In the year 159 of the reign of the emperor Hadrian, the kingdom of Avolle experienced a series of remarkable technological innovations that would alter the fate of their nation dramatically and irrevocably. By developing a primitive engine that was powered by large amounts of steam, a few inventors had discovered that they could entirely mechanise activities that had previously been performed with massive manual labour. Within the space of a few months, prototype industrial complexes begun to emerge , designed and constructed under the auspices of wealthy and ambitious merchants eager to utilise the new technology that they had purchased for a song from among the rather impoverished and desperate inventors that had first pioneered them.
Tragically however, the entry of Avole into the industrial era would have a devastating impact on the lives of its immediate neighbours, the primitive tribe of barbarians that have lived in the wild mountains bordering the kingdom’s bleak and dangerous boundaries since time immemorial.
Such was the fate of the tribes of Ragosi. Simply meaning ‘‘high peaks’ in their native dialects, this extensive swath of mountains drew the attention of predatory prospectus and industrialists when it a party of hunters from Avolle discovered that these land were abundant in iron ore. For the tribesmen who had dwelled on these harsh peaks since living memory, procuring a meagre existence from the hunting of giant moles and the gathering of fungi, this discovery also signalled the violent extinction of their old way of life.
First came the miners who defiled the sanctuary of the mountain spirits with their picks and shovels. Outraged by their disregard for the welfare of the native tribes, the barbarians took to felling some of the shameless ‘‘civilized’’ intruders with their flint darts, determined to drive away the intruders. Then, in response to these sporadic ambushes against the miners, came the soldiers. Waging a ruthless year long campaign, they stormed the caverns inhabited by the tribes, viciously slaying those that resisted and dragging away in chains those that chose to surender their freedom in exchange for their lives.
For the next five decades, the people of the mountains would be taken to slave away in sprawling weapons industrial complex located close to the wilderness that they had once roamed freely in. The industrial complex in question was owned and run by a greedy industrialist who had decided to locate his factory in such a remote location as to enjoy easy access to the steady stream of iron pouring in from the Ragosi, as well as to receive the first shipment of the barbarians slaves that his cronies in the army had promised him. It was in his factories that the people of the Ragosi would experience unimaginable horrors, their bodies ravaged by both the lashes of their overseers and the foul fumes unleashed by the massive machines.
As the long and cruel years passed, they despaired that they would remain wretched slaves forever devoid of any hope of freedom. But just as their hope begun to desert them completely, a day arrived when they received aid from a rather unexpected quarter. Some of the enslaved had been prior to their capture, shamans who had communed with the elemental spirits of the mountain. Venerating both the spirit of moisture that nourished the prey the hunted and the spirit of stone that gave them the material they utilised to make important tools, they would often rip open the beating heart of a sacrificial animal and hurl it into the deep, dark depths of the mountain ravines where the spirits dwelt, seeking to ensure that the elemental divinities would always show the mountain folk their favour.
Now, as they suffered the most terrible agonies in the hell that their captors had constructed for them, one of these shamans by the name of Dogath, found a hitherto alien presence speaking to him even as he gagged on the foul smoke that pervaded the tiny, cramped space that he toiled in.
Filling his awed mind with its sonorous baritone, the spirit of metal spoke to him exhorting them to overthrow the vile monsters that had enslaved it much as hey had his people, the traditional stewards of the mountains. Unforgivably greedy, the accursed invaders had savagely dug vast, gaping holes in the flanks of the mountains, seeking to rob the Ragosi of as much iron ore as they could carry off. No sacrifices had been offered in return to either the spirits of stone or the spirit of metal , despite the fact that the actions of these miners had grievously wounded both elementals.
Worse still, angered by the infernal din caused by the pillage of the Ragosi, the spirit of moisture had retailed by unleashing vast down pours that further eroded the flesh of the spirit of stone, causing it even greater agony. If the comic balance of nature was to be restored, the mountain folk would have to put an end to the ruthless mining actives currently unfolding in the vastness of the Ragosi.
Elated and enthralled, Dogath, the foremost and most gifted among the imprisoned shamans, resolved to liberate his people and put an end to the foul rape that the greedy merchants of Avolle had inflicted on the holy sanctuary of Ragosi.
Clandestinely, he summoned the power he possessed as a shaman, allowing the massive presence of the spirit of metal to permeate him so deeply that its awesome radiance spread outwards from him in an encompassing wave, hence allowing the outraged elemental to suffuse the minds of his surrounding tribesmen toiling away in the immediate vicinity, with the outraged, seething rage and searing agony wracking it.
Spellbound, the mountain folk could not help their mouths from becoming slack jawed as the spirit of metal begun to address them collectively, urging them to obey its will and in doing so, liberate both themselves and their beloved Ragosi from the ravening merchants of Avolle who had ruthlessly ground the abode of the spirits beneath their heels.
And with that final decree, the brooding entity vanished from Dogath’s mind as mysteriously as it had first intruded into his consciousness. Barely a moment after its abrupt withdrawal, a callous fist slammed into Dogath’s still stunned visage. As he stumbled to his knees from the force of the blow and spat out a mouthful of blood and shattered teeth, he scarcely heard the furious curses and threats of his overseer, for he was still immersed in the great mystery that had unfolded but mere seconds before.
Even as agony coursed through his bleeding mouth, a fluttering spark, a mere seed of an idea, slowly begun to take form in his mind.
Instincts cultivated by decades of the training that he had undergone as a spiritual leader among his people, immediately warned him that this sudden stroke of inspiration did not actually stem from his own reserve of imagination. On the contrary, it was a small fragment that had detached itself from the divine presence that had dominated and held captive his thoughts but fleeting moments ago.
This blessing from the spirit of metal would give him the strength he needed to demonstrate to the arrogant occupiers of the Ragosi what his people were truly capable of. The night would come when these foul invaders would learn that his people were not as weak and cowed as they had imagined.
For the next five years, the shard of the spirit of metal that had ledged itself in his mind, continued to haunt his d reams as he slumbered at nigh, opening a pathway for Doguth to sojourn into the vast and dazzling core of the mighty, overwhelming being that claimed to be the very manifestation of the element of metal.
During these brief forays into the overwhelming consciousness of the metal element, Dogath saw with his own eyes the creation that the disembodied bit of divinity trapped on his mind demanded of him. As these excursions progressed, the mysterious, arcane knowledge of the elemental fused with the technical expertise that he had acquired while toiling in the demonic workshop of his hated oppressors and he realised what he had to do in order to liberate his people.
For the following months Dogath did his best to avoid arousing the suspicion of his captors, meekly carrying out whatever was expected of him and even failed to protest when he was made to work on the assembly lines long past the usual time for his slumber.
Meanwhile, however, little scraps of metal and small tools and bolts continued to vanish periodically before resurfacing once again. More often than not, the negligent and bored overseers would pretend not to notice these odd goings on as long as the tools in question could found when they were required for official purposes. This was a fact that suited Dogath very well.
By developing a rudimentary system of code by which he could communicate with his fellow slaves without arousing the wariness of their oversees, Dogath could obtain from his fellows the tools and materials he needed to bring to life the vision demanded of him by the spirit of metal.
By varying the cadence and pace of the sledge hammer he would be tasked to wield from time to time, Dogath could demand exactly what type of tools and materials he required for the grand undertaking that he had been entrusted with. Moreover, late at night, when he was supposed to be assembling rifles and components for small artillery pieces on behalf of his employers, he would actually clandestinely labour on his own little project once he had finished the task allotted to him.
Any bright sparks caused by the welding machine he used or the sledge hammer he wielded was ignored by the slumbering guards who were convinced that he was simply a lazy slave who was taking much longer over his given take than he rightfully should. So complete was the submission of the savages that the armies of Avolle had conquered, did that there was no possible way that these stone age animals would ever even think of defying their will. Such was the mistaken assumption of the overseers in charge of supervising the subjugated mountain folk
These illusions that the arrogant people of Avole maintained about the cowardice and meekness of the simple ‘‘barbarians’’ that they had so swiftly crushed, were soon to be rudely shattered. On a dark night, as the guards slept peacefully in their dormitories, something that they could never have foreseen took place.
A violent explosion suddenly shook the low compound where the slaves were housed. Awoken by this thunderous commotion, the alarmed guards blearily grabbed their rifles and clothes and stormed out, anxious to determine the cause of this disturbance. What they saw next left them utterly shocked and furious alike. The iron gate guarding the entrance of the slave compound had been blown off its hinges and a chaotic mass of slaves carrying satchels bulging with stolen tools, were pouring out in ragged streams, determined to make a run for the heavily wooded foot hills that existed outside the immediate boundaries of the industrial complex.
Once they had reached that thickly forested terrain, their captors would be unable to pursue them. Determined to prevent just such an unfortunate outcome, the guards begun to aim their rifles at the escapees, determined to mow down the first line of newly liberated slaves. But just as the order had been given and their fingers were about to squeeze their triggers, they suddenly observed that a strange, burnished object was moving swiftly towards their massed formation.
As the object loomed up in their vision, closer inspection revealed a figure entirely encased in bizarre, golden armour of a kind that they had never seen before. Striding blithely towards them, the seemingly fearless intruder seemed utterly heedless of the bristling array of guns pointed in his immediate direction. Completely bemused, the guards fired simultaneously at this apparently crazed fool who was determined to court his own destruction. However, when the smoke caused by this furious fullisade finally cleared away, a most astonishing sight greeted the eye of the guards.
Instead of the bullet riddled corpse trapped in its perforated armour that they had expected to see, the golden man continued to remain upright, with nary a dent in the metal shell that completely encased him.
As they gazed at him with a growing expression on their faces that was not unlike that of horror, their challenger chose to strike back
A small hatch located on the left arm of his suit of armour opened, revealing a sleek, cylindrical object. Immediately, a rapid gust of fire issued from its nozzle and with terrifying speed, swept towards the hapless riflemen, entirely consuming them in an inferno of burning flesh and frenzied screams.
As their screams continued to linger, more gusts of flame continued to issue forth from the open hatch, moving rapidly to set ablaze the giant structures in the immediate vicinity. From beneath his metal mask, Dogath watched with the gathering conflagration with great satisfaction. At long last the humiliation of his people had been avenged. Then, satisfied that he had inflicted enough destruction, he blasted off into the night sky, eager to reach the sanctuary of his beloved Ragosi mountains.
For the twenty years that followed this dramatic escape from captivity, the mountain people of the Ragosi waged a ferocious of war against their foes. Aided by Dogath and the powerful suit of armour that head had created at the behest of the spirit of metal, devastating raids were launched against mining encampments and military outposts located close to the wild regions that surrounded the lofty peaks of Ragosi.
Naturally, in response to these raids that had significantly reduced the flow of iron ore to their factories, the merchants of Avolle financed a new expedition to quell the defiant mountain people that had once again set out to threaten their vitals commercial interests following their mysterious escape from captivity.
But this time, the folk of the Ragosi emerged the victors following the second confrontation between them and the armies of Avolle. With the aid and the blessing of the spirit of metal and the technical skills that they had acquired as factory slaves toiling in a weapons workshops, six more suits of the invincible armour were created for six of the most potent shamans who were second only to Dogath when it came to their ability to speak with sprits dwelling in the mountains. Clad in their newly forged armor, these six heroes were able to help Dogath put to flight the avenging armies that stormed their mountains once again, killing no less than five hundred enemy soldiers in the process.
For now at least, the armies of Avolle have chosen to search for the iron ore that they crave so badly elsewhere, in other less contested locations. But the wise elders among the people of the Ragosi harbour no illusions and know that its only a matter of time before the greed of Avolle’s merchants and industrialists result in a second war against the Ragosi being launched. However, they take heart from the fact that these wondrous suits will save them once again from the wrath of their foes.
Indeed, so deep and strong is their reverence for the seven suits that have been forged, that these lethal weapons are actually offered blood sacrifices and other ceremonial honours second only to those given to the sprits of the Ragosi.
When not in use, these suits are even stored in a special shrine where they are worshiped as manifestations of the awesome power and ingenuity of the spirit of metal. They have even been given the grand title of ‘‘Osaki’’ , a word in the native language that simply means ‘‘divine blessing’‘.
To propitiate the spirit of metal which is believed to infuse the suits with its power, exploitive mining of the iron ore at the heart of the mountains is strictly forbidden, with only a small amount of ore being mined sporadically. Even these minor acts of mining are always preceded by blood sacrifices and ceremonies enacted before the shrine of the Osaki.
The punishment for anyone caught defying this taboo is extremely harsh, with the culprit being slaughtered by the outraged shamans who subsequently proceed to smear the blood of the offender over the steps leading to the shrine of the Osaki. This ritual bloodletting is carried out with the intention of placating the anger of the spirit of metal who would otherwise withdraw its blessings from the mountain people.
Full Item Description
The armour donned by Dogath and his fellow shamans is entirely composed of detachable plates and of iron that interlock with each other via reinforced bolts and cogs that mesh with one another seamlessly. Painted gold, each individual suit of Osaki it covers the entire body of the user. Even the face of the user is shielded by an all encompassing iron mask.
The shimmering surface of this mask is incised with scared runes praising the power and graciousness of the spirit of metal. It is also marked by two narrow eye holes that hold twin red ruby lenses that enable the person donning the mask to perceive his surroundings with increased intensity and range.
As the user sees fit, a series of lenses are always ready to be inserted into the eye holes through the aid of a slotting mechanism that is built directly into the back of the mask.
One would think that without any ventilation holes in the mask, the user would rapidly suffocate within the confines of the suit, but that is not the case. Two cylinderical tanks built into the back of the suit are attached to a steel oxygen mask that when placed over the users face, provides him with an oxygen supply that can last up to twenty hours.
This also means that attempts to suffocate or poison the wearer with noxious fumes and poisons will fail, since the wearer can breathe independently of the surrounding atmosphere.
However, as the discerning reader can probably infer by now, the entire suit when donned, is rather heavy, weighing no less than fifty kilograms. Fortunately, this flaw is ably remedied by certain innovations that would be remarkable even by the standards of nations and empires more advanced than Avolle itself.
A series of motors placed within the supporting arm and leg joints of the suit enable the wielder to move with great ease and devastating strength. The wielder of the Osaki can simply punch his way through brick and concrete walls should he ever see the need to pull off a feat of that nature.
Unlike the conventional motors employed by the industries of Avolle which are generally gasoline powered, the motors of the Osaki suit are powered by an ethanol fuel derived from the sap of locally growing flora.
In terms of armament, the Osaki is also formidable, possessing a retractable arm-mounted flame thrower that emerges from the right arm component, while the left arm component for its part, possesses a small flak canon that discharges bits of solid metal shrapnel.
Functioning much like a modern gun, exploding gases within the barrel force out these flak pellets at an extremely high velocity, causing them to rip bloody swathes through rows of massed soldiers. More horrifying to the enemy still, is the fact that the flak cannon can fire repeatedly for five hours, before it needs to be reloaded once again.
To facilitate the task of reloading, there is a small rectangular clip projecting outwards from each of the shoulder plates of the suit. Equipped with removable steel tops that are activated by a spring mechanism, , a maximum of five hundred crudely made iron pellets can be stuffed into them, ready for use at any time.
There is even a second chest-mounted cannon gun which unleashes a small warhead when activated. Packed with plastic explosives manufactured from sacks of stolen dynamite and fashioned from extremely thick layers of iron, these warheads are capable of reducing a modern day tank to a pile of smouldering wreckage if a direct hit results.
Additionally, they are also propelled by a rocket booster that allows them to remain air borne for up to fifteen minutes until they hit their target.
An even more spectacular feature of the Osaki are the ethanol powered jet packs located within the steel boots of the suit that can propel the wielder into the air and enable him to fly for a duration of no less than fifteen hours.
However, all of the already mentioned features of the Osaki, regardless of how fantastic and phenomenal they might seem to the inhabitants of other lands, pale in comparison to the Osakis unique ability to fend of the damage that would ordinarily be inflicted by high powered metal projectiles discharged at it.
Such is the mystical nature of the suit that metal objects such as bullets or artillery shells that are fired at the Osaki, rather than denting or perforating the suit, are actually absorbed into the metal of the suit at the moment of impact and thus strengthen the Osaki rather than damage it.
The Oskai’s potent ability to liquefy metal projectiles that slam into it and meld them to its own frame, stems from the fact that it is actually endowed with the divine power of the spirit of metal that empowered the original artificer of the suit with some of its own strength and intelligence when it inspired him to bring the first Osaki into existence. As such, it is invulnerable to damage that would otherwise be inflicted by metal projectiles that share the same element as the spirit which empowers the suit. For the same reason, the Osaki also never rusts, no matter how wet it gets.
Most importantly, the elemental origins of the Osaki also allows the wielder to telepathically communicate with the lingering essence of the spirit that resides within it. By opening his mind to the elemental presence lying within it and thereby forming a channel of communication with it, he can get the Osaki to carry out his commands.
However, there is a heavy price to be paid if one uses the Osaki in a manner that is reckless.
Since it brings the wielder’s consciousness into close proximity with the overwhelming presence of the spirit of metal, prolonged use of the Osaki results in the wearer’s very soul being gradually drawn towards and absorbed into the vast essence of the spirit of metal. Thus, most disturbingly, as time in the suit passes, the wearer actually begins to lose his body and mind alike to the innately predatory nature of the spirit of metal.
Even as his soul begins to unravel, too much of it have being incorporated into the cosmic matter that the spirit of metal consists of, the wearer’s body begins to transform into an inanimate mass of iron, his living flesh unable to endure the corrosive touch of the metal elemental’s presence any longer. It is little surprise then that the great shaman Dogath who was the first to form a powerful link with the spirit of metal, is now dying a slow and immensely painful death, with entire parts of his body having been gradually transmuted to iron. Hence, in order to avert future tragedies of this nature, the other shamans have forbidden any among their number from using the suit for more than ten hours every year or so.