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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-03-12, 01:15 PM Thread Starter
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Default The Epic of Valdrel

Greetings heresy This is my second attempt at posting something. This time the title is not mispelled... it was The Five Elemnts (supposed to be Elements...)

Anyway, this isnt particularly related to that. It is, again, set in an alternate world with a little bit of earth mixed in. I wrote this for an English project after we read the Oddyssey, it was supposed to be a short story, but now I am incorporating it into a book I am writing.

*EDIT* I deleted the original text because it is incorporated into the chapters I am about to upload. There are 8 so far, I will upload one a day (just for suspense, and so I can hopefully check for errors. Doubtful, though, with all the painting I have to do). Should I format it to make it easier to read?

I hope you guys like it. Any advice etc would be great, I will post a chapter a day as long as I have a chapter to post. In other words, for a week or so, and maybe by that time I will have another chapter done. Cheers!
-JAMOB

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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-08-12, 03:43 AM Thread Starter
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Default Chapter 1

Chapter 1: The Most Repetitive Introduction Ever, and it’s not technically an introduction at all
Vince was quietly working in his large, boring office, writing a long, boring report for his large, boring boss. He was bored. Needless to say Vince did not like his job. Everything was very large and very boring.
Vince wanted adventure, the kind found in epic fantasy novels. His favorite fantasy was being a Viking, only one who was civilized. The easiest way for him to cheer himself up was to think of the Viking he wanted to be: drinking tea, pinky up, in full battle armor, or asking politely to enter a house before murdering the inhabitants, all the while saying things like “Cheerio!” and often “Well, old chap, would it be too much trouble for you to fight back?” No one else understood the appeal of these images—well, except for me that is.
My name is Tyr’ron the historian. From a young age Vince and I have been good friends, going everywhere together. Unfortunately it was not to last. When he was very young, Vince’s parents were killed rather cruelly by his uncle. He, of course, remembers none of this, and I am not inclined to tell him. He had amnesia after a particularly bad knee injury. Since then, we moved numerous times finally locating ourselves in New York City. I thought that here we would be safe from Vince’s murderous uncle, but unfortunately it once again was not to be.
He found us. I don’t know how, but he did, and once again we ran, and—I suppose I’m getting ahead of myself--but let me start over.
Vince’s life was boring, he was misunderstood, out of place, whatever. I am going to briefly walk you, dear reader, through his life.
Every day, Vince wakes up, I make him tea, he grabs a bite to eat, and I drive him to work in my cab. (I’m currently a taxi driver.) He enters work, checks in, and goes to his office. This, in case you didn’t notice, brings me back to where I started. As I hate repeating myself, I ask that you read, hopefully not for the first time, the first four sentences. I will wait.

***
Welcome back. I believe I have sufficiently stated the boring nature of his place of work. I suppose I should describe his co-workers. His boss is named Smith, Mr. Smith to his workers. Mr. Smith has a secretary named Mrs. Jones, who does most of the work while Smith spies on his workers, assuring himself that they are working hard. Then there is Eddy, a friendly fellow with very interesting ideas; the Colonel (no one except Mr. Smith knows his real name), a silent and aggressive Veteran of some war or other: and Eileen Jenkins, a delightful young girl and the center of everyone else in the office’s attention. For all the interesting co-workers, the place was incredibly boring, most likely due to Mr. Smith.
He was a harsh old man, insisting that everyone enter and leave at specific times, varying depending on Mr. Smith’s own personal schedule. No one was allowed to be there without him, and those absent while he was present were harshly punished, docking much needed pay. He was a fat, greedy, despicable man. Why, though, was the job boring? You see, dear reader, with harshness came strictness. Talking other than that specifically related to work (and even this was monitored) was forbidden. No food or beverages were allowed inside any part of the office. Coffee breaks were scheduled, and were almost always solitary, so that everyone but one person was working at all times, and normally they all were. The work—boring. Imagine the most boring atmosphere possible. Even though there were some interesting people, any exciting contact was expressly forbidden. In this setting, dear reader, was my good friend Vincent confined for so many years.
Days passed, weeks went by, whole months seemed to disappear in the endless monotony. And, as always, Vince sat, quietly working in his large, boring office, writing a long, boring report to his large boring box. And, as always, he was bored.
As Vince finished looking over his report (this one about his long, boring meeting with an accounting firm), dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s, his phone started buzzing. “Oh, God, no, not now.” He had been expecting a call from a local charity (one that he believed was a scam). Every time they called, there were long, heated debates, both parties screaming loudly. They had promised to call again. He didn’t want them to. Unfortunately, the boss expected all phone calls to be answered promptly, yet forbade personal calls. He hated the ringing and the buzzing.
Vince put down his report and wearily picked up the phone.
“Mr. Maurice here. How may I be of service?”
This is where I come in. “Vince, cut the crap. It’s me, Tyrone.” Yes, I know I said my name was Tyr’ron. I’ll get to that later.
“Ty, what is it? You know I’m not supposed to take personal calls at work.”
“I know, I know, but this is impor—“
And here, he cut me off. “I don’t care. Tell me later. If I don’t go now I might lose my job.”
I was getting worried. I had a feeling I knew what he was going to do. “All right, Vince, I’ll make this fast. I…”
He cut off abruptly. At the time I had no idea what had happened. “Vince? Vince? What happened? Where are you? VINCE!”
I was worried. I believed that my best friend had been kidnapped! Of course, I later found out that his boss had walked in, so he had hung up. I wish I had been able to tell him. Three good men would still be alive…No. I am getting ahead of myself again.
I left a note for him, knowing that it would be a while before I saw him. Knowing that he would have those same horrific nightmares. Knowing how helpless he would be, but knowing that this was his best chance.
What had I been about to tell him? I would have said, “We have to leave.” I know him. He would have said, “Again?” “Again,” I would sadly respond. He never understood why. We were being chased, and they had found us. They knew me better than him, so I would have to leave on my own. I left guards, hoping they would be enough, praying to the wolf that he would be all right, that we would see each other again.
That night, he came home. He read the letter I left and was devastated. It read:
“My Dear Vincent. I am sorry. I am so very sorry. I have not been truthful with you all these years, and am not who you think I am. Not only did I lie about myself, but also about you. I am sorry that I cannot say more of this now. Suffice to know that I must leave. I cannot say where, or why, only that I am. Goodbye.”
I knew that he would understand the signature, if not the rest. We often used these symbols among ourselves. Predictably, he called me immediately, but I had deactivated my phone account. I took the precaution to erase my name from existence, other than the memories of a select few. How? Ha. Like everything, secrecy can be bought. In my place, Benny, another taxi driver, drove Vince to work daily and took care of him. No one, other than Vince, noticed the change.
That night, Vince once again has his strange nightmare. Here is an account of it from his journal:
I am standing in a strange arena with no walls, but I sense I cannot leave. I face another, who, like me, is in ornate battle armor and wielding nearly identical swords. Two crowds cheer, one for and one against me. We stare at each other long and hard, his eyes filled with hate. We mirror each other’s movements, drawing our swords and stalking silently. Then, we fight. As I swing, I realize, as I do every night, how skilled I have become. Again we fight, again I win, as always. He dies by my sword, although I spared him. My triumph is snatched away, as it is every night, as the sun is blotted out by a storm of arrows. I always fall, screaming, clutching my burning leg. Then, as always, I awoke.”

***
It is really a sad thing. Think of it from his perspective. He has amnesia and cannot remember his past. He has a recurring dream that constantly torments him. And now, his best friend has left him, and seemingly no longer exists. I wish so much to tell him the truth.

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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-08-12, 02:09 PM Thread Starter
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Default Chapter 2

Chapter 2: On the Streets
Day in, day, out, he was lonely and afraid. His work suffered, and only he knew why. It pained me to do this to him, but I had to. His uncle was coming. Vince woke up, got ready, was driven to work by a stranger, and then tried and failed to concentrate at work. No deviation, no change. Every night he dreamed the same dream, tormented by his forgotten past. He remembered his near-fatal knee injury. Every night he woke up in a cold sweat, always the same way, after the same dream. Yes, there were some special events. His birthday passed on December 21st, and I sent him a beautiful knife—an icy blue blade with an ornate wolf-head handle, yet still razor sharp. Technically, it was always his, but I had kept it for him. Christmas and Easter, feasts he (and I) find ridiculous, also passed. His work recovered, and his job was saved. Summer arrived, and he felt somewhat depressed. Kids ran around outside, and though he longed to join them, to spend his pent up energy, his boss and the oppressive heat kept him inside.
After almost a year without me, that energy was finally able to be spent. On the 21st of June, Vince was called into the city for a business meeting. It goes well; Vince’s boss was very pleased and was considering raising Vince’s pay. However, much more important things are about to occur.
Vince was running late for the train, and the fastest way there, perhaps the only way to get there on time, was through a very dangerous alley that the police refuse to enter for fear of what will happen. Vince, however, had none of that knowledge and therefore none of that fear. He entered. So did I.
I wanted to call out, to warn him, but I knew that doing so would alert the gangs, so I waited. I quietly stalked behind him, his guardian and protector. There was a dark gloom about the place, and it seemed as if we were being watched (or more accurately, he was). I could tell that he was beginning to feel uncomfortable. I wanted to scream out “No! Keep running! Don’t slow down!” for that is exactly what he does. I saw, however, the shadows of heavily armed thugs in windows, and I think he did too. I suddenly realized how incredibly scary the place was, seemingly straight out of a horror movie. The windows were boarded up, but with cracks for shooting. Garbage littered the street, among it broken guns and ammo cartridges. There was a smell of drying blood coming from the nearby dumpster.
I entered a building silently, having seen a sniper rifle in the top window and realizing that it would silence my friend, unless I silenced it. I crept up the stairs and through the hallways until I came to a room with a man aiming the rifle I had earlier observed. I crept behind him and gutted him neatly, for there was no time for honor. I took control of the gun, and watched the scene unfolding below me. Out stepped five men, all heavily armed, and I could feel there were more hiding.
One of the five was huge, and carried a large knife and a sub-machine gun. He was clearly a leader, and walked slowly towards Vince. Vince was scared, and took a sep back. I hoped to the gods that he had his knife. The leader laughed and issued a challenge. I couldn’t hear exactly what he said, and never bothered to ask, but the gist of it was simple. You give us everything you have, or we kill you. If you try to hide something, we will kill you, only more painfully. After we have killed you, we will take everything you have. To his credit, Vince pretended not to be scared, and sought a way out of the situation.
While my friend was being threatened, I turned my attention to more important things. Making sure my little gun was silenced, I searched for targets and slowly picked off those gang members in the opposite building. “I will deal with the ones in my own later,” I thought. I hit seven all together. One skinny kid with a bandana, two muscled guys holding pistols, a fat one with a pistol, a sniper, and two with machine guns. Naturally, I used tranquilizer darts that were very conveniently nearby (I think so they could torture victims). I then turned my sights to those below, but it seemed Vince was taking care of the.
Apparently the boss had told his henchmen to grab Vince, who stabbed one(he did have the knife) and hit the other hard before holding the knife to his throat to stop any shots. The leader laughed, and yelled “Snipers!” at the top of his lungs. Vince looked around worriedly while I sighed with relief. I had one gun, and had used it to take out the other sniper.
When no shot came, the leader yelled to his boys to go check on it, but I didn’t notice because I was laughing so hard at his anger—it was so absurdly funny. My bad.
After about a minute or so, the door creaked open behind me and I stiffened. I realized my mistake, and was praying I could survive, for Vince. I turned slowly and saw a man standing there. “What do you think you’re doing?” he was saying. “Shoot alr—wait, who the hell are you?” I ran at him, closing the distance before he could bring his gun to bear. I knocked it out of his hand, and drew my knife, identical to Vince’s in all ways, except it was red rather than blue. He smiled, thinking he had the upper hand (as he was a trained knife fighter) and drew his own. I taunted and angered him to the point where he was reckless. He lunged, I dodged, he fell, I stabbed. I knew I didn’t have much time.
I grabbed the rifle and removed the longer barrel, lending accuracy for mobility, and still using the darts. I ran downstairs, shot a man, and kept running. Two came out of nowhere and shot at me—and then another from the other side. They all fell quickly to my rapid fire. I ran to a window, and shot out, hitting one gang member fighting Vince, who had knocked out the one he had been holding and was now fighting three others. “That’s odd,” I thought, “Where’s the leader?” I discovered the answer on my own soon enough.
I heard a noise behind me, turned, shot, and missed. It was the leader. I shot again—but my gun was empty, and he knew it. I threw it at him, making him drop his own gun, and giving me time to draw my knife. He drew his, and suddenly we were dueling. He was good, much better than the others—but I was better.
I forced him back outside, where Vince had felled one man and was fighting the other. He was clearly exhausted, and wouldn’t last much longer. I had to win fast. I feinted right, stabbed left, ducked, pivoted, rolled right, and stabbed again. This time I found my mark, hitting the leader in the side. He fell like the dense rock he was.
Vince stood, helpless, before the last gang member. “Ahem,” I said loudly, and the idiot turned, giving Vince the opportunity to kick his legs out from under him. The poor fool banged his head on a rock, and was out cold. I helped Vince up, removed my mask (I had been dressed in all black, including hangs, feet and head) and told him we had to leave. “Again?” he asked sadly. “Again.”

***
We arrived at a house where I knew we would be safe. We entered carefully, and immediately he asked “Why?” My response was simple. “He found us, your uncle did. And he wants you dead.” “Why?” I sighed, knowing that I would finally have to tell him, after all these years.
“Vince—I think you’d better sit down.”
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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-09-12, 05:02 PM Thread Starter
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Default Chapter 3

Chapter 3: They Never Listen
“Vince—your name isn’t Vince. It’s Valdrel, and you are the true king of the North.” Naturally, he was confused, and scared, and had no idea what I was talking about. Naturally, he testified that it could not be true, that he was a businessman, and that no one ruled Canada or would ever want to, and naturally, I laughed.
“Vince, I don’t mean Canada. I—well, perhaps I should start from the beginning.” I proceeded to tell him of his life—before his amnesia, I mean. He didn’t believe me, thought I was making it up, that it was too fantastic to be true. I will let you, dear reader, decide for yourself.
“Vince—I mean Valdrel—(it’s been so long since you’ve been called that)—listen to me. Do not so much as open your mouth until I tell you to.
“You, Valdrel, are true king of a land connected to this one by the grace of the gods. We have no name for it save “the North”, as it is to the North even of this world’s North Pole (which, by the way, is in the wrong spot). How, you may ask? Our gods are those of the true North—Odin Thor, and the symbol of your family, Fenris, or Fenrisulfr. He is the wolf on your knife, and its blade is the color of the North.
“Years ago, Odin opened up a gateway between the two worlds, coming to an agreement with Zeus, the lord of this one. Parties from each world would explore the other land. So it came to be that our gods were brought into this world, and the Greeks into ours. They settled south of us, with the other races. Some returned with tales of Elves and Dwarves, just as some of our own returned with tales of Satyrs and Unicorns.
“Among our people that traveled here was the first heir to the king, and he refused to return. So it was that when the king died, your ancestor took the throne. Since then Fenris has been worshipped beside Odin, and almost as fervently. He certainly gives more help than Odin does.
“Your mother and father were brave and noble warriors, but your uncle as deceitful. He brought two of your seven siblings to his side as well as many or your parents’ enemies, and took their fortress, killing your parents, your sister and two brothers. You, Herrel and Rikrel escaped with some soldiers. You gathered forces and planned to attack, but moved into a vulnerable position. You were surrounded. Each you, Herrel and Rikrel took a third of your forces and guarded a mountain pass. You and Herrel held, with the help of Fenris. Rikrel did not, and died.
“In your last battle, you killed your treacherous brother Feiken. Though you offered to spare him after your duel, he attacked again and you killed him. Then, the ignoble traitors unleashed a hail of arrows upon you, and you fell.”
Vince looked stunned, realizing where his dreams came from. Before he could speak, I continued, desperate to speak.
“We prayed for weeks for you to be healed, and in the end made a deal with Hel—your memory for your life. That is why you have amnesia.”
Valdrel didn’t want to believe it. He couldn’t, wouldn’t believe it. There was no way. As all do, he persuaded himself that I was lying, that the truth was, in fact, true, simply because it challenged his perceptions of life. He turned and fled.

***
I, as a historian, love primary sources (and even more love to write them). Here, then, is an excerpt from Valdrel’s journal. (He always kept one, and Benny had brought it with all Valdrel’s other things.) These are only the most telling passages, not all.

6/21 - I’m locked in and not allowed to leave. Why? Why wold Tyrone do this to me? He must be lying. My name is Vince Maurice. I am NOT crazy.
6/29 - They still won’t let me out. They treat me well, give me books (all about this weird world I’m apparently from), food, and treat me like a king—yet I am not allowed to leave. My name is Vince Maurice. I am definitely not crazy.
7/8 -This new land they speak of intrigues me. It would make a good subject of a book… My name is Valdrel Vince Maurice, and I am not crazy!
7/19 - It’s been almost a month. I have to get out! I must gain my freedom! I am going crazy, I don’t even know who I am any more!
7/23 - I’ve figured it out! I am asking for extra food, but not so much that they’ll notice—crackers, cheese, etc. I still have my money, my knife, my…damn this knife! When it came I lost everything!
7/28 - I’m almost ready. I’ve mapped out patrols and stocked provisions enough for a couple weeks. I’ll be ready in three days, and then I will go.

This is where it ends. By accident, he left this behind—lucky for us, or we never would have read it. Valdrel seems to have gone crazy in the month we kept him here. He also apparently lost the journal after writing this. That explains both why it ends here and why he left it.
Anyway, he snuck out the window of the adjacent room after climbing through vents, and escaped. He was immediately captured by those who would want to kill him—those who work for his sorcerer uncle. His brother, Ginnar, was among them. I realized he was attacked, but through magic they prevented me from helping (they encased me in an invisible barrier that nothing could enter or leave) and the others had no idea of Valdrel’s escape. Here is the account of Valdrel’s capture:
Valdrel jumped, hitting the ground hard, and took off running. I saw him go, and ran after him, not having time to alert the others. As I ran, I failed to notice a trap—one of a series of stasis wards meant to capture Valdrel. Instead, it prevented me from saving him. Valdrel ran ahead, but was surrounded by the enemy. First only humans. He dispatched one with a quick flick of his knife, but was then disarmed by a second. Once again, he ran.
Out of the ground popped snakes, glimmering green—the agents of the enemy. One bit Valdrel, and he fell, screaming. He was quickly chained and led away.

***
An hour later, I was discovered by my men. They freed me and we ran to where Valdrel fell, looking for signs of him. We saw no signs of the struggle other than the knife. No servant of the serpent could bear to touch its holy blade, and so it had been left.
I muttered a quick prayer to Fenris, another to Odin, and set off in pursuit. We split up for efficiency. After an hour, Benny found a trace—magic residue only, but it was enough. We would find Valdrel because we had to. Our whole land depended on it. No pressure.
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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-13-12, 05:43 PM
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This is very well written. Somehow I do think he was bored. I don't know how I came to that idea though, it may be because you said so about fifty times. This story should be moved though to the non-Warhammer section as this is not Warhammer or 40K fluff.

Keep up the good work. I did enjoy reading it. It fascinated and drew me in to continue reading.

We move slowly through the shrouds of fog sending pestilence before us. There is no hope! We are the Death Guard. Fear us for we are coming for you!
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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 05-14-12, 01:01 PM Thread Starter
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The idea was to be repetitive I just put it into original works... is there a separate one for original universes etc? Oh, and im sorry I didnt post the last couple of days I was hiking. Ill just post them not to make up the difference...

*EDIT* just so you know chapter 5 is somewhat long

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Default Chapter 4

Chapter 4: Lost and Found
We had the warehouse where Valdrel was being kept in our sight. We made a plan, readied our weapons, and crept forward. There were seven of us in total: me, Benny (our mage), Sandy (our archer), Jason and Jake (twin spearmen), Eric (our berserker), and Matt (our swordsman). These were of course not their real names, but these were the names they answered to. I myself wielded a sword and my dagger together. We were truly a deadly team. Unfortunately, that team was soon to be broken apart.

I remember when we first formed, after the fall of Rikrel. I rallied the best and the brightest to our cause, and formed a guard from the very best to protect Valdrel in the new world. This is, of course, the world from which we were trying to extract him. Since then, we have done very little, save train and watch Valdrel. Now was our time for action.

Eric ran forward, but Matt grabbed his arm and scolded him silently for his haste. Sandy took a vantage point on a nearby roof, guarded from below by the twins. Benny and I proceeded up the middle, and I motioned for Matt and Eric to follow. I instructed them to go through the front door while I scaled the wall and looked around. It was a single, large room, crawling with guards. Valdrel was in the middle, chained to a rotating stone slab. Speaking to him was Ginnar, the treacherous brother. I signaled for Sandy and the twins to follow me via a rope (stretched from one point to the other and climbed) before instructing Benny to cloud the senses of the guards so they wouldn’t notice.
All of us inside, we attacked. Sandy targeted Ginnar, who was protected by wards of some kind, and so barely noticed. Benny shot a blast of fire into a clump of guards and they all fell, burning. The twins protected Sandy, who continually shot, while Matt protected Benny. Eric and I ran in and attacked. Eric distracted Ginnar while I freed Valdrel. All in all, it was going well. Then, everything began to go wrong.
A gate opened up from the realm of the gods and serpents poured in. A trapdoor opened from underground and even more guards streamed in. I looked up in dismay, nearly dropping Valdrel. Matt grabbed my arm and pulled me gently towards the door. I turned, nodded and followed. Everyone had grouped together on the ground floor, as the top had collapsed from the magic explosions.
“Is everyone all right?” I asked worriedly. They all responded affirmatively. Benny and Sandy fired at the incoming hordes (guarded by the twins) while the other two helped me with Valdrel.
“Come on!” I yelled, not wanting to lose anyone. Sandy retreated, followed by Benny, and finally the twins.
Benny set up a barrier that would hold the snakes for a couple hours, but the human guards would still follow through. We ran, ending up in an alley that was only three blocks away from our safe house. Unfortunately, we heard the crash and yells of our foes behind us. They were close.
The twins and Sandy offered to stay behind and slow them, but I refused. We would make it together. And then we were surrounded.
On one side were at least a few hundred enemy soldiers, and on the other about fifteen. Here, we had to split up. Sandy and the twins once again offered to stay behind. This time I relented, knowing how important it could turn out to be; we needed someone to slow the larger group. Benny set up some wards and a few traps, meant to help the doomed trio survive longer and to kill off as many as possible. The three stood, turned to Valdrel, saluted, and took their place at a choke.
Jason and Jake stood at the ready, Sandy behind them, higher and hidden. A few mounted enemies charged in, either being speared to death or shot off their mount. Next came the enemy berserkers. There were twenty in all, and all had become suitably frenzied as to pose a challenge. Sandy picked them off, one by one, all but three of them. The twins managed to confuse these last few and cause them to hurt themselves in rage. They then quickly finished off the last one, and readied themselves again.
Now, you may be wondering why the enemies did not simply shoot the twins to death. The answer is simple—wards. Benny had done his job well) though would need much recuperation before he was able to do anything) and the arrows were deflected.
The next wave was fodder—infantry units meant to tire the twins out. This is where the traps came into play. About a hundred infantry ran towards the twins; about ten made it, and the twins killed them relatively quickly, though Jake did hurt his hand. The same tactic was tried again, with much the same result. So far, so good. Unfortunately, there were no more traps.
Remaining were about fifty enemies, including some mages, archers, assassins, Ginnar, and his guards. It was these last few that finally felled the twins. They walked forward, unhindered by arrows, and practically walked through the twins, so exhausted were they. Why did they not lead the attack, you might ask? The traps would have killed them outright, or Sandy would have slaughtered them. Only once they were both out of the way could Ginnar walk in and murder the twins with ease.
What, though, happened to Sandy? Why did she not slaughter Ginnar and his men? What prevented her from doing so?
Chains.
She had been captured by Assassins while the Infantry had advanced. She was not killed, however, and would later have a role to play.
Two of seven had died, one captured, yet one more would still have to die.

***
Meanwhile, Matt, Eric, Benny and I were taking Valdrel to the safe house with the hour and a half bought by the unfortunate trio, paid for in blood. It was a relatively easy journey, hindered only by a few men whom we easily dispatched with little injury on our side. We reached the safe house, still carrying Valdrel. We were home; we were safe. Unfortunately the same could not be said of Sammy or Jake or Jason. We thought them all dead, but would mourn them later. For now we had to make sure Valdrel didn’t run again.

***
“Valdrel! Valdrel, wake up. Wake up, already!”
Valdrel awoke, feeling groggy and confused. “What…what time is it?”
I looked at him closely before answering. “It’s time for you to listen to me and stop acting like a child. Two brave men and an equally brave woman died to save you tonight. Would you like to know why? It’s because like a bloody child, you ran away! Just because you were unwilling to believe something you knew was true. What do you have to say for yourself?”
Valdrel didn’t answer, so stunned was he by my explosion of righteous anger. He looked rather like the child I had described him as moments before. He was close to tears, but I would not relent.
“When will you shape up and become the man I once knew? You were wise, understanding, noble, and a true warrior. Now? I can barely look at you.” With that, I turned and left my friend to his misery. I would be back, I knew, when I was in control of myself again—then, Valdrel would understand.
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Default Chapter 5

Chapter 5: At Last
I went back and talked to Valdrel, after regaining control of myself. He still didn’t believe me, but I wasn’t discouraged. As soon as the documents I had called for arrived, finally, after a week of constantly convincing Valdrel not to leave, they came.
I entered Valdrel’s room, and told him to “sit down and listen closely.” I continued, fervently hoping he would see the truth. “I know you don’t believe you are king of anything, but these documents prove otherwise.”
Valdrel injected suspiciously, “How do I know they’re not forged?”
I looked at him intently, smiled, and said “because you wrote them yourself.” I laughed slightly at his disbelief, but when I handed him the documents that follow, his eyes widened with shock.

Valdrel, III 573.12.14
Today we embark upon a journey to my ancestral palace, the same one stolen by the treacherous Gandrun. We seek to recover a sword hidden in the catacombs: a sword of great power, blessed by Fenrisúlfr, the great wolf. However, there are no ways to enter that sanctuary of the Wolf except though the castle, so we must go through the burial chamber, also a sanctuary, and then find the sword. There is a secret entrance in a stairwell that we must find and enter. It is a daring raid, but I know that the gods are with us, for a pack takes care of its own.

Valdrel, III 573.12.15
We have arrived. We leave our sanctuary in search of the sword at midnight, for it is then that the powers of Jörmungandr, the great Serpent, and his minions are at their weakest. I have chosen five loyal men to accompany grey-eyed Herrel and myself, while steadfast Rikrel will stay at out fortress.

Valdrel, III 573.12.16
Success! We have made our way in, and are now holed up in the sanctuary. This may seem bad, but out enemies have no knowledge of our existence here, for they cannot enter the sanctuary.
We snuck past a dozen or so guards, as a wolf might stock pray, invisible to the one the pack hunts. Before reaching the catacombs, I myself snuck into treacherous Gandrum’s room in order that I might steal amulets of his for our priests to examine. After all, it is easier to defeat a foe that is understood. If we can find the source of the magic, we can neutralize its power.

Valdrel, III 573.12.17
Today we escaped from my old home, though were caught escaping. We were forced to fight out way out.
At dawn we left, but we should have left hours earlier at midnight, as we had come. Two of my best men would then have survived. As we left, chance had a guard turn and see us, raising the alarm before he could be silenced. I did silence him moments later, but it was too late. We were discovered. I immediately hit him with a rock, but it was useless. Guards streamed down upon us, but we killed them all quickly and efficiently, like a wolf pack that had hunted together for years. One of our men fell, and we were forced to carry them so that he would not be desecrated.
Another of my men soon died fighting cruel Ginnar, my treacherous brother, before I wounded the traitor badly just above the hip. While I stayed to do this I was left behind accidently, and I was alone. I ran for the burial chamber. I reached our ancestral hall, and paused, looking at the familiar sight before me. High was the ceiling and long were the banners. Though heartbreaking to see, so desecrated was the hall, its beauty was great. I raised my sword, and ran forward, swiftly, silently. My need was great, and a miracle needed.. I bowed my head in prayer to the Great Wolf, who answered. My way was safe. The only moving things I passed were a dozen or so guards, easily dispatched, and a half dozen shining blurs that raced ahead of me. I also passed countless corpses of fallen guards leading straight to the burial room. By its entrance I saw treacherous Gandrun along with my two traitor brothers and a dozen small snakes fighting against the blurs I had seen earlier: they were not blurs at all, but wolves. Spirits sent down from above, fenrimundes, sent to protect me.
From on high a voice boomed out, “Go, my child. My warriors will take care of the serpents”.
I escaped into the hall where my men and grey-eyed Herrel were waiting. We buried the two fallen respectfully, and are now preparing to return to our fortress.

Valdrel, III 573.12.21
It is now the solstice, and our enemies will not attack until tomorrow: we are blessed with special power on this day.
When I returned from my raid I gave the amulet to the priests and then went to the war tent. That was two days ago. Yesterday we mobilized our forces to three mountain passes that are easily defendable, and the only ways into the valley where our fortress lies. In case we fall, I am going to meet with the historian Tyr’ron. He will record my life and store it away, safe, so that should we die our story will not.

***
He looked up in disbelief. “I…I don’t believe it! I remember writing this! But how is this possible? Why can’t I remember?”
“Read on, my friend…”

***
I was born of a king, trained for war, but destined for suffering. My parents rightfully and justly ruled out land. They were kind, but their wrath was terrible to behold. Like wolves, stalking their prey, surrounded by the chilled air of the north. Stalking, silently, together. So does my family wait in silence, striking together at the opportune moment, yet never giving away their intentions until it is too late. I too, and four of my seven brothers and sisters are, or were, like wolves.
My parents, being rulers of the land, naturally attracted enemies. Further hatred for them sprouted from the decisive way in which they destroyed their foes. The survivors, though few, would never forgive, never forget.
Despite my parents being wise, they could not foretell my uncle’s betrayal. My uncle, the treacherous Gandrum, had trained in sorcery, in secret. So angry was he that the gift of the Great Wolf had passed him by that he turned to the Serpent, Jörmungandr, for revenge.
Gandrum longed for a way to combat his brothers’ cold fury, so he turned to heat. Fire and hatred were his obvious tools, but above these were deception and treachery. He allied himself in secret to the few survivors of my parents’ wrath, for he had access to the records of battles, and easily found those who survived. Where he could, Gandrum sought to save my parents’ enemies in order to win their allegiance. For twenty years did he plot and scheme, amassing a hidden army that nursed hatred for my parents. He began before my birth, but waited until I was old enough to show signs of the great gift to attack. When I did, he passed me by. He wanted me to join him, as my two older brothers, Ginnar and Feiken, did. Had I not been gifted by the Great Wolf, I may have joined him. However, I was, and so the possibility was out of the question.
Finally, the time came when Gandrum’s plans were fulfilled, and his armies were strong enough to crush my parents’ kingdom. He struck like only a coward would, in the dead of night, killing my father before he could awaken, and had my mother shot, ignoring the rules of combat. I tried to help, but my treacherous brothers stopped me. I perhaps could have defeated one, but not two, for they had more training, and there were two, but I was like a wolf in combat. My sister, loyal Fríðr, who had also not received the gift of the Great Wolf, remained loyal to him and sacrificed herself to save me. I ran, finding my sister Herrel and brother Rikrel fighting soldiers over the bodies of more soldiers and my younger brothers, Hidrel and Sigrel. I charged, changing the tide of the battle and killing two guards instantly, and then we banded together to defeat the rest.
We gathered twenty loyal men, instructing the rest to meet in the forest sanctuary, where servants of the Serpent cannot go. We chose the best and the quietest, those that moved and hunted most like a pack. We had them simply guard our backs, but instructed them not to be seen. We paused, looking at the familiar sight before us. High was the ceiling and long were the banners. Though heartbreaking to see, so damaged was the hall, its beauty still showed. I raised my sword, and ran forward, swiftly, silently. Our need was great, and a miracle needed. I bowed my head in prayer to the great wolf, who answered. From nowhere, three shimmering wolves appeared, one for each of us. We recognized them from legends as the fastest of the fenrimundes. We climbed on, using them as mounts, and they ran forward, carrying us each to our destination: the fallen bodies of our siblings.
Finally, the spirit and I reached the tower, fraught with darkness. Coils of mist surrounded our heads as we looked for our fallen brethren. Our mission was simple: to retrieve the bodies of our siblings for an honorable burial. Royalty, and all who die honorably in battle, as they did, should have a proper burial. I went for my fallen sister, loyal Fríðr, who had saved my life, while the others rescued the bodies of our fallen brothers who had died honorably. We succeeded, each saving their charge. By blood were we bound, by blood would we stand, until Ragnarök comes at last. Onward we pressed, hiding inside the great catacombs for burial.
Only the servants of silent Fenrisúlfr can enter the burial chamber and other sanctuaries, and so the three traitors had avoided all sanctuaries for the last couple of years, always making excuses. All who did not serve the great wolf yet entered none the less would meet a horrible fate, though I have yet to see what that is. There are a number of tunnels underground, leading to other sanctuaries. Though not impenetrable, they are difficult to pierce: not because of the gods, but because of their thick walls and, of course, their being underground. We escaped into the chamber, safe and sound. We gave our fallen brethren the proper burial for those who died with honor: we laid them out on the holy altars of Fenrisúlfr, stripping and cleansing them. This, naturally, can be done only by priests or members of the royal family (who are priests in their own right). After the cleansing, we anointed them with oil and laid them out in full armor, their weapons clutched in their hands. We placed a crown of thorns on each of their heads, symbolizing the pain of their death. We placed golden bands upon their forearms, symbolizing their honor. On their swords we inscribed a prayer to the Great Wolf, asking for passage to the eternal hunting grounds. Finally, we laid them to rest inside the great depths of the blessed catacombs.
After the burial, we travelled through the tunnels to where the troops were waiting for us. We saw about a thousand loyal soldiers, healthy, strong, and fully armored. We also saw about a dozen flaming corpses. I laughed, realizing that this is what happened to those who enter a sanctuary without the blessing of the wolf. Indeed, these spies who had turned their lives to the great flame had now died by it.
I turned to my soldiers, pointed at the corpses and said, “That is the price of treachery. Even thoughts of treachery will be fatal to you. I say this as a warning, not a threat. Do not betray us, in actions, words, or even in thoughts, for the Great Wolf knows all, sees all, and punishes all. If you ever have a seed of doubt in your hearts, pray to Fenrisúlfr for guidance. He will answer. Do not be drawn by the promises of the Serpent, for they are false. Should you choose to do so your fate will be the same as these thirteen traitors, whether by my hand or the Serpent’s. He will use you and then burn you away into empty husks. His wrath is like the sun, as is his entire being (though he does not actually control the sun). It burns all, consumes all, uses everything around it to fuel itself. It cannot be contained, save by the power of the gods, and Fenrisúlfr himself.
“Your options stand thus: you can fight with me, for duty, honor, country. You can fight against oppression, for all those who cannot fight for themselves. Or, you can betray me and fight for our enemies. This, however, would be futile, for we have the power of the Wolf on our side. Instead, fight with me, that we may destroy evil. Fight with me, that we may destroy those who betrayed us and win back our freedom!”
At that a great cheer went up, as I had intended, and we began to prepare to fight immediately. Finally, we were ready (or so we thought), and marched to an old, abandoned fortress. This was a fatal mistake, one that lost us far too many men. Never should we have left our sanctuary.
Our enemies discovered our intentions, and deigned to trap us: for the fortress to which we travelled was surrounded by a ring of mountains, with only three passes large enough for an army. Our own spies discovered that the brunt of their attack would come from the south, so I marshaled four hundred of our soldiers, a hundred of our best and then about sixty archers, and took them to the southern pass. About three hundred soldiers, with only fifty of our best but about the same number of archers went to each of the other passes, the east held by my brother and the west by my sister. We left about a hundred of our best at our fortress, in case the enemy should break through. We know we can hold, as long as we are not surrounded, for the pass allows for small battles, and our soldiers are superior. That is where I now am. Tonight the battle lines will be drawn, and I hope to the gods that we can hold. Already have my siblings been assailed, though their losses have been few. That is where this whole business stands. Wish me luck, my old friend.

***
“So you recorded this?” he asked me surprisedly.
“Yes. You spoke, I recorded. Read on, Valdrel. Your questions will all be answered.

***
Valdrel, III 573.12.22
The first day of battles was gruesome. It had been so long since I fought a real war that the amount of death surprised me, although I got over it quickly. Me and my retinue of priests and elite warriors held the center, while our finest infantrymen held the edges of our position. The less trained soldiers waited for some breach in the line to appear, that they might fill it. We had about half our elite troops guarding our archers, whom we positioned on the high ground above us. They would have no problem holding. As expected, the enemies’ numbers and weapons were far greater than our own. However, numbers alone do not win battles, however much they help. They had neither the devotion to our cause nor the training that we did, and so we would hold.
My own personal guard lost not a single warrior, and of our finest we lost only two. Of the other three hundred or so warriors we lost less than ten. In return, we killed at least three hundred of them, if not more.
My men and I held all day, through a combination of magic, superior positioning, and my own cold fury. We killed at least a hundred on our own, my own holy sword smiting dozens of foes. However, they lost a small amount compared to their full numbers. We cannot afford to grow complacent, for they will strike when they sense weakness. There are too many of them, and already my men tire.

Valdrel, III 573.12.23
They attacked again, and it was a very similar story to yesterday. They lost hundreds and we lost few: three core infantrymen and about a dozen of our other soldiers. If not for our archers, we would have fallen.

Valdrel, III 573.12.24
It is a miracle! Our line was on the verge of breaking, even though I had killed a hundred on my own, when the great wolf himself seemed to appear. A great shadow in the shape of a wolf suddenly towered above us, and from behind us a hundred wolf spirits, fenrimundes, ran out to attack our foes. They seemed incapable of dying, slaughtering all before them. Our foes scatted, running futiley for their pitiful lives.
I ordered a charge, and our entire force attacked. About thirty of our men fell, five of them coremen and one from my own guard, but we killed thousands! Thank the Wolf for this great victory.

Valdrel, III 573.12.25
Today they did not attack. I believe they are still too scared of the Wolf to do so, but they will be back tomorrow. We took the opportunity to bury our honored dead, and burn the cursed bodies of our enemies, as well as saving what men of ours could be saved. We feasted, marking today as a celebration to our lord, the Wolf. Also, today is a full moon, so I wish that they had attacked. When the moon is full we have increased power, so not one of us would have fallen. Either way, thank the gods for this day of rest.

Valdrel, III 573.12.26
Last night the great spirit came to me in a dream, instructing me to challenge my traitorous brother Feiken to single combat. I have done so, and he accepted: knowing that if he wins the battle will be over without more loss of men. This shows, at the very least, that he is still a good commander, for he cares for his troops, or for victory, which he knows he cannot achieve with the same tactics.
After I returned to camp, a messenger came saying that my brother Rikrel had been overrun and killed, and his entire force decimated. The dozen or so survivors were hiding out in the mountains, but had most likely left to reinforce our main fortress. Apparently, fenrimundes guarded their bodies.
I wept. My last true brother is dead, and now I go to kill my traitor brother. I weep still. Shall I ever stop weeping?
I must.
Today is for mourning, tomorrow for glory and for battle. By the power of the great wolf, I shall pay back the traitor Feiken for leading an army that killed noble Rikrel.

Valdrel, III 573.12.27
I fought, and I won. I survived, while Feiken did not. It was fate.
The sun was hot, bearing down on my neck. I was tired from the endless fighting. At the same time, I was energized by my day of rest and from the task ahead of me. I step out into the hastily erected arena, containing a large rock in the center as well as some smaller rocks, enclosed by a magic ring that allows no one out or in until one of both of the combatants is dead or has yielded. I don my helmet and walk into the arena. I look at my brother, my fury boring into him. We step up onto the rock in the center, and I walk around, getting a feel for its shape. I pull down my visor, draw my sword, and wait. He mirrors my movements.
Slowly do we circle, neither wanting to move first, neither wanting to make a mistake. Suddenly, I stop, and let my sword hang loose. This is foolish, why should I wait for the attack that will not come? Instead, I must bait one out, or otherwise strike first. And anyway, perhaps he will take the bait…
He does! He too drops his guard, confused at my intentions. In that moment I move with the speed of a wolf, striking him. He blocks, but barely, and falls backwards of the rock. His reactions are good, but that doesn’t matter. I have what I want. Now I have the high ground.
For ten minutes he attempts to even the playing field and either get back up or pull me down. For ten minutes I stop him time and time again. Suddenly I jump at him, sparking a cheer from my men. I had forgotten they were there. I attack furiously, but he slithers away, receiving only minor injuries.
Again, the game of waiting. Any mistakes would not be fatal. I feign left and jump onto the rock, hoping to gain the high ground advantage once again. However, he sees through my feint and follows me up. We are once again equal, though on the high ground. For an hour, at least, we continue this deadly game, neither gaining the advantage. Feigning, striking, recovering once again. Finally, I make a mistake. I stumble. It is small, but allows Feiken to disarm me, hitting my sword off of the rock. I stand and stare at him, my hatred boring into his being. Now I am truly angry.
He attacks. So predictable is he, I know his every move. He stabs, I dodge to the side. He slices, I duck. And finally, he brings his sword down over his head, onto mine. I step only slightly to the side, grab its hilt and smash the pommel into his face. I now have his sword, but I don’t want it. I break it in half as easily as one might break a stick, and throw the shards at him. He dodges, while I just stand, laughing, between him and my own sword. He runs at me, attacking desperately, but it is not enough.
I block everything he throws at me. He cannot win. He will not win. I will win. Finally, I smash my gauntleted hand into his leg, then his arm, then into his face. I grab the same arm I hit, spinning him around and forcing him down. He falls, crying. I put him into a position of such pain that he cannot move for several moments. In those moments I retrieve my sword. He kneels there, pleading with me for his despicable life. He does not deserve to live. He killed my sister, and led to the death of my parents and three of my brothers. But… he is also my brother.
“Do you yield?”
“Yes! I yield, I swear!”
False words. I turn, but see the barriers still in place. He lied. I turn and swing my sword, timing it perfectly. He had run at me, seeking to wrestle the sword from my grasp, but I stopped him in his tracks. Off came his head, and down it fell. He doesn’t deserve to live. I had to give him what he deserves.

Valdrel, III 573.12.30
The last couple of days have been spent hunting down the survivors. I did not include this earlier, but this is the recounting of what happened after I killed Feiken.
It was finished, or so I thought. Suddenly, hails of arrows flew at me, the protective barrier gone. My priests erected their own barriers in front of me, saving my life. However, a single barbed arrow pierced my knee, and I went down, twisting in pain. It was the most painful thing I had ever felt. The rest I do not know for certain, I write only what has been told to me.
The enemy forces advanced. However, the old ways are not to be taken lightly.
The gods once again intervened. My army did not even need to fight, so angered were the gods at the treachery that had occurred. Lightning struck our foes, Thor himself angered. Fenrimundes appeared among them, tearing the enemies to pieces like sheep for the slaughter. Few survived their onslaught. Now, none do.
I have been told that because of my severe injuries, I should not be alive. When I fell my head hit a rock, creating a large dent in my helmet. Indeed, it is hard to think. It hurts. I should be dead, but I will not die. Not until Gandrum is dead and my kingdom is restored will I finally die. I will have to wait though, for I am being hidden in another world. Apparently the portal was discovered in the first age, and a number of our best men went through, never to return. Back then the main weapons were large axes, few using swords as they do today. Those men did not return because they loved it there. They brought our gods to the people of this new world. I am told that my memory will be affected, and so I am glad that Tyr’ron had me write all this down. I will need it someday. He will be with me, though I will not recognize him. My memory will be altered because my injury must be healed. It is the price for my life, from Hel himself. I hope, at the very least, I remember my sister, grey-eyed Herrel, my family, and my revenge.

***
“So that’s why…what happened in the deal between me and Hel? And…who is Hel?”
“We will discuss the gods later. The deal…well, you were on the verge of death. We could have saved you, but you would have been crippled, so we made a deal with Hel. She would take most of your memories in return for your life and health. She knew that you might regain them, but she said she wanted the memories so she might have some say if you took power.”
We talked for hours about the documents, discussing battles, people, and above all, Valdrel’s injury. “Tomorrow,” I told him, “I will explain our beliefs and the gods.”
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Default Chapter 6

Chapter 6: A Lesson in Theology
“Today, Valdrel, we will teach you of the gods. In other words, we will speak and you will listen—like a college lecture. However, if you have any important questions, we will answer.” He had no immediate questions, so I began.
“Like most religions, there is a pantheon of gods. Now, I want you to forget everything you know about Norse gods. Some of it may be true, but much of it is false.
“The king of the gods is Odin. His realm is logic and wisdom: more specifically, the mind. Everything he does is for the betterment of man, or where this conflicts with the will of the gods, the betterment of our world as a whole. He gave the gift of magic to our people, and while he is the lord of the gods he often leaves command to either Thor, his son, or Tyr, the former ruler.
“Thor is a mighty warrior, wielding the hammer Mjollnir. He is incredibly strong, but also barbaric. He is the physical protector of our land.
“Both of these are of the race of the Aesir, along with some of the other gods and goddesses.
“Freya and her brother, Freyr, are of a different race: the Vanir. She is the goddess of both love and beauty, but is also very wise and is the current patron of sorcerors, wizards, and mages. Yes, Valdrel, there is a difference. She is associated with both cats, her sacred symbol, and the dwarves of the dogs.
“Her brother, Freyr, is the god of fertility. His symbol is the boar, and he is king of the elves. He is the god of success as well, and therefore is offered praise after successful battles and endeavors.
“Tyr is the god of war and the lawgiver of the gods. I was named for him. He yielded to Odin, though not until he made sure that Odin would follow most, if not all, the laws he set down.
“Loki is a trickster who does both good and evil. He is of the race of Ettins, the elementals. As such, he has demonic qualities. He has four (known) children, each with different roles. Sleipnit is Odin’s eight-legged horse. Hel is the goddess of the underworld. (That’s why she could save you.) Then there are the twins, Fenris and Jormugandr, whom we will discuss later.
“Helmdell guards the bridge into Asgard, home of the gods. He is a mighty warrior, second only to Thor and Tyr.
“Skadi’s realm is winter and the hunt. She is very prominent in our icy homeland. She is the goddess of justice, vengeance and righteous anger. She sentenced Loki to confinement for releasing the twins.
“There are numerous other gods, though none of them are particularly important. Do you have any questions?”
There was no response from Valdrel. I jabbed him with the hilt of my knife, and yelled for him to wake up. “Come on, Valdrel, this is important.” He promised to stay awake as I retold him everything. It is times like these when being a historian is barely worth it.
I finished for the second time, and then proceeded to discuss Fenrir and Jormugandr.
“Both are children of Loki and were created to destroy. However, Jormugandr was left to survive alone, and there in the oceans grew bitter and angry. Fenris, on the other hand, was raised in Asgard by the gods. He grew to love them, especially Odin, and was very loyal. However, a prophecy foretold that Fenris would kill Odin at Ragnorak. He was not aware of this, but the gods were, and so prepared three fetters for him, each stronger than the last. Though he broke free of the first two, he was trapped by the third and so bit off the hand of Tyr.
“When he discovered the prophecy, Fenris wept and resigned himself to his fate, knowing that his own death was better than that of Odin. He tried to give Tyr’s hand back, but it could not be re-attached. Then, one day, Odin came to visit him. Seeing how torn Fenris was, knowing he would eventually kill Odin (for he could not help his nature), Odin allowed Fenris to interact with the mortal world in opposition to Jormugandr, but Fenris must remain chained.
“At very rare times, Fenris is allowed to release his spirit into the mortal world. This happened once during your last stand. He is also permitted to send his warriors to help his chosen. Unfortunately, Fenris cannot hold out forever. Our job is to honor him in word and deed so that he will remain pure, hopefully past Ragnorak.”
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Default Chapter 7

Chapter 7: A Helpful Zombie… sort of
As the days went by, we passed from history (though we continually reinforced lessons) into combat training. First, I taught Valdrel the use of his dagger. Before, he had used instinct well but had no real grasp on technique or strategy. I gave him that.
The next phase was swordsmanship. He had always been an exceptional swordsman, and after twenty minutes of random swinging he was better than I had been after five years. I smiled, knowing that the memories were coming back.
Over the next few months I taught him swordsmanship, but when returning memory and my teaching caused him to surpass me in skill, Matt took over training. After only two months of training he was better than me and near Matt’s level, simply because of memory.
And then, on the fourth day of the tenth month, a knock sounded at the door.

***
Benny and Eric were there already, while I instructed Matt to wait with Valdrel. I opened the door cautiously, and to my surprise I saw one who I believed to be dead. “Sandy!” I cried out, running forward to embrace her, but then stopping. What if it was a trap?
She smiled and walked through the door, something only one who had been invited by me could do. Because I stopped before leaving the house, I knew I didn’t invite her just now and so she must be real. We embraced, and everyone was happy.
That night around the fire, she told us the story of her escape, that I, being a dutiful historian, recorded.
“We held for almost two hours, thanks to you, Benny, and to the twins’ skill. And, of course, the fact that it took them an hour to find me. It was Ginnar himself who finally killed them. They forced me to watch after capturing me. The twins, weakened as they were, didn’t stand a chance.
“I was taken to the same warehouse where they kept Valdrel. A week later they moved me through the underground tunnels to where they would have moved Valdrel. It was an enormous prison. My cell was six by six feet square, inside a seven by seven, inside an eight by eight, and so on for twenty-four layers. Still, they could not take my blade away, so eventually I was able to escape. They did not want to risk me escaping and so never checked the doors, but that proved to be their undoing, because they didn’t know some had been unlocked.
“Had they watched me more closely I never would have done it, but with so few guards I slipped out. On my way out I grabbed some battle plans, but I think they were a ruse. They said they were going to starve us out, but they must know how well-stocked this place is. I think they mean to attack. I also burned the plans in case they carried enchantments.”
We were all stunned, both by her escape and her revelation of possibly false plans. I did see her logic, though it sounded too suspicious. Why write down plans to starve a base out? Especially if they weren’t detailed?
“I agree. We must prepare for battle. Benny, every day put half your energy into your staff, but rest once a week. Do this six out of seven days. Matt, do half the usual training you have been doing every day with Valdrel so you can rest. Eric, speak with him daily about rage. Help him become familiar. Sandy, I know you have just returned, but teach Valdrel archery basics. He should know how to shoot.
“Oh, and Benny—place sensory wards around the house, and check and restore them daily before your energy transfer. Any questions?”
There were none.
Valdrel walked out of his room to see what was going on. He saw Sandy, stared for a few seconds, turned, and ran back to his room. I laughed and followed.

***
When I asked why he had left so hastily (though I knew the answer), he replied, “She’s so beautiful.” I told him to focus on training, but smiled, imagining Sandy as queen.

***
For the next two months or so, Valdrel trained constantly. His lessons in swordsmanship went well. In archery, however, he was often too distracted to shoot well. He was learning something, though, enough that I couldn’t call it a waste of time and redistribute that time. His lessons with Eric in rage went ok, but only in theory. Valdrel couldn‘t seem to explode with anger as Eric did. I found it amusing that he tried, for I knew it would never work. Valdrel’s family didn’t explode. They controlled their rage, not the other way around.
“Valdrel,” I told him one day. “I want you to discontinue your lessons with Eric. They won’t help. Your family has a gift similar to those of Berserkers, only the exact opposite.”
“What do you mean?” he asked confusedly.
“You have a gift known to some as cold fury. Like Berserker rage, it happens only when you are angry. However, instead of dulling your senses and making you impervious to pain and fear, it heightens them. It allows you to think more clearly and more precisely. It is in every sense a true gift.
From then on, I taught Valdrel as best I could to harness this rage, rather than having him learn from Eric.

***
On the sixth of December, I made a very important announcement. “In two weeks time we will leave in order to return home. We must reach the gateway by the twenty-first or we will be locked here for another year. Be ready, all of you, and thank Odin we haven’t been attacked.
We prepared grimly, knowing that some of us could soon be dead. We only wondered who the unlucky ones would be.
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