Ophelia found Empath in the courtyard of Adkarna's central armory, stockpiling arrows, bolts, and various gunpowders shipped from the City of Iron. The battlecarts Empath had gathered carried enough equipment to level a large village.
Empath halted, more out of surprise than respect, her arms heavy with chainmail and her face slick with sweat. "My Queen."
Ophelia lifted the mail from Empath's arms. "I know, it is strange to see me within a city's walls." She carried the mail to one of the carts and draped it over the edge, where a squire hefted as much as he could and threaded it over thick wooden dowels.
Ophelia said, "I dislike the confinement almost as much as the stench of daemon blood. But when the messenger delivered your note, I had to come."
She offered a waterskin and towel.
Empath used both. "You haven't come to talk me out of it, I hope."
"No. To ask why you insist on leading this mission."
"I spoke to my brother. We didn't share much, but he did tell me the only reason he named you commander was because he was afraid not to. Apparently he believed if he hadn't, you would have become one with him, issued the order, then left."
"That would be disrespectful," Empath said. "A violation."
"But amusing, no? So tell me. Why is it so important for you to lead that odd band of warriors back into the Great Rift?"
Empath glanced at the Hunter's Guild, those heroes who had been pulled into the Rift and survived--thrived, even--and returned to warn Newerth off the growing Riftspawn threat. They seemed even more uncomfortable than Ophelia, and rightfully so. Ophelia preferred the natural setting of Caldavar to anything man-made, but the Guild was suited to an entirely different realm.
Empath said, "I was there when they emerged. I saw what else came out of that rift, and what it intended for our world. I cannot in good conscience let another carry the responsibility."
"But Jeraziah has granted you every resource you desire. I mean no offense, but there are other warriors better suited to spearhead an assault. The Black Legion comes to mind."
"The mission is mine," Empath said. She turned to collect another load of equipment, but Ophelia caught her arm.
"Tell me why." Her voice was stern, that of a Queen, but her eyes were soft. Appealing. Empath felt within her a true desire to know...to find out if the Great Rift might offer what she hoped it would.
"Relief," Empath said. "For years I have felt the suffering of Newerth. Of every living creature who has been tortured, maimed, killed. I will lead this mission into the Great Rift and close that gateway, because it will save Newerth. But while I am there, perhaps only for a moment... perhaps I won't feel that suffering."
Empath could not meet her eyes. "It is shameful. But the truth."
"No," Ophelia said. " No truth is shameful. It only is. And I, too, would embrace a moment of silence to avoid hearing my brothers and sisters of the natural world howling for the pain to stop. I wish you luck in your search for silence, even if it is only a moment."
"Please," Empath said. "Do not tell the King."
Ophelia scoffed. "He wouldn't understand. He might not even hear--he's consumed by his dwindling faith. I feared the news of the Great Rift might topple him from his god's altar completely. He cannot fathom an entire realm full of strange creatures, all of it beyond the touch of Sol. But he fears it."
"He should," Empath said.
"Have those Hunter rogues told you what to expect?"
"Chaos. Chaos and blood. They say our abilities will act erratically, as if we could swap them between us like items of clothing."
Ophelia cocked an eyebrow. " So Jeraziah and Maliken could feel as you do, share the suffering of our world?"
"It seems so."
"Maybe then these wars would end." Ophelia considered this for a few moments, then shook her head. "Likely better if you or I borrowed Hammerstorm's brute stremgth and just caved their fool heads in."
"There is something else the Hunters speak of," Empath said. "They call them Amulets of Rebirth. Activating one further scrambles the unknown Great Rift forces which grant them these new abilities. Use an Amulet, they say, and suddenly your abilities are different again."
"Chaos doesn't begin to describe this," Ophelia said. "It will be anarchy on a level previously unknown."
"The Hunter's Guild claim it's quite fun. Sporting, even."
Ophelia studied the group of hardened soldiers, each one covered in skins, claws, teeth, and other trophies taken from their Rift prey. "I suppose they would."
She put her hands on Empath's shoulders and looked into her eyes. "Lead the way into the Great Rift, warrior of Newerth. We will follow. We will close that cursed gateway. And--most important--we will all return."
10/31/2013 11:19 PM
Topic: Content, Development, Lore
Circe the Deceiver: Creating the Lore and Art for a Hero of Deception
Hey guys, I'm Loremeister, the Director of Content for S2 Games.
Circe the Deceiver is about to enter Newerth and we wanted to give you some insight as to how the character was designed from the art and lore standpoint. When the designers came to us with their upcoming hero concepts we saw some great potential for the Deceiver to be an impactful force in the Heroes of Newerth universe. Her abilities, centered around deception and illusion, felt like a natural fit for the enemies of Newerth, so we knew she needed to be a Hellbourne hero. With that in mind, we started pitching ideas around the table for who exactly this hero was going to be.
This is one of the best parts of working in the Content team for S2: the visual design of the character. In order to do this we look at the factors we want to ensure are unique; things like silhouette, abilities, animation design, etc. Our primary goals here were to create a hero with a unique theme, spell effects, and a profile that was well maintained within each avatar while creating a specific feel that matched the abilities for every version of the hero. And with Circe. we feel like we accomplished all of these things.
As usual we had a ton of ideas; some good, some that we immediately trashed, and a few absolutely amazing ones. We knew we wanted to make her look like nothing else in the game and after considering a few monstrous forms -- like a faceless monster reminiscent of the Gentlemen from Buffy or a classic gray doppelganger beast -- we decided the hero needed to be a "she" and enter the world as a feminine force of evil. Looking at themes for her we thought about an amorphous shapeshifter, a master of mirrors, and a few others, but eventually settled on an ancient goddess who transformed men into pigs and baffled the heroes of Old Earth: Circe.
Like the Circe of myth, our mistress of magic was banished from the realm of men. She has lived centuries, slowly draining the life of those who end up shipwrecked on her island home, but without any true method of escape. When the world shook during the Fall of Man and the tides of the earth shifted, the Deceiver was finally free. She spent hundreds of years preying upon humans from behind her myriad veils, and now that the elder gods who imprisoned her are returning to Newerth, Circe's hunger for vengeance has made her reveal her true form.
While Sol himself may not take to the battlefield, this powerful, ancient hero will mimic his chosen servants, sow discord in the ranks, and ultimately trick them all into bending to her will or surrendering their lives to Circe the Deceiver.
09/24/2013 10:26 PM
Topic: Content, Lore
Rift Slither vs. Hunter Rally
The Rift Wars rage on with the battle between Rift Slither and Hunter Rally.
Choose your side in the HoN Store today!
The Hunter Rampage and his weary, bloodied mount faced the victorious Rift Predator and the green hard-shelled creature, which had left the Guild’s tribal warrior and his blowgun shattered in the dust.
I scampered back to the shelter of the volcanic stone and gasped to Jaru, "We must do something. These Riftspawn are on the verge of winning."
The Corrupted Disciple hesitated. I do not believe it was out of fear; that concept seemed unavailable to him. I saw calculation in his burning red eyes, a weighing of the situation to see if there were any benefits to not intervening.
“If the Riftspawn win they will overtake Newerth,” I said. “Do you think they will falter when they come to your Scar and whatever septic blight lies within? They will spill into it like a sewer drain and show your kind what real darkness is.”
Jaru smiled. “Can you not see? The warriors who give themselves over to the Rift are clearly dominant. Those who resist its influence are found lacking.”
“The first Hunter remains standing. He—”
“He is being flanked as we speak. If you do not wish to hear his screams, cover your ears as you have your eyes. I gave myself over to the darkness once, and it has served me well. This Great Rift is simply the next tier.”
“That...that is madness.”
Jaru stepped away from the shelter. “Madness brought Maliken his great power. What might it do for me?”
The red orb rose from his palm and began to spin, faster and faster. Ahead of him the mounted Hunter’s head swiveled left and right as the two Riftspawn circled him, waiting to lunge. The Hunter Rampage glanced at Jaru and his spinning orb. He pointed his giant mace at the Corrupted Disciple, marking him as an enemy, and gripped the reins to charge when a green blob arced from the Great Rift and landed in front of him.
A tentacled, serpent-like head rose from the green mass and spat a viscous toxin at the Hunter’s face. He dodged the assault, barely, as the source of the blob dragged itself through the portal. It slithered into Newerth, shimmering with a sickly green hue, its long tongue testing the air. The hood around its multi-eyed face was flared, the razor-sharp tines growing from its arms slashing the air as it slid toward the Hunter, surrounding him completely.
A realization seemed to fall upon the Hunter, then resignation. He lowered his giant mace and patted the thick neck of the Riftbeast he’d tamed, a final display of gratitude. Jaru and the Riftspawn closed in. I rose from the shelter and pushed my cloak aside, a yellow aura building around my hands. I did not know if it would change the outcome, but I had to do something.
A roar filled the air, echoing from the black portal across the face of Krula. The Riftspawn halted, their eyes darting to the Great Rift. Jaru took a step backward toward me and nearly stumbled when a warrior clad in red and purple armor launched through the Rift, his battle cry growing to a deafening level. He landed next to his fellow Hunter and slammed his weapon, a pulsing red Riftbeast head with burning eyes and jagged fangs, against the ground.
The Riftspawn were knocked off their feet and scattered across the dust. Jaru careened through the air and crashed into the sheltering stone. He slumped to the ground and blinked at the new Hunter, this warrior who seemed to be rallying the Guild’s cause, and allowed his orb to dim and sink below his cloak.
I let the yellow aura around my hands fade as well. Jaru had not seen it, and still believed I was King Jeraziah’s Anointed Conciliator. Which I was, externally. If I could keep my true identity secret, I would. But if these remaining members of the Hunter’s Guild failed to stop the Riftspawn, I would do whatever was necessary.
06/26/2013 2:24 AM
Hunter Bushwack vs. Rift Bubbles
The war rages on in the Rift Wars with the battle between Hunter Bushwack and Rift Bubbles. Choose your side in the HoN Store today!
The jagged red bone shards of the Riftspawn hammered against the Hunter’s blades and armor again and again, driving him back until he stumbled over a mound of black stones and fell.
I gathered a fistful of Jaru’s cloak. “You’ll not help him? He fights for Newerth!”
“He has already lost,” Jaru said.
The predatory Riftspawn loomed above the Hunter, heavy arms drawn back for a final attack. The Hunter lifted his blades to defend, but they sagged from exhaustion and pain.
I rose and sprinted toward them. The Rift creature’s antennae twitched and his head turned. His red eyes pinned me in place, frozen. The ground to either side was barren—I was completely exposed and vulnerable. The Riftspawn kept its gaze upon me and cleaved the bone blades down. As the razor points pierced the Hunter’s armor and he began to scream, a bolt as thick as my wrist flew from the growing Rift and struck the creature upon its armored hide, knocking it aside and off the Hunter.
A new warrior followed the bolt through the portal. As he moved forward he reloaded the crossbow mounted on his forearm, and when he cleared the black veil spewing from the stalagnights I saw the crossbow was fashioned from some Rift monster, its segmented carapace and appendages acting as armor and weapon.
The Hunter carried himself much like one of the fearsome tribal warriors from the northeast reaches of the Rulian Marsh, and he was adorned in the scales, horns and hides of harvested Riftspawn. A twisted warthog-like skull covered his head, and through its empty eye sockets he peered at the recovering Rift predator and lifted a long blowgun to the vents in his helm.
Before he could expel his breath a large greenish stone tumbled through the Rift. It came to an abrupt halt on the volcanic rock of Krula and from it a whirling disc flew toward the new Hunter.
“Behind you!” I called.
The Hunter turned and dropped, bracing for impact, but the disc burst apart in a flash of light and became a giant, hunched Riftspawn with thick green arms and legs tipped with cruel claws. The shell on its back squirmed with green tentacles, some of which had woven together to form two cannon-like growths. A single antennae with a glowing yellow orb drooped before its face, which held a greedy leer as the Riftspawn reached for the stunned tribal Hunter.
06/19/2013 4:28 AM
Hunter Swiftblade vs. Rift Predator
Jaru the Corrupted Disciple and I ducked and scurried toward an outcropping of volcanic rock to avoid being trampled by the Rampage-like Hunter and Rift Arachna as they tore at each other.
My eye was drawn once again to the blackness of the Great Rift, which seemed to have grown in the brief time since Jaru brought me there. At first I thought the shape emerging from the darkness was another tentacle, but it was white and, when I squinted to gain detail, braided. It lashed into Newerth and disappeared back into the Rift.
Then the tip of a steel sword sliced across the black veil. A jagged red blade that seemed to be made of bone met and stopped it, and both weapons retreated into the Rift. Jaru saw it as well. His orb began to glow brighter and spin faster. I made sure I was not between him and whatever might issue forth.
One of the giant purple tentacles uncoiled from the Rift and loomed above us. The end spread and dipped, its viscous fluid quivering. Our reflections in it appeared quite concerned, even terrified. The tentacle jerked once, twice, and fell into the dust and ash, where it rolled and whipped in a frenzy. Its severed base flopped through the Rift spewing purple blood that glowed upon the stones.
A warrior burst through the Rift and landed next to it. The white braid trailed behind him from a golden mask adorned with a fringe of white hair and a single giant green eye in the center. He carried two swords, wicked cleaver-like blades with rolling eyes embedded near the base. I shuddered, imagining what sort of creatures this Hunter had subdued in order to forge these weapons.
He gazed at us with the burning green eye for a moment, then swiftly drove both blades into the tentacle. It gave a final twitch and moved no more. The fluid which would have become a stalagmite spilled from its mouth and formed an opaque pool in a crevice. The Hunter pulled his blades free and turned to join the fight against the Rift Arachna. He had taken two steps when a glowing red streak burst from the Great Rift and slammed into him, knocking the Hunter off his feet into a graceless tumble across the harsh landscape.
He recovered and rose into a half-crouch to face the Riftspawn. This monster seemed to welcome the confrontation, as if it had finally cornered its elusive prey. It possessed the massive lance-like claws of red bone I had seen moments earlier. They grew from its forearms, leaving the hands and their hooked claws free to slash and pierce. Jagged bony armor ran down its back to a tail bristling with bulbous red tendrils that matched the two at the end of the whip-like antennae sprouting from its head.
The Hunter sprinted forward, blades whirling, and the Riftspawn lunged to meet him.