Unknown where the Cursed Wave was born…
After the stars doth cross the heavens,
The sky in the East doth darken and air doth fill with mourning.
From the chosen land beyond the forest, a sign of the wave comes.
Riding the wake is Skeith, the Shadow of Death, to drown all that stands.
Mirage of Deceit, Innis, Betray all with the flawed image, and did aid the Wave.
And by the Power of Magus, a drop from the Wave doth reach the heavens, and creates a new Wave.
With the Wave, Fidchell, the power to tell the dark future, hope darkens, sadness and despair rule.
Gorre schemes when swallowed by the Cursed Wave.
Macha seduces with the sweet trap.
Wave reaches the Pinnacle, and escape none can. Tarvos still remains with more cruelty to punish and destroy.
And with the turbulent destruction after the Wave. Only a void remains. From deep within the void arrives Corbenik.
Perhaps then the Wave is just a beginning as well.
- Emma Wielant, "The Epitaph of Twilight"
"Now, the time has come. The Epitaph has been set in motion. The eight phases of the cursed Wave must serve their purpose."
From nowhere and everywhere, Morganna's voice radiated, commanding authority and true power, her programming running at full power as the servers for "The World" began their first run. The field generated was almost empty, only assorted rock-like objects floating in the limited sky. The sky and the ground almost touched, separated by no more than ten or fifteen meters, and both were an odd, sickly yellow color, spotted with lavender and light green splotches, like dots of paint across a canvas.
"The First Phase: Skeith, The Terror of Death."
In one section of the area, blue hexagons of data appeared and stacked onto each other, creating the outline of a humanoid figure. Similar blue text began spreading itself over the frame, solidifying on it until the figure was complete. Standing in place of the frame was a man with long dark gray hair, clad in thick black armor. As soon as his figure finished forming, he opened his eyes, his irises crimson, a scowl forming on his face.
"The Second Phase: Innis, The Mirage of Deceit."
Counterclockwise from the first, a second figure formed, from frame to finished piece, this one a woman in white with platinum blond hair, a halo around her head and a shield-like object hanging on her back. She opened her blue eyes and smiled sweetly.
"The Third Phase: Magus, The Propagation."
The next figure in the circle was a gruff-looking man with dirty, earthen brown hair, turtle shell-like armor across his shoulders and waist. His green eyes opened and he shrugged involuntarily, his shoulders drooping down as he tilted under the weight of his strange armor.
"The Fourth Phase: Fidchell, The Prophet."
The next was a man with wispy thin red hair, red metal armor shielding his chest. He kept his eyes closed, folding his arms in disdain at the others around him, a grimace of disgust on his face.
"The Fifth Phase: Gorre, The Machinator."
Next was a pair of children, a girl and a boy. The girl was like a doll, wearing a pink dress, her prefect pink curls tied back with a bow. The boy was wearing a suit and his hair was short blue, but the resemblance to the girl was apparent. They smiled widely at each other.
"The Sixth Phase: Macha, The Temptress."
Following was a woman with long brown hair, wearing a dress with a skirt in the shape of a flower. When she opened her eyes, the purple cat ears on her head twitched, picking up the sounds in the area.
"The Seventh Phase: Tarvos, The Avenger."
Next was another woman, dressed from head to toe in pink of varying shades, with pink hair and high-heeled pink boots, a large, stake-like weapon slung across her back. She opened her emerald green eyes and gazed around tentatively, relaxing her tense stance when she had taken in her present company.
"The Eighth Phase: Corbenik, The Rebirth."
Lastly, on Skeith's other side, formed the final being, a man with glasses, a wide collar of leaf-like protrusions framing the back of his head. He stared into the center, unblinking.
"To all of you, I give you your purpose: to gather information on whatever you deem worthy to your title, and give the truth of humans to this girl, Aura."
From above the circle, the sky of the area began to ripple, undulating out in silvery waves to approximately where the circle below it stopped. Slowly, from within the waves dropped the figure of a sleeping girl wearing a white dress, though both her and the dress' color were distorted, appearing more of a smoky pink and green, like the spots in the area itself. She stopped in the middle of the circle, hovering a few feet from the ground.
Skeith, arms now folded across his chest, watched the rippling of the sleeping girl's hair and gazed intently at the serene expression on her sleeping face. Peeling his eyes from her, he looked himself and his new form over. The human-like structure was complicated at first, but movement was easier than he had expected. His other form, his Phase form, which he could picture in his mind, was cruder than this, but had the same basic structure and movement principals. The other Phases, as he noticed with one glace around the circle, were having a more difficult time.
'It'll take some time but they'll get it… Not that I care. I guess that's how my personality is shaping out… Personality? What am I thinking? I shouldn't even be thinking. I'm just a hunk of data. I don't have thoughts or a personality… do I?'
"Well then," Innis announced, still smiling brightly, "I think we should all get to know each other a little. We'll be working together for a while, it seems, so we should be able to find a way to work together well."
Corbenik glanced over in her direction for a moment, his expression unusually blank and out of place on his humanoid face, before his eyes rested on Skeith. Skeith glared back silently, and a staring contest began until Corbenik turned and walked away, warping out of the area without a word to any of them.
Fidchell also turned and warped out, his sigh barely audible as the rest of him disappeared to another area.
After a few minutes of awkward silence and uncomfortable staring, the male half of Gorre stood up, testing out his legs a bit before he turned to his female half. "I wanna go exploring. Come on, Rei!" he chuckled excitedly before he took off, running around in circles.
Rei stood up, her little arms shaking. "W-wait for me, Gorr! Slow down! We'll get lost if you rush!" She steadied herself and tried to chase after him, but tripped and fell flat on her face. Recovering quickly, she and her 'brother' warped out.
"Well," Tarvos mumbled after a moment, rolling her shoulders, "It's just the five of us. What do we do now?"
Magus looked up. "It would be a good idea to start on our mission. 'The World' is opening today, so are bound to be plenty of players around. We'll miss our best chance to collect data if we just wait around."
"Sounds good to me. Coming, Macha?" Tarvos nodded.
Macha, distracted by her flowery outfit, blinked and nodded back, and the three of them warped out, leaving Skeith and Innis alone with Aura's sleeping form. Innis shuffled in place, still smiling, though her expression contained traces of disappointment. Skeith watched her for a moment, analyzing her actions until she looked up and saw him staring, causing her to jump back a step.
"I… I guess that there's nothing else to do but go, huh?" she muttered sheepishly, staring at her feet, before she looked up at him. "Coming?"
Skeith stared at her for another long moment before her turned back to Aura. "Not yet."
For a while, Innis hesitated, watching him stand there before she warped out as well. He watched her out of the corner of his eyes. Once the golden rings of her departure vanished, he sat down, staring at Aura. From where he was, he could feel the waves of energy cascading towards him from the servers, filling him with power and driving him to action. It was what he wanted as well, but something about the sleeping girl had captivated him, drawing him towards her.
"Is something wrong, Skeith?"
Morganna's multi-tone voice caught him off guard, but he didn't react to it. "Not at all. I… Maybe…"
"What is your concern?"
"Everything," he replied bluntly, deciding to elaborate when there was no reply, "We're creations; programs created for certain purposes, right? So then… how and why can we think? What gives us the ability to do something so… human?"
"That is the way in which we were created to function. AI are meant to behave and think, just as humans do, because humans desire to create something akin to their intelligence."
He snorted. 'Humans aren't very intelligent if they believe that,' he mused. "So, we're experiments to them? Toys to test their theories on? I don't like it."
"If that is what you desire, do as you wish. Ignore the task handed to you by those who created you, and leave the girl to sleep forever."
That snapped him out of his anger. 'Aura… will never wake? I… have to do my job. For Aura, at least.' He shirted back to his feet. "My task, huh? Then, I choose death."
"Go forth, Terror of Death, and invite to this world the destruction you desire."
"Sounds fun to me," he smirked, and warped out.
The main hub of 'The World' on opening day was the Root Town, the port-style city of Mac Anu. Despite being the first day, there were many people, the streets of the town almost as flooded as the waterways that passed in and around them. They chattered constantly and, within a few minutes of arriving, Skeith wished he'd been programmed with a mute button. Like normal players, his PC form came equipped with a map, and he easily navigated to the central waterway of the town, a wide canal traversed by bridges up and down its length. Staring at it, he sat down on one of the banks and stared out across the water.
Mac Anu was a city of water and eternal sunsets, and both were apparent from his seat. The sun, sitting in its fixed position, cast a yellowish glow on everything, turning the water a strange beige and gray color. Barges floated lazily along the surface of the water, waves drifting outwards in their wake.
He didn't even need to look up to know that the being that sat down beside him was unwanted company. "What do you want?"
Magus chuckled, the leafy tail extending from his scarf scraping against the ground as he leaned back. "Just to talk."
"You don't like me very much, do you?"
Skeith shrugged. "Do I need to?"
"It would be nice if you did."
"Being who we are, I have even less of a reason to. It wouldn't make a difference if I was nice to you or not."
"Yeowch, harsh," Magus grimaced jokingly, "No wonder you're the 'Terror of Death'. A bit of compassion goes a long was in an online game."
"We're not part of an online game, though. This is our world."
"It applies either way."
"Get to the point."
Magus shrugged, his tail clattering against the stone. "Right. I was wondering if you wanted to go to a field with me."
Skeith cast him a sidelong glance. "Field?"
"Yeah. Plenty of players will be starting today, and what better place to conduct research then in a field, especially for you. Players will be testing out the difficulty level and overestimating their skills. A lot of them will end up dying."
"It's not a real death."
"Does it need to be?"
"I never said that."
"Will you come? We can gain some levels as well."
"We don't need to."
"But it'll be more fun that way…"
Skeith look at him again, and then back out at the river. "You're strange."
"You are too, but you don't see me complaining."
Magus took a moment to think. "Because, I wanted to spend some time with my 'big brother'."
It was a concept that he couldn't argue with. They were all related programs, derived from the same base program, so they could be considered to be related. Skeith, as the first program initialized, would be the 'oldest' of the group.
"Yes!" Magus jumped to his feet, startling some of the players walking past them. "Let's go somewhere, then."
Skeith rolled his eyes. "You're too excited for this."
In terms of PC stats, both Skeith and Magus were only level 1, so they headed to a weak field with a dungeon that looked like the inside of a creature. Skeith stood staring at the entrance for a while.
"Graphic designers are weird."
Skeith gestured at the dungeon. "I doubt anything has anatomy like this."
"They wanted to make it interesting for the players, and what's more interesting than emerging for the belly of a ferocious monster?"
"It would be more intriguing if the dungeon was a living monster."
The inside of the dungeon was a sickening pink, the sticky flesh walls supported by bones. Experimentally, Magus pressed his palm against one, only for part of the wall to stick to him, trailing gooey pink strands from his fingers.
"Well, they sure put a lot of… detail… into it."
Ignoring his comments, Skeith proceeded forward. Not far from the entrance, a hazy yellow portal opened up and spewed out a monster, a Swordmaniod. It slashed at them, but they jumped out of the way. Regaining his balance, Skeith summoned his weapon, a large silver scythe called 'Shadowy Death', and blocked the next attack with its handle.
Magus summoned his weapon, a spell book named 'Silent Eden' with a spiky, turtle shell-style cover, but he didn't need to. Skeith shifted his block, sending the monster's attack over his head, and then ducked under it and slashed upward. The monster faded to black and vanished.
Leaning against his scythe, he turned to Magus. "That was too easy. We'll never get anything done here."
Magus scratched his chin in thought. "It seems so, for you. It works fine for me, but since we're working together, we should try a different area. At least, one with more people."
"There are plenty of people here. They're farther ahead. Remember, Magus, there's a difference in power between them and us."
"Point made. Shall we?"
Together, they proceeded through the dungeon until they reached the bottom, where they found two players facing off against a large monster. One of the players spotted them, looking back just in time to avoid being hit.
There was a short exchange between the two in Party Mode, and the second player cursed. "Don't think about butting in!" he snapped at them.
'Not like we plan on it.'
They stood back near the wall, watching the two players scratch futilely at the monster. It seemed to brush off every attack they tried, knocking them down close to death with every attack. Finally, it caught them off guard while they were trying to heal, and both players vanished, dead. A warm, relaxing sensation washed over Skeith, filling him with energy. The monster turns its attention to them and, brandishing his scythe, Skeith took it out with one broad swing.
"All there is to it, then?"
Magus brushed the sticky pink residue off his clothes. "Pretty much. It's surprisingly easy, considering it's such an important job."
"We're doing this for her. All so she can wake up."
"Right. To bring to life the goddess of our desires, and fulfill the desires of our creator."
"Harald Hoerwick, right?"
"Yes. To fulfill Harald's wish, we must provide the necessary information for Aura. All of us, from Morganna to you and I."
Skeith dragged the blade of his scythe against the ground, cutting a deep line into the pink material. "And then what?"
"What happens to us when our work is complete?"
Magus pondered the question for a while. "I have no clue."
Grunting his acknowledgment, Skeith dismissed his scythe and started to walk away.
"H-hey! Where are you going!"
"Back to town. Alone."
Enjoy the first chapter? Sorry if the character descriptions seem vague. Look forward to more!