Project ZEAL

Scene 23 - What Comes Before Dawn (Claado Shou)

Year: 2313 A.D.
Place: (what remains of) The Zenan Mainland

He had come bearing nothing. The voyage across the dark, magic-infected waters of the sea had led him to believe that even if he had brought an arsenal of weapons with him - which he feasibly could have - that in this new place, this land which none of his people had ever seen, they would do little good. So he was pleased that his load was light, and he hoped that in a few days, when he returned to the small sailing vessel to go home, his load would be heavy and powerful.

His name was Serian. He was a skilled hunter, 6'2", with a mostly human appearance. From a distance, even, it was hard to tell the difference between him and everybody else. But when you started to see the details, the separations - physical and otherwise - were very apparent.

Serian's ears were laid back against his skull, as if they had been permanently pressed against his head. His temples curved inwards, and his nose was narrower than any human's, though about the same length. His arms and legs were covered with thin, ridged spines that extended no more than a centimeter or two from his body, allowing for better gripping on rough terrain, and his neck was very thick, though not disproportionately so. The biggest difference, however, was the density of his muscle mass, which was, inch for inch, three times the weight and strength of normal human muscle. Whereas a human of his size and stature would weigh a mere 150 pounds or so, Serian clocked in at 375.

All of the extra weight was carried easily, however, by his toned and well-developed upper body strength, which allowed him to pull the fairly-large ship ashore, effectively beaching it. He placed six knives in the six holders strapped to his waist, made sure that his armor - tough leather greaves and chestmail - was tightened around his body, and set off, step after step in the dark world, the shifting sand.


"We can't hold them off for long! Our supplies are too thinly spread!" Serian could hear the cry from far off down the stone hall, along with the sounds of gunfire, swords clashing, and Spawn screeching.

The battle had begun three days before, when the Lavos Spawns had somehow managed to form an offensive front on the slopes of Death Peak, numbering in the range of 50-60. Serian and his Tyran family had effectively defeated the Spawn for many years, but never had to face such a seemingly-insurmountable number of the beasts. It was simply too much to handle.

The Tyran weapons - artillery that utilized shells of dead Lavos Spawn to magically energize various rounds of heavy ammunition - worked well against the beasts, but with such a large number of the creatures, and such a short supply of ammunition, the weapons were lacking in the damage they could do. The Tyrans had started to pull back when the Elder, the leader of all forces outside the mountain base, entered Serian's chambers.

"Serian, we need your help."

Serian turned from his bed, where he had been chained for disobeying a direct order. The steel was stronger than even he, and the mountain's magical properties prevented him from snapping them out. So he simply twisted his head and stared, both angry and eager.

"How may I serve you, Elder?"

"Our ammunition supply is running low, and there is simply not enough time or manpower to send out a search team in order to obtain more." The Elder's nostrils, unusually large, flared. "And since you are our absolute best field agent...I think it's safe to say that you're the person best suited for the job."

"Is that right?"

"We may have our differences, but you are our only option."

Serian turned as far around as he could, reliving the memory of his trial. "I thought you deemed me unfit to proceed with service."

"That was before you became necessary."

"Then you know what this means, don't you Elder?"

"A pardon...and for good measure, immunity."

Serian smiled at this prospect.

"You had a fair trial, Serian. Don't hold it against me that seventeen other people found you guilty."

"I refused to kill one of our own under an order I deemed unnecessary." Serian grimaced. "Guilty or not, it was the right thing to do."

The Elder didn't answer. He knocked on the wall, and two guards came in, both larger than Serian, but much slower. They unlocked his chains and handed him a bag filled with accessories.

"Use them wisely," the Elder said, his head tilting upwards in summation. "Because you're going into uncharted territory."


Which is where Serian found himself now, looking at an unfamiliar sky, a strange new horizon, and a freedom that could only be described as temporary.

Serian's direct orders: Secure by whatever means necessary no less than 5000 pounds of ammunitions-grade material within 72 hours, lest your immunity be revoked and your family's life be considered forfeit.

That was his timeline. He couldn't let his parents go through that, so he trekked forward, watching the sun, however slim its input on the atmosphere was, and hoping for a miracle.

It turned out that he didn't have to hope for very long.

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