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Nomad's Encore

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On the bank of the River Elid, in the northern end of the Kharidian Desert, stands a colossal tower. The ancient building stands over ten stories tall, and its diameter is enough that twenty grown men could lay on the ground in a line and they still would not reach the other end. The tower is composed mainly of red brick, with large black pillars and stripes of grey brick to provide visual differentiation. Broken, crumbled pillars and stray masonry line a ruined path leading to the entrance stairs, a testament to the building's age. A large emblem resembling an unknown creature hangs over the entrance doorway.

A crane stands perched on the wooden rail of the bridge spanning the Elid, hungrily watching a frog hopping among the reeds. The river flows gently to the south, current babbling softly. As the bird considers a dive at the frog, it notices a shimmering light out of the corner of its eyes. It cocks its head curiously up at a strange spot in the air a few feet above the bridge. The shimmering air coalesces into a black circle, forming a 'hole' in the air. The crane hops forward to investigate, but is startled when something appears through the hole, and flies away.

Arcane ribbons of purple and blue wind together and spiral downwards, carrying their passenger gently towards the ground. The hole in the air vanishes, and the ribbons of magic fade away shortly after the teleportation spell finishes. The caster of the magic, a light-skinned woman clad in simple white robes, casually dusts off her shoulders and looks around. She puts up one hand to shield her eyes from the morning sun as she rotates a full circle, surveying the land in every direction.

Eventually content, she runs a hand through her short, black hair, and sighs.

"Not a soul in sight, although I suppose that's hardly unusual. Maybe I should do something about that...too many people are scared of this place for no good reason," she says to herself.

The woman rubs her chin, considering talking to the local villagers and trying to convince them that the taboos about the Dominion Tower are unjustified. She's not exactly a stranger to the people of Pollnivneach or Nardah, so it might be possible for her to convince them. So many of their traders are certain that the 'Burj Almadi', as it's named in the local tongue, is cursed or haunted, that they take the massive detour to the next bridge, far to the south.

"They're really crippling themselves," the woman muses aloud. Eventually, she shakes her head. "Not today. I have other priorities." She walks the short distance towards the tower's steps and enters the building.

The interior of the tower is sparsely decorated and blanketed with sand. As the woman wonders how so much sand came to rest inside the tower, she leaves faint footprints over the blue-tiled floor as she passes through the narrow entrance hallway. The Face is there to greet her, of course. The animated visage of a human face, carved into stone, sees all that enters the tower. Its eyes blink and lips move, slow and lumbering. Although the grinding of rock can be heard, it produces no speech. Instead, by some form of magic she does not understand, the Face's words reach directly into her mind.

You return.

The woman nods. "That I do, Tower. And I've got something specific in mind today."

Your challenges are a welcome reprieve from idleness. What test do you desire?

"I'll explain in just a moment. First, may I ask you something?"

As you wish.

"I was wondering...the symbol of the tower. I know it's the crest of the Founder's family, but what exactly is it?"

That is a question I have not had to answer in a long time. The symbol is a scarab beetle, facing downwards, with its mandibles extended. The upper parts of the symbol are two horns that resemble those of a bull, protruding from the back legs of the scarab. As a whole, it is meant to resemble a sort of helmet. An appropriate symbol for a clan that prized itself on combat prowess.

"Huh...alright, I can see that. I thought it was a frog with disproportionate legs."

You are not the first to arrive at that conclusion.

The woman nods, her curiosity satisfied. "Alright. Here's what I want to practice." She takes the glove off of her left hand and reaches out, pressing her palm against the cool bricks of the interior walls. She clears her mind and focuses intently on two memories, one very recent, and one several years old. A familiar presence brushes against her mind, peering in. She makes no attempts to resist it, and allows the tower to explore the memories. After a few seconds, the presence leaves, and she opens her eyes.

The face blinks. Despite its slow movement and limited range of emotions, she can tell that it is surprised.

I have never before witnessed a battle of such scale.

"It sure was something..." the woman says sheepishly.

Your humility insults your accomplishment.

The face closes its eyes and shakes its head as much as its limited mobility allows. Then it opens its eyes again and looks at her.

Are you certain about this? It is such an extreme method of training...

"Have I ever shied away from pain? I'm certain."

As you wish.

The woman sits down cross-legged on the floor. She closes her eyes and falls into a meditative state as images begin to erratically dance around inside her head...

The Dominion Tower is no ordinary structure. Some unknown centuries ago, a man known as the Founder single-handedly constructed the building over three decades. It was made to serve as a training ground and to be a symbol of prestige for his family. The Founder himself was apparently frail and ill-suited to combat, but he knew of unique magical techniques that have since been lost to time. Allegedly, the Founder transferred the consciousness of his wounded, dying brother into the tower itself, binding him to the structure forever. Most people think that it was an act of fabled soul magic, but I'm not so sure. I suspect that it was an extremely advanced form of mind magic, given the nature of the tower's abilities.

As soon as your bare skin touches any surface of the Tower's interior, it can access your memories. It's a strange sensation, having your mind explored by a building. The Tower has a surprisingly delicate touch, though. I would know, having been subject to my fair share of mind control...

With your memories, the Tower can recreate enemies of your past for you to face again. It's all in your head, of course - to actually bind past adversaries into a physical form would require the powers of an Elder God - but calling it a hallucination would be a crude understatement.

There's zero risk of injury here, even against the most lethal of opponents. The pain, however, is all there. Experiencing the pain of death, only to find yourself waking up on the ground floor of the tower, is a truly unique experience. First timers make the most hilarious expressions, too.

However, fighting in the Dominion Tower is not a simple replay of a battle. The Tower generates an enemy with the capabilities that you understand them to have, which can be a double-edged sword. For example, you could train against an enemy that you may face again in the future. The Tower cannot account for power you do not know about, making training against an enemy with unknown capabilities pointless. Obviously, it also cannot account for any growth and training that the enemy might be doing, potentially leaving a complacent warrior in for a nasty surprise. However, you can always return to old adversaries if you ever further your understanding of their powers, and have a new, updated fight.

The combat arenas are flexible, as well. You can choose to fight your adversary where you did in the past, or in the simple arena of the Tower itself. If you want to get creative, you can even mix and match enemies and fighting various degrees of effectiveness.

Ultimately, the fights in the Dominion Tower are nothing more than theoretical scenarios. Still, it makes an invaluable asset for training. Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable, as they say.

The images inside my head begin to stabilize, and swirl together into one clear picture. Eventually, I open my eyes, and the picture becomes reality. I stand up and dust myself off, finding myself in a very large, rectangular room, with walls of grey bricks. The room is extremely spartan, with no notable features other than a grey tiled floor, a few centered pillars, evenly spaced on each side of the room, and of course, the throne.

Nomad's soul throne, a large, black monument to his mastery of soul magic, lies at the back of the room. It is connected to the ceiling via a large pillar, forming the backbone of the throne. The top of the pillar features a skull and two arms, ominously overlooking the entrance to the room as purple energy cracks from the statue's hands into smaller pillars below that receive the energy and direct them into the throne itself.

Questionably macabre aesthetics aside, the throne was a terrifying device, one that Nomad used to siphon power from all those that 'died' in the games above. It's a miracle that Zimberfizz caught wind of Nomad's plans when he did. If Nomad had siphoned power for even a few more weeks, I probably wouldn't have been able to beat him.

I shake my head. That was years ago. I'm far stronger now.

Time to prove it.

A hole in the world opens a few steps ahead of me. Nomad descends through it, purple and blue swirling around him. His thick, green cape and robes flow softly as he lands into a crouching position, using his bladed staff to support himself. The magic vanishes, and he looks around the room.

"The throne room...?" he mutters, just within earshot.

He stands up and looks around some more before acknowledging my presence, eyes narrowing as he looks through me.

"Ah...this is the Dominion Tower. I lost, then."

"You're pretty self aware for a memory," I say.

This is your understanding of Nomad, the tower speaks into my mind. You believe him intelligent enough to recognize the fact that you are using the Dominion Tower.

"Sometimes I wondered if you would be capable of the same feat," Nomad jeers. "I thought it was unlikely."

"Better stupid than dead."

Nomad snorts. "Ah, there's your witty banter that I had come to relish..."

"What point is there in arguing with a dead man?" I sigh. "This is basically me arguing with myself."

"Which makes it all the more amusing for me, I assure you."

His scarf obscures the lower half of his face, but I can tell that he's sneering.

"Whatever," I say, rolling my eyes. "Here's what's going to happen now, baldy." I untie my desert robes and drop them to the ground, revealing only a casual tunic and pants beneath. "I'm going to prove just how far I've eclipsed you. Our fight in the Underworld was too easy for my liking, you see. So I've decided to handicap myself by not wearing any armor...maybe that will help even the odds. Oh, but this fight is between us. You don't get your pet abomination here."

Nomad's gaze darkens and intensifies at my challenge.

"What a gift you've given me, nemesis," he spits venomously. "The chance to make you suffer, yet again." He spins his bladed staff around and holds it parallel to the ground, assuming his trademark combat stance.

I can't help but let out a quiet chuckle. Even as a self-aware memory, he can't suppress his pride.

It's killed him before, and it's about to do so again. I draw my swords and wait for him to make the first move.

I wait...

...and wait...

...and he still isn't moving.

"Are you going to start or not!?" I demand.

Nomad's body instantly relaxes and he lets out a raspy cackle. ", you'll get nothing out of me. I'll not help you with anything."

I groan in frustration. "Tower! Can't you make him fight?!"

I have no more control over this encounter than you do. This is your understanding of Nomad. Though, I must admit, this is a novel event in my long history...

"What, you're just going to sit there and not fight back? Your spite is that petty?"

"I can think of nothing I would enjoy more," Nomad admits.

"You absolute prick," I spit. "Can't admit that you were wrong, even after dying twice!"

I shake my head. "Fine. You can be my personal training dummy! Take this!" I magically surge forward, closing the gap in the blink of an eye, and leap up, preparing to bring my blades down onto him. True to his word, he doesn't move at all, and merely smirks at me.

"Not so fast, you arrogant bastard..."

I land without swinging, and immediately drop into a crouching position, placing both of my hands flat against the floor.

"I forfeit!" I shout.

"What!?" Nomad recoils backwards so much that I might as well have actually hit him.

Luna has forfeited the challenge. The winner is Nomad.

Confetti begins to rain down upon Nomad as an invisible audience applauds the victor. The surprise in his eyes gradually turns into fury.

"Oh, what a beautiful reaction!" I stand up laughing, wiping tears from my eyes. Nomad glowers murderously at me.

"Aww, did I make you angwy?" I taunt, speaking as if addressing a child. "Ah geez, that's too bad! You can't attack the other challenger after the match is over." I smirk and clap him on the shoulder. "One step ahead of you, baldy. Always was, always will be."

Well, this was a pretty fun thing to write. I quite like Nomad, even though we learned relatively little about him. Probably because he was such a strong nemesis, back in the day (and his design is pretty great).

All feedback welcome!


For some reason, the face kind of reminds me of the Judge from Ace Attorney.