It was a treacherous year…
The year of a tale told only in legend.
No one to rule, no law of the land.
The threat of diplomatic chaos is ever more imminent. What is to become of this imperilled world? Who will unearth the secrets beneath the shadow of Zera? This is the story of…
The Zeramin Game
The Land of Xia
All was unrest in the land. A world long deprived of balance, government, monarchy and peace. Some nations have grown to become allies, whilst others remain unsettled. All the while, the dreaded and loathsome fiends, the pirates of the seas make their continued claims to power and attempt to rule the lands from the oceans. Nobody knows why this is the state of things. Only legends and tales ageing back almost a millennia, the only source of reason. Telling stories of ancient wizards and sorcerers, casting a spell over the land to mask all that happened before. But others, offering a prophecy of a saviour who would one day bring peace to this land. No such man has ever emerged, but this is only the beginning of our story.
The island of Zera tarnishes the land. A place which is rarely spoken of or even acknowledged. Cloaked beneath the blackened clouds and surrounded by treacherous waters, the shores of Zera welcome no man. Many tales are told of heroes and warriors who have made the daring voyage, to make their attempt at uncovering its secrets, but alas none have ever returned to tell their tale. Today this dreadful place has become simply forgotten, regarded as nothing but the work of dark magic, and not worth even thinking about in one’s mind.
But, despite all this, a mysterious hooded traveller from the peaceful settlement of Allidar, lives in his own shadows and keeps himself to himself. He comes and goes for weeks or even months at a time. He speaks to nobody and nobody speaks to him. He is almost to Allidar as Zera is to Xia. Unbeknown to all, Fowlen is the only man who dares to concern himself with the forbidden place. He studies, researches and travels the land in search for clues of the long-lost history. How close he has gotten to the misty shores, and why his life is devoted to uncovering the answers, only he knows.
Also in the village, lives a young troublemaker; Vi, and his closest friend; Ty. Viis the son of the head hunter in the village. He has always endeavoured to make his father proud and come of age to join the hunt, but his curiosity and thirst for adventure has always gotten the better of him. Time after time, he has tried to show his father what he can be and what he can do, only for it to end in disappointment and trouble. Viknows that some day he will find a way to make him proud, but will his latest curiosity about the mysterious traveller who comes and goes, stand in his way?
The boys see Fowlen leave the village and their curiosity gets the better of them once more. They want to know where he is going and why once and for all. They find a way into Fowlens home and discover his work. But they are caught red handed by the man himself and handed over to their parents. This is the final straw for Vis father, who scolds him and tells him how he believes that he will never amount to anything. Vi runs away to the shorelines to be away from it all.
Some Day Soon
Vi reflects on his troubled life and the dreams he has been having. Dreams about the saviour foretold in the ancient legends and stories. Vi knows that if he is ever to prove himself, he would have to do something that nobody else ever has. If Fowlen thinks that there is a good reason to go to Zera, then there must be something hidden there that could change everything. Perhaps he and Ty could join him and become heroes. Vi returns to the village and explains his plans to Ty. They try to talk to Fowlen and tell him that they want to join him and help to uncover the secrets of Zera. Fowlen only scolds them further and warns them that if they ever tried to go to Zera, it would mean nothing but certain death, and that they should not even think about it any further. He banishes them from his company and tells them never to approach him again.
If Vi and Ty want to go to Zera, they will have to do it alone.
Vi is once again down at the shoreline, staring out over the ocean into the misty unknown. He wonders if he is making the right choice, to go to such a dangerous place and to put his friend in danger. After all, Ty has told him that wherever he goes, he will follow. Vi hears a voice calling to him from the distance. Offering him guidance, courage and letting him know that his destiny is waiting for him. Vi remembers how angry his father was and how convinced he is that he will never be a son to make him proud. Vi feeds on this anger as it pushes him more and more toward his final decision, as the voices sing to him words of wisdom and encouragement. Vi decides that now is the time for them to show the world what they can be.
Across The Seas
Vi and Ty pack all the supplies they think they will need for the voyage, and they set off in the dead of night. They have no idea how they will cross the seas, but they know who they may be able to convince them to help them. Once they reach the shoreline, they spot the pirates ship docked in one of the nearby fishing villages. No doubt they are there to terrorise one of the many taverns and drink it dry. Vi has an idea. They seek out the pirates and Vi manages to strike a deal with the pirates. If they take them to Zera’s shores, they will give them a cut of any treasure they find on the island. Of course, the greedy pirates agree. The next morning, all aboard the ship they set sail.
Throughout the voyage the light slowly fades. The clouds thicken with every mile. After days of sailing, the lookout calls “Land Ho!”. Emerging from the misty haze, the boys see the looming outline of the vast island of Zera itself, abandoned and forgotten for decades. Whilst the cowardly pirates refuse to go any further, they shunt the boys onto a small rowing boat into the cove and towards the shores. They reach the blackened sands and they look up in complete awe. Have they made the right choice to come here? Or have they made a terrible and fatal mistake. One thing is for sure, with the passion and determination in their hearts, and the greedy pirates waiting for their haul, there is no turning back!
Meanwhile, back in the village there is panic. The boys have been discovered as missing and their parents are frantic. Nobody knows where they have gone. Vi’s father instantly regrets his harsh words and knows that he must find him. He gathers the huntsmen and a desperate search ensues… but alas nothing is found.
Fowlen however, suspects the worst. Could they really have been foolish enough to make the journey by themselves? He is the only man who knows the true terrors that lay beyond those walls. The truth is, that Fowlen once had a son, his only family since the loss of his beloved wife, and so his only friend. He remembers the day he discovered his son missing, just like this. They had quarrelled once too often and just like that, he was gone. Zera claimed his son that day, and since then it has become this old man’s destiny to learn all he can about this place. Either to find his son, or to get the closure he so desperately needs. He cannot let this happen again. Fowlen tells nobody where the boys have gone. He doesn’t want to put any more lives at risk, and he knows more than anybody does about this place. He dons his hooded cloak, becoming one with the night, and races off into the darkness in pursuit upon his steed. Along the way, he tells us his story for the first time…
The Zeramin Game
Vi and Ty have made it from the shoreline through the eerily quiet and desolate forests. Everything feels haunting and terrifying, yet nothing stands in their way. They reach a huge cliff face, upon which is an overbearing and overgrown stone wall which seems to go on for miles and miles, surrounding the island, just like they had seen in some of Fowlen’s paintings. A rocky string of stone steps lead up to a set of gates so tall they are touching the sky. Knowing there is only one way forward, the boys approach the gates. They look as though they have been sealed for centuries, bound closed by the overgrown forest vines. Suddenly, a magical force comes out of nowhere, drawing the boys closer to the gates. They feel all of their possessions being stripped of them, the weapons and supplies they had bought are gone. They hear a booming voice which tells them of a series of tests that must be passed, if one was ever to make it out to see the light of another day. Being drawn even closer, the boys try to break free of this force, but it has them completely. The gates crack open where they meet, breaking a seal bound by time. They see nothing but darkness beyond the gates. In a flash, the voice is gone. The boys in such awe and shock, they hope that they took in every word. The boys move on in the darkness and find their way to an opening…
They find themselves facing a vast valley, not bathed in darkness and evil, but bright and peaceful. They see a door in the distance, the other side of the valley. Vi looks down to find a key he never knew he had, fastened to his belt. The boys look to each other, wondering what is the meaning of all of this. This is surely far too easy, to move towards the door and pass with no challenge? Vi senses a curse they cannot see. He feels the magic, waiting for them to progress. They step forward and start to climb down into the valley. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, emerges a huge army of demons. Cladded in armour each clutching a shield and a spear. In front of them, they see that they have both been presented with a magnificent sword, seemingly with which to go into battle. Ty races for his sword, but Vi shouts for him to wait. He knows that this is what the game wants, for them to rush into a battle they cannot win. He notices something about these demons. Small clues into their pasts. Then he sees it, one of them is wearing the signet of their own homeland. These are not demons of evil, but the fallen heroes of the past, forced to fight eternally. Vi does something that none had done before. He refuses the sword, tells Ty to lay down his, and raises his hands in surrender. He walks forward holding the key in one hand. He calls out across the valley, proclaiming that he has been granted the key to go on, demanding that they let them pass in peace and promising them their freedom if they do so. To Ty’s surprise the demons retreat, bowing toward them as they part to create a pathway. As the boys move forward, Ty looks to Vi in disbelief. How did he know that this was the right thing to do? They reach the door and turn to look back behind them. The valley is suddenly empty once more and peaceful again. They enter the door, anticipating the horrors that could come next. Knowing that the first test would have ended them if it weren’t for Vi’s curious thinking, they are certain that things will only get worse.
“The first test they may have passed, but little did they know. The endless scale of what the wizards conjured long ago. They battled on through many tasks the fallen men had failed. But youth and cunning may prevail, and put an end to a long lost tale. The final games to conquer now, so onward they must sail!”
Vi and Ty are exhausted. They have seen and done things they never thought they would. Three more tests have passed, each more challenging and terrifying as the next. The boys have sailed across a black sea to reach what they pray is the final test. On another misty shore, they see another door and hope; could it be this one that sets us free? Once they pass the door, they are faced with something they fear they cannot overcome. Not demons or dark creatures, but a sheer rock face to climb. They know that to the top is the only way, as they see yet another door at the top. It’s so far away it seems miniscule. Surely this would be the final door. They must try to reach it. In a test of pure strength and determination, the boys begin to climb. As they move higher and higher, they are hounded by dark forces echoing to them all of the worst times of their lives. This is now not only a physical endurance, but one in their minds as well. They battle on and on, one step at a time, realising with every ascent that they would not be able to move backwards. Ty begins to tire, but Vi does not allow him to succumb. Having come this far, they cannot give up now. Vi hold onto his belief and uses every ounce of energy he has left to get them to the top. But alas, just a few moments from the top, he realises that all his energy was spent so long ago. A test designed for warriors, too much for those with just pure courage and passion. There is nothing left he can do, his arms and legs simply refusing to move any longer, Ty desperately clutching onto the rock face for his life. The only thing they can do now is hold on with the last of their strength. To fall will mean certain death.
Out of nowhere, Vi hears a sound. A Lokken racing toward them, it’s glorious sound echoing into the night. He looks up in disbelief and sees none other than Fowlen himself. Swooping down toward them. Fowlen binds the boys with a vine and latches the other end to his steed, pulling them to safety.
Saved by a friend they never knew they had before, Fowlen is happy to see them alive. His anger and fears overcome by relief. He knows the kind of things his own son would have faced before meeting his end. This is the furthest Fowlen has been into Zera, he must continue with the boys in the hope that he can find his resolve.
The trio move on through the door. They find themselves looking out over a vast forest landscape, in the centre of which they see a broken palace, overcome by the forest and dark wildlife. It is huge, Vi can see that some day in the past, this was once a glorious place. The three mount Fowlen’s lokken and they race through the forest towards the palace. They know this must be the end. Just as they reach the palace, suddenly Fowlen falls to the ground. His Lokken screams with concern and throws the boys from her back to check on her master. Vi, exhausted battered and bruised looks up from the ground towards Fowlen. The lokken is trying to tend to a wound they didn’t know he had. They race over to help him but they see that Fowlen is in a bad way. He was badly injured trying to reach Vi and Ty. His adrenaline and determination had allowed him to carry on to save them, but now it has become too much. He tries to stand to carry on, he can’t let the boys face this final test alone, but he is just too weak now. Vi and Ty tend to his wound as best they can to try and keep him alive. They use his cloak to bind him safely onto his lokken’s back and they move on forward towards the palace. Fowlen tells them that he believes they have everything they need to try to conquer this final test. He is proud of them and knows that whatever the outcome, they have truly been heroes in his eyes. He watches on as the boys disappear through the palace doors, he hopes that he will see them again.
The Ultimate Sacrifice
“So now, the brave young warriors stepped forward in the dark. Ever more determined to succeed and make their mark. But unbeknown to them, a tragic error they have made. And now the game wants justice and to make a deadly trade”.
Vi and Ty have entered a magnificent chamber in the palace. A place forgotten in time. There seems to be no challenge ahead, but suddenly a voice from another world booms from the darkness…
“The final test this is indeed, but heed the signs you failed to read. For only one can claim the prize, the other must meet his demise. So, the game must now decide, who will live and who will die. Your final path you both must choose, but choose it well, you’ve all to lose!”
As the game explains, Vi realises their terrible mistake. When they entered through the gates, they mistook the rules and warnings. This is a test for one, not for two. How could he be so careless? He knows now that one of them is truly in grave danger. As the voice fades, there grows a mighty rumble under their feet. The entire chamber shakes and the floor falls to reveal a seemingly bottomless chasm, only the ground on which they stand and two long bridges remain, one for each of them. They span all the way across the abyss to the final door, but Vi knows that this is again not as simple as it appears. The game is forcing them both to choose a path, surely one will fail.
Ty looks to Vi in desperation, what are they going to do? Vi looks behind them, the entrance wall to the chamber seems to be moving towards them, alight with raging flames. They don’t have time to think. Vi looks out over the span of the chasm, studying everything he can see to try to find a way across… but the walkways are the only way. At the last minute, before they are forced onto the pathways, Vi changes places with Ty and makes him take the first bridge, Vi takes the second. They begin to walk forwards to avoid the raging fires approaching behind them, Ty wondering why Vi had made that sudden decision. Then Ty discovers the reason. He sees towards the end of Vi’s bridge, a weakness in the structure, a sign of its imminent failure. He looks at Vi, who looks back at him. Vi says simply “Thank you my friend… I will always be with you”. The bridge finally fails and Vi falls along with it. Ty screams out in disbelief, there is nothing he can do as he realises that his friend has sacrificed himself to save him.
Ty runs to the other side as the fire draws closer still. As soon as he crosses, all falls silent. He lays on the floor in the darkness, in complete shock at what has just happened. The entrance door appears again and Fowlen stumbles through, he had to make it to them, but he is too late. Ty and Fowlen look at eachother, and they both know that Vi is gone...
But then, a light from the abyss grows… something is happening. Once again the room starts to rumble, light fills the chamber as the windows become clear, the sun shining through for the first time in hundreds of years. Out of the chasm rises Vi, alive and healed. He hovers above as the ground is restored, magic and energy surrounding him as he descends back down to meet them. It is revealed to them by the game that long ago in history, there was a mighty war of the world. The Ancient wizards and sorcerers had become angered at the vile state of affairs and had taken control. They obliterated the kingdom and left the palace abandoned on the island of Zera, under a curse to become the ultimate test to select a new King, all of history before wiped from the minds of everyone.
The Angels of Xia / Fowlen’s Goodbye
Vi and Ty stand together, they look toward Fowlen who is finally able to stand. A magical mist begins to appear between them and they hear an enchanting sound. The spirits of all the fallen heroes and warriors lost in Zera, appear to them and sing their heavenly song. In the centre, Fowlen sees a figure and begins to weep. He sees his son, with the spirits, and he is smiling as he sings. Fowlen knows that his spirit has been set free and that he knows he is happy in rest. As the angels finish their song, Fowlen sings his final goodbye to his son, his hero… but no longer his only friend. Fowlen is finally happy once more and can live the rest of his days in peace.
A Worthy King
Vi had made the ultimate sacrifice and has passed the final test, showing that his loyalty and honour would stop at nothing to protect his friends. He is to be crowned King of Xia, as though these tests, he has proved himself to be a worthy ruler of the land. Ty is assigned Duke, second in command to the King. The palace and the island of Zera are restored to their former beauty and is now their kingdom from which to rule the land of Xia. The blackened clouds fade away and the light shines through. Tomorrow is finally a brand new day.
Masses of voices are heard outside the palace, the three go outside to find thousands of people from all over Xia have arrived, their parents and friends were all on their way to find them, and now they have. Vi stands at the top of the palace stairs and proclaims that the long lost secrets of Zera are no longer veiled, and all is well in the land once again. Cheers are heard across the land, and leading the masses, Vi’s father stands in disbelief, a tear in his eye as he looks with nothing but pride at his one and only son.
“And so at last in Xia
there reigns a worthy king
And in that King’s new kingdom
the people worship him and sing”
Finally, the people of Xia join together and sing their song of a brand new day.