Reaching the edge of the forest, I drag my hand along the ground. Specks of indigo are mingled in with the dirt. Looking up, I can see how far the corruption has come. Life has left this place. The trees are petrified, with some having purple crystals erupting from them like lightning splitting the sky. It wasn’t supposed to reach this far south. The seals must have broken.
Traveling north, it only gets worse. Villages have been abandoned due to the crystalline disease. The gemstone spires grow higher and higher as I continue. Soon enough, shades of purple surround me. My Jeweled Gauntlets feel heavier. I slam them into a nearby crystal, creating numerous fractals. Multiple jagged reflections stare back at me. I leave. They’re all reminders of who failed to keep this contained.
Finally. The precipice is reached. Peaking out from another formation, I can see the Temple of Dirgesh in the distance. Hopefully, an acolyte or two is still around to give me answers. It’s been years since I’ve seen the temple and the outlying ruins. As I reach the base of the spiral bridge, a trio of crystals hover, omitting ominous energy. Why are Core Shards outside of the temple? I take two out of the formation to examine them, but this contact seems to be the impetus they needed to activate. They rush towards the pile of debris where the First Temple stood all those years ago, and start to pulse with their vile energy. Even the memory of the First Temple is tarnished with violet structures puncturing through those ancient stones. As their energy flows throughout the area, the bricks and stones below begin to rumble. The very bridge itself starts to shake slightly. The bridge, clearly in disarray from age and corruption, has many gaps. With another burst of energy, the boulders lift from the earth, swirling around each other like leaves in the wind. In a cyclone of stone and dust and purple, the stones start to fit into place like a child’s puzzle. I can’t believe it’s gotten this far. The Cores have taken a form.
It wasn’t done. The form elongates and unfurls, and I realize the form is supposed to mimic myself. Boulders form arms and legs, while smaller rocks create fingers and toes. The amalgam of stones even wields those immense crystals like weaponry. A wave of energy resembling a roar echoes around me. The ground quakes violently as I notice that the statues of the Gravelwings that pepper the bridge are moving. Their avian forms seem to awaken from the stone and fly towards the largest crystal structure on the giant’s shoulder. As the giant reaches its full height and the Gravelwings swirl around it, I glance at my only weapons. My Jeweled Gauntlets are no match for a foe of this size, much less one powered by three Core Shards. The giant makes its way towards me as I run up the bridge, with every step it takes shaking the earth. It seems that some crystals are reacting to the radiation of the Core Shards in interesting ways. The bridge is littered with these crystals that open up as the titan gets near. My gauntlet fizzles with this energy as I reach a gap in the bridge. Glancing over my shoulder, I see the crystal gargantuan create a fist and draw it back. I have nowhere to go. All I can do it reach.
My gauntlet reacts to my command. Connected to the crystal by the Core’s energy, it pulls me across the gap as the bridge behind me explodes in dust and ruin. I turn, stunned by what I escaped, only to see the largest of the crystal structures on the giant glow. Commanded by there master, a Gravelwing breaks from the flock and dives towards me. I ready my fist. This is one enemy I’m ready for. Rearing back, I slam the gauntlet into the stone bird, shattering it into fragments of rock. The giant is unfazed as it’s minion is dealt with, and approaches me yet again. This time, I’m ready. Reaching out to a nearby crystal, activated by the giant’s proximity, I dash towards it.
I make my way up the spiral bridge in this manner, dodging the titan’s furious assault and dispatching of the animated statues along the way. Finally, I make it to the top of the bridge. The path leading towards the Temple and into the Hallosen Mountains is in shambles. Something or someone went wrong. And now I have nowhere to run.
The gargantuan pulls it’s hand back, but something is amiss. The glow of the Core Shards is not as bright as before. They remind me of the candles lit at the Temple during a storm. They are weakening.
With a thud and an explosion of stone, the giant slams it’s limb into the cliffside. Lodged into the crag, I notice that the crystals that were on the bridge also plague the surface of the giant. I let a grin escape as I reach out with my gauntlet, shooting forth to the knuckle of the magical abomination. Using uneven bricks once placed carefully by my ancestors, I climb up the giant’s arm. There is no time to lose.
The arm comes loose, and the world spins around me. I see a Core Shard in the distance, but getting there will be a challenge. A Gravelwing descends on me and, punching it away, I see my chance. Inhale. Exhale.
I throw myself into the abyss off of the giant. Contorting my body, I rotate just in time to be able to pull myself towards a crystal. Exhale. Inhale.
Finally, I arrive. A Core Shard is in my sight. I reach out for it, feeling its energy crackle around me. I feel my heart race and hair stand on end. Holding the activated Core Shard is wonderous. If only the other Temple disciples saw me now.
My Jeweled Gauntlet glows the same purplish hue as the crystal. It’s pure power crystallized. I realize I will need more. My fingers tighten, squeezing it as if the energy will nourish me. The Core Shard starts to crack, and this time all I can see is myself doing what must be done. The crystal shatters. It’s light flows into my gauntlet as the shockwave sends me flying back to the top of the bridge.
My Gauntlets glow with the violet rage of the Core Shard. The giant unleashes a roar; a wounded beast not giving up. It tightens its fist and hurls it towards me with meteoric might. I grin with tightened teeth and ready my own punch. It’s all or nothing.
The giant’s fist meets me like a landslide. My Gauntlet collides and an ear-splitting crack fills the canyon. A jagged crack is visible on the giant. Without missing a beat, I unleash a barrage of blows around the crack. It opens wider and wider; a scar begging for mercy. My fist spews purple as I put everything I have into one more punch. The sound of shattering boulders and bricks falling to the earth echoes around me. The giant’s arm is no more.
I look at my Gauntlets and see the last sparks from the Core Shard dissolve in the wind. I grin, wiping some blood from my lip. Guess I’ll have to get another one. And another. This corruption ends now.