The cold wind howls through the cavernous streets and the rain pelts down, almost horizontal. Flashes of lightning provide brief glimpses of the day’s refuse tumbling across the cobblestones. Rubbish piles up against an old wooden table-top, propped up against a building’s outer walls in a narrow alley way, a makeshift shelter from the harsh elements. It is what lies behind the wooden barrier that most interests Bastian Oriel today.
Bastian focuses his inner sight to beyond the barrier, where he sees a hulking form rolling on its side in a vain attempt to get comfortable. The creature’s thoughts feed through to him. Still a few hours until sunrise, and a chance for some rest before another day dawns and the hope of a summons begins anew. Bastian becomes pensive. The creature prefers the plane of shadow over Athien these days, and few could blame him.
The metal helmet encasing the creature’s head is no longer a hindrance. Its skull, neck and shoulders have moulded to the metal tomb over the years since it was so brutally forced upon him. Once again it stirs, a low guttural growl emanating from deep within. It is becoming agitated. “BASTIAN! LEAVE ME!”, it bellows, its intentions clearly threatening. The sound of fist against metal can be heard, as the creature desperately tries to stop the lore keeper from probing its mind.
Bastian pulled himself away from the crystal ball set on the desk before him. Within the globe, a cloud of smoke quickly obscured the vision of the alleyway, before dissipating completely. He absentmindedly ran his index finger along the green gemstone where his left eye had once been, as he was prone to do when he felt the emotion that humans refer to as irritation. He had been scrying the creature called Kvarto for some time, however of late the beast had learned to sense the lore keeper's probings and was getting better at hindering his work. Bastian sighed. So many things to keep abreast of, and these days the landscape was changing almost constantly. Even a genius like him was being stretched.
The tear in the fabric of time was perhaps the most pressing matter Bastian had to attend to, however this Kvarto creature intrigued him; he knew that an important piece of the puzzle lay within the wretched brute. For while many of the summoned could alter the projection of themselves ever so slightly when taking physical form in Between, Kvarto was able to manifest himself along with his twin brother; a brother who had died shortly after childbirth. More impressive yet, not only would Kvarto’s brother appear as some kind of mutant appendage, he was also able to make decisions, speak independently, and even cast magic. Kvarto himself was a formidable opponent on Athien, a warrior of some renown. However, combined with his lost sibling's mind powers, he truly was a force to be reckoned with on the shadow plane. What most troubled Bastian was that he had no idea how Kvarto did it. Mighty heroes travelling to Bastian’s home plane were causing damage enough. However, if they were to learn how to manifest more powerful versions of themselves, the damage could reach catastrophic proportions. So far, only the lore keeper knew of Kvarto’s secret. The rest of the summoned assumed he was the same mutant beast on Athien as they saw on Between. Until they discovered otherwise, Bastian had time to solve the puzzle and prevent others from unlocking a power similar to Kvarto’s.
Anger rose within Bastian. While he toiled relentlessly to stop the damage, the demigods continued to play their game, oblivious of the threat they posed to the entire universe. Fools, the lot of them. Blinded by their desire to become gods, and for what purpose?
Already, greater gods and beings from other planes had become aware of the threat posed by the demigods. It would only be a matter of time before they started to descend to Between themselves, to sort things out. Unless Bastian could bring about the demigod’s demise first. For the time being, he was forced to play the part of a summoned hero, enabling him to garner as much information as he could. He would try to put a stop to it all before things really got out of hand.
The mystery of Kvarto would have to wait for another day. A more pressing matter was at hand. Two of the summoned did not return from their last battle; one that was waged over 3 months ago. It was the biggest tear in the fabric of time that he had witnessed and, until he found them, Bastian would not be able to rest. Sigh…working within the confines of human form on Athien, instead of his home plane of Between, was getting tiresome. Dispelling his last thought, Bastian rose from his chair and began the ritual that allowed him to traverse time. He knew the two missing champions were somewhere on the time continuum. He would find them eventually. Hopefully today’s search would prove fruitful.
-- by Andrew "Guns" Galea --