|“||"I'll go alone if I must. While I live, Erdas has a protector."||”|
Tales of the Great Beasts is a special edition, containing short stories of five of the Great Beasts: Kovo, Jhi, Uraza, Briggan, and Essix. It also has an extra story about Ninani, written by Billy Merrell.
Briggan the Wolf, Uraza the Leopard, Jhi the Panda, and Essix the Falcon—the Four Fallen. Long before they were spirit animals, they roamed the wilds as Great Beasts, the most powerful beings in Erdas. When a mad king arose, the four banded together with an army of humans and animals to defeat him.
But they weren't the only Great Beasts in the war. A deadly scheme was already underway, hatched by two of their own. To save their world, the four had to give up their lives.
These are the lost stories of the most selfless acts of bravery that Erdas has ever seen, and the secret betrayal that started it all. This is the story of the Great Beasts.
This follows the Four Fallen when they were still Great Beasts, and the founding of the Greencloaks. Each story focuses on one Great Beast.
Feliandor, the boy king of Stetriol, is peering into the dark forest. He reaches into his pocket to reveal a vial of liquid with the power to change anything. The Bile.
Every week, Feliandor carries on the tradition his father started of holding court once a week, allowing his people to come in and complain about petty matters for him to offer solutions. A blacksmith named Gerard and his former apprentice, Donnat, have come to complain about the lack of smithing work they’re getting, as Donnat recently set up shop close to Gerard, making them compete for business. Fel turns to Salen, his royal advisor, for help, but he cuts him off when he demands an immediate solution. He turns to Jorick, who offers to smash both blacksmiths together to create one large blacksmith, and Fel calls it Plan B. Instead, he offers temporary solution and gives both smiths enough work to last them months. Salem points out that it’s only a temporary solution, but Fel doesn’t heed his warning.
He turns back to the crowd, preparing for another citizen to come and complain, but the page tells him that that was it. Fel notices a strange Niloan woman at the edge of the crowd, questioning her presence, before an idea arises. He calls forth Xana, his botanist, requesting a report on the project of tree-planting. Salem attempts an interjection and offers to schedule time for her to make a detailed report, but once again, Feliandor requests immediate results.
Xana reports that out of the four hundred trees planted, only thirty percent survived, and that the ones that did survive would eventually topple over and die from a lack of nutrients and water. Fel tells her that he’ll double her budget and that she must have something to show for it. She confesses that she can’t do that, as the soil is simply too infertile to hold a forest.
Without warning, a mangy man bursts through the doors, carrying a sack and singing a song about the “Good King Fel”. Salen recognizes the man as Lord Griswald, the first person to reach the peak of Mount Crimson and one of the explorers sent on a quest to discover what was beyond the Red Mountains. Feliandor had hopes that there would be some sort of hidden oasis there, but by the looks of Griswald, it’s apparent that there isn’t one.
When Fel tries to schedule a time to talk with the frazzled man, Griswald tells him that Jace, Janas, and Marcus–his entire party–died. Fel demands that the guards take him away, but Griswald first insists on giving Fel his gift and dumps a sack filled with snakes onto the floor. The hall erupts into chaos, and bystanders scatter whilst the guards slice snakes left and right. Griswald yells that he rules a kingdom of dust and snakes.
Jorick drags Feliandor out of the hall to safety with Salen before leaping back into the throne room to help. Fel finds himself in Salen’s arms, trembling, until he regains his composure. He then demands that Griswald is locked in the dungeons.
That night, Fel wanders the halls of the castle, only stopping when he reaches the painting of his parents, reminded of their success and how the kingdom under his reign was in a state of decline. He knows that the decline isn’t his fault, since most of his kingdom was already uninhabitable and the coastal towns were already on the cusp of overcrowding before his parents died. The arbor project had been his final desperate hope, and it had failed.
Feliandor is startled by movement. A sinuous rodent-like creature appears, indicating for him to follow it. He brings a guard with him out into a courtyard where the Niloan woman steps from the shadows and bows. Fel tells the guard to keep his sword ready and asks what the woman is doing there, assuming that she’s not there to reconsider the terms of Nilo’s iron trade, since they recently stopped buying iron Stetriol and moved to Amaya instead. She says that she’s not and rises, introducing her spirit animal as Vox. She’s there on behalf of not her continent, but a different benefactor who’d like to present him with a gift. When Fel offers to discuss this in daylight with Salen, the woman informs him that she’d already approached him, to no avail.
With Feliandor’s consent, she reaches into her satchel and reveals a vial of liquid called the Bile. Fel guesses that it’s a cure-all potion, but the Niloan woman denies this. She explains to him that her and her spirit animal, against the odds, have only been bonded for a few months, and that the liquid has the power to force a spirit animal bond. She gives him the vial of Bile and tells him that there’s a bird in his throne room; if he likes the Bile then he must set the bird free within five days’ time and meet at Nightshade Island. Then, she ducks into the shadows and leaps over the garden walls, into the night.
Salen storms into Feliandor’s room at dawn, angry at him for confronting the Niloan woman in the middle of the night. Fel then shows him a scroll depicting an exaggerated version of him, pouring gold over plants as though it was water as beggars look on in the background. Salen assures him that not all of his subjects think that way as the artwork was created by one person. Fel ignores this fact and turns to Jorick, demanding him to lock up the artist.
Later that night, Fel finds himself looking up at a portrait of his parents, trying to imagine their painting to be as exaggerating as the picture on the scroll. He couldn’t imagine any flaws that the artist would need to exploit, though.
Feliandor turns to face a guard—it’s the same one that went with him the night before. He asks if he knows what the Bile is and if his captain knows what it is. He confesses that he knows what it as, along with his captain, as is his duty. Feliandor then quizzes the man on what he would do if the woman had tried to attack him the night before, then ventures to ask what he would do if Fel were to consume the Bile. He says he would stop him, and Fel laughs, trying to convince the man to consume the Bile instead.
Suddenly, Jorick appears, offering instead to consume the Bile, admitting that the logic behind his answer is logical and that he’s never forgiven himself for not saving Feliandor’s parents when they were killed.
They go to the palace menagerie where a plethora of creatures are on show. Jorick chooses which animal he wishes to bond with, and although it’s not within view, Feliandor knows what it is: a cassowary. He gives the stoppered vial to Jorick, and he downs it before stepping forwards and opening the gate. Without warning, the cassowary rushes out and leaps at the king, but Jorick is able to summon it into passive state. He’s surprised to find that it became dormant so soon after bonding. Fel tells him that it isn’t his partner: it’s his slave.
Only a few hours after Jorick bonded, he’s already showing signs of enhanced abilities and fighting techniques. Then, a soldier bursts in, informing Fel that Salen intends to harm the bird. He laughs, glancing over at the cassowary, but the guard tells him that it’s the bird that the Niloan woman left that he intends to harm.
They rush to the throne room, sending Jorick ahead, who can run at unfathomable speeds. When he reaches the throne room, Fel is shocked to discover that the cassowary had slashed Salen’s stomach while Jorick stand over the old man, his face contorted in anger. Fel kneels down to Salen, putting pressure on his wound, asking why Jorick would do such a thing. He confesses that when he saw him with the bird, it was like he wasn’t in control of his own body. Fel asks why Salen would try to harm the bird, and he replies that he was trying to protect him. There’s a hunger in Fel, and it could drive him to greatness, but it could also drive him to something horrible. Fel stands, wiping the blood off of his hands. He frees the bird from it’s cage, demanding that Salen be sent to the dungeon, with the other traitors.
Two days later, Feliandor stands upon a beach in the Hundred Isles, a place called Nightshade Island. He and Jorick walk up the beach, but he suddenly tells him that he must proceed alone, his eyes growing a yellow hue. Fel acquiesces without a word, padding through the misty forest.
An acute rustling sounds up ahead. The darkness is moving—it’s not darkness, though, but an ape. A gorilla. Kovo. Feliandor gives in to his instincts and bows, but Kovo tells him to rise, insisting that they’re equals. Fel questions this, but Kovo interjects with some logic: he is one of fifteen Great Beasts, while Fel is one of five leaders, making him more rare.
Kovo says that it’s his pleasure to relieve his burdens, and so Fel allows all of his qualms to spill out. When he’s finished, Kovo makes an odd noise and asks if the Bile would ease his burdens. Fel nods, telling Kovo about a song his people made about him. At first, he thought that the lyrics were “The Good King Fel,” then realized that the lyrics were actually “the good king fell”. He’s being punished for not being as good as his father, and so the Bile could make his people more accustomed to Stetriol’s arid landscape.
Kovo steps forwards, his massive bulk blocking the sun. He asks why he can’t have a piece of Nilo, a sliver of Zhong, as it would be more fair, since it isn’t fair that Feliandor only has a small portion of Erdas’s viable land. Kovo adds that his land is rich with iron and suggests arming his people and aiming their discontent in a specific direction. At Feliandor’s confusion, the ape elaborates. He says that apes use tools to accomplish tasks, but when they don’t have enough food, they form a raid and murder their neighbors for more territory. Fel pieces his analogy together and figures that Kovo wants them to go to war, but is unsure whether his people will fight for him or not. Kovo assures him that there is plenty of time to turn the tides.
The ape holds out a vial in his black palm—the Bile. Feliandor takes it and downs the liquid. There’s a sudden light and nausea, and before him is a crocodile. Kovo is surprised that he summoned an actual spirit animal rather than choosing his own and tells him that he’ll be able to control the crocodile. Fel touches the crocodile, securing the bond, standing unflinching as the crocodile revealed its teeth.There’s a great crash and another Great Beasts emerges: Gerathon. She says that they have great plans for him. The people of Stetriol will love their new king. Feliandor denies this: he doesn’t believe they’ll love him. But they will learn to fear him.
Every night for weeks, Yin‘s brother Yu has gotten progressively worse and more ill. His coughs are loud and painful. Every time Yin stirs in her bed, her pied starling Luan hops from his perch and gives a raucous call, but this time it’s because T’ien the Binturong has entered the room. T’ien then goes to Yu’s room, but Yin goes to fetch him, since he’s not allowed in. When she does, Yu wakes, asking Yin to tell him a story. She tells him a shortened form of the story of a storm, but when Yu demands that she tell the full story, she agrees. Before she can even begin the story, though, Yu coughs blood. Yin screams, bringing her parents into the room. They decide to head back to the village healer.
They reach the hut at sunrise where the healer answers the door, sad to hear that nothing she’s given them has helped Yu recover. She instructs Yin to put Luan into passive state, and she acquiesces. She introduces herself as Kuan and her red panda spirit animal as Tzu. Kuan offers them tea, but the parents are frantic for help, so she agrees to speak with them in her meditation chamber, leaving Yin alone.
Yin is miffed that they decided to speak about Yu without her. She watches her brother sleep for a short while before summoning Luan and asking him to enhance her hearing to be able to listen in on their conversation. Kuan is explaining that an expensive cure doesn’t have any guarantees and tells them that the other close healer is Jhi, but nobody has seen her for a very long time. Yin doesn’t hear anything else, though, as Tzu appears and breaks her focus. Luan begins to make a terrible sound that brings the adults rushing into the room. Her father scolds her and Kuan wakes Yu, asking if they’ve made their decision. They nod somberly.
As they leave the healer’s house, Yin’s parents say that they can’t do anything for Yu, and the cure is too much of a gamble and too expensive to risk losing their home and farm for it. Yin suggests selling the Sword of Tang, but her father refuses, saying that the sword is destined for good fortune in the future, not being sold in the present. Her mother begins to cry when she presses further about the issue. When they get home, Yin hopes that they’ll reconsider their decision, but they go straight to bed without a word.
That night, Yin waits for everyone to fall asleep and takes the Sword of Tang from her parents’ room. Her and Luan set off for the healer’s house, allowing Luan to lead the way. She asks the starling if he ever wishes that he was bonded to another girl, and Luan replied why singing a lovely melody. Yin is now more confident that she’s doing the right thing.
Just before she arrives, it begins to rain. She knocked at Kuan’s door, and she immediately answers. Yin tells her that she’s come to but the cure, but Kuan refuses to accept the sword as payment as she knows her father wouldn’t have allowed it. Yin insists that it’s hers to give. She gives in, selling Yin her strongest cure that will make his fever break by morning, or not at all. She promises that she’ll keep the sword safe for as long as she lives just in case Yin comes back for it.
She runs home and goes straight to Yu, giving him the medicine before going to sleep. In the morning, she wakes to the sound of T’ien growling because of the ruckus her father is making, searching the house for the sword. Yin ignores him and goes to Yu’s room in hopes that his fever has broken, but he’s burning hot and unable to speak. She cries, dreading having to face her family after giving away their sword.
Yu stares at Yin until she looks, opening and closing his hands. Yin puzzles together that he wants to hear a story and tells him about Jhi and the Great Bamboo Maze. Suddenly, she gets an idea, proposing that she take him to Jhi to be healed. Yu nods. Yin creates a sling to hold him and searches for the map of the maze in her parents’ room, finding it with ease. She runs out the door, ignoring the calls of her father as he looks outside for her.
They reach the maze. As they walk, Yin tells Yu everything she knows about the maze before summoning Luan to ensure that they’re at the place on the map where Yin thinks they are. The starling flies up to confirm this and comes back down, tearing out pieces of the map. She frantically shoes him away then asks if he thinks she’ll be able to squeeze through the bamboo walls. She gives it a try, but the reeds underfoot break to reveal a large, metal animal trap and decides not try that again.
Yin presses on until nightfall, discovering a gap in the wall. She pulls out her map, realizing that it’s the piece that Luan pulled out, fixing the outdated map. He flies up and fixes the map again. Soon, though, Yin is unable to see the map and settled down for the night, wondering why the maze is changing. She looks into the night sky, listening to the wind against the bamboo.
Something moves next to her. Yin startles, watching countless rats scurry around. One of them finds it’s way into Yu’s sling, but Luan scares it off, and she pulls her brother close, his skin like fire. Yin wished upon the stars, looking at two bright ones that looked like eyes, realizing that the maze is changing because Jhi is eating it. If she could follow Jhi’s path, she could ask for her to heal Yu.
The next morning Yin wakes to find that Yu is much worse. She goes quicker now, fearing that he might not survive the night. Luan scouts the path as usual, flying down to peck out strands of fabric to correct the outdated map, and suddenly gets excited. He pecks out fabrics of locations where bamboo had stood the day before; they were getting closer.
Yin hears voices as she passes a major crossroads. She spots the top of the bamboo shaking and listens to some workers toiling. She steps closer and eavesdrops on the men on the other side of the bamboo. They talk about how Jhi has been there recently and how she’ll have a “surprise” waiting for her. Yin guesses that this surprise takes the form of the trap she ran into when she tried to cut through the maze.
Yu coughs, giving away their position. The workers begin to run through the maze, but they‘ll need to navigate through many turns before they reach Yin and Yu. Yin runs back to the crossroads, but a wild boar appears behind her, followed by an alligator. The three workers emerge, dressed not like workers but in soldier’s attire. Even more people appear, and Yin bolts down the maze. Luan follows, ripping out more threads.
Without warning, a figure pounces out of nowhere and seizes Luan: a tarantula. A woman appears after it and takes Luan in her own hand. Yin demands she give him back and reveals her plan to seek Jhi. The woman tells her that she’ll help her if she goes with her. In Yin’s moment of confusion, she tries to take back Luan, but the woman grasps her wrist and drags her back towards the men. One of the guards call her by her name: Nao. She sets up Yin doing perilous work setting traps meant to capture Jhi.
That night when she’s finished her work, Yin returns to Yu and gives him all of their water rations. She tells him the story of a storm. At the end, she begins to weep, telling him that she’s proud to be his sister and attempts to find sleep. She looks up at the sky, eying two silver stars in particular, the ones from the night before, shining so bright that they can even penetrate the clouds. Tranquility engulfs Yin, and she decides to go and look for Jhi.
She sneaks out of camp, a sudden plan forming in her mind: What if she turned the traps against the foreign army? Yin manages to disassemble all of them and closes her eyes, just listening, when a bamboo stalk cracks behind her. It’s Jhi.
The soldiers come running from the camp as the traps spring up. Yin warns Jhi about them and tells her to run, but the Great Panda doesn’t budge, even when the soldiers appear. She tells the soldiers in a lovely voice that she doesn’t wish to hurt them. Nao unleashed her tarantula and Yin watches it scurry up and take the Bamboo Panda from Jhi’s neck and sprint away. Jhi looks after them with sad, longing eyes. Yin asks her why she didn’t stop them. Jhi turns to her, explaining that she needed her more, leaning down to luxe her panda spit to heal Yin’s blister-covered hands. Yin is in awe and stares up at the two silver stars—Jhi’s eyes. She realizes that the panda had been following her.
Jhi asks who the soldiers were. Yin tells her everything that she knew about them before protesting again about why she didn’t heal her brother right away. Jhi simply ignores this, murmuring about contacting the other Great Beasts before telling her that she needed Yin to prove herself first. This confuses Yin momentarily.
A small voice sounds behind them. It’s Yu, and he’s been healed. Yin thanks Jhi with elated grace, asking how she can repay her. She says that there is something that she can do. Jhi will take them home, but after a week, they will return to her, as there is great trouble ahead and she could use her aide. Yin agrees. They climb atop the Great Panda and walk deeper into the Bamboo Maze.Zhong soon falls to a surprise attack from Stetriol, the act that commences the First Devourer War. In the years after Feliandor was defeated, Yu grows up to become a revered storyteller, recounting boundless tales of green-cloaked heroes and wars few lived to tell. But his favorite story was always of his sister, Yin, defying the rules of Zhong and wielding the Sword of Tang throughout many battles. She was the best spy in the Greencloak’s forces and the bravest woman he’d ever know.
- Three of the authors, (Nick Eliopulos, Billy Merrell, and Gavin Brown) are admins on the Spirit Animals Forum.
- All of these stories take place around the time of the First Devourer War, a long time before the main series.