In the bright, white sterile recesses of the infirmary, a human medic hovered tentatively over a horrifying humanoid mess, laying still, unconscious on a stiff mattress. It had four limbs, a head, a torso, everything was in the same place as a human’s body, yet it was covered in yellow horns, the most noticeable being on its head, large and curved inward, with strange bumps. It had pale skin and golden markings touching every inch of it. Thick restraints bound this creature’s narrow, bony wrists, just as they did it's ankles, thighs, midsection and neck. It was clear it was overly tall, even when lying down, as its legs poked out inelegantly off the end of the bed and the hospital gown barely made it past it's upper thighs. The fabric strained just to cover it's torso. The doc twittered about, noting things on his clipboard hurriedly, as if in a hurry to be removed from this unsightly presence. “Can’t believe they left me with this job” He mumbled, glancing sidelong at the slumbering Ner, whose mouth hung open slightly in sleep, sharp teeth disturbingly visible. Grumbling continued as the inexperienced doctor carried on with his work, as quickly as possible.
Before long, the creature opened its eyes, a glowing white pupil slitted when exposed to the blaring lights, but quickly adjusted. Light was its friend, it remembered. It just preferred sunlight. Fluorescent light is not the most comfortable to wake up to. It grunted.
“EEP” The doctor squeaked a little, his shoulders stiffened. The creature could only lift its head so high before the neck restraint stopped it and it choked slightly, looking with distaste down at the rest of its body. It tsked and quickly it was shrouded in a light. When the brightness ebbed away, a more human-looking thing was left. It was slightly shorter now, with darker, tan skin and this time, no horns, just a head of curly white hair. But still, those unsettling bright pupils…
“Hey.” The Ner spoke. He was apparently irritated. “Let me out of here.” He gestured with his head to the restraints. “Its not comfortable.”
“I.. I’m not supposed to” The doctor shied away from the gaze of that creature. “Kyaros Feirin..” He looked down at his clipboard. “You did some—“
“I know what I did” Kyaros replied, more gruffly, his eyes flashing hot for a second. This was a most inconvenient situation. “I don’t know how long I’ve been here, but I know what I did. It’s over now.” Under his breath he added “I’m surprised I wasn’t just disposed of.”
It was more of a note than a sarcastic comment. A surprise. A non-human in Aciescar is treated pretty strictly, and lashing out violently the way he did, it would have been a death sentence, he’d assumed.
“Then.. well you know why I can’t just release you, I have to ask you qu-questions.” The good doctor was silently cursing his luck. Why couldn’t someone else do this? Even in a more human form, he knew what the thing really was.
“Then ask them.” Ky snapped. “This neck brace is much worse than the usual collar.” He added bitterly. He did not look kindly to being choked by this padded neck-cuff.
Being spoken to in such a way was uncommon for the medic. Eight years of medical training just to be shoved into this job? Great. He was supposed to be a civilian doctor, make good money. Instead, he was listening to some demon mouth off at him. Not that any of it was worth saying to the creature. Those teeth still scared him.
“Do you know where you are?” Was the leading question.
“That’s a ridiculous question. Obviously I’m in the infirmary.”
“The Aciescar Infirmary, in Wellsilver.” Ky rolled his eyes.
“What’s the leader's name?”
“Are you seeing anything that might not be real?”
“Do you have any pain—"
The general questions went on much longer than was necessary, in Kyaros’ opinion. After a boring set, he interjected.
“I’m fine now. I want to leave.”
“You can’t. You’ve been out for five days, you need to stay under observation for a couple more. After that, there’s an assignment.”
It was only then that he realized he had missed his weekly coffee with Zachriel, and that it was probably his biggest regret.
_____Five Days Prior____
“Hey!!!! Come Help! This guy collapsed in his room!” A private had poked their head into the medic quarters wearing a desperate face. A group of medics looked up from their card game and froze. They murmured amongst themselves, and shoved one out of their game. “I’ll go.” He said reluctantly. It wasn’t a minute later, the remaining doctors heard a roar, along with a yowl, from the next hall.
A remarkable sight met their eyes as they rounded a corner at top speed towards the commotion. A beastly humanoid they could not recognize, standing at 7’4, had pinned the first doctor to the wall with one large hand, while the other private lay unconscious at the other end of the hall. The paint and drywall peeled around massive claw marks, a door hung off its hinges. It was clear the wild Ner was not using arcane, but only crazed brute strength. Two of the group of medics scrambled back to the infirmary to fetch a gurney and restraints, while the others engaged with their arcane. Three specialists arrived to aid.
When the first bout of earth arcane rained down on Kyaros’ form, he dropped the doctor and roared again. The doctor hoarsely called out to his companions. “He’s one of us!!!!! He has a collar!!!!”
It was a quick takedown, 5 against 1. The creature continued to roar until forcefully sedated. Darkness breached Kyaros’ vision, and he passed out, tied to the gurney securely. It was only then that the visions plaguing that Ner touched those remaining in the hall.
It wasn’t long before Kyaros was brought up to speed. Illusions, crazed efahs and ners, and at the heart of it all, some mysterious artifact that will draw all three world powers into a struggle, once again. It was, surely, a race against time. And a groaning resonated through Kyaros' inner thoughts through the journey to Caliga, where reportedly the artifact lay. Word was, there would be a struggle with rogue efahs, along with the nuisance of the other Factions gunning for the object.
Ky too felt the tug of insanity again, tinting the corners of his mind. He fought against it with the aid of a medication that had been handed out but every now and again, the images intruded. Guilt, danger, starvation, madness
What a pain it was turning out to be. Oh how he wished he weren’t there, how he wished he were playing a turn-based fighting game on his handheld gaming device back in his dormitory. How he wished he were having coffee.
Instead, the sun was filtered out by clouds in a dank and mysterious field in the middle of Caliga—enemy territory.
Ky’s squadron moved into position in the overlook hills, and it soon became clear, that this time it was not the other factions they would be battling at all. There was a swarm, thick as wool, of darkly colored creatures. One could not make one beast from the next, there were so many.
No, this was not a battle between Desadora, Aciescar and Pax-Cussur. It was a race between the three, to see who could make it through a storm of crazed animals the fastest. Ky clutched the bridge of his nose with his fingers. This was going to be a headache of the next caliber.
Desadora was already in the fray, bursts of arcane glowed visible every few seconds from the easterly end. Or maybe that was Pax, there was no telling who it might be. “Time for me to earn my meals, I suppose.” Ky muttered to himself. The dueling specialist next to him snorted. The ranks were tight here, as they advanced onto the field. The closer they got to the hoard, the harder the rest of the squadron breathed. The faster they moved. Kyaros looked up to the late afternoon sun. Inconvenient.
As soon as the group hit the swarm, all hell rose up to greet them, and the formation quickly broke apart, as each person started fighting for their life. Ky’s heart beat fast. He had had little experience with Efahs, minus the corruption of parents, he’d barely interacted with any. His arcane flared up in his hands, illuminating the dark space with the dim yellow light of his hot lightning. All of these efahs were in a beastly form, clearly this was what their insanity had reduced them to. Their deepest interior laid bare in the light of their madness.
It wasn’t long before maintaining his human exterior was too much for Ky. Light melted away from him as his skin grew pale once again, his sclera darkened to a haunting black color and horns emerged once again from his head, face, neck and shoulders. With this action, Ky’s martial lightning glowed more furiously as he fought, tooth and claw, with the red-eyed efah monsters. Slaying one after another, he pushed through the thick fabric of their erratic attacks.
Those attacks grew more ferocious the farther he tread, and the farther he tread, the more tired he became. The more those images nagged at his head. Never before had it occurred to him that an enormous endurance would be required, for something so drawn-out as battle. This was different than street fighting, this was different than sparring. Different than one-on-one. This was… pointless
‘Why am I here?’ Kyaros wondered, as he sunk his sword into dragon-shaped efah. Maybe it was kin, long ago. But now it was just a corpse. He heard screaming to his left as another soldier had his jugular forcefully removed. Who knows who that soldier fought for. Every so often he would pass others, howling on the ground from pain. Some wore the colors of Desa, some of Pax, some of Acie even. Sometimes he would pass gravely wounded people still fighting, their arcane burning bright in assistance of their chosen weapons. They were here for something. ‘I guess I’m here for that thing.’ Ky thought of the Artifact. ‘It’s an achievement.’
A light shone across his eyes. An achievement. That’s as good a reason to do stupid things as any. His efforts were renewed, if only for a moment. Then, from behind, a large cat-like Efah dug its teeth into his shoulder.
The yowl he released was the loudest he’d ever heard come from himself. The armor protecting his shoulder broke inwards at the teeth punctures, doing their own best to gnaw their way into his skin as well. All of a sudden, there was a foreign urge calling to Ky. Live.
He felt the tingling sensation that came with transformation, light overcoming him from within and changing him without. But this time, it was beyond his control. He had not transformed without conscious purpose since he was a child. And when the transformative light dispersed, he felt a form he hadn’t inhabited for a long time. He could feel his beastly visage, a long snout, animal ears, extra horns trailing down the sides of his drastically elongated neck. He snarled at the efah still locked onto his neck and he dug his newly sharp claws into its back, tossing it off. His pace had been stopped so abruptly that the battle had moved away from him. He was but a straggler, a leftover, injured. All the action continued ahead of him. Breathing heavily, he squared off with the remaining efah, when he noticed the dancing shadows around his body.
Was that… Lightning? There was a warmth traveling down his spine, clinging to his shoulders, hugging his neck. It felt so hot and powerful it almost ached. Two more straggling efahs gathered to attack with the enemy before him, but Kyaros threw his head backwards and drew his claws instinctively from his horns down his neck and shoulders, gathering the collected lightning that had been dancing so sharply over his body into his hands. It crackled loudly in such a concentrated form. Two of the efahs charged, and he landed both of his palms on their skulls, shocking them so severely that they collapsed, unmoving. There was still a little charge left, and the big cat efah lunged, only to be greeted with an electrified claw around its throat. Kyaros pinned it to the ground, and sent one last wave through his palm into the creature’s body. It jerked about morbidly before its limbs fell to the ground, lifeless.
With the fight complete, Ky felt his body grow heavy. It began the transformation again unbidden, and he regained his normal form. It was then that he fell to his knees, blacking out without any warning. Unconscious, he laid on the battlefield in a pile of efah corpses, the sun setting his still face aglow with an orange light.