The Battle of Manny
War. Not a war of swords and magic, but a war of beliefs and ideals. Such a war had raged on Ferros for nearly a year between the Church of Manny and the Wyrd. Their agents, the Holy Liberators and the Fatespinners, fought for the hearts and minds of the people, pitting their ideals of freedom against each other. The Fatespinners preached the demise of the gods and the ability to bring about one’s own destiny over that chosen by the Seamstress. The Liberators preached that by joining with Manny, his spirit would help everyone overthrow the tyranny of the Wyrd. As with all holy wars, the mortals battled with no knowledge of the true games of the gods.
From Kal’renth came a dragonkin, Schrazon, to the Church’s headquarters to speak with Perilune Claire. While in the Abyss, Schrazon had come across one of the few safe havens in the infernal realm. There, he had received a vision of an axe, mighty and radiant, facing a triad of weapons: a sword of darkness, a staff of fire, and a wheel of lightning. Together they fought the axe and overcame it and once they did, they set about destroying a large tapestry. When he awoke, Schrazon prayed to Erick for guidance and, after defeating a small infinite swarm of demonflies, returned to seek out the axe. The Perilune listened to his story and explained that it represented the final battle. Should Manny fall, the Wyrd would set about destroying all of creation. That Schrazon had received this vision meant that the gods had chosen him to help Manny. Schrazon was unconvinced but upon her adivce, went to speak with Herald Frederick. While Frederick had not received word of this, upon Schrazon’s arrival, Frederick was suddenly possessed by a mighty Solar. Schrazon threw himself down before the power of goodness as it was proclaimed that he was to join the Exalted Dreadnaught in battle. With a crash of thunder, the angel and Schrazon were gone.
From the Astral Plane came an Unbodied. For centuries it had existed in the airy void as a small remnant of some psychic energy, occasionally feasting on vestiges of psionic energy found in gith corpses. Eventually it gained enough energy that it gained sentience. Now it recognized its hunger for what it was and began actively seeking out gith. At first it could only take the weakest of them, but over time it became skilled at disguising itself and hiding amongst them, silently killing in alleys and on voyages. For some time it went unnoticed, but went an astral ship went out for a routine voyage and never came back, it began to arouse suspicion. The ship was found, but the only body not present had been that of the Unbodied. Skilled psions and hunters among the gith recognized the psionic signatures and sent out a hunting party. Now the Unbodied found itself on the run. It found its way to Limbo where it hid from the gith in the formless chaos. But amidst chaos there is order and it was found by the githzerai almost immediately. These cousins of the githyanki saw a potential in the Unbodied and gave it strict training with their own psions. It proved to be very effective at blending in with both the societies of the githyanki and the illithids and consumed many of their psychic energies until one day a man dressed in robes with the bluest eyes arrived at the monastery. The gith treated this stranger with hostility at first, but with a glance they cowered and with a wave of his hand their powers failed them. Only when a monk greeted him as Lord Jomy Marquis did the rest of the monastery bow. The Unbodied had never seen such reverence or resentment before. The man asked for the Unbodied and beckoned it over. The Unbodied could not resist and for a time they spoke. Jomy told him of a great disturbance to the world and a chance to find meaning. If the Unbodied would help, Jomy would finally sate its hunger and it would find a greater purpose in life. The Unbodied looked back at the monks for encouragement but found only blank faces. This would be his choice. Jomy reached out his hand. The Unbodied took it and they vanished.
In the Arena, Manny waited. With him stood St. Alice and St. Marissa. Forbidden from the material plane, they had come to deliver champions from their gods to him. Behind St. Alice opened a gate and through it stepped a dragonkin, Schrazon, outfitted in truly epic-level gear. St. Marissa gestured and through a tear in reality came the Unbodied. The saints gave both of them their blessings and returned to their gods’ sides. For three days Manny tested these champions in combat. Having never been a very sophisticated man, he preferred a good fight to a cup of coffee. By the end, while they were not best of friends, they were close and stood together in spirit. It was time. Three months ago Lachesis had issued Manny a challenge, a final battle to decide the fate of the world to avoid a prolonged holy war. A month later Manny accepted. Lachesis had given him the key to a custom demiplane created just for this battle. Now the three comrades stood before the door. Manny held out his hand, and the door opened.
The battlefield consisted of a large tiled slab of stone suspended in space. Around them, galaxies turned and nebulae glowed. Above them turned a great wheel and the sigils of Manny and Lachesis were burned into the stone on either side of the area. The walls were transparent walls of force, literally the walls of reality. Manny, Schrazon, and the Unbodied entered from one side, Lachesis and Severus from the other. In the air appeared a mightily radiant Solar bearing the symbol of the Seamstress and carrying a book of Nephrale, claiming he was here to observe in the name of the Seamstress. There were no other pleasantries. Severus opened with the creation of a clone and an Anvil of the Gods and Lachesis with a technique that seemed to bend the reality around them, infusing the space around Manny with negative energy. Schrazon responded with a charge on Severus which he only barely survived. He retreated behind a prismatic wall while Manny charged Lachesis. But the deity of luck had himself on his side and only said, “Nope,” and disappeared in a golden flash.
Schrazon and the Unbodied concentrated their fire on Severus but his wall made it slightly difficult. That is, until Schrazon realized he could simply step through it and be mostly unharmed. Severus retreated again only to find himself the target of the Unbodied. In the confusion, it had effectively hasted itself so much that it was almost continuously manifesting powers. In its rush it targeted the Severus clones with a tear in reality. Doing something only Lachesis thought he could do, the Unbodied punched through the world to Limbo, the plane it was most familiar with. Despite it’s best efforts, though, Severus and Lachesis were able to impose their wills over the wild magic effects, but the holes in reality would only grow.
With the chaotic magic and the dragonkin threatening to overwhelm him, Severus teleported around, creating a prismatic sphere and another prismatic wall across the battlefield, sectioning bits off from each other. Schrazon was unimpressed and tried to follow, but failed and suddenly found himself transported to Ysgard. With a sigh, the Unbodied followed to try and fetch his comrade back. Meanwhile, Manny and Lachesis played a little game of cat and mouse. Lachesis let himself be struck a few times to see what Manny could do and then entrapped them both in a static planar field. Manny broke out of it, but Lachesis had already traveled across the field and released a sigil. The sign opened a gate and called Xark through. For all the rogue’s cockiness, though, it would turn out to be a poor choice of allies. He was the only one who couldn’t fly and in the meantime Manny had figured out how to get around Lachesis’ luck spells. He charged the Exarch and as predicted, the Exarch vanished in a golden flash. Manny simply smiled and readied his axe and when Lachesis reappeared, he struck.
Lachesis retreated into a ball of fire, but Manny followed him there. Flying out, he healed himself and Severus back to full, but the battle was not in their favor. Xark was constantly interrupted and attacked for no good reason by the Unbodied and Schrazon was making sure that Severus was kept on the run. Feeling quite upset at this, Lachesis lashed out with his staff saying, "I, who stand in the full light of the heavens, command thee, who opens the gates of hell. Come forth, divine lightning! This ends now! Indignation!!” An immense bolt of lightning struck the Unbodied, blinding and deafening it and nearly deafening Manny and Schrazon. They survived, of course, but the Unbodied could no longer see, only sense its surroundings with touchsight. Manny did not take well to this assault and charged, grappling Lachesis. Through various dispel attempts by both sides earlier, his protections were down and he found himself with a giant fist over his face. Unable to say, “Nope,” he did the only thing he could and cast dimension hop on Manny. His touch attack automatically succeeded and Manny found himself in the hole in reality torn by the Unbodied a minute earlier. Lachesis flew down and with his Planeslayer spells he sealed the portal, eternally imprisoning Manny in a space between planes.
But how can you seal away a god of freedom? Not even six seconds later, Manny willed himself free and the binding broke. In that move, he earned the name the Truly Free, for he could even be subject to the idea of confinement. From then on, he had Lachesis on the ropes.
Severus and Schrazon had been duking it out on the ground in the meanwhile. Xark came up to help, but Schrazon had had many battles of experience against clever devils like Xark and wasted no time knocking him down. Almost dead, Xark fell and bled, playing dead. On another soul it might have worked, it had worked, but this paladin had spent years facing cowards and knew Rule #2: Double-tap. Xark’s gambit failed and his key crest floated up. His death distracted Lachesis enough that Manny was able to get in a full-round of attacking, bringing the God of Fate and Freedom to near death. Close to death, his ultimate powers activated and he blasted Manny away from him, took Xark’s key crest, and delivered his speech:
“It cannot end like this, I will it not to! Too long have I suffered under the tyranny and illusion of the gods; first Elohim and then Nephrale, the gods are nothing but slavers trying to keep alive this failed experiment the Seamstress calls creation. Gods only have power through the faith and worship of mortals and yet they govern reality as if they were kings. This will not do. The Seamstress made the gods to fight the Chthonoi but I will destroy the gods and end creation. I will destroy the Chthonoi and remake the Chthon and the universe into one. One world where mortals will have the power to shape everything as they desire, and I will not let you stop me, Manny Kilore. Haha, the idea itself is ridiculous. How could you, you don’t even have a reason to stop me. How can someone with no resolve, no ambition defeat me? This is MY destiny and I WILL it so! Feel the power of my resolve!”
Lachesis raised his staff and his hands and as the Unbodied had, tore open a hole in reality to the hottest, darkest pits of the Abyss. The void began to suck in everything around it and Lachesis took the moment to planebend the area around him, greatly empowering spells like mage hand and telekinesis. There was nothing Schrazon could do except stay away from the hole. The Unbodied by now had expended most of its power but it spent the last of it on Severus. With his protection against energy drain and spell resistance down, he was infused with too much negative energy all at once and collapsed, dead.
Now it was just Manny and Lachesis. Manny stepped in, Lachesis said, “Nope.” Manny prepared to strike and in the void, Lachesis did the same. As he returned, Manny struck and Lachesis cast Indignation. The bolt of lightning hit the god and its force blinded and deafened him long enough for Lachesis to escape, but even that was short lived. Schrazon simply removed his blindness and deafness with his holy magic and the two of them converged on Lachesis. With one final casting of Dart’s Dodge he disappeared, returned, and said only, “I will not be killed by you.” A dark and corrputed flare burst on him, consuming his spirit and soul in fire.
Manny took his key crest and said, “I will work hard to build a world you would want.” The battle was over. The Solar closed his book with the symbol of Nephrale and under the sigil of the Seamstress proclaimed Manny the true god of Freedom!
Across the world the heavens trembled. Whether it was night or day, the skies opened and the armies of heaven poured forth. Whether elf, human, or dwarf, all peoples cowered in awe. In the cities, beings of light and flame alighted on the temples to the gods and purged the corruption with holy fire. Across the land and the sea, great golden beasts and winged serpents of many colors pursued the corrupted and the vile. To all peoples appeared a mighty Solar bearing the symbol of the Seamstress. In her right hand she carried a sword and in her left a great horn, and when she blew the horn the earth shook and the seas trembled. Evil ones were smote in her gaze alone and even the righteous knelt in reverence. When her horn lowered all were silent. The winds and seas calmed and the sun and moons stood still in the sky. And then she spoke with a great voice and all heard:
Let it be known on all lands that the usurper, Lachesis, and his Ur-Lords have been defeated and balance has been restored. All recognize the Exalted Dreadnaught, Manny, the Truly Free, God of Liberation and Goodness!
At this she raised her sword and from it came a great flame, burning corruption in the air and restoring the skies to their proper appearance. In its wake was traced a great sigil of spark and ember, so great that none could see its entirety, though in it many saw the symbol of their god. Across the land, symbols of the Wyrd burned and the altars of the gods, burning with holy fire, were rebuilt and blessed. The people looked to the Fatespinners who now were powerless and brought them to death before the Holy Liberators. Crowds chanted to Manny and to their gods and banners once deemed heretical were raised above the temples again.
The Silver City, Ominia.
The host of fiends assaulting the city looked up to the angel and shielded their gaze. Waves of fire from the angel assaulted them but fell upon a great shield. Vespa’s power, even now granted them protection from the mighty goodness of the angel. In the sky the evil temptress in red fought with the angels. Her trident struck them down even as they rose back up. At the solar’s command they converged on Vespa at once, but with a mighty burst of Hellfire she struck them back. They fell among the infernal horde, their wings burning away in the vile heat of the Hellfire. “I will not give up so easily, angel. You hold the light of Elohim against the mere fire of Fallais, but now you shall feel MY power! Come forth, great devil of Hell, Duke of the Fourth, Belial! Burn these fools to the ground!”
With her trident she drew a circle and threw it at the city. Before her opened up a gate to Hell, dark and hot. Smoke and brimstone poured forth as Vespa laughed at her triumph, at her command of one of the mightiest evils. But when the smoke cleared, it was not Belial but a woman dressed in the dark red robes of Fallais with a trident of flame. “You!” Vespa shrieked. “But how? My calls come from me, not Fallais!”
“Sorry dear, but not even Lord Belial wants to help you after what you did to Lord Fallais.” Saint Delaquer smiled and shrugged. Vespa snarled and charged her, but Her Holiness vanished in a dark smoke. Quick as she could be, she turned and hurled her trident, but it veered away from the lady to a heavily armored man who sundered it with a single blow of his mighty flaming blade.
“You bring a weapon against the God of War?” Saint Luscan laughed. “She’s all yours, Kinover.”
A light shone from above and Vespa looked up as Saint Olxanis drove his shining blade down in a shower of light and steel. She growled and brought her arms up and blocked him in a shield of flame. “I am no minion of Fallais, you can’t touch me golden boy,” she smirked.
“Of course not, that wasn’t my job.”
“What ghk-!” A pair of lips on her neck and a hand through her chest. Vespa looked down at her heart and watched as Ligeria crushed it. Blood poured out as Vespa’s vision faded, her last thoughts filled with a man in white. “My…love.”
She fell, and so fled the armies of Hell.
The Grand Cathedral, Aventurine
“Are you sure, Perilune?”
“Thank you for your concern, Elone, but I was there when this began. Did you know we grew up together?” Claire smiled. “We were best friends once. I thought I could stop all of this from happening, but, well,” she waved her hand. Around them lay the broken bodies of angels where they had fallen out of the air.
“You were defeated once.”
“True, but I’m stronger now.”
“So is she.”
“Step aside, Sister.”
“Perilune, I cannot.” Elone raised her sword.
“Do you defy your Perilune?” Claire seemed almost amused. Elone nodded. “Your devotion is to be commended, Sister, but I do not have time for such devotion and I need you to return to Jik’ton.”
Elone shook her head. “Mother, no! Let me come with you!” She took a step forward.
“This is not your fight, Battlemaiden.” A voice as hard as steel and clear as crystal rang out from above. Elone looked up in awe upon the shining form of St. Alice. “Now go. Tell the High Fathers of Manny what you see.” Alice placed a hand upon Elone’s shoulder, teleporting her away.
In one moment she was facing the leaders of her church and then suddenly she hurtled through the freezing cold of teleportation. It lasted only a second and then she looked out from high upon a mountain. Below her stretched green fields and woods. She could see a road traveling through it from the mountains, but the landscape was of little importance right now. She needed to return to Claire’s side. She looked to the sky to find the sun, and stopped in shock. The sky began to darken as Sartra began to move into eclipse.
Being a moon goddess, Echoe has all manner of signs and omens associated with the various phases and behaviors of Sartra, but eclipses were the most ominous and the most powerful. When Sartra eclipsed the sun, it meant Echoe herself was going to touch the world. That would explain why Claire had been so insistent on going to Aventurine and so confident just moments ago. In panic, Elone turned to run down the road to the east but even in haste she would get nowhere. She was probably somewhere in the Malveyan Alps; Aventurine wasn’t even in sight and the sky was only getting darker. Gasping, she slowed and watched as Echoe’s veil fell dark upon the land. Farther and farther the shadow spread until Totality.
The sky was dark. Stars had begun to appear and farmers had lit torches in the distance. The sun was merely a thin ring of light around a black disk. She knew it was dangerous, but as she looked, she saw a flash of green light. It came streaking down from the sky to land beyond the horizon, but there was no doubt where it had fallen. For half a second she waited, and then a mighty fireball appeared over the horizon, green and gold. Elone fell to her knees and watched in shock as a great wave of green and gold swept over the land. As it approached it seemed to crest, as if it were washing up against the mountain. A great spray of verdant hues leapt straight into the sky several miles distant and hung there like a glistening curtain, slowly fading. The fireball over Aventurine dimmed as Totality ended. Slowly the sun was returned and Sarta moved on.
Elone fell to the ground and wept. For Aventurine. For Lyrise. For Claire. Of all the church, now only she remained as the last Battlemaiden.
Time passed but the road was silent. Looking down the mountain, Sister Elone rose and began walking back to Lyrise. She had to know what happened, and then she had to tell the world.
A dark circle opened up into a gate above a plain. In the distance, a mountain stood with ruins glinting in the evening light. A dark figure fell from the gate, bound in glowing chains. They melded into his body as the gate closed. He tried to stand and stumbled, dropping a dark blue mask with a long beaked nose. White bands formed around his wrists and ankles and with a howl of pain, a glyph burned itself into his forehead. He writhed on the ground as the manacles sealed themselves, binding him to this plane. Their light faded, leaving white leather straps engraved with a single rune in gold.
The man lay on the ground for a minute before trying to stand again. He felt the straps tight around his wrists and ran a finger over the mark on his forehead. If he showed his face, everyone would know him and his crimes. Even here there was no refuge. He clenched his fists as dark flames surrounded him, threw his head back and cried to the heavens, “Carina!!”
Labrynthos, The Astral Plane
“Are you sure no one else has gone to look for it?”
“Absolutely. But they will. You need to hurry.”
“Meh, they can’t catch me. Alice and her posse have been chasing me across the Material Plane for years. I can stay ahead of them easily.”
“Are you certain you can find it?”
“Hey, are you doubting me? I am literally the best tracker in existence. Not even Ehlonna could find the trail and I even happen to have a lead. They’ll follow, but they’ll follow me, not the trail. Trust me, V.”
“I suppose so. You have the sending stone? You will only get one chance to call us and your powers won’t work once you get close.”
“Hey, don’t worry about me. You’ve got the harder job, convincing him to do something.”
“At least I know where he is.”
“Consider it a race. Can you convince him to help us before I find it?”
“Trust me. I think with Manny’s decision to join the Great Seal, we’ll be able to persuade him.”
“Good. Well then, I’m off. Luck of the Mortals, eh?”
“We make our own.”