While there are a couple of download versions of Thormun’s Journals, I feel like a posted one is needed most, so anyone can reference it with the ease of before. Also, if any realy good entries are submitted, they might be added up here, since it has now become Heroscapers duty (in a sense) to fill in holes with figures (C3V), terrain and the overall storyline. Any submissions must be the next required journal entry, and journal entries after wave D3 can be made about C3V/SoV figures. Lastly, fan art in the style of the original drawings may also be submitted.
Chapter 1: Nastralund
Journal Entry #1
I am Thormun. Valhalla is my homeland, though I do not recognize the regions that I dare to visit. My people, the Kyrie, lived peacefully here for thousands of years under the rule of our Archkyries. Then the wellsprings were found, and everything changed.
Ah, the mysterious wellsprings. Sixty-some years ago I discovered the first one quite by accident, in the Tarn of Volsunga. When I drank its water, I became stronger in body and mind; my wings grew to a wondrous size; I gained mystical powers; and to my astonishment, I stopped aging. Yet if I did not drink from the wellspring often, the powers faded.
I lived quite happily in this way for a time, except for the visions. You see, along with the powers came strange visions of armies at war on bleak, unknown battlegrounds. Their images were terrifying, and I lived in fear of them; yet I still drank the water.
I was not surprised to hear that other wellsprings had been found. Other Kyrie drank from them, and gained powers from them, and saw the visions. They became a super-species; they named themselves Valkyrie, and they seized control of the wellsprings. Inevitably, there began a violent struggle over the precious waters. I fled before they could find me, for I was alone, and did not want war. My powers soon vanished, and the visions along with them.
As for the visions of the Valkyrie – they became a horrifying reality. The Valkyrie discovered that the images in those visions were of great heroes, warriors and creatures from other worlds, other eras. They devised ways to beckon them to Valhalla, and gathered them into powerful armies to fight for their side. Lush valleys and hillsides became military strongholds. Majestic mountains became vantage points for deadly attacks on those below. Armies marched, fought, claimed victory or were vanquished, all for the wellsprings.
Alas, Valhalla, my once-serene homeland, has now become a war-torn and desolate ruin.
They are calling this age of war the Rise of the Valkyrie.
I travel the land in secret, carrying little more than my journals and my heavy burden of guilt, for it all began with me.
I record all that I witness or hear about, for those who will come after me. Indeed, if any do…
Journal Entry #2
War is everywhere, and its dangers multiply as Utgar's army grows in size and ferocity. I underestimated Utgar's savagery and hunger for power. His massive, tireless, well-prepared armies attack relentlessly, with little or no
warning, and leave a sickening path of destruction in their wake. And now they have done the unforgivable: they have invaded my hometown of Tealeron. The peaceful village where I spend my childhood; where my brother, his wife and his children made their home; now utterly annihilated, a smoldering heap of rubble. I can only pray that my friends and
family escaped safely.
Recently I had the privilege of meeting Jandar, Archkyrie and ruler of Nastralund, where many of Utgar's armies are now waging war. When Jandar told me of his constant need for soldiers and scouts, I eagerly volunteered for a scouting post in his army. The horrors of this war have given me new resolve, and I am no longer content to travel in secret. I am old, but I can still fly, and I know the region well. We will not lose this war; Utgar will not destroy this planet. And I will not sit silently by and simply watch Utgar work his evil.
Jandar also spoke of other Valkyrie, others who had drunk from the wellsprings. Rumors are of a Valkyrie in the east named Ullar. It is unclear whether he is Jandar's ally, Utgar's ally, or serves his own purpose. Jandar is sending emissaries to meet with Ullar and two others who have made their presence known. These other Valkyrie have not mastered the difficulties of summoning armies and, as of now, their forces are small. But soon they too will learn to control the visions and the war will only get worse. I hope their hearts are pure.
Journal Entry #3
Last night, I had the pleasure of camping with Jandar's Northern Army. The army has heard rumors of a pending attack. They are holding the high ground in the old ruins of Stechavan, located in the southern part of the Nastralund. Sgt. Drake Alexander leads this army. He spoke of his family, and of a great war on a planet named Earth. He spoke of good and evil.
"Jandar is noble. Utgar on the other hand is evil. Utgar seeks power and
wealth, like so many generals from Earth. At what point, do we, intelligent beings, actually learn from history?" - Sgt. Drake Alexander
Journal Entry #4
Last night, I also met Raelin. She is beautiful and courageous. The Sentinels of Jandar all respect Raelin. She is also a childhood friend of Jandar's. The Sentinels spoke of her valor on the battlefield. I'm glad she is fighting on our side. We are going on a scouting mission
today. I will document all that we see.
Journal Entry #5
This is Arik, he is a Sentinel. The Sentinels are the core of Jandar's army, what's left of it. About 200 are in the Northern army. They are tough. Most of them have homes near here.
Journal Entry #6
We, Raelin and myself, traveled along the edge of the forest near Stechavan. Raelin described to me one of Utgar's many soldiers.
"Be wary of this creature, for it never travels alone. Its bluish tint and foul smell are unmistakable. Known as a "Blade Grut" from the Orc family, this beast travels in large packs, using sheer numbers and jagged blades to hack away at their enemies. There are rumors of thousands of these creatures gathering just outside of Nastralund." - Raelin
Journal Entry #7
Raelin also told me about Utgar's Marro Warriors. In the past, when I used to drink from the wellspring, I use to get visions of these creatures fighting hordes of snakes.
"Skinless and dripping, these creatures are the most disgusting that I have seen yet. They are brutal with their weapons, and somehow they actually seem to be multiplying. During a battle I witnessed the most unusual thing. As soon as one of these creatures died, another was formed. I saw one creature in the water look as if it was going to split in two. Its body began to stretch apart. I thought it was going to split in half, then suddenly I looked and there were two of these creatures standing where there used to be only one. Can such creatures ever be completely destroyed?"
Journal Entry #8
As Raelin was talking quietly, we heard in the distance something moving through the forest. We quickly flew up into a large tree with many leaves. If we remain quiet we should be able to observe what is coming without being spotted. That's when we saw this hideous
creature. Looks like Utgar has a new edition to his already powerful Marro Army. This creature was surrounded by an army of Marro Drones and a huge horde of Blade Gruts.
Journal Entry #9
On the left flank, there is a horde of these skeleton dogs. They look like another marro creature. Sgt. Alexander is not going to be happy. We are going to have to make a break for the air to warn the Northern army.
Chapter 2: Jandar’s Order
Journal Entry #10
Much has happened since my last journal entry. After seeing the Marro horde and Blade Gruts, Raelin and I decided to separate. She flew north to warn Jandar's Northern Army, led by Sgt. Drake Alexander; I flew east over the Sigling Sea to make sure there was not a second assault wave of evil warriors. We were fearful that Utgar might have taken Ekstrom by then. The Sigling Sea is a great sea, so I gratefully island-hopped along the way, to preserve my strength. On one of these islands I noticed four Kyrie flying toward me from the south. Observing them from the safety of a towering
evergreen, I was relieved to see the silver and blue armor of Jandar's army, and I flew to greet them. It turned out to be Jandar himself, accompanied by Concan, Tyrian and Kelda. Jandar reacted quickly to the information that I passed along to him and began giving us orders, which I will relate in detail in my following journal entries.
Journal Entry #11
Jandar's orders began as follows:
"Concan, Tyrian, Kelda and Thormun, you four must convince the other Valkyrie that we need their help in the war against Utgar. Weeks ago I sent emissaries, but I have had visions that they were intercepted and executed. Utgar's forces are growing in Laur and upper Bleakwoode, and we will not win this war alone. Tell the Valkyrie that it is only a matter of time before Utgar's hordes invade their lands. There are three known Valkyrie who are also Archkyrie: Ullar of Ekstrom, Vydar of Anund, and Einar of Lindesfarme. Go to Ullar first, for he is closest to us and is our best hope for immediate help.
"What I now tell you is vital and confidential information about the wellsprings. It must be shared only with Valkyrie who pledge their support in the war against Utgar. As you know, the water from the wellsprings halts the aging process, makes us stronger, and gives certain Valkyrie visions and special powers. Six known Valkyrie receive visions: Utgar, Thormun, Einar, Ullar and Vydar, and me. As Kyrie, they shared their visions with the High Counsel of the Archkyrie, and were each given the title of Valkyrie."
Journal Entry #12
Jandar shared his visions about the wellsprings:
"There are six known wellsprings on Valhalla. I recently discovered the seventh, in Northern Nastralund. There are 15 small chambers around each wellspring. When a wellspring is first discovered, 14 chambers are empty, and one chamber contains an amulet. I believe, from my visions, that these chambers represent the 15 wellsprings on Valhalla, and that one amulet will be found in each wellspring upon its discovery. Possession of these amulets is critical, for in my recent visions Utgar had gained possession of all 15 of the amulets, with catastrophic results."
Journal Entry #13
Jandar's revelations continued:
"Around each wellspring are several slightly-raised panels with ancient runes. The rune inscribed on two side-by-side panels shows a circle of swirling rocks with a star at its center. When a Valkyrie places one hand on each of these panels and concentrates, his visions become more realistic, more vivid and intense. The key is to continue pressing these panels and concentrating, for this will open a portal through which powerful heroes and armies from other worlds and eras may enter.
"As the portal opens, a spiral of crystals and rocks will rise up from the wellspring, swirling higher and higher in a circular pattern. A bright blue light will pour through the center of the portal. The Valkyrie must quickly fly into this light and through the portal, then use his telekinetic powers to bring the hero or army through the opening. These heroes and armies from other worlds are strong and powerful, and provide a great source of reinforcements. All Valkyrie who wish to join us in our fight against the evil Utgar must begin bringing in these critical allies."
Journal Entry #14
"My recent visions show Utgar placing one of the 15 amulets in each chamber of a wellspring. He forces a captive human to press his hands against the two panels. A portal opens to the planet Earth, and the next event is so horrific that it sends shivers of fear throughout my entire being: a horde of Marro and their minions fly through the portal, Earthbound and feverish to invade and conquer. We must not, we will not, allow these events to occur.
"I believe that the Valkyrie who possesses the 15 amulets will gain the ability to control his visions, and will thus be able to invade other planets via the portals. Likewise, a Valkyrie who possesses all of the amulets will be able to return all heroes and armies to their home planets. You must relay this information only to Valkyrie who swear their allegiance in this war against Utgar. These are my orders."
Journal Entry #15
After Jandar left we quickly took flight, heading east toward the Great Castle of Ullar in northwestern Ekstrom. After a half-day's journey, we were welcomed into the castle by Ullar. Ullar is a loyal and trusted ally, for Jandar's family and his family have been friends for generations.
In the Great Hall of Ullar's castle, we enjoyed a great feast. Ullar introduced us to two Kyrie, Saylind and Beldun, and four odd-looking creatures: Syvarris, Sonlen, Kyntela and Jordawn. We asked if Ullar had received word from Dorudian, the emissary sent weeks ago.
According to Ullar, he never reached the castle. He has been busy recruiting heroes and armies from other worlds and eras-warriors engaged in battle, usually in mortal danger and within
seconds of death.
Journal Entry #16
The first hero he saved from another world was Syvarris. Syvarris said to us, "Ullar saved me when I was about to lose my head in a battle with Krug, an evil troll from my home world Feylund. I am a Thilkian Elf, and I will fight for Ullar for as long as he requires my services. Someday I would like to return to my home, but I do not know if this will be possible."
Journal Entry #17
"Our story is much the same as that of Syvarris. We were ambushed and surrounded by a large squad of Anubian Wolves, and just as they were about to kill us, we were rescued by Ullar. We, like many other elves, have willingly joined Ullar's Army, but we have grown fearful that we are losing the war on Feylund."
- Kyntela Gwyn
Journal Entry #18
Ullar told us that he was gathering an army to send to Nastralund. Saylind would lead her newly-acquired Viper Army to assist Jandar's Army. Upon hearing this, we told him that we had highly-confidential information from Jandar. After Ullar excused his five companions, we told him the secret information that Jandar had revealed to us. Ullar was relieved to know there might be a way to return his friends to their homeland, even though the way seemed nearly impossible.
Journal Entry #19
After the feast, Ullar took us to the grand courtyard, eager to show us his army. Once there, we could hardly believe our eyes: a giant, three times the size of an average Kyrie, stood tall in the courtyard. His name, we learned, was Jotun.
Journal Entry #20
Even more impressive than the giant were the hundreds of snake-like creatures that Ullar called Vipers. These repellant green beings looked fierce, hungry and ready for battle.
Chapter 3: Trials and Travails
Journal Entry #21
Inscribed by Thormun of Tealeron on this the 3rd day of Rannveig:
I write here by the glow of candle light. The halls of Ullar stand in eerie silence, devoid of the busy comings and goings of the day. The only sound is that of the walls, moaning in rebellion against Rannveig's wind. Sleep evades me; I am endlessly plagued by horrific nightmares. The moon has been reborn in the night sky thrice since last I caught more than a few hours of restless slumber. I fear these terrors are anything but ordinary; they have all too familiar a feel for that. Visions! That is what they are, remnants of the wellspring's drink. Though they lack the clarity they once had when the magical waters were still fresh upon my lips, they are nonetheless fearsome.
So full of dark and foreboding symbolism are these visions that their meaning escapes me. I can tell no one about them for fear that others may think I am losing my grip on sanity, and word of my madness will find its way to the ears of Jandar. I cannot be discharged from duty. I will not allow myself to be helplessly unable to do my part in resolving the conflict that I started, when I first sipped those intoxicating waters. So I retreat here to the pages of my journal, keeping it near, trusting to it my closest secrets. The waters still call to me, but I must resist, for drinking would have grave consequence. That much of these cryptic visions is clear.
In my nightmare, I was a wolf. I felt as a wolf would feel, thought as a wolf would think. My senses stood on end; I could taste and smell even the slightest change in the air. From out of the sky soared a large and noble-looking bird, a mighty eagle, its wingspan 6 feet or more across. The eagle landed beside me, unafraid of my sharp fangs and
With eyes as pools of wisdom and insight, the bird looked over my dark and well-muscled canine form. It tilted its head as if to say, "Come, follow me." And then, with a graceful leap and a thrust of its powerful wings, the bird was once again airborne. I ran after it moving fast, very fast. We soon came upon a hidden spring, and the bird landed at my side. This was no ordinary pool of water; it was a wellspring, one I had never seen before.
The bird nodded; it beckoned me to drink. I moved forward slowly. Closing my eyes, I lowered my head and lapped up the cool water.
It felt intensely relieving, like taking in air after a long stay underwater. Then suddenly, the water grew warm and its taste altogether different. When I opened my eyes, I saw that the water had turned a dark red. I turned and looked for the eagle, but instead saw a swaying cobra. Its eyes were as rubies; in them I saw my own reflection, the reflection of a wolf flashing an evil grin, its maw dripping with the crimson liquid of the tainted wellspring.
Journal Entry #22
Inscribed by Thormun of Tealeron on this the 8th day of Rannveig:
Our company rode away from the hospitality and cozy dwellings of lord Ullar three sunrises ago. We travel along the cost of the Bitter Sea, whose sunrises are particularly spectacular; the sky is painted with shades of amber and pink as if by the great brush strokes of a mighty hand. However, for all the beauty of the sea, she is poor company to keep this
time of year; winds blow in from across her surface, they dig their way through layers of fabric, and bite down with bitter teeth. Alongside me ride Kelda, Concan, Tyrian, six of Ullar's Protectors - kyrie warriors bearing pistol-like crossbows and the noble Beldun, Ullar's right hand.
Beldun carries himself proudly, but greets all that I've seen him encounter with great respect and a bright infectious grin. Pulling on the reigns of his horse, Beldun turns to face the rest of the party. "There", he points down the coastline, "there is the newly built stronghold on the horizon."
The young warriors that surround me are a constant reminder of my age; try as I might, I can't make out the sight that the rest of them gaze upon. If I were still drinking of the wellsprings, I would have been the first to spot the stronghold. From this distance I would be able to count the number of stone blocks used in its construction.
We approach the site of the stronghold, which is bustling with noise. Workers shout out orders as large stone bricks are hoisted into place. Sword, shield, and other such devices of war clank and clatter while soldiers of varying worlds and times scurry about in preparation for battle. A young-looking, raven-haired elf greets us with a slight bow of his head. "Atlaga is eager to speak with you", the elf states soberly.
We are ushered into a stone-walled room lit by streams of light pouring through several arrow-slit windows in the eastern wall. The space is empty but for a large wooden table in the center of the room, on which various pieces of parchment and scrolls are strewn. Several advisors are gathered around a tall Ullarian captain at the far end of the table. They are pointing at a map and are engaged in a fervent debate. The kyrie captain emanates an air of confidence; he is war-torn and wears a breastplate bearing the symbol of Ullar, at his side hangs a pistol-like crossbow not unlike those
carried by Ullar's Protectors.
The captain looks up as we enter. "Ah you've made it. I hope your trip was a safe one". With a smile and a bow Beldun responds, "Our trip was entirely uneventful, Atlaga. It is good to see your face again, old friend." "I am glad to see you unharmed as well, Beldun!" says Atlaga, as he clasps a hand unto Beldun's shoulder. I'll keep this short, so you can spend the evening resting and replenishing yourselves for your ride to Vydar's Castle. As you know, swarms of Utgar's ghastly marro creatures are pouring into Ekstrom from right here at the southernmost end of our borders. We had assumed that the marro were coming in from Anund, which could only mean it had been utterly overrun. However, we have come to find this is not true, which is both sweet and bitter news. While Vydar may still hold out against Utgar in Anund, the spot from which the marro are really coming from is worse yet. We have discovered that a chain of underwater volcanoes, north of the Volcarren Wastelands, have erupted. The erupting volcanoes have formed a land bridge all the way down to the once-inaccessible jungles below the Wastelands. That is where the marro are coming from. It seems that Utgar found this bridge into the jungle before we did, or has found another way into the jungle and is growing a force there. Now, with news reaching us of Jandar's vision of wellsprings in the jungle, we fear the worst.
Journal Entry #23
Inscribed by Thormun of Tealeron on this the 9th day of Rannveig:
Our party spent the day traveling westward from Ullar's new stronghold on the coast of the Bitter Sea, and we have now made our way into Anund. Once before in the days of my youth, I traveled here to this beautiful place. The land was green and lush. Scattered across Anund were quaint little villages filled with stunning homes built right into their surroundings. Hills and trees were left where they were, and the towns were adapted to fit nature's architecture. We have passed two such villages today, but they are not what they once were. It made me want to weep for the people who once called those places home. Where a proud gathering of buildings once stood, now only a husk of a town remains, a barren shell lacking what makes a town a town – people. They had been abandoned for some time, and were in a state of decay. The homes were overgrown and crumbling; no life remained there.
Dusk is now upon us as we approach the third of Anund's once-beautiful villages. This one appears to be in the same state as the others. We are all following Beldun, who knows more about this area than any of the others. He leads us right up to the abandoned village, suggesting that we take harbor from the harsh seasonal winds of Rannveig by making camp in one of the buildings here. As we ride into town the hooves of our horses clatter against the stone paved street. The sound reverberates off of the empty domiciles and echoes back at us in a ghostly voice. We are all on edge, our senses in a heightened state. Suddenly, one of the horses is spooked and rears whinnying sharply, ending its cry in a snort. My head goes on a swivel, being spooked a little myself. As I look about I see a flash of movement duck into one of the empty buildings ahead. "Something's up ahead there!" I alert the others as I jump from my horse and spread my wings flying after the movement.
Landing, I walk through the door that the flash retreated into. It's dark, too dark to see anything. I shout out, "Hello? Is someone there? Hello?" I see a strike of flint and then a torch leap to a life. What that flaming torch illuminates makes my heart jump in my chest. Gathered around is some fifteen or so huddled kyrie. Their clothes are torn and dirty. Fear lay in their eyes. A small kyrie child is in its mother's arms, crying as she rocks it. Standing in front of them all, holding the torch and a spear, is a young kyrie man. He shouts, "Get out of here!" I try to explain that I mean them no harm, but before I can get the words out, he hurls the spear at me. I dodge it narrowly and back out of the door.
The others from my party are behind me, having come to my aid. "Get on your horses!" I tell them. "We're not staying here." They try to object. I reply, "There is nothing we can do for these people right now, except leave them be." Even as the words escape my mouth, the young man is out of the door waving his torch threateningly. "We're going!" I say to defuse him. As we hop on our mounts and ride out of town, the spear is hurled
after us. The young man shouts, "And don't come back, you... you... warmongers!"
Warmongers!? Is this really the world we live in now, so full of fear, hate, and mistrust? Where have the people of these villages gone, and what has got those who remain so afraid that they'll sooner put a spear through a
man's chest than hear what he has to say? It doesn't look as though the villages were pillaged or taken by any force, just... abandoned.
Journal Entry #24
From the pen of Sgt. Drake Alexander:
We are camped among the ruins of Stechavan. Its stone pillars and fallen walls act as a window into the past of this strange world. The lifeless eyes of a weather-worn face stare out at me from among the ruins. Those eyes of stone, belonging to some abandoned and broken statue, are a haunting sight.
This is my second war, both wars fought for a righteous cause, both enemies ruthless and vile; and yet even now, as I fight against the most horrific of monsters and demons, one thing remains the same: The eyes, the look of overwhelming fear and desperation in every set of dying eyes. And yet, the gut churning feeling I get when I look into those eyes is the very same feeling that keeps me here on the frontline. Some other set of eyes is counting on me to keep the sparkle of life and freedom alive in them.
Stechavan is a tactical bottleneck. Mountain ranges surround it on both sides, forcing Utgar to march his army right through here in order to flood Nastralund with his troops, and take the grand city of Valgrind. I am told that if Valgrind falls, so does all of Valhalla. That city is the last great place of freedom on this war-torn planet, and if it breaks so does any hope of winning this war.
Now, for the first time since I was sent down here to lead the forces at Stechavan, we have a chance to win this fight and scatter the encroaching army of Utgar. Utgar believes we are all tapped out. His forces have cut away at our numbers by engaging us in battle after battle over the last several weeks. But finally, the tides are changing. The kyrie, Saylind, brings a large army of reinforcements from Jandar's newest ally. Not only that, but Jandar has also managed to summon reinforcements of his own.
Earlier today I was caught off guard by the thunder of hooves coming from an unexpected direction. I reached for my binoculars to take a closer look, and discovered a sea of white and red. Mounted knights rode towards us garbed in white tabards bearing red crosses. As they approached the camp, the man at their lead put a hand in the air. The many knights who followed him pulled back on leather reins, bringing their horses to an obedient halt.
The Templar's leader stepped down from his proud steed and removed his helmet, holding it in the crook of his right arm as he walked towards me, his armor clanking with every step. He extended a gauntlet-encased hand,
proclaiming, "Sir Dupuis and the Templar Knights at your service." Tomorrow we go on the offensive. We strike at Utgar while he least expects it.
Journal Entry #25
From the pen of Sgt. Drake Alexander:
We have traveled by the light of the moon along a dangerously narrow mountain path. A select few are with me, some of my best warriors. The sun breaks over the horizon, and with it comes a new day, a day that won’t soon be forgotten.
While still climbing through the last stretch of this winding pass, I can hear the clatter of battle rise from the valley below. It is our troops assaulting Utgar’s camp. Their attack is only a ploy. The plan is beginning to unfold. The attacking force, led by Thorgrim and Finn – the Viking brothers – catches the enemy off guard, and then, just as Utgar’s army musters their forces, the Viking brothers turn and retreat. The Utgarians take the bait: Their forces charge after the retreating soldiers, thinking the attack was some desperate and illconceived attempt at victory. Utgar’s army believes that today is the day they will triumph over Jandar’s dwindling forces. They could not be more wrong.
When the retreating troops reach the foot of Stechavan, they turn and charge back upon their enemy, an enemy that outnumbers them more than twenty to one. I can picture it now: The rows of Grut Archers howling in
laughter as they let loose their arrows at the command of pacing Swog Riders, the great troll stampeding forward, his oversized sword swinging back and forth in deadly strokes, the grin worn by the Minions of Utgar as they lick at their teeth in anticipation of the coming slaughter. But the slaughter will be their own. From over Stechavan’s hilltop flies a sole
kyrie warrior. She lifts a spear above her head, and with a mighty battle cry thrusts it to the ground.
There, at the point of the spear’s strike, a towering giant appears, charging with sword in hand. A dozen more kyrie fly over the hilltop, then
two dozen, then four. This gives pause to Utgar’s forces for only a moment, and then – laughter. "Pathetic! Not nearly enough to matter!"
They speak too soon, for in the very next moment over the hilltop and among their ranks ride the Templar Calvary, and just as quickly, the swarming forces of Ullar’s viper army join the fray. Utgar’s army falls to chaos and is swept away by the frenzy of vipers and charging knights. Victory belongs to us! But not without its costs…
Rumors have been stirring that Utgar himself has come, in his arrogance, to be here when his forces break through into Nastralund. Now is my opportunity, this is our chance to take that tyrant down! And so, under the cover of night and during the long battles of this day, I’ve led my small band of soldiers through the hidden mountain pass. Our purpose is to enter Utgar’s camp while his soldiers are out at war, fight our way through his personal guard, and destroy Utgar himself.
I scan the western perimeter of Utgar’s camp with the aid of my binoculars. Two of Utgar’s Minions stand guard. With a movement of my hand, I signal the pair of Omnicron Snipers who traveled with us. The soulborgs move in unison and fire on each of the minions with a deadly precision. We stream into the camp in pairs, splitting off among the black tents in search of the evil Valkyrie general. Paired with me is Shotgun Sullivan, and I’m glad for it; we’ve become quick friends since meeting here in Valhalla, and I trust the man with my life.
Shotgun makes a low whistle to get my attention. "We’ve got trouble," he whispers, nodding up ahead. From around a tent stalk three ravenous wolves sniffing the air. These are not the werewolf-looking types we’ve encountered before; these ones crawl on all fours. Looking up, the wolves spot us, their eyes lighting up in anticipation of their newly discovered meal. Snarled lips twist up, bearing sharp teeth. The wolves spring at us. Sullivan reacts quickly, peppering them with shotgun spray. Two of them drop; the third releases a warning howl cut short by my sword. It's too late— the camp is astir, our cover is blown.
Journal Entry #26
From the pen of Sgt. Drake Alexander:
Utgar’s soldiers swarm about the camp. Chaos breaks out, but our troops are keeping their wits about them and dealing with the situation. Sullivan and I drive deeper into the disorganized scattering of blackened tents. The air here is so thick with foul stench that I can taste it.
The last bit of sun ducks down under the horizon and the stars begin sparking to life. We have all but cleared out the immediate threats; but still no one has spotted any sign of Utgar’s presence here, nor the presence of any of his leaders.
A blood-curdling scream breaks through the dusky silence. Now again! From another direction comes a piercing scream. I look over to meet Sullivan’s eyes. In unspoken agreement, we both head in the direction of the last scream. Rounding a tent, we set eyes upon one of the MacDirks. The site turns my stomach. He lies on the ground, twisted up into an unnatural position, his face frozen in complete terror, his entire body a ghostly white as if drained of all blood. Another scream rings out from behind. I twist
on my heels in time to see another of our soldiers fall, as a flash of black and red jumps away, up over a tent and out of sight. I sprint in the direction the blur headed, Sullivan following closely behind. Frantically I dart out from behind one tent after another, finding nothing. My lungs burn for oxygen. I stop to catch my breath, pulling in air in haggard gasps, hands on my knees. “Sunnuva!” I’ve lost Sullivan! I turn looking for my partner, but what I find standing behind me makes my heart stop.
Overwhelming fear seeks to overtake me as a tall figure wrapped in a cape stalks forward slowly. Why am I not reacting? I should be drawing my blade! I can’t move! I grind down on my teeth, forcing my mouth to close and my brow to furrow in rage. I swallow down the fear and draw my blade just as the monster reaches a bony hand out for my throat. Moving like lightning, the dark-haired man’s cape is all my sword catches, as he leaps backwards with inhuman speed and strength. Now his full form is revealed. He wears armor of red and black. Hanging at his sides are two large, nasty
looking blades. His face is a pale white, like that of his victims. A slow smile crosses his visage, revealing a set of fanged teeth. With a low and soothing voice he speaks. “We meet at last, Sergeant Drake Alexander of Earth. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Lord Cyprien Esenwein, and I’ve come…”
“I don’t give a rip who you are!” I fire at him with my grappling gun. He turns and leans to one side, narrowly avoiding my projectile. “Well, away with the formalities then.” Cyprien ducks forward, and with a jump and a twist he dives at me faster than I can react. Midair, and in the blink of an eye, he draws a sword into each hand, spins to one side, and strikes. Both blades slide along my right arm at the shoulder. The arm goes numb, I drop my sword. His face is inches from mine, his black holes for eyes swallow my soul. I look into my own death. My head swims, my will gives way. Looking up, I see that the moon is full, silhouetted against the moonlight is the form of an angel come to take me away.
All goes black.
When I awake, my senses are overloaded with bright light and extreme pain. I reach for my wounded shoulder, but a soft hand holds onto mine. She leans her head forward and blocks out the sun. My eyes adjust to see her face. “Raelin, it was you. You were my angel!”
“Never mind. How is it you took on the pale-skinned fellow?”
“I wasn’t alone. He flew off when he spotted us, faster than the wind that one is. But I sent with him a spear wound as a parting gift.”
“Ha!” The laughter brings a new swell of pain. “My arm, is it going to be alright?”
“Our new friend, Zetacron here, has an answer for you. When he’s done patching you up we need to make haste to Anund on orders of Jandar. Great trouble is stirring there. Jandar’s visions turn toward the jungles of the south.”
Journal Entry #27
Inscribed by Thormun of Tealeron on this the 11th day of Rannveig:
The rusty outer gate squeals on its hinges, breaking through the ominous silence that surrounds this place. The gates are tall and thick, their designs are intricate and beautiful, but they no longer serve their purpose. The lock is broken. One of the gate doors hangs on by a single hinge. With a push, the door squeals open. The only resistance it meets is the tall
yellowed grass and weeds it must push its way through. In the fading light of dusk, I can still make out that the stone work is crumbling. Vines cling to everything. This is the oncemagnificent Montfre Manor, home to the Valkyrie, Vydar.
As we trudge our way through the overgrown courtyard, I can’t help but get the overwhelming suspicion that we’re being watched. The whole place looks completely abandoned, just like all the towns and villages that came before.
As we approach the door it swings open, seemingly of its own accord. Standing there in the door frame is a tall dark-haired kyrie. He holds onto a lantern, which spreads just enough light to illuminate his rough face. “Lord Vydar awaits,” croaks the lantern-wielding kyrie. He acts as if our unannounced visit has long been expected. “But only two of you will enter.” It is agreed amongst ourselves that I will go representing Jandar and Beldun will go as Ullar’s representative.
Beldun and I are led through several dark and dusty halls and corridors by the light of the dark-haired kyrie’s lantern. After several twists and turns, we are led through a set of oaken doors into a larger than average room. The room is windowless, but is lit by a row of lanterns along each of its walls, the flickering flames of which cause dozens of shadows to dance about. At the far end of the room sets a large dark figure on a raised platform. His wings are great black-feathered things. His chin rests propped against a muscled arm.
After ushering ourselves as close as comfort will allow, the seated kyrie raises his head and begins to speak in a low and growling voice, “Why have you come here, Thormun son of Sennavig and Beldun son of Beldar?”
I clear my voice, preparing to speak, but am cut short as Beldun steps forward and drops a knee saying, “I come representing my lord Ullar. He wishes to extend to you his hand in friendship.” I remain standing, but echo Beldun, “And I come in the name of Jandar, who too wishes to pursue a mutual friendship.”
Vydar leans forward, his face now in the light. Along his right eye runs a large scar. His square jaw bears the shadow of a beard, his long black hair crowds in around his weathered face. In a slow, purposefully enunciated, and irritated tone he replies, “And what makes Jandar and Ullar think I am in need of friends?”
“We have traveled through your land. We have seen its decay. We only wish to…”
Vydar cuts Beldun short. “You only wish to what?! To change the flow of our rivers’ water to move upstream?!
The water that feeds our land runs out of Upper Bleakwoode and Ostriyick. It has become tainted by Utgar’s hordes. Vile and disgusting creatures, they plague the land with their filth. And my own people turn against me. They blame me for this! Fools! They believe that we can simply escape war by running from it. They’ve retreated south into Kinsland, beyond my protective reach. I’ve been abandoned by my own people, my land is dying, and my armies wear thin trying to wrest control of the water’s source from Utgar. Now what is it you think I have to offer your mutual friendship?”
We cannot afford to lose Vydar at any cost. I speak with hardly a thought to the tone of my words. “You of all people are not blind to the events unfolding on Valhalla. I know your eyes and ears reach much farther than your arms in these dark days. What do you think will happen if the rising Marro threat breaks through Ullar’s blockade in southern Ekstrom? Utgar threatens to surround you on all sides. You are fighting a war you cannot win alone. Send aid to Ekstrom and we will dispatch troops to your cause in Ostriyick. Both fights will be to your own benefit.” Beldun flashes me a look of concern. I know his thoughts; I have no authority to commit troops to Vydar’s aid, but Jandar will understand. He must, it’s our only chance to get Vydar to join our cause.
There is a long pause as Vydar’s dark eyes dig into me. There is no telling what he is thinking, but the fact that he is thinking about it at all works in our favor. Finally he breaks the silence, “So be it. At daybreak a faction of my troops will march to Ullar’s aid.”
Journal Entry #28
Inscribed by Thormun of Tealeron on this the 12th day of Rannveig:
The ruby-eyed viper is snaking its way through my restless slumber again, when I am suddenly startled awake. Tyrian puts a finger to his lips and makes a hand gesture beckoning me to follow him. He weaves his way through dark halls, as I follow. Tyrian has always struck me as an odd sort of fellow. He trained under Ullar as one of his protectors, and still carries
their unique style of crossbow at his side, however shortly after the rise of the Valkyrie he joined up with Jandar and has acted as a sort of messenger.
Tyrian comes upon a door at the end of a long hall. He slowly turns the knob and slips into the room beyond. I follow after him. The room stands empty but for a very large fireplace built into the far wall. Tyrian turns to me and speaks in a hushed tone, “What general would lead an army from an empty and abandoned place such as this? I know Vydar commands a sizable force, and does so with efficiency. But where are the warriors, healers, messengers and generals moving about conducting the affairs of war? While the rest of you slept, I went seeking answers to my questions and discovered this...” Tyrian moves over to the fireplace and feels along its stone face. He comes across one of the blocks, which is a darker tone than the rest, and presses in on it. The sound of grating rock is heard as the inner wall of the fireplace shifts and moves away, revealing a long tunnel lit by a red glow. The fireplace is tall enough that we need only to duck slightly to walk into the passageway that opened up. The walls of the
tunnel are made of smooth dark stone, the red glow that illuminates this place shines out from odd strips of light that run along each side of the hall. The floor slopes steeply downward, and as we venture forward we find that we are continually making right turns. The passageway seems to be twisting its way downward in a spiral.
As we descend the spiraling corridor, a sound begins to grow. It’s the sound that the surface lacks, activity stirs beneath us. Precaution says to turn back before Vydar finds us snooping, but curiosity pushes us forward. Forward we go down, down, down for what seems like an eternity, until we take our last right turn and see the tunnel open up into a huge, pillared, underground hall. Despite its massive size, the hall is well-lit by the same mysterious red glow that lights the passageway. Many exits line the walls here. A flurry of activity in and out of the arched passages all around allow us to go unnoticed, standing in the shadow of our, seemingly unused, entryway. The sound of a thousand metal feet clanging against the stone floor reverberates off the great hall as a battalion of Soulborgs marches through the center of the hall and file out of one of the larger passageways, the Soulborgs are the most abundant of all the soldiers here, but there are also quite a few humans from earth. They walk in small groups or alone, hurried about their business. The hall here seems to be but a convergent point in a great underground city.
The left side of the hall is particularly noisy, what looks to be specialized Soulborgs, drill and dig and carry away mounds of dirt from a newly forming tunnel. There’s no telling how long Vydar has worked here in secret, how massive this underground complex is, and how many places and where at it leads to the surface. But one thing is certain: Vydar holds more secrets than any of us could have guessed.
Journal Entry #29
Inscribed by Thormun of Tealeron on this the 19th day of Rannveig:
The urgency of our task has driven us deep into the murky heart of Bleakwoode. The trees here are black and twisted, dark leaves cling to spindly branches. Their gnarled arms reach out toward the daylight in search of fresh air. They won’t find what they seek. The air here is anything but fresh. The trees grow close together shutting out the light, they create a world of eternal darkness, and in that darkness dwell creatures with souls as black as Bleakwoode’s moonless night.
Our every sense strains outward, prodding at the darkness for any hint of trouble. Every snap of branch underfoot, every creak and moan of the trees, every last sound that breaks Bleakwoode’s silence has our hearts jumping in alert. However, the danger that approaches makes no sound at all.
In the next moment, time seems to stretch itself out. I watch as every detail slowly unravels itself in the span of an instant. Tyrian pulls back on the reigns of his horse, he drops behind a grouping of Ullar’s Protectors and with a calm and deliberate look in his eyes he draws his weapon, points it squarely at the back of one of the Protectors, and fires. The crossbow bolt whistles through the air and finds its target with deadly precision. The Protector cries out in pain and then slumps over in his saddle. Confusion and chaos set in, horses whiney as they’re forced to turn sharply, their
riders looking for the source of the attack. Before I can react with even a word of warning, because of a reloading mechanism in Tyrian’s crossbow, a second bolt is loosed as quickly as the first.
“SHAAAAADES!!” Time snaps back to its usual speed at the sound of Concan’s cry. A dozen translucent figures appear from out of the blackness beyond the trees. Fsssssh…schpack, “AHHHGUH!” Another Protector falls to one of Tyrian’s bolts. Beldun twists in his saddle drawing his sword and cutting down Tyrian in one smooth stroke. Beldun’s eyes catch mine. Wiping a splatter of Tyrian’s blood from his brow, he heatedly shouts, “It’s the only way to stop a man possessed by a Shade!”
The other Shades descend upon us, closing us in on all sides. The three remaining Protectors send bolts singing through the trees, partly due to the dim light and partly the speed of the Shade’s movement, few find their mark. Beldun calls out, “Don’t let them engage you for long, strike them down quickly!”
I leap into the air, loosing my hammer from its belt. I dive toward the closest of the phantoms, bringing my hammer down from over my head, sending it tearing through the shade which dissipates into nothingness. Spinning around, my hammer finds another shade and sends it too into the ether. The two swift scores come at a price. I’ve left myself open for an attack. Another of the shades tears its ghostly claws through my side. I cringe in pain as I feel the creature attempting to devour my very being, invading my soul. But I am saved by Kelda, who sends her spear sailing
through the attacking creature as she lands next to me and touches my side with her healing hand, instantly making it whole again.
“They’re retreating!” shouts Concan. A quick surveillance of the area shows the damage: Three of Ullar’s faithful Protectors lie scattered upon the ground and with them Jandar’s most trusted messenger, Tyrian the swift.
We have been dealt a terrible blow this day. Of our eleven brethren, only seven remain. We surely won’t survive another onslaught like this. We make haste for Lindesfarme. No one sleeps tonight.
Journal Entry #30
From the pen of Sgt. Drake Alexander:
My blade runs through guts, bone and sinew. The creature’s lidless eyes go blank as it collapses to the ground. Turning, I cut through another, and another. The skinless bodies pile up at my feet, the fetid smell of their exposed innards makes my head swim. A bitter taste burns at the back of my throat as my lunch tries to escape my stomach. Marro flood in endlessly over the valley. Their ranks stretch out beyond the end of
You’ve got your run-of-the-mill fin-headed spear-wielding Marro, and they’ve brought plenty of those. They’ve brought the ones that look like twisted dogs, those will start you hacking and wheezing something awful if they come in too close. Both of them types are “average” enough, I’ve fought plenty of them in my countless battles here on Valhalla. It’s the
new ones that have got me nervous.
Know your enemy, it’s the basics, it’s rule number one! But the enemy keeps changing form and face. They’ve upgraded their arsenal. Some of them wield pistol type weapons, while others carry heavy-looking guns that fire lightning from their metallic mouths.
“KRACK KAW!!!” The screeching sound screams past my right ear. Sonlen’s little pet, the winged-lizard, lands on a Marro, like a hawk on its prey, snapping and clawing. Another Marro steps forward, taking the place of the one downed by the lizard. Sonlen forms a ball of glowing and shifting light in the palms of his hands and with a thrust of his arms sends it sailing at its mark. Hitting the Marro square in the chest, the light appears to consume the creature, running in streaks from out of the Marro’s body as it falls to its knees, turns to ash, and is blown away on the wind.
Distracted by the light show, I’m too late to notice one of the heavy-gunners making its way up my flank. I hear the distinct sound of popping electricity that their guns make when charging for a blast. My head snaps in the direction of the sound to see tendrils of energy leaping in my direction. I instinctively raise my right arm, now clad in Soulborg armor, to cover my face while clasping shut my eyes. After half a moment, when I don’t feel the stinging power of electricity surging through my body, I open my eyes. The world lies in shades of blue.
Turning, I spot Raelin some distance behind me. Her spear is raised to the sky, her protective aura engulfs me. She’s learning to extend it further,
and in doing so saved me from the Marro’s blast. Sonlen stands at Raelin’s side, his strange pet perched upon his shoulder again. I fall back to join them. Raelin shouts out over the noise of battle, “Our lines are breaking, we cannot hold against them much longer!”
Then, as if called into existence by those very words, a new threat emerges: the Marro Dragon Rider. Tales have spread through Jandar’s camp of this dreadful Marro leader. He rides on the back of a fleshless dragon, and now he has joined the battle. I can see the hideous beast swooping in on tattered wings, the rider on its back shouts in an alien tongue, his words create a frenzy among the Marro fighters, the very sight of the Dragon Rider and his awful mount causes our soldiers to break ranks, fleeing in terror.
Journal Entry #31
From the pen of Sgt. Drake Alexander:
Soldiers retreat in hysterical disorder all around me. I shout orders that go
unheeded. I push through the breaking ranks attempting to rally our forces, to no avail. The Marro are closing in all around. The retreating forces stumble upon themselves and each other, and the Marro collapse in upon us. Left with no choice, I call for the retreat. “Back to the
wall!” I cry.
The Marro dragon swoops low. A rush of wind washes over me as it passes close by overhead, picking soldiers out of our ranks with its razor-lined maw.
The wall of Ullar’s yet-unfinished stronghold swells wider and higher, filling my vision as we fall back to its safety. Soldiers drop screaming on my right and my left. The feeling of inevitable doom grows within me. I wait to be shot in the back and take my place among the fallen. Just as the thought of my own demise nearly consumes me, a wave of arrows sing from their bowstrings, raining down upon my pursers. The archers on the wall ready a second volley and release. The Marro make a terrible noise as the arrows find their marks. “NOW TURN!” I scream, spinning on my heels and raising my sword. The soldiers turn and envelop the Marros who make it past the steady stream of arrows pouring down from above.
The dragon-riding-Marro circles just beyond reach of the arrows. It swoops and rears up, its underside facing our stronghold. It beats its wings in long hard strokes, buffeting our arrows, sending them sailing off mark. The beast stays there, suspended in mid-air, sending wave after wave of wind against the archers’ arrows.
Without fully understanding or realizing the consequences of my actions, I lift my metal encased arm, pointing it at the torso of the fleshless dragon. As I squeeze down on a lever fitted in my palm, a piece of my new metal arm breaks loose at the wrist, whistling through the air toward the beast. The flying piece of shrapnel expands into a clawed hook, taking with it a thin metal cable attached on the other end to my arm. The grapple grabs hold of the skeletal dragon’s long spine, and with another squeeze of the lever the cable goes taught, the earth spins beneath me, and my feet become free of the ground.
I slam into the dragon, sending it reeling backwards. The beat of its powerful wings washes over me in steady gusts. I grab onto a ridged vertebrate and hoist myself up hand over hand, bone after bone, scaling the mighty creature and working my way around its back.
Breaching the dragon’s side, I look up. My knees go weak. I see nothing but blue sky, a flurry of black wings, and the dragon’s skull bouncing up and down behind the shadow of its rider.
Hanging on with one hand, I reach down with the other and search for the metallic snap which holds my pistol in its place. Freeing the weapon, I take aim on the Marro. The motion of the dragon’s flight makes it difficult to steady my arm. I wait for a moment, timing out the beat of the dragon’s wings, and adjusting my aim to match. My heart pounds in my chest, my throat has gone dry. I finger the cold steel of my revolver’s trigger, letting the point of it dig into my fingertip. Slowly I pull back until the weapon jumps in my hand, its lead shot cutting through the air.
The rider slumps in his saddle, falling off the side of his mount and tumbling to the earth below. I climb up to take his place on the dragon’s back. The entire battlefield comes into view. From here I can see the end of the Marro’s ranks, and beyond that, the Bitter Sea. At the foot of our stronghold my men still wrestle against the breaking tide of Marro, which pin their backs against the wall. And then a new movement catches my eye. An army engages the Marro on their southern flank. These are no troops of ours, they are Soulborgs clad in the dull gray armor that distinctively marks them as belonging to Vydar’s cause. They have come to our aid.
Thormun is successful in his quest. I draw my blade from its sheath and swing it in furious strokes, hacking at the enormous dragon’s right wing. It
flails in response. I hang on tight with my left hand, still swinging at the wing with my right. The dragon dives and twists, trying to free itself of me. We fight there for a time, suspended, reeling around and around losing all sense of space and direction.
There is a flash of white and green. The taste of dirt and blood fills my mouth and I find myself tumbling across the rough ground, the dragon flailing along side me. Struggling to hold my consciousness, I feel my body flood all at once with a paralyzing pain. A black wing blocks out the sun as it collapses on top of me. I lie there still, drained of my strength.
Through the wing’s thin membrane I see the fuzzy outline of Marro legs scattering in all directions, as I hear the robotic stomps of the Soulborg Army on their march. As the last of the marching metal passes me by, I hear the whine of hydraulics. The wing that traps me is lifted off and into my field of vision comes a pair of glowing eyes. In the droning voice common to all Soulborgs, I hear, “I am called Q-10.”
Journal Entry #32
Inscribed by Thormun of Tealeron on this the 24th day of Rannveig:
I walk, on and on, past golden pillars, each guarded by its own bronze-skinned
statue. They look forward, unfocussed, masked faces set like stone. More of the same bronzed kyrie lead in front of us and follow from behind. The golden dome of Einar’s Palace ducks in and out of view as the arches of the long bridge float by overhead. Below me I see the still waters of Mirror Lake reflecting the rare scene. Seldom do visitors come unbidden to the Golden Palace. A waft of sage and wildflowers drifts past my nostrils, as two thick gem-encrusted doors are pulled open on noiseless hinges.
Light floods the vast room, streaming in through tall windows lined up in rows. Deep, purple, heavy curtains hang parted on either side of those windows like great locks of hair parted to reveal a bright face. Four giants of white marble hold up the ceiling with brawny arms and bulging backs. The winged-giants hold such fine detail that an onlooker might fear them coming to life and abandoning their posts, leaving the ceiling to collapse in upon the tiny kyrie beneath them.
Slowly we walk forward, passing the giants as we approach the throne, standing only as tall as their broad shins. There, on the throne, sits a dark-haired kyrie adorned in golden armor studded with amethysts as he stands and takes a step forward, his violet cape rises and falls smoothly again behind him. Everyone else in the room falls to one knee, and I alongside them. The very sight of his majestic face and broad shoulders, the way he moves and holds his head just so, makes one feel as if they belong on their knees, as far below the mighty Einar as they can manage to stoop.
“Rise, visitors, and tell me, what is it that brings you to the Golden Palace?” a deep voice thunders off the granite walls. I rise to my feet at its command. I’ve been laying out my words since departing from the Montfre Manor. Carefully I practiced how each syllable should be pronounced and the timing of my breaths between sentences. All of that is lost at the sound of his voice. I search my mind for the stored up words and push them past a tight throat.
“Einar, your lordship, we come on behalf of the Valkyrie Jandar, Ullar, and Vydar seeking an alliance against the atrocities of Utgar.” That is all I manage to force out before my throat cuts off my words in a squeak. I bow my head and fix my gaze to the floor, avoiding the drilling stare of Einar’s dark eyes.
“We all fight the same adversary. Already our alliance stands unspoken. Yet the sharing of spoken words and a coordination of efforts may yield great benefits to all involved. The realm of Bleakwoode stands betwixt us, and it would seem a deterrent to such an alliance, or is the opposite true? Is a surrounded enemy not more easily defeated?” I manage a nod of agreement when Einar pauses, as if the questions posed are not rhetorical.
Einar leans over and speaks into the ear of an aging kyrie dressed in long flowing robes. The old man lifts a hooked nose into the air as he turns and shuffles out of the room via a small door behind and to the right of the throne. When he returns again, four kyrie follow after him, all beautiful women, all dressed in deep violet. Each one carries a mirror with a golden frame of intricate design.
“These are a prized possession,” announces Einar. “The fabled Looking Glasses of Vaelentela. One will stay here with me. The other three will go out with you, to be gifted unto Jandar, Ullar, and Vydar. The mirrors are magically linked so that when a certain word is spoken, one can peer into the mirror before them and see and speak with whomever stands in front of the other three sister mirrors. Each mirror requires a different word. I know the words of all
four, and the four servants of the Looking Glasses know the only word of their own mirror. Each will speak their word to no one but whom I have given them permission to speak it to. They will travel with you and stay with their mirrors.
Protect the servants of the Looking Glasses of Vaelentela, or their words will be lost from you and the mirrors will be useless.”
Journal Entry #33
Inscribed by Thormun of Tealeron on this the 26th day of Rannveig:
Dark eyes watch from behind golden masks. Einar does not suffer even allies to
roam his land without a personal escort of his Imperium. Those dual-bladed warriors follow us even now as we ride up the length of Mirror Lake, departing Lindesfarme, drawing ever closer to the edge of Bleakwoode. Einar’s close watch on us doesn’t seem to be an attempt at hiding something, but rather the result of a rule set in place. Einar’s Empire is built upon rules and discipline.
As we approach the place where Mirror Lake narrows and the crossing into
Bleakwoode can be made, I hear the sound of a great many warriors on the march. Putting a hand to my brow I block out the sun, bringing into view a massive force in the distance headed our way. I instinctively reach for the shaft of my war hammer. Looking about I see that Beldun sits with his back arched in his saddle, watching the distant force intently, as do the others who set out with me from the Halls of Ullar on that windy morning not so long ago. Einar’s Imperium look alert, but that is no tell, not one of them has failed to convey a constant look of vigilance on the duration of our long and uneventful ride through Lindesfarme. The beautiful women with the perfect skin and the dark purple dresses hold no look of alarm, only careful watchfulness over their golden mirrors hidden away in the satchels worn across their chests. I let go of my hammer and bring my hand back up to the reigns of my horse, watching cautiously as the long lines of soldiers march towards us.
The sun glints off the tips of swaying spears and arrowheads as they dance to the beat of several hundred footfalls. The sound of the marching soldiers grows so loud as they pass that it feels like a weight pressing down on my chest. The soldiers are all humans from Earth. They are from various cultures and times, but here Einar has made them one. They march in perfect synchronicity. Some wear woven hats coming up to a point on the tops of their heads and carry spears or rifles like those carried by Jandar’s soldiers of the 4th Massachusetts. Then there are others that look to be straight out of the time and culture of Jandar’s blue-coated allies, only these wear coats of red. Some of the warriors carry tall, brightly painted, shields and others smaller round shields. Some wear heavy armor and helmets while others are armored only in cloth. Some carry swords and others bows. For all their differences they are the same. All marching their steady march, all wearing their emotionless faces, all focused, all disciplined.
I watch as the last of Einar’s army marches past, returning from battles fought somewhere beyond the borders of Lindesfarme, when suddenly the sky goes dark. My eyes dart upwards to behold an enormous creature flying overhead. Its scales are red and golden all at once, majestic to behold. As it passes by overhead it lets loose an awful noise, sending flames leaping into the air all about its body as it twists itself over in a spiraling roll. Einar has summoned
himself a dragon.
Journal Entry #34
Inscribed by Thormun of Tealeron on this the 27th day of Rannveig:
I released Kelda from her guard duty. No reason she should have to avoid sleep while sleep does its best to avoid me. The night sky is starless, and I am surrounded in a blanket of deep darkness. My lookout duty has me doing more listening than looking.
I sit here with my eyes open but sightless, my ears focused on the blackness around me. My mind drifts to thoughts of home, to thoughts of the Tealeron that once was. I walk back through a window in time, pulling in the smell of herbs drying on the window of the stonework house my younger brother keeps. His beautiful wife busies herself about the garden while the children play their games, flying about the large tree that grows in front of the house.
The young ones spot me and fly down to wrap their arms around me, all at once, nearly knocking me over backwards. I pull wooden toys out of a satchel and watch their small eyes glitter with excitement. The dream is broken. A sound rustles behind me. Silently I turn and strain to see through the darkness with no success. The sound is that of our supplies being prodded through. Maybe an animal, or one of our company who was not satisfied with their ration of food last night. I stalk toward the direction of the sound, moving silently through the dark.
My eyes catch the glow of a light- dim, but a beacon in the blackness. A slight figure hunches over, its back to me. The figure has come across some of our Balian Leaf, which we carry for its healing properties, but it also lets out a slight glow visible in the dark. The form revealed in the Balian Leaf’s glow is slender and in the shallow glimmering of yellow-green I can tell it is the shape of a woman, a very young woman. Her hands nimbly pick through our supplies until she comes across a loaf of bread. She pulls at a cloth mask around her face and chews on the bread in famished mouthfuls.
In a low voice I call out, “Who are you?! What do you think you’re doing?” Startled, the girl reels around as if to take off, but pauses and reaches back to grab another loaf before she goes. I catch hold of her arm. She fights my grasp
and throws the stolen bread at my chest. The noise of the struggle wakes Kelda, who has not fully drifted into sleep.
Lighting a torch, Kelda comes over to where I’m holding the bread thief captive. By now I’ve got a hold of both of the girl’s thin arms, and am sustaining surprisingly powerful kicks. “Stop it!” Kelda whispers to the girl in a harsh voice. She stops kicking and looks over at Kelda. Her demeanor reads in such a way that you can tell her intent is not to cause us any harm.
“Tell this brute to let go of me!” The girl shouts in a voice loud enough to wake every sleeping thing within a hundred yards.
“Swear you won’t run,” says Kelda.
“Ack, I won’t run, just tell him to let go,” the girl responds in a shrill voice. Kelda nods at me and I let the girl go. More and more torches light up the darkness as the rest of the camp is awakened by our encounter with the young thief. The girl immediately reaches for the purple cloth mask she pulled away from her face to eat her stolen meal, and hides herself behind it again.
“Who are you, and why are you stealing our food?” I ask in a stern voice.
“Shiori’s the name, and I stole it because I was hungry,” says the thin girl in a mocking voice.
“Where did you come from?”
“I’ve been following you ever since you crossed the bridge. I know you didn’t notice me. My skills of stealth are unmatched! I’m going to be the greatest ninja who ever lived.”
“Why? Why are you following us?” I ask in a gruff voice, annoyed at answers that require more questioning.
“I’m running away,” she says, lifting her chin in defiance.
I let go of a sigh and then press her further. “Running away from what?”
She responds with a spark of anger in her voice. “From everything, from everything and everyone who tells me what to do and who to fight. I was brought here by them,” she says nodding in the direction of Lindesfarme. “But I fight only for myself. I’m not going back, so you can forget about telling me to. I’m coming with you guys.”
“You don’t have a horse, you’ll never keep up. You’ll be stranded in Bleakwoode and die.”
“You don’t want me to die,” she says with big eyes. “I guess your going to have to give me a ride.”
Kelda pulls on my arm and whispers into my ear, “She could be a spy.”
I whisper back, “What have we to hide? What need is there to spy on your allies?”
“I’m just saying be wary of her.”
“We could leave her behind and let her foolishly follow us into Bleakwoode if she pleases.”
“I’m not saying to do that, I’m only saying be careful.”
“Of a masked thief? Yes, you can count on my being plenty cautious.”
Journal Entry #35
From the pen of Sgt. Drake Alexander:
Streams of light, shooting in through arrow slit windows, are made visible by particles of dust floating on the air. The room is rather stuffy. A great number of people are gathered around an oversized wooden table, making the otherwise moderately large room seem small. At the head of the table stands Atlaga, a tall kyrie with long blonde hair. He is one of Ullar’s men, in charge of the stronghold here, and he speaks authoritatively.
“Beldun and Thormun have returned. An alliance has been formed between the Valkyrie Ullar, Jandar, Einar, and Vydar. Some of you are here as a result of that alliance. As you all know, trouble stirs in the swamplands and jungles of the south. It has been decreed that a small band of warriors will brave the Volcarren Wastelands and venture into the jungles below. The goal is to scout out the jungle and return with whatever news can be gathered. Jandar has foreseen
that the jungles hold a secret of great significance in the war for wellsprings, and has sent Sgt. Drake Alexander and Raelin the kyrie warrior for the purpose of leading the proposed band of warriors.”
Raelin stands and speaks out in that clear and confident tone of hers. “We have chosen the heroes who will accompany us on our journey: Sonlen, the elven mage for his knowledge and skill with the magical arts; Major Q10, a leader in Vydar’s army who successfully quelled the most recent attack by the Marro on this very stronghold; and finally, the young ninja that Einar summoned, who accompanied Thormun’s party on their return trip from Lindesfarme. Thusly,
our company will have representatives from each of the four allied Valkyrie Generals.”
Chapter 4: Swarm of the Marro
Journal Entry #36
Inscribed by Thormun of Tealeron on this the 1st day of Endall:
After five long years, our world continues to crumble under the weight of unrelenting warfare. Utgar, the evil Valkyrie General, has summoned every sort of dark and vile creature to aid in his single-minded pursuit of power. Though we dare not speak it, few among us doubt it: Utgar is winning this war.
But a powerful alliance now gives us hope. The other four Valkyrie Generals – Jandar, Ullar, Vydar, and Einar – have united in the fight against Utgar. On the wings of this alliance fly the hopes and dreams of those who call Valhalla their home.
The allies now face their first challenge as a united force. Jandar has had a vision of 15 wellsprings, each containing a magical amulet. In Jandar’s vision, Utgar gains control of all 15 amulets, and the results are catastrophic. One such wellspring, with its amulet inside, was foreseen to lie deep within the uncharted swamplands of southern Valhalla. Our desperate hope is to find this precious wellspring before Utgar’s scouts are able to do so.
A lucky combination of fate and planning has banded five bold heroes together to undertake this vital journey: Raelin, the resolute kyrie warrior from Valhalla; Sgt. Drake Alexander, the valiant soldier from the planet Earth; Shiori, a free-spirited ninja also from Earth; Sonlen, the elven wizard from the world of Feylund; and Major Q10, a powerful robotic Soulborg from Alpha Prime. On the shoulders of these five heroes rests the task of unlocking the secrets of this untamed territory.
Good fortune, brave heroes! Our fate rests in your hands.
Journal Entry #37
From the pen of Sgt. Drake Alexander:
“We’re going to die out here.” The voice is foreign. The words are rough and low, rasping softly past a dry throat. Raelin looks over at me through red-rimmed eyes. Her limp hair clings to her face. “We’re going to die out here.” The strange voice comes again from Raelin’s lips.
My tongue is swollen. My cracked lips try to form words, but nothing comes. “Eight days we have been in this lifeless land. Our water runs dry. We’re not going to make it through. We have failed.” The desperation in Raelin’s voice is complete. Never before have I heard her accept failure as an option.
I hear a dull moan from behind. I turn just in time to see Shiori stumble and fall to her knees, then collapse face-first into the sharp volcanic rock that makes up the terrain here. Just as she hits the ground, the stones at our feet begin to shake and move. It’s as if the land itself sees we have been defeated, and prepares to deliver its final deathblow. A loud crack and boom beats against my ears. I look to my right side to see a distant mountain bloom with fire and ash.
Turning back, I see the others looking up at the erupting volcano, awestruck. The distant fire reflects off their glassy eyes. “MOVE!” Shouting, I snap them out of their daze. “We’ve got to get out of here!” Fire begins raining down out of the sky. Raelin strikes the ground with her staff, and her protective blue bubble surrounds us. The falling flames
dissipate when they hit it.
“I’m too weak to keep this up much longer,” cries Raelin. Q-10 reaches down and scoops Shiori up into his robotic arms. The sound of hydraulics pumps loudly as the Soulborg takes off in a full sprint, leaving the safety of Raelin’s aura behind, arching over to protect Shiori from the fiery rain that bounces in loud pings off his metallic back.
“Go! Get out of here!” I yell to Raelin. I half expect a brave argument about staying to protect us, but surprisingly she speaks no words of rebuttal. She lets down her protective aura and takes to the sky, nimbly dodging the falling rocks of flame as she twists and rolls through the air. Sonlen raises his arm and his miniature pet dragon leaps skyward as well, following Raelin’s path to safety. I look over and meet Sonlen’s grim eyes. With a nod we both run in the direction that Raelin flew and Q10 ran with a broken Shiori in his arms.
Up ahead I see Q10 raise an arm. Two rockets launch from his wrist in quick succession. The first one flies straight and steady, finding its fiery mark in a bright explosion. The second rocket sails through the midst of the fireworks created by the first. It then changes its path in midair, twisting off to find another chunk of the volcano’s blazing spittle and send it blasting into a million pieces.
Running, I catch a flash of red and yellow out of the corner of my eye. A piece of the volcanic rock hurtles toward me, fixed on taking me out. I have no time to dodge, but react by lifting my seemingly indestructible right arm and knocking the rock away with surprisingly little effort, never breaking pace.
Journal Entry #38
From the pen of Sgt. Drake Alexander:
The rain of fire trickles down to a drizzle, but the last of our waning energy was spent in the escape of a flaming death. Now a thick ash clouds the air, burning the eyes and throat. A terrible and consistent cough shakes my body as it tries to free itself of the ash. Raelin is forced to land, her coughing so bad that she can no longer fly. Only Q10 is unaffected by the weariness and the wheezing that nearly incapacitates the rest of us. He seems to be able to see through the ash as well, and guides us onward.
Out of the black fog darts a flash of red, but it is no flaming rock. Sonlen’s winged-lizard returns to his shoulder.
“Water lies ahead,” Sonlen states in his always low, always somber voice.
“It’ll only be more salt.” Raelin’s desperate voice wheezes between coughs.
“No, I don’t believe so,” states the Elf, never fully explaining himself. Water is our only hope, so we all follow after the Elf, who has taken up the lead, praying that he’s right and that the water ahead is fresh and not more sea water. Otherwise we’ve traded a quick death for a slow one.
Forcing our weary legs to keep walking, breathing through cloth in a feeble attempt to filter out the ash, we reach the water’s edge. Cupping my blackened hands, I draw water up to my mouth. It is uncomfortably warm, but fresh.
I drink it in gulps, spraying much of it back out through haggard coughs. I drop my face into the water, letting it wash away the black gunk from around my eyes and nose. Coming back up, I look over to see that the others are doing the same. Except, of course, for Q10 who, for all his hulking demeanor, gently feeds the water to Shiori. Like a great big ape
caring for its young.
The water has quenched my thirst and given back the feeling of life to my body. The ash has settled to the ground and everyone else’s cough has quieted, but mine has not. Even Shiori is sitting up on her own again, but I lay on my back, coughing and hacking uncontrollably. It feels as if I’m going to cough myself inside out. My lungs have taken in too much ash, I can feel them burning in my chest.
Sonlen’s little red dragon, every bit the member of this group that I am, waddles its way over to me. It’s sympathetic to my hurt, like the old hound we had when I was a kid who, when I skinned a knee or scraped an arm,
would come and stick its head under my hand as if to say: “It’s going to be all right.”
I stroke the scaly head of that lizard a while, as I used to do to that old dog of mine. Then the little guy sticks its neck out and touches its beak to my chest. I grunt out one last cough and then the coughing stops. I breathe deep of the air and my lungs feel strong.
No joking, that dragon healed me with its very touch.
Journal Entry #39
From the pen of Sgt. Drake Alexander:
Grass clings to the parched earth, with every step it grows thicker underfoot. We begin climbing upward over a patchy green hill, which blocks our view of the horizon. Reaching the top, all the land opens up around us. It’s like we stand on the dividing line between two worlds. Behind us lays the desolation of the Volcarren Wastelands and before us a lush green landscape fills our vision.
Snow-capped mountains rise up on either side of us like great walls. Those mountainous ramparts protect a valley of swampy wetlands below, a narrow canyon path cutting through the mountain range. Our road is already set before us.
Moving down into the canyon I feel no relief from the heat of the Volcarren, instead the air turns thick, heavy and wet. The moisture seeps into my cracked skin, but offers little comfort. Ahead I hear the babbling of a brook, calling to me like a siren singing her enticing song.
The mountain spring refreshes and brings renewed energy, but the air here smells foul. A great sense of foreboding quickly takes the place of the relief I felt after making it through the unrelenting land of the volcanoes.
Journal Entry #40
From the pen of Sgt. Drake Alexander:
A vision of wellsprings has brought us here, far from the cold north of Nastraland, to the bug-infested bogs and jungles of the sweltering south. Raelin, Sonlen and I must make our way through this canyon and link up with Major Q10 and Shiori at the end of the Pass. Q10 and Shiori have been scouting ahead. It has been a while since we have heard from them. Raelin looks concerned.
I look up in the sky as we walk and I shiver at the sight of the large alien birds circling above us, an ominous warning of what we are approaching between the tall dark mountains.
My boot splashes into standing water and is sucked downward by the spluttering mud. The water is murky, an awful shade of rancid-green with a smell to match. I glance down at my slowly sinking foot and my eye catches on a floating object, bumping itself up against my leg. Some itch in the back of my brain has me stoop over to make a closer inspection. I lift it slightly out of the water, the clinging algae drips away, and then I drop it in gut-wrenching horror. A bloated arm lies there in the dim pool, lurid, and streaked with blue veins. I take a step backwards and look over the water’s surface. More of the same morbid bits bob their way around the stagnant puddle. The dead surround us, left here to rot in the mire.
Before I can even begin to react to what I’m seeing, a new terror seizes me. I stand transfixed, as a pale arm reaches itself up out of the slime. Raelin screams. Raelin, who is always unmoved in the face of battle, always brave, always bold, is now gripped with fear. A dripping torso pulls itself out of the water. Then another body emerges, and another. It is as if the dead rise from their slumber to rejoin the living. But these are not the faces of the dead. These macabre faces belong to the marro. They’ve hidden themselves among the corpses of their previous victims, laying in
wait to ambush us.
The emerging marro carry the same weaponry as those we fought in Ekstrom. We’ve named them. The ones with the big electricity-firing guns, we call “Stingers” and we’ve named the ones with the twin pistols “Drudge.”
One of the Stingers points his charging gun in my direction. I fire my grapple skyward. It catches on a spindly branch growing out of the rock face. I pull a trigger and am jerked up, avoiding a deadly shock. I swing across the water and release the grapple, landing behind the Stinger that just tried to take me out. Before it can even turn around, I send its head rolling off of its shoulders, landing in the water with a splash.
Something jumps on me from behind. Sharp teeth bite into my shoulder. Grunting in pain, I reach back and catch hold of the thing. It’s a marro-like animal. It has an elongated, hard, green shell for a head and a fleshless body. It claws and snaps at me like a rabid dog. I throw the hideous thing into the swamp and step on its green shell of a head, applying pressure on it, until it cracks and collapses under my boot.
I turn around in time to see two more the green-headed creatures jump at me, knocking me backwards into the water. I cover my face with my metallic right arm to fend off their bites, swinging blindly with the sword in my other arm. I fight for air, the marro-beasts holding me underwater. My struggle quickly drains away the oxygen in my lungs, panic and arm flailing sets in.
Just as I am about to breath in swamp water, the weight lifts off of my chest. I sit up gasping for air. A rasping yelp of pain comes from above me. Glancing up I see the two marro creatures suspended in mid-air, writhing and yipping in pain. Across the water I spot Sonlen, both of his arms extended, and his eyes closed as if in concentration. Sonlen makes his hands into fists and a final pair of yelps cry out from above me, the creatures go limp, and plunge down into the water.
I stand, letting the water and slime run off of my dripping clothes and face. I look around me. Raelin towers over 3 marro, slain at her feet. The little dragon sits on top of another prostrate marro, still snapping at the back of its neck. Only one marro remains, one of the Drudge. It stands for a second, looking at me, and then turns and runs. I fire my grapple at its back. The line goes taut and I yank the Drudge backwards off of its feet. I hop up out of the swamp water and stand over the heartless creature, executing it with a pistol shot to the forehead.
Journal Entry #41
From the pen of Sgt. Drake Alexander:
We approach an ancient and beautiful valley after having met up with Major Q10 at the mouth of the Narrows. Unfortunately, the Soulborg brings sad tidings of Shiori’s capture at the hands of the inhuman monsters, the marro. As I survey the terrain of the valley I see in the distance, along the riverbed, a large shelf of stone jutting up from the flat floor of the valley. This seems a perfect location to ambush the marro troops escorting Shiori west.
As we make our way to the ambush location, I once again see in the sky the large birds circling above us and casting their carrion shadows upon our fateful path. We lay low on the stone ledge, waiting, watching. The first marro rounds the bend in the riverbed, coming into view. Several other follow him. They surround Shiori, who looks bruised and battered but still fights against them as they drag her along. Behind the marro run a number of the green-domed creatures hoping back and forth across the riverbed,
snapping at each other playfully.
Just as they pass by us, we make our move. Raelin puts a protective aura around us. Q10 fires a hailstorm of bullets from his left arm, moving it from left to right, mowing down four of the ‘green-domes’ at the back of the pack.
Shiori takes advantage of our distraction. She steps on the foot of the marro drudge holding onto her right arm, it lets go of her and she uses that freedom to incapacitate the Drudge hanging onto her other arm, slipping away from her captors.
I charge out to join the fray, giving Shiori a clean getaway. Q10 continues to rain machinegun fire down on the swarming marro, picking them off one by one. I quickly dispatch two of the marro who manage to engage me in hand-to-hand combat.
Sonlen’s dragon flies over my head and dives at one of the marro stingers, with a snap of its powerful jaw the dragon cuts through the cord connecting the marro’s massive gun to its body. A yellow liquid squirts out in a gush and the marro drops its weapon and collapses face first into the ground.
One of the Drudge stands 30 yards away, both of its guns trained on me, squeezing off bright blasts. One of the bolts of light grazes my leg, burning through my fatigues and a layer of skin. I twist my sword around letting it catch on the sun. I reflect the sun’s rays off my blade and back into the marro’s face. It shields its eyes from the brightness long enough for Raelin to fly past and plant her spear into its chest.
Raelin lands and claims her spear back from the chest of the fallen marro drudge. Two more of the Drudge close in on her. She raises her weapon to the sky and sends it spinning on the end of her hand. With a flash, she turns the spear around her back, thrusting it into her enemy. Following the motion of the spear, she spins her body around, bringing her dance to an end with a lunge as she kills the last of the marro that still offered any resistance against us.
Journal Entry #42
From the pen of Sgt. Drake Alexander:
After the ferocious battle at Montiqua Ledge, we decide to stay together and avoid any major conflicts by staying off the cleared paths. A sense of dread almost overtakes me as we emerge into a clearing and see what could only be described as a marro parasite: a humongous creature that is glowing and pulsating out of the choking natural spring.
Out of the top this ‘leech’ drops a large larva sac that starts to tear itself open almost immediately. What emerges from within is a marro stinger, and the horror hits me. This is where the marro have hidden, and we must destroy this grotesque monster before more can be made for the numberless hordes of Utgar.
I lead the others forward toward the giant claw-like parasite. More larva sacs hold to the thing, wriggling with life. The newly born marro stinger stumbles to its feet, but it is weaponless and flees when it spots us. Three of the green-headed creatures we’ve taken to calling “nagrubs” stalk about the marro hive. The nagrubs are sightless and lick at the air like snakes, tasting for their prey. We are downwind from their flicking tongues and so make a stealthy approach.
As the nagrubs discover us, we discover that they are the least of our worries. At the far end of the clearing more than a dozen marro come marching into view. Behind them all stands a goliath of a creature with a marro riding on its back. The thing’s eyes glow red, its mouth is lined with pointed teeth. It looks… hungry.
I turn my gaze from the marro giant in time to see a nagrub leaping at Shiori. I yell out, but she has no time to move. She throws her arms up in front of her face, but the nagrub’s teeth don’t find their mark. Raelin darts in front
Shiori, holding her spear with both hands, and beating back the nagrub attacker. The creature tumbles backwards and then retreats back to safety, the other nagrubs following after it.
The ground shakes. The marro giant trudges forward in great strides, passing by his smaller brethren, who scramble about trying to avoid his heavy footfalls. One of the marro moves a little too slowly and is caught, screaming, between bone and earth.
Q10 steps forward, standing between the oncoming giant and us. Two rockets sail outward from his wrist, trailing with blue flame. The rockets find the giant, hitting it in its right shoulder and its left thigh. The brilliant explosions daze my eyes. When my vision clears the giant stands there, stunned but unharmed. He shakes off the explosions like a boxer might shake off a blow from a weak opponent.
The giant’s orange, glowing eyes burn brightly. It leans forward and releases a chest-rumbling growl. Reaching out a long arm, it wraps its fingers around one of the nagrubs that scurry about its feet. The creature flails, hopelessly attempting to free itself the giant’s grasp. The giant grabs onto the nagrub’s thrashing rear legs and with a jerk, frees the thing’s body from its armored head-plate. It tosses the meat of the creature into its wide mouth and drops the green shell at its feet. The giant chomps down twice, making the noise of cracking bones, and then swallows. Its feast seems to give it a new energy as it begins stamping forward once again.
Raelin takes flight, making her wings carry her high into the air. Then she dives, aiming her spear at the head of the marro giant. Before she reaches her target, a bolt of amber light collides with her frame. Shot by a marro Drudge, Raelin is sent spiraling from the sky and lands in the shallow swamp waters behind the giant.
I cry out. Rage replaces fear. I charge forward, drawing my blade. I raise my sword over my head, ready to strike with the next stride. I bring my blade down in a forward stroke, waiting for it to bite into marro flesh. The stroke goes wide and a giant hand collides with the side of my ribcage sending me airborne in a rush of pain. I hit the soft swampy ground and slide several feet before I stop, face first in the muck.
I lay there on the ground for a moment determining not to let the pain overtake me. I turn myself around and use my sleeve to wipe away the sludge from my eyes. With my re-found vision I look up to see the wide-mouthed gun barrels of three marro stingers staring back at me.
Journal Entry #43
From the pen of Sgt. Drake Alexander:
The marro look from one to the other, pleased with their prize. They have me pinned against the ground, defenseless. My mind races.
One of the stingers leans over and spits at me before pressing its gun to my head. I shut my eyes and clench my jaw. Images flash in my mind. Thoughts of home, of Earth, thoughts of Mom and Pop sitting on the old porch swing wondering if their boys will ever come back from the war, thoughts of my brother, still fighting in the Pacific theater, and thoughts my three sisters, trying their best to help take care of the farm while their brothers are half a world away… and more.
My mind snaps back to the swamps of Valhalla when I feel the hard metal of the stinger’s gun fall away from my temple. I open one eye and watch the stinger fall to the ground beside me, a kunai lodged in the back of its neck.
Focusing beyond kunai, which is sticking up just inches in front of my face, I see the weapon’s owner, Shiori, with a smirk drawn on her face. The other two marro hovering over me hesitate just long enough for me to draw my sword. Their hesitation costs them their lives. I crawl to my feet, swallowing down a swell of pain. Running with a limp, I make my way to the place where Raelin fell. A marro pokes at Raelin’s limp body as I approach, without missing a crippled stride I draw my pistol and down the insolent piece of scum.
Reaching Raelin, I kneel at her side and hold her head in my lap. I watch her for signs of life. From out of the corner of my eye, I catch a marro heading my way. Without looking away from Raelin’s face, I aim my gun in the direction of the marro and fire off three rounds, one of them finds its mark and the marro falls, splashing into a pool of standing swamp water.
Her breathing is shallow but she’s alive. I lift her into my arms and try to stand. Intense pain shoots across my side and up my spine. I crumple to my knees.
If I can’t take Raelin away from danger, I’ll keep the danger away from her.
Propping myself against my sword, I stagger to my feet. Even if the entire world stands against me, I will stand and protect her like she has protected me so many times before.
Journal Entry #44
Slowly, I turn myself around in a circle. I let the air move in and out of my lungs in a deliberate and steady rhythm. I take in all that is happening around me.
Shiori fights a pair of marro drudge, nimbly avoiding blasts from their weapons and sending a barrage of shurikens back in return.
Sonlen stands on a patch of raised ground where the Marro Hive has pushed itself up out of the swamp. Lightning comes screaming from the mouth of a stinger’s gun, headed straight for him. The elven mage pulls his arms up and catches the leaping bolts of light in his hands. With a push he sends the electrical energy back at the awe-stricken marro below. The marro falls face first into the ground, smoke rising off of its lifeless body.
Q10’s hydraulics whine and stutter as he grapples with the giant skinless-creature. The marro that rides on the giant’s back thrusts its spear down at Q10, cutting through a thick bundle of wires in the soulborg’s shoulder. The severed wires spit out black fluid and Q10’s arm goes limp.
The nagrubs, teaming about the giant’s feet, begin piling on top of Q10; they bite and claw, struggling to find holes in his armor. He manages to shake one of them off and spray it with a round of machine gun fire, but another takes its place and the powerful machine falls backwards.
I start toward my wounded Soulborg ally, but a squad of marro block my path. The marro open fire on me. I spin around and fall to my back, narrowly evading the bolts of light that fly overhead. I flip over onto my stomach and fire my grapple, wrapping it around the feet of one of the marro. I pull the trigger and bring the grappled marro reeling in toward me. I grab the thing around its neck and use its body to shield me from the incoming fire of the others. My marro shield quickly goes limp in my arms after it sustains a blast to the chest. One of its guns drops loose from its hand and swings from a line of purple tubing that connects the gun to the marro’s body. I grab the dangling weapon and start firing back at the other marro, downing them one by one.
Sonlen is down on one knee, his head is bowed, and his eyes are clenched shut. He’s putting all of his effort into restraining the marro giant, who he has anchored to the ground by a series of magically woven vines.
Q10 has managed to kill off two more of the nagrubs that have wrestled him to the ground and Shiori hurries to his aid.
The marro giant and the nagrubs are the only threats remaining. I start to hobble in Sonlen’s direction to help him fight the giant but freeze in my tracks when I see what’s going on behind him. The Hive drops three larva sacs to the ground. Out of each sac crawls a newly born, but fully developed, marro. I fire at one of the marro but miss it as all three
of them dive into a pool of nearby swamp water and disappear from sight.
My poorly aimed gunshot whizzes by Sonlen’s head, breaking his concentration. The marro giant frees himself from Sonlen’s vines and runs at the exhausted elf. I turn my pistol on the giant and begin firing. Fwwap, fwaap, fwaap,
three bullets beat against its bony hide. It’s enough to make him angry. He turns his attention toward me. I holster my pistol and ready my sword, gripping it with both hands. The lumbering giant shakes the ground
with the planting of each foot as it makes its way steadily toward me. Its tooth-lined face seems to grin at me, sensing my fear. My mouth feels dry. Using my sleeve, I wipe away the beads of sweat from my forehead and re-adjust my grip.
Just as the giant comes within striking distance, its back bursts forth with smoke and fire. The creature stumbles forward, stunned from the blast. I leap and lunge. I drive my sword deep, burying it in the giant’s chest. The
giant sways on its thick legs. Its glowing eyes dim and then go out. It falls backwards, crushing its rider underneath its own weight.
With the giant fallen, Q10 comes into view. He stands there with one arm dangling off his body, hanging by a few thin cords. Smoke rolls out of the cannon on his other arm. The sides of my mouth tug themselves up in a cynical grin, but quickly fall flat again as bolts of marro gunfire zip past my head and land in Q10’s chest. I spin around to see that a marro drudge has come, seemingly, out of nowhere. Both of his guns are alight, sending their blasts in my direction. I stoop low, shifting my sword into my robotically aided hand. I extend my arm and with a powerful swing I send my blade wheeling through the air.
The blade plants itself in the ground directly behind the attacking drudge. The marro stands frozen for just a second, its bony fingers no longer pulling on triggers, and then it falls, its body split in two halves.
Next to the broken marro, two more drudge pull themselves up out of the swamp. These two, and the two halves of the other, make up the three marro that the Hive just gave birth to. They seem to have tunneled their way under the swamp water to re-emerge there, where my back was turned. The two living marro crawl on their hands and feet, making their way to the lifeless bodies of their fallen comrades. The newborn marro pull away tubing and weaponry from their dead and attach it to themselves. They are re-arming, continuing the fight.
“ENOUGH!” I cry out in a mixture of exhaustion and rage. I draw my pistol back out of its holster one last time and fire two shots. Both marro collapse to the ground. I drop my gun and fall on my knees. Fatigue overtakes me. I lie down and stare up at the sky.
I hear Shiori tending to Q10. I hear a loud cracking noise like the breaking of bone as Sonlen destroys the Marro Hive. I listen for sounds of Raelin stirring, when I hear none I force myself to crawl to her side. She leans her head towards mine and opens her eyes. I reach out my hand and lay it on top of hers.
Journal Entry #45
I have no time for the feelings of satisfaction after the destruction of the Marro Hive and its Hivelord for, far above us, the large carrion birds that have followed us for so long through the mountains are finally descending. As I prepare myself for battle, Raelin points out (with her far-reaching eyes) that these are not birds. They are Kyrie of the Moon Tribes.
Raelin continues in a weak voice, sapped of her strength as a result of her injuries, “My father would sing to me when I was small, a lullaby made up from parts of the ancient songs of lore.” She begins singing in a soft and longing tone,
“On the wings of Thorian
Across the fires Volcarren
Flies a blade that hides
From wicked eyes
Of the great Moon Tribe
Your sword Drake, it was forged here in the south and brought to us in the north, at a time of great need, by the kyrie champion of old—Thorian, of whom there are many more songs that can be sung. These Kyrie that descend upon us now, they must be remnants of Thorian’s people.”
Three tall kyrie, garbed in animal skins and bird feathers, fly down out of the sky and land before us. One of them steps forward and begins to speak but the language is foreign. I look over at Raelin and can tell that she doesn’t understand them either. I stand and try to signal to the strange kyrie that we cannot understand them, but Sonlen interrupts me.
The rarely heard voice of the elven mage cuts cleanly through the air, “They say that they have been watching us and that they know us to be friends of Aquilla.” Sonlen begins speaking in the odd language of the foreign kyrie as if he has spoken it all his life. After a short dialogue between the kyrie and elf he speaks up again, “They are taking us to a
place of healing waters, where we will be able to quickly recover from our wounds, and then they will take us to their leader … the one they call Aquilla.”
Chapter 5: Aquilla’s Alliance
Journal Entry #46
From the pen of Sgt. Drake Alexander:
Warm bath water washes away the long and tiresome journey. A white robe with golden trim is given to me to wear while my uniforms are washed and patched. I don’t recognize the food, but it doesn’t taste half bad and is a
welcomed change from the dry trail rations. These people just found us wandering the swamps, and yet we are treated here as guests of great honor…
From the view on the overhang the city looked small. Here on the ground the buildings tower upwards and the gaps between them form a maze of dirt paths. The steady sound of the falls, away in the distance, fills the air. All who pass us greet us by clasping their hands together and rocking them back and forth, a bright expression spread across
Our footsteps clatter on a stone floor and echo off of a vaulted ceiling. Like the outside of most of the buildings here the inside of this one is engraved with intricate designs, only these have been preserved from the wind and rain. The engravings stretch up from the floor to the ceiling. Panel by panel they appear to tell a story, the details of which I can’t make out on my own, and no explanation is offered.
We pass through an archway into a small alcove. The room is filled with kyrie but a tall and beautiful woman drowns out the presence of everyone else in the room. My eyes are fixated upon her. Her flawless skin is a deep red brown, like the other kyrie of the moon tribe. Her hair is long and black. Several ornamented braids of varying thickness hang alongside her silky smooth tresses.
She speaks. Her voice is high and clear like the ring of a bell. At first I don’t understand her words, but then I see Sonlen make a gesture with his hand and her words become clear. “I am Aquilla, priestess of the Moon Tribe, partaker of the magic waters.” She pauses and looks directly into
my eyes. “I have foreseen your return to the city, Thorian, you will restore us. With your blade you will drive back the plague of the fleshless-ones. Tonight we feast, tomorrow we fight!”
Journal Entry #47*
From the pen of Sgt. Drake Alexander:
Yesterday I met the Kyrie of the Moon Tribe, and their leader, the Archkyrie Aquilla. Today I fight the evil forces of Utgar’s Marro swarms. Raelin, Shiori, Q10, and Sonlen have been healed by Aquilla’s medics. Aquilla herself is stunning, both in looks and thought. She has proposed an alliance of her forces and the armies of Jandar, Vydar, Ullar, and Einar. I am incredibly hopeful about the possibility of a Great Alliance- with all our power combined Utgar shall surely fall.
I am asked by Aquilla herself to ride to battle upon her giant Insectoid pet, Sujoah. Her Kyrie will fly alongside us, but Sonlen, Shiori, and the Major will remain behind. I had seen these flies before on Earth but never of such size. I gratefully accept and sit behind a Mohican Tribesman named Swift River. He exchants me with stories of the jungle paradise Aquilla lives in. Swift River rekindles my hope that there is still good in this world. Before I know it, Raelin, flying near us, says that we have arrived. Below us, hundreds of Marro swarm the jungle, fouling the sacred place with their stench. Sujoah screeches and flies us down to battle with the Marro.
Swift River and I leap from Sujoah, kicking at Marro while we draw our weapons. We kill many of the Drudge and Stingers while I hear Kyrie fall all around me. I swing my sword towards a clawed Marro, and it splits in half. However, I watch in horror as the two halves grow into full separate Marro. Behind me, Swift River cries out. One of the clawed Marro has impaled him as he drops his axe in pain. I yell and bring my sword to connect with the monster’s head. Once again, the Marro divides into two new monsters. Surrounded by Marro on all sides, unable to kill my enemies, I take a deep breath and prepare for the worst.
I needed that breath, it turned out. A flood of water came from nowhere and washed around me, knocking my breath away. The Marro all flailed but all succumbed to the might of the flood. Raelin swoops down and grabs my hand, pulling me from the water to safety. Sujoah and the Kyrie of the Moon Tribe all hover above the flood while the water slowly disappears. When the ground clears, I notice a familiar figure lying on the ground. Raelin sets us down next to a badly wounded Swift River as he chokes out a few words.
“That’s why... they call me... Swift... River...”
He says no more and his eyes lose their luster.
Raelin says something to me, but I don’t hear it. The next thing I remember is riding Sujoah back to Aquilla’s sanctuary. Her Moon Tribe lost many as well, but I knew none of them as I did Swift River. His death affected me more than it should have- I’ve lost friends before. I think it was the hope and courage of the young warrior that left such an impression on me.
Now, I’m riding aboard Sujoah with Raelin and 3 Moon Tribe Kyrie flying beside us. We’re to meet with Jandar and set up a meeting with the allied Generals. I have a new sense of hope, now, thanks to my friend Swift River. He will inspire me so I can create Aquilla’s Alliance and continue fighting to finish this war once and for all.
* Note: This is a fannon journal entry and was not written by Hasbro or WotC.
Last edited by Fi Skirata : October 15th, 2012 at 07:44 PM.