And Lo Began The End Of Not One World, But Them All…
Aboard the mighty ship The Wicked Wench a new day is preparing to dawn. The mighty pirate vessel has been searching the seas off the coast of Theft, just south of the continent of Quon Tali for several weeks, waiting for a likely mark to appear. Bright sunlight washes across the decks where men and women already toil away, under the supervision of a massive man.
Things seem quite normal. Then, without warning, a ripple tears through the sky and air around them, and for a moment there is unbearable pressure before the sight vanishes.
Appearing within a room of gleaming white surfaces, shining crystalline screens and consoles with numerous buttons, levers, and knobs. In the center of the room is a great crystal cylinder within which is a woman with long, flowing hair and filaments of metal and crystal embedded within her flesh.
All around the chamber are gathered men and women in white uniforms, scrambling, trying to find an answer to what is occurring around them.
“We are receiving an error within the reality matrix.” One voice echoes from within the mass.
“The barriers between worlds are falling apart!” Echoes another panicked member.
“How can this be happening, it should be impossible! We only have a brief window to correct this before irreversible damage is done.”
The many uniformed individuals begin working furiously at the numerous consoles and controls. The panicked commands echoing all around them as each inputs numerous commands and alterations in a frenzied attempt to right whatever universal wrong has been created.
As the people work furiously, unnoticed by any of them the eyes of the woman within the cylinder open. She prepares to speak, and a blinding flash of light engulfs everyone and everything.
As the light vanishes a new chamber materializes beyond it. A massive spherical chamber of cracked grey stone. A thick layer of dust covers the floor. Amidst the dust are the shattered remnants of a massive conflict; shattered bones, rusted arms and armor, and the limbs of monstrous creatures. Sitting within the open claws of a massive, shadowy limb is a man with long white hair, clad in a long white coat lined with thick black feathers. Between his lips is clamped a cigarette from which trails a thin line of smoke, curling up to vanish into the ceiling. Amidst the corpses stands another man, wearing a purple suit and with his face covered in harlequin facepaint, thrusting knives into any creature that seems to stir.
In the center of the chamber is a massive dais, rising with stone steps to a table at its apex.
Peering over a table is a youthful looking man, his skin fair, his hair cut short and the fresh green of new grass. A white robe is shrouded over his form, fine green thread forming runic shapes etched across it and the gloves on his hands. Shards of a green object, similar to jade, are arrayed on a table before him, with a massive morningstar of clear crystal leaning against the table beside him.
Due to an unknown disturbance, this man will peer up from his work, and stare off into the ceiling.
“It seems it is time for us to leave my companions,” muttered the man as he reached for the massive weapon behind him. He lifted it without any effort before beginning to make his way down from atop the dais. “Something is shifting in the world, and soon our skills may be required once more.”
“As you say, it will be good to return to the field once more,” agreed the man in the white coat. Dropping the cigarette to the floor he ground it into the dust with one heel. “With your victory here, thanks to those that assisted us, we have been able to languish in success and prosperity. I fear it makes one lazy.”
“I must agree with you, too much order.” Throwing a knife into another stirring corpse, the man with the painted face smiled a grisly smile of yellowed teeth. “Time to add a little chaos to the lives once more. Where’s your Reaper Esorchan? With that to back us up we could have a great deal of fun.”
A troubled look covers the robed man’s face for a moment. “I’m afraid I do not know. When the Reaper vanished back into The Gauntlet it has failed to return. Now I do not know where the Reaper has gone off to. Perhaps we will find it wherever this reality arrives.
As if on cue, a light burns through the stone walls around them and begins to approach.
“Let the show begin.” With a piercing laugh the man with the painted face charged into the light, a dagger drawn.
“He never changes, does he,” asked the man with the white coat as he brought forth another cigarette from a small metal case.
“I’m just impressed he stayed with us this long,” muttered the robed man as the two set off side by side. “I wonder if he is trying to find the one of the group that he trained those years ago.”
“I simply pity the poor creature should our friend find him again. He might insist on testing to make sure all of the training is still being put to good use.”
“Funny, feeling pity for a vampire that is being chased by a man.” The man in a robe grinned and the two vanished into the light together.
With the change of scene, a now entirely different vista emerges before the eyes. Flat, scenic green fields, with a simple wooden fence surrounding them, stretch in all directions. Only a small wooden home disrupts the otherwise rustic appearance. A single large gateway of larger wooden posts serves as an entrance. This normally peaceful scene is broken by the massive, demonic creature’s skull hanging from the top of the gate, while below is posted a sign engraved with “Stay a while, and listen…”
Three figures can be seen tending to the gardens within the fence. One, the oldest, is a woman of striking beauty. The age lines around her features only serve to enhance her refined presence. She moves with the grace of a trained combatant, counterintuitive to the simple work clothes she wears. The two other figures are young children, one boy and one girl, that look as though they may be siblings. The boy works with a diligence beyond his age, tilling swiftly and efficiently. On the other hand, the girl frolics about in circles, arms waving about and work completely left undone, except for a few pretty weeds she has picked and clutch as though they were a bouquet.
“Hmm, it seems that something strange is about to occur,” came a mutter from the door of the home. From beyond the door emerged a man as ancient as dirt, skin as dark as pitch. His back was more curved then a branch, and his long white bead nearly dragged upon the ground. A massive tome was attached to the belt around his ratty and well-used robes. “Time for us to prepare for another exceptional journey to be before us. Children, gather up your old powers and skills, dear put on that lovely tight leather armor that you used to wear at all times. Now, where has my old sword gotten to?”
“Yay, daddy Deckard is going to bring out his glorious Idiot Full-blade once more!” Cheered the young girl as her form blurred, becoming grey and incorporeal, although her facial features remained within the blur.
“You must be joking Deckard,” muttered the woman as she vanished into the house after him. Inside the home her voice continued to echo through the open door. “I told you to get rid of that filigreed piece of garbage when you created this reality.”
“But dear, with that fine blade I was able to slay a Seguleh. How could I ever part with such a relic of my martial prowess.” Loud rumbling and crashing echoed from inside.
“It was an unblooded youth, and you killed him when it wasn’t a fight to the death, but simply a test.”
“Details my dear, details. Kazrith, are you prepared out there as well?”
“Yes father,” chimed in a chorus of five voices, as five figures now stood where only one small boy had but a moment ago. “You had best make your way outside,” the voices continued to echo. “It seems the adventure is beginning already.”
Light began to encroach from all sides, already it began to devour the fence from all sides.
Emerging from the home came the woman, now equipped with a series of knives braced above her hips and leather armor clinging to her every curve. Behind her, emerging much more slowly and with a furious tearing and grating sound Deckard Cain emerged, dragging the massive filigree metal full-blade behind him.
“Once more into the breach as it were,” grinned the elderly man as he prepared to shoulder the massive blade. Pulled sideways by the weight of the metal the man staggered forward into the void of light. Rolling their eyes, his companions followed after him.
In a derelict building, strange even grey stone without many connecting surfaces sat a large, horned creature wearing strange black armor. Across its back was strapped a axe purely of metal, sized to cleave through entire people and creatures at once. Strange roars, whirrs, and sounds come from outside. Between the massive creature’s hands bounces a small rectangular object, of a soft pink material.
A bright light consumes the figure and it grunts in surprise. Then, with an almost childish innocence it speaks a deep, warm greeting.
Darkness enshrouds all sight, except for the faintest light, like the gleaming of a star in the distance. Within moments the light burns brighter and brighter until it fills all sight, except for dozens and dozens of silhouettes. Each faceless, until three emerge forward from the crowd.
One is clearly not human. A colossal creature of blue scaled fur, massive claws and fangs, with the features of a lycanthropic creature. Beside it stands a woman of sea blue skin and darker hair, with her figure shrouded in a robe that flickers and shifts as though made of water. The two stand to either side of a third figure, a man, clad in armor of white and black silver. Chains fall from his shoulders like a cloak, and wrap around a keening and cursed weapon at his hip. Short cropped hair cut close over his head, and his eyes are swirling pools of rainbow colour.
“Well now, what do we have here,” the man grinned as his eyes fix upon where your point of view is based. “We finally return from the edges of oblivion, reaching back into a world filled with possibilities, and another band of adventurers stands against us. How very quaint.”
Behind this strange entity a series of words form in large black font: “Anima: Beyond Malaz”.
“A mite basic and unimaginative a title for your supposed grand adventure, don’t you think,” the armored man suggests with an offhanded arrogance. “I know exactly what we need to make this much more fitting.”
With a swipe of his chains the entity shattered the words, and a new title emerged in brilliantly shifting colours: ‘Lord Jeremiah’s Greatest Hits.’
“That’s better.” With a grin Lord Jeremiah of Twilight’s Edge turned his attention back to the specters viewing him. “Now, from previous experience has taught me that it is better to not allow a party of adventurers to live, as they will inevitably increase in power until they have the capability to stop me. Therefore, I ask you to politely die.”
From the yawning abyss of light, a voice calls out “Initiative”.
With the clattering of dice filling the air, another voice enters the fray. “I fear that it would be most untoward, and further upon that highly unfair, to have an Ascendant challenge a collection that have still yet to ascend themselves to their true potential.”
Emerging from the void was a man as wide as he is tall, not young, with a ratty moustache and beard falling from his cherub like features, and a red waistcoast is cinched tightly over his massive gut.
“Now, it falls to me, the great and powerful Kruppe, foe of the corrupt and monstrous, beloved by the little, skinny people. Devourer of pastries, wines, and wives. Such is by my glorious presence, ever shrinking beneath the burdens placed upon my rapidly diminishing frame that events of this world do transpire.”
“Grrzutt, kill this infuriatingly obese little creature.” Growled Lord Jeremiah.
The massive blue-scaled werewolf threw itself forward with a roar that shook the world of light. Claws scything forward with inhuman speed, they closed around the man named Kruppe’s head.
“I will have you know that I am far from obese, I am merely filled to bursting with all the world’s delights, thank you very much my demonic friend,” muttered the waistcoat clad man as he popped a sweet, originating from no one knows where, into his mouth. Standing behind the giant monster which moments before had seemed to decapitate him, Kruppe sent an apologetic glance towards those observing this strange spectacle.
“My most humble apologies, for it seems that you all were pulled into events a bit beyond your understanding. Fear not, for I know that we will encounter each other again in the near future I am sure. Then, perhaps you can treat the great and generous Kruppe to a fine meal in honor of his saving your lives from the fierce and wickedness of those not from within our precious Malazan world. Until we meet again, be sure not to do anything that I wouldn’t do.”
With a snap of Kruppe’s stubby, yet surprisingly dexterous fingers the scene before them began to vanish. Although, before it completely disappeared, a final muttering from Kruppe reached through to them. “Hmm, perhaps on second thought I should have tried to restrict their actions to be a little bit less then broad then what I wouldn’t do. After all, I have been known to enjoy a great many things. Alas, the time for such doubts has passed.”