Ascerth: One Year Later is a story written by Tigertot (t∣b∣c) as the next step in the story started by Champions of Ascerth: The Chronicles and continued in Zalvar Online. It takes place within the Ghostrealmverse.
Prologue: Six Heroes and a War
For thousands of years, the six races of Ascerth lived in relative peace, minding their own business. The simple humans in the southwest, the brown-skinned rul'kor to the north, the tree-like grovarn of the northwestern Everbark Forest, the ruthless, reptilian sulkrik of the southern deserts, and the profit-savvy, avian volant of the eastern volcanoes all minded their own business, aside from small conflicts.
Then, the krexxon came. These alien invaders sought nothing more than to conquer the planet, for it held a secret that they sought to utilize. Their technology was superior to that of Ascerth, and it claimed countless lives.
The krexxon's actions would not go unanswered. A team of six heroes came together to combat the krexxon, made up of the reckless human swordsman Kaiden, the studious human mage Elina, the fearsome rul'kor warrior Ukoras, the calm grovarn Jogot, the reckless sulkrik assassin known as Orthesu, and the tactically-adept volant archer Grik. These six heroes killed the commander of the invasion, a krexxon known as Ethros, and also uncovered a secret behind the planet. That it surrounded an alien superweapon, fueled by life energy. The six heroes knew they had to keep this a secret, for it would tear apart the planet's inhabitants should they find out.
Now, a year has passed since the end of the invasion. A group of rogue krexxon have made a settlement for themselves on the planet, having abandoned their desire to fight Ascerth's inhabitants, and allowing for their technology to be distributed across the planet. Yet, talk of cultists being on the move is going around the planet. This is the story of the next era of Ascerth's history. A story that will show the fates of the six heroes.
Chapter 1: Whispers
Kaiden arrived at the gates of Xastil City, the so-called "capital" of the humans on Ascerth, in a strange vehicle of sorts, one that seemed to be mechanical in nature. Two krexxon were on board, and helped unload the goods from the back of the vehicle as a soldier walked out, clad in armor. He took the crates to the side as Kaiden and the two krexxon helped unload the vehicle.
"Here's the krexxon tech you ordered," uttered Kaiden as he pulled out the late crate. "Fresh from New Krexxak."
"You're doing Xastil a service by facilitating connections between us and the former invaders," replied the soldier. "Here's today's payment."
The soldier handed Kaiden a bag full of gold coins as he smirked. He had been waiting for this day to buy something specific.
"You look like you've got something planned today," uttered the soldier. "Gonna spend some of that?"
"You bet," replied Kaiden. "I've been waiting to buy something specific for a while."
"Sounds good," replied the soldier. "Anyways, I better take these crates somewhere secure."
"See you tomorrow Nolran," replied Kaiden as he walked over to the two krexxon manning the vehicle.
"Thanks for the extra hands," uttered Kaiden. "Have a nice night."
"Oh, we will," replied one of the krexxon. "Zorsaj here insists on going on a hunting trip tonight."
"Well, have fun," replied Kaiden. "I've got a special someone to return to tonight."
Kaiden waved goodbye to the two krexxon as he walked into Xastil City. He'd been working as Xastil's ambassador to the krexxon of New Krexxak for around a year now, helping to facilitate connections between humanity and the former invaders. It helped that he knew their leader too.
"Time to finally buy it," Kaiden thought to himself. "It's about time our relationship goes to the next level."
Ukoras walked through his home of Skullspite Village, taking in the cold air. He was used to it, having grown up amongst the ice and snow. However, he heard strange murmuring coming from a nearby tent, and stood nearby, listening in.
"Magic's flowing erratically now..."
"The Prophet demands that we meet with him as soon as possible. Apparently some otherworlder will be speaking with us."
"You don't mean-"
"There's been whispers of his deeds. That he grazes souls, and commands a great army amongst the stars."
Ukoras shuddered as he walked away. He could tell that something was going on.
Jogot kneeled down within the Everbark Forest, absorbing the life energy of the ground. It filled his body, and he felt revitalized. Yet, he could feel ripples in the magical energy of the world. Clearly, the planet had yet to heal from the krexxon invasion, but it could be something else.
"Something wrong Jogot?" asked a nearby grovarn. Jogot got up, and looked into the grovarn's eyes.
"The planet still reels in pain," replied Jogot. "But I sense that sinister forces are at work. Forces that haven't been seen since the Shadow War."
"Target's over there," uttered Orthesu. She and Grik were standing on a ledge above a small camp, where a lone krexxon was fiddling around with a device of sorts.
"Should I snipe, or-" replied Grik, but Orthesu shook her head. She climbed down the ledge, and put the krexxon in a chokehold.
"NOW!" exclaimed Orthesu. Grik fired off an arrow at the krexxon, which sealed his fate. Orthesu picked up the device in his hands, and began to examine it. Strangely, it had green energy pulsing from it.
"This isn't like normal krexxon tech," uttered Grik. "Normally it's all purple and black, not green."
"I know a guy who can examine it in Xastil City," replied Orthesu. "You know, we make a great team."
"Yeah, I agree," replied Grik. "Working as a duo gives us better chances of eliminating targets!"
Kaiden walked into an apartment building, with a small black box in hand. However, before he went up the stairs, he thought to himself for a moment. Should he do it now, or wait first?
"I should probably ask her dad first," thought Kaiden. "We haven't even met yet anyways."
Kaiden put the black box in his pocket as he reached the third floor of the building, and put his keys into the door. As he entered, he saw Elina sitting down on a seat, reading one of her usual magic books.
"Hey Eliney," uttered Kaiden with a smirk on his face. It was his "nickname" for her, so to speak. Elina blushed as she heard the nickname, and walked up to Kaiden, kissing him on the cheek.
"Hey honey," replied Elina. "Busy day?"
"Mostly just the usual stuff," replied Kaiden. "Talking with Valnar, transporting trade goods, all that stuff."
"My day wasn't that busy," replied Elina. "The students are getting surprisingly competent now."
Elina had taken up teaching magic at a small school within the city. It was simple, but her students were sometimes reckless with their use of magic. She couldn't remember the number of times when students had torn apart the building with magic, blown themselves up, or been driven to insanity by magical whispers.
"You know, I had an idea," uttered Kaiden. "My parents might be dead, but it doesn't mean I can't meet your dad."
"Oh yeah, you two haven't met yet," replied Elina. "How the hell has that not happened yet?"
As Kaiden and Elina slept that night, Elina was tossing and turning in her bed, witnessing visions, and hearing voices from various individuals.
"I take it... *pant* You'd be okay with a little break?"
"We've made our decision. We're going to fuck you guys over and lead you on one hell of a goosechase!"
"Well... now we know the Threat has spies everywhere. How long has she been watching?"
"I, Supreme Commander Ethros, will determine if your people are powerful enough to defend this world!"
"The weapon has to be used! We have no choice! How long must we suffer as the enemy consumes countless worlds!"
As Elina shuddered, she witnessed various events. A pair of birds, flying through a desert. A figure in orange and grey, fending off a horde of enemies. A planet letting loose a blast of energy at another planet in the distance.
"AAAAH!" exclaimed Elina as she woke up. Kaiden was startled, and looked at his girlfriend as she cried.
"Nightmare?" asked Kaiden. Elina nodded.
"Second time this week," replied Elina. "It's like my mind's being assaulted with voices and visions."
"Well, it doesn't seem like it's affecting you outside of your sleep," replied Kaiden. "Shouldn't be that big of a deal."
Kaiden smirked at Elina. It was clear that he sought to comfort her. She hugged him in response, crying immensely.
"You don't know how lucky I am to have you..." uttered Elina. "Where would I be without meeting you?"
Chapter 2: Root of All Evil
"So here's today's round of supplies," uttered Kaiden as he lifted a crate out of a wagon. Valnar was standing before him, smiling as his allies unloaded them.
"It's good to see Xastil trusts us," replied Valnar. "We've come a long way from our roots as invaders."
Kaiden nodded as he looked down at the ground. He felt bored during this time of peace, being a natural fighter. He sought to utilize his swords again. He was also thinking to himself about the inevitable meeting with Elina's father Norris. He wanted to make a good impression if he wanted to marry her.
"Something on your mind?" asked Valnar. "You seem deep in thought."
"Just thinking about the old days," replied Kaiden. "When I was a fighter."
"Well, there is one thing we could have you help us out with," replied Valnar. "Some of our warriors have been picking up on signs of cultist activity near here, and could use some extra firepower."
Kaiden smirked in response as he gripped his swords. Finally, he could get some action.
Jogot walked through the Everbark Forest, towards the Tree of Ages. He kneeled before the tree as it smirked. As usual, the bird from a year ago remained on Jogot's head.
"Hey...Jogot..." uttered the Tree of Ages. "What's...on your mind?"
"I believe you're also sensing the ripples in magical energy," replied Jogot. "They're back."
"Yeah I've been...sensing 'em..." replied the Tree of Ages. "Something...fishy is goin' on..."
"With your permission, I'd like to leave the forest again and scout out the world for this magical activity," replied Jogot. "This mustn't go unpunished."
"Very well," replied the Tree of Ages. "Don't get yourself...killed..."
"They're over there," uttered a krexxon soldier. Two rul'kor were sharpening their axes within a snowy gorge of sorts, while looking at a magical projection.
"The Prophet's meeting is tomorrow," uttered the projection. It appeared to have a hood on. "The master of the interstellar army will be speaking with us."
"It's an honor to speak with such a powerful entity," replied one of the rul'kor. As the projection disappeared, Kaiden and his allies struck at their foes. Kaiden charged at one of the rul'kor, knocking him into a nearby wall with his swords. The rul'kor responded by pulling out his axe and slashing it across Kaiden's chest. Fortunately, his armor shielded the blow. Kaiden responded again with a swift sword thrust to the chest, ending his opponent's life. The other rul'kor had also fallen in battle.
"Frickin' cultists," uttered Kaiden. "Fighting them is like playing a game of whack-a-mole. Take down one group, and another appears somewhere else."
"They're getting stronger," replied the krexxon soldier.
Elina was meditating within her home, attempting to replicate the visions from the night before. After some time, they came into her mind.
"I can't. I'm stuck in their little prison with one of the people I hate the most."
"Everyone knows not to trust me. I do whatever the hell I want."
"They seem like magical spirits. But they look live they've been tormented."
"We finish this NOW Kalgosh! Just the two of us."
Elina also saw visions of a large crystalline object being pulled out of a planet. A shadowed figure sitting on a throne. An axe and a golden sword clashing, before leaving nothing but a ferocious explosion.
"GAH!" exclaimed Elina as the vision ended. It had been particularily vicious this time around, and she was failing to understand them. Then, Kaiden walked into the apartment. He had some bandages on his chest.
"What the hell happened?!?" exclaimed Elina. Kaiden simply pounded his fist on the armor.
"Valnar wanted some help dealing with some cultists," replied Kaiden. "Got a bit injured, but I'm fine."
"Still, you shouldn't be doing this," replied Elina. "I get worried."
"You know I'm a fighter at heart," replied Kaiden. "I can't just sit around while others get the action."
"Promise me you won't do it again," replied Elina. "The last thing I'd want is for you to die without me knowing."
"Alright, I promise," replied Kaiden. "But if-"
"No buts," replied Elina as she glared at Kaiden in anger. "Anyways, I had another vision today."
"Still a cryptic one?" asked Kaiden in curiosity. Elina nodded.
"I mean, there's also been evidence that cultists are expanding their operations," replied Elina. "It's all people talk about nowadays."
Chapter 3: Underground Work
Ukoras found himself walking through a mountain pass, with a blizzard blowing through. He was simply travelling to another village to sell some of the new weapons he had just forged. Yet, as he walked along the road, he could hear footsteps. Quickly, Ukoras pulled out his axe, and looked around.
"Show yourself!" exclaimed Ukoras. A lone volant jumped off a nearby cliff, brandishing a set of small axes. He charged at Ukoras as the two of them locked blades, before Ukoras kicked the volant into a wall. His feathers were black, and he had green paint over his face. As Ukoras landed the killing blow to the chest, the volant smirked.
"Fool," uttered the volant. "You fell riight into our trap."
Another figure jumped at Ukoras, and as he fended him off, the volant used the last of his energy to unleash a magical spell at Ukoras, incapacitating him and knocking him out.
"The Prophet has some questions for him," uttered the volant with his last words.
"This isn't ordinary krexxon tech," uttered a human researcher, who was wearing some strange clothing, with various tools clipped to his shirt. Orthesu and Grik were on the other side of the table, analyzing the piece of machinery. It had a cuboid shape, with strange dials and buttons on the side. Parts of the device however had gaps, with a sickly green gas coming out of it. If you looked inside these gaps, you'd only see a bright green light.
"The gas sorta eats away at nearby materials," replied Grik. "It was hard to transport it here."
"I can tell," replied the researcher. "It's ruining the table!"
One of the table's legs snapped as it fell to the floor, with the box also falling to the floor and breaking. A ghostly spirit rose out of its remains, letting out a deafening roar.
"Infidels!" exclaimed the spirit. "This object was not yours to take!"
"Who the hell are you?" asked Orthesu as she brought out her daggers. Grik brought out his bow as the nearby human researcher ran underneath another table for cover.
"Your doom," replied the spirit as it picked up a nearby table, and tossed it at the duo. They leaped out of the way as the spirit began to hurl objects at them, ranging from chairs, to cupboards, to chests. Grik managed to fire off an arrow at the spirit, but it simply passed through him.
"Material weapons are useless," uttered the spirit as it smirked. It continued to hurl objects at the duo, but Grik had another idea. He strapped a small krexxon grenade to one of his arrows, and fired it at the spirit. While the arrow passed through him, the grenade detonated, and the energies inside hit the spirit hard. It reeled in pain as it exploded, letting out a blast of energy that broke all of the building's windows.
"Guess we know now," uttered Orthesu. She looked down at the remains of the object, and found a singular green orb. As she grasped it, a projection of sorts appeared.
"This attempt to weaponize and transport enslaved magical spirits should work," uttered the hooded figure in the hologram. "See how the spirit can be released, and report back to us."
"Looks like these cultists are trying to-" uttered Grik, before he was interrupted by seeing the researcher's dead body. Somehow, he had been caught in the crossfire.
"Grik, you IDIOT!" uttered Orthesu. "He's dead now, and we're gonna be blamed for it."
Grik and Orthesu walked out of the building, quietly whistling as they walked away.
Ukoras woke up to find himself chained up in a cave, with two hooded cultists looking at him. A third one then approached, and pulled off his hood. Ukoras recognized him as the gringar "prophet" that had been leading the Zar'kesh, a group he and his allies had run into during the journey a year ago.
"Long time no see..." uttered the prophet. "We just have a few questions for you."
"Good luck getting them out of me," replied Ukoras. "I doubt I have much for you anyways."
"Yesterday, we had reasons to believe you overheard a conversation between several of our operatives," replied the prophet. "What did you hear?"
"I heard noth-" replied Ukoras, before he was interrupted by being electrocuted alive. The prophet grinned as Ukoras screamed in pain.
"OKAY, I'LL TALK!" exclaimed Ukoras. "I just overheard something about a meeting. I don't know where though."
"Time for a little...memory wiping," replied the prophet. "Send him home."
Ukoras was knocked over the head by a blunt object. When he woke up, he found himself on the road he was on before, with no memory of the prior encounter. He simply walked along his way, oblivious to the prior events.
Chapter 4: Gathering of Shadows
Kaiden walked through Xastil City alongside Elina, heading over to meet her dad. He was nervous, as he was gonna ask him in private if he'd be accepting of him. The two of them held hands as they walked along the street, with Elina smiling at Kaiden.
"I think you two will get along," uttered Elina. "My dad's a bit of a fighter himself."
"How so?" replied Kaiden in curiosity.
"He made these magical gauntlet things for combat," replied Elina. "He tends to fistfight with magic at his side."
"Interesting," replied Kaiden.
Jogot was wandering through the plains in central Ascerth, looking for the presence of cultists. He had his usual bird companion on his head as he looked around. Most beings would be dead walking this far, but photosynthesis allowed him to remain alive.
"Magical energies are acting erratically here," uttered Jogot. "Something's fishy."
Suddenly, two gringar magi emerged, using a shackling spell of sorts to stun Jogot. They grinned at him as he struggled to break free, and had green paint over their black skin.
"We'll take him to the conclave," uttered one of the gringar.
Kaiden and Elina arrived at her father's home. It was decently-sized, and had a magical lantern outside.
"So this is where I grew up," uttered Elina as she knocked on the door. Her dad answered it immediately. He looked to be relatively middle-aged, with some facial hair and a scar across his right eye.
"Dad!" exclaimed Elina as she hugged her father. He returned the hug while smiling, as Kaiden looked on, blushing slightly.
"It's so good to see you again," replied her father. "This must be Kaiden, right?"
"That would be me, yes," replied Kaiden as he shook hands with Elina's father. "Good to meet you Mr. Keats."
"Call me Norris," replied Norris. "Anyways, dinner's ready. Magically prepared."
"At long last, we have gathered here to meet with the master," uttered the prophet of the Zar'kesh. He twisted around magical energy until a projection appeared of a strange, axe-wielding figure.
"Kneel, Zar'kesh," uttered the figure. "My name is the Soul Grazer, leader of the Circle of Shadows."
The cultists kneeled down almost immediately, basking in the Soul Grazer's power.
"You're doing the Circle of Shadows a great service," uttered the Soul Grazer. "Soon, the weapon will be ours. Continue your operations."
The projection disappeared as the cultists resumed their ordinary business. The prophet however went into a nearby room, where Jogot was chained up. He smirked before unleashing shadowy energy at him, having it enter his body and corrupt him.
"Looks like your plantlike origins make you more vulnerable to our corruption," uttered the prophet as he smirked. Jogot was screaming in pain as the magic corrupted him.
"This stuff's great!" exclaimed Kaiden as he dug into his food. Norris had prepared steaks, with the meat generated from pure magical energy.
"His cooking has always been good," replied Elina as she dug into her food. Norris smirked at the two of them.
"So Kaiden, Elina tells me you work as Xastil's ambassador to the krexxon natives here," uttered Norris. "Interesting stuff."
"Well, I'm more of a fighter I guess," replied Kaiden. "Used to be second in command of my village's guards before the krexxon burnt the place to the ground."
"What happened to Farhorn was a tragedy," replied Norris. "Anyways, Elina, do you mind if I give Kaiden the "talk" right now?"
"I mean, it was bound to happen one time or another," replied Elina. Kaiden and Norris got up, and went into a nearby room. Elina would simply meditate on the floor, having finished her food. Kaiden and Norris on the other hand were upstairs.
"You two seem really close," uttered Norris. "How'd you meet my daughter?"
"The two of us were the first in our group of six that ended the krexxon invasion," replied Kaiden. "We simply adventured together, and I guess the two of us caring about each others' safety resulted in the relationship we have today."
"Interesting," replied Norris.
As Kaiden and Norris talked upstairs, Elina meditated, witnessing visions again. This time however, they were far more vicious.
"Do you think you know better than this luck master?"
"Frankly... would I want to watch chaos more unfold than listening you for more five minutes... than."
"Looks like you made the wrong move...Silent Scythe."
"Oppose me, and your cave city will collapse."
"They're here. Ascerth's finally come under attack."
Elina also witnessed three birds flying into a ship, a blue bear-like creature sparring with another figure, and a skeleton-like mercenary beating down another figure. However, one vision remained there the longest: a planet covered in green energy, with blackened terrain and a massive vortex of darkness.
"Time to awaken your true powers."
After hearing that line, Elina fell to the floor, unconscious.
"So I was gonna ask you if I could-" uttered Kaiden, before hearing a slamming noise downstairs. Him and Norris rushed downstairs to see Elina on the floor, unconscious. As Kaiden panicked, Norris used his magic to see her condition.
"Vision-induced sickness," uttered Norris. "We need to get her to a hospital ASAP."
"Can you teleport us to one?" asked Kaiden. "I don't want her to get hurt on foot."
Norris nodded before teleporting the duo to a hospital within Xastil. It was relatively large, and was known for having magically-adept doctors.
"Elina, I hope you're okay," Kaiden thought to himself.
Chapter 5: Calm Before The Storm
Elina woke up in an endless void, with countless images flying past her. Said images were past visions she had seen, alongside others. Voices also assaulted her mind as she kneeled down and cried.
"Why do you kneel?"
Elina got up, before witnessing a pair of spirits floating before her. They smiled at her, and she felt comforted.
"Where am I?" asked Elina as she looked around. The area appeared to be in the middle of space, with energy flowing by, and rifts scattered around. Looking into these rifts would show an event happening somewhere.
"This is netherspace," uttered one of the spirits. "This realm transcends time and space. All magic in the galaxy, nay, the universe, flows through here."
Elina looked around in amazement, and could also feel magical energies coalescing around her.
"Why bring me here?" asked Elina. "It's mind-blowing, sure, but I'm not sure why you'd want me specifically."
"We'd like to teach you some skills," replied one of the spirits. "You see, the two of us have a...special relationship with you, so to speak."
"You can't possibly mean-" replied Elina, before she realized the truth. Somehow, she felt a connection to these two spirits.
"We were once human," replied another spirit. "We dedicated our lives to studying magic, and in doing so, discovered this realm. Mortals who've managed to arrive here are known as Ascendants."
"So what does this have to do with me?" replied Elina.
"During our training, we inadvertently had a child," replied one of the spirits. "We would've raised her ourselves, but we were getting closer to ascending to this realm, and didn't want her to suffer from having a bad childhood, being raised by people like us. So, we had no choice but to give her up for adoption. Said child...is you."
"So that means..." uttered Elina, before realizing that she was speaking with her parents. Her biological parents. She teared up slightly, and hugged them tightly.
"Now then, we're not going to ask you to become an Ascendant," replied one of the spirits. "The future in which that happens has...disastrous results."
"What do you mean?" replied Elina.
"Remember, netherspace transcends time and space," replied another spirit. "We can see the future, so to speak. However, we can train you to utilize some netherspace-based magic to help in the upcoming conflict."
"You mean the thing the cultists keep harping on about?" replied Elina. One of the spirits nodded.
"Soon, Ascerth will come under attack by a threat from beyond," replied one of the spirits. "Not the krexxon, but a far more insidious threat. One that has destroyed countless worlds, and is responsible for all shadow magic."
"I see," replied Elina. "Then train me."
"She's breathing," uttered Norris as he checked Elina's pulse. Kaiden was sitting nearby, and Ukoras, Orthesu, and Grik had also decided to pay a visit.
"Thanks for coming," uttered Kaiden. "It's a shame that we couldn't find Jogot though."
"It's hard to get into the forest anyways," replied Ukoras. "But I hate to see a friend in this condition."
"I've had vision-induced sickness before," replied Norris. "It doesn't last that long, but it usually has to do with a major event."
"Yeah, all this talk about cultists and the like has me worried," replied Grik. "Something's definitely coming."
"I just hope Elina wakes up in time," replied Kaiden. "We'll need all the help we can get if we are to stop whatever's going on."
"My lord, Everbark Forest will soon be ours," uttered the prophet as he kneeled before a projection of the Soul Grazer. "Once the world's plantlife is corrupted, the planet will be ours."
"Excellent," replied the Soul Grazer. "My forces are working on corrupting the krexxon empire from within, and we're also looking to track down the location of an immensely powerful magical artifact. Once we have Ascerth's location retrieved from the krexxon databases, our invasion can begin."
As the projection disappeared, a giant plantlike entity came into the room, and kneeled before the prophet. He had roots coming out of his whole body, and a giant, deformed bird on his shoulder.
"Excellent work Plaguerooter," uttered the prophet. "Continue defiling the forests."
"Yes...master..." replied the entity as it left the room. The prophet grinned underneath his hood, knowing that the Hour of Reckoning would soon come to pass.