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Chapter 8: The Trial Begins





The stage is set for a divine contest. Each god has now chosen a mortal champion: LightDeathMagicDeception, Nature and War, and each has proven their worth.

Now The Grand Arena builds in anticipation as each treacherous trial is ready to be announced. The gods always have some surprises up their sleeves, and this is no exception...

by Kelly Digges

An account by Temnys of Thebia, Chronicler of the Trial

Grand Arena of the Gods

The Grand Arena of the Gods, shining and golden, sprang into existence less than a week ago. It seems like it has always been here.

Within the gleaming confines of the Arena, a spectacle unfolds unlike any in living memory. It is a beautiful day, of course. How can it be otherwise, if all six gods so will it?

Seven columns ring the arena, with an eighth in the very center. Between the seven columns are six entryways—six portals, or windows, or paths, from the hallowed Citadel of the Gods to the Arena.

(This should be impossible, because the Arena is also ringed by the audience. Seated among them, one feels that the benches are behind the columns. But across the Arena the seating is invisible. Between the columns, all that can be seen is swirling mist and glimpses of the unimagined. This is true at every point around the Arena.)

One by one, the Champions enter the Arena, to the roar of the crowd. Where did the crowd come from? Were they here a moment ago? Or were they plucked from their homes, brought here by the gods, to witness this moment? Will they remember it, later? Will I? Or will it seem like some wondrous dream?

Lysander enters first, the Champion of Light. The glare of the sun highlights every one of the gold-filled cracks that mark where he was sundered and reassembled. He radiates calm, dignity, and purpose, and carries a spear infused with holy light. He walks to the central column and turns to the crowd.

To Lysander’s right is Pallas, the Champion of Magic, surrounded by swirling motes of arcane energy. They wear a confident smile and a flowing robe whipped by a wind that comes from nowhere, and they carry their wand casually to the side. Pallas takes their place beside Lysander.

Next is Selena, the Champion of Nature, chin held high with pride. She walks with the deadly grace of a jungle cat. Her bow is stowed on her back and her quiver at her side, and the silvery light that glints off the arrowheads seems to be moonlight, not sunlight.

Valka, Champion of War, strides into the Arena before Selena has quite taken her place.She bears the tattoos of her people, and she carries an axe that glows with a baleful red light. Valka waves to the crowd and smiles the smile of someone who expects to be magnanimous in victory.

After Valka comes Neferu, the Champion of Death. She neither smiles nor frowns, and seems to take no notice of the crowd. She walks toward the central column, one eye glowing green, with an Anubian khopesh at her hip. Very few can see from the stands that here, in the divine sands of the Arena, she leaves two sets of footprints, just slightly offset.

Last into the Arena, between Neferu and Lysander, is Orfeo, Champion of Deception. He hides his face behind a domino mask. A chain, wrapped around one arm, trails behind him and vanishes into purple mist, tethered to something unseen. No one will be able to agree, later, about the details—the color of his hair, the shape of his jaw, the set of his shoulders. Did he slink into the Arena, as though already guilty of something? Or was he smug, insufferable, grinning? Perhaps it depends on where one was sitting.

The champions convene at the central column, meeting one another for the first time. Their words are only for one another—and for me, the Chronicler.

“This should be fun,” says Pallas.

“For some of us, at least,” says Orfeo.

“May the bravest and best of us find victory,” says Lysander.

“Now that, I’ll drink to,” says Valka.

“Let’s just get this over with,” says Neferu.

Selena says nothing, her keen eyes seeming to take in the others along with the rest of the landscape.

After the champions have taken their places, the gods emerge in their footsteps. There is no cheering now. Only a collective gasp, and then a hush. Even those who have seen the gods before have never seen this—all six at once, in a place just a step removed from divinity.

The gods do not enter the Arena, but halt at its edge. It is best not to look too closely at them. Not in this place. Here, where the mortal realm of Eucos is allowed to brush against the Citadel of the Gods, they are just slightly too real.

Thaeriel, God of Light, stands first among equals. His brother Elyrian, God of Magic, stands at his right hand—unremarkable, given their frequent alliance in bringing order and learning to the world. But to Thaeriel’s left stands Ludia, Goddess of Deception, the Lady of Shadows—a lurking presence that Thaeriel does not acknowledge.

“Welcome to the Trial of the Gods,” booms Thaeriel. His voice is thunder, rolling across the Arena to reverberate in every heart. “Six champions. Six trials. To the winners, the glory.”

“Each champion will face a trial created by a different god,” says Elyrian. “No collusion has been tolerated. Champions may ask clarifying questions.”

“Enough!” shouts Auros, God of War, in a voice that shakes the ground. “I will issue my challenge!”

Thaeriel nods.

“Lysander of Parthon!” bellows Auros, and Lysander stands to face him. “Your trial is to retrieve the Golden Pear of Tartessos and bring it here. It is guarded, but that should be no problem for a man of your capabilities. You have fought Tartessians before, after all.”

Fought them and died, he does not say—and if Lysander feels the barb, he does not show it.

“Must I defeat the guardians?” asks Lysander.

“Your task is to retrieve the Pear,” rumbles Auros. “Perhaps you could do so by subterfuge. But I doubt your high-minded Lord of Light would approve.”

“I accept,” says Lysander.

“Neferu of the Red Sands,” says Thaeriel. “You will ascend the First Pillar of Creation and defeat the dragon that lives atop it. You need not kill it, only subdue it.”

Neferu’s eyes narrow.

“Will it come down to face me?” she asks.

“It will not,” says Thaeriel.

“And where is this pillar?”

“At the center of the world,” Thaeriel replies.

“The purported center of the world,” says Pallas quietly, “is deep in the Thanakris Desert, although of course that’s ridiculous. Penthileus the Younger proved that Eucos is round almost a thousand years ago using the shadows of—”

“Pallas,” says Elyrian, so that only Pallas and Neferu can hear him. “Stop helping.”

“As you wish.”

Pallas winks at Neferu, an inscrutable gesture which she ignores.

“I accept,” says Neferu.

Malissus steps forward, and her voice sends a shiver down the spine of every mortal who hears it.

“Pallas,” says Malissus. “You will descend into the Underworld and face champions of my choosing. Defeat them, or remain there forever.”

“Fun,” says Pallas. “And they are, ah, defeatable?”

“Yes,” says Malissus. “Even in death, they may fall.”

“Well, that’s something. No further questions. I accept.”

“Selena of the Arkmonian Guard,” says Elyrian. “You will enter Antemion’s Hall of Mirrors and face that which dwells within.”

“And that is?” asks Selena.

“There is only one enemy within the Hall,” says Elyrian. “Discerning its nature is part of the test. Defeat it and return safely.”

Selena nods.

“I accept.”

Aeona speaks, and her voice carries the chill of winter.

“Orfeo of Ronella,” says Aeona. “A great hydra dwells inside the Arkmonian Wood. Slay it, or perish. The other inhabitants of the Wood will not hinder you, but you must fight alone.”

“Refreshingly straightforward,” says Orfeo. “I accept.”

Ludia flutters her fan and steps forward, letting the shadows around her drop away ever so slightly.

“Valka, Grand Chief of the Valknir,” she says, lending that last a word a mocking lilt. “You will enter the Cave of Lethenon and face the shadow within. Kill it, skin it, and return with its tenebrous hide.”

“Uh, okay,” says Valka. She hefts her axe. “Pretty sure this can cut through anything. I’m in.”

“You accept the challenge?” says Ludia.

Valka rolls her eyes.

“I accept,” she says, with mock seriousness.

“The trials have been issued,” says Thaeriel. “Complete them and return here within one turning of the moon. You may accept aid from the faithful on your journey. For the trials themselves, you will act alone, or forfeit.”

He has not spoken of rewards for those who complete their trials, nor said whether a single winner will be named. He has left many things unsaid, in the burnished light of the Arena.

Beside him, Elyrian and Ludia keep their secrets. Across the Arena, the other three gods stand together in barely concealed animosity.

Thaeriel spreads his arms wide.

“Let the Trial of the Gods begin!”

Hello fellow mortals... it’s Andrea Davis, Lead Game Designer, checking in.

This chapter brings the Trial of the Gods preview story to a close. We’ve met six champions, and have been reintroduced to six gods. Now we set them loose to conquer trials, both literal and ethereal, in a divine contest.

Who will succeed, and who will fail? Who will ultimately be declared the winner of the Trials, and what will that mean for the six domains and the gods that rule them? Those are stories for the future.

I wanted to take a moment to give one final note of thanks to Kelly Digges, whose work in our game’s creative redevelopment has been outstanding. It was a real joy creating these characters together, and seeing him breathe life into the world of Eucos has been a real treat.

We hope you enjoyed these chapters of the story, and hope you will join us in creating the next one. Trial of the Gods goes on sale soon, and the fate of these champions will be in your hands!

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