Knight Law, Protector of Order, was pacing in The Eternal Halls Of Justice. He was waiting for the latest report on the situation.
Eterna, goddess of order and all things eternal had spoken, and her word was Law.
Ethan West has to die.
The problem was… how?
While they knew who he was and where he was – thanks to a small loophole that allowed them to observe him through the people around him – they could not affect him directly.
Knight Law and his brethren were technically a sentient part of The Wheel Of Aspects, but they still couldn’t act out against him and physically retaliate.
The Divine Assembly would never allow it, and The Wheel itself would destroy them for interfering with the mortal’s life.
He paused his pacing as a new report came through, he perused it quickly and a thought struck him.
The only chance they had of acting against the human was if he sacrificed a class and became a Harbinger of Chaos.
The Primordial Force of Order was not the only aspect of The Wheel, there was also its opposite and most prominent enemy: The Primordial Force of Chaos.
In fact, one could argue that the number of aspects to The Wheel was the same as the number of hues in a rainbow: infinite, and that the only apparent limit when it came to perceiving them was one’s own comprehension.
One could also say that any two opposites in existence had a place on The Wheel. Order and chaos, light and dark, love and hate, fire and ice, life and death, and so on and so forth.
Not every aspect was considered a Primal Force, but the reverse was true. Aspects simply coexisted, while Primal Forces were almost always connected to a divine being and fought tooth and nail for dominance over The Wheel.
If Ethan West sided with Chaos as its Harbinger, he would become part of the eternal battle, which would make him a fair target for the forces of Order from the perspective of The Wheel.
“Come on, Ethan West. Make your choice!” Knight Law said, and started pacing once more.
“… and that’s all. So, what should I choose?” Ethan asked the elders seated around him.
He had decided to tell them about his conundrum after his experience with the song. For some reason he felt more attuned to the Krell people and their ways.
He also trusted the elders a teeny tiny bit more after the treatment they’d shown him.
Okay, maybe it was the food.
“A [Harbinger]?” One of them whispered after a pause.
They all looked ashen.
“What’s your aspect, boy?” Elder Ro asked him without beating around the bush.
He swallowed heavily and started to sweat. He had hoped he’d not have to mention that part.
He debated whether or not to deflect the question, but elder Ro reminded him of his kind but firm high-school math teacher. She always knew when he tried to cheat her with his homework.
He fidgeted and she fixed him with a look that melted his spine.
He gulped and opened his mouth to speak.
“Chaos.” He whispered with a heavy heart, but felt a cathartic release once the word left his tongue.
The sound of distant thunder could now be heard. It was almost ominous, and he heard loud intakes of breath all round.
They quickly got up and dragged him to the empty Matriarch’s tent.
She wasn’t present, but he could still smell her aromatic herbal scent in the air.
They shooed the guards away and closed the tent flap, then they seated him in the middle and crowded around him.
Then they started asking him questions about himself.
He tried to resist at first, but they were incessant and would not quit, and he finally gave in.
He answered all he could, but finally broke when the questions became too personal.
“What do my sexual preferences have to do with anything?” He asked in annoyance.
They all giggled like high school girls.
“Foolish boy, it’s all for the chronicles.” Elder Ro reproached.
“What chronicles? And what does that have to do with me?” He asked in confusion.
“The elders are the keepers of the chronicles, we record the history of the Krell people.” She explained as if to a child.
“And why am I suddenly part of Krell history?” He was puzzled.
“Because a single [Harbinger] appears every ten thousand years, and they always bring great change that shakes the world.” She said solemnly.
He was shocked to his core. A unique class? Oh no, no. It appeared that this was the 1 in a trillion bet, and he’d just won 3 times in a row.
He stared at the flashing prompt.
Class change available: [Harbinger – Chaos], would you like to exchange an existing class for [Harbinger – Chaos]? [Y/N] 4:07:01… 4:07:00… 4:06:59…
A big decision rested on his shoulders. A decision that would not only affect him, but would probably affect this entire world.
And he had 4 hours left to make this decision.
“I need some time alone.” He finally said.
“Who are you?” [Commander] Talius repeated the question as the thunderstorm raged on.
The winged woman eyed him closely and spoke slowly.
“My name is Eragoth, and you must be the elusive [Commander] Talius my children talk about so much.” She said as she drew closer.
“Your children? Do you mean the Krell?” He quickly connected the dots.
“And so the Polarii finally gets it!” She exclaimed in disdainful tones as she tiptoed closer.
“Stay where you are!” Warned Talius.
“Or what? Are you going to hurt me?” She mocked.
“What exactly did you mean when you called the Krell your children?” He asked with a guarded expression.
“All the Krell belong to me.” She paused and gave a mock half bow, “for I am their Matriarch!”
“A dragoness rules the Krell?” He was bewildered.
No matter what happened here, and no matter the cost, this information had to get back to The Empire.
He was wracking his brains for a method to deliver this information when she spoke again.
“I’m every bit a Krell in blood as any child of the tribes! But enough talk, don’t we have an enmity to settle?” She said angrily.
“You wish to battle us all by yourself?” He asked while glancing at his 20-odd men.
“Yes, I do. Do you wish to surrender now and spare yourselves a painful demise?” She asked haughtily.
He was impressed by her gall. But then again, she was the Krell Matriarch, and a dragoness on top of that. Who knew what kinds of tricks she had up her metaphorical sleeves?
“Jarret, when the battle starts, I want you to take two soldiers and sneak away. No matter the cost, you must return to the camp and warn the [General] about the Krell Matriarch’s nature and tell him of this location. Do you understand me?” Talius whispered to his second-in-command with a side glance.
“Yes!” Jarret squeaked.
Talius nodded and advanced forward. He walked outside of the shield formation.
“So be it. I shall face you in single combat!” Talius stated, and all of his men tensed up.
He had to make a diversion.
Ethan sat alone. Thinking.
His AI had completed the feedback interface not too long ago thanks to the spell casting event from earlier, and now he could finally convey a choice to the system. But he was hesitant still.
Only one hour remained, and he was as clueless as ever.
Class change available: [Harbinger – Chaos], would you like to exchange an existing class for [Harbinger – Chaos]? [Y/N] 1:13:01… 1:13:00… 1:12:59…
Enough time wasted. He had to act, now.
He steeled himself, and in his mind’s eye, he selected ‘no’.
Class exchange declined: [Harbinger – Chaos] You have been touched by the flows of Chaos. (+1 SP) Congratulations, you become a [Chaos Engineer]. Congratulations, you become a [Harbinger – Science]. Distributing +1128 Deferred XP. … Congratulations, you are now a level 5 [Chaos Engineer] <+1 SP, +5 AP> Congratulations, you are now a level 5 [Harbinger – Science] <+1 SP, +5 AP> You have 10 Attribute Points available. You have 3 Skill Points available. Access your character interface to distribute your attributes and character points.
He heaved a sigh of relief. That wasn’t too bad, was it?
A Harbinger of Science? He actually liked that. But what’d that last line say?
“Distribute what points? Wait a minute! There’s a freaking character sheet?!” He exclaimed in dismay.
“AI, how do I open the status screen?” He asked quickly.
He stroked his chin.
“Send the word ‘help’ through output region #3899.” He commanded.
<What encoding would you like to use?> The AI asked.
That could pose a problem. What should he use in this case?
“All of them.”
He saw a progress bar that quickly climbed up to reach 100%.
He thought for a while. Of course this system would have no idea what something like the base64 or UTF-8 encoding was all about. All the conventions and standards from his world were meaningless here.
He had another idea.
“AI, try the encoding used for language translation by the input interface.” He decided to give it a try.
“Use it.” He agreed.
As if by magic – actually by magic, he told himself – a help screen materialised in front of his eyes.
|help||Display this screen|
|status||Display the character screen|
|skills||Display and purchase new skills|
|affinity||Display aspect affinity information|
|New commands may become available if certain conditions are met.|
He couldn’t believe no one had told him about all this. It made him furious.
“AI, integrate the system into your thought-command templates, and add the new UI into the HUD.” He ordered.
From now on, all he had to do was think of a screen and it would pop up as part of his HUD interface.
He had no idea how others used the system – they could be using internal dialogue to communicate with it for all he knew – but this was the most convenient method for him right now.
Maybe that was the thing. Maybe the system was trying to represent itself using the closest analogues from his experiences. Maybe it was giving him the interface he expected, and not the interface other people would expect.
Enough thinking though, because now it was time to see who this system thought he was.
“Status screen!” he spoke clearly.
Aylin Merza was running around through the dark passageways of the massive cave system like a madwoman, and right behind her the heavy footfalls of a pursuing squad made out of suits of plate-mail armour could be heard.
She’d tried casting fireballs at them till she ran out of mana, all to no avail. They kept coming at her no matter what she did or threw their way.
She’d thought that the armours would stop following her once she left the cavern and retreated from the dragon’s den, but she was clearly wrong.
Those things wanted her blood. She was very reluctant about giving it up to them freely.
This was why she was currently running towards her other pursuers: the Krell search parties.
If she could play it smart and make both groups fight each other, she could sneak her way back to that dragon’s hoard and loot all she wanted, while they were otherwise preoccupied.
Then she would make her daring escape, and things would work out for her like she had planned all along.
She turned a corner and heard shuffling from up ahead. This was the moment! Her entire plan hinged on this clash between the Krell and the metal golems.
She hid in a shallow side-tunnel and waited.
What happened instead was that the Krell shouted commands at the suits of armour, and the suits stopped in their tracks and turned back.
She held her breath with a look of horror. This was not supposed to be happening!
The Krell started to methodically search the area, and soon they were upon her.
She found herself starting at the tip of a spear.
“Not again! Fuck you!” She hissed and tried casting a spell. All she managed to do was to release a spark. She was out of mana from her previous exertion fighting the suits of armour!
“No! Not this again! Anything but this!” She snarled at them and tried to bolt to the side.
They surrounded her, and her last memory before blacking out was of a Krell club descending on her head.
That night, she had a nightmare within a nightmare.