen's followers and their immeasurable power of prayer led to the day of Shilen's resurrection bit by bit." The Angel Nevit has been calmly watching the event and, one day, shot the Arrow of Light containing a vision of him to the ground. This was to bolster religious devotion to Einhasad. Those who have been shot by this arrow become susceptible to hallucination by the fantasy and power of the light." Dragon Valley - The soldiers of Aden have collected moved the Cursed Bones of Watchman of the Land Dragon Antharas who had to die miserably in the valley. This has caused the amount of undead monsters under the Blood Curse effect to decrease and the number of soldiers taking aim at Antharas to increase. Antharas has called up even more ferocious monsters near its nest to keep those infiltrators in check. Goddess of Destruction Awakening Shilen's indirect intervention roused the leader of the Giants, "Hermuncus," who was sealed in Ye Sagira. Hermuncus promises the player the power to confront the Destruction in return for releasing him from the seal. The player can "Awaken" by receiving the Giant hero's power after finding and releasing Hermuncus, who is sealed in the Disconnected Labyrinth in the depths of Talking Island. Sigel Knight Abelius was an ancient Giant hero with great defense and offense, and also the master of the chain scythe Vethnile and the shield Sabella. The mighty onslaughts he unleashed on his enemies with his beast companion, Golden Lion Kelcion, earned him the title of Golden Commander. Feoh Wizard Soltkrieg was one of the Seven Giant Sages who taught numerous students with his vast knowledge and great magic. Also known as the Silver Sage, he could transform mana into runes which he carved on to his body in order to draw enormous amounts of mana during battle. Tyrr Warrior Sapyros was a Giant who received the power of wind from Sayha before the outbreak of war between gods and Giants. The mightiest warrior among all Giants, he used his god-given power to summon powerful winds and command lesser races. The winds he summoned are said to be wild and violent, just like their master. Iss Enchanter Leister was said to be the most talented genius in the history of Giants. He was born with great talents, but bloody battles did not interest him as much as sword dances and singing. Fascinated more by the aesthetics of battle than battle itself, he applied it to sorcery and evolved it. Othell Rogue Ashagen was an assassin who shined in the darkness. He was a hero of unparalleled talents, but his ruthless, malicious slaughter of enemies in the quiet of the darkness left him infamous among future generations. Wynn Summoner Nabiarov was a Giant who could open and close dimensions. He used his power to summon weapons and mercenaries from various dimensions to utilize in battle. It is said that Nabiarov had to give up his eyes to keep the Dimensionalist's power. Yul Archer Cranigg was an ancient Giant hero who had a third eye. His third eye could see through to the heart of his enemies, enabling him to attack with incredible accuracy and power. Aeore Healer Laksis was a friend of Einhasad, and the holy magic used by the Giant is said to have been taught to him by Einhasad herself. He combined this holy magic with the powers he was born with to create a new kind of power, which was a great help to the Spicula and Methuselah projects. Talking Island Not long after the Seal of Calamity was broken, the Heavenly Island of Giants, Ye Sagira, crashed upon Talking Island. The disaster wiped out everything on the island, crushed under Ye Sagira. To investigate the cause of the Heavenly Island's crash and excavate the Giants' relics, the King of Aden dispatched a team of renowned scholars across the continent to Talking Island. Since then, the growth and sophistication of Talking Island have been rapid, helped by the existence of a great museum. Furthermore, the arrival of merchant princes wishing to claim an early stake on the island, as well as the influx of other races fleeing the pestilent mist, led to the island becoming what it is today. Ye Sagira The Royal Palace of Ye Sagira, built by King Harnak of Giants in the bygone era of Giants, suffered great destruction when the Heavenly Island crashed. Ravaged terrains, mysterious ancient creatures, and demonic beasts spawned from the dead are just some of the dangers that threaten the life of any visitor. But the temptation of the Giants' relics buried beneath the ruins attracted many well-renowned scholars to the site, along with a host of mercenaries to guard them. Labyrinth of Belis Harnak, a king of Giants in the past, suffered severely from a delusional jealousy of his queen Belis, caused by his obsession over her great beauty. His jealousy became so severe that he wouldn't even let other People see her. This eventually culminated in the construction of a labyrinth where he imprisoned his wife. It was known as the "Labyrinth of Belis." At the moment, it is in the hands of a secretive organization that took over it. Harnak Underground Ruins This place is regarded as the tomb of "Harnak," a great king of Giants in the past. When Harnak learned that his queen, whom he had imprisoned in the labyrinth, was seduced by Gran Kain, he was overcome by wrath and murdered Belis in a rage. He then secluded himself somewhere deep underground, never to emerge again. Scholars are almost certain that this is where Harnak had spent the last of his days. Altar of Evil This place is regarded as the tomb of "Harnak," a great king of Giants in the past. When Harnak learned that his queen, whom he had imprisoned in the labyrinth, was seduced by Gran Kain, he was overcome by wrath and murdered Belis in a rage. He then secluded himself somewhere deep underground, never to emerge again. Scholars are almost certain that this is where Harnak had spent the last of his days. Sayune Sayune was a demigod, the child of a Giant and Sayha. Because his inherited powers were a combination of wind and grandeur, Sayune had the unique ability to jump higher and further than any other creature. With this power, he could travel across the land quickly. During the war between the gods and the Giants, their servant-warriors the Spiculas needed to travel great distances quickly. Sayune’s ability was studied and recreated as a skill that other people could use. Now, Sayune locations have been activated in various places in the world. Bloody Swampland The great swampland is saturated with dark red mist and black blood, which permeate even the deepest reaches of the marsh. Powerful monsters (Followers of Shilen) drawn to the stench of blood like bees to a flower are currently occupying the area. Windmill Hill, Ruins of Agony, Ruins of Despair, Wastelands An unknown organization summoned Sakum, a terrible monster in the Ye Sagira Ruins, to the peaceful land of Windmill Hill on the continent of Aden. However, Sakum went berserk and the organization that tried to use the monster was annihilated by its outrageous power. Freed from shackles, Sakum disgorged little clones of itself in the Ruins of Despair and Ruins of Agony to absorb life energy, and hid its main body in the Wastelands. Cruma Tower At the Ivory Tower in Oren, those in charge of the tower are searching for ways to construct and install "Elevators" inside the tower. This is because there is a surge in the number of Ivory Tower Inspectors in charge of teleport within the tower who are getting hurt while on duty. All the gatekeepers in the tower have been replaced by Senior Ivory Tower Wizards. Tower of Insolence The rain of blood also fell on the tower of the foolhardy who dared to challenge the authority of the gods. The blood steeped through the tower walls to reach the corpses of high sorcerers that lay dormant inside the tower, and reanimated them with the life of the dead. The revived monsters began butchering those who were seduced by the fantasies conjured by Shilen's blood and intruded into the tower. Seed of Annihilation With Shilen's influence on the Material Plane growing more powerful, the Seed of Annihilation thrived. The seed has become stronger, as are the monsters evolving within it. The Queen of Annihilation Istina continues to create new creatures and test their abilities. Her quest is to create the most powerful creatures of all that can threaten the Material Plane. The very heart of annihilation herself, she watches over everything that happens inside the Seed from its deepest reaches. Shilen’s Tomb The Goddess of Destruction awakened when the seven seals were removed by Embryo, an organization that desires the resurrection of Shilen. To complete an avatar that can hold Shilen's soul, Embryo built a gigantic altar that absorbs energy from offerings sent to the Catacombs and Necropolis. Crystal Caverns After drinking Shilen's blood, Beleth became even more powerful at using dark sorcery. To prevent any external influences getting near Witch Parme, he began to summon monsters from the Dark Spirit Plane with his newfound powers. Completely devoid of will, these monsters follow Beleth's orders with absolute obedience. Baylor Orc Demon King "Baylor," summoned by Beleth, placed Witch Parme under a powerful mind control. When Parme succumbed to Baylor's curse and fell, Beleth turned the whole island into a prison by erecting a wall of tremendous magic around it. Balok When Baylor did not prove as effective as he thought, Beleth created an even more sinister demon, Balok, to overrun the Isle of Prayer. Balok, a monster that even Beleth failed to subdue completely, opens the gates of Hell using the very sword it got from Beleth, and welcomes anyone who intrudes its domain with a madness of utmost horror. The Balthus Knights: Antharas Expedition When the lunar influence shifted, the kingdom detected suspicious movements of Antharas and dispatched an expeditionary force to investigate. With the help of Antharas Watcher "Theodric," it has become possible to dispatch many men quickly to Antharas's Lair. Antharas, Valakas With the awakening of Shilen, her children were granted with even greater powers of darkness. Accordingly, dragons such as Antharas and Valakas also regained their consciousness, waking up from eons of confusion and meaningless chaos thanks to Shilen. With their powers dependent on lunar influence, dragons are trying to leave their lairs in order to complete the great sacrifice for Shilen. Earth Wyrm Trasken Commanded by Shilen to provide great sacrifices, the Earth Wyrm has been sending sacrifices made from creatures it lured to the Dark Spirit Plane using its mouth. Dark Elves and Dwarves have not only lost their villages, but also a countless number of their own to the Earth Wyrm. To stop even greater sacrifices, they sneaked into the Mithril Mines and are watching the development of events. Although his nest is near the Mithril Mines, Trasken’s massive tail has been spotted emerging from the ground in various locations around the continent of Aden. Teredor Teredor, a creature given life by the Earth Wyrm, has been sleeping in the depths of the Mithril Mines, but was awakened prematurely by the power of blood that permeated through the mine. Fortuna A temporary rebel base in the past, it is also the sleeping place of the spirits of rebel troops who were defeated in the war against Paulina. However, presently it is a stronghold of the fallen hero "Ron" and his men, who were banished from Orbis Temple. Magmeld "Magmeld" is a part of the Light Spirit Plane created by Einhasad. It is located between the Material Plane and the Light Spirit Plane, but being a land of another dimension its existence was unknown. It was first discovered a very long time ago by elementalists who could use magic of the highest order, but there was only a thin sliver of a gap that was barely enough to see what lies beyond. However, the gap began to grow wider recently with the quickening of "Decaying Darkness Agahel," the Tenth Lord of Shilen inside Magmeld. The gap's existence was discovered by the Elven chieftain Asterios who was studying the Light Spirit Plane to revive the Mother Tree. Soon the interchange between dimensions became possible. Ancient City Arcan The only inhabited settlement in Magmeld, Ancient City of Arcan is a village of the Cat Clan. The first arrivals so far are the Elves searching for the Creation Tree and the source of calamity needed to revive the Mother Tree, and the Dwarves who wish to dominate the early market share of the new world. Fairy Settlement Kimerian, who was at odds with Fairy King Obelius, took his followers to Magmeld and lived peacefully in the beautiful land until present. However, the Fairy Settlement has been contaminated by the corruption of the Decaying Darkness, and the Fairies that have fallen sway to the Seed of Darkness are on the rampage. Kimerian The leader of Fairies Kimerian has been corrupted under the influence of the "Decaying Darkness." Having lost much of his self-awareness, he is struggling against his own insanity somewhere deep in the Fairy Settlement. Garden of Genesis Einhasad commanded her angels to preserve those among the Creation Trees that are beautiful and worthy. Thus the Garden of Genesis was created, where many ancient creatures and plants that are extinct in the Material Plane grow. However, much of these plants have become contaminated under the influence of the Decaying Darkness. Prison of Darkness, Spezion When the rebel troops of the past faced the possibility of forced isolation in Magmeld, they tried to appeal to the gods of this injustice, but were betrayed by Octavis and were completely wiped out without ever reaching the gods. The traitor Octavis was later honored by becoming the Keeper of Orbis Temple. However, the rebel leader Spezion was doomed to suffer forever in the Prison of Darkness, his body pinned by the bars that also imprison him. Orbis Temple Orbis Temple is a sanctuary for heroes who were loved by the gods. Angel Paulina built the temple for the great heroes at the bidding of Einhasad. However, those heroes who were meant to be resting in glory were roused from slumber because of the influence of the Decaying Darkness, and began to go wild suffering from the pain of their tarnished souls. Octavis He was one of the rebel leaders, but was enticed by Angel Paulina into betraying his comrades. He was rewarded for his betrayal by becoming the Keeper of Orbis Temple, a sanctuary for great heroes. However, instead of resting in brilliant glory he was woken from his long slumber by the Decaying Darkness. Race Starter Villages Race starter villages are where those who are weak gather. But these villages have been driven to near ruin by the rampage of fiends crazed from drinking blood rain, the pestilent mist, and the activities of the Earth Wyrm who is set on completing the great sacrifice. After much deliberation, the chiefs of each race decided to abandon their villages, and with the approval of King Amadeo Cadmus of Aden began the migration to Talking Island, a place protected by divine power. Seven Signs King Amadeo of Aden has closed off the Catacombs and Necropolis, where only deathly aura remains after they were completely stripped of power by Shilen. The effects of the seals of Avarice, Gnosis and Strife no longer apply. Goddess of Destruction: Harmony Kartia’s Labyrinth The Dimensional Rift has already changed the perspective of the world in the minds of the adventurers of Aden. Now, with Shilen’s awakening, the boundaries between dimensions have become even more distorted. Kartia’s Labyrinth is a strategic stronghold that exists in another dimension. It is ruled by three of the Goddess’ most beloved demons. The Kartia Researcher has been sent to Aden to recruit brave adventurers to fight them, lest the demons pour into our own dimension and bring doom. Goddess of Destruction: Tauti Seed of Hellfire The Seed of Hellfire is a top-level hunting ground. It was originally Bremnon's weapon, but when Tauti received Shilen's command, he led his followers, the Jahks, Kundas, and Sophas, to this place in order to expand Shilen's influence on the Gracia Continent. Tauti is carrying out Shilen's command, but he does not hide the fact that he is also seeking to increase his own power. Guillotine Fortress This place was previously the "execution grounds" raid field. Monsters that were captured at the Hallucination of Blood were used to raise up this fortress. The souls of those who died with regret wander around in this place. It is now called the "Guillotine Fortress". The guillotine that stands at the center of the Guillotine Fortress calls itself the Guillotine of Death. It called forth its followers to raise a powerful Chaos Shield around itself. Ceremony of Chaos One day, while watching over the progression of the darkness, he was intrigued by the warriors who continue to fight a meaningless and futile battle. They did not quit or retreat. They proceeded forward, slowly but steadily. He was filled with admirations. He used his followers to test the warriors' abilities, and he chose the strongest warrior to give him "strength." It was an unprecedented thing to interfere in the fight between light and darkness. But he had continuously shown his fickleness for a long time. His followers created a space called the Mansion of Doubt. Then, they started a ceremony of chaos in order to determine the strongest warrior who would receive their master's strength called the "Ruler's Authority."
  42. 10 points
    I agree so much to this, this also ruins classes since ppl just get their own healer or simillar. Suddenly the MMO is a singleplayer game
  43. 10 points
    I will get to your questions after I have some lunch. I'm starving. T-T Hang tight. Be back soon.
  44. 10 points
    Hi All, Lets be honest. The nerfs to adena/loot/spoil rates were 100% by design.. it was actually a great idea that 2-3 years ago, they would have gotten away with. Nerfing adena was to force people to buy SS from the shop and likely, force users into buying gear through L2 shop when they are inevitably released. Spoil rates and loot drops were nerfed to increase the value of 'silver coins' thus enticing players to buy VIP3/4 and earn materials that way. What we have now is a Lineage 2 that is broken, where progression walls exists as players simply cannot gear up even when using the shop to supplement SS. These predatory actions implemented by NCSoft/West arent new. We only need to look back to the Destiny 2 XP throttling and Battlefront 2 lootbox fiasco's to realise developers and publishers are becoming more daring and cunning in their monetization schemes! NCsoft/NCWest decided to force players into spending money before inevitably hitting a progression wall, and whilst perhaps not as obvious as Destiny 2 or Battlefront 2, it is still just as insidious. I want to congratulate all those who voiced their concerns against these predatory actions. Those who chose, rather than to be silent, to make their anger, their frustration and disappointment heard. We had the proverbial wool pulled over our eyes prior to release, with patch notes saying absolutely nothing about the nerfs (this is what annoys me the most). Many of us played at release and understand how amazing Lineage 2 is and what Lineage 2 Classic could have been. We have been left unbelievably frustrated and saddend that greed took priority over providing a good, fun and authentic experience. Maybe things will change, maybe NCSoft/West will continue their predatory monetization schemes, but if they do, they can expect a mass exodus reminiscent of Bless Online. Keep fighting the good fight boys. Corporate greed should never be accepted. Tetsuo.
  45. 10 points
    ISSUE #1. First and foremost, thousands of players are unable to log in on a daily basis. When any “free to play” player tries to log in, they are put in a queue which often has 500-800 players waiting. It typically takes 15 – 30 minutes to reach the front of the queue at which time players are disconnected….repeatedly…for hours. On Sunday a friend tried to log in for 6 hours straight…6 hours…and was unable to do so. In my 15 years of gaming, I have never seen or heard of a game so terribly managed. SOLUTION #1a – prior to game launch, NC Soft should have offered pre-registration, like other games have done including Lineage2 Revolution. Pre-registration would have allowed them to better gauge server populations and balance them. SOLUTION #1b – Hundreds of players are afk in shops. Other Lineage2 servers offer a system where those shops stay available while the player disconnects, thereby freeing up server space. SOLUTION #1c – L2 Classic offers afk fishing. Either players who are fishing should be permitted to disconnect in a similar manner to the shop suggestion above, or fishing should not be permitted while afk (i.e. remove the auto function). The linked image shows less than half of the players currently fishing at Giran Harbor alone, and there are many other fishing spots (panned left) - https://imgur.com/a/SZZxCZz SOLUTION #1d – Offer free server transfers from over-populated servers to less populated servers SOLUTION #1e – Upgrade the server hardware to support higher levels of traffic At the very least, Solution #1d can be offered immediately at no cost to NC Soft. ISSUE #2 – Prioritized “VIP” login. The game is advertised as “free to play” but that is simply not true. As a VIP player, I can log in instantly at any time and play. Free to play players cannot log in at all most of the gaming day. They cannot play. It is, at best, highly deceptive for NC Soft to permit paid players to log in while actively blocking free players. At no point in time was it ever mentioned in advance, or even now, that free-to-play players would be blocked from playing many hours every day. Furthermore, blocking free-to-play players from logging in directly impacts all players. Like many L2 Classic players, I have a 9 person Constant Party. While many CP members are paid players, there are some free-to-play gamers. When 1 player cannot log in, we are stuck. Our party cannot function without our healer, buffer or other key support classes, nor should it. SOLUTION #2 – Allow everyone to log in. Stop blocking free-to-play gamers. ISSUE #3 – Accounts “blocked” or banned without explanation. These are US servers and I kindly suggest NC Soft follow US customs when taking action against player accounts. Blocking or banning an account is parallel to a “digital arrest”. When a person is arrested, they are immediately informed of the charges against them. By contrast, NC Soft bans accounts without providing any explanation. This action is not only un-American, it is extremely poor customer service. SOLUTION #3 – Immediately inform players why their accounts are blocked or banned. ISSUE #4 – 1 week for responses to blocked account inquiries. If a NC Soft employee has the time to block an account, a NC Soft employee should have the time to PROMPTLY respond to inquiries about the account. Instead, it typically seems to take 2-4 days for each reply. SOLUTION #4 - The first response from NC Soft is a complete waste of time….it asks the player to verify who they are….then wait another 2-4 days for a second canned response. Instead, ask players to always contact NC Soft while logged into their NC Soft account on the website. That way, players would have had to enter their NC Soft user name, password and/or pin…the system NC Soft established…which should be sufficient to verify their identity. This solution would greatly speed up the response time by cutting the required responses in half. It is a win-win for everyone. ISSUE #5 – Sending the same generic response to 100% of players who inquire about their banned accounts. When players are banned they are instructed to send an e-mail to appeals@lineage2.com. Upon sending the e-mail, they will receive the following response after 2 -4 days: Hello, I would be happy to assist you with your concern. However before we proceed, we would need to verify your account first. Please provide as much of the below information as possible. • List all possible emails that you would have used on the NC Account. • Billing information: If activated using a credit/debit card, please provide the last 4 digits of the credit card used ONLY. If activated using PayPal®, please provide the Transaction ID or the Invoice ID associated with the original activation purchase. If you have an Order ID number from a previous purchase on your NC Account, please provide that as well. • Provide location (City and Country) at the time of account creation. • What date of birth did you use when you created the account? If the information you provided is not sufficient, we will be requesting for additional information in order to investigate your issue further. I look forward to your reply. Regards, Jun NCSOFT Support Team The above message is so generic, it does not even apply to the game we are playing. L2 Classic does not have subscriptions, therefore accounts are not ever “activated” with a credit card, which the second bullet point refers to. After missing 2-4 days on a brand new server waiting for the above response and replying, players now have to wait another 2-4 days to receive the below generic reply. Hello, Account Name: ** Offense: Use of 3rd Party Program Penalty: Account Closure We have reviewed your accounts further and unfortunately, we found activity that is in violation of our Terms of Agreement. As such, we have no choice but to close the accounts. We ask that you review our terms and rules of conduct, which are available here: http://us.ncsoft.com/en/legal/user-agreements/. The action taken against the accounts will not be removed and the penalty will stand. Regards, *** NCSOFT Support Team THIS E-MAIL is the first time a player is given the reason for his account being “blocked”. At this time he is also told the decision is “final” and he/she has absolutely no recourse. America established a system of laws based on fairness. It is far from perfect, but it has served us well for over 200 years. Imagine being arrested, thrown in jail without being informed of the charges, then after a week being informed you are charged with xyz, have been found guilty and there is no appeal process. Furthermore, you cannot see any of the “evidence” against you. SOLUTION #5 – Advise players of the reason of the ban / blockage immediately. Follow Solution 4a above to allow players a method of responding from the website while logged in, bypassing the need to re-verify information on accounts less than a week old. Lastly, PROVIDE EVIDENCE supporting the reason of the action taken. We get the argument. If we tell users why we banned them other players may use this information to avoid bans. That argument, which NC Soft used in the past is….and I apologize for my language here…complete bullshit. There are cameras in every bank. Photos from those cameras are used to convict criminals, yet banks are still robbed. You can share examples such as: - Program xyz was seen running on your pc. Our research indicates it is a bot program designed specifically for L2, and action was taken based on that program running. - Your character was attacking, healing, buffing and taking other actions in game. While those actions were taking place, we presented a pop-up window which required a response. That window was ignored and you continued taking a variety of ingame actions indicating your character was not under your direct control. - We buffed you with Might level 10 and your buffer kept trying to over-write the buff until it was out of mp. That action is not natural for a human player. - We spawned a mob that was invincible. You kept attacking it for 4 minutes. That action is not natural. There are dozens if not hundreds of possible ways to determine a player is a bot. If NC Soft is going to ban bots, which they should, you are obligated to tell us what actions are being taken to draw that conclusion. Our original ally on Lionna server had over 400 players. We brought over 200 to L2 Classic. I never used a bot and my account was never sold. You can look it up – TrueLies on Lionna server. I am playing now, my account is active, but my gaming has been ruined by seemingly random bans of players who are playing 100% live without any bot, nor any automated clicker. They are live at their pc and disconnected. If you want to ban them, fine, but without any evidence to the contrary, I am going to believe the people I have gamed with for 15 years and that NC Soft is randomly banning players without reason. Based on that belief, I cannot continue to play this or any other NC Soft game. What reasonable person could? Other issues…. Issue #6 – wrong XP on mobs. This issue has been reported by others and wrongly dismissed. Go outside Dion and kill mobs which are white / green and you only receive 100xp. If you kill the same mobs on other L2 Classic 1x rate servers, or if you look up their old XP from the original L2, or if you compare to any other white/green mob, the XP rate seems to be about 10% of what it should be. To be clear, this is not a random complaint but a very specific one. The XP given by some mobs is flat out wrong. SOLUTION #6 – Investigate and fix the XP of mobs outside Dion. Going forward, do not dismiss player complaints so easily. The official NC Soft response of “We investigated the issue and determined the provided XP is correct” - - - was not only wrong, but it ruins all credibility for NC Soft. That is the same generic response we have received about the bans of legitimate players. ISSUE #7 – allowing players from “blocked” countries. Players should be playing mostly from home / work / school but others may be playing from an “internet café”. Players should not be using services which mask their real IP address. SOLUTION #7 - A company of the size and sophistication of NC Soft should easily be able to run the IP addresses of players and check who the real players are vs those who are violating the EULA. ISSUE #8 – Banning priority. The primary focus of bans should always be the top ?300 players on the server. Right now there is a party of players who is, by far, the highest on the server. They are Russian players, on this server in violation of the EULA, and they are using “drivers” - - - players from China / India or other poor countries who work for a few dollars/day. They are account sharing and staying online 24/7. SOLUTION #8 – It should simply be bannable to actively farm 24 hours/day continuously. The simple act of doing so is not possible unless the rules are broken. Either the accounts are being shared, or a bot is being used, or an auto-clicker is being used. It does not matter what “tests” are passed….there is not a way to stay online 24/7 without some violation of the rules. Either way, any bot tests should be focused on the top players first. Sure, you can “follow the adena” from low level accounts trading to other players and institute bans, but it should all start from the top. ISSUE #9 – Ban adena sellers. Every day most players receive private messages from adena sellers. We then receive similar messages the next day from the same accounts, and/or see them in shout chat. SOLUTION #9 – Ban adena accounts multiple times each day. A minimum wage employee should easily be able to recognize an adena seller and take action. Furthermore, NC Soft should be actively “following the adena” - - - any player who has received 100k+ adena should be suspect...and watched further. The bottom line….a large number of players were very much looking forward to playing L2 Classic together. Our experience thusfar has been so overwhelmingly negative, we are actively discussing quitting. The launch was delayed ?8 hours and players received ZERO compensation. Players cannot log in and have received ZERO compensation. Players have been banned without warning or evidence and players have received ZERO compensation. L2 is a game / hobby for us. I cannot in good conscience ask others to spend their time or money on a hobby where players are treated so poorly. It is my hope NC Soft offers a prompt and thorough response, but I am not expecting it. Much of the damage is done, and many gamers have been permanently lost. Some of the parties / clans / allies those players belong to have left with them. Disappointed, -TrueLies PS. A final thought for consideration. The whole idea behind banning bots is fairness. L2 is a COMPETITIVE game, and we do not wish to game against the massive advantage bots offer. But the same can be said for all the other cheats such as bypassing IP bans, using paid "drivers" to run parties 24/7, buying adena, etc. NC Soft needs to hit ALL the cheaters...at once. Randomly banning 1 cheater while allowing others to continue....it only hurts the game. You will still have players quit because of the other cheats, and you will lose the banned players, along with the their friends, Constant Party members, clan and allymates.
  46. 10 points
    WOHO I get to play spider simulator 2018 for at least another week! I'm so excited
  47. 10 points
    @Juji @Hime Okay, folks, it's time. You've procrastinated for 5 days giving answers to the important questions here. (1) Are you going to fix the drop/adena/spoil/exp rates or not? (2) are you going to fix the server connect issues or not? (3) What's with the random bans? (4) What, if anything, are you going to do about the RMTs and the bots after 15 years of neglecting the problem? Let's have some answers.
  48. 10 points
    Simple as that, it´s a marketing fraud for establishing something in the patchnotes and later doing something else You like how it is right now? fine, you can have your own opinion and taste, doens´t mean this isn´t a fraud and they explicitly lied to everyone
  49. 10 points
  50. 9 points
    Everyone keeps saying : Ty, ty, ty... I won't. Maybe it's not your fault, I won't accuse you cuz Idk how the company works but If your company had a minimal decense and respect for the players like you have for the money, you would open one more gmt -5 or gmt -3 server, anyway... You just want to suck all the money people has and giving nothing in return. It's so expensive this way to make a server and do a merge after that if it's necessary? Can't you see there is a lot of people suffering (literally)? So people have to pay to play but you can't open new servers? I had a server already and I know how it costs to keep a machine, what you're doing with us is indecent.
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