Depths Untold

Profile Of A Company

Cord put her pauldron back on her shoulder, and snapped it back into place. The brands that told the world of her crimes against the empire were covered once again by hard leather and mail.

“And that” she said “Is how I fell in with these lot”

Junior Reporter Jaycee Knab, now affectionately known as Bug by the members of 10th Company, continued scribbling in her notebook.

“Alright. That should just about do it”. She scanned her notes to make sure no detail had escaped her. Not an easy task, given that she was reading by the flickering firelight of the camp’s cookfire. The physical description of Cord was thorough. Indeed, it had to be – all the soldiers of the 10th company looked and dressed unconventionally, and Cord was certainly no exception. The young soldier’s face was covered in black war paint. Her long, braided her was adorned with feathers and fetishes. Not a single part of her kit seemed standard issue – leather armor, belts of daggers, and a bow slung across her back. She seemed more suited for an ancient skirmish with slings and arrows rather than a modern war with bullets and artillery.

The reporter reluctantly flicked her wrist and closed her notebook. It was useless. She had been with the “Underminers” for only a week now, and although she had captured their appearance and deeds, nothing she wrote seemed to capture their raw intensity.

“I did have one more question”
“I’m not telling you because I don’t know myself” replied Cord, smiling.
“Figured I’d still try” said Jaycee, also grinning. One of this company’s many quirks, was that every soldier referred to one another exclusively by nickname. No one knew the origin of their own nickname, and yet everyone knew the origin of everyone else’s. How this tradition had started was a mystery, although there were many theories. Some said it was a way to build a stronger bond, others said it was a way to root out spies. A few even suggested that it evolved as a way to protect against Imperial Mages. Jaycee’s own theory was that it was a way for this motley company of outcasts to forget their pasts and forge a new future for themselves. Although, that may have just been the feelings of her inner romantic. In any case, she wasn’t even sure most soldiers remembered their own real names.

Cord slid to the side of her log, and motioned for the young journalist to sit beside her. Jaycee joined the young scout, and together they looked across the fire at the rest of the camp. Most soldiers were in their bedrolls, taking full advantage of this rare moment of respite. Others were engaged in a variety of activities. A couple were whittling, a few others were wrestling. A bound and gagged mage was being questioned in an uncharacteristically polite way, which is to say no blades or blunt objects were involved. The sappers and engineers were in yet another of their trademark arguments – the sort that started off with a civil disagreement about some inconsequential detail about some engine and quickly devolved into a fistfight.

“I know what you are thinking.” Cord said after some time.

“And what would that be?”

“How are we still alive?” Cord laughed “Don’t worry I thought about it when I first got here too. I think we all have.”

They stared out at the camp a while longer. The fire crackled. The mage squealed. One of the engineers grabbed a wrench, and started swinging it wildly while the others pled with him. One man sewed. A few others laughed at one soldier’s undoubtedly rude story.

“See, I saw all this and I thought ‘chaos’. What took me some time to realize, is that this is one of the most well organized fighting units the world has ever seen”

Jaycee’s laugh was halfway out her mouth before she saw her companion, normally good-humoured and laughing, was deadly serious. She tried desperately disguise the rushing air as a cough. She didn’t have many friends in the Company, and one finally seemed to be opening up to her.

“Oh” she said. It was the only word she managed to strangle out without collapsing into a fit of giggling.

“Every man and woman in this company has a role to play. It just takes a bit of time to realize it, and a bit more to trust in it. That’s why we are so effective. Each of us does what we are best at, and we trust that everyone else will do the same. No commanders. No orders. Just trust.”

“Alright” said the reporter, now under control. “What’s his roll?” she pointed at Winch, the lecherous old ex-mummer.

“Too easy. Infiltration, recon, and propaganda. Look, you can see him sewing together some Imperial uniforms right there. Believe me, he’s quite convincing when he isn’t being a dirty old man.” Cord winked at her.

Jaycee shuddered, and tried to change the subject “Okay. Those two.” she said, pointing at Flint and Shale. The firelight cast their enormous, misshapen, sleeping forms on the wall behind them, and made them look more like bears than men.

“Logistics, resupply, and heavy infantry. I’ve seen those two carry an Aten-damned cannon. The imperials were in for quite a shock when we shelled them from behind their own lines. Yet again too easy.Every Company in the world has infiltrators and infantry. I’m talking about the other roles. The ones no one talks about. The ones that other army in the world has”

“Such as?”

“Well, take a look at Grimly over there.” Cord motioned to the Engineer brawl. It seemed like they had all reached a truce. Except, one engineer grabbed the wrench again with a triumphant roar. Cord seemed to be pointing at him.

“I don’t think I’ve talked to him yet. What’s his story?”

“Well as far as we can tell, classic story of a Kelothi miner wanting to see a bit of the world, rather than the depths of it. It’s hard to say though. He’s a bit spotty.”

“Spotty?”

“Well. He’s taken a few blows to the head. Falling rocks. Axes. Symptoms of soldiering – you know how it is.” Jaycee didn’t, but allowed Cord to continue. "
“Now, throw in a few explosions and make him breathe a few too many breaths of alchemical fumes. He is an engineer too, after all.”

“Ah. I see what you mean”

“I don’t think you do. All things considered, he’s pretty normal for an engineer, if you can ignore all the stories about his frozen gorilla of an ex-wife.” Jaycee nodded politely. Cord gestured at Grimly again, this time he was under a pile of engineers, who had seemed to have finally wrestled the wrench away from him.

“See – uh, well now you can’t since he’s covered underneath that pile getting the shit kicked out of him. But, you’ve seen him before, right?. Short, squat Grimly, rattling away all covered in trinkets? Do you know where those trinkets come from?”

“Is he a kleptomaniac?”

“No, which believe me is a rare quality in the Underminers. When one of us dies, he takes something off our bodies to remember us.”

“So he’s the company museum? Company chronicler?”

“Ha. No. Grimly can’t write, and he can barely remember what we had for breakfast despite the fact it’s porridge every Aten-damned day. It’s different. It’s more. See, when one of us dies he takes a bit of us inside of him.”

“I don’t think I understand”

“Well, it’s like this. Spoke was the last decent person in this company. He was the sort that gave everything he could spare to the children whose parents we slaughtered. The day after he was killed, we rolled into an imperial village, and did what we do best to draw the local garrison out. When we killed them, I saw Grimly going through the village doing exactly as Spoke did so many times before. He’s not a chronicler. He’s our memorial. He’s our soul keeper. He’s a wildcard, charging into battle recklessly one moment, meticulously planning his actions the next. Is that because of a broken skull? Or is it because he’s not a single soul but many?”

Before Cord could continue, both of them were shaken by the small explosion emnating from the Engineers.

A small grenado sailed through the air, and bounced right next to the log where Jaycee had left her notebook.

She and Cord looked at the angry fire consume more and more of the fuse.

“Looks like they’ve resolved their differences” Cord said, as she calmly dived for cover.

Jaycee was seriously conflicted between jumping for her notebook, or jumping for cover. The fact that she only just decided to dive for cover told her she was probably a better fit for the company than she originally thought. Bug wasn’t such a bad name after all.

View
The Planning and The Execution

The roll of snare drums, followed by peaceful sound of a breeze rustling through the forest. The drums rolled again. The young woman felt the emerge from behind the clouds, and warm the parts of her face not covered by the blindfold.

The drums rolled a third time. She heard a scroll unfurl, and a man clear his throat.

“I, Captain Sered of the 4th company, 18th Legion, acting Magistrate of her Majesty the Empress, do charge you Nella Trentin, Half-Elf, Aged Twenty Three, resident of the village of Roltya with the following crimes against The Empress, her Lands, and Her Loyal servants.

He cleared his throat.

“Theft. Fraud. Murder of Her Majesty’s Loyal Servants”

He paused, clearly hoping to add some gravitas to the situation. “How do you plead?”

She smiled. “I think you missed a few. Also, the way you phrased it makes it sound like I just killed one of you.”. She didn’t fear death. She had done what she had set out to do, and as a result dozens of Imperial soldiers lay at the bottom of chasms, burried under rubble, or dead in shallow graves. She had made them pay ten times over for the death of her brother, and to her that was enough.

She knew her response would fluster the Captain. She had been his company’s guide for the past few months after all. He was tremendously competent given enough practice and prepatration. Deviate from the script, however, and he wilted like a flower dropped into a fire. She was glad to have these few moments to remember the times she had led his company through deliberately treacherous terrain, or directly into Bexellian ambushes. She laughed. Good times. The only regret she had was that she didn’t take more of them with her.

She could hear the Captain recompose himself. He cleared his throat again.

“The verdict: Guilty.”

There was no doubt that he had initially planned to let the word final word hang in the air. However, for the second time during her trial, things didn’t go according to Captain Sered’s plan. The silence he had prepared for was soon filled with the sound of gunfire. Then, screams of “Ambush”, followed by the unsheathing of weapons and battle cries.

She felt the hairs on her arms rise up, as a squad mage near her began to chant. There was a thunderous roar and flash of lighting that was so bright she could see it through her blindfold. While her ears rang, burned onto her eyes were the shadowy images of an imperial firing squad locked in combat with unknown attackers.

As the ringing subsided, she heard the chanting again. Blood spattered against her face, and the sound of bones breaking signalled the end of whatever spell was being wrought. “Cut the tongue. Break the hands” she heard an unknown voice yell. “You sound like my mother” said another.

The battle seemed to end as soon as it had started, with the sounds of boots crashing into the brush of the forest behind her.

“Any survivors?” shouted a gruff female voice “Besides the runaways I mean”
“Oy. You lot. Any of you still alive?” said another, this one thin and reedy and male. “Don’t make me poke you. I’ve got a new bayonet, and I’m fixing to try it out”
“Me!” shouted a few strained voices.
A gunshot.
“Hey! None of that! No take backs!” said the second voice. “Was anyone watching? I completely forgot which ones were alive”.
“I fink I tipped a twooff” said a throaty, youthful voice. “Anyone fee any good prospectff?”
“Grims! This one!” said a new voice, this one low and melodious. “Lovely pearlies on this one”
Nella heard the man excitedly bound over, followed by an “oof”.
“Hey! I found another live one, fpoke. What fould I do wiff ’im?”
“Spare him!”
“Alright.”
“Really?” Asked a voice, quavering in fear.
Silence. Then, laughter coming from all around the execution ground turned battlefield. The laughter continued as the man screamed in intense pain.
“Anyone got the hostage?”
“We could just leave her”
“She’s spilled Imperial blood. Look at her shoulder. Branded. Basically makes her one of the family as far as I’m concerned”
“How far are you concerned?”
“Not very far. I really don’t give a shit”

Aten it seemed, had decided to spare her. It looked like it was up to her to take advantage of this opportunity. She opened her mouth and said “37”

“Oooh. Someone knows numbers”
“Braggart”
There were more screams in the distance.

“That’s how many I’ve killed” she continued “Imperials I mean”

“Hmmm”
“Is that a lot?”
“Sounds like a lot”
“Is that a lot?”
“It is.”
“Liar, how do you know?”
“37 means a lot everyone knows that.”

She heard footsteps come towards her, even as the bickering continued. The footsteps were punctuated by a few odd sucking noises. A coarse hand pulled her blindfold down, and she found herself looking into the eyes of a young man. His head was shaved, and he was missing an ear. Most strinkingly, was that his densely stubbled face was sporting two rows of unaturally perfect teeth, drenched in blood.

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Paper Work

A rapping on the windowed door caused Len Jaymer to look up from the stack of papers that currently demanded his unwavering attention.

“You called for me boss?” asked the shadowy silhouette behind the frosted glass that bore the mirrored words “HEAD EDITOR” and “BUZEL BEAGLE”.

The heavy-set newspaper man grunted acknowledgement, found a resting place for his quill, and settled back in his chair. The door clicked open, and in walked junior reporter Jaycee Knab. He offered her the seat across from his desk, which was fortunate since the pile of papers that used to occupy it had just recently been transferred to his desk. She strode over, seeming to whistle as she did so, her angular features cutting the air in front of her like a sword.

Len leafed through his current stack, and found a particularly messy sheaf of papers. Coffee stained, crumpled and torn, the script on it resembled draconic more than the common script the Beagle was published in.

“I thought women were supposed to have neat handwriting”

“Didn’t realize ‘Calligraphy’ was part of the job description”

“You’re lucky my writing’s worse than yours” Len replied, smirking. He raised his hand to silence her before she could retort.

“I’d love nothing more than to exchange barbs with you, but the fact is I’m too busy” she seemed a bit disappointed at this. True journalists loved nothing more than to hone their skill with words.

“Alright boss, what am I in for?”

He tossed the sheaf into her lap. She looked up at him, her cocked head begging him to elaborate.

“I can’t print this”

“Is it not up to your historically-high-but-recently-low standards?”

“Funny. And no. It’s well written. Very well written. But I can’t print it. High Command won’t allow it”

“And why would that be? I have sources for everything”

“The truth isn’t the problem. Or rather, it is exactly the problem”

Jaycee paused to consider his words. The clacking of the sea of typewriters outside soon filled the office.

“I don’t understand” she finally replied.

Len got up from his desk, and walked over to his cabinet bar, gingerly avoiding the precarious paper towers that had grown up from most of his office’s floor space. Reaching the bar, he grabbed two chipped glasses, and an unlabelled bottle of black liquor. He uncorked the bottle.

“We’re at war. That’s the short version of what I am about to tell you.”

Satisfied with his pour, he journeyed back and handed his protege a glass.

“The long answer is, people don’t want the whole truth right now. Or, more accurately, the High Command doesn’t want people to know the whole truth.” He took a sip, grimacing as he did so. “See, we scratch their back, they scratch ours. We print stuff they like, they allow our journalists to see the frontlines and warroom briefings. If we lose that privileged access, we can’t compete with our competitors”

“Wait, so this is a business decision” her voice started to quiver.

“Let me finish” the editor said calmly “A war isn’t won by guns and lances. It is won by ink and pens. Our singular purpose during wartime, in the opinion of the High Command at least, is to inspire every man, woman, and child in the Bexellian Republic. Now, I am not so depraved as to suggest you write false things. We do have abide by the ethics of our noble profession, after all. However, I think you could relax a bit on the details. This 10th Company you were attached to, these Underminers, are not exactly the sort whose deeds inspire national pride.”

“So what you are saying is during a war people don’t want to read about dead Tareans” the young reporter retorted. She was angry, and was clearly trying to get a rise out of him. He elected to ignore the sarcasm.

“Aten fend, I almost vomitted reading your draft. Necklaces of baby ears? Face-flaying? People want stories of heroism. Of ordinary people performing amazing feats of bravery. When they want to read about death, they want to read it through a veil of numbers, or in the context of noble charges. No one, especially not the High Command, wants stories circulating about war crimes. Are you listening Jaycee?”

“Barely. You hired me to do two things: see the truth, and write the truth. I went to war. I spent months with the 10th, and I wrote about it.” She said through gritted teeth, her voice dripping with rage. “Then you tell me I did my job wrong.” she stood up.

“Jaycee, as I’ve been trying to explain to you, it’s just not that simple”

For a second, he thought she was going to smash the glass over his head. Instead, she slowly put it to her lips, gulped the liquid inside, and set it down.

“Well boss, it’s been fun. I appreciate the drink, but I think it’s time for a change of scenery. I heard the Post is hiring. Sure, the pay is worse, but at least I won’t be writing propaganda.”

She stormed out of the door, the air behind her whistling as she did. The small vortices caused by her slicing through the air ripped pages from their stacks, and caused several paper towers to fall.

Len sat at his desk, feeling a lot older than he was. There was a time when he would have joined arms with her, and stormed out in solidarity. Now, he had only a singular thought: people quitting means more paperwork.

View
Research Log #469-475

Log 469
1132, 315, Harvestday 22:30
Backup Facility 2, Buzel

  • Subjects:
    • 4 stocked
    • all human (weak racial immune system should allow drugs to take quick effect)
    • appear low class, shouldnt be missed
    • steady dosage of drow poison and nutrional fluids
      • my independent extendable hydraulic syringes have proved invaluable
        • (aten be damned, there must be a shorter name for that…)
        • (they shall henceforth be referred to as ‘stingers’)
  • Serum 2:
    • extracted 200ml of new serum
    • blue, faint glow
      • (similar to anarchy and other immortal powers)
  • aliquot of 5ml
    • preliminary analysis has produced no results regarding composition
    • in vivo analysis required
  • In vivo test 1:
    • subject 1
      • blood alcohol has finally returned to normal levels given BMI
    • first injection, full dosage
    • ~25% swelling of cranium
    • veins glowing blue
    • eyes now blue, dilated pupils, fast and erratic tracking
      • (seems to be looking for something despite darkness of lab)
    • swelling decreased after 6 min observation

Log 470
1132, 316, Shrouday, 25:17
Backup Facility 2, Buzel

  • Subject 1:
    • no apparent lingering effects of serum
    • interested in results of repeated exposure
      • will come back to at a later date
      • must uncover primary effects first
  • In vivo test 2:
    • subject 2
    • seems most aware / active despite suppressants
    • full dosage of serum applied
    • similar physiological changes
  • aten dammit! subject 2 put down
    • somehow he lifted a tool off my belt during examination and slipped his cuffs
    • almost made it out door, before 3 stingers to heart
    • smarter than I expected for a human
    • at least now I have brain tissue samples

Log 471
1132, 317, Toorday, 2:30
Main Lab, Buzel

  • Brain Tissue Sample:
    • faint residual traces of blue serum
    • cells approx 2x larger than typical
      • control sample taken from street urchin
        • needed divinity power anyways
    • hypothesis: increased brain power / intelligence
      • would explain subject 2’s escape attempt

Log 472
1132, 317, Toorday, 22:45
Backup Facility 2, Buzel

  • aten be damned!!
    • Forgot to apply sedatives after yesterday’s scuffle
    • Heard noises coming from holding cell, found subjects pounding on door
    • Subject 3 had loosened gag, began screaming at exposed cranium of subject 2 when opened door and let light in
    • Liberal sedatives applied
  • Subject 3:
    • Pre-adult phase human female
      • particularily poor hair
    • Brought to examination table
  • Unanticipated findings!
    • Must try again …
    • Should begin from start, in operating room
    • Subject 3 still very agitated from earlier
    • While calming subject before procedure, I…
    • Suddenly I… became her. No, not quite.
    • My other senses remained with me
    • But I saw through her eyes, very odd experience
      • could see white/grey from goggles on my mask
      • No other visible signs from my body
      • will need to recruit assistant to monitor subject
    • “our” sight darted around the room as my body stood there
    • effects lasted approx 1 min before I returned to myself
    • subject did not appear to know what had happened
    • reported no changes to herself

Log 473
1132, 318, Erasday, 23:10
Backup Facility 2, Buzel

  • “soul sight” test 2:
    • subject 3 again
    • could not force sight
    • physical contact not enough either
      • what changed??
  • breakthru: her name!
  • conclusions:
    • requirements: speaking subject’s name while in physical contact
    • results: allows me to see through their eyes
    • signs: my eyes turn white, no signs from subject
      • (set up nearby mirror this time)
    • effects last approx 1 min
    • subject unaware and in control of her body
    • my senses remain with me
      • must try moving myself while out of self
  • this is fascinating

Log 474
1132, 319, Oathday, 16:48
Various pubs, Buzel

  • “soul sight” test 3+4:
    • more tests during another “pub crawl” with the crew
    • with no need for my stingers and no effects on subjects
      • decided to try on fellow crew
    • everything looks so much bigger as a halfling…
    • could not form connection with Grimly
      • curious
      • perhaps the true name of subject is required
      • it has long been expected that even the name we found him with was not his true name

Log 475
1132, 319, Oathday, 24:02
Backup Facility 2, Buzel

  • IQ control
    • created intelligence challenge for subjects
    • subject 3 again
    • left ungagged in order to apply challenge
    • was difficult to persuade her to answer question
    • her results were poor, as expected of a human
  • with serum:
    • full dosage, serum 2
    • same swelling
    • as hypothesized, her results on the challenge improved dramatically
    • she even proposed solutions I had not thought of
      • most intriguing
    • even began questioning me, asking why she had been taken
    • Pleaded with me
    • Her attempts to to acquire pity did not succeed
    • Dealt with these issues before, during Drow plague
      • tears, pleas, screams
      • guilt
      • they dont bother me anymore

  • I believe I have the results I require for now
  • Must dispose of remaining test subjects before my rsch is discovered
    • will harvest to recharge divinity power

Her name was Linnette, she had a brother

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The Wanderer

Turn back. Don’t do this. You’ll die. Your luck’s run out.

“Jörmund. Welcome home.” The tiefling says, with a stiffness in her voice, and a frown where once there was a smile.

A bead of sweat rolls down Jörmund’s forehead, and his knuckles whiten as he grips his staff tighter. “My lovely wife”, he said, feigning a smile. He embraces her, and kisses her forehead. “How fares my daughter?”

“Well. I assume your mission has gone well.” She folds her arms. Her eyes glowering.

“It was like taking candy from a baby”.

They stare, Jörmund keenly aware of the many hidden pouches in which she likes to hide her daggers. Ready to activate his protection magic at a moments notice.

“You make light of your mission, need I remind you just how important the artifact means to our cause?”

He senses a presence nearby, watching.

“Of course not,” he says, smiling, “but right now, I have another mission in mind”. He playfully bites her neck. That mission of course, was to stay alive. It’s not uncommon for her to hide daggers in the small of her back.

“There has been talk of a traitor amongst us”.

He found it. Right calf. Hidden blade. Most likely poisoned. It is meant to be withdrawn with her tail. That’s fine, he can handle that.

“Oh? Who?”, said Jörmund, feigning ignorance

She pulls away. “You.”

“Do you believe them?”

She stares in silence.

Jörmund knows too well that his words mean nothing at this point. As they stare each other down, he can’t help but feel excited. The tiefling was a stunning woman, very curvaceous and alluring. Combined with never knowing whether she was going to kiss him or stab him made for a love life that never had a dull moment.

“No”, she says finally, “your body betrays you. You are a greedy man, and what could there be to gain by betraying us?”.

The presence shrinks away.

“You have not been yourself recently, Mellisan. Have you not had your hands full as a mother? When was the last time your blades have seen blood?”.

“Too long. My, dear. But, I have forgotten my manners, your daughter is in the nursery, go to her. I will go to the servants quarters and prepare for tonight’s … celebration.” She smiles.

To her, she smiles on two occasions. One, she wants sex. Or two she’s cornered her prey and is about to make the finishing blow, which is normally followed shortly with sex.

“I will do that, thank you.” He kisses her goodbye, and watches her leave the room. His legs are shaking, and his heart is about to pump out of his chest. Mellisan was – no, is, a highly proficient assassin, specialized in dealing with mages. She has never failed to complete an assignment. Well, except for one: Jörmund’s himself. The last year has been very unbecoming of her, and he could never have imagined the fierce, deadly and passionate tiefling as a mother.

He takes a moment, a deep breath, refocusing.

My daughter. Nothing else matters. I cannot let her grow up to become like us.

Jörmund rushes to the nursery. His dismisses the servant girl there and goes to his daughter. He cradles the newborn.

No time for pleasure. Go.

He bursts though the back entrance, still clutching the child. He hears horses galloping towards the main entrance.

They are here.

He bolts down an alley towards the slum district. He has a man there, and him and his wife will take care of her, and are being compensated well. He is trustworthy, at least, Jörmund hopes he is.

An unassuming dwarf and his wife come to greet him. He has time for one last moment with his daughter, and he will do whatever he can for her.

There are very few spells that can be made “permanent”, in fact, such magic probably does not exist; however, “permanent-enough” will have to do. As well, such magic is draining and he cannot cast it more than once a day… normally. Fortunately, with the artifact acting as a battery, such things are made trivial. His staff glows and the child glows from his resistance spell. He uses it again on a spare spellbook and it shrinks to 1/16 its size. He hopes that the child’s natural curiosity will draw her to it.

Jörmund looks down to the dwarf and hands him a heavy pouch of gold. The dwarf reaches out for it, but Jörmund quickly pulls back, “you swear you are out of the business?”

The smuggler scowls, then he swipes the bag away with lightning fast dexterity. “I swear it. I’m too old this. Time to settle down.”

“Thanks… partner”, he says, sighing with relief.

“You’d do the same fer’ me wouldn’t ’cha”

“’Course, I would”.

“Hey, you sure this is your child, it looks nothing like you”

“She, Bjorn, she’s a girl. And it’s what’s up here that matters”, he says pointing at his head, “I keep telling you.”

“Yea, yea, you were always the ‘smart’ one. Ha! Humans, always thinkin’ wit’ your cocks. Anyways, what should we call it –err, her”.

“Call her… Nisha.”

“Aite, and you, what’ll ya do now?”

“I have to keep running, if they think I have Nisha and the artifact with me, they won’t be looking for you. Goodbye, old friend”. They embrace one last time.

“Goodbye, and good riddance, you’ve lost me more profits than I can count”

“That’s because you can’t count past the number of fingers on your hands, Bjorn”

“Oh get out of here”.

Jörmund smiles back. This isn’t the end of the my story, he thinks to himself. I’m fated to do great things.

Not even Aucharia can stop me.

View
General Knowledge
Undermining Authority

“I’ll bring it up at the General Staff meeting tomorrow. What’s next?”. General Valon’s massive legs had almost carried him the entire length of the corridor before he noticed his new Aide De Campe had accidentally dropped the papers he had been carrying. The other, more senior Generals probably would have sacked the lad on the spot, but Valon was new enough to his office that he felt pity instead. After all, the immense stack of manila envelopes, briefings, schedules, and TOP SECRET Communiques looked heavier than an infantryman’s basic kit.

A minute later, and his Aide was at his side. He made as if to apologize, but the Valon waved it off.

“What’s next on the agenda”

“It says that a Company of Sappers and Engineers… uh, Keloth Regiment, 10th Company to be precise, needs a new commander"

“Again? I’m surprised that fodder company is still alive. What were the casualties?"

His Aide hesitated. “It says zero, apart from their Commander.."

“Zero?! Cause of Death? Sniper? Assassin?”

“It says here sir, that uh” his Aide gulped “That he broke his own neck. Apparently the entire Company watched him do it too. There are reports that it was quite tragic"

The General, already late for his briefing, turned and came to a full stop.

“Are you serious? He broke his own neck."

“Yes sir. It’s what the report says"

“Did my predecessor experience any sort of mutinous behaviour from this Company, what was it?"

“10th Company, sir. And if you will just give me a second I will find out”.

The Aide shuffled around the paper, scanning it like a man desperate for redemption.

“Ah. Here sir. Field reports and troop ledgers."

Valon nodded and started walking again.

“Read it to me on the way."

The Aide hummed under his breath while reading.

“It says that their previous Commander fell off a cliff. The one before that… let’s see, uh it would appear he drowned in his baths. The one before that, uh, a broken neck. Then a broken neck. A drowning. A broken neck. This one was stabbed by multiple unseen assailants. The one before that was never found. And one more broken neck”.

The Aide turned the page.

“Alright. I get the picture. When did all of this happen?"

“Last month” said the Aide.

Again, Valon stopped dead in his tracks. He was utterly dumbfounded. Here was a Company in his own military whose tally of Bexellian officers killed rivalled that of some Tarean units.

“Did General Hekken know about this?” said Valon, hoping to find some guidance from his predecessor.

“Uh, yes. It would appear that he did, considering he signed off on these officer reassignments"

Valon couldn’t believe it. Was this the beginning of a conspiracy within the Bexellian military? In all of his years of service, he had never even considered the possibility of Treason within the Military. Well he wasn’t going to stand by and allow this to happen. He wasn’t a thinker or a planner. He was a General, Aten-damnit. He was a man of action.

Valon turned down a corridor, and strode as fast as his long legs could carry him.

“Uh sir. The meeting’s that way” said his Aide, now very much in the distance.

Seconds later he was at General Hekkens door, which splintered after coming into contact with his enormous foot. His rage had only grown exponentially in the time it had taken him to arrive.

“GENERAL HEKKEN” he roared “YOU ARE UNDER ARREST”. At this point, full of wrath as he was, he didn’t even care if the General was in the office or not.

The General, while rotund after years behind the desk, still had the legendary steely resolve of a Bexellian fighting man..

“I see you’ve heard about 10th Company, then”. said Hekken, cracking a smile.

The red had begun to fade from Valon’s vision. Hekken was an annoyingly likeable man, and his good-nature was legendarily infectious. Rumour had credited his rapid rise through the ranks to his oozing charisma.

“Listen. I can explain. Let me start with a question. Did you read my last troop movement order?"

“It’s right here” shouted Valon’s huffing and puffing Aide, waving a manila envelope.

“Come lad. Show it to the Good General here"

Valon grabbed the envelope, and examined its contents.

“It’s a squad of surveyors?"

“Let me ask you another question, General. Have you heard of ‘Chew-On-This Gorge’? Or ’Suck-My Canyon’?"

“I can’t say that I have. Is this part of some joke” replied Valon, trying to detect some brewing mirth on Hekken’s face. He was renowned for his ability to diffuse tension with humour.

“No joke General. I bring it up, because those terrain features didn’t exist several months ago. And now they inter the remains of several Tarrean companies. Those names, while amusing, are simply the names the enlisted men have given them. I sent surveyors to properly map the area"

“Is there a point to this story, sir?” said Valon, who was now keenly aware that the uniform of the man whose office he had destroyed the door of possessed one more star than his did.

“Well no matter. Have you heard of “Will Of The Empress?”

“The Floating Fortress? Of course. It was brought down just last week. Some officers called it a miracle, considering previous assaults on the FFs have cost us many more lives"

“Well, then General. I have yet another question for you. What do these two strange-new land features, and one miracle have in common."

Valon shook his head. “I can’t even begin to guess”

“I’ll tell you then. 10th Company."

For the second time today, and the third time in his career in the Military, Valon was dumbfounded.

“But sir… I don’t understand. They don’t possess any leadership. It’s just not possible."

“I see you’ve seen the reports.” chuckled Hekken. “Quite a bloodthirsty bunch, aren’t they?"

“You laugh, sir… but they’ve killed over 20 officers. They have to be punished”

“You are in charge now, Valon. It’s entirely your call. Just know this: I’ve read the reports of their exploits. I’ve heard what the enlisted men have to say about them.” Hekken’s voice began to harden. “I’ve thought about them at length, and my conclusion was that they are not sort people I want as enemies. I say that with full knowledge of the sorts of unholy creatures our men fight on a daily basis.”

Valon sighed as the last, miniscule part of him that was still an idealistic young cadet died. “I guess the undermining our authority is a small price to pay, for success against the Empress"

Hekken smiled. “Looks like you’ve learned your first lesson in compromise, Valon, and on your first day too."

Valon glanced down, as a page from a one of his Aide’s troop ledger floated on the floor below him. It was a list of names of those in 10th Company. The sight of the names of those underminers sent a chill down his spine. If anyone found out about this, his career would be over.

He looked at his Aide. “You can cross finding a replacement for 10th company’s commander off the agenda” he looked at Hekken, who was grinning proudly “Hell, never bother me about it again”.

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The Purple Face
A Mission To Keloth

The man, who considered himself well-travelled, was slightly unsettled by the sight of the Purple Face. He tried not to let it show on his face when he walked under the swinging sign of a man being strangled by both his mistress and wife and into the tavern proper.

He was about halfway across the threshold when his suspicions were confirmed: this may have been the seediest tavern in the entire world. Aten protect him. He had spent a good portion of his career in and around seedy taverns, in the company of unsavoury individuals. He even fancied himself a bit of an authority on places like this. Until a few seconds ago, he could have lectured at length about how the seediness of a tavern stemmed entirely from the cast of dangerous and unpleasant characters that inhabited them. Yet the Purple Face defied all his prior experience – it was almost entirely empty.

Or at least, it appeared empty. It was hard to tell given the lack of proper light anywhere in the tavern. The stickiness of the floor, and the foul odour that assaulted his nostrils confirmed that the darkness was likely a cost and labour saving measure. He walked up to the bar, bumping into several stools on the way.

An ancient Half-Orc stood at the bar holding a rag and a flagon. He stood unmoving, either asleep or deep in contemplation. The man coughed. The Half-Orc didn’t respond. The man coughed louder, and continued coughing. The stench of the place seemed to be building up in his lungs. The Half-Orc snapped awake, and grunted.

“Hello” said the man. The Half-Orc nodded, almost impercepitbly.

“I’m currently writing a manuscript about the military history of the Bexellian Republic, and I was wondering if you know of anyone in the Keloth Regiment, 10th Company who might be willing to talk to me”

The bartender shook his head, this time even more imperceptibly.

“You don’t know of anyone in that Company, or you don’t know of anyone who would be willing to talk with me.”

The bartender didn’t appear to move at all.

“Frankly, sir, I find that hard to believe. This is THE Purple Face, is it not? Unofficial headquarters of the THE Underminers? I’ve heard the songs. I’ve heard the stories. The Underminers meet here once a year to swap war stories or reminisce or whatever it is veterans do. Now. I’ve travelled a great distance to be here, so I will ask you one more time before I lose my temper, and take my patronage elsewhere. Do you know of anyone in the Underminers who would be willing to talk to me?”

“He doesn’t know anyone because there isn’t anyone.”

The voice didn’t seem to come from the bartender, who had fallen back to sleep. Instead, it came from one of the few pools of light in the tavern. The way the light glinted off the man’s scratched metal vambrace, and the host of trinkets that adorned his body made the historian wonder how he hadn’t seen the man before.

“What do you mean?” asked the historian, turning to the stranger.

The stranger shrugged, and took a long sip from his tankard.

“They’re all gone. Dead. Missing. No one comes here any more”

The historian pulled out a chair, and sat down on it before his knees collapsed. He put his head into his hands. He failed. All of it was going to fail. His comrades in arms were going to die. He was going to die. The Revolution was dead before it could have really began.

“It’s over” said the historian, raising his hand to signal the bartender who was at his side with a tankard of sour-smelling liquor before he could put his hand down.

“Over?” asked the man.

“I’m not really a historian” said the not-historian, sighing deeply. He took a sip of his drink.

The drink was strong, and the not-historian had a mission to mourn. It was no surprise when one tankard, turned into two. Or when two turned into four. Before he knew it, the not-historian was trading war-stories with the stranger, who also happened to be a veteran. The more he drank, the looser his lips became. In slurred speech he bragged about his mission, and his rank within the burgeoning Borderland Resistance.

Posturing gradually devolved into sobbing when he remembered the failure of his mission. THe stranger listened with a smile, as he dejectedly recounted stories of the Underminers and their legendary exploits as sappers and saboteurs. Without their expertise, or mentorship, the Resistance was doomed to be crushed before it could even start.

The stranger patted him on the back, and grinned at him reassuringly through his bushy black beard. Apparently he knew someone. The not-historian smiled as he began to lose consciousness. The last words he heard were something about a Former Captain.

View
Falling Through Time
And A Foundry Roof

An ill-conceived plan, made up on the fly. Rushing air. A piece of rope, recently severed. A swordless scabard. And, the shrinking of the ship, his comrades, and that blasted skeleton.

He sighed, unsure what was going to hurt more: his meteoric crash into Buzel’s foundry district, or seeing his life play out before his eyes again.

Unbidden images, thoughts, and feelings began to play across his vision, as a particular factory roof began to fill more and more of his vision…

View
Human Enhancement Project Report

████████████████
Laboratory X3
████████
█████████████
██████
██████████████████
████, 1132

RE: Partial Bond Construction Project Results

In short summary, the project was successful, with a number of subjects developing a partial bond. However, these bonds were temporary, often fatal, and always extremely taxing, both physically and spiritually. It seems that the compound feeds upon spiritual energy as Humans and other sentients feed upon calories. Our current working hypothesis is that this allows it to accomplish otherworldly tasks, by manipulating the spiritual realm. Partial bond holders are an excellent candidate for further experimentation in the ████████ project, although the method must be refined further. In light of the power of the compound, we will be requiring all available samples, and additional funding.

The following personnel participated as subjects in the experiment:

  • █████████████████, deceased.
  • ███████████████, deceased.
  • ███████████, deceased.
  • █████████████
  • ███████████████, deceased.
  • ████████████
  • ████████████████
  • ███████, deceased.

The following personnel acted as researchers and conducted the experiment:

  • ████████████████████
  • ███████████
  • ████████████████, deceased.

Effective immediately, all outgoing shipments of compound ███████████ will be halted, and any extracted samples must be cataloged once more..

Sincerely,

Iraditia, Ida

View
Scrawled Poem

Yellow, BlAck, And Blue

Colors StAnd StArk

Strings WrAp Our World

Follow The Yellow ThreAd

The BlAck Crumbs

The Blue NAils

The Mind’s Door TrAnscends All Borders

FeAr Is The FinAl Night

-Archived copy of vandalism upon the walls of abandoned domiciles in several different northwestern cities. All capitalized A’s were presented upside down, for some reason.

View

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