K'nil's Story (Game Prologue)
"It is getting darker down here. The face of Stranos gazes at me with an ever growing distance. The eye of the great planet appears to be staring down on my modest isle in sadness and disapproval. I do not know the cause of this change, but the beasts confirm the suspicion my heart whispers to me. They are making unusually strange calls this morning. I will tend to them soon.
I have been in Adyti well over two decades now. The remnants of the Neverending Waterfall flow through my courtyard as the rush of the water puts me at ease. When I bathe in the cool stream, I can hear the echo of the Numinus, a constant reminder of Gatti heritage. While this sanctuary provides me with echoes of my lineage, the isolation is maddening at times. I long to reveal myself to all of Orbis and once again teach them the forgotten ways... but I fear I could never live under the poisoned rule of Numinek. Yet with each day I wait the nights seem to grow a little darker and days a little shorter.
The time is not yet right. They believe me dead, and most would not be pleased with a resurrection from an ancestor of the Four. Those days have been forgotten.
Still, the face of Stranos is troubling me. For 275 years, it has provided the floating islands of Orbis with a habitable atmosphere, its immense eye lighting the skies of the isles. I have slept and risen to its greeting for 224 of those years, and never have I felt something so amiss... a shift in alignment.
The darkness is unsettling. I will meditate on this but I fear it may soon be time for action."
With a weight of almost double his own on his slender back, K'nil Novus began to tremble. The muscles in his calves were already quaking, but now sharp spasms darted up the small of his back towards his shoulders.
"He's not gonna do it," K'nil whispered to himself, jaws clenching as he mimicked a would-be detractor as motivation. K'nil closed his eyes tight, attempting to dismiss the pain that would not subside. The Gatti youth began to lower to one knee.
"Ten, nine, eight..."
He knew if his knee even grazed the mud, then the past five minutes would have been for naught. He snapped his knee straightforward so it couldn't fall another inch, which caused his leg to feel as if it may permanently lock in place.
"Five, four, three.."
The golden-haired Gatti began to feel the pain subside as he knew he would best his own time by holding three barrels of chopwick longer than any young hunter on Orbis. K'nil's hunched silhouette prepared to bask in success.
Until his sister came.
"K'nil Novus! Get over here NOW!"
As if on cue, the barrels tilted off of K'nil's shoulders before he could scream 'time!'. Cierra Novus once again intruded on her brother at the most inopportune moment.
K'nil flopped on his back as the barrels fell chaotically to the ground, chopwick spilling all around him. He was too tired to angrily respond to his older sibling, instead trying to catch his breath.
"Do you think I'm a fool?" Cierra chided as she hovered over his exhausted body. K'nil just continued to focus on breathing normally. The feeling in his thighs began to materialize, like magic pins sticking in and out at a rapid rate.
"One request was all I had, K'nil," she stated more calmly, noticing her brother was in no shape to debate. She extended her slender paw as if to help him up, but he just shook his head to signal he was perfectly content recuperating in the long grass. Cierra sighed and kneeled down to gather the chopwick.
"Why do you do this to yourself?" she asked as she stuffed the leafy substance into the closest barrel.
"Two more seconds, Cierra... All I needed was two more seconds."
K'nil finally managed to speak as his breathing relaxed to a more stable pattern.
"I don't care how many seconds you needed to play your stupid game," she quickly retorted, a hint of animosity returning to her voice. If he was able to now talk, she would gladly scold him. "You were supposed to be back at the village a half-pace ago!"
K'nil tilted his head up as he looked upside down behind him at Stranos, the massive gas planet ever in Orbis' skyline. The monstrous world was reading a later time than he realized.
"My stupid game," he responded very slowly and deliberately, attempting to ignore the fact that he was late again. "I wish this was a stupid game. It's hard work, Cierra. Harder than running Numinek's errand-boy chores."
"Errand-boy chores?! Numinek saved us, K'nil! Our people owe him any chore he asks of us. If it weren't for these chores, as you so eloquently put it, we would have no food to eat, no supplies for farming, and live in fear constantly. Do you want to live like that? Do you want to live like those before us had to live? ...Down there?"
"Ok, forget it."
K'nil lifted his head and sat up. His legs and shoulders were still tight, but he wanted to get out of this conversation that was quickly becoming uncomfortable. Being lectured by Cierra was one thing that K'nil learned to live with, but speaking of Gatti life before the Second Miracle was a topic he preferred to avoid. K'nil slowly raised himself from the grassweeds. His horns and body fur were damp from the twilight dew. Despite being a Gatti in adolescence, Knil's structure reflected a more developed body than others at his ripe age of twenty-four. With the average Gatti living well into their third century, he was still a very green lad.
K'nil was part of a proud race; a race that literally rose and fell from grace, and was now trying to find their way back to glory. K'nil was a Gatti, a tribe that had evolved as the axis of Orbis rotated throughout the eons. Physically, the Gatti evolved very little. They always sprouted their great horns, fully developed by their half-century birthday. They were quite agile since the Days of the Numinus (their gods), leaping and running with the agility of a jaguar, but upright like a man. And their spectacular strength was ever in their genes, possessing aggressive bull-like instincts and skills.
The reality was that the Gatti had evolved in status, for better or for worse. The Gatti had improved upon their ability to hunt, store, and build. Through clever farming methods, agricultural advances, and harvesting other natural resources, the Gatti became self-sustainable, living longer and gaining more knowledge. The thought that they were thriving at the expense of other races was generally ignored.
K'nil always wondered what some of the elders referred to when they spoke of fantastical stories such as the Days of the Numinus and the Four Altars. Talk of a living Shepherd-Warrior, who knew of these ancient ways, were whispered throughout K'nil's life, but most ultimately dismissed the rumors as a strange old Gatti that may no longer even live.
"Are you ready to get up?"
As Cierra attempted to rouse K'nil, she finished gathering up the salvageable chopwick. Despite her frustration with his indifference towards Numinek and their village of Partia, she always stood up for her younger brother. She was born with an instinct to nurture and teach. Cierra remembered praying every night to the wind spirits in hopes of a baby brother. Despite K'nil's rebellious nature towards his Partian duties, he always respected and listened to Cierra's life lessons. Both felt grateful for having each other after their parents passed on.
K'nil took two of the three barrels from Cierra and lofted one on each shoulder as she dragged the third. A hint of soreness pierced his muscles, but he carried on. He knew he would soon be back out in the grasslands, mustering the courage to walk over the Cloud Bluff... this time a bit further from his sister's watchful eye.