Though the mantid society was built on the swarm and hard for me to understand, I saw that there was truth in what the Klaxxi did. They worked tirelessly to find other Paragons and get the message to free mantid to come to Klaxxi’vess. The next morning, they had heard of another Paragon – but the nearest crystal, in Amberglow Hollow, was not functional, and would need repairs before they could hear his location. And he was weakening fast.
I made my way across the March to Kypari Ik, a sha-corrupted tree, and found an open chamber at its southern base – the Amberglow Hollow. I fought my way in, past the winged mantid soldiers sent by Shek’zeer, and into the main room, where an Adjunct awaited. I slew him (he was all talk) and ran over to activate the singing beacon. The voices of the Klaxxi’va stretched out, and soon they would know where to go.
I made my way onto the Stinging Trail, where I had been assigned to save the young kypari trees from the Empress’ harvesters and reclaim the amber for Klaxxi use. The young kypari trees would die if harvested too soon and too fast, so I killed as many harvesters as I could and removed all the collectors, taking with me the amber already collected.
By the time I returned to the Hollow Klaxxi agents awaited.
‘The Klaxxi’va have found the Paragon. He is hidden in the Briny Murk – but not so hidden anymore. The lizard-men surround him. He cannot fall into their scaly hands! Find and awaken him and then the Klaxxi will be pleased.’
The saurok patrolled the Briny Murk, counting their latest riches, and great amber giants stomped around, squashing them but not really paying attention. The tuning fork led me to a rockfall, which it dispersed, and beneath was Kaz’tik the Manipulator.
‘What… where am I? What manner of creature are you? How did you awaken me?’ I quickly explained the situation we were in.
‘Before I explain myself, I need to know you are trustworthy. I must retrieve my weapon and you must defend me while I do so, for I cannot. Then you will earn my trust.’
As Kaz’tik led me around the Murk, he explained that he was a Paragon not chosen for his physical skills. He was able to communicate directly with me via thought, and demonstrated the skills of a priest in battle. Soon, we found where his ‘weapon’ was buried and he broke the ground open to reveal… a miniature colossus.
I know that sounds like an oxymoron. It looked like it too.
‘Kovok is just as impressive as the last time I saw him. He will ensure great victories for the Klaxxi.’
I was not convinced. The ‘colossus’ barely came up to my waist.
‘Such a beautiful creature, wouldn’t you agree? Do not let his small size deceive you. Even at a young age the Kunchong are lethal. Before my discovery, the Kunchong were used as weapons with little regard for their intelligence. We struggled to control them until it occurred to me that we didn’t fully understand them. By forming a bond with the creatures we no longer needed to exert control forcefully. Instead, a partnership occurred. Kovok was the next step in my experiment.
After years of working with the Kunchong I developed a theory; raising one from infancy would strengthen the bond and therefore strengthen the sonic connection. I had just begun training Kovok when I was chosen for encasement. He is still very young, and will need diligent training to reach his full potential. I’m entrusting Kovok to you, but be warned; if any harm comes to him, your life is forfeit.
First, you must feed him to gain his trust. The turtles nearby should be suitable for this. However, to really connect with Kovok you need to challenge him physically and mentally. You must respect his strength and intelligence; only then will he allow you to fully train him. The murkscale tribe may prove an adequate test of his abilities and with you there he shouldn’t be in danger. Additionally, this will allow us to decrease their numbers in the Briny Murk.
I will return to Klaxxi’vess to meet with the council. Please take good care of Kovok!’ With that, Kaz’tik flew off.
I and Kovok fought through the Murk, and every so often he would leap upon a turtle, devouring it. I was unsure of the small Kunchong’s strength, but he was certainly vicious enough. Sufficiently fed, he buzzed around, eager to kill, and we fought our way into the saurok camps. In the centre of them we could Oracle Hiss’ir, and killed him too (Kovok made a particularly gory show with his head). Curiously, I found a collection of small amber rocks in Hiss’ir’s immediate vicinity – I took as many as I could, intent on asking the Klaxxi why they had them.
With the saurok decimated, we set back off for Klaxxi’vess. It remained under siege by forces of the queen, but was holding out, and now more populated than when I arrived. I reported back to Kaz’tik.
‘Kovok has weathered the years in hibernation well, I see. I had half-expected him to just eat you. Perhaps Kunchong raising is in your blood, Wakener. Kovok’s training is coming along nicely, and he seems fond of you. I have no doubt that you were the best choice to assist in his training, soft-skin though you may be. And- what is that?’ Kaz’tik examined the amber I had brought him.
‘You were wise to bring this to the Klaxxi. This is not part of my amber – but part of another Paragon’s. The damage suggests the saurok may have found one, and he may be in trouble – I will speak to the council immediately.’
While they spoke to the council, I was assigned to clear out saurok from a lake with amber deposits, south of the March. The Lake of Stars was infested with both saurok and crocolisk, dark under the shadows cast by Kypari Zar.
I cleared out as many saurok as I could, but I discovered that they held curious relics and tablets on them, written in what looked like the mantid tongue, but there was only stone on the relics, no amber. I collected a good number, and fought my way into the Mistscale lair.
A curious whispering began, and I took it to be one of the Klaxxi’va – but I was wrong. Coming into the main room of the lair, I saw the Mistscale leader – and an amber construction binding another Paragon.
Fear grips her mind and body. The Empress is no longer fit to rule her empire.
I split into mirror images, engaging the saurok leader and quickly destroying him.
The time of awakening must be near, but they have not yet come for me. Why do the Klaxxi wait?
The whispers came from the amber, and I quickly used the tuning fork to break it open.
‘At… last… My time has come.’
Great emanations flooded the chamber with the chittering voices of the Klaxxi’va.
‘Yes, Klaxxi’va… How long I have waited to hear the Council’s command! I see… Much has transpired since I first entered my long sleep. There is much to do.
But first, Wakener… Help me recover my strength.’ The Paragon, Korven the Prime, turned to me.
‘I must join the other Paragons and the Council immediately, but I am barely strong enough to stand, and must feed. Kill the creatures of the lake, and I shall do the rest. As well as this, liquid amber is usually provided at a Wakening Ceremony – but you were not properly instructed, of course. There is plenty at the bottom of the lake, but you will have to dig it up for me.’
We headed into the lake, and I began killing crocolisks while Korven looked for amber on the bottom of the lake for me to dig up. As he fed, he explained to me his tale.
‘Back when the world was still young, the first kypari trees bloomed. From the trees, the amber flowed and nurtured us. Kyparite, we called it, the blood of the earth. It healed our wounds and made us bold. It tasted like sweetness and fire, and gave us the strength to conquer the lesser races. Many were the threats to our race after the usurpers remade the world. Narrow was the path ahead. It was I who suggested our greatest warriors be cast in amber to sleep, to be awakened at the swarm’s greatest times of need. It was the sleep from which one could not awake. A great risk. A great sacrifice. But necessary. Thus, I was the first Paragon. This is why I am the Prime. And now, the Klaxxi call us to battle. Now, I am awakened. The strength returns to my body.
Thank you, Wakener. This is enough for now.’ We made our way to the shore of the lake.
‘What is that tree on the hill to the west? Can that be… Kypari Zar?’ I confirmed this, and the mantid lapsed into silence.
‘When I returned from my final ravage, before being risen to a paragon, I was given the honour of planting that very tree. I see it has grown into a great kypari… but it seems something is amiss. There is an old sonar tower at its base, Wakener. Take me there and I can see what ails it.’
We hurried up the hill towards the sonar beacon he had spoken of, and Korven raced to it.
‘Yes, it is true! This IS Kypari Zar! But why do I sense no life emanating from within? Why do I sense no amber sap running through its veins? I must examine the tree. Guard me while I perform this task, Wakener!’
Korven began whispering through the sonar tower to the old tree, and I fended him off from waves of encroaching mantid guards.
‘It is done. Kypari Zar… cries out in unbearable pain, so much that it hurts my soul to listen to it. Once, great rivers of amber coursed through this tree’s veins. Now, it is but a dried husk.
Kypari Zar is dying. A creature of terrible darkness corrupts it from beneath its roots. The tree cannot be saved, but at least we can lessen its pain. Look. The vile creature has carved a path to its own lair. We need only follow it down the hill, just behind this tower.’
We headed down a trail of bone and blood to a cave beneath the kypari roots. Within were hundreds of eggs and the crocolisk matriarch, corrupted by sha energy. Sadly, the hatchlings were corrupted too, and we had to wipe out the matriarch and all the eggs – a terrible event for the crocolisk population.
‘Thank you, Wakener. Kypari Zar can now dream in peace. However, the beast was merely a vessel for the corruption – the true corruption lies much deeper. Let us return to Klaxxi’vess and inform the council.’
He flew me back to the Klaxxi, where debate about the sha continued amongst the council, and I rested, preparing for what would come next.