Previously on Rising Stars…
Radiants are under attack from the monstrous creatures known as Abyssals. With the aid of the martial artist, Lao, Sorceress Udona begins forming a group of Radiants seemingly to stop the continual rise of these beasts. The soldier Alexander Aile from the Cosmic World is the first to join their cause. Second, from the World of Oni is Priestess Yuna. Followed by the pre-teen vigilante Aranea from an alternate timeline of the Cursed World. Due to Araneas hot temper, he and Lao battle the next Radiant they hoped to recruit. Narrowly escaping death thanks to the aid of the strange new Radiant, Zarum. With the danger past, they finally head home once more to the Starpulse…
Wielder of Star Brand, Cosmic World
Leader of the Radiants, World of Sorceresses
Vigilante Radiant, Cursed World ( Φ )
Martial Artist Radiant, World of Warriors
Psychic Radiant, World of Oni
Avian Alien Radiant
After a long flight; Aranea, Zarum, and Lao return to the Iridescent Palace. For Zarum and Lao, this was a homecoming. But for Aranea, this was his first time ever venturing here. He had brief conversations with Udona and about the Starpulse but seeing it in person was something entirely different. The way the Aether flowed through the air and shone with the Starpulse. The way its glow reflected off the Iridescent Palaces curving frame. It was like visiting an RPG world.
“Why didn’t anyone tell me our secret base was like this?!” Aranea was in awe at seeing just how different the Astral Plane was from the two Worlds he had visited before now. The overabundant magic a stark contrast to the science he’d been accustomed to.
“Most Radiants never get this far. They usually never leave their own world…Others die before they can.” Lao lamented the state of the Star Forgers.
“It is what it is. No use crying over it.” Zarum dismisses them casually and proceeds on ahead.
“How did he become a Radiant?” Aranea asked the more experienced Lao.
“No idea, I don’t even think Udona knows how they select people yet.” he shrugged. “Maybe you should ask her.” Lao flies ahead. Landing on the Iridescent Palace where Sorceress Udona, Priestess Yuna, Zarum, Rodin, and Alexander awaited them. Lao knew of all present and wasn’t particularly surprised by their appearances. But for Aranea, he couldn’t help but stare. “Hello Udona, I’m sorry for the delay.” Lao bows to Udona.
“It’s fine love.” Udona reassures Lao. Turning her attention to Aranea. “Welcome to my palace.”
“T-thank you.” he stammers.
“I’m glad you’re safe.” She smiles. “It’s unfortunate you couldn’t convince Alistair but we can replace him.”
“Shall we proceed? I believe we’ve pressing matters to attend to.” Priestess Yuna interjects forcefully.
“Indeed, I hoped we could have everyone present but we’ll make do.”
“Maybe we should do this somewhere more private.” Alexander suggests.
“Who’s gonna listen in on us Commander?” Zarum balks at the suggestion. Running his feather fingers through his head. Giving a scornful aside glance. “Maybe you should stick to policing your five star systems.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Alexander furrows his brow confused and annoyed. He looked like a species from the Cosmic World, the Cellons, but the limitless options for potential Radiants he couldn’t be certain. Especially since Alex had never actually encountered a Cellon before.
“Children, no fighting in my palace. Rodin, you have the stage.” Udona silences the pair with the greatest of ease before they can argue more.
“Thank you Lady Udona.” Rodin looks around the group hesitantly. “My name is Rodin. I hail from the World of Ancients, just one of the many Worlds within Muspelheim.” His words startle Yuna and Lao. Both being well aware of the greater multiverse.
“Is that someplace special?” Aranea asked, easily noticing how shocked the pair were.
“Yes, one of the Nine Realms that holds all of reality. Muspelheim is the worst realm of all…though I had no knowledge of that in my youth.
The World of Ancients was a World much like others. Mankind was born and grew to prosperity. Spreading to every corner of the planet. Making villages of stone and steel. Bending the land to their whims. But at some point, for reasons I still do not know, a calamity occurred. The cities that once covered every region reduced to dust and ruin. Mother nature reclaiming what was rightfully hers. All that remained of mankind now were the descendants of those who weathered the calamity. We did not have tales to tell of the calamity. But we did pass down three of great significance to us. The tales of two Deities who created reality and the Dark God who ruled the Rift. As well as Elementals and Sages who gave up their eternal lives to allow magic to remain in their stead…
Years ago; in the overgrown ruins of a city with no name at the foot of a forgotten mountain was two orphan boys. Twin brothers who were found in the wilds and raised by the elders of the village. Learning how to survive as well as the ways of magic. Life was tough for all and any day could be their last. But no matter how grim their world became, they still believed that it was worth cherishing and protecting.
The two brothers, Rodin & Dante, both had short black hair. Rodin’s extending to the bottom of his neck while Dante’s was parted in the middle and tied into a ponytail. Both wore tan shendyts, cloth skirts that wrapped around the waist and extended to their knees, supported by an azure sash. A matching, but much larger sash, was worn wrapped across the chest and right shoulder. Being wrapped around the neck like a scarf. They also wore simple bronze wristbands and anklets. A ceremonial accessory that was given to all upon reaching their 16th birthday. A sign that they have successfully weathered this cruel world. As they aged, they’d eventually be switched for silver and then a golden version. By their side was a woman with her brown hair tied back in a small top knot. Her outfit was virtually identical to Dante & Rodins. The main difference being the scarf wrapped around her breasts rather than simply looping around the chest. All had slightly tanned skin from the bright sun that shone unopposed in the sky. All sheathed in a virtually invisible magical aura. One used to protect their bodies from cuts and bruises while they hunted. A basic spell that was cast and maintained as naturally as blinking or breathing. With wooden spears in hand and bows & arrows strapped to their back; they prowled the forests that sat at the mountain base.
“Do you see any tracks?” I asked while I surveyed our surroundings. One could never be too safe even in the daytime.
“None…” Dante exhaled disappointed.
“Perhaps they moved onto a different area?” Beatrice suggested. She often served as our deciding factor in our disagreements…Though she seldom sided with me over my brother…
“Tis possible…” I agreed. It was that very reason why we rotated our hunting grounds. “But we’ve never hunted this area before. Surely there should be something here…What say you, brother?” I turned to Dante who was focused on the mountain before us. “Dante?”
“Is something amiss?” Beatrice asked concerned.
“I…it’s nothing. We should move on.” Dante took the lead and continued towards the mountain. Their search for food failing miserably.
“Still no tracks?” I got more and more frustrated with each passing moment.
“None…I’ve not seen signs of any life. Not even a bird.” Beatrice noted the eerie silence. It was as if the animals knew something was…off about the area…
“Quiet.” Dante raised his hand and waited a few moments. “I thought I heard something from ahead. A voice I think.” he walked off to the side and found a path hidden behind thick foliage. Seemingly leading up into the mountain. Without even waiting for a response, he continued down the path. Beatrice following him fearlessly.
“Wait! I don’t think we should stray too far!” I was hesitant but I couldn’t simply leave them. For fifteen minutes we hiked through the mountain trail. Our spell protecting us against the jagged rocks that littered the path. It was if the land itself was trying to ward off any who came near it. “I think we should turn back.” I grew more anxious as we went.
“Don’t be a child, brother.” Dante chastised me. It worked as I held my tongue. Continuing with them down the path until we found a cave. “Still cowering in fear, Rodin?” He searched for a tree branch. With the snap of his fingers, he set it ablaze and created a torch.
“Shut up.” I scowled creating a torch of my own and taking the lead. “I’m no coward!” Fear of the unknown was no match for repairing my wounded pride.
“I knew you had it in you, brother.” Dante patted my left shoulder and walked alongside me. A proud smile on his face. “Come Beatrice. Let’s find this mystery voice.”
For another 30 minutes, we group walked through the dark cave. It’s serpentine path burrowing ever deeper into the mountain. There was no life within the cave or even dripping water. Only the sound of our breath, footsteps, and the crackling of our torches. Suddenly, a single beam of light shone in the darkness. A reflection of our torches upon an ebony mirror that sat upon an ancient shrine.
“What is that?” I asked. At the time, I had no idea what a mirror was. How ignorant I was in hindsight…
“I think I’ve seen it in the ruins. Though they were larger.” Beatrice recalled unsure of her own memories.
“Is…is someone there?” A voice echoed from the black mirror.
“It spoke?!” I almost dropped my torch in shock. The magic we could perform was only basic feats. Even then we’d never encountered another species capable of magic. Let alone enchanted objects. “It must be cursed!” I raised my spear to battle.
“You were the voice I heard?” Dante asked fearlessly.
“Please, it’s so dark in here…Free me so that I may see the light once more.”
“I don’t trust its silver tongue.” Beatrice readied her spear as well. “Tis the work of Iblis!”
“I mean you no harm. I just want to leave this dark cage.”
“Let’s go, Dante.” I lowered my spear and grabbed Dante by the arm. Pulling him away from the Black Mirror. The less we heard its words the better.
“Would you turn your back on someone in need?” The Black Mirror asked in one final desperate plea for our aid.
I ignored the Black Mirrors words and led us out of the cave. By the time we reached the surface once more, night had already fallen. “Surely we weren’t inside the cave for that long?” I thought on our return home. Foolishly dismissing my concerns as simply not knowing how long we were traveling this unknown path. Our home village lay a short walk from the ruined city and forest at the foot of the mountain. It was a decently sized village of around 50 people. Wooden huts scattered within a large wooden enclosure. With the moon shining high in the sky, the children had long since gone to bed. Some of the elders and adults, however, remained active. Some sat in their huts while others conversed by the campfire. The trio may have failed in their hunt, but others faired far better. They would not go hungry this night.
“Thank the Sages you three are okay. Elder Ovid was worried about you.” A burly guard wearing identical clothing to Dante & Rodin greeted us. Homer lacked hair on his head but made up for it with prominent hair on his chest. Hair which, unfortunately, made the ornate tattoos over his heart difficult to see. As a grown man, he donned silver wristbands and anklets.
“Another lecture awaits us no doubt.” Beatrice sighed.
“Ha, indeed. Better see to it now before it gets worse for you.” Homer chuckled heartily and led us to the central most hut. There an elderly man well into his 80s sat with eyes half-open “Elder.” he bowed. “Dante, Rodin, and Beatrice have returned unharmed.”
“Thank you, Homer.” Elder Ovid spoke slowly. His voice low and raspy. “You may leave us.”
“Yes Elder.” Homer bows once more before leaving.
“Please, sit.” Elder Ovid requests. We did as he said with no resistance. “We feared the worst.”
“I’m sorry for worrying you Elder.” Dante lowered his head to the floor. “The blame falls to me.”
“Is aught amiss my child?”
“I took us to hunt for food by the mountain. But while there I heard a voice I’d not heard before.”
“Hmm?” Dante’s words had piqued Elder Ovid’s interest.
“So we followed it along a path I’d not known about. Entering a cave and finding…something I can’t properly describe. It possessed a black frame and showed our image back to us. We believed it a cursed object.”
Elder Ovid opened his eyes fully and quickly furrows his brow. “What did it say to you, Dante?”
“It wanted us to free it.”
“Heed my words well, you are forbidden to return to that mountain. Nor are you to speak of or to that accursed objects silver tongue.”
“Yes Elder.” We replied in unison.
After that, we returned to sleep and the next day came as so many others had before it. Had I known what I knew now…I would’ve noticed how the Black Mirror’s words clung to Dante’s heart. Poisoning his mind….That it’d be the last time I’d see my home…I put the night before from my mind. It seemed like a dream to me. I still remember it well. After our failed hunt, it was decided that we stay in the village and aid in crafting more spears and arrows for the more capable hunters. Something I’d have to do through the day and into the night.
“You’re quite the crafter Rodin, perhaps you should be here instead of hunting.” Alessio said jokingly. He was two years older than us at 18 and was thinner than most. Yet his skill with a bow was amongst our best.
“A man should have more than a single skill. Perhaps you should eat more so you can use more than your flimsy bow?” I taunted him as friends often do.
“If I did that there’d be naught else for others to excel at.” He said arrogantly. At the very least, it seemed less playful than my reply.
Suddenly, the mountain erupted with darkness. Darkness that bloated out the moon and began to spread across the sky. A feeling of fear, despair, and misery began to overtake the villagers. While they gathered to try and discover what happened, I knew in the pit of his soul what it was. Without a word, I raced out of the village and to the mountain. Racing without stopping. Powering through my tired legs and burning lungs. Never for a second stopping or slowing. Even the cave whose blackness even my torch could no longer light did not slow my progress. Nor did stumbling through the cave and injuring myself on the surroundings I could no longer see. Even when my legs gave out and I was forced to a crawl, I did not stop.
“Dante! Dante where are you!” I called out into the void. My voice was hoarse and strained. Lungs screaming for oxygen as I dragged himself along the floor. Stopping when my hand felt something unfamiliar. The Black Mirror which now lay cracked and broken on the floor.
“I’m here brother.” The darkness receded, becoming a deep black and crimson aura that surrounded Dante. His skin now pale. Black veins coursing throughout his body. Turning red as they crossed into his jet black eyes with eerie white pupils.
“B-brother? What…what did you do?” I was terrified of what I saw.
“He’s opened his eyes.” The voice from the Black Mirror spoke. The darkness that now surrounded Dante began to grow and took the form of a shadowy specter. Its inky black shroud obscuring its true form beneath.
“Get…get away from my brother fiend!” Through sheer willpower, I stood to my feet. Even unarmed and exhausted, I’d do what he must to save my brother.
“He’s no fiend brother. He showed me the truth. Ever since childhood, we’ve believed in the Sages and feared the Dark God Iblis. But it was the Deities themselves who created Iblis. And in doing so created the Angels and the Rift.”
“What?!” I was taken aback by this. We always believed Iblis simply existed and created the Rift with the Angels inside it. Not that he was the byproduct of another.
“Don’t you see brother, we were taught that Iblis and his kind were unholy monsters. But they’re just creations of the Deities like you and I…Like the Sages. Yet he’s held prisoner like Vergil was.” Dante motioned to the specter. I can only assume that was his name. “But why did they imprison Iblis? Because they feared that he truly was the one true God. That he’s the destined ruler of reality. With the Eight Abyssal Gods, we’ll see him freed from his prison. I shall see to it personally as his Herald…But you need not fear brother. Please, come with me.” Dante extended his hand to me. Hoping that I’d join him in his mad quest…This was the moment that an irreparable void was created between us…The moment that would eventually lead to the destruction of countless Worlds…