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Chapter 1

The sun rose over a blocky earth, lighting up the trees on the savanna far below. Rhinoceroses rumbled around, grazing on the dry grass.

Far above, Silver knelt on a platform in his jungle home, screwing the final gem into his meteor shield. His last home had been destroyed by a rogue Kreknorite, so he wasn't taking any chances this time over.

As the rays of sunlight penetrated the clear glass of his window, Silver straightened up and opened one of his chests. He stuck his arm in, yelped, and pulled it back out. Sucking his fingers, he stuck the other arm in, this time pulling out a coppery-bladed sword with a cactus hilt and cobalt backbone.

While pulling a rogue prickle off of the hilt, Silver studied the blade. He ran his fingers over the edge, then threw it against a wall - scarred and dented from previous "tests." It stuck hilt-deep, cracking the cactus.

"That's ardite alright," Silver muttered to himself, stroking his beard. It was hard to tell the difference between copper and the much stronger ardite with just one's eyes, but a hardness test would always show the difference.

Silver grinned. This was just what he needed.

Walking over to his tool station, he took a large hammer - not quite warhammer sized - and chipped the cactus handle off. He then opened up the small, round door to his smeltry (after donning a set of high-tempered scale armor to protect himself from the heat). Then, he pushed the sword into the furnace and closed the door, after making sure the lava tanks were full.

Several hours later, Silver opened the faucet to his smeltry. Out into the mold he had set poured molten purple metal, still slightly orange from the harder-to-melt ardite, but definitely purple. That was manyullyn, one of the hardest substances ever to exist, harder even than diamond.

After several more test runs with bits of ardite and cobalt tools, Silver had achieved 99.9% manyullyn. He then began accumulating enough mB of it to create a battleaxe blade. A battleaxe was his favorite weapon, and his old one (made of melted chain mail from defeated skeletons) was starting to show its wear, with the left blade badly bent. Silver knew he shouldn't have tried to deflect the charge of the Ice Bull.

Silver switched off the faucet just as the manyullyn filled every crevice of the mold, which melted as he took the still-warm purple axe blade out hours later. He had an expert's hand at this.

Silver spent a little time molding his axe head to an ardite-and-cobalt rod. When it was attached, the room - darkening already in the glow of the setting sun - was lit up with a furious red-and-orange light. Seconds later, a deafening explosion came rumbling across the plains, panicking the rhinoceroses below. Dust was stirred up on the savanna as several trees crashed down the cliff face (thankfully missing Silver's house) and landed far below.

In the orange afterglow, Silver could see the shape of a massive mountain across the ocean. It lingered for a few seconds, framed in a curtain of ash and dust, when a tree crashed down on Silver's house and everything blacked out.

Chapter 2

Silver awoke, facedown with his new battleaxe strapped to his back. Ash swirled around in slow motion, dulling the scenes. A flashing red-green light announced that the meteor shield was broken, badly. It disintegrated, lighting up the gloom and blasting away Silver's wooziness.

Fire began building from his smeltery, lava oozing out, as Silver made his way down the cliff his home was built on, three parts tumbling and one part stumbling.

Silver stood on the savanna, careful to avoid the still-disturbed rhinoceroses.

At the edge of the ocean, Silver had a small boat tied. Its oars were at the ready, floating in the water. It was his one ticket across the ocean to the place where the world had just exploded.

Though he was not at all fond of water travel, Silver knew this was his only option. Anything that could cause so much devastation was his job to take down. He was the only known survivor of the land of Hexxit. He had seen it once, in the Shrine of the Players. There lay a book, always open, with a list of every surviving Hexxitian. The book was magic; it would scribble in and cross out names as he watched. He had been the only name in it. "Silver Axemaster," it had said. "Race: human." There were others there, names he knew - Gray Whirlfeet, Night of the Forest, Harry the Berserker. He knew those names. They were his friends, once. He had never met them in this world, but he knew them.

Before he was finished with his reminiscing, Silver bumped up against dark gray rock. It was shaped and molded like a river of the stuff, flowing in slow motion, had rolled down the hills from - from - from that massive spire of dark red rock that rose into the night sky, belching flames like a massive smeltery.

A giant door stood open, oval-shaped, in the mountain's side, twenty meters up the hill from where Silver stood. A molten orange light glowed from it, silhouetting the bulky warrior and his battleaxe, raised high above his head in challenge.

Chapter 3

Silver wasn't one to back down from a challenge, even one of this magnitude. But he had a warrior's sense, and his warrior's sense was screaming of danger ahead. Even knowing his senses to be 100% correct, he trudged forward into the heat of the volcano.

What greeted him was a sight straight out of the deepest pits of hell. Dark red spires of rock rose into the gloom above, and no stars twinkled through the smoke and haze that obscured the mouth of the volcano. Silver had the eerie feeling that he was truly alone, with not even the omnipresent heavens to watch on him.

Molten pockets of lava burbled, emitting a fiery red light and blasting Silver's armored face with heat. In the rolling glow, Silver noticed the walls... glinting. He chipped at one with a small hammer hidden in his belt pocket, then started in surprise as a nearly perfectly formed diamond fell off.

Silver dropped the diamond fast. He had no need for them, and stealing from a possible enemy was a good way to make them an enemy. He had heard tales of Gray Whirlfeet, who once broke into a massive knight's castle to steal all the riches. Using a dagger that cast images of him around the room, and boots that made him fast as shadow. Even so, the knights had sword everlasting war. Gray was never seen again... within ten miles of the castle. He still lived.

As he made his way up a ledge on the volcano's eastern wall, he moved his foot too far. A pebble shot down into the darkness, causing small figures to leap from the walls around him and grab his arms.

"We are the dwarves. You have no chance. Surrender, or feel-"

His sentence was broken off when a night-black shadow leapt from the western wall, a full fifty meters away, and landed among the dwarves. A few slashing motions that were nothing more than flicks of the wrist, and the figure's hood fell away to reveal a smiling face.

The mouth moved. "Pleased to meet you. I'm Asmodeous Paradoxicus Z. You can call me Caspiea."

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