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Shards of Infinity: Crystal Dawn

Once again, Ko Syn Wu found himself in the endless desert. In this realm, a jagged crystalline sun never rose and never fell. It just hung there, leaking out a horizon of pink and violet light; a celestial ornament pinning the featureless land to the starless sky.

“Come out keeper,” Ko Syn Wu said. “Each night you summon me, and each night I wander until you appear. Might we just eliminate the wandering? Show yourself.” He stood quietly for a few moments, but when there was no response, he began his journey, a huff of disappointment in sync with his first step.

The dry earth crunched beneath his boots, each step echoing for miles, the only sound in this empty land. He had walked some immeasurable distance when the cloaked figure appeared. A crystal skeleton shrouded in shimmering golden robes hovered above Ko Syn Wu; death’s enduring grin smiling down at him.

“Hello again,” Ko Syn Wu said. He knew next to nothing about the entity or it’s realm. The creature had appeared in his dreams when he had first picked up the Master Shard, his spear: The World Piercer. Each night the entity forced upon him visions of apocalyptic futures, promised him weapons of devastating power, and even offered to wipe away the mistakes of his past, all the while never revealing its true purpose. The nightly manipulations had become tiresome.

"The time has come to make a choice," the entity hissed, golden robes billowing in a non-existent wind.

Ko Syn Wu looked around expectedly, “What? No glimpse of the future? No need to show me the deaths of my people, yet again? To what do I owe this mercy?”

“Make a choice,” the entity repeated, biting off each word.

“This is futile. No matter what I choose, it seems my people are fated to die.” He paused for a moment, considering his next words, “I don’t need another weapon. I need a tool. One that will make my people whole again. Offer me this, and you will have my allegiance if that is what you’re after.”

“Time is limited,” The entity hissed. “The other Shard Masters have grown strong. One has already made their choice, the others will follow.”

Ko Syn Wu gave a growl of frustration. “Let them,” he clenched his fist. “It is not my concern. My only concern is—“.

"You are a fool, Ko Syn Wu.” The entity was suddenly face-to-face with him. “It was indecision that led your people into Oblivion, and it will be your indecision that sends them back.” A bony hand gripped his throat. “Make a choice. Make it soon.”

Ko Syn Wu choked out words, “I choose... to save... my people.”

The skeleton’s eye sockets flared with violet energy, and the creature hurled him out of his realm.

Ko Syn Wu woke with a jolt, weightless and floating in the sensory deprivation tank where he slept. Monitors wired to him detected consciousness, and the chamber split open from the center. He and the liquid were dumped out onto a circular draining platform.

Ko Syn Wu collapsed onto his knees, dripping with the thick emerald fluid, and he reached forward to grip handles that were built into the platform. He breathed deeply; inhaled the acrid smell of heated iron and melted plastic. Of saline solution and human waste. Of rapid evolution and slow decay. Small nozzles rose all around him and hissed as they washed the gel from his body.

An array of sensors spun above him, whirring as they went. Red beams of light scanned his body, searching for subdermal energy trails; interdimensional rifts manifesting under his skin. The veins of his left arm began to swell, red blood thickening into a black ichor. Ko Syn Wu bellowed out a scream, the first of the morning, as the vein split open in a spray of violet flame.

Pumps in the wall shifted up and down, mixing liquid biometal with pulverized fragments of lesser shards. 3-D printers and skeletal mechanized arms worked in tandem, fabricating and attaching plates of armor over the blazing violet wounds.

Ko Syn Wu shouted out in short bursts, a rhythm of violent sounds to help him block out the pain. This was the morning ritual that each Wraethe was cursed to endure, a fate for which Ko Syn Wu felt wholly responsible.

As the final plates were pressed into his skin, smooth metal hooks lifted him to his feet, and the last component of Ko Syn Wu’s transformation rose from the floor: The World Piercer. He lurched forward, still weak from the process, and gripped the relic. The crystal blade flared to life and Ko Syn Wu along with it.

He stood on the platform, gathering himself and looking over today's placement of the armor: one-hundred sixty-three plates. Two more than yesterday and four more than a week ago, quantifiable evidence of his worsening condition. As he considered his fate, the door to the chamber slid open with a hiss.

A young Wraethe burst into the room, only a few black plates on his arms and neck, and he stumbled over the door frame. “Ko Syn Wu,” he called out. “Someone is coming through. There’s someone-”

“Then today is a good day.” Ko Syn Wu gently placed his hand on the boy’s shoulder, calming him. “Let us welcome them back to existence.”

“Yes, sir.”

The boy led Ko Syn Wu through black reflective halls of the facility. “The engineers say that the rift’s density is… ” he paused, looking for the right word but couldn’t find it. “It’s denser.” The boy looked down at his feet, disappointed.

Ko Syn Wu patted the boy’s shoulder. “Thank you for telling me, we’ll see how we can help.”

Since Ko Syn Wu’s return to the material plane, they had discovered how to use the minor shards to work like a magnet into the anti-plane, using them to predict when and where a Wraethe would be reborn into this world. For years, Ko Syn Wu and his band of returned souls, searched out new Wraethes, nomads wandering the changing world. In time they were able to draw the energy to a single point - this facility: The Refuge.

The birthing room was active by the time they got there, it’s transparent energy wall up, to keep the violent energies of the rift from destroying the rest of the facility. Inside were two engineers, clad in their own patchwork armor, standing on either end of a cushioned table, and holding short spears. A holographic screen hovered just above the table displaying complex algorithms, maps, and charts with jagged lines that were growing more severe with the passing seconds. They kept their eyes fixed on the space above the table and waited.

Ko Syn Wu and the boy stood outside and watched in silence, the boy looking over periodically to check his leader’s reaction.

A flash of violet lighting streaked through the chamber. One of the engineers leaped back, startled. Another flash and space cracked open high above the table. A black viscus whirlpool swirled in the air reflecting the light of the chamber, colorful like gasoline on the surface of the water.

“Don’t move from that position,” one engineer shouted to the other, “they’re coming through.”

The swirling black liquid of the portal distended downward, creating the silhouette of a humanoid figure, then it burst open. A woman slid through, naked and screaming. The reborn Wraethe crashed onto the table below, missed the cushioned center, and rolled off to the ground.

The engineer closest to the woman, tossed his spear to the side and grabbed under her arms, dragging her away as she screamed; as they all had screamed.

He did his best to comfort her, but she kept her eyes focused on the darkness. A thick tendril of black liquid pushed through the rift, extending itself toward the reborn Wraethe.

The other engineer stepped between the woman and the tendril, spear tip held firmly in front of him, and stabbed it. The weapon flashed with violet energy. The tendril lapped at him like some giant demonic tongue, and the engineer stepped to the left and right, jabbing methodically, pushing it back into the portal.

“Look out,” the boy warned, but the engineer was caught by surprise as another tendril extended from the darkness and tightened around his neck; a featureless snake to choke the life out of him. The Wraethe struggled, but it was no use, the darkness lifted him off his feet and whipped him into the wall and ceiling, then tossed him away. The other’s watched as the engineer’s head hit the corner of the table and his body slumped to the floor.

“It’s going to take her,” Ko Syn Wu muttered. Instinctively, he reached forward to stop the horror within but was halted by the protective wall of energy. He turned to the boy, “Open the door.” The timid Wraethe hesitated; transfixed by the chaos within. “Now!” Ko Syn Wu roared. The boy snapped out of it and ran to the entrance panel.

Inside the chamber, the remaining engineer dove for his spear, but the tendril darted toward him, thinning and hardening as it went, and plunged into his chest. The woman screamed as the darkness withdrew from the engineer’s body and whipped around toward her. Scrambling away, she backed herself against the wall. The tendril crawled across the floor, slid around her ankles, and tightened.

“The wall is down,” the boy shouted.

The barrier flickered away, and Ko Syn Wu stepped through fast. The tendril pulled hard, lifting her off the ground; she was being dragged back up into nothingness. He managed to catch the woman’s arm just before she was hip deep in the portal. Her breaths were sharp and short.

“You are not going back to that place,” he said and thrust The World Piercer into the rift. The black liquid darted away from the Shard, flashing with bright light, and the darkness began to waver. With one arm Ko Syn Wu pressed the spear deep into the portal, with the other he heaved on the woman’s wrist and ripping her from the grip of Oblivion.

The rift would not be denied, it seemed to writhe with anger and launched a flurry of black tentacles at Ko Syn Wu. He drew his spear back for another thrust, but a tendril lashed at him first. Back he went, crashing into the table. The tendril swung around, this time he ducked under it, turned and caught it with his hand. Energy crackled out from where the two came into contact; a burst of violet sparks lit up the room.

Ko Syn Wu loosened his grip on the World Piercer, letting the spear slide through his palm until he was holding the blade like a knife. The tendril writhed as he severed it from the portal, but Oblivion was relentless. As one tendril melted away into a black ooze, two more slithered around his arm and wrist and shook the World Piercer loose. It twisted through the air, clattered across the floor, toward the woman.

He glanced over, her arm already extended, reaching out for the spear.

“Don’t—” Ko Syn Wu shouted but was cut off as another tendril slid around his neck, lifting him off the ground.

The moment she gripped the spear, the shard flared with violet light and so too, did the woman’s eyes. In an instant, she was on her feet and humming with power. Lightning arched out from the shard to lick her flesh, transforming the sweat that rolled down her body into liquid fire.

She vaulted toward the portal, bellowing out an inhuman roar, thrusting The World Piercer forward. Ko Syn Wu could feel the shard’s heat as it passed within a hairs-breadth of his face. She drove the shard into the rift, and the portal started to collapse.

The tendrils released Ko Syn Wu. He fell to his knees, gasping for air. “Let go of the shard,” he choked.

With both hands on the weapon, the woman shook the blade back and forth, tearing into the portal, aggravating the wound, until the darkness swirled away into nothing.

“You have to put it down,” Ko Syn Wu said, extending an open palm to the woman.

She spun toward him and roared, her face twisted up with rage.

He stood slowly, and took a careful step toward her, “The power is a lie. Do not give in to it.”

She pressed the shard against his chest, and spoke, “You are a fool, Ko Syn Wu.” The voice was deep and familiar, and not her own. “Make your choice,” it said, prodding him with the shard. “And make it soon.”

He stared at the woman. Shocked at first, then thoughtful. “You,” Ko Syn Wu said, “You’re in the Shard,” he muttered.

The entity ignored him, just as it always had, and continued. “Or I will find another who will,” the woman’s lips turned upwards in a skeletal grin. “This one is nearly as powerful as you.”

Ko Syn Wu’s face stiffened; a cold mask of anger.

“She feels eager to accept my—”

Ko Syn Wu would hear no more, he pushed the spear aside, shard scraping across his armor with a piercing shriek. He pressed forward, and with a grunt, he shouldered the woman into the wall. As he pulled The World Piercer from her hands, and the power leaped back into the weapon from her body.

For a moment, she just stood there, leaning against the wall, weak and wobbling from the ordeal. Then, barely conscious, she collapsed.

Ko Syn Wu caught her as she fell, and the two stared at each other for a long moment, perhaps appreciating the eerie silence. Her irises still burned violet, even after she’d lost the shard. His gaze drifted down her body, and suddenly, the softness on his face melted away. Thin black trails were already beginning to form along her ribs, crawling beneath her skin. “The reaction is starting,” he shouted to the boy. “Get an engineer.”

The young Wraethe nodded and ran off.

Ko Syn Wu laid the woman out on the table. “I’m going to help you, do you understand?” She nodded and reached for Ko Syn Wu’s hand, squeezing it hard. “It’s going to be alright,” he said. “You're body has changed. It’s reacting to this world.”

The press of a button on the floating holographic screen and a sensor array went to work, scanning her body, as the black trails stretched down her stomach.

“Do you remember your name?”

“Rue,” she muttered. “I am Rue Bo Vai.”

“Rue Bo Vai,” he repeated. “Welcome back.”

A faint smile lingered on her face. Then black trails along her ribs split open, and violet flame licked up from under her flesh. The smile constricted into a look of agony, and her eyes began to dart from side to side.

“Scream, cry, take deep breaths. Find something to focus on. Find your ritual,” Ko Syn Wu said. “Because this is going to hurt.”

Shards of Infinity is going digital!

PHILADELPHIA, PA - November 30th, 2018 - Stone Blade Entertainment, in collaboration with Temple Gates Games, is bringing the hit deckbuilding game, Shards of Infinity, to iOS, Android, and Steam!

Designed by Justin Gary and Gary Arant, Shards of Infinity combines an unprecedented level of strategy and customization. Stone Blade Entertainment is well  known for their depth of strategy and innovation, and Shards of Infinity is their hit follow-up to the award winning deckbuilding game, Ascension. Shards of Infinity introduces the innovative Mastery mechanic, giving players multiple paths to victory in a quick, cutthroat game that always leaves players wanting to play “just one more game.”

Temple Gates Games has a long history of success working with board game publishers. They specialize in digitizing card games including Ascension, making it the first deckbuilding game to take place in virtual reality. Their amazing attention to detail and background in digital gaming make them the ideal partner to develop Shards of Infinity for a digital audience.

The digital version of Shards of Infinity will release in Spring 2019 for $7.99 across all platforms. Players will enjoy local pass-and-play, asynchronous multiplayer, and can take on challenging AI opponents! Temple Gates Games is known for including world-class AI which uses neural network technology to create formidable opponents.  As the AI trains it will grow stronger to keep up with advanced Shards of Infinity players.

Gamers wanting to learn more about the progress of the Shards of Infinity digital game are encouraged to sign up for Stone Blade Entertainment newsletter.

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Shards of Infinity: Score Tracker

For those of you who want a big score tracker that you can call up on your phone, Computer or tablet check this out:

One-hundred years ago, The Infinity Engine was shattered. Its reality-bending shards have destroyed most of the world. You and a few others know how to wield the power of the shards. The one who unites them all will become a living god. It’s up to you to gather forces, defeat your adversaries, and rebuild The Infinity Engine. Will you survive?

From the creators of the award-winning Ascension deck-building game, Shards of Infinity combines an unprecedented level of strategy and customization into one small box. Win by either mastering the power of the Infinity Shard or by destroying all who oppose you.

  • Build your armies by recruiting allies and champions from four unique factions.

  • Launch surprise attacks on your foes by instantly deploying mercenaries.

  • Unlock limitless power by mastering the Shards of Infinity!

Shards of Infinity: A New Order

Ages ago, there existed an order of monks, and for a time, they were devoted to peace and tranquillity.

That was, until a foreign monk, from the lands beyond the mountains, arrived at the temple. She brought to The Order knowledge of an unexplored spiritual plane. It was not the astral plane, nor was it the realm of the dead, for the monks knew these places well.

Instead, she showed them a plane of information, a spiritual web where all of humanity’s knowledge could be accessed; a fledgling plane, a by-product of the Datasphere.

While the rest of the world could access digital information via computers. The Monks of The Order learned to manifest themselves inside this new environment as techno-spiritual avatars.

As monks devoted themselves to this new realm, their daily search for inner peace and tranquillity was abandoned for a ravenous consumption of information. As they pushed themselves past the threshold of human knowledge, into realms unknown. This new path shattered the mind, ruined the body, and broke the spirit. To survive this journey the human body and the human mind would need to be improved.

The Order began to modify themselves for the journey. Many of the monks installed circuits and processors to decode and sort new and complex information.They rewired their nervous systems to optimize physical energy use so they could last for months without food, water, or sleep. They implanted ports to connect with computers to store information in electro-spiritual clouds. Physical purity was lost to electronic corruption.

It was this insatiable search for knowledge, that led them to The Infinity Engine: a swirling mass of cosmic energies around which our reality spun. The engine was limitless power incarnate. From it emanated everything and nothing. It was the beginning and the end of all knowledge and it was this discovery that led to the Catastrophe.

The sky cracked open and a crystalline rain of reality-bending shards pierced the planet’s crust. The precursor cities collapsed, one after another, as a thousand forms of apocalypse ground civilization to dust.

The survivors of the catastrophe were scattered and broken. The world was full of new and terrifying creatures, changed by the shards that now littered the world. It seemed that everything they once knew had been replaced with some nightmarish version of itself. For years, the survivors had to fend for themselves, gathering into tribes and fighting over what resources they could still trust.

The Order survived and continued their relentless hunt for knowledge. But their eyes were now set on the shards. They believed that if they could master the shards, they could one day rebuild and control the Infinity Engine. Controlling the shards meant experimentation.

The Order began sending monks out to capture men, women, and children from the ruins of the precursor cities. The local tribes fought back, but they were no match for a monastic order of organized, trained, technologically enhanced warrior monks. It wasn’t long before they fell under the Order’s shadow.

Time passed. The monks discovered that the shards reacted strongly to certain people. Adults who came into prolonged contact with the shards would quickly lose their minds, die from exposure, or, in the worst cases, mutate into biologically impossible creatures. Children, however, were a different matter.

A child’s mind is more open to possibilities and less constrained by their perceptions of reality, and so the shards affected them less. Children survived longer- weeks, even months. Many developed new abilities or could access knowledge far beyond what the monks understood, but in the end, the power destroyed them. It seemed that humans were incapable of surviving the shard’s energies.

Tetra: a name that will never be forgotten.

She was a sacrifice from a local Undergrowth tribe. This tribe believed the monks to be unearthly creatures and brought children as sacrifices in return for blessings. The monks shared knowledge of farming and engineering with the people as a reward for continued worship. Anything for more test subjects. Anything for knowledge.

Tetra screamed out as the monks pressed shards into her flesh. The crystals began to vibrate, working their way under her skin. When the ritual was complete, Tetra felt alive in a way she had never known.

The eldest monks taught her their monastic traditions. Tetra simply observed and repeated, learning the ways of The Order in little time. It seemed that Tetra could integrate new ideas and movements into her body with little effort. As her skills grew, the light of the shards shone brighter, but her emotion seemed to drain.

Without a single implant or upgrade, it took her only a few years to master what had taken, even the most gifted of monks, a lifetime. Tetra delved into forbidden realms of thought and eventually discovered, for herself, the truth behind the shattered Infinity Engine.

Repeatedly, she told the elders that they had only scratched the surface of what the Shards of Infinity offered – and now, she needed to be upgraded.

Fearing a second catastrophe, they denied her the components necessary to achieve her goal. Tetra tried to bargain with the elders, offering them access to abilities and knowledge she’d gained from the engine. She made incredible claims: strength, speed, even immortality. Once again, the monks denied her, but word of her claims spread through The Order like a plague.

Day by day, the younger monks rallied behind her, and in secret, she trained her new disciples. It was becoming more and more obvious the power she had within The Order, and the Elders decided that if Tetra could not be controlled, then she must be destroyed.

Tetra and her new disciples fled the temple. The Elders sent their warriors to hunt them down, scouring the land for the heretical monks.

With their newfound powers, Tetra kept them moving. They collected shards, delved into the information plane, and discovered the secrets of the post-catastrophe world.

Nine years later, Tetra returned to the Temple. Tetra had molded her disciples into flawless warriors: cold, disciplined, and merciless. The monks marched into the temple and unleashed unfathomable violence upon their predecessors, carving through the ancient monks in a matter of moments.

Thus, Tetra claimed The Order for herself, and once again, set upon her quest to rebuild and control the Infinity Engine.

Shards of Infinity: Rizen

Decima was the last of her kind.

Cruelly referred to as “Cogs” by their city dwelling superiors above, Decima and her people kept the cities functioning, a slave class of mechanics, engineers, builders, and technicians.

When rumors of the cataclysm seeped into their realm her people rejoiced: Freedom and an end to a Millenia in chains was worth any price.

The shards that rained down from the sky pierced steel, concrete, and stone. They split the precursor cities and broke through into the realm below. Decima looked up, holding her family, and watched as the world cracked open and The Great Collapse began.

Decima woke, buried beneath a mile of rubble. She tried to move but found her legs were numb. She reached for her family, her panicked hands searching in the dark for life. She found sticky wet cloth and steel protruding from their flesh.

Decima reeled back and felt a shock of pain, from something lodged in her back. She reached for it and slid her fingers along the smooth surface of a crystal. It had severed her spine and pinned her to the stone wall. Paralyzed and alone, she wept quietly in the dark and waited to die.

But even death, it seemed, she could not find her in that dark place.

Time passed, and Decima could feel the crystal changing. Ripples of pain ran through her body, waking her up from periodic dips into unconsciousness. The shard grew, it crept up her spine, pressing itself between vertebrae. She cried out until her throat was sore, but only the dead heard her pleas.

Days, months, maybe years later, Decima opened her eyes. Suddenly, everything was visible to her: the stones, the rafters, the columns — the bodies.

Her husband, her child, both decayed beside her. Instinctively, she jerked back and the rubble shifted. A jolt of pain down both her legs. She managed, somehow, to pull them out from under the rubble. She pressed her hands against the wall and pushed. The debris shook, her fingers dug into the stone, and she dragged herself free. The shard glowed, illuminating the tomb that imprisoned her…

“Escape,” Decima thought, and in an instant,  her mind

Her path was clear; it was like a template layered over her thoughts. She knew which pieces of debris to move, which steps to take. There had been a change, a new strength, not just physically, but mentally. The shard gave her a path to the surface.

So, Decima climbed, shifting stone and steel, hammering through debris with her bare hands. She dug her way out of the would-be grave.

The surface glittered with colorful fragments of crystal. The precursor city she lived beneath was now a vine and grass-covered mound. How long had she been down there? Decima wept at the beauty of this new world and, for the first time, she collapsed into the grass and fell asleep in the sunlight.

The shard spoke to her again: its power was waning. Healing her body, giving her the strength to climb to the world above, had taken a toll. If she wanted to survive, she needed to rebuild herself. It could show her how.

Decima collected tools and materials from the ruins of the precursor cities. With the shard’s guidance, she began her first modifications: drilling into bone, weaving wire through muscle, sewing circuits under skin – with this new body made of flesh and steel, Decima could find others, survivors like her.

It would not be easy. The world was full of new challenges: strange fortresses of reflective glass that hummed with black energy, a New-Wild of full of monstrous creatures, and a mysterious order of monks that seemed to follow her from the shadows. Each question she had, the shard answered with a modification.

It took time, but she found others like her, more Cogs, who’d escaped the dust and debris of the other cities.She gathered them into several tribes and passed on her knowledge of circuits and steel and rebuild them stronger so that they too could survive in the harsh new world.

Decima and her allies fought with the creatures of the earth, the monks, the Wraethe. Growing stronger with each day. Together they carved a new home into the world, built new cities, more advanced than any the world had seen before. Even lifted those cities into the sky, they’d never be imprisoned again.

These people of flesh and steel were human once, but now they are more. Designed by their own hands, to supplant Homo sapiens, they are Homo Deus.

Decima is the first of her kind.