Sand shifted as a hot wind blew.
Rusted weapons stood forlorn and forgotten, dully reflecting twin suns above. A tattered cloth caught the edge of a breeze and began to slowly beat a quiet rhythm.
In the midst of these relics of war from a bygone age, a figure abruptly appeared. Body trembling, knees in the sand, the man took his first wretched gasp of air. Ragged clothes and a tattered cloak covered him from the beating heat, and bronze-tinted glasses gave his eyes some relief from the surrounding glare.
Catching his breath, his head gradually raised.
The word dropped from his lips surprised him, for he did not recognize the voice. But should he? Stumbling to his feet, the man began to turn swiftly, taking in the endless hills of sand and the ancient weapons strewn beyond the horizon.
“Where am I?”
Again he noticed the odd cast to his words, the taste of them unusual against his tongue.
“Who am I?”
As if in response, a dull thrum filled his head, the beat heavy and alien. Crying out in pain, he grasped his head in both hands and shook it viciously. Several minutes passed, the booming echo within his skull eventually fading to a quiet throb. At that moment, a feminine voice began to speak.
“Greetings Traveler. You have arrived safely and thus your trial will soon begin. Before you may enter The Climb, please state your name. Keep in mind, whatever name you choose will be how you are universally known, and will directly affect your Legend. As always, the larger your Legend spreads, the greater you affect those around you. Choose wisely.”
The man waited a moment, but no further words were spoken and nothing was repeated. Sighing, he turned to the task at hand. After a quick reflection, he realized he could still remember nothing beyond the past few minutes. Whoever he might have been apparently no longer mattered in this barren world.
“So be it,” he spoke into the open air; “Ego sum tabula rasa… and so I shall be called Rasa, for I have no past to speak of and an unknown future to find.”
The world was still for a few seconds after his decision, and he began to worry that he had made a mistake. Then, the female voice returned.
“Name accepted. Welcome, Rasa! Your Legend has begun! To enter The Climb, please choose a weapon. You have no restrictions currently in place, so all weapons are available. Remember, your weapon is a part of your Journey and will directly affect what skills and talents are available to you. Choose wisely!”
“Hmm. Ever deeper do the questions turn.” Rasa’s gaze moved to the land around him.
His choices certainly weren’t limited. Taking his time, he began to walk stiffly across the dune, occasionally drawing an object from the sand and pausing to inspect it. Swords of steel and iron, bows of bone and birch, halberds, axes, daggers, and staves. There were shields of every size and make; and numerous boxes and books that seemed to emanate with an unusual glow.
Continuing to stumble upwards through the deep sand, Rasa cursed his seeming weakness. His entire body felt as if he had been beaten without pause, and his muscles trembled with even this small amount of exertion. Cresting the dune his feet finally gave out, and he fell to his hands and knees gasping for breath. Rolling over, he lay still for a minute; his gaze tracing the slow-moving clouds above.
His eyes noticed the flight of a lone hawk, the slow glide memorizing as the bird fought against the wind.
“This shouldn’t be. I have no memories, but… I know somehow, I should not be this weak.” His voice barely a murmur, he continued to track the path the hawk flew as it finally caught a draft and rose to face the distant mountains. Mountains?
Sitting up, Rasa stared in awe as he realized the clouds had been cleverly obscuring the horizon. Before him, towering into the atmosphere of the very world itself, stretched an inescapable leviathan of rock and earth. Its valleys and crags became vast sierras unto themselves, its mass reaching across the world and filling his vision even as its peaks disappeared into the distant sky.
“Ah. At least “The Climb” makes slightly more sense now.” The scope of his journey for a moment sought to overwhelm him, the sheer power of the land itself dragging him down. Then gritting his teeth, he ruthlessly shoved the feeling away.
“Every journey must start somewhere. Very well, to the task at hand then.”
Reaching out to the nearest pole, he leveraged it to pull himself fully upright. Standing tall, regardless of his weary body, he faced the towering mountain. As he began to step forward, he stopped, staring now at the staff in his hand. Or at least what he had assumed was a staff. He continued to pull it free, releasing the bladed end of a now recognizable spear. Turning it, he could see that the metal of the double-edged spearhead was a glistening violet hue, catching and reflecting the sun’s golden rays. The pommel was made of the same metal, fashioned into a short point. Examining further, Rasa was startled to realize that the wood of the stave appeared to be flowing gently under his hand. The entire spear, from tip to pommel, measured almost eight feet in length.
For a still moment, as he contemplated the weapon in his hand, he could hear the softest hum… as if the spear was whispering a tune only he could hear.
“This one. This is my weapon.”
Quiet once again reigned, broken only by the now familiar voice.
“Weapon accepted. Weapon name is unknown. Weapon origin is unknown. Weapon potential is unknown. The Weapon has no prior history in The Climb and therefore will have no starting bonuses. Due to current wielder having no weapon restrictions, the Bond will begin immediately. Please choose a Name to initiate the Bond.”
Rasa chuckled. “No name? We can’t have that. Let us see, what feels right for such a beautiful work of art?” Again he felt that comforting hum, only this time it seemed to be in appreciation of his words. “Ah. Not impartial to a bit of flattery are we? No matter, it seems you’ve already chosen for me. I do believe you are… Whisper?”
The hum increased to a high rumble, the wood spiraling in odd formations and spinning in rapid circles. “Whisper it is then!”
“Weapon Name accepted. Bond commencing.”
A flood of strength poured into Rasa’s aching muscles, every part of him feeling instantly rejuvenated. Stretching in the sudden joy of health, he laughed in astonishment.
“Yes! YES! That is more like I remember!”
He gave Whisper a twirl, smiling as it seemed to sing in the air around him. Slowly he started to spin, the tattered rags of his cloak picking up the breeze as he moved faster and faster. A spin turned into a lunge, then a riposte, back into a crouch, and forward into a flip that landed with Whisper snapped back into the ready position.
A sly grin spread across Rasa’s face. Here was at least one answer to his questions. Once more, the female voice rang out around him.
“Bond complete. Congratulations Rasa! You are now ready to begin The Climb. Attributes unlocked. Skills unlocked. Your Journey awaits! Good luck!”