Outworld/Telluric Fastness

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Catalyst Shroud

Author: Stratos

Stratos drifted above the Telluric Fastness, recalling the frenzied scramble of activity that surrounded the last cycling of Outworld's Geomantic engines. Memories flooded through him - the Affronts, channeling his Tempest powers for the first time, the bark of Combine voices repeating their pledges ad nauseam, Joy Effect’s endless performance, the weight of Valterian plate pressed against him in narrow corridors and on the battlefield, Penitents machinating in quiet corners. Yet in all of those recollections, where were The Walkers?

Despite the madness and the inward spiral of each Shaper's personal narrative, no-one could have missed Holovid 12. It would be inconceivable to find someone that needed to ask 'who is Ziggy Love?' Or Fleur. Or Chain Dog. Or what the Combine stood for. Or what a Monarch of Shadow looked like. But The Walkers? What of them? The question left him no peace.

The ending of the cycle had brought change to Outworld; the streams of biomantic spiders skittering in and out of each territory carried news as well as HV12 vids, Combine propaganda and the never ending packets of Ziggy Meth. Regions had been renamed, each shaper alerted to the change by apparitions of some unknown source – another quirk of Outworld's altered rules. The Crusading Realm had become The Crucible of Legends, the Uncharted Skies had been Liberated and Opportunity now knocked twice. Appearances had changed too. Data engines had surged to life, carefully tended by the Penitent Order and among the clouds steel locomotives plied their trade. Everywhere was change and mutability, flux and possibility.

Everywhere but here. Stratos' attention returned to the immediate moment. Around him lay the Verdant Reach, unchanged, unlabelled, inspiring no passion or fervour. Static. Alone among the factions this domain remained untouched by the events of the first cycle. It lay unendurably dormant, unmoving, the very opposite of the Walker's creed. This stasis must end. Stratos' face twisted into a grimace as thunder boomed through the charged air.

A many-headed sky shark cut through the clouds, lazily swimming toward the hovering figure. The sight of it heightened Stratos’ rage. All the vast biomantic power of the Walkers squandered on gimmicks and useless novelties. With a thought his staff appeared in his hand, forks thrumming with energy. Spinning it through the charged air, the weapon dancing from hand to hand, he gathered power, his eyes fixed on the sleek shape cutting through the rain. With a snap of his hands he brought the staff to a sudden halt and with a shouted word of power discharged its potential. The shark burst, guts and blood joining the downpour. Lunging through the clouds a second shark burst into view, jaws snapping at the falling offal. Stratos sighed. He had lost track of how many he had burned from the sky but there were always more.

With a gesture he dismissed his staff and calmed his thoughts, returning to a meditative hover amidst the storm of his home. His Shaper senses were beginning to awaken. The time for idleness would soon be over and he felt keenly the building of potential; an urge to catalyse change. Catalysation requires reagents however. The plans forming in his mind could not be carried out alone. A smile quirked the edge of his mouth as realised how to reach those he needed. Maybe not every novelty would prove useless.

He did not have to wait long before a biomantic spider wandered into view, a package attached to its carapace. Focusing his attention Stratos struck it with a low energy bolt, rewiring its neural impulses. It jerked, legs spasming uncoordinatedly as collapsed on one side before scrabbling to its feet again. Ignoring its undelivered package it turned around and headed back out into the twilight tracks of the Verdant Reach. It carried a new message now, to a new destination. Every spider that arrived was subjected to the same treatment. The word would go out to all the Walkers - the next cycle would bring alteration and acceleration. There would be growth and destruction. The Walkers will move, and drag the world with them whether it will or no.