New Hero: Caiphus, Wandering KingOctober 11, 2018
There are too many of them. The realization made Caiphus’ blood run cold.
“Sire, save us!” the Umbren roared from the gathering darkness.
I have no choice.
Groaning, the back of the heavy stone seat whirled to life, shaking the Spire until masonry rained down. With a howl of fury, the Strangers were swept away by a wave of power, as piercing light arced from the Throne.
“Light… what is that light?” Caiphus gasped. The last words he heard were those of his gloating advisor…
“The end, and the beginning.”
He awoke to the song of a bird he’d never heard before, his body warm from the sun overhead.
Every fiber of his body aching, Caiphus forced himself to sit up. A wisp landed on his knee, pulsing with warm orange light. Caiphus shooed it away as he looked around. Where am I?
He stood, shedding ash and dust from his beaten armor. He was in the middle of a field. Around him, flowers and grass waved gently in the breeze. Turning, Caiphus searched the horizon. There were no landmarks he recognized, no jagged Skycrag mountain range, no looming Felnwood, no distant walls of Argenport.
Despite the unfamiliar plain around him, something about it felt familiar. The Throne… He grimaced. No matter. I will extract an explanation when I return.
Steeling himself for a long journey, he decided to head in a northerly direction, and set out.
A week into his travel, deep into rocky canyonlands, a dragon began to circle overhead. As the beast swept low, Caiphus attempted to hail it. If this dragon was capable of speech, it had little to say, though its intent was clear. Caiphus rolled to one side and hurled thunder, not at the beast, but at the canyon wall. A section of it collapsed, slamming into the dragon’s wing. As Caiphus ducked beneath its heavy claws, the beast snapped at him, hissing in fury. With a gesture, Caiphus brought down more rocks, weighing down its other wing. Satisfied that the creature was hobbled, Caiphus continued on his way.
After the canyons, the horizon flattened into ruddy scrubland. By day, the sun beat down endlessly, and by night, malicious lights swarmed him, keeping him awake. As exhaustion slowed his pace, a pack of unfamiliar beasts began shadowing his steps. Knowing he could not outrun or outlast them, Caiphus set up camp. They came for him that night. Weak as he was, he was able to make an example of the pack’s leader, and the rest scattered.
Weeks began to blur together as the badlands twisted on, a thick haze choking the air. Cairns and pillars of ancient, engraved stones gleamed through the haze. The Shadowlands.
Delirium set in as the way through the Shadow twisted and parted before him, and closed again behind. As it darkened, Caiphus began to hear whispers: This is your fault. Weak. Afraid. Your son will never truly know you. You sister and uncle will drive themselves mad searching for answers. Your wife must bear all your burdens, and your daughter will never know what became of you.
Gritting his teeth, Caiphus took a shard of Waystone and lashed it to a branch taken from a warped, dead tree. Shadow curled away from the faint light of the blade. But as he continued, the whispers redoubled, coalescing with the mist into the form of his umbren advisor.
“You cannot be here,” Caiphus spat from a parched, cracked mouth, shocked at how rough his voice sounded. How long has it been since I’ve spoken?
“Perceptive as always, my liege,” the Umbren said with a mocking bow. “Yet here I am. A king should not die alone, after all.”
“Who are you?” Caiphus bellowed, thrusting with his makeshift spear. The azure blade cut into the figure, which fell apart into mist.
Coiling and hissing, Shadow collected and reformed into the Umbren. “I have worn many faces and have taken many names, though I suppose there is little risk now in answering… You may call me Azindel.” The surrounding Shadow reacted to the name, deepening until only his glowing eyes were visible.
“Why tell me now?” Caiphus grunted, not slowing his pace.
Azindel merely grinned, fading back into the haze and leaving Caiphus alone.
The Shadow in which he found himself was warped and tortured, but not without its own raw power—perhaps he could channel that power, use it to contact his family. With an effort of will, Caiphus started to reach out. But to whom? Kaleb. Caiphus could rely on him to burn a path through the Shadowlands to find his father. That’s what Caiphus would have done, and he trusted that Kaleb would act the same. Finding shelter beneath a cliff face, Caiphus sat and focused, closing his eyes. Picturing his son, he tried to send a vision, a mirage of himself. Such a sending would be difficult, and maintaining it would require concentration, but their shared blood would strengthen the link.
The image he projected of himself began to move in his mind’s eye, pushing forward through a crushing, oppressive darkness. He trembled with the effort, his face contorted and sweating, before finally collapsing in a heap, exhausted by searing pain in his head. Around him, the winds howled as starless night closed in.
As the journey stretched on, he lost all sense of time and place. Days went by where he encountered nothing but darkness and faint lights, while some nights were filled with terror, nightmares boiling out of the Shadow to hurl themselves at him. Caiphus met them with bursts of flame, and used the light of their smoldering ashes to light his way.
His attempt to contact his wife failed next. Eilyn was capable and stubborn, and would have confronted Azindel directly if she knew of his treachery. Caiphus was able to travel further through the darkness in his mind this time, a glimmer of blue lightning dilating into view for a brief moment, before fatigue and pain overtook him again.
“Shame,” the vision of Azindel said, standing over him as he lay curled in a ball, “your wild Queen is desperate to hear from you.” Caiphus raised his head enough to dispel the mist with what little force he had left, and then fell into a dark, dreamless sleep.
Much later, he huddled at the base of an ancient monolith, listless, despair overtaking him. Caiphus had always been a man of immense clarity, confidence, and power, but those were all gone now, drained away, seeping into the Shadow with each breath. He looked up at the stone and his thoughts turned to Talir. As long as he could remember, his older sister had been bemused by his single-mindedness. She gave counsel when he sought it, but otherwise remained aloof, as if she could see more that way. He could imagine her looking down on him now, in his depleted state, her arched eyebrow expressing a restrained concern, many words unspoken.
He woke later, his eyes heavy, and raised himself up, his back leaning against the warm rock. The realization of the stone’s warmth came over him slowly, as did the fact that he was bathed in a faint golden light emanating from the stone’s indecipherable runes. His strength was waning, all but gone, but Talir’s power was great—there was still a chance she could sense him here at the edge of the void. He closed his eyes, imagining her face, mustering an effort to reach out to her. Before he had, she was there, in his mind’s eye, older, different than when he’d seen her last, yet the same. She gestured toward him, bathing him with an energy and warmth that seemed like a lost memory, but then abruptly she receded, disappearing as through a tunnel in the dark.
He cried out, and collapsed once more, but this time he did not sleep in shadow.
He was old and had seen much—those of his family measured generations as decades. He was old, but still he dreamed of a sun-kissed land, familiar but new, one where the hardened experience of his years melted, and gave way to delight and wonder at things he’d only imagined, but had never seen before.
The memories of his family swirled through him, had driven him, were a part of him, but at the same time they receded. He was bound to someplace new. They would find their way, as he had. He had work to do.
When he opened his eyes, the warmth of his dreams remained—the chill, the emptiness, that had overwhelmed him in this dark land resumed its proper place—not gone, not forgotten, but once more in balance.
Caiphus stood. His urge to return to Argenport, to the throne, was gone, but he knew that he still had old business to attend to before he moved on. With a gesture, he shattered the Waystone that had given him shelter and warmth, the monolith that had been the conduit for his sister’s gift. The broken shards hummed and glowed as he gathered them together.
Now Caiphus moved with renewed purpose. He would need help. If the Shadow kept twisting his path, sending him on an endless journey until he was no more, then he would change the game. He needed a place of power, and the fragments guided him now, from one Waystone to the next, gathering shards of the ancient stones, looking for a place to make his stand. Eventually he found it, a twisted corner of roots and stone that he could build upon.
Carefully, Caiphus arranged Waystone shards in a circle, forcing the Shadow back. As he worked to complete the circle, he studiously ignored the sneering umbren, pacing around the perimeter.
“When this plan fails, will you have the good grace to go mad and starve like every other fool that winds up here?” The Umbren asked.
Caiphus continued to ignore his adversary, focusing on his goal. He needed the correct mix and placement of shards, something strong, but subtle, to support his efforts. A persistent whisper, part of the Shadow itself. Not a beacon that Azindel could snuff out. He glanced at the umbren, then sat, closing his eyes. With a breath he reached out: Vara. “Find me, my child… follow the Shadow,” Caiphus whispered, the projection of himself moving easily, a shadow within shadow, faint, but unable to be stopped.
As Caiphus’ message wove through the endless twilight, Azindel’s eyes gleamed with malice. “Yes… the hidden one, ever beyond my reach.” His face twisted into a dark smile. “Find her. Find her and I shall follow.”
As Caiphus watched, Azindel’s form shifted, shrinking down to the shape of a human, holding a twisted staff. His voice had changed too, but it still held the same menace as he crowed, “I must thank you for tying up this last loose end. When I find her, I’ll see to it that she doesn’t even remember your name.” Azindel cupped his hand, and the Shadow twisted around, forming into a heavy pendant. “It is polite to bring a gift for royalty, yes?”
“Good, you fool,” Caiphus grimaced. “Vara will end you. I will be there when it happens.”
Azindel ignored him, vanishing into the darkness and leaving Caiphus alone once again.
Around him, the Waystone’s light cast harsh shadows. Past that, the Shadow twisted, like a predator held at bay. The Shadowlands were a malicious, twisting labyrinth. Caiphus smiled. He had a long, dark road to walk to return home–he turned around to head back the way he had come.
Find me, my child.
Caiphus, Wandering King Promo Quest
- The Caiphus, Wandering King promo quest begins today and will run until next Wednesday, October 17.
- During the quest period, your first PvP win of the day will reward you with a copy of Caiphus.
- Once the promo period is over, you’ll be able to craft Caiphus using Shiftstone as normal.
- The Caiphus premium Avatar will be available in the store for 300 Gems for a limited time.
The world changed when Caiphus disappeared. How will it change again upon his return?
We’ll see you in the game!
– The Dire Wolf Digital Team
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