Project ZEAL

Scene 29 - The Seeker (Leebot)

The Isle of Eden, El Nido Archipelago 1021 A.D.

The cave reeked of an unnatural smell. Smells of blood, excrements, and other natural, organic functions were tinged with something Backer couldn't readily identify, but which felt similar to the energy source he had been tracking. He wouldn't let the smell bother him, however; for him, it was a trivial matter to mentally block an unpleasant sensation.

Ahead, the cave narrowed somewhat. On the wall to his right was what appeared to be runic writing inscribed on the wall. He identified it as a Draconian message, imbued with their standard, frustrating charm. This charm prevented the reader from seeing any more than a couple of letters at a time. The letters were the same wherever one looked, but changed with time as the message went through its cycle. It forced the reader to take their time and wait -- patience was a great virtue among the Draconians.

Backer wasn't fully versed in Draconian, but he knew enough to translate a few of the words that appeared: "...Careful...Flame...Back...Transformation...Burn."

/El Nido lore recalled: "Be very careful when you stare into the flame...For the flame will also stare back at you... It will either transform you into a different being... Or burn you into ashes."

Probability of match: 97.6%/

What lay beyond definitely bore investigation, but demanded caution. Noticing that the cave darkened ahead as it stretched away from the opening, Backer removed and pocketed his sunglasses while opening up a conduit of light energy to provide constant illumination.

A pulse revealed no creatures further in, but the presence of a large, fire-aligned creature outside along with the strange signal emanating from deeper inside the cave. He proceeded into the cave, being sure to keep track of the creature outside.


Anomaly: 27m ±0.5m, +0.10 mark -0.02 ±0.02, estimated size: <.5m
Fire Creature: 12m ±1.5m, -3.03 mark +0.05 ±0.05, estimated size: 1m X 1m X 3m

Anomaly 26m ±0.5m, +0.09 mark -0.02 ±0.02, relative velocity: 1m/s
Fire Creature: 9m ±1.5m, -3.10 mark +0.04 ±0.04, relative velocity: 3m/s

Anomaly 25m ±0.5m, +0.07 mark -0.01 ±0.02, relative velocity: 1m/s
Fire Creature: 6m ±1.5m, +3.04 mark +0.02 ±0.03, relative velocity: 3m/s

Anomaly 23m ±0.5m, +0.01 mark -0.01 ±0.02, relative velocity: 2m/s
Fire Creature: 4m ±1.5m, +2.99 mark +0.01 ±0.02, relative velocity: 2m/s

Critical proximity; danger imminent!/

Backer spun around to see what appeared to be a giant boar barrel into the cavern.

/Assessing creature's status:

Visible wounds: Axe imbedded in left eye. Three shurikens imbedded in hide; one of which appears to pierce the skull.

Demeanor: Enraged.

Conclusion: Creature appears to have just engaged in combat with others. It likely fled when wounded. Given its enraged state, conflict is inevitable.

With its good eye, the boar caught sight of Backer. It let out a ferocious roar and reared to charge. /Initiating advanced combat protocols./

Backer jumped and rolled off to his left to avoid the boar's charge. As he jumped back up, he quickly drew and slashed his Swift at the boar's rear leg. The slash met with resistance and failed to deal significant damage. Meanwhile, the boar's momentum sent it crashing into the wall, blasting chunks of rock outwards. /Enemy's parameters measured. Strength: 734%; Speed: 72%; Dexterity: 23%. Current parameters: Strength: 231%; Speed: 175%; Dexterity: 411%/

As the boar was recovering, Backer turned to face it and channeled ice energy into his blade. As the energy reached its capacity, he shot out an icicle at the boar's flank. It penetrated to a short depth before melting away, but it didn't seem to faze the boar. /Enemy weaknesses analyzed. Known weaknesses: Low accuracy and skill. One eye already damaged; damage to other eye will blind it. Possible weakness to ice energy./

As the boar turned towards him, Backer recharged his blade. His second icicle drove into the boar's right eye, effectively blinding it. Nevertheless, the boar launched into a second charge in his general direction. Backer easily dodged it, and started channeling ice energy in a beam focused on the boar.

/Constant channeling protocols initiated. Mode: Ice./

/Conduits opening throughout body. Output focused through left hand./ A beam of ice shot out from his hand, nailing the boar to the wall. The irises of Backer's eyes changed from their usual rainbow of colors to a bright blue.

/Conduits aligning with ice energy./ As the beam intensified, Backer's skin tone turned a pale blue. The boar fell to the ground, too weak to remain standing.

/Maximum output attained. Harnessing ambient energy./ A pale, blue aura surrounded Backer, and his beam widened to match its width. Within moments, he cut off the flow to avoid overwhelming himself with the energy. The boar wasn't nearly as lucky; it had frozen solid, covered in a large ice crystal. Exhausted, he sat on a nearby ledge to rest and recover his energy. /Advanced combat protocols disengaged./

A few minutes later, he sensed a pair of humanoids entering the cave, one fire-aligned, one shadow-aligned. As they turned the corner into his cavern, a male voice exclaimed, "Whoa! Doesn't that just beat all! What do you s'pose happened to it?"

"It attacked," Backer said, stepping into their line of sight. "I defended myself. It was rather simple to defeat."

The two others, startled, jumped into defensive stances, but Backer held out his hands to show that he meant no harm. "Who are you?" the male demanded. He was a demi-human who looked like a cross between a human and a tiger.

"You can call me Backer," he replied. "I take it you're the ones who engaged this boar outside?"

"That's us," the woman replied. She was lithe and attractive, with flame-red hair and matching clothing. Her right hand was wrapped in bandages -- likely the result of their encounter with the boar. "We came to finish the job, but it looks like you not only beat us to it, but prepared it for cold storage."

"Perhaps I was a bit overzealous," Backer replied. "but there's no point in taking unwarranted risks. I suppose you'll be wanting your weapons back." Backer approached the frozen boar and started channeling fire energy. "Why don't you tell me who you are?"

"Amy Millian," the woman said, finally relaxing her guard. She looked Backer up and down, seeming to undress him with her eyes. Her gaze caught temporarily on his eyes, noticing their array of colors, and she quirked a smile. "The stiff here's Hunter Deschain. We're adventurers. What about you?"

"I'm sometimes called 'The Seeker,'" Backer replied. A quick burst of flames defrosted the boar. "Where adventurers journey aimlessly for the sake of the journey, I journey aimlessly for the sake of the destination. I just don't know what I'll find."

"What are you seeking?" Amy asked him.

"What else? Purpose, meaning." He yanked the axe out of the boar's eye, and grabbed the shurikens he could see. "Acceptance wouldn't hurt, either."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Hunter finally spoke up.

"A place to call home," Backer said, handing the axe back to Hunter, who grumbled his thanks. "Right now, I'm tracing down an odd energy source I detected from this island."

"Detected?" Hunter queried.

"I may not look like it, but I'm a demi-human, too," Backer replied, handing the shurikens to Amy. "You may have noticed you can see me perfectly despite the absence of light in this cavern. Additionally, you'll notice that my eyes are multi-colored. Both are side-effects of my affinity for elemental energy. I can channel it..." At this, he manifested a ball of fire in his hand, then rotated it to spheres of light, shadow, ice, lightning, and finally released it in a blast of wind. "I can also sense it. I sensed an odd type of energy, corresponding to none of the elements, coming from this cave."

"You think this has anything to do with that freaky writing out front?" Hunter asked him, finally relaxing slightly.

"That's Draconian script. It mentions 'Danger' and an 'Artifact,' so I'm betting it does," Backer explained. "I'm heading onward, you can come if you want; it's not far away, now."

"What do you say, Millster?" Hunter asked his partner. "Intrigued?"

"You bet."

"Just one thing," Backer said, motioning to Amy. "Let me see that hand." When she cautiously held out her hand to him, Backer channeled a burst of life energy into it, healing its wound.

Backer led the way deeper into the cave, providing illumination for the trio. Before long, they reached an opening into a large cavern. At the center of the cavern was an altar, holding the source of the energy signature. It looked like a statue of a flame, frozen in place. Backer realized what it had to be: the legendary Frozen Flame.

He felt it calling to him, and took a step forward. His companions left his mind as it told him of all the power it could grant him. /This doesn't seem right; primary thought stream is becoming erratic./

It could give him the power to bring order to the world... /No./

He could exact justice on those who had shunned him... /No. Initiating logical override.

Incoming data: The Frozen Flame will grant you whatever you desire most.

Request: What is the purpose of the Frozen Flame?

Response: The Frozen Flame grants people the power to fulfill their wishes.

Request: Why does the Frozen Flame do this?

Response: The Frozen Flame will grant you whatever you desire most.

Request: I desire information. Tell me the truth of the Frozen Flame's purpose.

Response: The Frozen Flame grants people power in order to add chaos to the world.

Request: Why does it do this?

Response: Increased chaos provides increase variation. Increased variation allows Lavos to harvest more varied data.

Overtone wave detected. Signal is being hacked by outside entity. Entity identified: LEGACY. Incoming data.../

Backer's mind was assaulted with overwhelming amounts of information. A normal human would have been rendered brain-dead, but Backer's superhuman mind was able to survive by immediately shunting the data to the deeper recesses of his memory. Nevertheless, he was subjected to a fierce migraine.

/Supplementary data received: Purpose awaits at the End of Time.

Request: How do I reach the End of Time?

Instructions received./

Backer felt a new power coursing through his body. The energy emitted by the Frozen Flame was absorbed into his body as his senses opened up to this new element.

/Element null successfully harnessed. Executing element cycle./

Elemental energy cycled through his Swift in turn, ending with the new, "null," element. His perception expanded beyond the three spatial dimensions, and he plunged his Swift into the fabric of space-time. He slashed through it, rending a hole in space. A void opened up, sucking him, Hunter, and Amy to the space-time coordinates of least resistance: The End of Time.

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