Seven Knights

The Mechanism was broken. In the final battle on the high plateau, the seven surviving knights of Order of Illuminators overtook the Guard of the Clockwork Gate, rent those gates asunder, and entered into the very inner sanctum of the Mechanism. The clockwork devil did all it could to delay its own end. It bargained, it begged, it threatened, but still the Seven came at it. The Mechanism unleashed its hellish power, opening the great valve that contained its evil to its fullest. The chambers were flooded with the twisted nightmare of a thousand wicked acts, each more heinous and depraved than the last, and each cloying, pinching, gripping at the souls of the Seven. Still they came, and reached the metal monster’s heart, prying the Mechanism apart, until the thing lay in seven pieces upon the chamber floor. Each of the Seven stood, and knowing that the metal of the Mechanism was too strong to be broken by any mortal craft, resolved to scatter the pieces to the corners of the Realms. So each of the Seven was given one of the shards, with the sacred task of ensuring they would never be reunited.

The Shard of Greed was taken to Grothune upon Hirag, to be dropped down the deepest pits of the mines beneath the mountain. Gwen of the Seven was given the task, and she carried the piece up the mountain resolute. Along the way, the broken piece whispered to her, filling her ear with tales of the great ruined cities that dotted the slopes of Hirag, and of the tombs of great kings hidden in its crags. The Shard reminded Gwen of the treasure room upon the high plateau, full to bursting with the plunder of a thousand conquests. Unfathomable riches, all of which might be hers, if only she kept the Shard for herself, and used its power for her own ends. But Gwen did not listen. She passed the ruined cities without investigating. She shunned the deep crags and the rich tombs within. She put the vision of the great treasures she had seen on the high plateau from her mind. When she reached the top of the mountain, she dropped the Shard into the deepest of the pits of Grothune, and left without a second glance.

The Shard of Envy was taken beyond Hirag, to the deserts of Alghast, to be left in the heart of that blasted waste for the sands to claim. Han of the Seven was given the task, and he carried the  piece into the desert resolute. Along the way, the broken piece whispered to him, filling his ear with tales of how the other Seven clearly didn’t trust him, they had sent him on a fool’s quest, to a place where he would surely die. Nothing grew in the blighted wastes of Alghast, and now water flowed between the dunes or beneath the earth. The Shard told of his death out in those shifting sands, whilst the remaining Seven feasted and ruled a kingdom in his absence. If, however, he kept his Shard, returned to the high plateau and made use of its power, he could secure his seat before the others had any clue to his plans. But Han did not listen. He pressed on, into the desert, set to his duty, sustained by a purity of spirit. When, at last, he reached the center of the wastes, he left the Shard wailing in defeat as the swirling sands drowned it.

The Shard of Sloth was taken to the fetid marshes of Calania, to be cast into the mire and forgotten. Nadine of the Seven was given the task, and she carried the piece into the bog resolute. Along the way, the broken piece whispered to her, filling her ear with urges to rest, to wait, if only for a minute. For, surely, the marshes of Calania were an awful, wretched place, and there should be no rush to be rid of the Shard. Afterall, what harm could it do to delay, the Mechanism was defeated, the Seven victorious, surely such a task could be finished on the morrow. Why even finish at all, when simply tossing the Shard on the rubbish heap would do just as well, or even just keeping it. But Nadine did not listen. She pressed hard onward each day. By horse, by foot, by flat-bottomed boat when neither she finally reached the deep marshes where the ground was equal parts earth and water. Never did she slacken or wane. When she reached the deepest part of the mire, she threw the Shard in, and returned with all haste to the Order.

The Shard of Gluttony was taken to the Eastern capital of Vinsk, to be abandoned in the necropolis beneath that great city. Karlo of the Seven was given the task, and he carried the piece East to the city resolute. Along the way, the broken piece whispered to him, filling his ear with tales of the rich bounty of Vinsk. The people there wanted for nothing, even under the reign of the Mechanism. A thousand pigs were slaughtered daily to feed the great appetite of Vinsk, cooked with spices drawn from every land and so well roasted the meat would fall off the bone at a look. The pigs would be paired with fresh greens, buttered turnips, ripe tomato with cheese and herbs and olive oil. This feast would be washed down with fine wines, beers from far and wide, spicy chartreuse and sweet absinthe; no one would be left thirsty in Vinsk. It could all be his. With the power of the Shard, the whole city could be his, his every appetite sated. But Karlo did not listen. He ignored the temptations of the city and ventured down into the necropolis. Through the twisting passages, over mountains of bones, until he reached the lowest, darkest of the crypts. He left the Shard among the bones in that forsaken chamber without a single regret.

The Shard of Lust was taken deep into the jungles of Verdos, to be placed in the boughs of one of the great trees. Brandon of the Seven was given the task, and he carried the piece through the dense jungle resolute. Along the way, the broken piece whispered to him, filling his ear with promises of flesh, with the heart of the one he loved. For Brandon loved Han of the Seven, but Han did not feel the same. The Shard promised much and more. Promised to stoke a fire in the heart of Brandon’s love, and to make him desire Brandon as Brandon did him. The Shard spoke of even more pleasures, any man or woman in the world, from the high plateau, to beyond the desert og Alghast would look upon the knight Brandon with eyes of love and adoration. But Brandon did not listen. He steadfastly continued on his way, cutting through the jungle. He crossed rivers and thickets of briars, sleeping alone on the cold earth, and never did he sway. Never did he allow his desire to eclipse the oath he had made. When he reached the tallest of the great trees of the jungle, he climbed to the very top, and hid the Shard among the boughs, never looking back.

The Shard of Wrath was taken to the cliffs of Dunan on the shores of the Plegian Sea, to be sealed within an iron box and dropped into the water below. Eldez of the Seven was given the task, and she carried the piece South to the high cliffs resolute. Along the way, the broken piece whispered to her, filling her ear with nigh-incoherent fury. It spoke of battles yet to fight, of injustices not yet righted, of offenses she had suffered in years past. It spoke of victory, of justice, but most frequently, it spoke of vengeance. Against those who had sided with the Mechanism, those who had stood against the Order, those who had killed her brothers and sisters in arms. Vengeance that could be hers through the power of the Shard. But Eldez did not listen. She passed the villages and cities that had fought for the Mechanism, and she raised a hand against none of them. Those who came forward, and confessed their part in the horrors of the Mechanism, she did not harm, but instead she embraced them with forgiveness. And when she arrived at the cliffs of Dunan, overlooking the Plegian, she sealed the Shard in its iron coffin, and without hesitation she heaved it over, into the dark blue abyss.

The Shard of Pride was taken to the deepest vault of the Mechanism’s palace on the high plateau, to be locked away for all of time. Kevan of the Seven was given the task, and he carried the piece down the winding steps, into the labyrinth of vaults beneath the Mechanism’s palace, resolute. Along the way, the Shard whispered to him, filling his ear with praise. Complimenting him on his wonderful leadership, his prowess in battle. Surely it was no surprise that the Seven had triumphed over the Mechanism. And it had been Kevan’s plan to scatter the Shards had it not? A stroke of brilliance. Clearly he was destined to lead the Seven. They would need a leader now, since it fell to them to govern the land, the must themselves be governed. Who better than Kevan? The Shard told him of its great power, but did not ask Kevan to wield it. Afterall, what could the Shard give him that he did not already have. Using the Shard would merely be a boost, a focus, but surely he did not need one to claim his place as the leader of the Seven. Assuming of course, that none of the others succumbed to their Shards, the Shard of Pride reminded him. All it would take was one to fail in their duty. One who would keep the Shard entrusted to them with good intentions, but whose will was not strong enough to resist it, and eventually would let it corrupt them. The Shard warned Kevan, that there must be a measure to stop such a disaster from happening, perhaps a single, lesser Shard kept hidden, but near at hand, and not locked away, to counter the Shard of any potential traitors. Alas, who could be trusted to keep a Shard and be strong enough to resist its influence? Surely that would take a knight of unparalleled virtue to bear that burden, to make that sacrifice for the good of the others. Kevan reached the deepest vault, where he was to lock away the piece of the Mechanism entrusted to him. But he did not. He kept it.

And so the reign of the Seven began.

With treachery and failure.

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