The lore of the world tells us of many powerful men and women who have wandered through the days of our history.
Great champions and craftsmen and wandering spirits of many kinds and forms, taking many shapes and using many methods of living. These people have achieved things of incredible note in our world. But whether this success is because of a divine seed, planted into their spirits at their time of birth, or because of who they simply grew to be by chance, or even through direct intervention by the gods themselves, is impossible to say.
— Apart from one exceptional category.
'The true hero'; sometimes referred to as the ‘summoned hero’, given that they are often sourced from regions that scholars have never heard of. Colloquially, they are often simply titled as ‘the hero’.
The true hero is a favored soul, brought to us by an otherworldly power. Each time a true hero rises, a great threat is here to be vanquished. The gods never summon a hero without strong reasons.
This event, this threat, happens every hundred years, when a crisis manifests itself on the surface of the world.
A true hero is a person of incredible physical and magical might. The least renowned of them far surpass even SSS-Ranked, noble-blooded champions.
The first true hero that we know of, Azimuth of the Torn Sky was an orcish woman, like any other. Prior to her divine ascension, she was but a simple chicken farmer. Then, after her ascension, she was a feared and powerful creature, granted might by her divine birth-right.
Why did the gods choose her to fight the first crisis? What did they see in her that they saw in no other man or woman in the world?
We simply can not say.
Perhaps, however, it is good to sometimes remember that amongst the most common faces who we see every day, are also perhaps hiding incredible potentials, which are only waiting for the stars to align so as to reveal themselves.
~Excerpt from a tale of old heroes
Her heart strikes violently inside of her chest, feeling like it is pressing against her ribs with every strike. Her gaze follows the movement of the entity that is surging straight towards her like a rushing stream of water.
The twisting light of the day-glow, the rush of the air that presses towards herself from just above, the overpowering shaking of the crystal on her forehead as an intense, magical pressure collects and condenses together, causing it to rattle against her skull; vibrating like a chattering of her teeth — all of these things collect in one, single, time-frozen moment. She finds herself moving, but she isn’t trying to make herself move. Her instincts, her training, her muscle-memory are all taking over and the monk notices that her right foot is now back behind herself, she notices that her body is twisting to the side all by itself. She notices that her shoulders are pulling themselves back and that her angle is shifting.
— But she isn’t the one forcing these things to happen. It is simply a drifting remnant of her subconscious, taking over to keep her alive.
She, herself, her focus is lost in the depths of the kaleidoscopic vision that she has sunken into. The world has merged and melded and flown together into one, flat image before her eyes. If before, the world was a game-board, adorned with figurines and individual pieces that could be freely viewed from all angles and sides, then now, it is as if it has all simply melted. It is as if all of those figures and colors and pieces had melted together into a flat, homogeneous puddle, which is flooding into her eyes and obscuring her vision with an array of things that were once coherent.
The world is no longer full of separate things, coming together to form a whole collection of people and objects and such individualities. Instead, now, it is all just… one. Everything comes together into one thing. The world. The entity. The tower. Herself. There is no clear separation between these concepts.
Through pure reflexes, her body avoids the swipe of something pressing past herself. She feels the familiar gust of the wind of a blade missing her, as an entity with ten-thousand piercing, golden eyes sharply snaps her way. Feathers rustle all around her, filling her head with a roar like that of a thundering storm cloud. Yet, as she sees the feathers flying around herself, her mind confusingly thinks of snowfall.
— What’s happening?
She stumbles, feeling a weight in her body. It is as if an anchor were tied to her chest and was pulling her down to her knees. She feels so heavy.
The world shifts as something strikes her from the side. The powerful wings of the dungeon-core slap against her and send her tumbling down across the arena.
Despite rolling over herself, despite the world spinning in all directions, her vision is full of nothing but golden eyes and the white of snow that falls impossibly in this vivid season of spring.
Rorate lowers her hood, looking to the side of the room.
She exhales in relief, letting her tense shoulders droop.
A man crawls out from beneath the bed. The other person living here, the human, Beulah. After him fly out the six uthra.
“Phew,” says Rorate. “I think we managed.” The dark-elf looks over to the table, where the bottle of mushroom-brew was that they had disguised as a health-potion with some mashed up red-berries from the forest. “Not a bad tra-”
An uthra, Crystal, shoots over, quickly holding a hand against her mouth to shush her immediately.
“- Trick!” says Crystal loudly, finishing Rorate's sentence while looking around the room nervously. “Boy! That sure was a great TRICK we played on that monk!” he says, too enthusiastically.
Rorate blinks. The uthra flies up to her ear. “Don’t use that T-word. We’re not allowed to build those, officially.”
She nods, not really understanding, but willing to accept what the uthra have to say. They are Isaiah’s divine messengers and helpers, after all.
“It’s good that you made it back when you did, long ears,” says Red. “We really finished at the last second, before that monk got to us,” she says, looking towards the door to the safe-room.
Rorate shakes her head. “It’s thanks to you guys for your help,” she explains, sighing in relief. Her hand holds itself in a loose fist over her heart. “I’m just glad that you guys were here to find those two grams worth of mushrooms so fast and that you knew how to use an alchemy set-up.”
“…Two…?” asks a voice from the side. She turns her head to look at White, together with the other uthra. “Oh… my apologies,” says White, rubbing the back of his head. “I made a mistake, I do believe.”
“— What?” asks Red. “What did you do?”
“I understood ‘ten’ grams, not ‘two’,” explains White. “I ground up ten grams of mushrooms for the brew. Not two.”
They look at him for a while, before staring back at each other uncertainly.
She howls. God is screaming into her eyes.
The monk jumps to the side, one hand catching herself on the floor, the other pressing itself against her face to stop it from falling off.
— She isn’t really sure why exactly her face is loose. But she’s sure that if she lets go of it, it’s going to fall off of not only herself, but off of the entire world. Especially with god screaming at her the entire time while shaking the tower.
Her chest burns and she stops, realizing that she is out of breath. Also, she realizes in that same instant that it isn’t god who is screaming. It's her.
The woman blinks, staring idly at the ground for a moment, as she remembers that she needs to breathe to stay alive.
Breathing is very important.
- As is staying alive.
Idly, her eyes wander up towards the sky, where a thing is, a being. A mass of movements and shapes and warm colors converge in the sky. It hovers there, floating in a place that can only be described as transcendent. If the world has melted into an oil-canvas in her vision, then this thing, this creature, this otherworldly being that she sees with her very heavy eyes — It must be the painter. She can't describe the discrepancy of presences any other way.
The heavy wooden beads on her arm rattle as she moves.
The familiar sound, the sound that she has heard for all of her life, the sound which is associated with her core identity as a person, rings out and reaches her head with unusual clarity. The poison wanes for a moment.
The monk exhales, trying to ground herself again as she breaks through the spell over herself for a brief window of time. She returns to as far back to her senses as she can. But already, she feels herself drifting away from them once again. It is as if she were aboard a ship at sea inside of her own mind. She only has control over it for an instant, only for now, while the metaphorical wind is calm. The storm is about to return, she can feel it already.
She reaches for the bow that is strapped to her back. She's been poisoned, right? This is just some spell. She just needs to focus, to gather herself.
The dungeon-core readies its sword, her vision of it condensing back into one, singular, whole, construct. A target.
It can’t be god.
That’s too much. It’s just a core. It’s just a weird, freaky, mutant of a dungeon-core.
She grabs the first arrow from her back.
“— Why is she screaming and muttering about god?” asks a junior officer. "Who is she talking to?"
The room is full of murmurs and mumbles as the other officers try to come up with an answer to the monk’s strange behavior.
Walundra stares at the scrying crystal. He watches as she draws an arrow back and aims it up towards the core.
The core itself is much lower level than she is. In a direct fight, it doesn’t stand a chance. There aren’t any traps left to set up, there aren’t any tricks or mechanisms left. It’s a direct fight. Even if she's having a mental break of some kind, even if the core stabs her right through the chest with that sword, how many health-points could it remove from a resilient, high-level combatant like her? Not enough.
The man loosens his grip around the table as he watches her pull the string of the bow back and then fire an arrow that the flying core avoids, flying up towards the sky. She pulls out another one from her quiver.
The door opens to his side.
Officer Walundra turns his attention towards the interruption of his salvation.
The junior knight that he had sent out before stands there and next to him is the bishop, the highest ranking priest in this facility.
Her vision blurs again, the image of the world distorts as before. But she feels her fingers on the arrow, she feels the brush of a feather against her skin. She exhales, lifting her aim towards where the entity is flying and then, she lets it fly loose.
The arrow whistles with a loud, shrill shriek as it flies almost straight up into the air, as it pierces through the strong current of wind, in pursuit of the being known as Isaiah.
“Officer Walundra,” says the bishop, looking around at the collection of people here who all sit now even stiffer and tighter than before. “— Is it true?” he asks. The old man looks towards Walundra. “Is it divine?”
Walundra opens his mouth, his options, but also his life, consecutively moving through his mind at once. “Y- your grace,” says Walundra, his eyes shifting towards the crystal as he watches the arrow fly from her bow.
He only needs a second. Just a second longer.
“The truth is -”
The vision of the crystal, attached to the monk’s forehead shifts as she lifts her gaze to follow the creature as it vanishes into the sky. The arrow misses, flying off at an odd angle. Walundra feels his heart fall into his gut.
The room is quiet for a moment.
“…I can see god…” mutters a voice from the other side of the crystal. The vision shakes. Blurred depictions of fingers move over the image, as the monk rubs her face and disturbs the crystal circlet. “Can you hear me? Hello?” she asks. “It’s here,” says the woman atop the tower. “It’s beautiful. I’m here with it. God is here. I can feel it… I can -”
The vision of the crystal and the rambling of her voice is interrupted as an arrow, the very same one she had shot off a few moments ago, somehow unable to fly true, falls back straight down out of the sky and straight down towards her head.
The crystal shatters and goes dark.
Walundra slowly lifts his gaze, turning to look back at the bishop in fear.
Isaiah stares down in confusion at the monk. What?
The fight is over. But it hadn’t killed her, it was simply trying to avoid her arrows until she ran out of them. It wanted to dive down and fight her in honorable close combat. However, it seems that this isn’t necessary any longer.
Cautiously, Isaiah lowers itself down towards the roost and it lands on the platform.
The final intruder sits there on her knees, her eyes looking past it and straight up towards the sky. She's babbling incoherently. On the ground lies a circlet with a shattered crystal embedded into its front. It had fallen off, when the misguided arrow struck into the glassy body on the front of itself.
Isaiah looks around itself, not really sure what to do now.
It looks back towards the monk, who is in a state of sorts. It reminds Isaiah of Rorate, actually. Back when she was drinking that mushroom-brew.
— How odd.
“Should we throw her off of the tower?” asks a familiar voice. Red.
Isaiah turns towards the uthra and towards Rorate, who it approaches, placing a hand on her shoulder to greet her. “No,” it says, looking back towards the monk. What a mess this has all been from the very start. It’s been chaos and blood. It has been a meat-grinder and there has been so much torment and suffering already and in a season as beautiful as this one.“We are above it. We are not monsters.”
Crystal raises a hand. “Depending on who you ask, we are. You know, us being a dungeon and all.”
“We are a tower,” says Isaiah, lifting its gaze towards the sky. “A dungeon is below the world, we are above it. In both body and in spirit.” It lets go of Rorate’s shoulder and then looks over towards the three figures, the strangers, cowering behind its very-big-tree. “This is a holy place,” says Isaiah. “Those who seek shelter here will find it and those who crave safety, a nest, they too will find it here,” says Isaiah, spreading out its wings. “We will not be the serpent upon our own tree.”
It points at the monk, who is babbling some incoherent nonsense. “Red. Please bring her to the quarters and let her rest. But do not let her out of your sight.” Isaiah nods to Crystal and Green. “The damage is immense. Restore as much as you can before building further.” The entity turns its gaze to Black and White. “Collect the dead and bury them with dignity.” Isaiah looks at Rorate. “Teal. See to Rorate.”
“I’m fine, thank you,” says Rorate as Teal flies over towards her.
Isaiah shakes its head. “You have gone far for me, Rorate. Thank you. Go, rest. Eat. I will find you soon to speak in detail. I promise.”
The uthra set to work, carrying Rorate and the monk away.
Isaiah looks down at the ground, sweeping the broken scrying crystal to the side with its foot as it then returns its gaze to Beulah and to the three adventurers who are all still there atop the tower.
“Let us speak,” says Isaiah, looking at the strangers. “There is much to discuss.”
— For some reason, it has the sound of humming sing-song in its ears. But as it looks around itself, it sees nothing out of the ordinary.