The Endless Desert

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ShineCero

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The Endless Desert

The Endless Desert, located in the middle of Desolate Lands, is the largest desert in the continent. Stretching over 1600 km² wide, it is a barren area of landscape, with little precipitation, living conditions hostile for most plant and animal life, and endless distance of sand. As any permanent human settlement is not possible, there are concentration of monsters and mutants striving in certain parts within the area; making the desert a no-safe zone for travelers without an escort.

Attempting to cross the desert without an escort is trying to find a needle in a haystack: it is a moot point. The temperature rise and drops dramatically, depending on the season: on a hot day, it easily rise over the hundreds; on a cold day, it drops below zero. One should not foolishly attempt to cross the desert without some form of preparations. Any travelers with no knowledge of magic falls under a mysterious illusion: which prevents them from leaving the desert. It is a spell to stop travelers from finding the castle where the Ancient Dragon Guardian rests.

Referred as the Endless Illusion, there are multiple sinkholes spread around the desert. If one were to fall under the sinkhole, they will be transported to a random location in the desert, completely throwing off their tracks.

Notable Areas of Interest
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The Neusch Castle was the ancient home to the Dragon Guardian, Dragore, for its deeds of protecting the world during the Crisis Era. However, after the Great Wars, Dragore abandoned its duties of protecting the land in disgust of how humans acted during the event. Centuries passed, the castle is under a protective barrier to prevent any outsiders from entering its domain—assuming the travelers managed to break the Endless Illusion.

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The Cactus Spring Water is a singular, large pond is located on the edge of the desert. Based on appearances, the pond is sparkling blue; a waterfall that constantly runs and lastly, delicious fruits next to delicate trees for one’s hunger. However, in reality, the pond is actually radioactive liquids that build up over the years from the excessive nuclear waste eons ago.

A tribe of Cactus Monsters surrounds the pond, but to the eyes of the travelers, they look like ordinary cactus. In truth, they are a predator group; they would stalk travelers that are close to dying of thirst or hunger and sought their flesh once they succumbed to them.
 
Jacen and Sylvanas entered the endless sand, walking into the infinite sands with definite purpose and direction. Marching into there, leaving behind a bloody wreck of carnage burning behind them, several wagons overturned and onfire, blood everywhere.

"Did you really need to skewer that last one considering the arrows I had ripped out of him?" Sylvanas asked her master as they walked, uncaring to the destruction behind them, Jacen holding a blue gem in his hand as several black orbs circled around him.

"I just wanted to make sure I got them all. I'll need them for the next part." He replied without much attention, focusing on the gem in his hand, twisting and twirling it around.

"Think this'll be enough water for the trip?" She asked, suddenly concerned as she looked to her undead and discolored flesh. Afraid the heat might suddenly get to her. Jacen just chuckled, throwing the gem into the air. Nine others suddenly rose out of his robes and started to float around him, infusing with the black orbs and adsorbing them. A blue shield expelled outwards, covering the two.

"These gem's will adsorb the heat and the light to a more tolerable level around us. It'll make the trip much easier and much more comfortable." He explained to his companion, showing compassion without an ulterior motive. He placed a hand on his katana, which suddenly began to emit pulses of black energy, rings spreading outwards on the ground.

"And the rings?" Sylvanas asked looking down.

"These bursts of darkness sense out the area below us. The illusion that covers this desert can be beaten by simply using magic to feel out the area. I can sense what's real, and what isn't by this. Now the only thing left to do is to find that castle."
 
Two mutants were trailing Jacen and Sylvanas, but enough distance to avoid detection by them, especially after the carnage they left behind their tracks.

“New visitors in this endless desert, but man, did we found ourselves a bunch of troublemakers. Are you sure, since these people are monsters, we should be trailing behind them like this, Cher? What if they suddenly start turning to our direction.” 

“Relax your nerves, Nobyl.” Cher pointed out a hint of an incoming storm approaching. “The storm is about to kick up, which will influence the way the illusion reacts. For now, we just have to keep our distance to see what they are up too.” He tried to hear onto Jacen and Sylvanas’ conversation, but the winds tuned out their voices. “It seems like they are searching for something, judging from that one guy.” 

“What do you mean?”

“That man is beaming with confidence in the direction he’s taking, so he must have some powerful magic spells to see through the illusion, I think.” Cher smirked. “Let’s see how the two will performed once the storm kicks up…”
 
Jacen closed his eyes, focusing. The rings of dark magic became stronger and expanded further outwards with every pulse. As they got stronger, the gem on the katana began to glow more and more brightly.

With every pulse, Jacen was sensing out the energy around him. Looking for a very specific form of life energy. A dragon guardian.
 
Suddenly, an figure of an gigantic monster appeared before them, but it does not act or react. It was there, seemingly as a way to deter travelers from getting closer to the main location most people sought for: the castle. The storm kicks up rapidly, dusts of the sand spread everywhere to cloud their vision.

"That man... he has some special properties within him." Cher sweated. "How is he beating the illusions like this?"

"Maybe he's from Paradise? They're ton of people capable of wielding magic." Nobyl suggested. 

"No..." Cher looked on. "He's different from your average mage."
 
At the appearance of the figure, Jacen held his hand up, signalling to Sylvanas to stop her movements. The necromancer looked up to the figure, his eyes piercing through the storm to locate the energy generating the illusion, seeing with alien sight. He pulled out his katana and slammed the blade into the ground, a massive surge of dark fire appearing overhead and slamming into the ground, Jacen attempting to disengage the sandstorm for a moment. After casting the magic, he began to address the figure, even if it wasn't reacting.

"I am Jacen Godfrey Kaiser Petronov. I am son of the Withered Champion Drake Micheal Petronov, leader of the Withered Tribe in Destiny's Fall of the Paradise Region. I am one half-Withered, making me one-eighth Solarian. I am a murderer, thief, robber, and damned soul. I invoke my alien heritage to gain access to the Dragon Guardian Dragore, as I am not fully human I have some right to speak to the dragon. I wish to discuss my redemption." He stated, the ten blue gems floating around the two generating a more intense glow, projecting the necromancer's words in volume, producing an echo of what he was saying in Solarian, and imbuing the words with magic, all attempts to communicate with the figure.

Sylvanas, meanwhile, stood at her master's side, waiting to see what would happen next. You're not dealing with the average mage warrior anymore.
 
"Hmm, it is true that you are not truly human..." a voice is heard within the storm as the winds became more apparent. 

Suddenly, the winds stops after Jacen's declaration, revealing an large castle. It surrounded by a thick, powerful barrier that prevent humans from entering.

Mortal... this is the domain of the ancient dragon, the dragon that resent the concept of humanity and isolated itself from the world. You wish to enter its residency, prepared for anything. Your magic reeks in something foul, but let's see such stench can keep you alive for this long...

The figure vanished after an warning was heard.

====

"He did it..." Nobyl said

"He's definitely not an average mage. Did I hear that he's not even human?" Cher sweated.
 
Jacen stared up to the figure, black irises waiting in anticipation. The robbed Withered stood in patience, waiting for what was to come. His companion Sylvana stood in somber silence, merely looking for any threats. The pair of black robes billowed in the increasing wind, until that wind suddenly died. Sylvanas turned to see the revealed castle, while Jacen kept his eyes on the figure. When it vanished, he turned to the castle, heart heavy. He passed off one of the blue gems to Sylvanas, leaving nine floating around himself.

“Jacen, what are you-?” She asked, seeing the gem suddenly shoved into her hand. Her spectral red eyes looked into the stained black eyes of Jacen. Though they were partners, they rarely made eye contact, out of shame or disregard.

“The figure said I was not truly human, whether it was because of my alien heritage, or the black ink that drowns my soul.” Jacen replied. “That is why it revealed the castle to me. You, are human. A rotting corpse, but a human corpse. Though you kill for me Sylvanas, your undeath is a leash I hope that can be dropped at any moment. You spent your life on the side of right, where as I live in evil. The sins you create in this life are mine, not your’s. I won’t risk the dragon trying to destroy you. Leave the desert, and if I survive this, you will know where to find me.”

“Goodbye, Jacen.” Sylvanas looked to her master with a degree of sadness, and then simply nodded and began to walk away, protected by the gem in her hand. Jacen turned his head back to the castle, staring at it’s height and scale. Keeping his black hood raised to block out the sun, he started forward towards the entrance.

“Goodbye, partner.” He muttered.
 
“What’s going on? Why are those two splitting up?” Nobyl asked. “What should we do?”

“I’ll follow the mage, while you track down the young woman. Do not engage in a battle, we don’t know their capabilities, and considering that they spread carnage in their wake… keep that in mind.” Cher warned.


“Okay… you be careful.” 

“No worries—I want to see where this guy would go.” Cher and Nobyl went to their separate ways as well, one trailing behind Jacen and the other trailing behind Sylvanas.

----

The Neusch Castle was something worthy of praises in terms of appearance. Although it uses sands as its foundation, it was stunning beautiful. Vegetations grew around the sides of the buildings, hinting that the dragon uses magic to cause its growth. Its enormous size should not be underestimated—the door was gigantic, fitted for a dragon to enter its home.

As Jacen walked towards the entrance, the voice of the winds once again whispers its knowledge onto his ears. “Mortal, if you truly want to seek, opened the door now… but there is a chance for you to turn around and leave… once you enter… mercy shall not be given.”
 
The black mage put two hands on the door, face in an expression of concern. Black-blue eyes focused in on empty space, considering the warning. He pulled at the hood attached to his robes, freeing his head from them to breath.

"Truly want to seek what?" He asked aloud. "Redemption?" For a moment, his eyes turned from a black-blue to a pure dark blue, the same color as before his descent into murder. The color of the open sea, a color his father approved of. "Or power?" The blue faded into pure black, as the image of a black spectral dragon appeared behind him, the destiny of a dragon soul. The ability to strike down his father, the power to destroy all in his path. That two faded, just leaving Jacen and his decision.

"Either way I'll acquire one of them. I won't die today, even if the dragon refuses to give me mercy, I will survive this test." He said to himself, starting to push the door open, and entering the castle.

- - - - -

Slyvanas began to walk the way she had entered the desert, intending to return to the road they had diverged from, and holding onto the blue gem in her hand that protected her from the sun's heat and the sinkholes of the desert. Though this would bring her on the path of the two monsters following them, she wasn't paying enough attention at the moment to notice any such following as long as they were careful. She was more occupied with just getting on her way.

- - - - -

Jacen walked through the castle, a hand on his katana's handle, the other open and free. He walked with his hood down, knowing a disguise would likely be useless against a level of power this strong. The nine remaining blue gems floated around Jacen, augmenting his senses and his ability to detect energies. In addition those gems were acting as a conduit for his magic, enhancing his spell casting. Black hair shuffled as blue eyes scanned the area he was in. He wasn't here for treasure, wealth, fame, or even arcane devices. He was here for one simple reason. To find a massive dragon.
 
Nobyl had a noticeable distance between himself and the woman, but he had an uneasy feeling. They just brutalized monsters on their pathway, yet, she’s walking about without a care in the world. At least, that was his thought of the matter.

“She didn’t even notice our presence, but perhaps that’s for the best.” Nobly thought to himself. He was curious about the blue gem—it seems to protect her from the sun’s scorching heat, but such a radiating color, is truly enough to attract a group of monsters. 

Although Slyvanas walked back to the direction she enter, the pathway seems to change dramatically—it won’t be an easy task by going backwards. The illusion of the deserts kicks up to confused travelers. 

“The storm is kicking up… I need to be a bit closer, so I don’t lose track of her. If she dies, I can at least take her stuff.”

====

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Inside the castle, it was a gigantic amount of spaces, which can easily fit multiple high tier mansions. There were too many stairs to count, with countless rooms across the entire castle. The first floor, Jacen walked through, there were coffins on the side of the walls, each with their own tales and description of their deaths embedded on the tombs—this represents many travelers that able to break through the barrier and enter, but face death at the end. One traveler was a man from a distant land, who seek this castle to bring about bringing life of those who died. He survived the onslaught of the desert and enter the castle, brimming with confidence. However, he was struck down as he guard lowered, by a rock shogun from behind. 

Another one was a man who was a hero, seeking a dragon companion to ride the world of evil. He thought he could sway the Dragon’s ideology that human is worth something to save and prosper—but before the Hero can even make it to the Dragon’s room, he was struck down by a falling debris on the many flights of stairs. 

Above, there were flickering lights, supposedly useful for those who travel in this dark castle, but be warn, they will disappear when the enemy strikes at moment notice. They are fickle at the expense of travelers’ safety. 

In the distance, a Dragon’s roar can be heard, echoing throughout the castle—he is aware that a traveler had appeared in his domain and acknowledge his presence.
 
Sylvanas went from distracted to on guard, seeing the pathway change. Putting the gem inside her pocket she drew her bow and an arrow. Walking forward more cautiously, she realized that without Jacen there she had nothing to handle the illusions of the desert. With extreme caution she moved forward, trying to avoid the sinkholes. For the moment, she didn't have any particular plan to deal with this situation.

- - - - -

Jacen paused, entire body shuttering at hearing a dragon's roar. Black eyes filled with fear, tension growing through the hairs on his body. His grip on his Blackflame Katana grew tighter, preparing for battle.

Father! How did he find me here!? This is - Jacen's thoughts were stopped by the realization that his father wasn't the only one capable of producing a dragon's roar. After all, real dragons existed. He took a breath and exhaled, focusing, closing his eyes.

"It would be rude to not respond in kind to another dragon, Jacen." Malefor's voice rang in Jacen's memory. The floating gems around Jacen began to glow with black-blue power, when he opened his eyes the center of them were filled with blue light. Opening his mouth, he let loose a true dragon's roar. Not an imitation through magic and sound, but the real deal created through magic. A simple greeting. Not a challenge, not a threat, and most definitely not a whimper. A simple greeting, I am here.

With the roar returned, Jacen paused for a moment, keeping his hand on his weapon. He sensed the weak nature of the flicking lights, but necromancy had benefits. One particular benefit was innate darksight, or the ability to see in pitch black. He was ready for the lights to go out. He looked to the coffins and realized there were far too many to comb through for anything useful if he intended to get through this castle in any sort of timely manner. Disregarding any potential benefits from that avenue, he focused his senses, seeking out something through sight and smell. The life signature of the Dragon Guardian. Pressing forward, he hoped that the dragon had enough life left in it to be a radiant beacon in this massive castle.
 
The further Slyvanas entered the desert, the distortions became more apparent. She was walking through one direction, only to be shifted to another. Suddenly a pond appeared before the young woman. Nobyl eventually lost track of her because of the illusion but ended up on the other side of the lake, seeing Slyvanas from afar. “What the… this damn desert…” He looked around. “Wait… isn’t this the—” 

==

The flickering lights continue to shine the area as Jacen presses on forward. Each step the man took, it is though that one flickering light vanished. Each tomb he passed, the detail deaths on their coffins became more graphic. Eventually, when he walked far away, the lights vanished—putting the man in total darkness.

In the pit of the dark, the sounds became more apparent. Water drips, the waving winds in the vegetations, and the sounds of rocks falling on the ground echoes the castle. Then, after passing more tombs, some of which describes their death by the hands of a rock-warrior, heavy footsteps lurked behind Jacen. It was slow-moving but made an impactful step were noticeable—perhaps it was intended to trick the traveler to turn around? It continues to stalk Jacen as he goes forward.
 
Sylvanas paused and prepared her bow. The only source of water in the Endless Desert was a place surrounded by monsters. Even if by all means she was a zombie, she didn't implicitly trust other monsters solely on factor of undeath. Keeping her bow ready, she cautiously approached the pool. Even though she had completely lost the trail, at the very least she was at the only visible landmark in the desert.

The only visible landmark and probably completely surrounded.

- - - - -

"Hmph. Heh." Jacen replied as the lights went out, his dark sight taking over and allowing him to see without generating light. As he continued to walk forward, he had a bit more caution, and unsheathed his katana.

"To be honest, I don't really mind the dark. After all, my flames are that of the Dark Fire. Darkness and flame infused together into one, overwhelming magic. Yes, that's my magic." He stated to whatever was around him. He held his katana outwards, preparing to cast a spell. "I'll be honest. I don't want a fight. I don't come here in challenge. But if you want to try and stop me from going any further, I'll let you have the first punch." He offered without turning around, while channeling magic into his katana, preparing to generate a fireball to distract whatever creature of the dark came after him, reasoning they should be attracted to light.
 
As she approached this large pool of water—to the common eye, it looks like ordinary water, but considering her state. There were many cactuses at the edge of the pond—practically about to fall into the water.

Nobyl, noticing that Slyvanas haven’t caught a glimpse of him yet, so he decided to go around the pond as slowly as possible. If they are aware of her, things could get ugly and he’ll be able to savage whatever parts on her persons. 

==

The rock warrior paused in his moments, seeing that Jacen called them out in the open and taunting him to strike first. Jacen continued in his moments, while the rock warriors were stumped in what to do now. Should they attack? Is this a bluff? 

The Rock Warrior finally decided to make a move, regardless if Jacen can see the dark or not, it was vital to stop him from seeing the dragon. He raises it arm in the air, as specks of rubbles fell from its hand, with a long, sturdy blade. It strike down at Jacen’s backside to cut him in half.
 
"Cacti don't grow this close to water. It wouldn't rain over this central pond, as the water would evaporate from it and move elsewhere in the desert." She mused, having a not entirely correct understanding of how weather and climate interact. She moved away from the pond, keeping her bow ready. Still uncertain of how to get herself out of this situation, she didn't want to let her guard down.

- - - -

Jacen chuckled darkly as the gems around him generated a shield of dark fire, blocking the rock shogun's attack.

"A backstab? A low blow but one expected from someone without honor. Exactly what I would've done." He replied before turning around, a fireball burning on his katana. Swinging the weapon, the dark flames left the sword and traveled in a sphere, aimed right for the shogun's face as the shield around Jacen's back dispersed. For a brief moment in the darkness, blue flame was visible inside his eyes.
 
Few of the cactus moved slowly around, one of them trailing behind Slyvanas and ready their pins on their bodies. It shot out one pin, seemingly as a testament to reveal her skill level. 

====

The Rock Shogun staggered when his blade hit on the dark shield. Taking a few steps backwards after the deflect, it head was blown right off, blasting it into pieces as its body collapsed onto the floor. The blistering fire managed to light up the entire room for a split second, revealing all the enemies around Jacen that witnessed such attack. 

As darkness returned, more statues seems to move with caution. Some moved much, much slower. Some didn’t seem to bother at all.
 
At the end of the path that Jacen walked, a flicker of light appeared, indicating the doorway of the upper room.

---

“Man, I can’t get a read in this place…” Chern said. He took advantage of the situation of slipping in once Jacen got in, but this was something far beyond what he expected. He couldn’t see anything and moving forward prove too much of a risk. “I think I should head back out before I get killed…” He pondered. After seeing the fire destroyed one of the statue-men, revealing that the entire room was filled with them to the brim, he made his decision. “Yeah, I’m out of here.”
 
Sylvanas turned around in time just quickly enough to block the pin with the guards on her bow, anxiety rising. She took a few steps backwards, wearily watching everything around her, knowing something was keen on attacking her.

- - - - -

Jacen looked around himself in that brief moment, using normal sight to notice an entire room full of more statue men. For a moment he tilted his head and frowned, considering his options. Fight through an army of shoguns, or just move onwards. He chose the latter option, and continued to walk forward. Though his dark sight allowed him to see in these conditions, violence wasn't something he was looking to commit here. As he walked forwards towards the flickering light, he raised up one hand and clenched it into a fist. A good distance behind him, a pillar of black and blue flames shot into the air narrow enough to avoid hitting anything but bright enough to hopefully attract attention.

And act as a diversion.
 
They weren’t surprised that she managed to block the pin needle with it, in fact, that is their intentions. The more of the fighter their prey is, the more delicious the meal will become once they succumbed to the deadly heat or the extreme cold, despite being unaware of Sylvanas’s origins.
 
One of them decided to act, sending out more needles towards her. These needles held special properties designed to snap the stamina to make them more suspectable to thirst, causing them to either search for water or drink from the pond—of course, this would work on any living
mortal.

===

The statue shoguns suddenly gripped onto their rock blades as they looked up in the air, seeing the black and blue flares in marvelous explosion. They were ready to what was going to come to them despite their previous sentiments. However, one and only one shogun decided to look down on. It knows it was a distraction and attempted to warn the others who kept looking on as their guards completely down. 

===

Chern out of the castle, wiping the sweat off of his head. "That place was unbelievable..." He shook when he turned sparks in the castle. "I guess that guy got killed... I ain't taking my butt back in there... Need to find Nobyl." He continued walking away.
 
Sylvanas blocked the second round of needles, red eyes darting around frantically. A second set of attacks couldn't be a coincidence and her luck with blocking them with her bow wouldn't last forever. She put her bow away on her back and tensed up. Liquid dark energy started to flow up from her flesh, covering her arms and hardening into armor on her forearms and extending into large claws. It would be a bit more difficult to injure her now with that front facing armor.

But only for an attack heading towards her front.

- - - - -

Jacen continued to move, the dark robes covering his body and blending in, yet still visible within, the shadows. He let go of his clenched fist and lowered it, trying to conserve his energy. As a result however, the flames that had distracted the other shoguns started to dissipate before vanishing entirely, no longer being fed magic to sustain their continuation. He kept his other hand on his katana, and the gems filled with the stolen arcane magic kept floating around Jacen. Truly, despite wishing to avoid unnecessary violence, the murderous Withered was all too ready to engage in not just a fight, but a blood bath. Only one goal, getting to that doorway.
 
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