Anima: Beyond Malaz

Epilogue: One Tale Ends, Countless More Begin

The city of Ankara, found in the world commonly known as Malaz, gleamed as a valuable sculpture would in the setting sun. Buildings of gold and silver, windows of shaved topaz, with highlights of every imaginable gem or precious metal shone off of one another. A great clamour of sound greeted any that approached the enormous city. Millions lived within its golden walls, and the echoing shouts and cries spoke of the joy and satisfaction that each individual of the city shared and held deep within their heart.

Francisco The Magnificent, The Only, had been able to rule the city with nurturing hands, generous spirit, and remarkably fertile loins. It was these hands, this spirit, and those loins that found themselves enjoying a drink outside one of the most popular stores in Ankara as the sun was setting on another day in his great city. Joining this magnanimous ruler were three of his oldest friends; the God of Knowledge Deckard Cain, Kaard Lightblade, head of their local paladin order, and the great mage and world’s most renowned healer Jafar.

“I told you that hiring those pirates to gather the Reality Fragments for us was a brilliant idea,” muttered Deckard Cain with a look of satisfaction in his eyes and an empty tankard in his hand. Three other similarly sized tankards of strong stout had already passed the God’s parched lips, and they left him feeling most amicable. Or had four other tankards already been emptied? Now he was having a hard time remembering. Luckily, as God of Knowledge he could never be incorrect regarding how much he had drunk thus far, so it must have only been his first tankard then, so he would clearly need another.

“Alas, it seems our good friend Deckard is well and truly drunk already,” lamented Jafar above the goblet of wine he held in an armored hand. “As I see it the Jack and the others were already going to gather all of the Fragments without your input, and you simply wanted to feel involved. I am the only one hear that actually assisted in the gathering of anything.”

“My order found several.” Kaard’s addition was sharp, but not aggressive. He simply stated the fact before taking another drink of his water.

“And our fine city harbored several more for them to return to most gloriously upon their checking in of appointments with us to tell us of their quest.” Beaming with this fact, Francisco raised his amber glass in toast, which Deckard readily agreed to. The others joined in after a moment of shaking their head and chuckling. “And, all things considered, we got exactly what we wanted out of their search. The world is a better place, Ankara continues to thrive, strife has been removed, and I may relax and enjoy the company of my many consorts between grueling sessions of rule and management of trade.”

“Personally I cannot believe that all those women voluntarily choose to bed you,” grumbled Kaard. “To think that many of them actually want to boggles the mind.”

“I am very nearly offended by your suggestion that any would not have wished to share an exquisite evening with Francisco the Magnificent the Only before this world changed.” The feigned hurt in Francisco’s voice faded as his eyes turned away from his companions and focused on another sight.”

“Looks like our display of the clashing of wills is about to begin again for the evening,” grinned Jafar as he shifted to a more comfortable position in the chair. “Even if you didn’t need the best to teach a new wave of doctors in this sprawling city, I should think I would wish to remain if only to watch your failings my old friend.”

“Ah, but tonight will be different, trust me.” With a great flourish Francisco leapt up from his chair and began to advance on his target. Behind him Deckard toasted with his newly filled tankard, Jafar smiled to himself, and Kaard began adjusting some of the settings of his Helmet of Solitude, although he rarely wore it anymore. Francisco called out before him as he strode down the street; “My dear, I return once more to fill the clear void in your heart.”

“The void in my heart is due to not having nearly as much gold as I might like, and somehow I doubt that is the void you intend to try and fill.” Quipping back, mildly exacerbated, Elspeth Inzvekt continued on her way down the street. Another day at her magic item emporium had been completed, items of great arcane power being shipped to the far ends of the world, and all the worlds now connected to it. Her White Sun items were renowned for their quality, power, and the great lengths which they could improve someone’s daily lives. A great amount of gold flooded in to Elspeth’s office thanks to her work, but much of it was sent out again to support those in need of coin to afford what their hearts desired. At the end of the day Elspeth would find she had more gold then the day before, but more items needed to be created and sold before she would ever have all the gold she wanted.

“You are so cruel to me.” Francisco’s pout was coy and surprisingly attractive. “I need to have you with me, to experience all you have to offer, and allow you to see all that I can offer you.”

“While your words may be sweet, I know them to be untruths.” Without even pausing Elspeth continued forward.

“How can you possibly say that you know I do not need you, and you do not need me?”

“Because if that was truly how we felt, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

Leaving Francisco slightly bewildered, as every night, Elspeth continued on her way, toying with a spool of fine silk that she held in her hands. An idea for a new magic item pulled at her soul, and so it would be another sleepless night before the completed article would stare back at her. She may have to find a hatter to ensure that it was as glorious as could be.

* * *

Warm breezes fell across white sands. Tropical trees swayed contently as jungle birds and animals chattered and chirped between the leaves. Dozens of people lay upon the sands, soaking in the high sun and drinking sweet nectars from coconut cups. Down the beach a spit roasted an enormous wild boar, fat dripping from its flesh to sizzle in the fire below.

A large shape soaring through the air cast a shadow upon the beach, with a second shadow in hot pursuit. Darting and spiraling downwards, an enormous, and monstrous, form landed firmly upon the beach, sending sand cascading around it and the startled sunbathers. Enormous wings wrapped around its muscled frame like a cloak, a face like a demonic skull of purest silver held two eyes of fire. Behind this massive creature landed another, slightly smaller and more lithe form, but no less intimidating in appearance.

One of the beach-goers stood to greet these two, fearsome looking arrivals. “Welcome back Master Bo’sun and Lady Bo’sette. Hopefully your flight was relaxing and enjoyable. The roast boar should very nearly be ready, if you would care to join us for dinner.”

“The flight was great and that boar smells delicious! We’d be happy to join yeh.” Smiling a great, silver smile Bo’sun looked over those that spent their days upon his personal tropical island. Being respected by people was always so very nice. “We even brought another meal item to add, so that we could make it a proper feast.”

Bo’sette slipped a bundle of large eels from over her shoulders and dropped the swordfish clutched within her claws. As the boar was taken away from the fire, the fish and eels were put on spits, and the spicing and roasting of them began.

Great slabs of meat was carved from the bore, and a wide assortment of tropical fruits and baked breads were set out upon a long table. The community goats were also kept near for anyone that wished for milk, and the prepared cheeses were placed beside the breads.

All those gathered ate heartily, enjoying food, drink, and the exchanging of tales. Bo’sun regaled them all with a few examples of his personal adventures, those shared with the man known as Captain Jack Sparrow, and some of the struggles they faced in their great journey to make this new world for everyone. And that he wouldn’t have changed anything about it. Although, thinking to himself, there may have been one thing that he would have changed to make it so that someone didn’t have to miss out on experiencing this new world.

Once the boar, eels, and swordfish had all been devoured, the drink downed and the tables cleared, those that enjoyed the bounty of this small island began to turn in for the night.

Bo’sun however remained awake. He stood on the beach, staring out across the water. After a time Bo’sette joined him. She stood silently for some time beside him, until finally she asked the question that both knew had to be asked this night. “You know, you could always go out and join him. We both could.”

“Nah, I can’t do that.” There was determination in Bo’sun’s voice, but also a hint of something else. “I had my adventure, my sailing, plundering, and profit. I got the coin I needed, got to kill somethin’ that thought it was better than a god, and now I have an island with you. He’ll need another master-at-arms on his journey, so they both can grow. The others feel the same way too.”

“It isn’t often you get all sentimental love,” replied Bo’sette, a flare running across her eyes. “Personally I am quite content to remain on our island and enjoy each others company. In fact, when you talk like that it makes me want to…”

She brought her face very close to Bo’sun’s, her words barely more than a breath upon his face. But when she stopped talking Bo’sun smiled all the wider. “Now you’re talking woman. Let’s see how many trees we knock over this time. I bet it will be a new record.”

* * *

“So many prayers to answer, so little time.”

Muttering to himself from his pan-dimensional palace, Hol Emack Erral, God of Magic in all worlds, continued with his very busy schedule. He allowed the very currents of magic itself to flow out from him, filling the reservoirs of mages everywhere, to allow them to work the miracles that grant the improvement and changes in the world around them. With a mischievous grin Emack also changed the colours of Bo’sun’s flaming eyes, and made it so that the next spell cast by Deckard Cain would occur in a cloud of cinnamon.

As he peered through to the multitude of worlds available to him, Emack witnessed just how much their simple rules had changed all that they touched. The sense of community, assistance, and thirst for self-improvement was nearly palpable through the gates. Competition was healthy within the natures of the many worlds, and the new creations that some managed through the combination of technology and magic, especially in the world dominated by Shadow Runners that now had no Megacorproations to strike against, boggled the mind.

On occasion Emack would use his immense powers to soothe a storm that would have shattered countless settlements, or prevent a fire from senselessly claiming lives. Those that struggled against it would be allowed to under his watchful eye, and if they could avert such catastrophe on their own he would not need to aid them. Achieving something oneself always made the fruit of victory taste all the sweeter after all. When needed he would help, as his old friend would have wanted it this way after all the time of protecting the crew.

As that thought crossed Emack’s mind he sighed, considered one of the portals before him, and closed it. “He can have this journey on his own, we have our own duties to tend to. And he would want to win his own glory I am sure.”

With a gesture Emack conjured up a great cushioned throne upon which to sit. Smirking slightly he brought forth a mirror and began to look over himself, changing the multitude of features which had shifted over the course of his travels. Once more appearing as the day they struck down The Alabaster Wanderer, Emack opened a new portal.

“I wonder if Mordentina would not like another opportunity to test her magical development.” As he made his way through the portal into the crisp air of Princess Dumpling’s Ice Palace Emack smiled to himself once more. He and his old friends would certainly never be bored again. And they would always be satisfied with what they accomplished.

* * *

Sprawled out naked upon their horde of treasure, Fynn and Applejack Stratt lay entwined in each other’s arms. Dragon fire gleamed in the sconces along the walls, casting their accumulated treasure in a beautiful light. The massive stone chamber stretched far too all sides, an ocean of gold, silver, statues, and gems.

Decorative art features covered the very many surfaces of their treasure chamber. Statues decorated wall sconces, tapestries softened the stone walls in gorgeous colours, and gems made the ceiling sparkle like a star-filled sky. The cascading colours fell across the two figures’ skin to light them up beautifully.

“How should we spend today do you think?” Nuzzling in the nape of her mate’s neck, Applejack allowed herself a contented sigh.

“I’m not sure,” muttered Fynn. He extricated himself from Applejack’s grasp and began to gather the scattered clothes. “We have millennia to consider our time together. We can gather whatever we want, go anywhere, and do anything. Nothing will ever stop the pair of us, not after what we have done.”

“What you and your friends did.” Applejack’s correction was a harsh one. “I was mostly along for the ride. While I may have done my best I know better than to assume my presence made any major shifts in the fate of the world. But it always kept me at your side, and for that I am happy.” She began gathering her clothes before continuing. “And getting to stay with you will only make me happier. The two of us can go on adventurers together, and I promise to hold my own weight this time.”

“I expect the first adventure we have to look forward to will be the heaviest to start. And I probably won’t be the one carrying my full weight during it, because this is completely new to me.” Having finished dressing, Fynn turned his gaze towards the center of the treasure chamber. Sitting in the valuables was a scaled egg the size of a watermelon.

“I’m sure you’ll do just fine with helping to raise the little one.” Picking up and looking at one of the pieces of jewelry from the hoard, Applejack cast a sidelong glance back to Fynn. “This will only be the first of many broods of wyrmlings for us to raise.”

“Wait, just how many little dragons do you intend for us to have?”

“I don’t know, I was thinking it would be adorable if we had an entire crew worth of little dragons. Filling our castle with the sounds of little claws and flapping wings is a thought that makes me smile.”

“Hmm, so we will be busy for a stretch.” Fynn grinned over at his love. “We do have millennia to make a properly sizable storm of eleint, don’t we? Might make things easier once the rest of the crew is gone, since no one stays together forever.”

“I have an idea for what we should name our little one, if it turns out to be a boy.” Applejack’s smile was mirrored by Fynn’s. “He did bring us together, kept us on the right track, and gave up everything.”

Fynn’s responding nod and smile were faint. “Hopefully he won’t be quite so flirtatious as his namesake.”

* * *

From her scrying mirror Ryn completed her traditional lap of monitoring her friends. She returned its setting to wander monitoring the cosmos, switching from world to world, event to event, anything that might be of interest to her filling the gleaming screen.

The dimension Ryn had created for herself was not large. There were no enormous features of art, displays of vast fortune or power. Really, it was only slightly more impressive than her old crows nests. One feature could be described as exceptional however. There was no ceiling above the walls of her small realm. Instead could be seen a nearly endless swirling pool of stars, gleaming in countless colours, like rivers in the cosmos. Ryn lay upon her back, and allowed the striking scene above her to fill her vision.

Things were quiet in her pocket dimension, as Ryn liked them to be. She could keep track of all the friends that she wanted to, ensuring that they stayed safe. Any events that she felt the need to intervene in could be stopped. And best of all, whenever she wanted peace and quiet she could simply turn off her mirror, close her senses to those around her, and bask in her own comfort and confidence. No one could get to her without her permission after all.

“Ryyyynnnn, where aaaarrrreeee yoouuuuuu?”

Well, one person could get in without Ryn’s permission.

“Hello Millenium. I trust you are doing well as always?” Ryn found that she could never be mad at Millenium, even when she did barge in at the moments she most wished to relax alone.

“Doing most wonderfully as always Ryn.” Clad in her harlequin pink and purple, Millenium’s eyes shone as brightly as the first day Ryn met her. “Everything is remaining surprisingly peaceful, conflict is down, trade is up, and happiness and contentment fills the many worlds created. There is freedom, enjoyment, and self-actualization for all the people. They can all do what they wish to, become whatever they want to. It is the world, the worlds, that Rah always hoped for, that I have spent all this time trying to create. And you were able to make them real. A group of pirates could make paradise. And I got to help.”

“We only did what we wanted to, nothing more than that. The world that we made was the world that we wanted for ourselves, and luckily it seems others enjoy it as well. Everyone wins.” Ryn sat upon one of the simple chairs, comfortable yet functional. She rolled out the stiffness in her shoulders, everything said were simple truths, no deep philosophy or world shifting facts.

“You remain modest and expect no thanks. While you each of you claimed your own rewards from within the world none of you exempted yourselves from the binding rules. Each and every one of you are as limited in your desires to need to maintain a balance, and equality of gifts as any commoner that could never defeat a giant rat. You continue to help others, even if you enjoy your solitude, or mantle yourselves gods above them. Or choosing to carry the burdens of everyone else, bound in isolation, when it wasn’t necessarily needed, but because it was felt that a counterbalance to bear the pain prevented should exist. Even if you all didn’t intend it, you have made yourselves heroes. If people knew who they needed to thank for the gifts given to them, they would love you all deeply.”

“I simply wish to remain alone and peaceful.” Ryn’s gaze turned back to her scrying mirror, where an image of Sparkly and Snuggly, finely feathered wings keeping them aloft, allowed the two bird raised children to hunt for things that shine, or are soft and warm. “That is reward enough for me.”

“I’m sure I could find you someone to share your isolation with, if you asked me nicely.” There was an impish glimmer to Millenium’s eyes. “It isn’t helpful to remain alone forever. There are certain needs that must be met.”

“Which is why I can leave to satisfy any desires on my own.” The tone in Ryn’s voice suggested that this wasn’t the first time Millenium had tried this direction of conversation. “I’m not going to let you pimp me out, no matter how nice you assure me these people may be. Besides, once the ship sets sail in a few hours we will have our representative of wanderlust, and other lusts, traveling the worlds again, fulfilling desires enough to represent all of us.”

“You’re still too serious for your own good Ryn. But, as you say, there is a ship’s maiden voyage that I have to observe, albeit secretly. Unless you’d let me stay to watch it with you here, from your hallowed hall of observation.”

“Sure Millenium, this is the kind of event that I would enjoy having company for.”

* * *

The salt breeze cast a fine spray through the air. The setting sun can a sharp orange glare across the world, twisting its colours and composition into something almost dream-like. Commands and shouts for organization echoed across the waters of a small bay. There was a dock here, small and beginning to rot, surrounded by buildings that were unimpressive in everyway. Many individuals were finally shaking themselves awake in the alleys between buildings, to prepare for another night of drunken revelry and celebration.

Aboard one ship in the bay there was no drunken stumbling, or lazy movement. No, aboard this ship there was a dedicated and organized effort to prepare it to sail. Rigging was tightened and checked, sails were readied, belaying pins were set and the last few barrels of supplies were being loaded.

“Come on you bloated bilge rats, don’t tell me these years off have made you forget your roles!” This command was shouted from a voice full of youth, full of confidence, with the slight hint of a slur from too much rum. “Tonight is the night when The Wicked Wench marks her grand return to the seas!”

At that command came a chorus of cheers. This young man that stood before them, loose fitting clothes, long dark hair held back by a bandana, and a blue-skinned complexion bearing a cocky energy, spread the energy that he had to those around him. Veteran pirates one and all surrounded him, survivors of many pillages, shore-leaves, and battles against void itself incarnate, and not one of them doubted their youthful companion. From amoungst their number began the shouts returning to him.
“All hail Sir Admiral…” began Gertrude, Fancis, and Halibut.
“Prelate of the Order of Knowledge…” continued Split-Lip.
“Heir of the golden sword…” added Hickory, Dickory, and Doc.
“The most legendary pirate never yet to even set to sea…” threw out Blind-Bill Ranston; with Sten, Dan, and Wilt readying the ballistae behind him.
“Son of the finest captain that ever lived…” pronounced with great pride cabin boy Claptrap.
“Captain Jack Sparrow The Second!” Finished all the crew in a great roar of cheers and laughter.

“Must they inflate his head with such rubbish and nonsense before we even begin this impossible quest my son has chosen for us.” Shaking her head, Dina Southpaw looked to the few that stood at her side, towards the rear cabin of the ship. With her relaxed Isabella Vladislav Minasslil, Cynthia Scrabs, Cook, and Dave. “If they keep this up there will be no stopping his ego from surpassing even that of his father.”

“We did all we could in bringing him up to teach him politeness, respect, and tact, but it seems the rest of the crew was arrayed against us.” Isabella cooed, a nostalgic smile gracing her lips. She stared down at her long-fingered hands. “I’m almost going to miss breaking up all the bar fights he started.”

“Trying to bed the barmaids that someone else had an eye on?” suggested Dina with an exaggerated rolling of her eyes.

“Actually, Dina dear, most of the fights he started to keep someone else from bedding a barmaid that really wasn’t interested.” There was a satisfied grin on Isabella’s face, her vampiric fangs gleaming in the light of the setting sun from her shadowy location. “Although, I usually had to drag him away from the young women after, as they tended to wish to express their thanks for his chivalry.”

“A bit like his father that way,” grinned Cook. “Now he has all the seas of all the worlds to find endless beautiful women to bed, after impressing them with noble deads and my singing lessons. I’m sure there will be no end to the stunning women leaving his cabin…” Cynthia smiled to herself and Cook paled slightly as both Dina and Isabella turned to glare at the man. Cook continued, slightly flustered, “although I’m sure that once he meets a women as wonderful as either of you two he will slow down, just as the captain did.”

“Until that time we will have an unstoppable, sixteen year old force of nature guiding our ship.” Straightening her hat and looking around the deck of her beloved ship, Cynthia couldn’t help but smile. “And I’ll help keep it going in the water, and hope that my mother-figure nature will keep our new captain from hitting on me too much.”

“Don’t worry Scrabbs, you should have no fear of young Jack trying to clamor between your legs,” commented Dave as he brought out a pipe. Lighting it, he allowed himself a few pulls of smoke before continuing. “I’ve taught our Captain the most important aspects of my martial skills, and also given him a valuable checklist for whether to spend his time and effort on enchanting any particular woman. You don’t meet many of the criteria Cynthia, so you can settle for me and our young captain can enjoy the many flavours of women made available to him.”

“Sorry Dave, but I’m still not interested.” Casting her gaze across the ship Cynthia threw a wink towards Dickory. “One of our master-at-arms already has a sparring session with me. And he knows how to swing that mace of his.”

Dave resigned himself to puffing away on his pipe, while Cook gave Cynthia a hearty pat on the back and a loud guffaw of laughter. They all stood a bit more at attention as Captain Jack Sparrow The Second made his approach over to them.

“Have you all made your preparations for departure, I want to catch the tide tonight.” Jack gave them all a brilliant, lop-sided smile. “What more fitting a night to depart than my sixteenth birthday after all.”

“We are all ready,” confirmed Dina, with a hint of severity in her voice, “but are you sure you want to do this. You are setting a task for yourself that not even your father ever accomplished, nor the old crew that helped them save all the worlds.”

“I am sure. My only regret is that Gutter won’t be sailing with us.”

“Who would have thought he to be the first one of us to settle down and start a family in civilized life.” Shaking her head as she said the words, Cynthia let out a slight sigh as well. “I’m sure he’ll enjoy the new experiences that await him, and maybe one day we’ll find someone to fill his very special role in the crew.”

“I’ve actually been thinking about that already,” Jack piped in, his teeth gleaming. “Now, the way I see it, is we should find us a girl who only wears wild cat pelts, and nothing else. Or maybe just wears nothing else.”

Dina’s lashing hand caught Jack across the back of the head, stunning him from his fantasies. “You are so lucky I don’t use the knuckles that I did on your father to discipline you. But, if you are sure you still want to keep going on this fool’s errand, then the five of us have a present for you.” From behind her back, Isabella brought out a hand-stitched hat. But not just any hat. It was the largest, most elaborate, most unnecessarily ostentatious hat that anyone could ever hope for.

Smile broadening even further, young Jack Sparrow eagerly accepted the enormous hat and placed it upon his head. He kissed his mother on the right cheek, followed by kissing Isabella on the left. Then, properly bedecked as a fine captain should be, Jack Sparrow The Second turned to look over his crew one more time.

“You all knew my father, even if I never had that pleasure.” The words echoed from his young voice strongly. Behind him, the sun slipped below the waves, casting the many faces in shadow except for their avidly gleaming eyes. “With him at the helm the many worlds were saved, and deeds that no pirate before, or any after, can ever hope to achieve were performed. He gave up everything to ensure that all of us could live within these heavenly worlds, and do whatever we want. With his sacrifice he wished to ensure our future.
“But, on this calm and fateful evening, I ask something of all you gathered. I ask you if it is right for a man that sacrificed everything to receive nothing in return. I ask you if such a man should not be granted the opportunity to see what all his sweat, blood, and tears brought forth. I ask you if such a man should not be able to see how finely his son has grown up, and how valiantly his old crew still loves him. I ask you to sail with me through unknowable hells, beyond any form of time and space, with challenges that are not physical, nor mental, but some unfathomable abyss that could only exist within my father’s wildest, and drunkest of dreams! In his power he made it so that no one would ever be able to find him to try and change his mind. So I ask you, are we no one?!”

A wordless shout buffeted all within earshot of The Wicked Wench. So fierce the proclamation that no specifics could be made out, only a percussion that shook the calm waters around them. These pirates thought as one, and would not be swayed.

“Today we sail out to find my father, in a place that doesn’t exist, a prison with no entrance, where only one person has ever been and no directions were left behind.” As Jack continued to shout these words he brought a small object from inside his shirt. “But luckily for us, there is no man more skilled at finding that what doesn’t exist than a man named Jack Sparrow.”

Flicking his wrist Jack opened the compass that had been his father. A hush fell over those gathered as keen eyes turned to regard the needle. Away from the bay it pointed them, and it did not waver in the slightest.

“Miss Scrabbs, you have your heading,” ordered Jack as he moved to stand beside the wheel. “Half-sail until we clear the sandbars, then I want The Clock to open them up to full. Isabella, I need you down in the Warren chair. I expect some jumps will be needed, because our journey can’t be so easy as to simply travel a bit by water. And the rest of you, get to your posts and look lively, we have work to do.”

The crew cheered as they all scrambled to their positions, the ship beginning its silent sweep outwards to sea. There was no fanfare from the coast, no fireworks or champagne. But they all left in high spirits.

Dina came up beside her son as the first portal opened before the ship. “You know that it was your father’s wish to never be disturbed, and allowed to hold these burdens on his own for all time.”

“You have told me,” replied the eager captain. “However, he also made sure to grant all of us the ability to pursue our own dreams above all else, and wouldn’t you know it that all of us want to free him. He’ll just have to complain to us in person once we get to him if he really didn’t want us to we can deal with it then. Now I need you at your post mother, can’t have you just standing around.” This time he was able to duck under Dina’s strike as she stormed off, shaking her head with a smile on her lips. Mostly alone with his thoughts, Captain Jack Sparrow The Second began mumbling to himself slightly, a few words being heard before the ship slipped into the portal, “drink up me hearties…and really bad eggs. Yo ho me hearties, yo ho.”

* * *

And lo, with a swishing away of ship and sail, beautiful women and bountiful rum does a young man’s adventure to continue upon the countless tales before him and leave his own mark is imparted. Where it will take him none can be sure, as not even all the gods have the slightest idea as to where the noble Captain had imprisoned and swirled himself away. Furthermore shame upon any of you that suggest, nay that even think, that the great, magnanimous and most noble of Kruppe’s would ever have even considered trying to find his old friend’s new prison in order to share a wonderful bevy of rum and tales. Or that the slight smoldering to my most magnificent of crimson waistcoasts was due to my most unusual, unexpected, and unprecedented failure to accomplish such a goal, leaving me to have to drink all of the rum myself in lamenting portents of my own failure.

Now, where was it that the splendid and elaborate roadmap that is Kruppe’s train of thought was going? Ah yes, to the tales of adventures completed, those underway, and the countless joys, fears, pleasures, pains and possibly grease wrestling matches that are to ensue. But for this collection of wondrous individuals, granted the most fitting of rewards for the exceptional work performed under most extraordinarily abominable conditions brought against them. And even able to acquire the gold and gems that all pirates dream of.

But, I am sure that all of you are wondering as to what the most important of all heroes to this tail is up to, and of course Kruppe is here to inform you all. However, it is with heavy heart, breast leaden with regret, that Kruppe must delay his informing of this glorious truth of events, as your noble exemplar Kruppe is himself most busily booked, and possibly at risk of being late to the pressing adventure which awaits him. So please, enjoy these glances into the other worlds which the glorious pirates were able to restore and accelerate, improve most nobly with some old friends to stop in and see along the way.

Then, perhaps once these other worlds have been checked in on, shall you be able to see what the great Kruppe has found for himself.

* * *

Upon the world known as Gaia there was celebration in the air. The Sacred Holy Empire had once more been united under the hands of one leader to guide the people forward in these times of bounty. Parades filled the streets, proposals were made, food and drink were consumed. And with every event the name of Elisabetta Barbados, the Sacred Holy Empress and united ruler of the known world was chanted aloud.

All nations that attempted to disrupt the piece had changed their tone. Matthew Gaul had disappeared, taking the hostility of The Azur Alliance with him. With displays of combat prowess from the Empress herself the tribes of the North were willing to join them. After all of the technology developed by his Wissenschaft organization, Prince Lucanor Giovanni brought it forward, in exchange for being able to regain his proper position as Emperor. Elisabetta accepted, as it will help everyone with such a decision. Now, wedding plans are upon the wind.

From behind a door of spun silver, gleaming crystal, and brilliant light, a pair of figures stood. They observed the goings on around them silently, and with focused looks upon their faces. One was a young man, dressed all in white, including a long trench coat, and the long hair that cascaded from his head matched his attire. The other was a woman of stunning beauty, long purple hair, clad in the vestments of the highest positions of the church.

“I’m back!” The words rang out like a song, and the two individuals couldn’t help but smile as they turned to regard one of their companions of old. Striding up to the two of them, a spring in her step and sparkle in her eyes, was Millenium. “Our work is finally done. Rah’s dream has come true.”

“I only wish he was hear to see it,” replied the woman, once known as Archbishop Eljared. “To actually see a world gifted the right to freedom, the choice to do what they want while also helping those around them, I almost gave up on it myself. He would cry tears of joy to be standing here now. But he wouldn’t know what to do with himself afterwards. Conflict was his life, so perhaps it is good that he be able to rest now and allow the world to continue on its own path.”

“Well, I still miss him.” Millenium’s pout was greeted by a knowing smile from Eljared. “All of us tried so hard, and I’ve been working towards this destiny for longer than anyone. He should have seen what our broad circle of friends were finally able to accomplish. Once he had seen the world he would have said ‘well done Millenium,’ and smiled down at me. Maybe even given me a pat on the head, or ruffled my hair.”

“You may romanticize him too much for your own good.” Eljared allowed herself a slight chuckle. With one hand she brushed away a lock of hair that had fallen in front of your face. “Rah was never a man to truly show his heart to anyone, for fear of the burden being passed on. Those of us that loved him back took to sharing his burden whether he wanted us to or not, without regret. Perhaps he would have been able to finally share his warmth in this new world.”

Throughout this entire conversation, the young man in white had remained unmoving. Silently gazing in the same direction, were it not for the flutter of his hair and coat most would mistake him for a statue.

“And what of you, Nemesis?” Facing the man in white, Eljared’s voice held a heavy note of melancholy. “All you have ever been able to do is fight, it was your reason to be. Now that the fight is over, what will you give your life too?”

“I do not know.” His words held a tightness around the edges, as thought something just beneath the surface wished to bubble up. He did not continue however, simply remained standing and stairing.

“Your words say that but your eyes say otherwise.” Chiming in with her impish grin, Millenium wiggled her way under one of Nemesis’ arms to stare as he was. “She is still out there you know, and even though she may be engaged to someone else her heart still waits for you.”

Hearing those words Nemesis flinched. For a long moment, an eternity within his mind and soul, his head struggled to pull his gaze away from the horizon. Slowly, painstakingly, he was able to turn his regard upon Millenium. While his face remained perfectly calm, his voice steady, there was a desperation in his eyes as he uttered a response. “Do you speak the truth?”

“She does, but what she proposes will risk igniting another conflagaration within this world.” Eljared’s voice was filled with fire, and the burning heat traveled to her eyes as well. Millenium didn’t flinch from the intensity of that gaze. “Elisabetta Barbados is engaged to Lucanor, the rightful blood inheritor of The Sacred Holy Empire. It was Rah’s actions that gave the Giovanni line the right to rule, and now he will gain it back. Trying to steal that girl away from him would be a terribly foolish thing to do.”

“No it wouldn’t,” argued Millenium, her voice still light and bright. “Lucanor will become Emperor either way, because he and this world need him to be so. He only wants to be with Elisabetta to reach that end. On the other hand, Nemesis needs to be with Elisabetta, and she needs to be with him. Thanks to Jack’s wish it is destiny for them to find each other if they take the leap. And I am here to ensure that nothing bad befalls the world. Everyone wins.”

A torrent of energy surged towards the three figures standing before the mystical doors. Winds tore at them, the earth trembled beneath their feet, and for a moment the sky above them darkened. Then, a moment later, Nemesis launched himself forward with such speed as to race light itself.

“Do you have any idea what you have done,” muttered Eljared, even as a small smile began to play upon her lips.

“I have made all of us involved much happier than we otherwise would have been.” Nodding to herself, Millenium looked very satisfied with her actions. “Now, if you don’t mind me, I have another appointment to keep. You should head back into the Halls of Infinite Dreams and let the others know just how successful this new world will be.

The two powerful women laughed together then, savouring another small victory. As they parted they knew they would see each other again, but to enjoy all options available to themselves until that time arrived.

* * *

“Can anyone please tell me why we still meet up in the slums when we feel the need to get together?” Grumbling to himself, and his companions around him, the exceptionally well dressed Ork Reginald Thogg Esquire III peered around as the shattered plascreet buildings and pitted street.

“With the Megas gone there won’t be slums around very much longer.” Running his fingers through his well trimmed beard, the dwarven ‘Face’ Davas allowed himself to recline against his car. The scratch-proof paint wouldn’t show it any after all. “Restoration crews are already moving out, day and night, in order to restore everything. Give it a few months and these old ruins will be another gleaming aspect of the sprawl. Buckles and I are even thinking of downsizing a bit, leave the old Mega-run region behind so that it can be turned into affordable housing, or so was the plan.”

“Besides, it was Jek’s idea to invite us out here one last time before his old neighborhood went away.” Doc Hollandaise, the runners’ resident mage and surgeon, added as he looked around him. “Can’t say that I’ll miss it though. Too many of the memories I have of these places are off getting shot. Or hit by lightning. Or blasted with supernatural flames when I should have been safe.” He sighed heavily to himself.

“Don’t be so glum, your face is likely to get stuck like that, and you can’t be getting ugly now that the world is for the better.” Dressed in his trademark denim wardrobe, the dwarven rigger Lee held a cardboard box in his hands as he sat leaning out the window of his Bulldog Van. “Aztechnology is gone, along with all the other fraggin’ Megas, we all get to go into early retirement with enough creds to have some fun, and the world will still have some opportunities for us to screw around and have fun. Win-win far as I’m concerned. Now where is the big dope, I don’t want the pizza to get cold.”

“What kind of pizza?” Davas asked the question tentatively, his face paling slightly at the very consideration of it all.

“Same as always; thin crust, no tomato sauce, ranch dressing, double cheese, and quadruple anchovy. I brought ten of them, so I should get at least one.”

Davas vomited in his mouth a little bit as he heard the pizza situation.

From down the path emerged an enormous shape clad in black armor, gauss rifle and enormous axe strapped across his back. He called out loud and strong to his companions; “HELLOOOOO.”

As Jek joined the rest of his fellow runner he removed his helmet and gave them all a brilliant smile. His nose twitched slightly then, and on cue Lee threw a pizza to the enormous troll.

“So Jek, what did you want to see us about?” Doc was slightly apprehensive about the sudden summons, hoping beyond hope that he would not end up charred, or stabbed, or shot one last time in their wonderful world.

“I could have hosted at my place, we could have brought out the old Nintendo for a few rounds even.” Davas grinned as he thought back to his complete game collection, and all the fun that it has brought to those that play it.

“No, we needed to meet here.” Jek nodded enthusiastically as he looked over his friends. “I have some good new for you all. I, Captain Sheriff Jek, M.D… God, will soon be adding another title to my name, as suggested by a great man I met in another world.” The others were still a little confused about why Jek was now calling himself ‘Captain’, let alone him adding another title. “I will also be Jek the Innkeeper.”

His friends were silent for a time.

“Jek, you know that there aren’t any inn’s anymore, right.” Reginald tried to explain it as politely as possible. “There are some hotels, and lots of bars, but not a traditional old time inn.”

“Don’t worry, I thought about that.” Jek nodded to himself very satisfied. “I will have the only inn, and people will come from all over to stay there. It will be perfect.”

“Do you have an idea for where you want to build it?” Davas knew that it might not actually be a sound business strategy per-se, but Jek did have a knack for succeeding against all odds.

“Yup. I will be building it right over there.” Jek pointed forward. In front of him was a dilapidated two-story building of large size, probably built for trolls as a slum to start. It stood alone, in front of a crossroad. The ruined roads to either side stretched far off in both directions. “That will be my inn.”

“So, did you bring us out here just to tell us this?” A slice of pizza half chewed in his mouth, Lee looked slightly bored by this announcement.

“Of course not, I wouldn’t do that.” There was an enormous smile covering Jek’s face. “I wanted to invite you all so that you could help me get it ready for all of my guests.”

Hesitation and silence hung over the runners. Then, all at once, they burst out laughing.

“Of course Jek,” smiled Davas as he shook his head. “Where would you like us to start?”

Jek allowed himself a large nod before spitting on his hands, and bringing out his axe. “It is good to have friends like you. First, we demolish what isn’t needed.”

“Amputate and cauterize?” Suggested Doc with a grin.

“Silly Doc,” replied Jek. “You cannot amputate a building. Or can you?”

“Only one way to find out,” suggested Reginald as he readied his Weapon Focus. “I’ll start by clearing the roof.”

Together the runners charged towards their target, smiles on their faces and improvised construction tools in their hands.

“I will call it the Crossroads Inn,” Jek laughed to himself as he kicked in the broken door.

* * *

Corks and sparkling bubbles filled the air around a group of companions. These five men looked over a great horizon of sparkling lights and towering buildings. The penthouse that they were privy too was tallest of them all, staring down upon the endless lights of the city below them. These five companions, who with one more that was absent, had earned the right to change the world themselves, by surviving all the challenges that could be hurled towards them by countless powerful forces.

“To the group that brought about the change to the worlds!” Mordecai, clad all in back clothes that managed to conceal his form yet seemed form fitting at the same time. He raised his glass high above his head. Three of the others cheered along with glasses high themselves, but one only did so with half-hearted enthusiasm.

“Looks like Gaius is beginning to realize that we could have been the new gods that improved the worlds and made everyone’s lives better.” Smiling to himself, Brick took a long drink from his champagne, emptying the flute in a single long draw. He still wore his long white doctor’s coat, but he had added a few more decorative features to it for this most special of occasions.

“We did try to tell him we should change things, but he couldn’t just let it happen, not trusting that we would be able to fix the world.” Grinning to himself Matt set down his now drained glass. With a gesture he brought one of the champagne bottles over to him to fill his glass once more. “Judging by the way our world is now, I’d say they succeeded.”

“I’m not sure I can agree with that,” muttered Allan as he took another sip from his glass. A brace of various firearms were still tucked in his jacket and belt and a black cloth sash covered his eyes. “The different world won’t even let me hunt people anymore. Every time I fire at anyone, its like some strange force makes me miss. I never missed before this.”

With a casual glance Matt sent one of the corks flying through the air with horrifying speed. Arcing directly towards Allan came the cork, but all of his companions simply watched what would unfold next. Smoke and an echoing retort filled the air as Allan flicked one of the pistols from its holster. The bullet shattered the cork before digging into one of the penthouse walls.

“You two never change,” muttered Brick as he poured himself another glass.

“How many times do I have to remind you two idiots that if you break anything in my house you need to pay for it. Those obsidian tiles aren’t cheap.” Grimacing to himself Mordecai just glared over those two as he grabbed one of the bottles.

“These are the things that I do not understand how this controlled world has changed.” Finally speaking up from gazing outside of the windows, Gaius sounded unimpressed by the actions going on around him. “A certain degree of control over what is done, and what occurs, but not in a bad way. They allow us a certain degree of freedom. No, more then that this world fosters freedom and ensures it for everyone.” Gaius allowed himself a small, sad smile. “Many that we knew have vanished now; Lucanor Giovanni, any access to the Halls of Infinite Dreams, even Archer, have all vanished and even I cannot see them anymore. But we cannot infringe on others freedoms in this new world, and so I find myself envious of the world that they created.”

“If you don’t take a chance on trying to change the world, risking that it might become worse, you’ll never make it better.” Brick almost kept the tone of ‘I told you so’ out of his voice as he spoke. Almost.

“I still believe I made the right choice in preventing us from creating a new world, these individuals just must have been more fitting to do so than we were.” Muttered Gaius as he finished his first glass. After a few moments his glass transitioned to full again, and one of the champagne bottles shook slightly on the table.”

“Of course he still takes my champagne without me being able to see him do so,” muttered Mordecai. “It is unfortunate that we have lost some of our friends, and I my source of employment. I even have to spend all of the coin that I earned from our adventure so that those around me can meet their needs. However, I’m still keeping this penthouse, because I need it.” Those last words were spoken with a small grin.

“So, what are the likes of us going to do in this new world?” Allan asked the question with intensity, frustration edging around his voice. “All my life I have honed my skills to fight, to defeat, to kill. Without these skill I will never be complete, and this world with all its gifts will ring hollow.”

Setting down their glasses, Mordecai, Gaius, and Matt all nodded their agreement. After a time even Brick nodded as well. Brick grinned “My life would lose a certain degree of its excitement if I didn’t get to heal you up on occasion, and chastise you for the damage you let happen to your bodies.”

“Are we going to just fight each other for fun until the end of our days then?” Matt asked the question as he began preparing another barrage of psychic powers on Allan.

He was stopped by a gesture from Gaius however. “That won’t be necessary. In my search for our old companions I have found the perfect place for all of us to maintain our skills and enjoy our lives to the fullest.”

The others all grinned, and together they brought they drained the last of the champagne. All of them checked their attire, their weapons, and Mordecai locked the door to his penthouse. They were ready to follow Gaius to this proposed battleground amidst peace and freedom.

* * *

Two blades clashed together leaving a tremor echoing through the air. One blade, an enormous katana, was wreathed in black flames. The other, a brilliant long sword that shone with the light of the sun and bore divine flames. Both warriors that were gifted with such incredible weapons were no less impressive on their own.

Balthazar and Vincent came at each other again with continued vigor. Each collision resulted in an enormous detonation of power. Sand flew around them, nearly masking their forms and making them appear nearly illusionary. These two specters of light and darkness, power overwhelming struck against each other, and pushed as hard as they could, neither budging an inch.

“We may be fated to do this until the very end of time,” grinned Vincent, his sharpened fangs gleaming in the flaring power of their magic blades.

“No, this will end, because one of us needs to kill the other.” Balthazar’s golden mask remained as unflinching as always. “Yet we both feel this way, so I wonder if both of us might be right.”

“TIME!” The word roared through the air, and at its shout the crowd bellowed back even louder.

Suitengu’s Arena had undergone a great deal of improvements since the new evolutions of the worlds. The structure had grown even more immense in size, now able to house millions. The gleaming crystalline light shining down from the gleaming ceiling made everything shine as heaven, yet those with dark souls could maintain the illusion of hell to burn around them.

Reluctantly, hate tightening their every muscle, Balthazar and Vincent parted backwards from each other. Sand scorched beneath their feet, and their swords burned too fiercely to be sealed within their sheathes, and so simply burnt the air about them.

“Another splendid show of power, technique, and burning hatred.” From his seat above all the others, Suitengu called down to all before him. Resplendent in his white coat lined with black feathers. Surrounding him were a dozen beautiful women of many races, including the formerly deceasead dryad Nadiel. “Remember to place your bets everyone before the next event occurs. The pot is getting rather large, given the extensive number of ties that have occurred between our favorite two competitors. They’ve been battling for three weeks without cessation. Never before has such a show been allowed, so please continue for the next round.”

“Not yet,” called a confident, harsh, and intense voice from the side of the arena. “These bastards have been taking all the fun for themselves. Time they got out of the way and let a real warrior take the center of this arena.”

A figure moved in from one of the countless shadowed entryways. He was a smaller man, incredibly dense with muscle. He was bound in chainmail, a rough blonde beard across his jaw. Hanging from his frame were numerous warhammers of various materials, many shining with magical energies. There was nothing but confidence in Jormangander’s face, and stature.

“If you try to tell me what to do again, you short little wretch, I will destroy you right here and now, interrupting my current bouts.” Vincent’s words were a snarl as they leapt from his throat.

“What did you just call me.” As Jormangander replied, there was clear threat in his tone. The thunder-calling warhammer he pulled into his grasp also suggested that violence would start.

A great booming laugh echoed from behind Jormangander. “You’ve gone and done it now, you vampiric freak.” Emerging behind Jormangander came a mountain of a man, dark skin, white hair, and eastern styled weapons and armor. Setting his tonkorii down at the entrance to the Arena, Taiko no Musashi brought out his gleaming nodachi. “You might have been hot shit in the world you came from, but now that you’ve pissed off Jormangander you won’t be long for this world. I’m not missing the fun though, so your sacred looking friend over there can fight me if he wants, just so he isn’t bored.”

“You fools should leave before you get hurt.” Balthazar turned his masked gaze to Taiko, and the sword in his grasp shone even more intensely.

Taiko and Jormangander simply grinned at each other in response. Taiko smiled and made a suggestion to his companion; “So, whichever of us takes down our opponent first wins.”

“No, it only counts as the warm-up.” Shifting his grip on his hammer Jormangander tuned back to face the exceptionally powerful vampire. “Once we beat the two of them we fight each other for winner.”

Far above in the crowd a pair of women looked down, shaking their heads. One woman had purple hair and wore exceptionally expensive clothing and beautiful weapons. Beside her sat a woman with golden eyes, and a massive dog resting its head on her lap. Sophia Synancia and Lynn Hohenheim watched their companions that had just strutted into the Arena.

“Those two are never going to change, are they?” Disbelief lilted around Sophia’s statement. “We all died, were brought back thanks to whoever made these new worlds, and all they want to do is fight people. Death calmed me down some, but I guess not those two.”

“Boys will remain aggressive goof-off’s it seems.” Smiling back at her friend, Lynn stroked her dog behind its ears. “But, it is why I love Taiko, that degree of fire and passion to him. If they actually changed just from dieing I would be more afraid of the changes of the world that was created.”

“If they are actually dumb enough to waste their rebirth with this, then they are welcome to it. I am going to be a good deal more relaxed now that I have the chance to live again. So I will sit in the audience of these fights, and watch people more savage and basic in their thinking. Also, I’m betting 20 gold on our boys taking down these champs.”

Lynn smiled right back. “I’ll take a piece of that action.”

“You all should be ashamed at your assumptions,” muttered the shadowed man that sat behind them, form shrouded by a cloak and his face hidden by a massive hat. He tended to his bow, and watched his former charge prepare for the fight. Shadow grinned over to his two friends, and brought out some gold coins of his own.

“Should one of your friends be victorious I request you introduce me, so that I might challenge them to single combat.” Off to the side of these old companions was an eastern man in an exquisitely tended suite. He sat with a katana across his knees, tending the blade with a piece of rice paper.

“And you are?” Shadow was still a little protective of his former charge, even though death was an impossibility in the Arena based on the laws of all new reality.

“My name is Tsunimoto. I have known the cold hand of death as well, and now seek to embrace this new life with all the fires of combat that can exist.” His sword flashed forward, and a trio of doves burst out into the air. “And to make the world beautiful with doves.”

The others near this flamboyant man all fell silent with that display.

As the booky gnomes completed their lap of taking new bets from the audience, the grand voice of command echoed out through the heavens of the Arena once more. “Alright, ladies and gentlemen, we have a 2 vs. 2 match, forces from another world, legendary warriors that have power, magical items, and egos to shake the very fabric of reality as well. Now, everyone get ready and…”

Interrupting the announcement came the echoing thunder of a massive bolt of lightning that crashed into the very center of the Arena. Sand turned to glass beneath the fierce heat, the enormous display of power silencing everyone that witnessed it. As the flash of electricity allowed the light to vanish, five more figures also stood upon the sands. The elven druid Nienna Silmaril and her trusted unicorn companion, flaming greatsword wielding human warrior Rokor Stormrage, beautiful elven sorceress Tohmé Furubas, and the lawful-good-half-orc-ninja-paladin-ranger-with-crow-wings Dulov Demonskinner stood tall, and powerful, with even more capability from before.

“What the hells are you bastards doing here?!” Vincent growled out. “I’ve traveled worlds to get away from what I had to put up while traveling with you all, and now you all return to harass me as well.”

“Harass, hardly.” Rokor cracked his shoulders and readied his blade, lighting it with bright flame. “We are here to prove that we are stronger than you and your ego.”

“And if he’s upset to see you all, than he must be incredibly unhappy to see us.” Clad in his finest armor, wielding his enormous tower shield, Rokor Stormrage the dwarven defender stood at another side of the Arena. Beside him, crystal blade in hand, stood the psychic warrior that had also assisted in the destruction of the Lich God Vecna.

“Son of a bitch,” muttered Vincent as he glared at all the old companions that had returned.

“Looks like I might need to broaden the level of betting types I allow,” muttered Suitengu as he looked over the massive collection of warriors now all vying for a battle at once. Then he smiled incredibly broadly as a single figure walked across the sands to stand facing the numerous other groups of warriors, and then laughed in such a way to send chills down the spines around them. “And now an old friend takes the stage again. Perhaps I need some more insurance if things keep this up.”
A dagger clasped in hand, purple suit upon his frame, and makeup clad upon his face, The Joker cracked his necks to both sides. “Time to have a little fun with you all. Alright Vincent, show me if my training paid off. You had all better try to entertain me, given how long this search to find you took.”

“Looks like you have a lot of old foes coming after you at once Vincent.” Balthazar turned to face his foe. “For this time I will stand with you against them, to see just how many we can strike down.”

With a look of disbelief upon his face, Vincent turned his gaze up to the heavens. “Great, all these old friends coming back out to fight with me, and now my archenemy is willing to try and side with me. Gods, just kill me now.”

“We can grant that wish for you,” called out the numerous others around the Arena. Smiles were plastered upon the many faces standing upon the sands.

“Shit.”

* * *

Surrounded by a wall of darkness, a table with many chairs veered out of the void. Three figures sat along one of the longer sides of the table; Lord Jeremiah of Twilight’s Edge, Grrzutt of Bestial Fury, and Melodee the Siren. Small satchels sat upon the table in front of them, as did small piles of papers and a few very large books. Grrzutt chewed upon his claws, Melodee twirled her hair around her fingers, and Lord Jeremiah ensured that his armor and chains were cleaned, but it was obvious that they waited for something.

Or perhaps someone.

“What is this? It appears that somehow I, great transporter, deliverer, hunter, and charmer of all people that I am, have not arrived before all other parties. Alas, the most ideal of seats seem to have been taken, closest to the grandiose throne upon which the most important amongst us will rest. Now it seems that Kruppe, bearing platters of food, drink, and charming company and banter, shall place himself across the table from the lovely demoness and as far from the fearsome wolf’s claws which might try to destroy my head again.”

“Kruppe, you are not late, I simply am the one that created this pocket realm for us.” Lord Jeremiah gave a small smile over to the portly man that had joined them. “Please take a seat. As you can see, there are many that still need to arrive, so should we begin preparing for the tale ahead?”

“You mean such as introducing the veritable collection and table of values which we have each assembled, analyzed, and poured heart and soul into for the crafting of the most important aspects of our selves?”

“Your strange words make me frustrated,” growled Grrzutt, its claws nearly digging through the table in front of him. “What does the fat rat man mean?”

“He wants us to discuss our characters so that we can attempt to create some form of party mechanic before the Game Master arrives and begins to try and kill us.” Melodee sifted though the papers in front of her, a broad smile upon his face.

“Good, this I will happily do then.” Looking at the sheet in front of him, Grrzutt cleared his throat with a great roar. “I am playing a barbarian.”

The others waited for the monstrous werewolf to continue his description. But he didn’t.

“Is that all that you have done?” Melodee was clearly annoyed. “This is your chance to play someone that can do things that you cannot do, a power that is separate from your own existence, the chance to play something completely new. I’m playing a half-demon rogue, sneaky, angry, stabby. Yes, I still get to be stealthy, but I get to set traps, slit throats, and pick pockets. Maybe I’ll cause some grand mischief in the world as well. So there has to be something more than just ‘I am playing a barbarian’.”

“Fine,” grunted back Grrzutt. “I am playing a goblin barbarian. I came from an enormous forest, and so am clad from head to food in exotic birds, lizard skins, and I have a pair of gophers for slippers. I use small hammers and break peoples’ faces with them. He also has a great appreciation for opera.”

“Opera?” There was doubt in Melodee’s voice.

“Yes, opera. He likes opera.”

“Excellent,” cut in Lord Jeremiah. “I will be filling the role of cleric, human, worshiping the god of justice and trying to bring about divine light to all the dark places of the world.”

Melodee and Grrzutt both stared at their companion for a time. It was Kruppe who had to ask the most pressing question. “So, why did you really pick cleric of all things?”

“When I level up enough I get to cast Destruction on people.” Lord Jeremiah allowed himself a small shrug and grin as he said it.

“How absolutely splendid for all of us so far.” Kruppe smiled at the collection of all the different characters currently created. “I shall be adding to the party a beautiful female ranger, extremely accurate with a bow, a couple of daggers prepared for back-up weapons, and being incredibly flexible to make it better as well. My bow is called the Heartseeker, and I find all the hearts of those that I care for.”

“Pervert,” muttered Melodee, although there was a small smile upon her lips.

“Worry not, my fair demonic beauty, for my busty and bountiful ranger is most assuredly straight. Therefore, I will only be hitting on the other demons at the table, and anyone else that joins us.”

“The creepy fat man is beginning to make me worry for Bonky’s purity,” rumbled Grrzutt.

“I’m sure it won’t,” began Lord Jeremiah, until he paused for a moment. “Wait. Bonky the pure Goblin Barbarian. Perhaps your creativity is more than I gave you credit for Grrzutt.”

“I will be playing beef-tank super warrior of glorious steely wonderment!” Bursting into the field of darkness came Millenium, wearing her finest of crimson dresses. Her hair was up, her eyes gleamed, and as she twirled into a seat beside Kruppe the plunging back of her dress showed off her smooth skin. “Put me up front and I will knock all of them down. Just heal me and keep me standing oh healy Jeremiah.”

“Millenium, you are an incredible individual.” Lord Jeremiah gave her an honest smile, his eyes gleaming his full rainbow of colours. “But certainly, I will try to keep you standing through all our struggles.

Striding through the darkness of the wall arrived an elven man wearing bright white robes, and strange technomagic gloves. He silently sat down beside the three demons without a word.

“And why don’t you introduce yourself?” Eyeing the newcomer, Millenium smiled all the more beautifully. “I know who you used to be, but many of these others never bothered traveling to the world of shadowrunners.”

“You can call me Dr. Abel, the former head stockholder of a corporation that no longer exists as the world wasn’t required further. We believe in trying to improve the world, and are happy to see what has been created. As for this gathering, I will be playing a minotaur monk that uses the Horned Hand style of martial arts, incredibly rare, potent, and flashy.”

“Wait, how did you manage to acquire the importance of having a race such as Minotaur when Kruppe was trapped with the lowliest of humanity for his character’s race. This travesty must not stand. There may be some race out there where my dear ranger could possess the quartet of breasts that I, and by that I mean she, have always dreamed of.”

“Getting minotaur was a little complicated, but there were a broad variety of rules which I was able to tap into to allow it all to work. Don’t worry, nothing was disallowed, but I’m sure the Game Master will wish to be sure before we begin.”

“How very interesting, and here I thought trying to play as a specter oracle would be pushing the boundaries. Now I am very pleased to hear what everyone else has brought to the table.” From the darkness emerged Esorchan, with two beautiful women to each side of him. One was the woman whom he had chased worlds, attempted to control fate, and killed a god to try and bring back their love. The other was his mother, a succubus, that had also his efforts. “And before you ask, an oracle is a special class that tries to peer into the future to get extra information, and is then usually smote by the Game Master for making life too difficult.”

“Excellent, how very interesting.” Lord Jeremiah turned to Esorchan and his companions. “It is wonderful to see you again my old friend. Hearing that your dreams went better than my own made me very pleased. Will your dear mother and lovely young woman be joining us at the table.”

“We’ll be watching,” grinned Esorchan’s love. “Neither of us want to get in the way of all your bonding together. Enjoying the show will be reward enough.”

“I trust that you have all had enough time to plan what you wish to do without me?” Appearing at the head of the table was a young man of plain features, wearing a black robe. Beside him was a beautiful young woman wearing nice clothing, glasses, and a knowing smirk. “You may call me The Summoner In Black, and I will be your Game Master for this campaign. Please, pass me your character sheets so that I can look them over, and we can begin without incident.”

All players and guests took their seats around the table and passed all of their characters to their Game Master. Polite banter bounced around the table as the characters were authorized and passed back. There was a slight hesitation, and glance up, from the minotaur monk, but it still passed after a little more time of examination.

Once all of the characters had been authorized, The Summoner In Black raised a screen to hide his notes and dice. The others, on que, poured out their dice onto the table and began to prepare themselves.

“Welcome to this first session,” began The Summoner In Black. “We are all gathered here as having served as the representatives in our various worlds of one entity that guided all of our actions. It was thanks to this action, and these many stories that were told, for us to have accomplished, battled, and fallen or thrived as we did in our own respective worlds. It is time for us to take the power of these stories into our own hands. That is what tonight is all about, and I thank all of you for joining for this important day.
“Now, to the matter at hand. Light gleams in the air around you. There are rumors which echo in your minds of new worlds being created. Such tales of brand new treasures and adventures that may become available to those brave enough to take on creation. Do you all carry within yourself the strength to create these new tales, these new adventures? If the answer is yes choose a portal leading to one of these countless new worlds and see where it takes you…”

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Vrenash

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