Speculating on the New Colossals: The Helios

Helios Helios_image

The helios is, in my most humble opinion, the most bizarre of the new colossals. Its function appears to involve buffing, by something called a “force gate” and movement antics via its ranged attack. If I had to take a guess, I’d say the force abilities will be something akin to polarity field or Discordia‘s kinetic field. Both of which having uses in denying the enemy.

As with all colossals and gargantuans, the helios has two big and dangerous looking fists. This will very likely give it access to all the usual power attacks as well as being enough to crush any heavy it can reach.

As a Retribution warjack, the helios is also a myrmidon and given that it’s based on the hyperion’s design it’ll doubtless have a force generator. This will again most likely be tied to its sole ranged attack, the tractor beam. As the name suggests, this attack will be all about moving the model it hits. It causes no damage, but can move a hit model up to 3” in any direction. Rahn, a unit of battle mages and a magister solo would have great fun with this model, allowing for all manner of crazy movement hijinks, particularly on a feat turn or with a sphinx thrown in to lower defences to magic. Other casters might enjoy this as a way to pull models into range or force them into awkward positions.

The helios seems, at least so far, to serve an entirely different role to the hyperion. Where the hyperion is all about infantry clearing, with critical consume and auto fire, the helios seems to be focused on battlefield control and support. The lack of a damaging ranged weapon seems an odd choice for a Retribution warjack, but it’s still far too early to judge.

In any case, being the most enigmatic of the revealed colossals, it will be very interesting to see just what the “force gate” ability offers as well as seeing exactly what the full might of the helios will bring the Retribution.

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Speculating on the New Colossals: The Revelator

RevelatorRevelator_imageThe revelator is apparently all about stealth, or more specifically overcoming it. It’s a strange addition to a faction that prides itself on an overabundance of sprays and aoes, but the ability to knock out stealth would certainly benefit our other shooting models like the beloved reckoner or a unit of errants. Additionally, being able to land an aoe where you need it rather than hoping it’ll scatter in the right direction could be incredibly useful, particularly when trying to pick off annoying solos that might otherwise be untouchable.

As with all colossals and gargantuans, the revelator boasts two big and dangerous looking fists. This will very likely give it access to all the usual power attacks as well as being enough to crush any heavy it can reach.

What interests me the most are the twin cannons on its shoulders. They look very similar to the vanquisher‘s flame belcher, and I could easily imagine that they act similarly, with perhaps a few alterations – additional range would be a godsend (Menothsend?). The fact that there’s two of them is already making me wonder if I can find room for this monstrosity in my epic Feora list, where it could easily end up replacing the two vanquishers I currently use.

Oh and the flamethrowers? Yeah, I guess they come as standard.

The real question though, is how it will compare with the judicator. Both warjacks offer a way to deal with stealth, with the revelator’s being more specific and the judicator’s being an abundance of aoes. Being able to see through stealth, the revelator would definitely be more accurate, but the judicator’s reliquary granting it a free focus each turn may mean the revelator is more costly to use.

Either way, the revelator looks amazing and it’ll be fun to see exactly what it brings to the game when the full rules are revealed. I’m already imagining how amazing it would be to have both colossals marching behind a unit or two of temple flameguard and blasting everything in sight.

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Battle Report: Kaelyssa Vs. Primal Lylyth

Hi everyone!

It’s been quite some time since I made one of these, but I’ve been having fun teaching a new friend to play the game and I thought now was a good time to shake off the cobwebs.

For these games we’ve been using only the starter boxes of our respective factions. My opponent has a fondness for dragons, so the corruption of the Legion of Everblight was too much for her to resist, while myself I’ve been getting some much needed practice with the so-called angry elves of the Retribution of Scyrah.

My opponent won the dice roll and decided to go first.

ROUND ONE

Turn one: Legion

Using the default battle box for Legion, my opponent had at her disposal:

Primal Lylyth
A carnivean
Three shredders

Playing it cautious, she chose to spend her first turn simply moving forward.

2015-03-08 17.51.07

Turn two: Retribution

Similarly, using the default battle box for Retribution, my army was comprised of:

Kaelyssa
A chimera
A griffon
A manticore

For my first turn, I gave each warjack one focus, allowing them to run ahead. With the chimera slightly further due to [apparition].

Kaelyssa activated last and cast Phantom Hunter on herself and popped her feat, The Vanishing, giving her and all friendly Faction models in her control area [stealth] and an immunity to charges. She then chose to charge a shredder for additional distance.

2015-03-08 17.54.53

ROUND TWO

Turn one: Legion

With my feat protecting my forces from immediate attack, my opponent decided to reposition instead. She cunningly used her shredders as meat shields, blocking Lylyth and the carnivean from direct attack.

To add insult to injury, her carnivean cast its animus, Spiny Growth, upon itself (upping its armour considerably), while Lylyth dropped two fury points to compensate.

Turn two: Retribution

Now I had to go on the offensive. I upkept Phantom Hunter and gave one focus to the chimera and griffon each and two to the manticore.

My chimera activated first, charging a shredder close to Lylyth. The charge attack failed to hit, as did its second attack, but on the plus side I managed to catch both shredders in combat.

It was the griffon’s turn next. It charged a shredder to the right of the carnivean and hit, causing enough damage to kill it outright while also getting into combat with the heavy warbeast.

I didn’t want to leave that last shredder free to roam, but it somehow proved resilient. It took all the focus of both my manticore and Kaelyssa to take it down.

2015-03-08 17.57.41

ROUND THREE

Turn one: Legion

My opponent leeched back the fury and wasted no time activating Lylyth, who then moved into the open.

Lylyth immediately popped her feat, Field of Slaughter, granting an additional die on all attack rolls to friendly Faction models in her control area and took a shot at Kaelyssa, needing only 9 on three dice (an average roll). The shot hit and she spent a fury to boost the damage, slicing through 10 points of health.

She then bought a second ranged attack, but surprisingly this missed.

Not yet finished with my severely wounded warcaster, my opponent had Lylyth cast Eruption of Spines upon her. This used up all of her remaining fury and being a spell, requiring an 11 this time. However, the dice were clearly on her side and the attack hit.

In order to finish off Kaelyssa, my opponent needed to roll 10 or more on only two dice. As luck would have it, she rolled exactly 10, ensuring that this game ended in a…

LEGION VICTORY!

Lylyth Victory

I had to admit being shocked by the speed of that assassination. Had the second shot hit, she could well have killed Kaelyssa with that alone. Of course, if she hadn’t, she would have left herself in a very vulnerable position, but this game is all about taking chances and the odds were very much in her favour.

If I’ve learned anything from this game though, it’s not to underestimate a Legion player, no matter their level of experience. Legion are deadly and the battle box exemplifies this.

I was impressed with how my opponent used her shredders to hide her most valuable models.

It’s great to see how well she’s picking up the game, but a little scary too. After all, no matter how small my part in it, I have helped unleash a new Legion player upon the tabletop and that could spell doom for us all!

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Road to Narakys – Part Eight

FRAID

The mood had changed in the camp. She could sense it in the aether, like a swelling of dark thoughts and the excitement that so often came with them. Even had she not been blessed with such a talent she could still see the tension written across their faces. News of death took its toll on them, no matter the cause, no matter the number, the reminder of their own mortality was an uncomfortable one. Any one of them could die at any time, for any reason.

Fraid pressed a hand to her wrist, then quickly removed it when she remember what she sought was no longer there, had not in fact been there for quite some time. The bracelet, a gift, and constant reminder of a life she no longer led, was gone now. She reminded herself that she no longer needed such things. Trinkets were for children, and she was not a child.

Now the floodgates opened on their own and memories she fought hard to repress came rushing back to her. She grimaced as she found herself surrounded by ghosts. They stared at her with such disappointment. She shook them from her head, but they were always there, like a shadow cast before her that only she could see.

Sleep alone freed her from them. She did not dream, instead her mind went blank, wholly empty like a starless sky. During the day she would long for that abyssal peace. At times like this, when she too was reminded of the linear nature of all things, such thoughts disturbed her all the more.

‘Wolves, they’re a menace. Smart and cunning. It’s unusual for them to attack so close to camp though, but I suppose it happens.’

Fraid heard the words spoken loudly by a soldier somewhere in front of her. Of course, listening to the conversations of the others in their group she had already pieced together that it was a watcher who had died, and that wolves were the explanation given. She wasn’t entirely convinced this was the whole story, but it didn’t matter. So long as it did not affect the mission.

She turned in the direction of the speakers and saw a tall nian chatting to none other than the damned troll that had pestered her the other night. She grimaced as she recalled the awkwardness of their meeting, but as her eyes fell upon him once more she caught the glimpse of something unusual, something she had not seen before.

For the briefest of moments it seemed as though an aura of light encircled his body. It was a soft light, imperceptible to those without the skill to see into the aether, and even then a novice might have passed it off as something meaningless. No, this was not meaningless, of that she was sure. She knew exactly what the aura indicated and suddenly things began to make an odd kind of sense.

So, the Summit had been bold indeed with their choice of ambassador. This “Heljak” was no mere troll. He had magic.

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Road to Narakys – Part Seven

HELJAK

Heljak woke with a start that morning. His night had not been easy. Much as his pride would have liked him to deny it, the night had been cold and he had felt it more keenly because of his exhaustion. To his dismay, his sleep, what little he had of it, was to be interrupted by the noise of the others rousing, packing, and preparing to move out. He knew they would not leave without him of course, but it wasn’t something he wanted to put to the test.

As he readied himself for the journey, he felt the pain in his feet returning. He caught a few sideways glances and smirks from the others, who no doubt had feet made of iron, or something far more durable if they felt nothing of the burn that he did.

All the same, he decided to carry his ineptitude with dignity, smiling back at the soldiers with all the cheer that he could muster. That in itself was exhausting, but he had to earn their respect somehow.

As he looked out across the group, Heljak’s eyes met those of the group’s leader, an imposing woman whose name he had been told was Saril. He had never spoken to her directly, and given the icy stare she gave him, he hoped he never would. If it hadn’t been unpleasant enough there was something uncomfortable about the way her eyes seemed to bore into his skull as though judging him for something.

He turned away and shivered.

‘Watch yourself, friend,’ spoke a tall soldier.

Heljak stopped himself and took a step back.

‘Sorry, I didn’t…’ said Heljak, suddenly realising the irony of his words before they left his mouth, ‘…see you… there.’

‘No worries,’ chuckled the soldier. ‘The new guy, right?’

‘I’m Heljak,’ answered the troll.

He took a moment to look up at the soldier. He really was tall, and bulky too, not quite a giant perhaps, but easily a head taller than himself and with the musculature to match. In spite of it, he had a gentle face, leonine in form, though with a wider jaw and coal black eyes. Heljak didn’t immediately recognise his people. He had never met a nian before, but between the broad mane of hair and the tail that swayed gently behind him, there was no mistaking him for anything else.

‘Paryn-Xi,’ said the nian, ‘but Paryn will do.’

‘I didn’t know there’d be representatives from the Jade Empire,’ said Heljak.

Paryn shifted uncomfortably.

‘There aren’t as far as I know,’ he said. ‘I’m a Jorr. I’m not here as part of the Empire.’

‘I’m sorry,’ said Heljak. He suddenly felt very awkward. ‘I didn’t mean any offence.’

The nian smiled warmly.

‘I don’t take offence,’ he said. ‘Never have, probably never will. Just don’t seem to have the energy for it.’

Heljak grinned.

‘If only everyone felt that way,’ he said. ‘It would make my life so much easier. I don’t think the commander likes me.’

‘I don’t think she likes anyone,’ said Paryn. ‘She must be pretty concerned right now though. A scout died last night. I’m surprised you didn’t know. The whole camp’s been talking about it.’

‘That’s terrible,’ said Heljak. Suddenly he felt very weak. ‘What happened to him?’

‘Wolves,’ said the nian. ‘They’re a menace. Smart and cunning. It’s unusual for them to attack so close to camp though, but I suppose it happens.’

‘You seem to know a lot about it,’ said Heljak.

Paryn nodded, his expression turning grim.

‘I should do,’ he said, ‘I found the body.’

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Road to Narakys – Part Six

SARIL

Saril put the letter down, closing her eyes as she did so. She forced herself to breath slower, releasing the tension in her body and allowing the heat of anger to subside. It wasn’t working.

A burst of rage surged through her body and before she knew what happened her gauntleted fist had slammed down hard upon the table. It creaked against the force of it, splinters pulling free as she removed her hand from where it had embedded itself in the wood. She sighed, letting the last of the emotion fade into the ether. Rarely did she lose control, but this was an exception.

‘This parchment,’ said Saril, one finger pointing at the scrunched up paper accusingly, ‘the words it holds upon it are treason. Where did you find it?’

Surprisingly, Sergeant Abram appeared unaffected by his commander’s outburst. In any other circumstance that would have made her suspicious, but one glance at his expression told her all she needed to know. There was no room for fear in amidst the soldier’s outrage and sorrow.

‘Tawkran had it,’ said Abram. He spat the name out like it was toxic. ‘I found it inside his coat.’

‘Could it have been planted there?’ Saril asked. ‘A distraction to hide the identity of another?’

Saril knew Tawkran of old, had even trusted him with sensitive missions. The knowledge that he was now dead did little to sate the fear that he may well have been a traitor all along.

Abram shook his head.

‘The envelope was bloodstained,’ he said. ‘It’s from his wounds, that I’m sure, and you don’t want to know how I know that. The flesh was ripped apart, ripped all over and there were bite marks too. It’s consistent with a killing by wolves. It was lucky the other watcher caught wind or they’d have dragged the body off and we’d never know. We’d all be crying over the bastard’s grave.’

‘Then it’s as bad as it looks,’ said Saril, her voice adopting her usual cold tone. ‘Tawkran planned to sell us out. That letter contains detailed notes of our journey, all the stops we’ll be making, the number of men, what supplies we’ve brought with us. There’s even a section with that ambassador’s name on it. He was doing this all right under our noses the whole time.’

‘Well, it shouldn’t matter now at least,’ said Abram.

Saril glared at him incredulously and the sergeant recoiled slightly. Perhaps there was still some room for fear at least.

‘What I mean is they never got it,’ he said, then pointed at the letter. ‘If he had to write all that down it means they didn’t know it already. We can keep going like nothing happened. We got lucky. Tawkran, no so much.

For a moment it looked as though Saril was about to lose her cool again, but instead she simply sighed and shook her head.

‘It’s not that simple,’ she said. ‘We don’t know that they didn’t have some of the information already. The letter could just have been to confirm it. Even assuming they genuinely didn’t know any of this to begin with, we now know we’re being watched. We don’t even know for sure that Tawkran was alone in this. We could be infested with traitors and never know it.’

Saril closed her eyes again. This time the anger passed more quickly. It served no purpose to allow her emotions to take control of her. She needed her wits about her now more than ever.

In front of her, the sergeant licked his lips, a futile gesture given that just like her, his human form was merely a projection, but nonetheless it made his agitation clear. It had often amused her to see how her fellow sans corpus attempted to imitate the mannerisms of those who had been born with bodies. For herself, she saw no need for it. Perhaps that was another reason she had never truly been accepted by them.

Now the sergeant was examining the letter. His brows furrowed as he came to a stop.

‘The information on our numbers is correct,’ he said, ‘down to the last man, all except one that is. My guess would be he planned to make a run for it either last night or sometime later. Maybe he hoped we would assume he had been dragged off by wolves and things just took a turn for the worst. If there are any other traitors they’d have to do the same. He’d mention them in the letter, but he doesn’t, so either there aren’t any…’

‘Or he didn’t know,’ Saril finished the sentence for him. ‘Either way we still have to change our route. It’s too dangerous to keep to the original plan now that we know an ambush was planned. They might still decide to hole up somewhere on what they suspect to be our most probable course. That’s something I plan to deny them, so from now on we’re taking the long way.’

Abram nodded solemnly. She sensed he had more questions, but this time he managed to restrain himself and remember that he was in the presence of a superior officer.

‘You and I are the only ones that know about this letter?’ Saril asked.

Again the sergeant nodded.

‘We’ll keep it that way,’ she said, and she started to pace about her tent as she did so. It remained a possibility that they might be overheard, but her keens eyes kept watch for unexpected shadows while her ears pinpointed every minute movement. There were some definite advantages to her condition. It gave her an awareness few humans could ever achieve. ‘That only leaves that other watcher,’ she continued. ‘I want you to keep a close eye on him.’

‘Yes, commander,’ said Abram, and he raised his fist in salute.

She dismissed him with a hand gesture and then watched him walk a metre before stopping and turning back to face her.

‘Yes, sergeant?’ she asked before he mustered the courage to ask whatever question was troubling him.

‘Sorry,’ he said, looking away, ‘but I have to ask why you’re trusting me with this. If there are traitors in our midst and they could indeed be anyone, then I’m as good a candidate as any. I brought you the letter. You’ve only my word on any of this.’

Much to the sergeant’s surprise, Saril’s lips curled into a smile.

‘A good point,’ she said, ‘but in fact I don’t, trust you, that is. Right now I don’t trust anyone. What I know I can trust though is that expression you wore when you gave me that letter. As a sergeant you were closer to Private Tawkran than I was. He was your brother-in-arms, and before last night you would have thrown your life on the line for him. And for all that, I believe that if the bastard wasn’t dead you’d happily kill him anyway. You see, Sergeant Abram, vengeance is something I have a good eye for. There is nothing more pure in a person’s heart than their need to seek blood from those who wronged them. Now wake the others. It’s time to move.’

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Road to Narakys – Part Five

ALADOS

Grand Marshal Alados Wolsey didn’t sleep. It was a habit he had picked up during the Needle Islands campaign. There closing your eyes meant losing them. Attacks from the natives were relentless, often lasting long into the night and continuing the following day. They had thrown themselves into danger seemingly without care for their lives or those of others. They were merciless, bloodthirsty and desperate. As much as he abhorred them for their grotesque inhuman appearances, he could at least respect them for their courage, however misplaced it had proven to be.

He had not been sorry to leave that part of his life behind. When the campaign ended and the cleansing was deemed sufficient, he had been glad to return home, to some semblance of safety and normality. If only it had been that simple. In truth, returning home had been a strangeness. Some part of him had been lost over those years of blood and fear. Nothing seemed to have meaning anymore. Everything seemed bizarrely dull or lacking in colour. In his darker moments he imagined himself still on those wretched islands, a part of his soul being ripped away from him, and dragged down into the abyss to join those who had been slaughtered.

It was the boredom that had surprised him most of all though. It was almost funny in a cruel way. He certainly didn’t miss being on the knife’s edge every waking moment, but he could hardly deny that, it had ever failed to be exciting.

It had felt more real too. Something the monotony of high society could never emulate. All the banquets and gatherings and never-ending small talk were like one big joke by comparison. It was all so empty and so false.

When he realised that, he knew that he could not stay at home any longer. The chairs were too soft, the rooms too clean, and there was nothing to convince him that he hadn’t simply died upon one of those long, cold nights and that this was all some terrible joke of an afterlife.

Not everything had changed though. Like a rock standing firm against battering tides, there had been only one person that remained exactly the same. His father had not softened one bit, nor did he look upon his son with remorseful eyes for the pains that he had suffered. Even after everything, he still remained disappointed.

‘Apologies, my lord.’

Alados’ thoughts were broken by the arrival of a man in the uniform of a lieutenant. He acknowledged the man with a nod and a welcoming smile.

‘Ketch, isn’t it?’ he said.

‘Aye, my lord,’ said Ketch. ‘Sorry to disturb you but we received a missive from General MukRaigh that I believe you will want to read.’

‘No need to apologise,’ said Alados, then added, ‘at least not until I’ve read what the good general wants. Let’s take things in their natural order, shall we?’

He held out his hand and accepted the roll of parchment, unravelling it gently and holding it to the candlelight.

As his eyes darted across the words he felt an annoyance growing inside of him. Most of the letter was incidental, just a report of their successes in the northlands and their plans for the foreseeable future. Near the end however, was a request to meet with him personally, ostensibly so that he could oversee the completion of an outpost, but Alados knew there was more to it than that.

Angrily he screwed up the parchment and cast it aside. From the corner of his eye he saw Lieutenant Ketch balk at the gesture, but he didn’t care.

‘General MukRaigh wants us to pay her a visit,’ Alados explained, keeping the anger from his voice. ‘She expects us to arrive within the week.’

‘Should I send her confirmation?’ asked Ketch.

‘No,’ Alados’ spoke the word more coldly than he had intended. It was not the lieutenant’s fault. ‘The general forgets she is not my superior, no matter what her standing may be with the parliament.’

‘So we will not be heading north?’ the lieutenant frowned in confusion.

Alados smiled as he observed the man more closely. He was a wiry fellow but with a face that boasted a strong jaw and two gleaming sapphire eyes. Such features were a rarity among the lowborn, and he had no doubt that there was a story behind that, but it was one he looked forward to discovering sometime during their journey.

‘We will be,’ said Alados, ‘but I am waiting on different instructions first. Tell me, have the scouts returned yet?’

‘Yes, my lord,’ said Ketch, ‘save for some large wolf tracks, they didn’t have anything to report. I’m sorry for not passing on the information earlier but I didn’t think you’d find it relev-‘

Alados waved his hand dismissively, but his brows set firmly in a frown.

‘That’s disappointing,’ he said finally, more to himself than to the lieutenant. ‘In any case, thank you for bringing me this information, lieutenant. See to it that the men are ready to move out come the dawn. We’ve much ground to cover.’

The lieutenant nodded an affirmative and saluted, before turning and walking off. Alados watched him for a time, his mind still pondering the true reason for the general’s invitation. Surely word of his activities had not spread so far and so quickly. No, it had to be unconnected. There was only one soul in all the realms that knew what he was planning, and he would never betray him.

No, whatever this was, it could not interfere with his plans. It was far too late for that.

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Road to Narakys – Part Four

ABRAM

Abram stalked into the tree line. His gait was slow and cautious, his ears pricked, ready to catch the slightest sound, and his eyes darted constantly from one shadow to the next. Every few minutes he would pause in his advance to take in his surroundings. Then, once he was convinced he was alone, he would continue his patrol.

Equidistant from him in a wide circle, the other two designated watchers would be doing the exact same. Together they would scour the area, reporting back at the first sign of trouble. Not that he was expecting any.

In his years of military service, Abram had come to a fundamental truth regarding night time patrols. They didn’t work. If an enemy wanted to attack them, they would, and for all the warning, they would still not be prepared for it. That was the simple fact of it. No man could jump up from sleeping, have a sword or bow in his hand and be ready to fight, at least not nearly as well as if he’d been awake the whole time. He’d be disoriented, mind cloudy. The adrenaline would help, but it was rarely enough.

Then of course there were the nights where nothing happened. Those were the nights where the guards could have slept as well, or the gates left unguarded. Those were the nights they would complain about, and there would be many of them to come. Those were the nights where one or more of them would suggest it wasn’t worth keeping watch at all.

Abram didn’t hold to that though. Even if he didn’t believe in the effectiveness of a night’s watch, he held to the reasoning behind it. Warning was still better than no warning at all. Besides, he never questioned orders, even when he disagreed with them. When he was given a task no matter the importance, he took it seriously. He was just that kind of man and it was all he had ever wanted to be.

It was for that reason that he turned on his heel and had his knife held ready to strike when a man came tumbling out from the bushes behind him. It was only because of his practiced skill that he managed to pull back in time when he recognised the other man as one he had picked as a fellow watcher.

‘What are you doing, soldier?’ he whispered angrily, blade still pointing at the other man.

The soldier pulled himself up off the ground and looked at him with a grim expression on a dark feline face. He was by most counts a giant, easily the tallest of their group. He was also impeccably built, with the kind of musculature that did not come natural to the far weaker human form. In spite of his intimidating exterior, it was the bowed head and eyes filled with fear and confusion that convinced Abram finally to lower his weapon.

‘It’s Tawkran, sir,’ said the soldier, referring by name to the third watcher. ‘Something’s happened to him. ‘

Abram’s body tensed.

‘You saw something?’ he asked. The other soldier nodded. ‘Take me there.’

The time for stealth had likely passed, but all the same, Abram remained vigilant, making sure to tread just as lightly while also quickening his pace. A clever enemy might pick off the watchers silently, hoping to catch the group entirely unawares. After all, sleeping men wouldn’t fight back.

The large soldier led him to a small clearing where a scrap of cloth hung from a low lying branch. He sped over to it, recognising it even in the darkness as a remnant of Tawkran’s cloak. He swore under his breath as his fingers found traces of blood.

‘Unsheathe,’ he ordered the other soldier, readying his own dagger. The soldier did as ordered, and then Abram looked down at the ground where a patch of grass had been flattened, with the ground beneath it forming a rough trail that disappeared behind a pair of bushes.

Cautiously, soundlessly, Abram followed the trail to its conclusion. He swore again when discovered to what it led.

‘What is it?’ said the other soldier. ‘Bandits?’

He too stopped when he followed Abram around the bushes, eyes widening in shock at what he saw. Tawkran lay before them, dead. His lifeless eyes stared accusingly up at the tree line while his mouth remained stuck in an unending scream.

Abram leant down to expect the body. There was no doubting how he had died. There were claw and bite marks all up his torso and across the back of his neck. If he was lucking it had at least been quick, but that was something he didn’t want to think about.

Holding back his disgust, Abram reached into a wound and retrieved a short strand. When he held it aloft he realised it was a hair, silver and sharp. It could only have come from an animal.

‘Wolves,’ he muttered, almost disappointed. ‘It’s just wolves.’

‘Wolves did this?’ said the other man incredulously.

Abram nodded. It was uncommon, but it still happened. They tended not to venture too close to camps, but he doubted that would stop them if they were desperate enough, or hungry enough. All the same, something didn’t feel quite right. He couldn’t place it, but there was still something that didn’t quite add up.

‘Go wake the next three watchers,’ said Abram. ‘I’ll join you when I’m done with the body.’

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Road to Narakys – Part Three

SARIL

The wind was cold, but she couldn’t feel it. The effects of it against her flesh were like echoes in the distance, steadily fading. It was unusual for her kind, for what she had been made into at least, to lose so much sensation. She wondered, but never suggested, that perhaps it wasn’t the body that was numb. Perhaps it wasn’t even the warping of her soul, the abomination she had become when her spirit overwrote the one that ought to dwell within. No, it was just her, as it had always been. She was cold as a frozen glacier. Cold like the howling darkness. There was no room for feeling anything else.

And she saw everything. That was the other thing, but it was a skill that she had honed more recently than one she had been born with, or died with for that matter. For example, she saw the soldiers glancing at her, some awed, most scared. She saw those that straggled behind and remembered their names, but she also saw those that succeeded in tasks, and made mental notes to reward them for their diligence.

As the fire died down behind her, she saw the troll, Heljak, talking awkwardly to the tirau woman whose name she did not care to know, she was a warrior, but not one of Saril’s. She watched the troll wander away from her with an expression equal parts bewilderment and disappointment.

Him, she could understand. He would be like all the other ambassadors, a wordsmith; not a fighter, a burden, but a precious package too. If half the things she had been told about this particular ambassador were true, then maybe the journey would be worth the effort.

Naturally, Saril did not believe the optimistic line, that Narakys was to be the seat of change and that peace was now within their grasp, at least, not as close as her superiors would have her believe. She was in her heart a soldier. She had killed many men and even tasted death herself. Though her recollections of that particular event remained hidden behind a dark veil, sometimes she found that she could recall fragments, but they rarely lingered in her conscious mind long enough to discern anything meaningful. Needless to say, if nothing else, it had taught her the finality of all things. There were always conflicts, but even wars had ends.

‘Captain,’ said a man bowing cordially beside her.

She turned and acknowledged him curtly. He was Abram, like her, a member of the people known collectively as the sans corpus, unlike her, he was not similarly afflicted. He was, in point of fact, his own person. He wasn’t a usurper like she was. He wasn’t an abomination.

‘Report,’ she said.

‘Tents set up, beds made,’ said Abram quickly. He always sounded nervous, but he hid it well. Most would not notice, but she was the exception. ‘As requested I have ordered two men as perimeter guard and a further three remain on standby.’

‘Good,’ said Saril, ‘but I requested for three men to stand guard.’

‘Ah, yes,’ said Abram apologetically. ‘You did say that, and I have opted to take the position of third myself, with your permission.’

‘Granted,’ said Saril. She smiled, but the expression never reached her lips. She liked Abram. He was reliable and he surprisingly adept fighter. He followed orders to the letter and never balked when it came to putting himself on the line. One day he might well make a good commander himself, assuming he didn’t volunteer for a suicide attack first. That, after all, was his one major flaw. Following orders was commendable. Following bad ones was foolish.

‘Respectfully,’ said Abram, the same nervousness about his person, ‘I think you should take rest.’

She stared at him with her yellow eyes boring into him. He put his hands together and lowered his head.

‘I simply believe it to be wise,’ he said, stammering slightly. ‘You are our commanding officer after all and that is a very important position.’

‘The most important position,’ corrected Saril. She looked away so as not to expose her smirk. ‘You’re not wrong though, I shall need to be rested for the march tomorrow. While I sleep you are acting commander.’

‘I… thank you,’ said Abram.

Saril turned and was about to wave him away when a thought came to her.

‘One last thing, Sergeant Abram,’ she said, ‘if we’re attacked in the night, wake me before the killing starts or don’t wake me at all.’

She didn’t need to turn to see the man’s expression pale.

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Road to Narakys – Part Two

FRAID

‘Do you need any help with that?’

Fraid peered around the tree, careful to cover her pack before she did so. Her eyes narrowed when she saw who it was that had spoken. It was the troll, the so-called ambassador they had picked up from their stop at Marbrekhal.

‘No, I don’t need help,’ she said, not caring enough to disguise her irritation. It was peace and quiet that she valued, and so far the others respected that. They knew who she was and what she was capable of. They were not fools, at least, not for the most part, and they certainly weren’t trolls.

‘Are you sure?’ said the troll, leaning on the tree.

Fraid turned sharply and jumped to her feet. He was a little more than a head taller than her, and she didn’t doubt that there would be those who found his grey skinned narrow face with that wild auburn mane to be quite imposing, that was without even mentioning the two jutting tusks that broke out from his lips like bone from a wound or the great curled horns that sat atop his head like those of some mythic demon. She, however, was not like those people. All she saw was a monster – and a witless one at that.

‘I don’t need your help,’ she repeated, forcing herself to appear calm though she could feel the anger rising inside.

‘I’m sorry,’ said the troll. ‘Didn’t mean to be rude. Just looked to me like you were having trouble pitching your tent.’

Fraid frowned, then glanced back at her pack. Immediately her expression changed, eyes widening in sudden realisation. Her lips parting to expose a mocking grin.

‘That,’ she said, pointing at her pack, and the loose brown cloth she had used to conceal it, ‘that is not a tent. That’s a sleeping bag.’

‘Oh,’ said the troll. He didn’t seem to understand. ‘Do you… need help setting it up?’

‘No,’ said Fraid, her eyebrows raised in disbelief.

The troll just nodded and glanced back at the others. Fraid followed his gaze and saw that for the most part they were all set up for the night. Only a few stragglers remained trying to find the best spot upon which to lay down their heads, while others sat together outside their completed tents. The troll and herself were the only two with nothing much to show.

‘Where’s your tent?’ she asked.

‘I don’t have one,’ said the troll. ‘I’ve never travelled this far before.’

‘You don’t have one?’ said Fraid. She rolled her eyes. ‘You’ll catch your death from exposure.’

The troll smiled.

‘Don’t worry,’ he said, ‘I’m used to the cold. Been in it most of my life.’

‘I wasn’t,’ said Fraid in annoyance, and then added, ‘worried, I mean. Vieris wept, I don’t even know you.’

‘I’m Heljak,’ said the troll, extending a hand.

She looked at it with distaste and against her better judgment, took it in her own. Her hand seemed tiny compared to his, almost fragile, delicate. She disliked that fact. She was anything but “delicate”.

‘Fraid,’ she said. She felt the troll’s hand enclose around hers, and a rush of adrenaline swept through her body. To her surprise his touch was gentle, almost warm. ‘So, what’s your role in all this? Not usual that the commander takes a hayseed with us.’

Again the troll didn’t seem to understand.

‘A hayseed,’ she said, ‘someone fresh, untested. Someone who can’t fight.’

She didn’t try to hold back the barbs behind the words. She didn’t like the man. He would be a liability, whether he meant to be or not. Besides there was clearly no point in being polite to the troll when he was clearly an idiot.

‘Well, I guess,’ said the troll, seeming to carefully pick his words, ‘I just managed to convince the right people.’

Fraid nodded and bit her lip. With the adrenaline rush leaving her system, a familiar pain arose to replace it.

‘Are you all right?’ asked Heljak, apparently noticing that something had changed. ‘You look pale.’

‘I’m from Ordanon,’ hissed Fraid, ‘we’re all pale there. I’m fine, and I still don’t need your help.’

The last words she found difficult to get out, but the troll didn’t press the matter further. Instead he nodded and turned to rejoin the others.

‘I’m sorry,’ he said, ‘I’ll leave you to set up your… sleeping bag.’

Fraid didn’t respond, instead she watched him with suspicion as he left. What was his game? What did he really want?

The pain had begun to gnaw at her insides now, like a void had opened in her chest, slowly pulling her guts inside its cold embrace. She gritted her teeth cleared her mind of everything but the pain, then turned to face her pack.

Resting down in such a way that she obscured the bag from view, she pushed her hands beneath the cloth and inside. Fraid reached around until her hands fell on something cool and metallic. She closed her eyes and allowed herself a long, silent sigh of relief.

The pain receded, and she felt a calmness descend upon her.

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