NEW GLOBAL STORYLINE: A Path We Were Destined to Follow Pt 1 Oct 28, 2016 10:26:39 GMT -8 Sir Caedric Moore, ludzik, and 7 more like this
Post by Sir Caelan Munro on Oct 28, 2016 10:26:39 GMT -8
Here is the first part of an all-important multi-part series which will change the path of all four factions. Although it starts in the Great Western Isles, the action will quickly shape the fate of the mainland, and all who dwell in our lands...
Oh, and buckle up, it's going to be quite a ride...
Oh, and buckle up, it's going to be quite a ride...
~ A Path We Were Destined to Follow ~ Part 1: Here There Be Ruins
Story by High General Mythrog
Build by High General Mythrog and Sir Haymar Glen
The incessant buzzing of insects, the cries of hundreds of birds, the hooting of monkeys and other chimps and countless other unidentified noises filled the steamy jungle air. All these combined to disturb what would otherwise have been a hot, but beautiful morning in the Great Western Isles.
Carrying over the natural sounds were foreign ones. Machetes hacking through underbrush, loud cursing, and branches snapping as a small company made their way though the seemingly endless rain forest. The party consisted of seven Lenfel marines, Cadoc, Eveline, Pieter, Brenin, Onid and Wohc, led by Captain Forester; one cartographer named John Quill; his two aids Manuel and Arbeit; and a botanist by the name of Gant Warden; eleven in all.
The entire company was armed, except for Quill. Even Gant Warden was carrying a weapon, a longsword slung across his back.
“Will these ghastly bugs ever stop eating me alive?!” Quill complained loudly, for the tenth time in as many minutes, waving his hands ineffectually.
“If I had known how unprepared for the jungle you are, I would have requested a different cartographer.” Captain Forester noted, bringing his machete down on a particular tenacious bush.
“If I had known how miserable this forsaken place is I—.”
“Would have whined to High Lord Falkenborg that you didn’t want to be a part of his expedition because you’re afraid of some little bugs?” Forester stated pointedly.
“Besides, you wouldn’t want to miss a chance to do some jungle exploration, I hear it’s all the buzz these days.” Gant Warden cut in, earning chuckles from the rest of the group.
Even Quill laughed, and shook his head. “Your jokes are going to be the death of me yet, Gant.”
“Only if the bugs don’t get you first.”
Out of all the company members, Gant seemed to be the only one who seemed unfazed. He had remained cheerful and upbeat during the entire quest, even in the most dour of moments, and always had a joke ready for any situation.
With the potential threat of invasion from Grimfell, the company was exploring the southern end of Fyrdraca on the orders of High Lord Falkenborg in an attempt to locate fortifiable positions in the currently undefended southern peninsula. It lay very exposed to invasion, at least, if it wasn’t for the infernal jungle.
Only a few minutes had passed since the brief confrontation before Quill was complaining again, this time about how the bushes kept catching his extremely expensive cape.
“You’d think this entire island is out to get me! This expedition just gets worse and worse.” As if in answer to his grumbling it began to rain lightly, drenching the company in minutes.
“You had to go and rain on our parade, Quill.” Gant said, sighing heavily. Before anybody could laugh at the terrible joke the company emerged from the jungle into a large muddy clearing on the bank of a wide river. The rain had covered the sound of the running water.
Brenin and Eveline were acting as scouts and were already in the clearing when the others got there. Eveline was looking at something near the center, and Brenin was standing at the river’s edge.
It took Gant a mere second to realize something was wrong with the clearing. It was strangely bowl shaped and full of sticks and broken branches. It was then that a horrible thought came to him. The clearing looked an awful lot like—
“A nest,” Evelin said loudly, standing up quickly. “This isn’t a clearing, It’s a nest! Everyone out now!”
Brenin was just turning towards her when the river exploded , and massive toothy jaws snapped closed around him, cutting off his frightened yell. The sickening crunching sound that followed was almost drowned out by Quill’s girlish scream.
A giant crocodile heaved itself out of the water, bloodstained jaws gaping wide to let loose an angry hiss.
“Everybody RUN!” Gant yelled. The others needed no encouragement, turning and bolting for the trees, Gant hot on their heels.
Two arrows hissed over his head, as Cadoc paused long enough to use his longbow, then the Marine was running though the jungle next to Gant.
Jumping over logs, rolling under branches and vines and knifing though trees, the company rapidly spread out.
Gant and Evelin took the lead, with the rest of the Marines and Quill’s aids following, and Quill himself at the very end, his absurd cape slowing him down.
Suddenly, Gant realized that there was no sounds of pursuit from behind them. Risking a glance over his shoulder, he saw nothing of the monster. He was about to suggest that they stop, when he heard Eveline yelp, and the ground went out from under his feet. The world became a dizzying blur as Gant went head over heels down a steep slope, losing hold of his case. Curses and yells reached him as the others tumbled down the embankment as well.
Gant landed on something hard with a painful thud and a groan. It took him a moment to realize that the groan hadn’t been his. The hard object he had landed on just happened to be Eveline. “Oh… Hey,” he said awkwardly.
“Get off me.”
“My apologies,” he added, and rolled to the side. It was a mistake. Something heavy and bright smashed into him with a shrill shriek. All the air was expelled from his lungs, as an elbow buried itself in his gut. “Would you be so kind as to get your elbow out of my gut, Quill?” he gasped out. Without waiting for a reply he heaved the slightly overweight cartographer off to the side.
“No! My cape is ruined. Couldn’t you have yelled a warning?” Quill grumbled loudly, sitting up.
“Sorry to disappoint,” Gant said climbing to his feet and glaring first at Quill, then Eveline when he saw her stifling a laugh. The rest of the company was scattered around the bottom of what proved to be a small and old landslide.
Before them rose an almost solid wall of vegetation.
“Well,” Gant shook his head, “Guess we really fell for that.”
“Is anyone hurt? I need a roll call.” Captain Forester’s voice broke though the momentary silence. As everyone sounded off Gant helped Eveline to her feet while deliberately ignoring Quill.
“What is that!?” The comment came from Pieter, one of the Marines. He was pointing his spear at something behind the tree line. The others clustered around him, trying to see what he was pointing at.
“I don’t see anything.” Captain Forester muttered.
“Wait, I think I see it,” Gant said, his eyes alighting on something. Moving ahead of the others, he pushed his way though the thick foliage. The jungle had suddenly thinned around him significantly before his boot came down on something hard. Looking down he saw what looked like flagstones beneath his feet. He was standing on an ancient, half buried, roadway. Shoving past a leafy bush, he caught sight of what Pieter had spotted.
Covered in ivy and mostly overgrown with vegetation, a collapsed stone gate stood on either side of the road. A crumbling wall ran from both sides of the gate, disappearing into the jungle. Beyond it, Gant could see ruined buildings and a small river.
This was all impossible. The islands were untouched by people — at least they were supposed to be.
“What in blazes is this!?” Forester exclaimed, staring at the wholly unexpected signs of civilization.
“No idea,” Gant replied. And he started to think carefully about what he was seeing.
Cautiously the company made their way past the gateway and into what seemed to be a lost city. The sound of waves crashing against the shore became audible over the light rain, and Gant realized that they must be close to the sea. Everyone was dead silent as they slowly walked though the overgrown, yet still impressive, ruins, and the implications of an ancient civilization being on the Isles started to sink in.
“I thought we were the first humans on the Great Western Islands.” Forester said, finally breaking the strained silence.
“Apparently not,” Eveline replied quietly.
They all stopped and stared when they reached the river. Across the way were the remains of stone docks and a small watch tower. The stone bridge that had evidently once crossed the stream was mostly gone. Yet none of this was what had first captured their attention.
On the other side of the river rose a massive structure like nothing they had ever seen before. Square and made of large gray stone blocks, its step-like construction led to a small open-sided pavilion at the top. It could only be a temple of some sort. Crossing the stream was a risky affair, as the only way across was the extremely unstable center support of the ruined bridge.
The Marine Onid was the last one to jump to the far shore, and as soon as he had joined them they picked their way though the ruins toward the imposing temple, the Marines spreading out to protect the company from unforeseen dangers. Pausing at a break in the trees, Gant could see that the city had been built right on the shoreline, and only a few steps away from where he stood the land dropped away in a shear cliff.
Turning around, Gant followed the others to the base of the temple, where a steep staircase was carved into the structure.
With Quill in the lead, the company climbed to the top, Gant only stopping once to turn and stare out at the surrounding jungle. At the top they found a stone doorway at the back of the pavilion, evidently leading into the temple. Staring at the dark hole in trepidation, Quill voiced the company’s collective doubts, “Should we go in?”
“Well, we’ve come this far.” Gant replied. “Does anybody have torches?”
Five minutes later they were inside the temple, slowly descending the spiral staircase, makeshift torches made from branches in hand. The air was still and stale and the oppressive silence was broken only by the sound of their footfalls. It took them only a minute to reach the bottom, where the stairs emptied out into a small alcove in the side of a hallway. The company paused with indecision. The hallway was slightly sloped; one direction leading up, the other down.
“Which way?” Forester asked, his voice sounding explosively loud in the tight confines of the hall.
‘This way,” Gant said, staring at the one that led downwards. “The interesting things are always in the cellars.” Holding his torch aloft, he led the way down.
They passed two empty rooms before they reached another set of stairs. As they descended the new stairs, Gant realized that the sound of their footsteps had changed ever so slightly, picking up a barely perceptible echo. He quickly found the reason why. The stairs ended at another large alcove. A huge archway led to the unknown. Glancing at Onid, who was standing next to him, Gant saw that the Marine had drawn his sword. Torches and weapons gripped tightly, they stepped around the corner onto a wide platform built into the side of a huge cavern.
Gant’s breath caught in his throat as soon as he laid eyes on the caverns contents. The unmistakeable presence of gold reflected the light of their torches back at them. The flickering light cast by the torches caused the shadows on the walls to move as if alive.
“Look at that,” Onid said, gaping in surprise.
Before Gant could reply, Quill shoved past him onto the platform. “What is it? I want to see too!” Then his eyes widened when he caught sight of something shiny.
“WOW, LOOK AT ALL THAT GOLD!!”
The words had barely left his mouth before something large moved quickly in the shadows. Onid never even got a chance to scream before wickedly sharp jaws snapped shut on him.
Gant felt wetness splatter across his face at the same time that a massive claw smashed down on the platform, sending rock flying everywhere. The force of the blow threw Gant and Quill off the platform and into the cavern. They hit a pile of loose treasure and rolled to the rough stone floor in a cascade of coins, as the shadowy beast let out a shattering roar that echoed around the cavern.
Gant swiped the wetness off his face, realizing that it was Onid’s blood. Shouts of alarm rang though the cavern and he could hear the twangs of bowstrings as the company fired upon the beast. Rising to his knees, Gant caught only a brief glimpse of it before a huge clawed foot smashed down between himself and Quill.
It was a wingless dragon, one of the monsters that they had heard so much about. Massive muscles flexed beneath rough, scaly skin as the beast shifted its weight. Gant never got the chance to draw his sword to strike at it before a long tail whiplashed over his head. Quickly ducking down, Gant looked around for Quill. Despite the near darkness of the cavern he picked out the brightly dressed form of the cartographer. Quill was crouched down behind a huge treasure chest, frantically stuffing something in his pocket.
Gant glanced up just in time to see one of Quill’s aids, Arbeit, leap off the platform to help to his master. He never made it to the floor. The beast’s whip like tail smashed into his gut mid jump with the force of a battering ram. The blow sent him flying deep into the cavern, where he slammed back-first into a pillar with a sickening crunch before collapsing to the floor. His grisly death gave the rest of the Marines a chance to bolt into the cavern towards Gant and Quill. Gant ran to the terrified cartographer and hauled him to his feet. They reached the Marines in only a few steps and ran past them without slowing.
Quill reached the platform first and climbed to safety just as Pieter’s brief scream rang out behind them. Gant glanced back just in time to see the Marine’s body flung onto a pile of treasure and the beast’s bloodstained claw disappear into the darkness, then he turned back and flew up the steps to the platform right behind Forester. He dived through the gateway where Cadoc, who had been putting his longbow to good use, helped him to his feet. Almost all the others were already racing up the stairs.
The last one to reach the alcove was Wohc. The Marine was just turning towards the stairs when giant jaws smashed their way though the gateway and snapped closed around him. The beast then withdrew into the cavern, taking the remains of Wohc with it.
Gant and Cadoc exchanged a look of horror before turning and bolting up the stairs. What was left of the company raced up the staircase, pursued by a monstrous roar that echoed up from the depths of the temple and seemed to shake its very foundations. They didn’t stop or slow down until they reached the doorway at the top of the temple and burst out into the light of day. Running down the steep steps they finally stopped at the bottom, collapsing on the roadway and gathering their breath.
The jungle was eerily silent around them as they stood and slowly looked around, the beast’s roar still echoing in their ears. There was no sign of pursuit from the dragon.
The temple was silent. It seemed as if the violence was over.
Captain Forester wandered over to Gant, but the younger man ignored him. He was just staring at the temple obsessively, his brow furrowed, deep in thought.
The Marine captain appeared to be in a state of shock. “I’ve never…lost that many men before. Do you think any of them are still alive?”
Gant continued to ignore him, and seemed to make up his mind about something. His face hardened, and he stiffened himself physically.
“You don’t think it can get us out here, do you?” Forester asked, staring at him, suddenly concerned. “Will that beast attack again?”
“Not that one.”
Gant suddenly unsheathed the longsword on his back and slashed it across the Marine’s throat in a single, smooth violent motion. Forester staggered backwards, shock written all over his face as his life faded away.
Before the Marine’s lifeless body had even hit the ground, Gant spun around and stabbed Manuel, Quill’s other aid, in the chest. The aid’s spear fell from his fingers and he dropped to his knees, as his tunic turned red.
Gant smoothly pulled his sword from Manuel’s body and spun on Cadoc, swinging his blade down in a lightning fast overhead strike. The stunned Marine barely managed to draw his sword and parry the first attack, but the second easily slipped under his guard and stabbed though his heart, killing him instantly.
The real Gant Warden, finally exposed, ripped though the rest of the company remorselessly, the evil smirk unwaveringly speaking of his lack of emotion and mercy.
Eveline brought her crossbow up just in time to block his first blow. The longsword smashed though the crossbow and sliced across her forearm, cutting through her steel vambrace. She fell to the ground, crying out in pain.
A sudden noise caused Warden to whip around. Quill, who had been frozen with shock until now, had turned and was running towards the safety of the jungle. Lunging forwards, Warden extended his sword and sliced across the backs of Quill’s legs, cutting both his hamstrings. Quill screamed in pain and grabbed one of his wounds, stumbling to the ground in the process. Rolling onto his back, the crippled cartographer watched Warden approach, casually swinging his longsword.
“Please, don’t kill me,” he whimpered. Quill’s bloodied right hand was scrabbling in the dirt, as if trying to bury something. Warden’s eye caught the glint of gold.
Warden bent over, pried open the cartographer’s fingers and snatched up what he had been trying to bury. It was a small golden figurine of a wingless dragon, now smeared with blood. Warden turned it over in his hand. “Thanks Quill,” he noted, “you have saved me the need to go back and find something to show for it all.” He then raised his sword for the final blow.
“No! Please,” Quill begged.
“Look on the bright side Quill, at least you won’t have to worry about bugs any more.”
Having finished his grim task, Gant straightened, glancing around one last time. Eveline’s broken crossbow was laying on the ground, but the Marine herself was nowhere to be seen. A faint trail of blood led off into the jungle.
Pocketing the figurine, Warden slowly shook his head. It didn’t matter that the Marine was still alive. Bleeding and practically weaponless, she wouldn’t last a day alone in that jungle. He glanced at the temple and stared at it in silence, his sword held casually at his side, blood running down its blade and dripping to the ground. The jungle was strangely quiet after the violent massacre.
And then the Areani turned, and faded into the jungle………
Coming Sunday, 30 OCT: The Next Global Challenge build, and soon after that...
~ A Path We Were Destined to Follow ~ Part 2: A Golden Opportunity
Let those of us in the KC know what you think!