New Hero: Oizio, Adaptive SpyJuly 17, 2019
Things out here can be more than they seem.
These dark lands shift and twist, preying on those who walk their many paths. Monsters stalk the darkness too, strange and cunning beings with sharp thoughts and bloody intent.
I should know. I’m one of them.
We do what must be done.
My name is Oizio, and my face is not mine own.
The expedition scrabbled over a field of jagged rock. There was no shade or shelter for miles, just the eerie half-light of the Shadowlands and buzzards wheeling overhead. In time, the group would falter and fail, and the scavengers would descend.
The elf rolled her eyes and shook her head. “I doubt it. Besides, you’d waste your bullets.”
“The hell I would,” Will said, grinning. He turned to shout at the two figures that lagged behind. “Hey! Bishop, Marco, you both think I can make that shot, right?”
“Hush,” Bishop called back, warning in his voice. “We don’t know what could be lurkin’ ’round here. Besides,” the old survivalist said with a chuckle, “you couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn.”
Will made a rude gesture at the man, dropped his gun into its holster, and turned back around. Bishop shrugged, shifting the strap of his own rifle to his other shoulder. Sighing, he scanned the horizon and turned to the man next to him.
The old man turns to look at me. I see concern in the lines of his eyes. “How you holdin’ up out here?” He touches mine shoulder. His hand is warm.
In mine face he sees his friend. A man—no, a soldier— with pallid skin, dark hair, and tarnished armor. Marco, run ragged by their journey through the Shadowlands.
I had grown bored of that place, with its ever-ringing hammers and songs of listless honor, and here was a man from a land unknown to me. Delicious. Marco seemed… occupied, his rough face useful to mine mission. His friends were relieved when he—when I—stumbled out of the darkness only days later.
Their sentiment only makes mine work easier.
“Fine,” I reply, making my voice quaver and mine shoulders slump. Voices are always the hard part. Eyes will do half the work, deceiving themselves, but ears alert for danger can hear the false notes in a lie.
The man called Bishop squints. The worry on his face deepens, and he frowns beneath his grey mustache. Some of my exhaustion is real. We have been pressing forward relentlessly, pausing only to sleep, for over a week. They are eager to get home, to return with news of a land called Xulta.
I am eager too.
“Okay,” Kiara said as she scanned the landscape. Bishop and Marco had caught up with her at the edge of the boulder field. Beyond them lay a dusty wasteland. The vultures had left, returning to their territory in search of less hardy prey.
Looking down, Kiara consulted her notes. Behind her, Will and Bishop checked the group’s dwindling supplies, counting canteens and dividing rations. Marco lay nearby, catching his breath beneath a stony outcrop.
“Well, the good news is we got over a week’s worth of water, thanks to Will’s lucky find in Xulta,” Bishop said. “Bad news is there’s only three days of grub. Maybe five if we stretch it.”
Kiara scowled and looked back down at her papers. “Five days, huh? We miiight make it back in that, but it’ll be tough.”
“How tough?” Will asked, running a hand through his beard.
“Bad enough that we need to start foraging as we go,” Kiara replied, “though I doubt anything in this lightless place is edible.” Her eyes rose to meet Marco’s gaze. The soldier didn’t blink, and she looked away. “We’re moving slower than we had planned for,” she admitted.
“Due to me,” Marco said gruffly, sitting up. Kiara nodded. Bishop started to object, but Marco cut him off with a wave of his hand. “No, she’s right.” He took a deep breath, winced, and looked up at his companions. His voice was hoarse as he said, “I swear that I will walk out of this place under mine own strength. Also,” he added, reaching down to pull a pair of gleaming jade weapons from his pack. “I found these in whatever dark corner of Xulta I landed in. They may be worth something.”
Bishop’s eyebrows shot up, and Will whistled with appreciation. “Nice piece of kit. Almost looks oni-made. Know how to use ‘em?”
Marco shook his head. “Of course not. But I can find a buyer in…” he paused. “Remind me, where are we headed, again? To sell the maps and information about Xulta.”
“Argenport,” Marco smiled. “Of course.”
We sleep near the Waystones when we can. Mine companions have learned to take comfort in their light. For once I agree with them.
That night as we rest, a huntpack creeps towards our sleeping forms. Their tread is silent, but I can smell their hunger. Bishop and the rest are lucky that I am not Marco, because as the attackers bare their fangs I sit up, hissing back at them with fangs of mine own. They are not so desperate yet, and back down.
I observe my companions as the fangs recede. The mercenary snores, and Bishop rolls over in his sleep. No one wakes. I feel mine lip curl in scorn. They barely understand the ground on which they tread. The Shadowlands offer myriad paths to those sharp enough to survive. They can lead to new and wondrous places. Many are dangerous, but a few can be… useful.
Some of us do not have homes we care to return to. We do what must be done.
Silently, I lay back down in the man called Marco’s bedroll and wait for morning. The bedroll stinks.
The following days were long and difficult. The group trudged forward, seeking shade where they could find it. Will lost his sword to a swarm of spiders, their fangs dripping with acid, and Bishop used the last of his rifle’s ammunition to scare off a lurking horror. One night, the sky was filled with swarms of glowing wisps, their bright light keeping everyone awake.
On the fifth day, the air was so thick with a rank, dense smog that Kiara called a halt. Cautiously, their remaining weapons close at hand, they huddled around the explorer.
“We’re close, I think” she said, collapsing a small brass spyglass. “My compass hasn’t worked since we first found the Shadowlands, but I see a few familiar sights.”
“Good,” Will said. The mercenary had grown quiet and taciturn after they had shared the last of their rations around the campfire the night before.
“I don’t want t’ get turned around in this smoke,” Bishop added. “I know we’re all mighty hungry, but if we get lost that’s the end of things. Best t’ take it slow.”
Marco nodded. “We will do what must be done to survive.”
Kiara slid her notes back into a leather scroll case. “Let’s get moving…”
“Phew,” Will said, hours later, as he slumped against the glassy, ruby-red face of a towering Waystone. It stood twice his height, and he wiped sweat and grime from his brow as he looked up at its worn carvings. They shone with a faint glow, collecting the last dim light of a dark evening. “Was worried we wouldn’t make it. Glad to be wrong.”
Behind him, Bishop helped Marco to sit down, one arm wrapped around the wounded soldier’s torso. Kiara stood at the base of the Waystone, her sketchbook open to an early page of notes. Her brow creased with worry.
“Um, Will?” The elf asked slowly, confusion in her voice. Beside the mercenary, Bishop froze at her tone.
“Yeah?” The mercenary grunted.
Kiara held up her notebook. The page was covered with a sketch of the red Waystone lying on its side. “I don’t think this is the rock we’re looking for.”
The huge elemental burst from the earth with a furious roar, the Waystone spire becoming its shoulder. Will, Marco, and Bishop were sent flying, and Kiara threw herself to one side as a stone fist larger than her whole body slammed into the sand.
“What the hell is that?” She shouted, but the question was drowned out as Will stood and emptied his sidearm into the giant’s flank. Shiftstone smoke filled the air and the behemoth roared again, stumbling backwards, a chunk of its side shattering and falling to the ground.
“Good shot!” Bishop called as he pulled Marco to his feet. In his other hand, the survivalist gripped a worn machete. “That should g—” The words died in his throat as the elemental righted itself, and, with a burst of crimson energy, the shard of its side began to scuttle toward the group on stone pincers.
“Hey, ugly!” Kiara shouted, standing next to Will. As the shardling charged Bishop and Marco, the elemental rounded on the elf. It raised its arm to attack, but Kiara held out a small tube. Touching its short fuse to the glowing barrel of Will’s gun, she shouted, “Eat this!”
The blast was blinding, and Bishop was forced to look away as the smaller elemental closed the distance between them. Eyes closed, he heard Marco shout something he could not understand. There was the sound of a scuffle and the crunch of stone. Opening his eyes, Bishop saw Marco standing over the Waystone shardling, one of the jade sai buried up to the hilt in its twitching body.
“Bu—” Bishop began to say. As he spoke, Marco rounded, an alien expression on his face, and Bishop saw that his friend’s eyes had turned a bright, glowing silver. Before either could move, the shardling exploded.
Pain. I am bleeding from many small cuts, mine ears are ringing, and grit fills mine mouth. The elemental’s death throes cloaked the air around us in dust. A small mercy.
I hear the hunter, Bishop, groan and begin to rise. He knows, or suspects. I saw the surprise on his face.
“You…” he says, stumbling away from me. My armor is blackened by the explosion, and the stolen weapons glow green in mine hands. “I knew somethin’ was up. You said you couldn’t use those things.”
“I’m sorry,” I say in mine true voice. No point in hiding now. Bishop’s eyes go wide. “It must be done.”
I dart forward, hoping to surprise him with speed, but the old man is quick. His hand flies to his boot, and as he brings it up a knife glints in his grasp. I twist to the side, away from his slash, and slap the knife out of his hand with one of my weapons. Stepping forward, I bring the other one up. The blade takes him beneath the ribs. He gasps. No. No noise. The others are distracted by the larger elemental. They do not know. They cannot know.
I clamp mine free hand over his mouth. I can feel Bishop’s last breaths, hot and ragged, as he struggles.
“It may be small comfort,” I hiss, “but no one will know you perished here.”
I watch his face go pale with terror as I change, mine hair going white and the hand over his mouth wrinkling, aging before his eyes. As his body crumples to the ground, sliding off the blade, I reach down with new hands—Bishop’s hands—and pick up his fallen rifle.
“What must be done,” I mutter.
“Bishop? Marco?” Will called. The elemental lay unmoving in the sand behind him, cracks running across its head. Kiara stood over it, adding another sketch to her notes. Will held Bishop’s machete in one hand as he advanced into the cloud of dust.
“Here,” a rough voice called. Concerned, the mercenary hurried forward. Passing the shardling’s shattered remains, he saw the old man kneeling next to a mound in the sand. A single jade sai was placed on top of it.
“Bishop? Where is Marc… oh.” Will trailed off, understanding.
“Didn’t make it,” the survivalist said, his voice choked with grief. “I couldn’t save him.”
“Damn,” Will cursed. After a moment’s pause, he stepped forward and put a hand on the old man’s shoulder. “Marco would want us to keep going,” the mercenary said. “He helped get us this far, but… we have to make it the rest of the way.”
Will felt Bishop take a shaky breath and nod.
“Oh,” the mercenary said, holding out the machete. “Here, picked this up in the melee.”
“What?” Bishop asked, standing.
“It’s your machete, right?”
“Oh, of course,” The survivalist said, sliding it onto his belt. His eyes were dry as he looked up at Will and added, “Well then. To Argenport.”
There are monsters in the Shadowlands.
I should know. I’m one of them.
My name is Oizio, and my face is not mine own.
Oizio, Adaptive Spy Promo Quest
- The Oizio, Adaptive Spy promo quest begins today and will run until Tuesday, July 23.
- During the quest period, your first PvP win of the day will reward you with a copy of Oizio.
- Once the promo period is over, you’ll be able to craft Oizio using Shiftstone as normal.
- The Oizio, Adaptive Spy premium Avatar will be available in the store for 300 Gems for a limited time.
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