Outskirts of Tikrit, banks of the Tigris
He ran, legs screaming, lungs burning, sweat pouring. Even as his feeble muscles protested the exertion he continued, shrieks from the digsite fading into the desert air.
This... this can't be happening.
The last of the shrieks died down: hardly comforting, for it would only mean that... it, would now go after him.
This... this has to be a dream. They... they don't exist!
He continued to run, even as he felt its malevolent presence creep up, even as he felt the shadowy pressure build upon his heels.
What... what have we done!
He screamed as something touched him, sending waves of agony through flesh and bone that toppled him into the sands. He struggled to get back up, only for an invisible force to spin him around and witness the thing in all its glory.
A strangely feminine figure with long hair flowing in the night air.
A smile. Then a flash of movement as she snapped forth, head suddenly that of a lioness.'
One last cry of agony, then silence.
Etherion HQ, Esposizione Universale Roma, Rome
Beneath the bustling streets of the city above, an extensive subterranean complex of area comparable to a skyscraper. Where the Mages of Etherion went about their work: training, engaging in research, gathering intelligence. At the heart of the complex an enormous empty hall nearly the size of a stadium. At its entrance the three Archmages of the Circle, themselves flanked by the Four Captains. Before them the latest additions to Etherion's ranks of Mages.
Jake Carver regarded the group with a critical eye. "Having mastered the Eidolon you have earned the right to be called Mages... at least in the realm of theory and civilian affairs. But to become true Mages in direct service against the Hellions themselves, one final test is required."
With a gesture the hall darkened as a combination of technological and etheric systems kicked in, the empty space quickly becoming filled with a new reality - a desolate jungle environment clearly too large to fit within the hall despite its size. Yet the paradox of space remained as real as could be.
"For those of you who have never stepped within these walls - there is little need for confusion," Jake continued. "Being Etherion's premier training facility, the Room of Dimensions is quite capable of... twisting space to its needs. You will find that while the combat environment ultimately has boundaries, it is still sufficiently large to pose a challenge to your talents."
"The environment we have presented for your test is that of Operation Purify, 2008," Susan Brown explained. "A remote village in Vietnam was afflicted with a particularly virulent strain of avian flu that all but wiped out the local population - so went the official media reports. What actually happened was a Hellion-sourced contagion that rapidly spread among the villagers and reduced them to the state of ghouls. An undead outbreak, in a sense."
"Your test will thus be to locate and neutralise the Hellion responsible in an efficient manner," Jake stated plainly. "You are free to use your talents to their greatest extent, since the space-warp of the Room will prevent any permanent damage from being done to its interior."
"A word of caution," Susan mentioned suddenly. "While the Room is capable of... replicating targets such as ghouls for you to use your talents upon, it is not able to do so for targets of significant power. As a result, the Hellion you will be facing is an actual Hellion of similar class and type, sourced from Etherion's repository of sealed beings. So while safeties ensure that the replicated ghouls will never be able to harm you to the point of fatality, the same cannot be said for the Hellion. Though, you should set your minds at ease on that matter - for your Mentors can intervene in an instant if something should go wrong."
"Now that all that is said and done, go forth and show us your power," Jake concluded before gesturing for the rest to exit. With a dull thud the doors shut, leaving the emergent Mage team within the chilly night air of the jungle. In the direction of the village, the steadily growing moan of approaching ghouls.