This story was written in approximately 2004 for a MUD text-based video game I used to play. I wrote it for a contest in the game, and it ended up winning two. Everything described within belongs to Iron Realms and is tied to the game Lusternia.
Tainted Astral Transverse
"Are you ready yet?"
"Almost, hang on a second..."
"Well hurry up, I don't have all day."
This behaviour wasn't unusual for Visaeris. In fact, it was this very behaviour that caused his lack of popularity and friendships among the citizens of Magnagora. Most people would have agreed he was nothing more than an arrogant prick.
Rexali lifted his head slightly. It was apparent he was involved in some important aether conversation. With a slight grunt of frustration and impatience, Visaeris slumped. Rexali noticed this, but ignored it. As far as he was concerned, Visaeris could wait as long as he had to. Certain matters couldn't wait until after their trip. They had planned this for the past few months, and finally they both had the time to actually take action. The Megalith of Doom was gaining power, and had much more than the Pool of Stars of Celest, but it wasn't gaining more nearly fast enough for everyone's satisfaction. The two planned to explore a Plane the majority of the Basin had never set eyes on before, the Astral Plane. They had gained a new ability from Veritus, the Nihilist tutor, that apparently allowed them to draw power from things on the Astral Plane called wild nodes. They were eager to find out how this worked, and teach others how to use it to gain even more power for their precious nexus, and hopefully at an even faster rate.
They hadn't looked at any notes written by Astral's previous visitors, but they were obviously expecting possible dangers, especially since this was the very Plane in which Kethuru was imprisoned and eventually broke free. Caution was extremely important to practice while up there, but they felt prepared.
"Alright, ready." Rexali's eyes snapped back into focus and Visaeris straightened, a hint of excitement tinting his features.
"About time, let's get going." The two headed out of the Nihilist Guild Hall and through the Necropolis until they reached the centre. As they walked in, the Megalith of Doom suddenly spewed forth a heavy cloud of sooty black, apparent that someone had just added to its hoarded power. The pair paused briefly, then placed their hands on the rough edges of the Megalith. Their forms faded away as the nexus suddenly glowed with a brilliant light. They reappeared in a completely different place, one that would bring disgust and hatred to the hearts of those with 'purity'. Nil of the Cosmic Plane. Again they paused, regaining their equilibrium and recollecting themselves. The familiar sounds of scurrying imps and foul popping bubbles echoed all around them in the otherwise dank silence as the smells of death and decay drifted sickly to their noses. Visaeris suddenly turned and pressed his hands to the Megalith once more, but stopped as Rexali turned as well and held up a hand.
"Wait... we should put up our defences first."
Visaeris stifled a sneer, and turned back around. "I knew that, I was going to up there."
"It might be better if we do it here, we don't know what could be waiting up there," Rexali raised an eyebrow at his companion slightly, almost in skeptical curiosity at his hasty mood. Visaeris shot a dirty glance in Rexali's direction, then proceeded to call his defences in silence. Rexali merely gave his head a small shake, and began his own defences. He let out a small sigh, bracing himself for the pain he was about to undergo again. With all the times he had used these defences in the past, it was still almost unbearably painful to call them. He bowed his head and closed his eyes, mouthing a short prayer, then let out a throaty grunt as two monstrous black wings tore from the flesh on his back. Almost immediately afterwards, shoving the pain from his mind, he focused on his next defence and fell to the ground in agony as gleaming black scales ripped from his skin all over his body, creating a pattern of demonic armor. Panting slightly, he lifted himself from the ground and focused on the next, which thankfully wasn't as painful. The scales which had shot from his flesh appeared to glow slightly as another layer of scales faded into view, these more reptilian and translucent.
As Rexali stood catching his breath, Visaeris fish-eyed him. "These are enough, let's go." Without another word, he turned and practically slammed his hands to the Megalith, then faded into the bright light. Rexali allowed another sigh to escape his throat, then placed his own hands to the Megalith and disappeared himself.
Rexali stepped out into an alien world he could hardly believe he was seeing. He stood within an enormous pan filled with blackened steel filings. Kicking some aside, he took a few steps forward, gazing around at his new surroundings. Suddenly, he snapped his head to the side as a loud sound of messy clanking came from the west exit. A creature he'd never dreamed could exist came into view. A large steel goat with a bluish colour to it, staring ahead with a stupid yet menacing expression. It held a short steel bar within its mouth, chewing disgustingly on it with horridly sharp teeth, a small trickle of blackish goo trailing down its chin. With a blink, Rexali backed away slowly, wondering whether or not this thing was aggressive. Almost as if on cue, the creature's eyes fell on him, and before he could think twice, the goat charged at him, letting out a loud metallic bleat. "Fly you idiot!" Barely registering the yell and widening his eyes a bit, Rexali spread his wings and bolted into the sky.
"Sheesh... I hope I don't have to save your ass every five seconds up here," Visaeris threw Rexali a small sneer.
Rexali glanced over at Visaeris, ignoring his attitude, "What... are those things?"
"Apparently they're metal goats."
Rexali opened his mouth to reply, but closed it again and simply returned his eyes to the ground. The goat now simply stood in the pan, stupidly chewing on its steel bar. "Well let's go, we don't have time to just sit here." Visaeris turned and glided to the west, and Rexali followed closely behind. At each area they came to, they paused and glanced down, looking for anything that looked like a possible power source. This Plane was certainly odd, the entirety of it was steel of a blue tint, and was composed of mainly a construction of gigantic bars that floated over what looked like pure nothingness. The air was cold and seemed lighter than usual, and there were continuous sparks of odd lights in the distance all around. They spotted no other creatures but more goats of the same shape and behaviour as Rexali encountered at the Megalith. This Plane would certainly get a lot more visitors in the future, those wanting to slay the creatures, and those wanting to study the structure. Rexali became more sure of this at every area they glanced down at.
"Here," Visaeris motioned toward the ground with a hand, "There's a node down there." Without waiting for a reply, he narrowed his wings and fell to the ground.
"Guess there are no goats..." Rexali muttered to himself, and repeated the action. He landed in a neat crouch and stood, folding his wings behind him. The two now stood on what appeared to be a cross of two gargantuan steel beams. Nothing but black was visible all around, except the bars that stretched out until fading from view. Rexali turned slowly, then stopped dead as his eyes fell on a huge cluster of whitish-clear crystals, some of the larger ones glowing with a low inner light. His eyes widened slightly as he turned his gaze up and down this odd, yet somehow beautiful thing. Visaeris was already walking toward it, obviously convinced this was the node they had to find. Composing himself quickly, Rexali walked after him, and stopped a short distance from the node. The two exchanged glances, and Visaeris stepped forward and placed his hands lightly to two of the crystals. Rexali layed his own hands to the crystals and closed his eyes. The air around the two darkened and a low buzzing sound emanated around them. There was a momentary pause, then bright tendrils of light emerged from the cluster of crystals and wrapped around Rexali and Visaeris' bodies.
The two's eyes glowed with a white intensity before fading back to normal as the tendrils died from view. A sudden clanking sound abruptly interrupted them and they snapped around to see a goat standing directly behind them. Before either of them could react, the beast latched onto Rexali's arm, burying its cold metallic teeth deep into his flesh. Rexali let out a low cry, barely noticing Visaeris leap away into the sky. Visaeris' harsh voice entered his head in a tell command to fly again, and Rexali spread his wings, lifting quickly into the air.
"How bad?" Visaeris looked at Rexali in demanding curiosity.
"Not that bad," Rexali replied, then chanted in a low voice, causing his body to become briefly translucent, then fade back to normal, the wound on his arm healing and recovering lost flesh and blood.
"You don't look that badly injured. I bet we could take them."
"Aye, but not every Nihilist is as strong as we are yet. Some would probably die in two or three hits."
"Well we figured out how to link. That's all we had to do up here. I don't know about you, but I have other things to do. I'm out." With that, Visaeris turned and flew off to the northwest. Rexali turned his gaze back toward the ground, raising an eyebrow slightly. The goat below simply wandered about in an unintelligent manner, the loud clanking of its movements disappearing into the depths of the blackness surrounding everywhere. He turned and followed after Visaeris.
Once back at the aera at the pan with the Megalith, he glanced down and saw Visaeris, and no goats. He lowered his wings and dropped to the ground, landing in a crouch and lifting himself back up. Visaeris beckoned to him, and Rexali followed wordlessly. The Megalith erupted in bright light as the pair stepped through, once again on the Prime Material Plane. An ur'Guard novice looked up in curiosity as Ardrak bowed, marking the end of a lesson. Visaeris nodded once to Rexali, lost him, and headed off to the east without another word. Rexali passed a glance at the novice, who looked back with a curious yet cautious expression, then headed off toward the newsroom.