They trudged in silence for a time. It was a silence more traumatized than companionable. Too much had happened, too swiftly, and whatever function of the mind generated casual small talk had been disabled. Jardon lamented the absence of his companions, Sansa and Mayet's chattering would have been a welcome distraction from the quiet of the night.
He needed to talk to Brucker, to understand their next move and try and come to terms with what had come to pass. To learn in one night that he was Blessed, chosen by Morrow for a special purpose and then within hours to be defeated in single combat by an enemy of the faith. To lose your comrades to war, and then to be riven from those who remained by a bitter dispute. Brucker would be more than human if he wasn't shaken by these terrible events.
Yet he couldn't bring himself to break the silence. Solomon looked alright, and it was so very important that he be alright that Jardon found himself wanting to believe it. He could tell himself that his friend was a man of tremendous mental fortitude, perhaps further improved by the hand of the Prophet. He could believe that his vigorous stride and solemn mien betokened a sound mind and a stern will. He could, if he didn't know the Ace quite so well, fool himself.
But he did know Solomon Brucker, knew him as only a friend of decades can know another, and he was not alright. His mind must be in turmoil, whirling with revelation, shame, anger. The calm with which he marched was entirely external, disguising a tempest within. He needed to talk it out, to break down the facts which confronted them and reestablish his priorities and purposes.
Jardon breathed audibly, nothing for it. "Solomon", he began, "what's the next move?" He wasn't really expecting much of an answer, but it was important to begin the conversation on a neutral topic, before forcing the Ace to confront his inner demons.
Brucker looked back at him, still marching, and responded. "I've been thinking, and I'm not sure why we ever took the tack of walking straight to Five Fingers. What better way to insure we are intercepted than to march through a warzone?"
"How else would we get there?"
Brucker pulled to a halt, brushing his gauntlet absently against a tree. "I'm sick of walking, Jardon, must be all that prison living, but I find I've no interest in trudging all the way home."
"Sick of walking? huh." He didn't see where Brucker was going, so he assayed a joke. "How's your tolerance for dying?"
"I'm serious" Brucker responded. "I'm thinking that walking to Five Fingers isn't something we should do."
"So, how are we going to get there?" he asked dutifully.
"We float!" responded Solomon, with a broad grin.
Jardon pondered the scheme, it wasn't half bad.
The Dragon's Tongue river could take them right to Five Fingers. The city was actually built on a series of islands that stretched across the Tongue, where it entered the Bay of Stone. He'd briefly debated the idea with Gaxxon, but had foundered on the construction of a boat large enough for the whole party, to say nothing of the Bad Cat. With just the two of them...however. They could cobble together a raft in the span of an afternoon or so, and let the river take them through the Cryx infested lands.
"Won't the enemy be occupying the river? Surely they've crossed and recrossed it a couple of times by now." He was sorry, in truth, to see a flaw in the plan. Without accompanying forces the odds that they would live through a walk back to the city seemed slim. He had resigned himself to death and found hope again so many times recently that he was just sort of numb to the whole thing.
Brucker shook his head. "Their thralls would have just marched under it. You have to remember, Jardon, that the enemy we face is like none the world has ever seen. The legions of Cryx will show no more regard for a river than they do for the forest. We face an enemy who can march all night without fatigue, who can come from a battle with more troops than they entered it. We must forsake the accepted military wisdom of our time. You were imagining the situation if the Ordic army was the attacker, which would entail multiple fortified crossings. I'll wager the enemy simply bypassed the river entirely. Their thralls walked under it. Their trolls swamp it. Their jacks are amphibious, or they burrow beneath, while their wraiths float serenely above it. Only their mercenary forces truly require the kind of supplies that we understand, and what are the odds that their leadership take note of their needs?
"You used the term 'Wager', just a moment ago. That's a very appropriate term, since we'd be betting our lives." The Blessed Twin taught that it was everyone's responsibility to look to their own welfare. He was noted as a military strategist, rather than an unconquerable warrior. Jardon didn't know how he would have acted in the present situation, but divining that must be their primary consideration.
"We risk them either way" Brucker pointed out. "But the boats will let us move through the nights, and I believe our odds are better on a raft than marching across the field. If the enemy does attack, we can always attempt to evade them beneath the river's waters. In addition, so long as we are fortunate enough to avoid enemy warcasters it will be very difficult for the enemy to bring the concentration of force necessary to overcome me to bear at any given space along the river before we have been swept past them."
"Hmm...point." Brucker would certainly be formidable in the sort of small scale conflicts that the enemy would be able to wage against them as they moved down the river. Indeed, Jardon was hard pressed to imagine how they would defeat the Ace of Heroes given those circumstances. He could slay the occupants of any small raft that was launched against them, cut swimmers down as they strove to board, and so long as they stuck to the middle of the river they should be safe from undead marching along it's bottom.
"All right, it's not like I have a better idea. Let's make for the Dragon's Tongue."
Traveling south, with but two to provide for, was far easier than their abortive attempts at journeying west. They moved along the treeline, rather than setting out across the plain, and as the sun came up their ability to spot the enemy improved. On several occasions they had to take to the brush to evade enemy patrols, but for the most part their journey was unhindered.
Jardon had to admit, if only in the privacy of his own soul, that Brucker had come up with a good idea. It was hard to imagine that the trek west would have worked out. Croe's way was probably the only method that would suffice to penetrate so many layers of the enemy's forces. Along the river, however, he hoped things would be different.
He kept his eyes peeled for more than sights of the foe, however. He remained vigilant for refugee groups. If they encountered any of those their plan would be dashed, as duty would demand that they abandon their current approach, which could only provide safety for a small group. They would be forced to strike southward in earnest, crossing the Tongue and seeking sanctuary in Cygnar. Once there he had little doubt that their government would find reasons to keep a warcaster of Solomon's caliber in their own service. He would refuse, of course, but there were ways to get the Ace to act. Shown a situation where he had a mortal duty he would be unable to refuse.
He was also on the lookout for the Cygnaran major. She had ridden off earlier, but this was more or less the route that she had taken. Abrasive as she was, he knew that a reunion with Victoria would greatly improve their chances at survival. So long as she and Brucker could control their Blessings they would travel in safety. He reflected that he hadn't considered for a moment that she might be dead in a ditch already. From what he had seen of her power, it was literally unthinkable.
Solomon was similarly watchful. Jardon couldn't tell what he was watching for, of course, but his heightened vigilance was plain to see. He peered across the plains, and through the trees, as though searching the darkness of his soul. He had lapsed back into his habitual silence, but to Jardon's gaze it looked as though he had rebounded surprisingly well from his defeat and his comrade's desertion. He couldn't fool himself, of course, Solomon would ultimately need time to rest and recover, but the fact was that Cryx was unlikely to give them that time.
Happy new year . Good to see the story is still progressing .
Devilsquid - "Give a faction player a lemon, they'll cry about how they have to make lemonade. Give a merc player a lemon, he'll squeeze the juice in your eye, beat you down, and steal your lunch money". Searforge Painting & Modelling Thread
A little before noon they stumbled across the site of another massacre... but this time the victims were Cryxers.
If Jardon had been asked only days before, whether there could be a slaughter and he could feel nothing for the victims, he would have denied it. Such was the perverse nature of this struggle that he found himself gazing upon the enemy's ruined forms and feeling only a faint curiosity. Not as to who could have done it, for he'd spoken to the Cygnaran Major, but how. When she abandoned their defense and fled he had experienced a vague regret, to have missed the heartstopping spectacle of Victoria at war. It had only grown since. Now, gazing upon her handiwork, he knew that his anticipation had not been misplaced.
Solomon broke the silence. "She got off Duty here." He pointed to a patch of turf. Reading the land was actually a required skill for Morrowan warriors. The Kind Twin taught that victory required altering ones plans to the battlefield's dictates, and not vice versa. Solomon demonstrating expert landcraft despite years in prison was exactly the sort of thing that Jardon would expect from him.
The Ace took several steps forward, his gait somehow transformed, and Jardon realized that he was stepping in her very footprints. Could this be explained by woodland skills, or was it some aspect of the Blessing that they shared? "She approached them, struck them down like insects." He gestured at the crumpled Bane armor which was scattered about the edge of the treeline. "Took her time, using the length of the spear."
He continued to move slowly, leaping and gyrating in a slow motion parody of what must have been a breathtakingly acrobatic series of combat maneuvers. He shook his head. "Flashy, but ineffective once the enemy had spent the momentum of their charge and settled in for the fight. Here!" He came to a fresh crater. It was not burned, but seemed scooped out of the ground, edges ripped through roots and branches with a careless power.
"Here they clustered about her, and she broke them with her power." The thralls here were bent and twisted like children's toys, like the pantomime massacre a toddler with a tantrum might visit upon his armored figures. A dozen of them lay crumpled thus, shredded by forces too brutal to comprehend. Beyond them an incongruous set of aged figures lay, clad in the armor and arms of much younger men.
"Mercenaries," Brucker noted. "No doubt secretly in service to the 4 Stars. I doubt she gave them time to give up." He bent to the fallen, closing their horrified eyes and murmuring the prayers of his Faith.
"Oh, she gave them time all right." Jardon responded. "Rather more than they needed, I suspect." He looked upon the grey hair, the wrinkled flesh, and shuddered. No doubt these men had committed heinous acts in their time, but to kill in such a way... The Nightmare Empire wasn't the only force in this war capable of vast and terrible sorceries. He diverted his attention to the most prominent feature of the battle. "But how do you explain that?"
The enemy had been led by a three bodied Lich Overseer, a creature cobbled together from a monstrous assembly of flesh. It lay shattered on the ground, shot in the back with some sort of black iron spear. The Helljack it had controlled lay inert behind it, and about them was lain the shattered remnants of a Bane command group. They had perished about the Leviathan, axes buried in it attesting to their frantic struggle with their own machine.
Solomon Brucker only shook his head, perhaps just now appreciating that the closest he had come to death last night was not when the enemy had stood triumphant above him, blade bared and surrounded by the force of his host. It had come earlier on, when he'd been a heartbeat away from a duel with Victoria.
Last edited by Walter; 02-07-2012 at 08:38 AM.
They moved on in silence, lapsing once again into the strained rhythm of their journey. Their stride devoured the ground before them, step after step converting yards of Ordic countryside from anticipation to experience. They weren't as affected by what they had witnessed as Jardon would have imagined. The various atrocities of the past week had inured them to anything short of an apocalypse. After such experiences as they had had a mere slaughter of Cryxian minions evoked nothing more than a faint sense of relief.
Jardon took advantage of the relative quiet to get some overdue praying in. He figured Morrow, a soldier himself when he'd been a man, would understand, but prayer was as much about the one doing the praying as it was the Divine, and he figured he could do with some just about now. He sought an awareness of the Kind Twin's presence in his mind, but could not find it. That wasn't particularly a problem, however, as he'd long since come to terms with the idea that even a deity had to split its attention sometime, and that his entreaties were not going unheard.
"Blessed Protector, please make sure our hands, and strong our hearts. Let us be undaunted by the horrors which assail us, and press bravely forward through the night. However hard the times, let our actions be upright. However strict the odds, let us act as though we lived life a second time. Let us be assured in our convictions, reserved in our actions and reflective in the wake of extremity. Let us celebrate our joys, mourn our tragedies and by our lives let the unbelieving witness your Divine way. Thanks a lot."
Perhaps his prayers were heard. Perhaps their way had been cleared by Victoria's onslaught. Perhaps the enemy were simply spread thin. For whatever reason, the corpses that the Cygnaran warcaster had left in the clearing were the only sign of the enemy that they encountered before early afternoon, when they reached the Dragon's Tongue.
As matters transpired, they had vastly underestimated the difficulty inherent in fashioning a raft. It had seemed simple enough, in theory. Wood was lighter than water, right? People were too. Put some wood in the water and sit on it. Done. It didn't exactly turn out that way.
As soon as they reached the river's edge they'd been relieved to discover that their memories were accurate, and the Dragons Tongue was broad and slow at this area. There had been no dams constructed, no massive excavations, while they had dwelt in the darkness of the Pit. It was just as it should be.
This was a relief to Jardon in a deeper sense as well. Emerging from the jail into a world tainted by Cryx had rocked his sensibilities. Woods he had once known were now haunted and perilous. The very fields of Ord were tainted with enemy presence. The sky and sun seemed unchanged, sure, but they were remote and distant. The river's sluggish pace seemed to speak of the enemy's impermanence, their transience. Let Cryx come and go, the river would flow untroubled to the sea.
Of course, he was wise enough to know this was an illusion. The enemy were fully capable of harnessing a river, driving it through a massacre factory or some such and using it to power wheels that ground pain from the souls of prisoners. They could probably build a great river powered atrocity mill and use it to wring hope from the souls of the fallen. Whatever. They hadn't done anything yet, and Jardon would take his relief where he could get it.
Brucker attempted to keep up his whole stoic silence routine as he began the task of constructing a raft...but even his vaunted dignity failed him. There was something about building something and sinking it repeatedly that just made a person look ridiculous. I mean, sure he was the Ace of Heroes and Morrow's Blessed and what have you, but he was also confidently shaping wood, cutting and measuring, and then tossing contraptions into water and growing increasingly crestfallen as they vanished or broke apart.
Jardon smiled to himself when he heard the cursing begin. Low at first and under his breathe, but steadily rising in volume. He wouldn't have suspected such a fluent command of the vulgar tongue from Brucker, but apparently a life spent around soldiers had taken its toll. With imprecations vile and an impressive ingenuity Solomon consigned the river to ten hells. It was the first honest expression of anger, not wrath, not hatred, not contempt, but actual honest to Caen anger that Jardon had seen from him since Prisoner 085 lied to him about his chapel attendance.
Ultimately they tried one last time as night was falling. Jardon had pitched in for this last one. He couldn't say precisely why he hadn't helped out earlier. Their lives were not safe after all, and it would have made sense, but somehow he couldn't bring himself to. Perhaps Morrow could have, in his place, the military necessity was to get them under way. But Jardon knew another necessity, and for Brucker honest effort and frustration was washing away the tides of trauma that he'd endured. He couldn't interrupt that. Or maybe he was just getting lazy in his old age.
Whether it was his help, or Solomon learning from experience, or just the fact that it shouldn't ever have been as hard as it had proven, the last raft floated, even after they hopped on it. As the sun crept below the horizon, Jardon poled their little raft (duly dubbed and commissioned as the Damned Contraption) out into the Dragon's Tongue, and they began to float towards Five Fingers.
While sleep had proven difficult to attain in previous nights, its defenses would not be tested again this evening. As their tiny raft bobbed and drifted on the broad, flat surface of the Dragon's Tongue neither Brucker nor his erstwhile jailor had any intention of attempting to slumber.
Jardon was acutely aware that the enemy's primary frame of action occurred during the night. The darkness maximized the advantage that dead men had over their living antecedants, and the night magnified the fear that Cryx devoured and grew fat upon. The enemy might appall their victims by day, but they slew them by night. Slew them beneath a veil of shadow and dread, the bodies disappearing into a veritable sea of thralls. He scowled to himself in the dark. They had dared to bring their filthy presence to his homeland. It was not to be born.
Solomon seemed to have taken some measure of comfort from his earlier exertion, and now Jardon found himself thinking of the Ace without wincing at his brittle tension. He was a blade bared, right enough, but good steel now, not the icy iron of the day before. He had put his fight with Croe, his struggle with Victoria, his defeat at the hands of the revenant if not behind him then at least beside him. He no longer bore his trauma as an open wound. It was a reassuring feeling.
The night was still and silent about them, save for the lapping of the river on the large rocks and broad sweeps of the shore. Restive though he was, Jardon felt at times as though he had in fact succumbed to the slumber whose embrace he spurned. The repetitive motion of the waves, the unchanging dimness that gripped the distant shoreline, they simply refused to alter noticeably, as the minutes gave way to hours. The whole affair came to have a taint of unreality about it, the sort of surreal quality that suffuses the most dreadful flavor of nightmares. At any moment, he felt, clammy hands would close around his ankles, and an unyielding grip drag him beneath. He'd gasp and awaken in the depths of the Pit, covered in a cold sweat and chilled to the bone by his mad dreams of Cryx.
"Asheth" the voice came as a mutter from his fellow passenger. Grateful for the distraction he looked carefully over at Brucker's face. In the gloom of night his expression was impossible to read. "Pardon?" he whispered.
"He rules now in the Fingers, by the words of Jarl." The Ace's response, while low and measured, was distinctly not a whisper. Jardon looked nervously about, but didn't remonstrate with his comrade. Their unity was all they had, and if Solomon felt that no foe lay within range to hear, then Jardon would trust his experience.
"Aye, he said something to that effect. The outlaw backed him up, as well." Solomon absorbed his agreement, and lapsed back into stillness. Perhaps he'd been looking for dispute? Or maybe just hoping for it. Jardon almost thought the conversation complete when Brucker spoke again.
"So, after Cryx, Magnus. Its a delicious prospect." His voice remained low and smooth, Jardon had the unwholesome impression that he'd relished the words. Had it been a tired old man's imagination, or had Solomon seemed to stress the Ace of Traitors' name in an entirely unpleasant manner. More feuding with their fellow defenders of Ord was the last thing they needed.
"Solomon" now he too abandoned his whispers, letting his voice meet Bruckers at the level of a low murmur. "The past is dead, do you hear me? Let slide the injustices you cherish" here he slipped in a brief bit of scripture "and your steps shall be straight and true."
Solomon was still and silent once again. Brucker wasn't sure that his words had had their proper impact. He spoke once more. "You can't take revenge, Solomon, Ord needs every blade. We stand against Cryx, Brucker, Cryx! The Nightmare Empire is a foe too large to be thwarted by any particular faction. We stand or we fall together."
From out of the darkness, the Ace's reply drifted back, now sinking once again to the level of the whispers that had started their conversation. Jardon strained to hear. It sounded as though his own words were being whispered back to him. "Revenge...every blade...fall together."
This is just incredible. Very inspiring in fact! Your work is very much appreciated and very well written! I certainly can't wait to find out what happens next!
With dawn came their first encounter with Cryx on the river. It was anticlimactic, really.
Brucker was the first to see them, pointing a gauntlet covered hand at the shore where a pair of thralls squatted almost apologetically at the river's edge, seemingly washing their hands, or more likely searching the river for something. Jardon sucked in air at the sight of them, the enemy's constructs never lost their capacity to repel, and after a day blessedly free of conflict it was easy to forget the particular details of their horrible forms.
Brucker raised his hand, ready to summon power, and then stopped. Jardon knew why he'd stopped, he'd had the same thought himself. Could such basic thralls report information? Perhaps they were like hands or legs of their masters, not eyes, and lacked the ability to make known their experiences? If they indeed did not communicate, then the best course would be to leave them unmolested, as their loss might be noticed. Yet perhaps the alternate extreme was true. Perhaps even now some lich lord gazed into profane flames and looked out through their corpse-eyes, and would soon issue the orders for them to be pursued. As with so many of the enemy's workings, there simply was no way to be sure.
Not for the first time, Jardon cursed the nature of their enemy. A war between men might degenerate into savagery. Might even offend the King Twin in the way that this one did, but it was ultimately carried out between roughly similar antagonists. But in Cryx they faced the very embodiment of the foreign, the strange, the dreadful. The basic rules of warfare might be ignored at will, thralls marching all night without supply, or beneath the surface of rivers and oceans. The enemy might grow stronger with each encounter, gathering souls and corpses from their fallen enemy, or might wither away when confronted by men of faith. Terror might be the enemy's baldric, turning the blades directed against it, but ignorance was a sturdy backup, and the enemy never proffered information that might allow it to be breached. Each lesson had to be learned the hard way, bought at a steep price in lives.
Solomon, snarled, and summoned his power. A white streak cut across the waves and struck one of the foe in the upper torso. Silently it fell, even as the point of impact blossomed into a white orb which caught its comrade and heavy blow. That thrall survived the attack, and Jardon tensed for it to race away in search of hidden masters, but it simply stood sullenly, perhaps confused by the situation, and a moment later it was cut down by another of Solomon's conjurations.
Jardon nodded to himself. The white glow wasn't ideal, downright conspicuous in fact, but at least Brucker's battlefield spells were generally silent affairs. He'd served, back in the day, with the Ace of Warjacks, and Gordon's bolts had been as loud as his jacks. It was a small blessing, but he'd take what he could get.
After that they floated once again in silence. Brucker made a half hearted attempt to catch up on his sleep, but it simply wasn't possible. They were both exhausted, but in just one more day of floating they'd make Five Fingers. They could sleep once they'd made it. The headaches and blurred vision that occasionally overcame them would just have to be born until then, or shoved aside with the sharped awareness that battle impelled.
As the leagues went by Jardon began to imagine that the whole affair would be like this, peaceful, if not restful, floating. He was disabused only a few miles later, just a little after noon. They arrived at what passed for the front line in such a wide ranging and free flowing conflict, and he didn't even need to look to the Ace to know that they'd be joining in.
The living forces were regular Ordic, not mercenaries, to Jardon's surprise. He'd presumed that with the military occupied defending Meryn and the Five Fingers left to rely on irregular forces the only comrades they would encounter would be Four Stars mercs. This, however, was an assembly of Ordic Grenadiers, flying the state flag and fighting with regular army jacks. They were pinned against the river's bank.
They had set up a sort of irregular fortification of sharpened logs stuck in the ground, not tightly packed enough to stop a determined man, but hopefully some sort of impediment to the lighter warjacks that the enemy was fond of. The heaviest fortifications were pointing towards the Dragon's Tongue, Jardon imagined that their orders had been to create a strong point in order to watch for and deter an enemy push down the river. Their assailants appeared to have come from the land side, but traditional Ordic thoroughness had led them to extend their earthworks entirely around their base.
The unit was approximately 30 strong, though from the banners Jardon could tell it had begun at 4 squads, so they'd already suffered some losses. Each unit was marshalling a Charger, save for one unlucky crew who were stuck with an old Talon. The men were strung out along the entirety of the crude palisade, watching tensely as the enemy closed slowly in. They were clearly under orders to conserve ammunition, so no shots were fired while their enemy's retained the concealment of the low ridges they were hunkered down behind.
The enemy forces, as always, appeared numerically superior to the defenders. Thralls comprised the majority of their company, backed up by the same sort of Bane warriors that they'd encountered before. The enemy also had some sort of incomparably foul artillery thrall, which was presently bombarding the Ordic position with gouts of corrosive slime. The dug in forces were enduring without further losses that Jardon could see, but the jacks were looking banged up.
The enemy had even more ad hoc defenses than the Ordic troops did. They were essentially relying on range to protect themselves from rifle fire, mindlessly complacent that they would not be shelled until they moved forward. The only actual piece of terrain on their side which might provide legitimate protection was a copse of twisted and shell damaged trees, behind which their bloated artillery thrall was stationed.
The standoff was complicated. The Cryx forces could not make a frontal rush while the jacks and soldiers were still sheltered by the earthworks. The Ordic troops could not leave their foxholes to bring the Cryxers into range without being shelled by the slime shooting thrall. The jacks could not advance and fire on it because of the tree cover, and the fact that they'd be leaving themselves open to a charge from the thralls and banes. So everyone sat, and Cryx prevailed through the grinding attrition of their artillery piece.
Jardon saw all this in a flash, as Brucker slipped off the raft and splashed through the waist deep water. He'd had the same impulse, but he was no warcaster. He'd wait and disembark where the river passed closest to the besieged fortification. Safer that way, saner in fact. Brucker's solo flanking of the enemy's earthworks was the sort of thing that only a warcaster could attempt.
Nonetheless, a smile curled his lips as he watcher the Ace of Heroes storm towards the shore, blade flashing in his hand and a war cry erupting from his lips. A second later the smile disappeared as Bruckder slipped on a smooth stone and toppled into the water with a resounding clang.
[I'll be at Adepticon next week, with a red circle army. Say hi if you see me!]
Despite his mishap, Jardon wasn't tempted to go to Brucker's aid. He would only get in the way, and to be honest his plate was kind of full at the moment. It would take just one over-eager infantryman and he could take a bullet to the face. So as he kicked his raft towards shore he waved his arms and shouted, doing his very best 'not a thrall' impression.
So far as he could tell, there was no response from the friendly fortification. At least, no one came dashing over to cover his transit from beach to redoubt. On the other hand, a volley of rifle fire didn't come flying his way. Perhaps they were distracted by the spectacle of Solomon Brucker. He wouldn't have blamed them.
The Ace had recovered from his tumble, although his gait betrayed a telling unevenness, suggesting that he had strained something in the fall. Nonetheless he fell upon the enemy's southern flank like a thunderbolt. Solomon was in his element, a pure swordfight with no need to extend his dueling reflexes to nearby allies. He had his powerfield overboosted all the way, and simply clove through the thralls as they approached, hacking them one by one into the muck.
The thralls clustered about him, making their short, shambling rushes, and swinging great, lunging, two fisted blows. Just one could crush a man's skull, and Solomon was surrouned by dozens. At any moment it seemed as though the Ace would fall. But Jardon knew better. What made Brucker so infuriating in social circles payed off in these sort of situations. His focus, his discipline, was absolute. He was take each wave as it came, would maintain his powerfield and pause only to let off short healing prayers between waves. They would cluster around him, and clustered around him they would fall, escorted by his blessed blade from death to a truer stillness. Jardon's own situation, however, was rapidly evolving.
He had just reached the beach, slogging with some difficulty up onto the grimy strand, when he saw the Ordic soldiers take aim and let fly a volley of rifles. The irony of surviving the fiercest perils of the Cryxian night only to fall at the overzealous hands of his allies flashed briefly through his mind, before he realized he was still standing. A series of heavy thumps immediately behind him drew his attention to his own dire peril.
The enemy had indeed launched an assault from beneath the river's waters. In a monumental coincidence he'd come to shore just before them, in effect leading them onto the strand. The soldiers had possessed the marksmanship to pick him out from the enemy, and had fired with pinpoint aim at the foe, while sparing his life. Alternatively, he was just appallingly lucky.
He was in the midst of a company of well preserved thralls, wychfire glowing from their eyes and chill river water splattering from their every movement. Jardon, acting on instinct, hurled himself at a hulking specimen of the foe, toppling them both to the beach with a splash of sand. Jailor and revenant grappled in the surf, rolling here and there with the violence of their struggle.
He expected at any second for the enemy to fall upon him in numbers and end his life, but to his surprise the wights displayed uncommon coordination. They disregarded his presence, formed up and pointed antique pistols at the Ordic forces where they lay entrenched. The volley which followed was pitiful, the Grenadier's first shots had thinned their ranks beyond the volume necessary to achieve a proper salvo, and their cover protected them well. Still, to fire with powder soaking wet from a trip under the river was yet another reminder of the enemy's unearthly origins. Even as the second coordinated blast thundered out of the fortress Jardon realized that the peril was greater than he had realized.
The thralls who toppled to the first blast had risen again, and even now were coolly aiming another salvo of their own. The fallen, shattered skulls, damaged equipment and all, vanished in bursts of Cryxlight, only to reappear in position to return fire. For all of the efforts that the defenders had made, Jardon could not see that they'd succeeded in laying a single foe permanently to rest. They faced the notorious dead of the Revenant fleet, the deathless warriors of Cryx.
His assailant surged suddenly, flipping him over and sending a flare of agony through his back as he landed on a jagged stone. Its icy hands pressed for his throat, pressing with inexorable force. Jardon held the creature's rotted wrists and looked into the face of his enemy.
A dead mask, contorted in a savage snarl, stared back at him. The yellowed teeth were bared in the rictus grin of a murderer, or murder victim. The eyes flared with Cryxlight, pools of emerald in a desert of gray, decaying flesh. The strain of their life and death struggle didn't show on its visage. Hate, and nothing more, glared forth from that undying face. A hate that had survived death itself, had transcended service and society to take ship under the monster they called the God of Caen, Toruk Dragonfather.
Jardon let go of a hand, and struck out at the fiend. He landed a heavy punch, thrown with the weight of a sudden roll, but might as well have been punching a corpse. The hand he'd freed fastened about his throat and began to squeeze. The other dug filthy nails into his aging flesh and rent long bloody scratches. It kneed him and struggled to rear back, restrained only by the grip of their arms from rising out of the concealing surf.
"Gkkk...." he snarled. It sounded better in his mind. He wrenched at the creature's weapon belt with his free arm, seeking its firearm. No luck, it was on the other side. He grabbed the belt and jerked this way and that, with no plan save that possessed by all trapped animals. To expend his energy and deny death through sheer activity. He jerked his neck and attempted a headbutt, but the grip on his throat was firm as the grave.
He let go of the creature's belt as inspiration struck. He grabbed for his own firearm, the pistol of the gunmage which had unaccountably proven puissant against the enemy once before. But he'd lost it somewhere int he scuffle. Or it was twisted round to his back. In the water he couldn't tell. He grabbed instead for his blade, but event as he began to draw it forth his enemy had seen his intention.
Maintaining the strangling grip of its primary hand, and the inconclusive wrestling contest of the other appendage, the monster had nothing to hold Jardon's blade back. Nothing, save its flesh. Even as the sword began to leave its scabbard the Revenant shifted their battle once again, rolling them over in the waves and laying its side across the blade. It bit deeply into the zombie's side, but Jardon knew that he'd need to cut much deeper to prevail over the creature. It was a move no mortal swordsman could imitate. The Revenant had trapped his battle blade in its own undying flesh, held it fast between its ribs.
Black began to line his gaze, as the strangulation took its toll. He relinquished the grapple with his left hand, with some dim hope of prying its claw from his throat using both limbs, but as ever it was the faster. Had he been younger, stronger, faster....but he was what he was, and the monster's other hand joined its first around his neck, squeezing with brutal force. In a moment of fevered imagination he conjured that perhaps it was not seeking to limit his air. Perhaps it wanted to break his neck, or rip his fool head entirely off!
He brought both of his own arms up, grabbed its wrists and sought to free himself. To no avail. His strength was flagging, and that of his enemy was inexaustable. The freezing collar of its grasp remained unbroken no matter how he stroke. He kicked feebly, splashing a bit, but as he saw once again the mask of Cryx before him, it seemed he could see past the dead flesh to its vile heart. Despite the unmoving grimace that death had locked it into, he knew it was smiling.
The vision awoke something that Jardon had thought long locked within the depths of his soul. Hatred. Not righteous wrath. Not solemn judgement upon a foe who had wandered on a mistaken path. Honest, simple, hatred. He hated the Cryxers. Hated their master. Hated their kind and hated their deeds. As his air and life ebbed away, there in the shallows of the Dragons tongue, he knotted his hands about the corpses throat and squeezed.
In his right mind, he never would have attempted to strangle a corpse. The notion was preposterous. But his hands had a mind of their own, and in an elemental response to the violence of the assault it was perpetrating on him they grabbed the monster's windpipe and squeezed with all of the strength left in his tired old body.
It showed no reaction, merely tightening its grip and thrusting him beneath the surface. He couldn't drown, because he couldn't breathe, but the black that lined his vision consumed it entirely. In place of the Cryxer's face danced other visages, memories treacherously impinging on their owners last life or death struggle.
Magnus laughing as treachery stole him a pardon he should never have received, while the better man's life collapsed in a spiral of ignominy. Lasleen revealing her treachery in the glenn, his own mercy turned against him by a foe who knew neither honor nor courage. Sansa taken from him by the brute Goreshade and his vile throng. But behind it all there was the face of Cryx. The cold green occult fire of the Nightmare Empire. Cryx from the beginning, and Cryx now, at the end. His hands tightened in a final paroxysm of hatred and spite.
And, impossibly, the grip on his throat loosened. An instant longer and he would have been utterly lost to sense and reason, but he had yet the thought to save himself, and he surged from the cold waters of the river with a prodigious gasp. The thrall lay momentarily before him, floating on the surface. It had not yet been consumed and reborn by the green energies of the foe, and its broken neck testified to the lunatic power he'd summoned in his desperation.
No bullets impacted on him as he swayed for a heartbeat, then two. The enemy were not reincarnating, shouldn't they be... He cast his gaze about in furious confusion. The Revenants were in retreat all along the shore, slinking back into the waves like the murderous cowards that they had always been. With their immortality gone they had no stomache for a firefight. His wandering stare caught on the creature he'd bested, saw clearly for the first time its insignia. A Quartermaster, key to their power.
"I broke its neck." he murmured, awed. He felt immensely better all of a sudden, and, looking at its face, as still and immobile as it had been during its attack, he could tell that it wasn't smiling anymore.
Jardon looked back at the main engagement, relief rising within him as he saw that Brucker yet stood. Stood, and stood triumphant.
The fallen told the story. Initially Brucker had engaged them as they broke off from the siege and closed in on him. They came in small groups at first, surrounding him and falling cloven. They formed corpse flowers about the areas where they'd forced him to slow, a scattering of them leading back to where the first had come upon him as he left the river's waters.
When small detachments hadn't worked the enemy had altered their approach. What could they do but try and finish him together? This particular unit had no leader, no elite detachment which could challenge a warcaster, their only recourse to his powershielded approach had been to rush him as a body. And, naturally, their headlong blitz had packed them into the Benediction's area, and Brucker had brought it down upon them. Morrow's power was as puissant as ever, and so far as Jardon could see not a one had survived the unleashing of Brucker's borrowed power.
Only the enemy's horrible artillery yet stood, and Brucker was closing on it rapidly. It tracked his progress with its hose like cannon, aiming at his lower body to minimize the chance that he could leap aside. No doubt it thought, insofar as such things could think, that with such a mighty expenditure of force Solomon must have drained his powerfield. If that was the case, then despite his warcaster armor there was a chance that such a burst of acid could bring him down. But Jardon knew that it was deluding itself. Morrow's power was borrowed, channeled. It arose from Brucker's faith, and not his power. No other warcaster could duplicate the effect, and it had nothing to do with his powerfield, which was fully intact.
It fired, the caustic sludge billowing through the air like a sheet. Solomon wasn't content to wait for it to strike him. Nor did he try and dodge aside. At the last instant he surged forward in a brief sprint, impacting the volley with a horrible splashing noise, and passing intact through the flesh eating vitrum. The beast waved its cannon in consternation, and then the Ace of Heroes was upon it.
Never had Jardon seen a combat less equal. Solomon was the creature's superior in speed, in skill and in strength. Jardon took his eyes away from the spectacle and hurried towards the Grenadiers. Cheers burst from them as he arrived, which could only mean that another enemy had fallen to Solomon's relentless skill.
"Aces High!" said a bluff, hearty looking sergeant. "Is that really Solomon Brucker?". It was asked in a tone of overwhelming relief, but Jardon could detect beneath the man's immediate elation a tone of wonder. Men had grown up hearing stories of the Aces, to be rescued by one's sudden appearance on the battlefield couldn't help but resurrect the most exaggerated of those tales.
"Aye" he responded. "Back to defend his homeland in its time of need." Best not to elaborate on where he was back from, he'd never known what story had been spread in the wake of Brucker's disappearance. A hero returning from being imprisoned for treason didn't have quite the same ring as one back from a mystic quest.
Before they could speak another word the enemy interrupted them. No doubt it had been intended to fall upon them as the Revenants kept them occupied, but whatever intelligence was behind this assault didn't bother to change the plan to account for their abrupt about face. The Wraith Engine burst from the river, keening and shrieking and sounding with the voices of its victims.
The instantaneous charge of the Grenadiers was, to put it bluntly, ill advised. Jardon would have words with their officer, if the man survived this. If Jardon survived this. The Ordic forces broke cover, fixed bayonets and raced towards the towering expression of Cryxian supremacy with a variety of curses and battle cries. Jardon, against his better judgement, joined in their charge. If the enemy was anywhere near as formidable as it appeared, it was the last mistake he would ever make.
The foe towered above them, vast yet whip swift. Its talons stretched further than a heavy warjack's arms, by a considerable margin. The furnace which burned within its torso radiated a searing wind, and the roars that issued from its stylized skull headpiece resounded from the riverbank like the wailing of a choir of the damned.
The battlefield equation was brutal and simple. Men had to die to deliver their brothers to a range where they could strike the foe. So die they did, torn asunder by the rending claws of the brutal engine. The soldiers who took its initial strike did so on their feet and moving forwards. Their wounds were all to the fore, as the old expression had it, and Jardon believed that Morrow would honor their sacrifice and take them into his kingdom. It was not in vain, as the remainder of the squad closed on the enemy and slammed bayonets against its carapace.
Jardon, for his part, hacked with both hands on the Morrowan blade he'd picked up from Gaxxon's corpse. The squad slammed into the great beast with a sound like the sea beating on an incongruously metallic shore, clangs and battle cries mixed with the howling of the enemy's battle engine. Jardon swore aloud as his arms stung with the resistance of the weapon, the dull ache radiating up his elbows and settling deep into his aged bones. Where he'd struck, however, there was a palpable notch. It was not nearly so resilient as its size would indicate, and all up and down the line the Grenadiers were inflicing similar scoring with bayonet and trenching implement. Perhaps the charge had not been so foolhardy as he'd imagined.
The foe, however, was not without its own resources. It was not for nothing that vile thaumaturgies had been lavished on this entity. Not for nothing that the attentions of Toruk's warlocks had been spent to bring it, screaming and slaying, into the world. Drawing back from the sudden onslaught, its furnace blazed with the souls of the fallen, and it slid from the world, sideways into the realms of the enemy's dominion. Bayonets and shovels passed harmlessly through the air it had vacated, as it reappeared a few paces back and launched a charge of its own.
The last fall, those who died on the way in, had been sacrifices. Their lives spent in a Morrowan calculation that they could save their brethren by occupying the claws of the infidel for an instant or two. Those who fell to its soul-infused rush, on the other hand, were incontestably victims. No will, no choice, was at work here save for that of the Enemy. The Engine, drunk and vitalized by the stolen energies of the fallen, was a tornado of claws and teeth, a hailstorm of iron battering men and ground alike with a torrent of blows as inexhaustible as the rage of its master. Men fell like wheat before a thresher.
Far across the battlefield, Solomon finished his duel with the Bloat thrall, stepping aside as it collapsed into a spume of vile bitrous liquid. He started back towards the calamity on the riverside, but he was fatally far from the action.
In the midst of that hurricane of scything claws, Jardon fought for his life.
You couldn't fight the Wraith Engine in the traditional sense, of course. Its great steel powered claws were brutal anti-warjack weapons, and they dispensed with the defensives of infantry with cursory ease. They were, however, rendered somewhat predictable due to their great size, and the gluttony of the being which employed them. They swung without fail for the greatest mass of men.
Jardon, noticing this, switched instantly from finding support with his colleagues to isolating himself from them, charging in under the claws and reengaging the beast at close range once again. In this way he avoided the intial swipes, which slashed callously through those who had not yet found their balance after its disappearing trick. As its initial momentum faded and it began to rely on the souls of its victims to sustain its attack pattern Jardon was far from any ally. Tears stung his eyes as he heard the howling of his allies, but he didn't need to see clearly to hit the great black bulk of the thing. Another two handed strike rung it like a bell.
Above him, so far above him, the Wraith Engine's skull gaped wide, green spectres swirling about its death's head visage. It could see the approaching warcaster, wreathed in holy light, and some infernal replication of thought was triggered by the onset of annihilating force. But this Engine had not the cowardice of the enemy's living minions. As Brucker closed in it simply struck all the more fiercely, as though inflicting the greatest possible calamity was its only desire. A vile and bilous haze emanated from the creature, mist wreathing those who struggle with it.
Jardon took a step forward, bracing his boot against a momentarily still section of its coils, and plied his blade again. This time his thrust burst through the brittle exterior of the Necroforge that powered the beast. The Morrowan Battle Blade hissed and sizzled as the escaping souls screamed over it. Jardon's eyes were useless in the smog of the beast's exhalations, but he could still hear the whistles as its great grasping claws located him at last.
Instinct screamed at him to pull forth his blade and defend himself, but a deeper instinct, coming not from the brute animal shape he'd lived his life in, but from the eternal and luminous portion of his being which he referred to as his faith, whispered otherwise. As the claws closed on him he felt a great rush of heat within him, and the presence of Morrow. He wrenched the sword within the furnace of the foe's core, twisting and thrusting in the hopes that with his death he would strike down this infernal construct.
The impact of the Engine's strikes was brutal, bone crushing, he heard-more-than-felt his ribs, his shoulder, crumble beneath the cruel steel claws. But they couldn't compare with the agony within, the presence of the Divine and the strange heat radiating up into his head and out of his eyes. An inarticulate scream burst forth from Jardon as the impact of the Engine's talons hurled him in a great and floating arc. He soared through the air, broken and bellowing, and slammed with a splash into the wide, slow surface of the Dragon's Tongue.
The waters roiled and bubbled about him, heated to transcend their liquid state by whatever unknowable energy was radiating from him. He gasped involuntarily, coughing as the waters of the Tongue filled his mouth. The thought flashed through his mind that this was the second time in a very brief period that he'd been involuntarily submerged in this same body of water. At least this time no foe was pushing him down.
With a surge of effort, he clawed his way from the waters. At least, that was the plan. His body, the same fleshy carcase he'd permitted to take a strike from the Wraith Engine, had another plan. "Drown", was the synopsis. It was prepared to budge as far as allowing him to scream, but the damage to his torso and arms was simply too severe for any other real action. He was pretty sure he was kicking his legs.
He could flail an arm a bit, the one that had been gripping the sword, and hence had avoided the direct strike of the enemy. He thrashed it about, hoping that at least he was stirring the surface above his position. Brucker would put that overgrown piece of machinery down in short order. He only hoped it was short enough order that the Ace would be able to get to him. Key to that plan was remaining eminently findable. The strange boiling was tapering off now, and he jerked his arm around to keep the ripples going. He didn't feel any real fear yet. Perhaps he was simply too energized by the confrontation, but the notion that he could die beneath the water's surface wasn't real to him, the way it had been the last time.
As such, he was unsurprised when steel clad arms plunged through the Tongue's reflective skin and grabbed him roughly by the collar and breastplate. A moment of tightening, as the steel fingers sought a grip, and then he was hauled bodily from the depths of the river. His rescuer (unsurprisingly, it was Solomon Brucker) flung him down on the bank.
As he felt Brucker's healing magic take hold, and once again save his life, his gaze roamed about the detritus of their encounter. There were several survivors among the Ordic troops, a Sergeant among them, by the look of the rank pins. The thralls, on the other hand, had not been so lucky. They were heaped in piles, strewn here and there where shot or blade had felled them. The Engine itself was a crumbling wreck on the shoreline, its arms stiffened and wide in a last plaintive gesture, as though imploring generosity from its killers. His blade stood up exactly vertical from the wreckage of its necrofurnace.
"Aah" Brucker breathed out the exhalation, hands briefly scorched by the odd heat that Jardon was engulfed by. His power restored them in moments, as he continued. "Jardon, calm down. The battle's over. You don't have any armor to channel-..." He trailed off, pulling sizzling hands away and gesturing.
For the first time Jardon looked down, to hands that glowed with a holy fire, and a body nimbussed with an incandescent light. He'd seen the like before. It was the raw, uncontrolled power that Solomon himself had manifested, all those years ago. He'd manifested it...when he awakened as a warcaster.
Jardon took some time to get himself under control. He was thankful, as was often the case, for Solomon's Morrowan healing abilities. He might have done himself serious injury without the constant infusion of battle blessings that the Ace provided.
A warcaster, and at his age. Unheard of! The oldest example of a warcaster awakening that he could recall was...actually, he hadn't really ever given the subject much thought. Brucker had been discovered at an early age, but he was already a battle-chaplain by then. Always had advanced rapidly, that one...
He was tempted to see the hand of the Kind Twin at work. Made as much sense as anything else, really. No divine intervention was really required though. The constant battling they'd undergone was just the sort of trauma that often brought out some promising young warrior's latent abilities. Heh, "promising" and "young" weren't words that he often associated with himself.
In any case, meeting the Ordic patrol saved time in a major way. They introduced themselves, and unsurprisingly the army guys were extremely pleased to meet an Ordic warcaster. Jardon shook his head softly, and reminded himself "a pair of Ordic warcasters". It would take some getting used to.
The Sgt. he had noticed earlier spoke for the remnant squad. Something told Jardon that remnant squads led by men promoted over their natural level was a situation he'd be needing to get used to if they rejoined the regular army. Casualties from the Cryxian onslaught didn't bear thinking about. In any case, Sgt. Lewis thanked them for their timely rescue and invited them to return with his men to Five Fingers.
By a stroke of luck, none of the injured required stretcher transport. One of them, a Trooper Kerwin (named after the legendary inventor, Jardon figured) had a busted leg, but he was in good enough condition that Brucker hoisted him up like a sack of potatoes and they set out.
It was a relief to have human company again. Jardon attempted to distract himself from considering his new condition with a ferocious interest in the soldiers. This wasn't entirely about hiding from the truth. Until he had some warcaster training and armor he was a very real danger to himself and others if his emotions got the better of him. Diving into the stories of some comrades was a natural countermeasure.
The picture they painted of the cities readiness and defense was bleak. Feuding between the Four Stars leaders, the dreaded High Captains of the notoriously pirate-friendly city, continued despite the Cryxian onslaught. Magnus's ingenious decision to have companies infiltrate Cryx's forces had given them something of a strategic advantage, but all they seemed to have used it for was to delay the foe's advance. But the time would come, indeed, would come soon, when evacuating refugees would no longer be enough, and the soldiers of Ord would have to stand up to the Nightmare Empire.
That time, Kerwin was sure, would soon be at hand, and the place would be Five Fingers. Despite his injury the trooper was planning on laying across a battlement and working a rifle throughout whatever came next. Normally, in Jardon's experience, veteran soldiers would give a comrade some good natured taunting for such open patriotism, but this time it went unchallenged. Perhaps his wound gave him some latitude.
Walking and talking with a group of comrades should have brought back memories of Mayet, of Sansa, of all the others he'd pulled from the Pit, but it didn't. The difference was simple. These men were comrades. His prisoners, unlikely as it seemed, had ended up friends.
Excellent, keep it up!!!
Devilsquid - "Give a faction player a lemon, they'll cry about how they have to make lemonade. Give a merc player a lemon, he'll squeeze the juice in your eye, beat you down, and steal your lunch money". Searforge Painting & Modelling Thread
[Hey guys, I'm going to be at Gen-Con. I'll have a red circle army. Say hi if you want to talk.]
Jardon could scarcely believe it, as mile after mile rolled by, but they seemed to have finally left Cryx behind. The skirmish that he and Brucker had interrupted was apparently in a region that could roughly be described as the front line. It was in the midst of a sort of contested band between the main hosts, with Scythe force and the Five Fingers garrison sending patrols into it. Both sides were looking for refugees, albeit for entirely opposite reasons.
When they encountered a unit of Steelhead Cavalry he knew that they would make it to Five Fingers in safety. Sergeant Lewis vouched for them, and the Steelheads had some extra horses as a result of an earlier engagement. Mounts massively expedited their travelling speed, although Brucker fell off the first time he mounted. Time underground had blurred certain skills, but Jardon was able to manage his borrowed mount well enough. Apparently riding a horse was like shuffling cards, a skill that returned swiftly despite long disuse.
Soon enough, the hastily erected earthworks which surrounded the islands of Five Fingers rose into view ahead of them. Ordic flags, amid a regrettable majority of mercenary Charter banners, flew proudly from its battlements. The bustle, stink and noise of the famous pirate port was noticeable even at a distance, and as they drew closer Solomon and Jardon found themselves engulfed by the sensations of a living city. It had been a long time. Solomon pulled to a stop.
Jardon stopped as well, their ad hoc escort slowing and waiting for them a short distance ahead. Solomon was looking at the heraldry of the mercenary companies. Jardon followed his gaze, and soon saw the source of his consternation. Bold as brass, the High Captains had charters of their own, and announced their primacy with banners that outsized the Ordic blaizon of the king. Their was Killbride's red ship, the old Scharde Captain's Bloody Island, the newcomer Riordan's crossed blades and Hurley's crown and coin. Jardon furrowed his brow.
He'd have expected Hurley's flag to rise above the rest, denoting his primacy amonst the High Captains, but another flag had the place of honor. A fifth High Captain, apparently. As his gaze focused on the emblem he realized the reason that Solomon had stopped. Fluttering atop the makeshift gates that held the bridge was a charter flag bearing as its device the iron fist of Asheth Magnus.
They'd known this was coming, but knowing it academically and seeing it in person were two entirely different things. Jardon looked at Solomon, unsurprised to see that the Ace's face was bent in a scowl of hatred. Oddly, it reassured him. The Blessing had not entirely overpowered the man it was bestowed on. Solomon's loathing of the mercenary warcaster might be a boon of a sort, anchoring Brucker's mind to the reality of their predicament.
The moment passed, and they rode on. Jardon and Solomon Brucker entered Five Fingers together.
[Hello readers, first off, sorry. This is not a story update.
The arrival of the party to Five Fingers marks the end of the first section of the story. If DBG were a published series...I had imagined that this would be the first novel.
It has been a labor of love, several years of writing, and I'd like to thank everyone who read with me all the way through. Special thanks to those who commented. Feedback is always very motivational.
I'm going to try and write faster on the next thread, and it will be a little different from the DBG that we've read thus far. Most importantly, there will be multiple POV characters.
The next thread will be called "Colder than Ice", and will begin after I get back from Gen Con. Please look forward to it.]
Just read through the story, and it was a pleasure. Thanks very much.
Nice work. Looking forward to the next one.
hy·per·bo·le (hī-pûr'bə-lē) n. A figure of speech in which exaggeration is used for emphasis or effect, as in 'I could sleep for a year' or 'This book weighs a ton.' See also: http://privateerpressforums.com/
thank you very much for writing this story.
I have just finished reading the entire thread from start to finish. I found it absolutely gripping and I couldn't stop reading it to give that some perspective it is 1:30am currently... for me.
I found your use of perspective shift between first person dialogue and third person narrative extremely effective.
there are a smattering of typological, spelling and similar errors (for example instances where you clearly use the wrong name) however these are far and few between and that is commendable given the scope of this work.
I found the story thus far to be exceptional, obviously I don't know where it will continue. howver it has managed to not only hold my interest but also give the story a solid framework.
Well done on maintaining continuity, In terms of caracter personality/interaction. overall story line, no gaping plot holes, overall style and flow.
your discription of the battles is I think very well balanced with enough pace to keep the reader hooked. and enough description to make it vivid and complete.
And now the important bit the characters. I like your developement of the characters you have encompassed in this story. Your use of charaters has been (in my opinion) a little reckless, you created an impressive array of characters with complicated interelations, only to kill them off leaving two characters. This would be completely adequate if you were not planning on continuing the story. I simply feel this is a somewhat risky proposition. of course I have no idea what you have planned, for all I know you could be planning on bringing a chunk of them back from the dead.
I apologise if this post is out of line. but I have several freinds who are writers and as a whole they like a little comentary on their work (If your not so keen let me know and I will erase this post)
Walter, it has been an honor to accompany you in your journey. I can honestly say that this was one of the best books I have ever read. I was engrossed in the lives of the characters in this book, and I couldn't wait for the next installment to see how things turned out for them, for better or worse. I cant wait for the next story to start.
More story! Yay!
I'm so excited... and I just can't hide it!
I stumbled on this a few days ago and it's been keeping the boredom away at work. Just finished it; lots of fun to read! Ord is my favorite nation in the IK so it was a bonus it takes place there. I'm looking forward to the next bit.
Originally Posted by Brianide