Unveiled: Camelot Unchained Newsletter #28 - City State Entertainment
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Team Tidings

-by Max Porter

Hey folks!

It’s the end of November and the beginning of December, and we’re here to tell you a bit about progress on Camelot Unchained™, what we’ve been working on, and look back at the month. It’s been another good one, with good times and lots of hard work on development. As ever, we have striven to keep you all as updated as possible, between streams on YouTube and Twitch, as well as weekly updates with news, and regular emails about playtests. If you celebrated Thanksgiving, we hope you had a happy one (and by the way, we'll be closed at the end of December, as usual, for holiday celebrations)! November was an eventful month, with lots of interesting things happening.

First off, if you didn’t catch the goodbye stream, Cory left us at the beginning of this month to head to warmer climes and other adventures. He gave me a bit of goodbye text to pass on to you all, so here’s Cory’s goodbye!

I hope for nothing but the best for everyone here, and I’ll still be keeping a close eye on the development of Camelot Unchained (I was a Backer before an employee)! This has been an unforgettable experience, and that’s due in no small part to all of you. Thanks for all of your support, and I’ll be sure to see you in the fields of Camelot!

You got it, Cory! And never fear folks, we’re not just saying goodbyes, but also have some hellos. That’s right, we have some new folks to introduce you to, who have been with us at City State Entertainment™ for a bit and have settled in happily! Since they’ll be jumping in to write some pieces for this month’s newsletter, it seemed like a good opportunity to introduce you to some newer members of the team. 

Let me introduce Brittany Aubert, who will step in to do this month’s State of the Build article, which is below in all its epicness! She joined us at the start of October as a Technical Producer, and has already been helping us out a bunch in Seattle. She’s taken on quite a few tasks that used to rest on Tyler, and more, and she’s super cool! But let me just allow her to introduce herself with this little bio, as it will appear on the studio’s website

Brittany attended DigiPen Institute of Technology with the original plan of becoming a game programmer. After some time spent programming tools for Nintendo DS games, Brittany learned about the Producer role and fell in love with helping teams build great games. Over the years, she has shipped multiple games in the Scribblenauts and Drawn to Life franchises. At CSE, Brittany wrangles the programmers and works closely with the Seattle team. When she's not making games, Brittany spends her time dancing classical ballet, spoiling her two cats, and watching an embarrassing amount of professional wrestling.
Not embarrassing at all, Brittany, I would instead say pretty cool. :) 

In the office, the East Coast office that is, we’ve got someone else to introduce you to! Stepping in this month to do the excellent Tech Central article found below, we have Gabriel Ortega, aka Gabe, who joined us in beautiful downtown Fairfax as a programmer this June! Here’s a little bio about him: 

Gabriel spent a few years working as a software developer before deciding to study game development at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Having graduated after two years of coffee, sweat, and tears, he's excited to be part of the CSE team. Aside from programming, he enjoys gaming and Latin dance.
Awesome! As always, please click on the “View this email in browser” button on the top right to see the full newsletter, and easily read the excellent pieces from these two excellent people, as well as others! Read on for articles, art, news, updates, lore, and other good things, and please enjoy this, the twenty-eighth issue of Unveiled

Hot Topics

The latest topics of discussion on the forums right now are some suggestions inspired by streams, bonuses and territory control, and possibilities for The Depths™.  

Join the discussion on the forums on our website to bring your thoughts and ideas to the discussion table!

Thank You

Hey all, we wanted to take a moment to thank our volunteer translators for their work on the forthcoming updates to the French and German websites. These kindly Backers donate their time and energy to connect our non-English speaking communities to the Community as a whole, and we thank them all so, so much. You folks are doing great work on these sites, and we really appreciate it. Anyone who’d like to join the noble ranks of translators, hop on the forums and talk to Charles or Apollon! 

French site translators: Muff, PimpMyBrain, Kriss, La Pie, and Charles of course!

German site translators and helpers: tanztante, The Pendragon, Tirudan, Saosis, Karinuna, IzzeTee, Heartfyre, infi, and Apollon of course!

Thank you all, and to anyone who helps translate Camelot Unchained into other languages!

Look What You Did

Really, truly, awesome entries for this month’s fan fiction contest on a multi-Realm battlefield. I absolutely loved reading the clever histories, scenes, and descriptions all, and hope that everyone joins in again next time! It was a really tough decision to pick one to show in the newsletter. This month’s winner is Creideamh, with this intriguing piece: 
The earth runs deep and dark beneath the unassuming mound of Barrow Hill. Only ten leagues from old Camelot, it has not slumbered since the three Realms took up arms. Its network of tunnels hosts the remains of generations of leaders, priests, scribes, and other notables, buried alongside their treasured possessions. Though the Piercing shook the world to its core, many of the passageways survived unscathed, allowing explorers to rediscover paths once forgotten.
Protected from countless Veilstorms by miles of unyielding earth, its contents offer a rare window on the past, and for that it is hotly contested. The Arthurians claim they wish to rebuild the tapestry of their heritage, preserving what little history remains in a broken world. The Vikings recount fragments of old sagas detailing the tombs of heroes 'long gone under the hill,' and the magnificent treasures with which they were buried. The Tuatha dé Danann seem obsessed with understanding the secrets of the tunnels themselves, for wander the winding ways enough and you may find burial chambers of worlds not entirely your own. Meanwhile, strange creatures have taken up residence in the safety of its darkness, and are none too welcoming of the intrusion.
Whatever their motivations, scores of immortal warriors return day after day to fight, bleed, and die in the hallowed halls of Barrow Hill while the skulls smile on.
Awesome stuff! For our next contest, let’s get inspired by The Depths™ once more! This issue contains the tenth installment of the Great Depths Raid, 'A Priceless Gift". Pick your favorite Camelot Unchained race, and draw, photograph, or otherwise create some fanart of a character of that race with a touch--just a touch--of influence from The Depths. Go subtle with the transformation, or perhaps it’s just beginning of something more… For inspiration, you might find the story in this issue useful, or perhaps the Silverhands story, along with previous installments of The Great Depths Raid. Post your fanart in the thread you’ll see pop up on the forums, and we’ll pick some to publish in the next newsletter. 

Dose of Design

-by Ben Pielstick

Battle Scalability

One of the main goals of Camelot Unchained is to effectively support larger battles than any MMORPG to date. Achieving this goal is a massive undertaking, both on the technical side and on the design side of the project.

As you may have seen recently, we’ve been ramping up a new round of testing using ‘bots’, which are autonomous players controlled by simple AI. These bots go through all the same steps of logging in and feeding input into the game that real players do. Of course, since they are pre-programmed, they don’t act exactly like real players, but they get close enough for stress testing. Bots are incredibly useful for getting hundreds or thousands of clients connecting to the game server, with entities running around in the world interacting with each other, to show us what our performance looks like. Obviously, a lot of effort has gone into building our custom game engine over the past few years to support the number of players we want all fighting together at once. Right now, things are going very well, but there is still a lot of work to do. We need to maintain a high number of concurrent players in an area as we keep adding more features that will affect the performance of the game.

In terms of the design of the game, MMORPG PvP battles on the scale of more than a hundred players are rarely seen, and battles on the scale of more than a thousand are practically unheard of. One of the first things that comes to a lot of player’s minds when the subject of large scale battles comes up is ‘zerging’. Some players use this term simply to mean battles with a lot of players involved, while others more specifically use it to refer to roaming bands of players stomping all over any opposition purely because of their numbers, without the need for player skill to be taken into account. 

While it is definitely a challenge, we believe we can make battles with a large number of players on each side fun and tactically challenging to be a part of. A lot of consideration for these scenarios has gone into the initial design planning for the basics of our combat system, including things like physics-based projectiles and player-to-player character collision. We’re also making sure more nuanced features, such as stacking rules for buffs and debuffs and group support abilities, don’t add up to be overpowered when a high number of players are all involved in combat and in close proximity to each other.

The harder case to address is asymmetric situations, in which a small number of players is engaged by a far greater number of enemies. If all other things were equal in this case—the terrain, class compositions, player skill levels, and so on favoring neither side—numbers being the only difference would decide the outcome of such a fight. What we need to do, then, is ensure that when all else is not equal, there are ways for smaller groups to find an advantage against larger ones, and can win while outnumbered, so that numbers aren’t the only thing that matter in the game. Although the same mechanics that make large scale battles interesting in general will help here as well, equalizing disparate numbers will require much more care and subtlety. Some features that can help in this regard are things like cross-class synergies and situational counterplay options that provide very strong advantages under the right circumstances. Additionally, there are even some ability features that can specifically cater to being outnumbered, such as damage reflection auras and ability effects that scale in power based on the difference between the number of enemies around compared to the number of allies.

Another difficulty of making big battles fun is ensuring that small battles are still fun at the same time. Although large scale battles are important for us to support, small scale battles will be a far more common part of the day to day experience for most players. This means it is very important for us to ensure that single group versus single group and other small scale encounters are fun and balanced, while remaining consistent with the mechanics necessary for large scale encounters. Not every aspect of combat scales well between large and small battles, however. Some of the concerns we have to pay careful attention to include things like ‘Time To Kill’ metrics taking into account hit points and armor, ‘Area of Effect’ abilities that are meant to be effective against a high concentration of targets, and healing power targeted at keeping a high number of players alive becoming too strong when scaled down to a few players. This will mean additional design work, coming up with some creative ways of addressing these types of issues, if we can’t find a comfortable middle ground that works for both small scale and large scale encounters.

Another aspect to consider is audiovisual feedback. We’re just getting started with our new system of playing sounds, visual effects, and animations for characters, which will cover all the basic things like swinging weapons, shooting arrows, and casting spells, as well as some of our more advanced features in the future, such as A.I.R. interactions. In making sure that combat looks and sounds good, however, we also have to make sure things don’t get overwhelming with hundreds of players all running around and fighting in a small area at once. Often, sounds and visual effects that work fine on their own become overwhelming when a lot more is going on along with them. At the same time, sounds and visual effects that are subtle enough to blend in well with a lot of other things going on don’t always feel very impressive on their own. Not only do battles need to look and sound good from large to small scale, they also need to ‘read’ well. The way that we present audiovisual information needs to convey precisely what is going on to as high a degree as possible, so that players can tell what is going on around them without filling up their screens with an overwhelming number of HUD elements. Again, this is a case that will take some iteration to find a good balance, along with potentially some clever solutions to dynamically scale what we’re presenting and prioritize certain events when things get too busy, in order to make sure the most important events for players are always clearly seen and heard.

So as you can see, we’re well on our way to providing some of the largest battles ever seen in an MMORPG. We’ve still got a lot to do to ensure they’re a lot of fun to be a part of, and as we work to provide the necessary supporting features, we pay close attention to our ongoing testing at every step along the way. This is all done in order to make sure everything remains on track and continues to improve throughout testing. Keep an eye on our updates, where we’ll continue to show more of our progress on combat, from small scale to large scale, as progress continues toward Beta 1 and beyond.

Developer Quote

  “Whoa, is that our game!?” - James Koo, Tyler Rockwell, and other artists walking by monitors showing the latest build with George’s HDR and lighting improvements


-by Scott Trolan

Chalk up another whirlwind month of productivity for the Art Team. Ranging from small individual tasks to group efforts, the team finished this month out strong. Lets run the list!

Collectively, we as a team have added TDD Fall Court armor into the game. Starting with Michelle’s concepts from last month, Jon masterly sculpted and retopologized low-resolution geometry. As always, Dionne adeptly textured the armor using Substance Painter. And lastly, the armor was passed to me to be rigged and assembled within the Unchained Engine. We are quite happy with the results, although we may make some refinements before we continue the process and make the armor available for Tuatha Human females and Luchorpáns.

Here are some images, some of which have appeared in previous updates. Together, they depict the sequence of events in how we arrive to a final in-game art asset.

Modeling and texturing: 
And finally, testing:
Coinciding with this month’s astronomical super moon reveal, Jon and Michelle have worked together to create new Camelot Unchained lore-inspired moons. We will be adding these to our next build to see how well it will replace the previous giant peach (kidding, not kidding, Jon :P).

Here’s Jon modeling the moons:
Here’s Michelle concepting some environments, which those moons might shine on at night:
Here’s Dionne wrapping up her work on texturing Fall Court armor. 
Sandra has the fantastic assignment of animating two-handed hammer attack animations. In order to support the needs of our combat system, Sandra will be animating these attacks from both an offensive and defensive stance. I’ll admit, I’m pretty jealous of this one. She’s doing an awesome job on these! You all will definitely want to check these out in-game once the animation system comes online.
Mike C. has been testing and debugging changes made to the particle editor earlier this month with Dave and Bull. As more features have been made available, Mike has been adding unique particle effects to a selection of weapons and environment assets.
James K. has picked up his work on creating Realm logos. We had a great team review earlier this month, and got James to investigate a new direction. And from watching over his shoulder from day to day, the results are looking very interesting. Again, this will be a process, and we will show you guys as soon as we can :)
Ok, December. Let’s see what you got!

Tech Central

 -By Gabriel Ortega

Didja Hear That? 

Gabe’s jumping in to write this month’s Tech Central! His full introduction is above.

I’m currently working on integrating sound effects with our brand-spanking-new ability system. If you haven’t watched the Bring Out Your Devs™ video about it, the TL;DR is you can make your own abilities, and those abilities will interact with the environment, other players, and even other abilities in new and interesting ways. This versatility requires a system that will generate sound effects that make sense with the on-screen action and contribute to an immersive experience for the player. For example, launching an arrow should sound different from launching a flaming arrow. Furthermore, a sword impact against leather armor should sound different from a hammer impact on metal armor. Not to mention runes and shouts!

There’s a couple of steps to solving this problem. First, we need to gather data from a crafted ability on the server. Next, that data needs to be sent to the client and transformed into inputs that the sound engine will accept. The sound engine we’re using is Wwise by Audiokinetic. Lastly, the system should allow our sound designer (dB) to edit ability sounds quickly and easily. This is probably the most important requirement of the system, besides um… playing sounds.

Before getting further into that, I’ll shed some light on how we are using Wwise. Wwise uses events, switches, and switch groups. Events are what actually plays a sound or group of sounds. Switches and switch groups are basically argument value pairs that are inputs to a given event. For example, we can set up a weapon swing event, that makes use of a weapon type switch group. When we want to play the event, we would hear different sounds if we set broadsword or mace for the weapon type switch. Events and the relevant switches are submitted to the Wwise engine as integer identifiers.

Now that we know what Wwise requires to play sounds, we can focus on embedding sound information in a crafted ability in a way that allows for easy iteration. Once that is decided, it becomes relatively straightforward to send the data to the client and map to Wwise IDs.

Originally, I wanted to do this strictly using the tags attached to a skill. A given ability will have a set of tags that have been aggregated from all of the subparts comprising that ability. Let’s say I crafted an ability that uses a hammer and does a crushing attack. The tags I’d end up with would be along the lines of “weapon,” “melee,” and “crushing”, which seems like enough information to set some switches and play an event. 

However, there’s a couple of problems here. Remember we need an event and some number of switches (argument value pairs). Additionally, the type of Wwise event we are using for abilities require switches to be submitted in a specific order determined at authoring time. Given a tag, we have to figure out if the tag is for an event or a switch, and if it is a switch, where it fits in the set of switches. This becomes a bit too much to infer from a single tag.

The aspect that I like about the above approach is having human readable information in the skill rather than Wwise IDs. It’s the difference between something like “<sound event = Melee/>” and “<sound event = 482399345/>”. The second form requires you to have to look up an ID to know which sound event the ability plays. Keeping these things in mind, here’s where I’ve landed.

I’ve set up enumerations that map to all of our Wwise events, switches and switch groups.These enumerations can be embedded in a skill with additional information such as switch ordering. This allows dB to modify a switch hierarchy for a given event on the authoring side, which will only require a change to the “order” value of a switch in a ability. Additionally, we can store event priorities, which will eventually allow an event to be overridden by another event embedded in another ability subpart. This is cool, because we aren’t strictly beholden to one event hierarchy per skill. All in all, this ***should*** handle the average case, and provide a basis for moving onto more complicated events such as sound effects resulting from skills (weapon impacts, blocks, etc).

OK folks, we did it! First Tech Central article from Gabe in the books. A couple of things to note: This is all subject to change, and probably will change, as dB and I continue our work. I also glossed over a lot of the finer points of Wwise, and if you’re interested, I encourage you to check out the documentation.

State Of The Build

 -by Brittany Aubert

Brittany’s jumping in to write this month’s State of the Build! Her bio and introduction are above. 

In the two months I’ve been at CSE, I have been so impressed with what this team has been able to build in such a short amount of time. For those that have participated in the tests over the last few weekends (thanks for all the help!), you’ve seen how much progress we’ve made, not just in new features, but also in updates and bug fixes to existing features. A good chunk of the time spent making games is in fixing the issues that arise when everything comes together and players get a chance to break it. Balancing time spent fixing things with time spent moving forward is always a fun challenge to take on. Well, let’s dive in!


  • Abilities that knocked players back now only affect players in the x and y directions.
  • Fixed a bug where the last ability wouldn’t show up on your skill bar after your bar was full and you deleted the last skill. 
  • A while back, we changed all our ability icons to be squares. This allowed us to swap around the content as needed, regardless if the icon was for a primary or secondary component, so we wouldn’t have to frequently redraw icons. This required a change on the code side to mask the icon edges to fit in certain shapes (squares, diamonds, triangles, etc).
  • Duration of an effect has been added to the combat log, so players testing abilities know how long an effect is supposed to last, and when it has stopped. 
  • There were copious amounts of smaller fixes to specific abilities throughout the month. Check out the forum threads for weekend tests over the last month. 


  • Initial implementation of stances made their way into the build, currently supporting a generic combat stance and travel stance. Ability components were then updated to support stance requirements (ie. can’t use a specific ability if the player is not in a travel stance).
  • We have support for scriptable cancellation of active effects, which exposes control for designers to cancel them in cases of timed duration and OnExit.
  • Introduced some helpers to craft skill requirements that refer to whether or not the player is in a particular stance or not. 

Banes and Boons:

  • Part of building the B&B system is componentizing it - a reuse-based approach to software development where we break a larger system into smaller, contained parts of functionality. This allows us to combine different pieces together in code, leading to building more varied content at a faster rate. For instance, one of the Banes we want to implement causes the player’s next activated ability to increase its stamina cost by 10% when the player suffers physical damage. We can pull something like this off because we’ve added the functionality to tag for stamina cost, as well as set up conditional event handlers to set up the situation.
  • We have support for defining and auto-applying Banes and Boons that might be dependent on others. 


  • Fixed a bug that caused the chat server to hold onto a websocket connection indefinitely. This was why, if you entered the game and checked the chat window, it looked like there were hundreds of players playing when you joined. 
  • We fixed the emoji parse code, arguably the most important fix we made ;)


  • We separated the physics network state from the gameplay network state, which improved bandwidth usage and leads to bigger, smoother battles.
  • We are now force sending major health changes no matter when they come in. This was to fix a bug we saw with stamina where it wasn’t properly updating. 
  • We now only send timed resources when changes happen. Because these happen in world time, this is a huge win.

Bots! Bots! Bots!

  • We were able to have upwards of 1500 bots simultaneously running around without devastating performance hits.
  • Players would previously go into their falling animation over and over again when they should have been standing on the ground. This kind of looked like a very jittery form of bot dancing. 
  • We can’t have a bunch of naked bots running around, so we made sure they had some clothes on. 
  • Added an IsBot check so we could prevent bots going through portals. 
  • Bots have very simple AI - they run forward with reckless abandon, occasionally stop, wait a defined range of time, choose a new direction, and continue plowing forward. Sometimes even the most basic AI implementation is the best implementation. 


  • Bloom made its debut, and we had our first pass of desaturation.
  • We added HDR eye adjustment, and we set the update time for this to 60 frames, to make rapid changes less noticeable.
  • General exposure control was added, which gives us the ability to control it in different situations (day vs light vs in-forest etc).
  • We refactored the skydome and lights, adding proper color space brightness for all inputs. We also better factor in sunlight brightness into the skydome. 
  • The moonlight intensity has been tuned down.
  • Impostors got lots of TLC. We fixed the lighting so that we are not using the plane’s normal for shadows. We also changed how we pack normals, so we can much closer match the original model. Tyler is very happy. 
  • Fixed an issue where the world rendering appeared very, very bright in the editor. Tyler is still very happy. 

Particle Effects: 

  • On lower frame rates, you could previously see particles randomly shooting around in the world.
  • Velocity prediction is now properly aligned on particles, so they move as Mike intended them to. 
  • Fixed a long-standing bug with timing on spawner animated parameters. They were basing their timelines on the lifetime of the particle spawned, as opposed to the parent which animated them. 
  • We adjusted the burst particle timing so it would happen at the end of its animation time, rather than at the start. This gives Mike a lot more fine-tuning control over when things burst. 
  • Particles would flicker on occasion when they weren’t supposed to. This was due to an issue that occurred when the particle looped. This was most obvious when lights were attached to a particle.
  • We implemented a deep copy for particles. This significantly increased Mike’s iteration speed.


  • The entire layout of the entry fields has been re-jiggered and has a fresh coat of paint. 
  • We exposed a vsync toggle through the patcher. If you’re a Backer in a test, hold ‘Alt’ and ‘Play’ to pull up the input box, then type vsync=off.
  • Characters are now sorted in the selection dropdown by most recently used. 
  • We now send user permissions down to the patch client UI, making it much clearer to our Backers what level of access they have. This fixed an interesting issue we found where our players were crashing when accepting the EULA. 
  • Our “experimental” patcher we released a long while ago got an update to support all the features mentioned above. We’ve rolled it out to a few people for individual testing. Once more testing concludes, we’ll roll it out for the masses. 


  • Lots of safety checks, including checking if a physics actor exists in a scene prior to us removing it.
  • We now expose a number of physics values in the Phys Hud, like the current zone you’re in.
  • We have our Kinematic entities set the physic actor’s user data. This fixes a crash that would occur when Stonehealer stones would hit subzone barriers. 
  • Having characters slide around after they’ve died doesn’t make a lot of sense, so we’ve added a dead movement state. 


  • We display a loading screen when connecting, before loading a zone, so you’re no longer staring at a black screen.
  • Assert dialogs now include user name, character name, time, and the specific server.
  • We no longer reload the UI when changing zones or respawning. 
  • There’s now a warning that pops up when a model has bad collision geometry. This helps us to track down issues with individual models.

Lore Corner

-by Max Porter

We hope you enjoy this piece, the tenth part of The Great Depths Raid story. This lore of The Depths™ was penned by Max Porter under the vision and guidance of Mark Jacobs for Camelot Unchained. You can find the firstsecond, thirdfourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth parts of the tale in the Lore section of our website, here.


The Great Depths Raid

Part 10: A Priceless Gift

As the Delvers crossed into the dark lair, warning behind them and shadows ahead, they sensed rather than saw the nearness of an exit, a thin place, where The Depths led at last upward and out. The message over the gate, however, weighed heavily upon their minds, revealed through blood and battle: The Price is One. None of them could have or would have said what it meant, but still it lingered in their minds like a ghost’s whisper. 

Hidduk, alone, shivered as he pushed through the darkness. Whether it was something about this trip to The Depths or only his imagination, the black-on-black tunnel seemed to be getting clearer to his already-enhanced eyes. The tunnel seemed to widen and flatten out, the way forward growing easier. The whispers, though they rose in volume and flooded his ears, changed their form and seemed to propel him onward instead of presenting the physical barrier of sound as they had before. While the other Delvers slowed on the upper path, forced to push harder and harder against the sinister susurrus, Hidduk instead ran faster and faster, something itching in his soul. 

The Cait Sith’s tail twitched as he ran, a tic that had begun when he had left The Depths behind, last time. He could remember the itchy feeling, that whisper in the back of his mind now drowned out in the deluge of whispering noises all around, annoying him whenever he cast his mind back and remembered. Oh, those foolish days and nights ill-spent, before… before he knew what real monsters were. The monsters of his youth, in that warm, sleepy city far from the war front of Arthur’s Realm, had taught him to become the quick, silent hunter that made his mother proud. As if summoned by his eyes searching for purchase in the frictionless dark, he began to see shapes from long ago. 

The scorpions of the night. They came in at evening, scuttling for the dark warmth and safety of indoors. With all the doors and windows open for the summer’s humid heat, they scuttled inside, pausing on the sills, and the flickering lamplight made their purple shadows long and strange. The heat seemed only to make them more active, while the people became more sluggish, less aware of the placement of each footfall. Something about the heat was hypnotic; it made him feel half-asleep, even as he went about his chores or played in the streets, cobblestones still warm from soaking up the sun. The scorpions were half-nightmares, lurking in the cracks and waving their pincers in dark corners like imaginary monsters.

He learned to pierce them with his razor claws, lightning-quick and from a safe angle, so their poisonous stingers stabbed uselessly at nothing. The wriggly arachnid limbs raging, he’d watch to make sure they died, the danger past. That, too, added to the feeling that he was dreaming through the long summer months; heat and the writhing motion, hypnotizing him with surreal sensations. 

Hidduk blinked, rubbing his furry face. For a moment, he had been far away. He peered into the dark, lit only by the occasional reddish luminescence through the walls of volcanic glass. The stealthy Cait Sith knew he was getting distracted, when any moment he might need all his senses razor focused. Perhaps, before anything could surprise him, he had better open the Veil and see if he could surprise an opponent, instead. 

The hair along his ears and the back of his neck prickled, suddenly, and the light touch of strange wind along his whiskers brought Hidduk up short. There was a larger space up ahead; whatever lair lay there, whatever lurked in the hiding place that was to come, it needed more room than was afforded by this uncomfortable tunnel of whispers. 

He pushed on, hoping for a glimpse of whatever dangers might lurk. No time for distractions now. Although, the whispers seemed to say to him, or as him, I am the true danger that waits in shadow. 

These Delvers just didn’t get it. They reminded him of the last Raid he had joined. Not as a leader then, but a young Cait Sith new to his skills; not as the one carefully choosing companions, but hoping to be chosen. Nevertheless, he had been cautious, always; and everything that had happened then only pushed him to greater caution now. 
He remembered the face of one Tuatha Dé Danann woman, flashing before his eyes in the darkness as he crept skillfully onward, ready to see what lay beyond. Her pale body, blood-specked and desperate, reaching out a hand as the feeding tubes writhed, attaching themselves to her as sucking orifices. He could do nothing for her. He could not save her… not with his eyes damaged by the acidic spittle of the the creature that pursued them here. He could still feel the burning, more painful than her final scream, cut short as a wriggling tube clamped over her open mouth. 

It had all gone to hell so quickly. No one ever listened to Hidduk then. He could not make them wait, he could not make them even pause when grinning Abominations appeared to challenge them. The others rushed in to attack, never noticing the metal and glass traps waiting above. The harvest was quick, and sweet, for The Depths. 

The young Hidduk ran, darting away as fast as his limbs could move, gracefully twisting and bounding past the lurking traps and dangers that now attempted to seal him as well. He left her behind, did not even attempt to slice open the pulsating sacs that webbed their way over the mage. What could he do in the face of such things? 

A few others ran too. There could be no recriminations between them. The Depths had eaten that as well. As they were picked off, one by one, he felt first sorrow, then fear, and was finally overtaken by desperation, seeing only a few more precious seconds of life. There was so much more, so many more things to hunt and skills to improve. But just then, all of that, his whole world, depended on how fast he could run. 

As he rushed on, remembering that speed, the older, wiser, more cautious Hidduk felt the first beginnings of a change. It was not the change of his ancestors, Moireach and the noble Caits of clan Kellas, in a barn in a storm; instead, this was a darker, stranger change, that seemed to come not from the outside brut from within, a push outward that filled out his features and indeed his whole body with a painful, yet pleasing release of force. It was like pulling off a scab, or rather, pushing it out from inside, that moment of satisfaction at the transformation of not-skin into new skin, revealed beneath. 

Yes, he felt a howling wind now on his flesh. His fur, curling out and growing thicker, took on the loveliest shade of sleek black, yet stood out in stunning contrast with the gleaming black chitin beneath. A vision of black on black.

He ran now on more than two legs, unnaturally fast, the swiftest hunter. Mother had taught him the importance of speed. He was a silent rush that brought death. 

He saw now with more than two eyes, better even than those gifted to him by The Depths that burned out his old ones. He had not known, then, what that meant. He had not understood the gift. 

Now, as a good hunter, no, the greatest of hunters, he must pass on his gifts to his followers. With love, always with love. 

The things he knew slipped out of place. There were no more hatreds, and no more kings or leaders. There were no more summer evenings or dark things skittering unknown. There were no more pathways back to light or peace or happiness or rightness. There was no more anything. Only void, the unknown, and emptiness. Taunting, grinning reality was over. Push it aside, let the new life come in, a malleable thing that could be shaped and changed eternally. Delight filled the air, pregnant with possibility and the thousand tiny joys of creation. Silence. Shadow.

Abandon that weak film called sanity, the thing dragging down and keeping the border between here and the Veil, impatient lover always waiting. As he went into those familiar, gentle arms, Hidduk said farewell to the last bonds that held things--everything--together. He could smell his prey on the strange wind. 

His prey, at that moment, crept in nervous wonder to a different part of the labyrinth that formed this lair. Out in front, leading the way out of the tunnel made of darkness, Jorvald the Dvergr came out and caught his breath at the sight before him, now lit with a dull, angry glow. He stood upon a strange promontory, a protrusion of black glass that stood out from the organic shapes of metal that wrapped and layered themselves to form this strange terrain suspended in midair. Like a bridge, the black glass arched downward to what seemed to be a shifting maze. Laid out on a vast tilted disc, pulsing veins of metal corded their way in an impossibly intricate maze of twisting corridors. In the center of the disc, puncturing it like the handle of a spinning top, stood an ancient tower. Meanwhile, a wind whipped across this place, breath of something foul. 

As the other Delvers emerged from the swiftly-closing tunnel and squinted in the ugly brown light, each made the same twisted face in sudden aversion. Something about the enormous tower’s proportions was distinctly off, a planned mockery of architecture. Pointing with its spindly roof, the whole thing and leaned at an angle, with bulbous stones and irregular protrusions along the structure. Something seemed to be rotting on the top floor; foul mess leaked from the uppermost window of the leaning tower, stringy stuff reaching for the ground. 

Sacriphisto was the first to break the silence, uncomfortable and breathless as if he’d just run up a mountain. “What is this light? Where does it come from?” 

Peering around, none of them could find an answer. The vast chamber, open as they had felt it was before, seemed to stretch its sourceless dull glow toward infinity, but faded into a dirty brown obscurity before it got there. 

The top of the tower, where the roof tapered to a point, appeared to pierce the brown film that formed the overarching dome. The distant silhouette of a tilted spiral stairway ascending into the tan luminescence confirmed their earlier sense that escape was near, yet reachable only through the trials that lay below. 

Donnie, his fellow member of the Tuatha Dé Danann Realm, finally responded. His voice was uncharacteristically hushed, as though the tunnel full of whispers had infected him. “It’s not the source of the light that worries me, my friend.” He scratched under the crowns piled atop his head and began shuffling down the path, steps cut by an unknown architect to lead down the obsidian bridge. “It’s the source of the shadows that has my fear.” And he pointed one ring-heavy finger at something near the base of the bridge he walked upon. 

Xedric shuddered, extinguishing the flames that he had caused to fight against the tunnel’s mysteries so valiantly, their light now faint and weak in the broad glow. “I see it. Something flows through there.” Like tattered streamers, curls of darkness flowed over the walls of the labyrinth and over the edge of the disc, thinning to spray and then nothing, as if carrying mysterious messages from the tower’s pinnacle. 

“It looks like a drunken soldier.” Fogja grunted as she changed her stance, shifting her dented helmet from her eyes. She stared at the looming tower, and did not add how its appearance, tier after tier of strange terraces and designs, gave her a sharp sense of foreboding. 

Jorvald turned and laughed, but the sound was flat, his gruff voice heavy as though the dull, muted air had pressed the short Dvergr further down. Yet he bravely tried for levity anyway. “Oh for a drink meself, it’d be easier to look at your ugly face!” 

Sacriphisto sighed, but his normally hard-to-read pale face twisted in what might have been a smile. As he floated on, down the etched steps carved out of the semi-transparent stone, he muttered, “One ugly face I’d like to see right now is that of our fearless leader. He’d better not fail to show up when the Abominations do…”

Shaking their heads, the Delvers continued down the path to enter the maze upon the enormous leaning disc. Through the brown murk to his right and left, Jorvald noted other sloping arches of black glass. Each led down from a dark spot, gaping tunnel mouths that confirmed the Dvergr’s earlier guess at the branching paths. So Hidduk would indeed be joining them… 

The old Arthurian Human seemed suspicious too. “Keep your eyes and ears open, Delvers. Friend or foe, I don’t particularly like being surprised.” He teased out a bit of the fire that burned in his soul and twisted it between his fingers, a glowing thread of orange inferno that spat and curled over his skin. In its small but furious little light, the flowing shadows of the labyrinth twitched and shook, but did not retreat. 

Wondering, the Delvers walked between the walls, formed of curling tendons and veins of metal, draped in this quivering shadowstuff. Lighting a bauble of his own, Donnie came closer to one of the walls, inspecting it. The shadows moved and flickered with life, a sensation on the eyes that baffled and confused them, the immaterial given form and consciousness. He plucked his hand back before his glowing ring brushed against a wavering tendril. “Right, eyes open,” he muttered as he jogged back to Fogja’s side.

The Frost Giant thumped along, her footsteps loud as ever while her companions attempted to be stealthy on their way toward the central tower. She just grinned at the little man below. “Stick close, and keep your magics ready. My hammer is eager to hit something!” She ignored Xedric’s shushing motion as he held his flame higher and peered around an adjoining corridor.  

At this moment, the Depth’s servant could not be seen. Would not be heard, smelt, or touched while he crept masterfully through the Veil. Its touch was different now, rippling and wrathful, a stranger passion that he instantly recognized. This little pocket of existence was angry, hurting. He had not been gentle as he entered the Veil’s embrace. 

Hidduk could feel the song of salvation and doom thrumming in his blood. He was going to meet his friends. They would speak together, using the most ancient language. His Cait Sith’s tail was stiff with excitement for their sake, eager as he was to share the understanding and the gift he had received. So energetic, so full of motion was he, that his tail was almost curling over his head, newly armored and segmented, with a sharp end. He could see his friends now, in his mind’s eye, which was so hard to tell from reality here in the Veil, see them as he had been when young, as he had been but moments ago:

A fearful glance over one shoulder to see if the others were coming. One trembling step forward. A tightened grip on a weapon. At any moment, they would be off, the general melee descending like thunder in a metal storm. Still alive for the moment, but surely not forever; it was a dance, the greatest dance of all. So much danger in every movement, it was certain to catch someone unexpectedly. Death awaited at every breath. Each beat of their red hearts hovering at the edge of the end. 

Any moment now, you will meet, said the whispers. An exchange of gifts, said the Merchant. 

Thus ends Part 10.

Bonus Image!

This build is just really special to us. Created using blocks in C.U.B.E. by the Backer known as Swazi, it’s our good old Camelot Unchained logo: 
Thanks, Swazi :)
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