Round 23 Report

Prologue

After reaching the shores of the Commonwealth, I rented a room at one of the finer inns in the harbour. I’m not sure how many days I spent there.

One morning, as I was sitting in the garden of the inn under a shady branch with the sun shining through the foliage and the win moving the leaves, a wild display of fantastic movements on the table before me. The shadows and silhouettes danced across the mug and plates. I finished my loaf of bread, pushed my chair out, and leaned back. The warm breeze gently brushed up against my face and I felt drowsy.

I don’t know if I slept for minutes or an hour, but when I woke up a shadowy figure was sitting across the table from me.

The figure asked if I was a chronicler, and I answered that I was.

“The Commander would like you to be our chronicler. We will pay you handsomely.” The figured waved its hand to indicate just how high the pile of coins would be, I presumed. The movement revealed a gloved hand from under the black robe. The glove was woven with black and purple thread.

Having never been paid more than a daily allowance for my work and sometimes — with luck — some commission from book sellers, I wasn’t sure how handsomely I could expect to be paid but I made up my mind. If there is one thing I’m always up for it’s new adventures.

The figure instructed me to pack my things, put on wetland boots, and meet them outside in the alley. They offered to settle my tab with the inn.

I knew I should have tried that Firewalker brew last night. Could it really be made from molten platinum?

I stepped outside and the figure motioned for me to follow them down another alley, through someone’s backyard garden, and further into a labyrinth of houses, backstreets, and alleys. Barely keeping up with the figure, I asked where we were going and whether it would be by ship or land. No answer was given, until we finally reached a particularly secluded spot.

“Stand back,” the figure instructed in an accent that I now finally understood to be Dark Elven.

They waved their hands and it was as if the air around us vanished and the slight ocean breeze that managed to navigate its way this deep in paused. Then a crackling sound came from the waving hands, followed by a swaying echo, and then a bright light.

A portal!

“Hurry up and follow me,” the figure said as it leaped into the portal.

And so, I jumped.

Day 1

I fell face first into the swamp. I put my hands against the ground to push myself up by only sank deeper in the mud. The figure reached down and pulled me up.

I quickly understood where I was and who my figure friend was.

A Dimensionalist summoner; and this was a Dominion controlled by Dimensionalists. For those not familiar with Dimensionalists, they are swamp-dwelling worshippers of the cosmos.

Members show up from all walks of life and all corners of the world. There are Dark Elves, Nox, Humans and Nomads, Lizardfolk, and even Dwarves and Snow Elves here. All they have in common is a thirst for what lies beyond the night sky.

Summoners undergo long training, first as wizards and then the gruelling process of qualifying as an Archmage. Only Archmages are permitted into the Summoner Academy.

Useless in combat, Summoners connect with otherworldly magic to summon mighty fighters to their cause.

I gathered my things and started setting up in a wooden hut that had been reserved for me.

Day 2

I have been introduced to the Commander, who I was surprised to learn wasn’t a Summoner. The Commander is in charge of running the every day activities of these lands.

He has also introduced me to the other members of this Independent Alliance, although he rejects the term Alliance. Whenever the assembly meets, they still can’t agree on what type of coalition their coalition is.

With us this round, we have what I think are two Growths (it can be hard to tell them apart), a Void, and a Kobold. The city-state of Kerranad has decided to take a stand against both the Empire and the Commonwealth.

Day 3

The Commander assures me things are going as planned, despite frequent invasions by Black Orc troops. As long as the Summoners are safe and as long as we continue to erect new Towers and reinforce them with gems, we can afford to cede some unused acres.

“We can always summon in more of these,” the Commander said while confidently clapping a Tl’Tl on the, I think, ridge of its, I think, nose. It didn’t seem to mind.

The plan is to grow slowly but steadily and build up mana production. Another important aspect is to find ways to cut costs on wizard and Archmage education, and reduce the costs for training Summoners.

“But we don’t want to cut too many corners and risk losing quality.”

If that is his plan, the Commander is doing a good job.

There is another Dimensionalist, whose lands are greater and whose units are protected by Guard Towers.

Day 4

I have studied the otherworldies, as they call them, and will make an attempt to describe them properly.

Tl’Tl

The name Tl’Tl comes from the clicking sound they make. It seems to be their only form of vocalisation between themselves. It either carries much more meaning than I can comprehend or they use additional means of communication. Body language? Signs? Telepathy?

Each Tl’Tl is approximately the size of a Kobold but decisively more intelligent. Some have developed an understanding of Orcish and use that to communicate with Summoners.

They are weak but numerous and versatile fighters.

Sft’Rm

The Sft’Rm have been able to nearly perfect their Orcish tongue, but the sounds don’t seem to come from a mouth. They speak in whistles rather than words and end their speech with a trilling sound, which has given rise to the name Sft’Rm.

Whether unable or unwilling to travel to portals to invade hostile dominions, the Sft’Rm work with the Tl’Tl to provide defense to the Dimensionalists.

They are about the size of a young elf and are formidable fighters.

Ze’Tk

Whenever a portal is opened the warriors are made aware the time has come for battle, the Ze’Tk gather quickly, eager to compete with their fellow Ze’Tk and the Tl’Tl for who can kill the most.

They, too, are roughly the size of a young elf. Aggressive in nature, they prefer to conquer and see new lands. The world of Odarena intrigues them.

I spoke with one who said they were sending messages back to their homeworld about how lush and prosperous Odarena is. They say will return one day — in peace, of course.

Day 5

We have been invaded numerous times now, but each time we seem to grow stronger. The summoners simply stand back and let the warriors do their work.

“Sure, some peasants and draftees may fall at the enemy’s hands but they do so for their beliefs, for the greater good of the starry night sky,” the Commander assures me. “Every shooting star is a soul being returned home.”

But death is not the right word to describe fallen Tl’Tl, Sft’Rm, or Ze’Tk. While they certainly end their existence when struck with what seems like a mortal wound and a pile of flesh and bones is left behind, there is a sense of peace — not fear — that overcomes them.

When attacks happen late at night and the star lights are angled a certain way, I swear I can see an energy leave each fallen warrior and float into the sky.

Day 6

Our Void is very strong. The Growths are slowing down.

These brave independents even voted for one of the Growths to be governor. Although upon inspection of the ballots, only one vote was cast and it was by the other Growth. I don’t think anyone actually pays much attention to the Assembly, as they call their government.

While the Kobold and Kerranad forces have stalled, the two Dimensionalists are slowly progressing.

The strongest threats are the larger of the two Commonwealth Spirits and an Imperial Black Orc, and of course the formidable Demon whose land gains seems unsurpassable.

Day 7

It’s time to attack again!

The Commander has instructed the summoners to open a portal.

Day 57,320

More than one-hundred and fifty-seven years have passed — I think. I have erased these pages so many times and written on them again. If I look closely I can still make out notes from hundreds and thousands of days ago.

I have been wandering this landscape for two lifetimes, drinking what little water I can press out from the softer rocks and eating what I through painstaking experimentation have determined will do slightly more good than harm to my body.

Today, the sky above me is pitch black. It’s almost always pitch black. Every few hundred days, I can see stars and every few thousand days, I can see colourful constellations and arrangements moving. This must be what the Dimensionalists dream of. For me, it’s a long, living, vivid nightmare.

Yet somehow, I am not ageing.

I still remember life back in Odarena. That final day I was there. Was it 6? Or perhaps 8?

The Commander spotted a target and convened with the Summoners. There would surely be enough time to open the portal and get all the warriors through in time.

Feeling brave, I started running towards the portal. Sound and light bend and twist and curl and fold as one approaches the portal, which I am used to by now. But something felt wrong. My feet were faster than my ears because it was not until I was halfway through that I heard “Do not go in! We have to disengage it!”

I tried to turn around but it was too late. I landed on my back on the soft rock and above me was a black sky with stars whose alignments and configurations were unlike anything I had ever seen.

I wonder if the Demon is still the largest in the world. In that world. In my world. Home world.

Day 65,393 Day 12

I have returned to Odarena.

On the 65,393rd day of my stay on the cold rock, I heard a sound I had not heard in nearly 200 years.

“There you are!” shouted the Commander. “Get him and let’s go.”

I was quickly carried away by some Tl’Tls who rushed me through the portal and for the first time in thousands of days, a familiar sun shone on my face.

“We thought we lost you forever. It’s been nearly a week and we almost gave up hope of ever finding you.”

It was explained to me that a portal had been opened in error and I had entered it just as it was closing. When a portal closes, the destination becomes unclear.

A familiar figure came up to me and apologised for closing it without proper safety procedures. The same figure — a young Dark Elven disciple of the Dimensionalist — who had found me in the tavern in the Commonwealth Armada harbour all those centuries ago. Or weeks?

Even for a Dark Elf, her eyes were especially black. The purple shimmer had faded with a simmering white and grey glow.

The Commander told me she had nearly gone mad sifting through the tomes and performing endless calculations to find where my portal had exited. Continuing after a pause, the Commander continued explaining that the chances of ever recovering me had been immeasurably small. The tone of his voice revealed that not everything was as it should be with the summoner.

My vision turned white, then black. I felt the cold hands of a Sft’Rm capture me as I fell backwards.

Day 14

I have been recovering for a few days now and the war is nearly over.

The final two days saw the Demon briefly threatened by the massive Void whose experience in combat let it seize enormous swathes of land. The three giants — Imperial Demon, Independent Void, and Commonwealth Jagunii — engaged in several battles, which according to this chronicles will go down in history as the greatest ever recorded.

The mighty Jagunii War Mammoths stomped on the Demon lands, conquering over one-thousand and one-hundred acres in a single battle.

Not long after, the Demon recovered by taking one-thousand and eleven acres from our Void.

Other notable battles took place, such as Spirit conquest on Black Orcish lands. My Dimensionalist hosts managed to lay claim to much land and were not deterred by Jagunii or Spirit invasions.

Epilogue

Satisfied with how the war ended, the Commander was preparing to release the draftees from duty and focus on maintaining the over nine-thousand five-hundred acres now under their control.

Over twenty-three thousand Summoners had completed their training and over half a million otherworldlies were with us. The war was won by the Demon, but the Commander was content with the success.

We were overlooking some of the yet unbuilt lands now under Dimensionalist control, perched a top a high masonry wall. It was mid day and the sun was high. The plains and hills were empty aside from some planned construction sites and shrubbery.

Far down, I spotted a person walking. They were dressed in a summoner’s robe but there was something unusual about this one. They usually walk with great poise and purpose. This summoner was hunched over.

I asked the Commander’s for his telescope and pointed it to the summoner. Recognising who it was, I announced to the Commander that she was down there.

“What is she doing there?” the Commander asked with a concerned tone.

“She does not look well.”

I watched through the telescope as she slumped down in the middle of the field while waving her hands around as if to open a portal.

“I think she’s opening a portal. Trying to open a portal.”

The Commander pulled out a pair of binoculars from his pocket and looked down. He excused himself and ran over to another table, where some senior Summoners and Archmages were cheating at cards with some Sft’Rm. The exchange was brief and heated. They grabbed me and we called on a chariot to take us down immediately.

We arrived too late.

The wheels almost coming off our chariot as we sped across the fields, we saw the summoner convulsing on the grounds. Then the ground began to shake, followed by a noise louder than hundred-thousand Imperial Artillery cannons firing at once. Our chariot stopped.

Beneath the summoner the ground began to split open into a Great Divide. First a small crack, but it grew wider and longer at a tremendous rate. The summoner fell down, still writhing and thrashing, down into the expanding depths.

Then a roar unlike any I had ever before heard came rushing up towards us. The force of the sound was as strong as an ocean breeze but reeked of death and iron.

Dozens… No, hundreds… Yes, hundreds of claws sprung up and grabbed on to the sides of the split ground. But it was not hundreds of beasts that finally arose.

It was one single entity. One being. One… Monster.

“The Empress is not going to like this,” the Commander said as he pointed towards where the chasm was forming — into the heart of the Empire.

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