This short story takes place years prior to the events of Alterborn.
Chapter 1: Taste of Power
by Pawel Pernak
It was bitterly hot and as the sun glared and the sand sizzled, the three children scurried and screamed, pretending to be heroes and villains of primal myths, seemingly no care in the world. Scraps of metal were protruding from the desert accompanied by faint, reddish stains; telltale signs of a recent skirmish between brigands of the Shattered Lands. Just miles away the wasteland ended and something else began, with no conscious thing alive in slight, just the ever spreading, nefarious corruption.
All of a sudden, they stopped dead in their tracks. The air around them shifted, turning dense with an abnormal mist. Daliah, the youngest of the three, felt something calling to her. It was hard to describe really, as if an alien voice dominated her thoughts. Out of nowhere, a sunken rift materialized in the distance, with an entry point illuminated by a crimson light as ominous and yet alluring as the ethereal essence which has overtaken the nearby flora. Daliah glanced at the others, who both seemed to be oblivious to the rift. Entranced, she ran towards it, moving ever closer towards the unnatural void in the ground and the mysterious energy surrounding it. She truly lacked the words to describe it.
Daliah was puny and short, even for her age. Her common tribal rags were exactly the same as those of the other two children that were now calling after her but she couldn’t hear them, or simply chose not to.
“Daliah wait…” Askil, Daliah’s older brother, was running after her, to his surprise barely being able to catch up. As opposed to his sister, he was tall, sinewy and tanned with long, black hair. Myrie was right behind him, the oldest of the three, she was even taller than Askil, of an athletic build. Honestly, Daliah hated that. She always felt like the weakest of them all, with no purpose other than playing the second fiddle to whatever they did.
As she entered the rift, traversing ever deeper into the complex of underground tunnels, she heard echoed, muffled voices behind her but chose to ignore them. All that mattered was the voice inside her head, telling her to push forward.
Seize it, it said.
And there it was. An indescribable, bizarre object, obscene in a way but she couldn’t help but stare at it in utter awe. The longer she looked, the more magnificent it seemed, its tissue twisting and churning, reacting to her movement. She reached out with her hand, eager to touch it, to commune with it.
“Don’t!” It was Askil, barely able to contain his breath. But it was too late, Daliah’s hand already made contact with the object. The world around her changed in an instance, reality but a blur. She pierced the veil. All that remained was a blooming crimson lurking from behind the fog and obscure silhouettes slowly emerging from the dark. Were they trying to tell her something, whatever they were? Yes, she was sure of it, but she did not understand. Were they phantoms of the dead? No. These specters, whatever they were, were beyond her comprehension and seemed as far from human as anything she ever gazed upon but somehow she knew they were alive, just somewhere else. And now, she was here with them and she felt at home, like she belonged, possibly for the very first time in her entire life. Despite the high strangeness of it all, what she was now perceiving felt more tangible and authentic than the ‘real’ world, the world she despised. She felt no fear, just curiosity. But then, these entities dissipated, replaced by others. They took the form of rotting hands beyond count, sprouting from the crackling ground, grasping at her. They were ready to crumble at any moment but some extrinsic force held them together. She felt their emotions, their anger and hatred towards her and all that ever was, their mortal shell long gone.
She ran and to her amazement, there was no pain that she usually felt. On the contrary, her legs moved effortlessly, faster than ever, as if they had a will of their own. She took note of her hands that were glowing red! It was as if she held the power of the entire world in her palms. And then, she witnessed a presence that made her gasp in terror. A black, shadowy figure with mad, mystical fire burning in its eyes. Before Daliah could react, the being appeared right in front of her and grabbed her by the throat. Shock, awe and fear overwhelmed her all at once, coursing through her more vividly than ever before, followed by an indescribable pain. It felt like she died a thousand times over and all that remained was a mere flicker of a soul. There was nothing left for her to experience but an aetherial, endless darkness. The nothingness was truly a horror beyond imagining.
Then the experience ended as abruptly as it began. The vortex of emotions was replaced by disappointment and sadness, a sense of mundanity creeped in. Daliah tried to speak but no words came out of her mouth. It was as if her body was some unknown vessel, refusing to obey her. Come back! – she wanted to scream, despite everything. She was still in shock, both physically and mentally, trying to comprehend what just happened to her. Slowly, she managed to move her stiffened, half-paralyzed limbs. There was something different about her; her thoughts, her motions, as though they belonged to someone else entirely. Was she less? Was she more? Honestly, she could not tell. Humanity steadily ebbed from her, replaced by a brand new framework of mind and matter.
Askil and Myrie were lying on the ground next to her, unconscious.
You went straight into the shadow without hesitation. Well done. There it was again, that voice.
She brushed it off and instead sprinted towards the duo. “Wake up!” was all she managed to mumble, to no avail.
She whirled her hands in panic, horrified but to her relief, both Askil and Myrie opened their eyes simultaneously. Myrie was the first to speak:
“Get away from me, freak.” She continued:
“I told you, we should have left her.” An annoyance or even outright loathing could be heard in her tone.
“Yeah? You think I enjoy having to constantly look after my half witted sister?” Askil was already dragging Daliah by force but she resisted with all her will, gazing with longing at the mysterious object.
Go back in. Every choice has led you to this moment.
And so she did.
Daliah’s fate will be revealed in Alterborn. In the next chapter of the story you’ll be able to learn more about a brand new character from the actual game.