Volume 3: The End of the First Great Crush
Volume 3: The end of the First Great Crush
“It’s hard to say that I’d rather stay awake when I’m asleep ‘cause everything is never as it seems (when I fall asleep)”
The first thing the 5 remembered was the warmth. They must have found it odd and quite curious to slowly begin awaking with a warm sun shining gently down on them. As they awoke, still all incredibly weak, they found themselves bedded down on lush deep green grass in a field. A copse of trees rose high not far from where they lay.
As they sat up they could hear birds singing and a tiny grasshopper jumped up onto Jodi’s hand. He smiled.
Their master of forms, Bastion, yawned and stretched letting out a gentle roar. His huge fangs fully bared but lazily, looking groggy and still in a haze. “Not the afterlife I expected but I’ll take it.” He said scratching his snowy white furry chest.
Brazz, their master of senses, turned a beautiful gaze towards the sun and winced attempting to stand. “Should the afterlife be so painful? I can barely stand…”
Rolling over on her side to face the others, Telanor, their master of divining also stretched splaying out her beautiful body in the sun’s warmth. “This is no afterlife. This is a planet rich with life. I can feel it all around us.”
Half standing, half sitting they looked around. When suddenly Raine spoke, “The heart! Dran’s Heart! Where is it?!”
This gave them all a quick boost of energy and for a few moments they all gazed about frantically.
“Gone…” Jodi said looking defeated
The voice came from above them, and floating down from the trees nearby was the same figure they saw heading towards their ship before they awoke here. Bastion growled a warning and immediately tried to shift to his battle form but it only lasted a brief second and he fell to one knee yelping.
“Please do not be disturbed. You are all still very weak. And I mean you no harm.” In one hand he held Dran’s heart. It was easy to see it still pulsating its purple blue light even in the bright sun. In his other hand he still held the same mysterious and long gem he was seen holding while they were still in space. Seeing it now more closely, it resembled Dran’s heart greatly in coloring and form. Its insides swirled like a cloud of stars.
Jodi spoke up. “Dran’s heart. Give it to us. Now.”
“It is my intention to do so.” The stranger said but made no more movement towards them having gently floated to a place a bit away from them. “My time with you will be short and I have much I must tell you.” He said the word ‘must’ much louder than anything else.
“Who are you?” Raine said trying to well up any magical energy inside him in case he needed it but he was empty. It felt like a gnawing in his belly. He assumed the others were in similar straits.
The stranger pointed at the thick white arc on his chest.
“Arc?” Telanor asked
“That is a good a name as any. I have been called many, many things. I am the Chaos.” Arc said plainly
“We’ve killed chaos bringers before friend.” Bastion said attempting to put on his angriest face. The chirping purr he was known for could be heard welling up from deep inside his guts.
“Chaos does not mean maleficence. But I am not here to have a philosophical argument with you. Here, let me ease your burden.” And in one swift movement Arc pierced Dran’s Heart with the gem he had been holding all this time.
One of the 5 yelled out “NO!” just as it was happening but they could of course do nothing. There was an immediate crescendo of light in all possible colors. Not in a jarring blinding way but in a beautiful iridescent wave that dazzled them all. Then almost instantly they felt their strength returning. All of their powers started to awaken as their life forces flowed back into them quenching an incredible thirst inside. They stood in ecstasy for a few orgasmic moments. Brazz let out a soft satisfying moan. The moment seemed to stretch out much longer than it should have.
But it was indeed only a long moment and soon the 5 stood before Arc full of their righteous power. Bastion smiled a boyish grin showing his dazzling white fangs and in a puff of heat and steam he transformed into his battle mode growing 3 sizes larger. Every muscle in his body swelled with power as he bellowed a mighty roar directly at Arc with such force it blew back his bright yellow hair. The trees behind him shook as if hit by a mighty wind. Arc however, floated a few inches above the ground unmoved and stoic.
Not only had they all been fully restored, they were each now clad in their best garments and armor with all of their weapons and items upon them. They stood as they would decked out for war.
“What the F-” Telanor started but was quickly broken off as Arc began to speak, but his voice had changed and had a terrifying and deep echoing tone to it now. It penetrated them all to their bones.
“I am of one, and I am of two, and I am of three!” he began to float above them slightly and the skies around them turned dark with lightning and thunder. Winds swirled mightily among them.
“A bit dramatic…” Brazz mouthed silently.
“The one is the gift.” Arc continued, the storm raging behind him. And they noticed floating between his outstretched hands a giant beautiful crystalline gem attached to an ornate chain. It shared properties with both the gem they had seen before and Dran’s heart. It glowed slowly and swirled inside with what looked like clouds of stars and light.
“The gem I brought back was Dran’s soul, his life force and being. It was his wish to be recombined with his heart to restore your powers to you. And now he has become something new. This amulet is the mother stone, the first Traxt - of which there will be many.”
And quickly the storm dissipated as Arc levitated down toward them. The amulet strung on a beautiful and elaborate chain floated into Jodi’s open hand.
As Arc landed very close to them he did not wait for them to speak. “I am of 2 as well. I will have two conversations in this life and the one I am having here is half of that 2. You will be the Heralds of Oblivion. And you will lay the way for those that will attempt to save all realities.”
“Herald of the Oblivion?!” Raine said snidely.
“We will do no such thing.” Telanor said darkly
“The Oblivion brings nothing but death! We would never be its heralds!” Bastion growled his rage building.
“ENOUGH!” Arc shouted with such force all 5 of them took a step back despite themselves. Then he continued more calmly. “My time with you is necessarily short. I will allow each of you to ask me one question now but then you must listen to me speak. You have much to learn and not long to learn it.”
“You will allow us…?” Brazz started but Jodi threw up his hand to quell them.
“Very well.” Jodi started, drawing looks from his compatriots. “But do not think we are weak willed followers who will comply with your wishes without question. We have defeated many a being calling themselves gods and I don’t see that you would be any different. So choose your words and actions with thought ‘Arc’. Since you have so far proven yourself noble in returning to us both our strength and Dran’s Heart, I do think you have more than earned your right to speak your piece to us.” Jodi cast his gaze about his fellows as he said these words. The other four acquiesced and stood down from their battle stances.
“You are truly a great leader Jodi and I thank you.” Arc said bowing slightly toward them. “Please ask your questions so I may begin.”
A look traveled between them and a moment later Jodi spoke. “Where are we and why did you bring us here?”
“Ah careful now...” Arc responded. “Trying to sneak two questions in...” He seemed to smirk. “However since you are first I will allow it but the rest you be warned. This is Traskoria. I have brought you here because this is where reality will make its final stand.”
“This planet is called Traskoria then...” Telanor mused aloud.
“No.” Arc said turning his gaze to hers. “This universe is Traskoria. It lies at the very heart of the multiverse. It is a hidden and protected universe. It has existed for it’s singular purpose since the first foundations of reality were laid in the various, nearly infinite cosmos. You will prepare the way for the 13 to come here. They will come here to have the final battle for reality. I will explain all of this to you when we begin to prepare.”
The 5 looked at each other uneasily. Then Brazz spoke, “Who and what are you?”
Arc again just barely seemed to smile and replied, “Since one cannot be answered without the other I will answer you fully. As for who I am you have given me a name. Arc. I will wear this name during my time here. As to what I am that is much harder to define. I am an aspect, a facet of something else.”
“So you are a multi-dimensional being then. We have encountered many of your kind before. No need to be so mysterious about it.” Telanor said dryly.
“Your analogy is wildly inaccurate, however it is as close as we are likely to come in our short time together so it will suffice. I have told you I am chaos. This is not a thing I say to be grandiose. Nor should you let your prejudices about the word’s connotation sway your feelings towards me. I am what is necessary. I am unbridled purpose. That is all I can say on who I am.” Arc finished holding his hands behind his back.
Bastion then asked, “Why did you let us nearly die on the ship? Couldn’t you have saved us some heartache and suffering by rescuing us then bringing us here?”
Arc replied, “Everything that was done was necessary. You needed to mourn the loss of your friend and you had time then to do it. Believe me when I tell you your every moment from now on will be filled with your inescapable duty. Also as I have mentioned this place is protected. Know that I hold no claim to this place. From planet to star, from tree to dust mote, Traskoria is it’s own. Bringing you here after your own deaths allowed me to bypass many of this universe’s defenses.”
“We died?” Raine said looking as shocked as the others.
“Only briefly. And you should not be so shocked. You have all seen the wonders of both magic and technology, able to bring people back from far worse than ‘clinical death’. As soon as we arrived here I revived you. Then I waited for you to awaken.” Arc finished, looking to Raine quizzically.
Raine took that as his que and asked, “When you said you were ‘Of the 2’ and we would be the 1st of only 2 conversations, who will the other one be with and what is ‘Of the 3’?”
“Unfortunately for you Raine neither of those are questions I can answer. Not because I want to be difficult or dodge your question but my very nature will not allow it. There are rules even to chaos. Much like Traskoria I am my own being and above all must be true to myself in all things. Even if it will bring me great despair…” Arc looked off into the distance as he said these final words causing a tense vibe to pass among the 5.
Arc then looked to Telanor. She stared back at him with a mix of emotions. She walked over to Jodi and took the amulet from him. She held it gently in her hands, almost cradling it. She then looked up with sad eyes and asked, “What of Dran? Is he truly dead?”
Arc looked at her with compassion for a long moment and then again turned to look at the sky. He began to speak, “Dran made a noble sacrifice. You should know that what he did he did for you. Not just for you but as you will soon learn for all of reality. And the truth is you all have made this sacrifice. You were and still are willing to die to try to prevent reality from being consumed by The Oblivion. You easily could have sent others in your stead but you put yourselves on the front line in order to try and make a difference.”
Jodi laughed gently, “If you knew us at all you would know that is what we do.” The others smiled in agreement.
“Oh I do know: Jodi, Master of Swords, God Slayer, King of all Smiths. Some of your many titles given to you throughout the multiverse by peoples you have saved. And the rest of you have titles of your own. Bastion, The Living Beast, Mountain Raiser. Telanor, The Miracle Soothsayer, The Cosmos Oracle. Raine, The Reality Weaver, The Universe Healer, Brazz, The Tempter, The Beautiful Star, I could go on and on. No. Know that you were chosen for this task. It would be more accurate to say it is your destiny.”
“I don’t believe in destiny.” Bastion said looking away.
“I do.” Telanor said softly.
“You would.” Brazz said gently putting a hand on her shoulder.
“What once was Dran’s heart and soul is now something more. Something you must wield against The Oblivion. It is the first ‘Traxt’ and will be the lode-stone on which you build your defense.” Arc said gesturing to the amulet.
“Traxt?” Raine bemused.
“And now it is my turn to teach. Gather around my 5 mighty champions. Class is about to begin.”
So it did begin, and over the next 7 days Arc taught them many many things. He kept a pace so feverish even these 5 demigods could barely keep apace. To the group he showed them and taught them many things. He taught them the cosmology of the Traskoria universe. About it’s defenses and about its weaknesses, which they must build defenses for. He taught them about the “Traxt”, what it was and what its powers would be. He also charged them with their mission. He told them what must be done throughout the multiverse. To each individual he also taught new things. New forms of magic and new ways to forge and weave it. New ways of crafting and new ways to string together the energies of reality. During this time they also repaired their ship which Arc had salvaged. They would joke later that they had actually just built a new ship because it was in such disrepair when they began on it. But as such they made many improvements using what Arc had taught them. The engines and the Reality Drive were both completely rebuilt and exponentially enhanced. Bastion and Jodi built an incredible new forge aboard the ship and the other 3 set about creating and amazing new laboratory.
They neither slept nor ate for 7 days and then on that night, abruptly and without warning, Arc announced he was leaving. The 5 were taken aback and sorrowful. They had grown quite fond of their new teacher.
“I’ve stayed right up to my limit. My responsibility to reality as a whole cannot be veered from even by a second. These are our last moments.” Arc himself, who was perpetually stoic, looked rarely emotional.
The five gathered around him and one by one they hugged him. Arc looking surprised each time. The last in line was Bastion who smiled widely and lifted Arc into the air in a tremendous bear hug. His chirping purr so loud Arc could feel it’s soothing rumble through his entire body.
“Will we see you again?” Jodi asked taking a step back with the others.
“That is… undetermined.” Arc said haltingly.
“You have given us a great charge and we see now that all you have said is true. And necessary. We will endeavor to do right by you and the multiverse.” Raine said giving Arc a serious look.
“You could do nothing else.” Arc said holding back a smile with feigned success. “And do not attempt to do right by me. Like you, I have had a part to play and believe me when I say I am no hero.”
This caught them all off guard slightly and before anyone else could say something Arc put his hand to his chest, and where once there was his bold white arc a bold white number 3 appeared.
“Curious.” Brazz said standing hand to lip.
“Goodbye champions. For whatever it’s worth, I believe in you…” and then quite dramatically he ceased to be. Silently he vanished and left nothing in his wake.
For a time they stood in silence staring at the place where he was. When with a bit of a sob and a tear in his eye Bastion said, “You know generally I liked him.” He refused to look at any of them which he always did when he was trying to be tough.
Jodi soundly clapped him on his huge muscular back and said, “There there big fella. I think we all did.”
“He was a task master, that’s for sure.” Telanor said stretching out her aching body.
“We could all do with a good sleep.”Brazz said stretching also, but in more of a yawn.
“And some food!” Bastion exclaimed snapping out of his moment of sadness. His stomach let out a massive grumble which caused them all to smile.
“Agreed.” said Jodi smiling, but then he took on a very serious look. “Tonight we will rest, and eat well, to gather our strength, but now that we all know what lies ahead of us…” He paused making eye contact with each of them. “Tomorrow we begin our work. And it may be we never know peace again.”
They all looked stone faced at each other as if gathering their resolve. Then finally Telanor spoke. “Come my friends. I’ll cook us up something nice on the ship”
And so they left and had a great meal and slept. Oh did they sleep. And curiously, that night, they all dreamed of Arc. Silly, playful, fun dreams that renewed their spirits, and when they awoke they each felt more energized than they had in a very long time. Raine speculated it may have been a magical sleep given to them by Arc as a parting gift, but wouldn’t that go against, ‘Being true to himself’? As it was, he seemed, a stickler for the rules?
Jodi provided that perhaps being chaos allowed you to break the rules without really breaking them. Bastion found this confusing and they all laughed, and then all 5 dove head first into the most difficult mission any of them had ever faced.
For the next 100 years they prepared. It hurt them to see the ever pressing Oblivion continue to consume universe after universe but they had to prepare many things to start this mission. Traskoria was fortified and prepared. In its center they build a super massive structure they called, “The Ronin” They also had to prepare all of their new magics and set about to learning the powers of the amulet they lovingly referred to now as “DC” for “Dran Combined” They would only get one shot at this mission and once it began there would be no stopping. Theirs would be a constant sprinters pace from which they could never stop to catch a breath.
Thus ends the first great Crush. The start of the 5’s mission is widely considered to be the end date for the first of these periods.
And so they set off on their mission lifting off from one of Traskoria’s many planets, and when they were just clearing the airspace of the planet they had called home for so long, and were just preparing to engage the reality drive, a curious thing appeared. In the upper atmosphere, there was something coming toward them at some speed. It appeared to be a gigantic diamond. It glistened brilliantly in the sunlight slinging rainbow rays off of it’s surface. And before Telanor could say, ‘What the f-‘, their communications array started receiving a signal.
“On screen.” Jodi said as Brazz readily complied.
On the screen was a muscular young man. Perhaps not even a young man. He looked quite young. A teenager? He looked vibrant and handsome and smiled an infectious smile. He had rosy cheeks but other than that had ivory white skin. He smiled boyishly at them and said, “Uh hey ya, WOW, so glad I ran into you all. I’ve been looking for someone out there for weeks! What’s up with this universe? Are we the only ones here?” the boy looked at them all quizzically.
“How…How did you get here?” Raine fumbled, a bit dumbfounded.
“THAT is a long story for sure, but I’d be happy to tell you. I’m having some trouble jumping out of this universe would you all please be able to help me?”
The 5 looked to each other quite puzzled. Brazz was almost giggling.
“We can probably help you.” Jodi said smiling despite himself. “May I ask your name?”
“Oh yes of course I’m very sorry. My name is Raine. It’s a pleasure to meet you!”