Character Short: Warlord Kroz is the second Character Short produced for Tech 10: Rebooted.
Why were either of them particularly appealing anyway?
Kroz stared out over the harsh sands of Tavastrin. It was a desert planet of red sands and harsh winds that could make even the most steely-nerved Tetramand give in to the howling brutality of nature.
But the Emotispecters were different.
An ancient species born to another world entirely, the Emotispecters were known throughout the galaxy as some of the most fearsome engineers in existence, having a knack for creating war machines capable of destroying entire fleets single-handedly.
Emphasis on "were".
Some thousands of years ago, the Emotispecter's fighting prowess backfired on them. There was a great civil war, destroying almost the entirety of Specterian civilization. Even the greatest warship they had ever built, the Harbinger, was destroyed in this war, proving that even their greatest creations were ultimately fleeting.
The survivors of the war had hid themselves on the planet of Tavastrin, a world so harsh that only fools and the truly desperate would ever set foot there. The surviving Specterians were of the latter category.
Set upon by Tavastrin's grueling environments, the Specterians quickly regressed to a more feral form, becoming more animalistic to survive in their new home. An entire breed of powerful Emotispecters, the Leader Class, seemed to die out entirely. Much like the glass pillars dotting the planet's desert, the Specterians, too, were molded by Tavastrin's deadly heat and raging windstorms. They became a savage race, doing all they could to scrape out a meager living. Century upon century passed by them, and it seemed as if the once-great species would never recover from their fall.
It was then that a miracle happened.
In a small, isolated Specterian village, a runt was born. It wasn't obvious that he was a runt at first, but as his siblings grew and grew, his own growth progressed at a much slower pace, seemingly making it clear that he would never reach the physical prowess of his kin. As times were exceedingly rough and meals were few and far between, there was only one course of action to be taken for runts that would end up being more trouble than they were worth: killing them and eating what little meat there was on them.
Most runts would accept their fate at this point and allow themselves to be killed; those who did fight back would swiftly be overrun and killed anyways. This runt, on the other hand, did something different. He did something that no Emotispecter had done in thousands of years; something their proud nature would never allow.
This runt ran.
He ran as far and as fast as he could, escaping his grisly fate intact, but ultimately alone. For weeks he wandered the harsh deserts, barely living through every scorching day and each freezing night. After untold weeks of wandering, he was unable to continue moving forward, collapsing onto the sand despite his best efforts. Just when he had begun to accept his fate, however, something found him.
Something completely unexpected.
When the runt woke up, he found himself in what seemed to be an underground village of sorts. The architecture of the village was incredible, far surpassing anything he had ever seen on the surface.
It was then that he was approached by an elderly Emotispecter who wore an odd purple cloak with strange golden patterns lining the edges. The elder revealed to the runt that he had found him lying in the sand near the entrance to their village and brought him indoors to save his life.
This was the first time the runt had ever experienced the phenomenon known as "kindness".
The elder showed the runt around the village, explaining that he and his kin had lived here for centuries, keeping themselves hidden away from the more savage Specterians that lived on the surface. They had kept the ancient ways of the Specterian race alive as best they could, using their impressive engineering to create a fully self-sustaining village capable of keeping its inhabitants living in comfort and serenity.
The elder brought him to a council of elders that wore similar cloaks, where he told them of his escape and survival in the harsh desert. After much deliberation between themselves, the council finally came to a conclusion about the runt:
He was a new Leader Class.
The runt didn't know what this term meant, but the hushed tones with which the elders discussed it indicated to him that it was of some importance. They explained to him that the Leader Class Emotispecters were a race of Specterians with incredible strength and intelligence, making them juggernauts among their species. Unfortunately, all Leader Class Emotispecters had been hunted down and killed in the war, and due to their relatively slow growth, new Leader Classes were usually mistaken for runts and killed. The runt had been the only one in thousands of years to escape the curse of his blood.
Realizing the uniqueness of his situation, the newly-realized Leader Class asked if there was any way to bring the Specterians back to their former civilized glory. Surprised by the somewhat optimistic question, the elders discussed what should be done, eventually coming to the conclusion that he had the potential to become a great leader among the Specterians, but was ultimately inexperienced and currently rather weak. They agreed to train him in the ways of the ancients, teaching him incredible secrets about machinery and the body.
The Leader Class learned quickly, mastering advanced techniques such as shutting down nervous systems and subtly manipulating an opponent's movements without alerting them to it in mere months. After a few years of this, there was but one technique left to learn; something that no Emotispecter had ever truly mastered.
The technique of evolution.
It was said that those who could master this technique would be able to evolve their own bodies to incredible heights, becoming practically unstoppable. However, mastery of this technique required that the user in question be pushed to their absolute limit, and at the level of power one had to be to learn the technique in the first place, fights would usually either end in a swift victory or a decidedly lethal loss, with very little room in-between.
The Leader Class decided that in order to advance his abilities, he would search the entire universe for a worthy opponent if he had to. Eventually, he left the village, deciding that he was ready to rejoin the Specterians on the surface. He thanked the elders for all they had taught him, and began his quest to return glory to his people.
Though initially being unaware of where exactly to start, the Leader Class eventually found his way back to the surface civilization, finding that the Specterian's military force had grown significantly since he had been gone. He decided to join the military, swiftly climbing his way through the ranks. Some Specterians became jealous of his prowess, not knowing of the years of work that had lead to his seemingly easily-gained success. There were a few coups set up against him, but he was able to evade and outfight all those who challenged him.
He eventually reached the point where he became the right-hand man to the ruler of the Specterian civilization, the Kroz himself. The title of Kroz had been passed down for several generations among only the strongest of Emotispecters. Those who wished to be Kroz had to prove themselves by defeating the current Kroz in trial by combat, and the current Kroz, Kroz the Fourth, had reigned for decades, easily crushing every opponent that had risen up against him.
For a while, the Leader Class was content with his position as right-hand man. However, the current Kroz reigned with an iron fist, valuing his own personal convictions and desires above the well-being of his people. Eventually, the Leader Class could no longer stand working under an oppressive tyrant such as the Kroz, and challenged him to combat for the position of Kroz.
It was a hard-fought battle on both sides, but the Kroz was cocky, ultimately leaving himself open to an attack from the Leader Class that incapacitated him with a single blow. Defeated and humiliated in front of his subjects, the Kroz had no choice but to transfer his title to the Leader Class that had bested him in combat. Having finally achieved the ultimate position of power among his kin, the Leader Class began reforming the entire system of government, restoring it to something similar to the government used by the ancient Specterians before the war.
The Leader Class eventually decided that the idea of being referred to only by rank was outdated and rather inefficient when speaking with others. As such, he introduced a name-based system, allowing every Emotispecter to choose a name for themselves beyond merely what they were seen as by society. He decided to change the title of his own rank to that of Warlord, deciding that it was more fitting for the position. He still kept the moniker of Kroz, however, changing it to a name for himself, symbolically carrying on the tradition of the Kroz.
Kroz was snapped out of his reflections by one of his assistant tapping him on his shoulder. He turned to find the assistant holding a communicator and gesturing wildly to the device, indicating that the call was rather important.
Kroz took the communicator and thanked the assistant, sending him off so he could speak alone.
"Hello?" He asked, bringing the communicator to his ear. "Who is this?"
Kroz was silent for a few moments as the person on the other end of the line spoke in a rushed, worried voice, reporting something that slowly caused Kroz's expression to darken.
"...I see." He eventually spoke, his face having taken on a rather stern look. "I'll be there as soon as I can."
Kroz pressed a button on the communicator, ending the call. He wasted no time in walking from the balcony he had been standing on back into the main tower housing the current Specterian government's offices. His assistant rushed over to him, relieving him of the communicator.
"Get the rebuilt Harbinger ready. I'll be taking it for a test flight."
"But sir, the Harbinger was just finished." The assistant worriedly reminded him. "Are you sure bringing it on a mission without a proper structural integrity test is wise?"
"Relax. I'm simply going over to the next star system. It shouldn't put much of a strain on the ship."
"The next star system? What exactly is going on?"
Kroz turned to look at his assistant, his expression indicating that the current situation was rather serious.
"I'm going to Zenthin; specifically, the capital city of Lintroth." He explained. "There are some odd things happening there I'd like to take care of sooner rather than later."
"I see, sir. Good luck."
"Thank you." Kroz turned and began walking away. "I simply hope I won't need it."
- Warlord Kroz
- Specterian Elders
- Kroz the Fourth
- Kroz's Assistant.
- This short's ending serves as a lead-in to the Fatal Light two-parter.