And Just Beyond That (18+)
The prophecy has been heralded.
The choice has been made.
The die has been cast and fates, sealed.
The ‘Chosen Four’ have been sent, through place and time by the proxies of the Celestials to right the wrongs of the unholy Outsiders.
In a wild cacophony of tumbling and painful sliding through the jagged and jarring madness of time, the Tundra Walkers find themselves disoriented, in a place and time quite out of their own..
..by a gross number of centuries.
This story starts 16 years ago, in some tattered tent full of wispy old hags, at a place far, far north of the Great Northern Tundras, in a small village called Star Watchers and ends in the misty haze of the forgotten past, some 820 years further in the line of history.
This story is the (relative) continuation of
Kocakarı Hikayesi (18+)..
What the bloody hell is this?”, the sour voice of the little, pale gnome grudged as she lay flat on her back. “No one said anything about this much hazard! Hells bells, has the term ‘precaution’ or even ‘risk assessment’ ever occur to those stupid old farts? No wonder people seldom return from the past!”
“Old farts?”, snorted a boxy, feminine voice in the dark, from somewhere behind her, also lying on her back.
“Yea, picked it up at the academy. Some of the ghouls used to use that kinda slang. You wouldn’t know..”, she said with a groan.
“I know, what an ‘old fart’ is”, sniffed the voice in the dark, “what surprises me is the fact that you’d be into such vulgar slang. And the proper word is ‘nerd’, not ‘ghoul’..”
“Nerd, ghoul, same difference. Boys who have zero social lives live underground, play weird games with imaginary characters and cooked up monsters and carry rule books with more reverence than they would carry their holy writs..”, bit back the pale gnome.
“Sounds fun. What was your character?”
Arcantonic Palecog scowled.
“If you must know, I had a very tall, very pretty barbarian girl with thick, white braids and jugs, that smashed everything in her path with a mindless rage..”, she said and hastily added, “..no offense intended!”, giving a sidelong gaze at Cora’s direction.
The squeaky snort of a hobbit came from off, the other side.
“Some taken..”, replied the tall barbarian girl with thick, white braids.
There was a bothersome pause.
“Umm.. Which part?”, asked Arcantonic, tentatively.
“Will let you know when I want something —in mindless rage!”
“Well, shit!”, grumbled the gnome.
“You truly surprise me at times, girl..”, snickered Seressa Wraiven as her dark face appeared over the gnome. “Are you hurt? Other than your head, you seem all in one piece.. Could carry you if you like..”
“You wish..”, said Arcantonic sourly.
✱ ✱ ✱
Someone’s coming”, Cora Sleet whispered harshly as she sprang up and helped the little hobbit to his feet.
Brom Bumblebrim dusted off his pants and coat and mumbled a silent thanks while the very tall, very dark figure of Seressa pulled up her pair.
Arcantonic did not thank.
She just scowled..
The slow, irking hiss of a blade was heard as Cora drew her long, great blade off her back and spread her legs, ready to fight whatever it was that was coming.
Out in the darkness, the marching of many boots in perfect order drew closer and a platoon of tall figures appeared.
Without a pause, the platoon split in two and surrounded the Walkers and than held their ground. They gave no sign of aggression, only that of determination.
They all wore similar, very elaborate and very beautiful plate armors, high winged helmets and carried a quiver of arrows, a short bow, a half size kite shield, and a long, slender, almost fragile-looking sword..
High Elves, thought Cora for a moment.
High Elves?, she baffled in the next.
‘Great Heavens, where are we?’
“Greetings, Messengers of the Celestials..”, said the leading elf with a curt, formal nod. “If you would be so kind, I pray, follow me and we shall take you to our lord. It is he, with whom you shall speak.”
Cora nodded back, more out of reverence than a formality, for these were High Elves, the highest and noblest of elves.
Without waiting for a reply, the leader of the high elf platoon turned did a quick hand motion, and walked off, back into the darkness..
✱ ✱ ✱
The sight was ghastly. That was the only word Cora could think of.
They had traveled with the high elf platoon for the better part of sixteen hours, trooping, running, hiding, sneaking and.. fighting..
..and there was less than half of the platoon left.
Cora thought she knew how to fight. But what she knew was nothing like what she saw with these elves in their shiny, beautiful armor. One particular young elf had caught her eyes. He had had an angular face, a straight, noble sort of nose, a dedicated, rich mouth, prominent high brows, and long, braided, pale gold hair.
Cora was never the type of girl to lust over boys, even before the destruction of her village. But the look he had given her with his beautiful, soft, pale green eyes had been solemn, honest and.. flattering.
The young man had died in the next encounter with what she thought were mountain trolls. The brutish monsters had rushed right into the platoon and one of them had crushed the elf with his eight-foot club that had been thicker than Cora’s waist..
Cora had never seen a mountain troll before.
Cora would never see the young, beautiful elf again after that..
Tired and bloodied, they were met by more elven platoons and soon ushered to the top of a hill where stood a tall, deep maroon colored tent surrounded by more high elf guards in even greater looking armors, carrying long, curved, two-handed elven scimitars in silver embroidered purple mantles. Up at that hill, Cora and her friends saw the extent of their prophecy.. and the extent of the devastation taking place down below..
Row upon row of elven warriors in tens of thousands stood before and around the hill.
There, far across a very bloody field was another army of row upon row of orcs, goblins, ogres, giants, trolls, and what Cora surmised to be shambling ghouls, broken skeletons, moaning zombies, and barking demons and their numbers seemed to stretch as far as she could see.
And between the two armies was a field of death, all burned, scorched, even, and pitch-black smoke rose from broken and mutilated bodies scattered everywhere.
The sight she looked was nothing less than ghastly..
..and the more she looked, the more her face paled;
The hill they were standing on, was very much surrounded!
✱ ✱ ✱
On the hilltop, Cora and her companions beheld the bloody battlefield below as thousands of arrows formed an arching bridge over them and fell into the ranks of the enemy horde while elvish wizards and sorcerers launched their deadly spells, raining fire, fist-sized hails, and swirling multi-colored arcane missiles. Batches of temple guardians walked among the wounded, doing their best to keep them alive as groves of druids of many races sent bolts of lightning and hurricanes into the demon ranks.
Something very large groaned and with an earth-shaking thud, a hut sized rock landed in the middle of a platoon and instantly killed and buried the elves caught under it.
More boulders landed haphazardly into the elvish ranks. The crushed didn’t even have the time to scream.
Orders ran up and down the elf ranks and the first half of a dozen line of elves drew their swords, pulled up their shields, and started out as the following ranks crouched close behind them, bearing long halberts and glaves.
The demon horde charged..
“This way, if you would please.”, said the platoon leader and led Cora and her friends into the tent at the top of the hill.
✱ ✱ ✱
The tall elf guard in purple mantle opened the tent’s flaps for the company, then, without a word, turned and left for his post.
Although the inside of the tent was dimly lit, it appeared to be surprisingly comfortable and richly decorated. The ground was covered with a thick, red carpet that had elegant designs inlaid in it, barely a shade or two darker, or lighter than the base red. Many embroidered tapestries hung on the inside of the tent. There were two comfortable looking divans, many stools, and a large, portable table placed at the far end, covered with parchments, maps, markers, quills, and writing feathers.
A young, beautiful young elf girl slept peacefully on one of the divans. She had a striking figure, full and healthy. Her face had soft features; smooth skin, rich, vibrant, inviting lips, long eyelashes and brush free, slightly wavy, honey-colored hair and she was sleeping in her tight, elf woven lorica.
Cora heard a stifling sound from the other end of the tent, and for the first time, she saw the elf lord, sitting behind the portable table.
Cora did a double-take and silently ‘woa’ed for this was the most beautiful face in a living being that she had ever seen. She just stared at the elf lord..
“So, the Celestials have sent another batch of messengers.”, said the elf lord, in a barely hidden contempt. He had a beckoning voice, rather masculine and resonant but somehow musical in nature. If Cora heard this voice in any other male, she would likely have snorted. With this elf, however, it felt ‘just right’.
“A tundra elf barbarian, a hobbit from Bowling Hills by the looks of it, a half-demon and a deep gnome..”, he said.
“It seems the greats above shall not even bother to hide their pun!”
Cora and Brom bowed before the elf lord.
“We have been sent to right a wrong by the Seers of the Star Watchers, my lord.”, Cora said, in her soft, somewhat throaty voice.
And right then, Seressa and Arcantonic both produced something made from fine leather and folded from their belts, flipped them open, and showed the elf lord, a strange, arrogantly carved badge.
The elf lords eyebrows shot up.
“And what business interests does the Academy of Melshieve have here, in this blasted, forsaken battlefield?”, he said in a voice that sounded more tired than of any particular interest.
“Academy business.”, Seressa replied curtly, which was very much unlike her.
“We two are here to observe and preserve.“, added Arcantonic, in a similar curt tone.
“Of course you are..”, replied the elven lord bitterly. “Couldn’t have sent a few of your airships..”
“We are here only to observe and preserve.”, Seressa repeated her pair, speaking with a kindlier voice this time.
“I see.. You are free to observe. There will be no preserving done here today, or anytime soon, I am afraid. The situation stands thus; we are surrounded and outnumbered at a critical level. We can barely open small gaps in the enemy lines at the cost of too many lives that I’d care to count. A few months ago, we sent word to Koruxan, Vodgar, Palantine, and Durkahan pleading for their support. So far, we only have a quarter half of Arashkan forces here, dwarven armored platoons from Scowling and Elder Hills, wood elf support from Dim Woods, druids from Ritual Forest, and gnome sappers from Tinker Hills and Silent Hills.”, said the elven lord quietly.
He paused for a bit as if to gather his thoughts, took a deep breath, and continued.
“We had a great start. Our.. our own rangers kept on harassing the enemy lines from the sides and managed to get to their rear as well. We held the enemy at bay for three years and made them pay a good price for every step they took in any direction. But that was up until some two months ago. Our gnome sappers discovered something we never expected. Turns out, while we were entertaining ourselves up here, they were diligently digging miles and miles of tunnels right under and around us..
We destroyed all the tunnels we found, but not soon enough. And now, they are all around us and their numbers have been growing steadily every day.
For weeks we send messengers to the other cities and yet, no one has responded. I am afraid, we will not last the month. Enemy warlocks have warded the area, making it impossible for us to open portals for new troops to teleport in or take our wounded out, not to mention near to non of our summoning spells work, hence we can get the support of neither the elementals nor the fey.
I will be honest with you. You are not the first Celestial messengers that have arrived here. There were six other groups, though never this many at once. You are the seventh group and they all said it was their destiny to right a wrong. I hope your prophecy was better than theirs.”, he said in the same tired voice and Cora finally recognized the nuance.
The elven lord wasn’t just tired. His was the voice of a man who had lost all hope. It was a defeated man’s voice.
Cora felt a lump at the pit of her stomach.
And she felt a vast sympathy for this beautiful elf.
“If it is possible to reach these people, we shall..”, she said in fierce determination.
The elf lord looked up at Cora and for the briefest of moments, a smile appeared in his handsome face.
“I had heard our long lost brothers and sisters up in The Great Northern Tundra’s never gave their word for simple tasks. They gave them only for the worthy ones.. and always kept them. Had I, but a thousand like you..”
Cora tried very hard not to, but failed.. and blushed.
Just then, the tent flaps opened and an elf runner dashed inside and in a rushed, terror-stricken voice he said, “My Riverin Grandarelen. Themalsar approaches from the south..”
“What?”, said the elf lord in a shocked voice. “How?”
“By ships. He landed troops to the south by ships!..”, said the runner, his face even more drawn now.
“My Lord, they come!”, he whispered.
Riverin Grandaleren’s shoulders slumped. He turned to the four standing before him.
Cora’s mind reeled..
That was a very old elven name for ‘prince’. It had never really been used by her people, only ‘Rive’ which meant something along the lines of ‘king’ or, more like, ‘chieftain’..
‘Good Heavens..’, she though. This was no mere elf lord. This was ‘her times’ Ri Grandaleren Feymist of the legendary Bari Na-ammen himself..
..and since he was warring this Themalsar, it had to mean, they had been sent back some 820 years, to the first Battle of Themalsar, as the humans called it..
It was better known among elves as;
“Maeth -o Nev Evan escence”
BATTLE OF NEAR EXTINCTION..
Some innate instinct also prompted Cora that they were at the very northeast edge of the Ritual Forest and that meant; just to their north was the Trapped Mountains.
And just beyond that, her Ironfrost..
It was still there, ‘now’..
Her mother hadn’t been born yet, but her father had. He would be younger than she was now.. but alive..
None of her friends would be around for at least seven hundred years yet, but her home, her Ironfrost would be there.. Now..
For the first time since the death of her beloved father, her beautiful mother, her friends, and her people, the true impact of her loss hit her.
Cora Sleet’s eyes teared and silently, she mourned for Ironfrost and everything that it meant and encompassed for her.
It was so damned close. It was ‘this’ close.. Within her grasp to go, and to see.. And perhaps even to..
If she could just go there, and perhaps warn them of their coming annihilation, even at the cost of being branded as a mad woman..
A hard two weeks trek right now would get her there —much less if she left alone! Yes, these strange ‘soft’ people had fought alongside her, but she owed them nothing..
Certainly not her Ironfrost..
And that is when it hit Cora; she was not with them because of some untold, unnamed or unpaid debt. She was with them because this was her future. This was her now and there really was no going back. These strange, soft, very much unbarbaric people were her new friends..
Her new family.
Her new.. Ironfrost!
And as if on cue, a small, warm, delicate hand reached up to her and held hers.
She looked down to see Brom Bumblebrim looking up to her, his eyes also glistening. He smiled at her and kindly patted her hand, squeezed it once, and let it go..
This was her new Ironfrost, alright..
Brom, her talkative little brother who never shut up. Tonic, her grumpy little baby sister who hadn’t yet gotten passed her ‘NO’ phase, and Seressa, her other sister.. the odd one in the family. Every family had one of those, right? She had been the odd one in her family, hadn’t she? Many people had said so.. Yes, she certainly hadn’t been odd at Seressa’s level, nor had she ever worn laced, pink, almost see-through.. things! But there really was no scale for odity, was there? The moment you stepped out of the boundaries of common, you were odd.
And now she was given the new position as the eldest sister. Seressa had merely swooped down and happily claimed her abandoned seat!
Here, some eight hundred years in the murky mists of a forgotten time, in one of the bloodiest battlefields in known history, up against impossible odds, Cora Sleet had found her new family, and in doing so, she found herself.
“GO.. NOW.. Our time is up. If Themalsar gets here, we will lose any chance to break any openings for you.”, said the prince harshly. He turned to the runner. “Get Selvius Brightleaf, my general, and Aramlerien, my master wizard here immediately. Then go and ask Master Cathber Gwet’chen Bolgrig, the head of the druid groves and General Drills, the gnome sappers’ general, if they would be so kind as to join us. Send for Decona Dwarwic, the dwarven dreadnaught leader as well. We will need her ‘meatgrinders’ sooner than planned.”
The prince paused for a notable breath.
“Please inform Archangel Priceptine of the situation and ask him if he would grace us with his presence and wisdom..”, he added somewhat grudgingly.
“At once, my Riverin..”, the runner bowed and dashed back out of the tent.
“Well, I suppose this was a short-lived encounter.”, Grandaleren said, with an ironic and bitter voice. “I would know your names if you would honor me.”
“No!”, jumped in Seressa. “No names.. I am sorry Riverin of Bari Na-ammen. But those are the rules; under no circumstance may our names be revealed nor recorded!”
“It appears the academy has an answer for everything. Just no solution. So be it. You will be noted as ‘a tundra elf’, ‘a hobbit’, and ‘an academy pair’ who were here to observe and preserve! Now, go..”
Cora and Brom bowed once more to the Prince of Bari Na-ammen and turned to leave.
And that is when Cora realized something else;
The beautiful elf girl sleeping on the divan in her linen-like lorica had not moved, at all..
In fact, she was not breathing.
The hoarse voice of the prince of the high elves came from behind them.
“Selendenien Sindarin.. My sister. She.. she was killed late last night by Themalsar himself. Her life ebbed away by Malocchio, an entropy death curse, particular to his master.. She was the heart of High Woods and the jewel of Bari Na-ammen. The Sunlight of Selendenien shall never bless this world again..”
Riverin Grandaleren choked.
“Now please.. Go.. Give this man a few moments of peace to grieve over a beloved one..”
✱ ✱ ✱
The company moved silently and swiftly, hidden among burly dwarves and nibble gnomes.. That had been the plan; if they were to escape through the encircling army, they would have a better chance with the dwarves and gnomes, in particular, since the enemy was seeking high elves..
..And they had to use the tunnels dug by the gnome sappers.
Seressa had given one look at the small, tight, gnome size tunnels and groaned.
“Ow bugger..”, she’d said, “..not again!”
That had cheered Tonic a bit.
For three days, they ran, hid, slid, rolled, and tumbles through dark, musty, stuffy tunnels, and then over and under heavy brush and mud and reached somewhere near a cluster of rolling hills known as Ogre’s Foot, at which point they got ambush by half the ogre population living in the hills.
“Here..”, said a young, handsome gnome; the captain, of the gnomic company and the de facto leader of the dwarven contingency, as he handed a sealed, rolled-up parchment to Arcantonic. “..if you ever manage to get the chance, give this to my father please.”
Arcantonic just stared at the gnome boy.
“Who the hell are you and why are you giving this to me? You don’t even know me..”, she inadvertently blurted out.
Seressa smacked her forehead with her hand.
If the handsome gnome was taken aback by Tonic’s language or her brute attitude, he showed it with a dazzling, infectious smile.
“I, the hell, am Prince Gordigon Tinkerdome. Son of King Drine Tinkerdome and the apparent heir to the throne of Silent Hills.”, he said.
Arcantonic ogled at the gnome.
All things considered, he was a rather handsome devil. Pretty, even.
If the gnomes smile was dazzling, however, it certainly flew right past the gnomic girl standing before him.. and the infection failed all efforts on her as well.
“It is likely this is where you and your friends will depart, as we are surrounded, outnumbered and outsized, but not quite bested. We need to make enough of a ruckus here, so they won’t go looking for your, there!“, he said pointing at the general direction of Dim Woods.
“Hence, it is unlikely any of us shall survive. You, on the other hand, must, my lady!”
Arcantonic ogled at the gnome..
Somewhere deep inside her mind, a squeaky, irritated voice said, “Did you.. Did he just ‘lady’ us?”
“Thought I’d give you this letter to be handed to my father, in case of an unexpected demise on my part, and if you would, I would also like to have your name, my lady, and your hand, of which, I promise, I shall keep only one, though I would very much like to keep both..”
“Yep..”, the squeaky voice in her mind confirmed. “..the idiot just ‘lady’ed us —again! And he wants our hand. Why does he want our hand?”
“I.. I can’t give you my name. That.. that is forbidden. And what do you want my hand for? Are they dirty?”, stammered Tonic as she blushed with a tone of pink that would have made her pair proud.
“Oh, for everything that’s good and not..!”, exclaimed Seressa with an exasperated voice, and smacked her forehead with her other hand..
Brom snickered from the side and Cora just stared at Tonic like she was some kind of strange contraption and she just couldn’t figure out what its purpose was.
“I do not know.”, smiled the gnome prince. “Hard to see from here. Must look at it from a closer angle.”
Whatever was going through Tonics mind at that very moment, it was hard to say.
Her face, however, said ‘What the hell kind of an idiot is this?’
Or perhaps, ‘Why is it always the weird ones?’
The prince reached out, took the little gnome girl’s hand, gracefully bent over and..
Seressa held her breath.
Brom bit his knuckles.
Cora cocked an eyebrow and eagled down on them..
..And Tonic smacked the prince of the gnomes,
over the head,
with her wrench!
“WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?!“, she blared. “MY HANDS ARE DIRTY AND YOU WANT TO SNIFF THEM? WHAT KIND OF AN IDIOT ARE YOU?”
With that, she stomped off..
The combined company of gnomes and dwarves burst out in gleeful laughter as the prince picked himself off the ground, very much dazed, obviously in pain and thoroughly embarrassed, he said “I suppose, I had that coming.. But wow, that there is one blazing girl and very hard to get; the best kind there is.. Too bad my times up. I would have loved to have stolen a kiss of ‘farewell to life’ from a girl as beautiful and fiery as her..”
The laughter died and every dwarf and gnome picked up their weapons and shields.
“Dwarves at the center. Sappers cover the flanks.. and careful with the mortars and the gnowitzers.. I want carpet-bombing thirty paces in front of the dwarves at all times. No need to be shy with the ammo.. Artificers, with me.. Boomsticks at the ready..”, he barked his orders.
Prince Gordigon Tinkerdome, son of King Drine and apparent heir to the throne of Silent Hills gave the still scowling Tonic one last, toothy glance than shrieked like a hawk.
Ri: elvish for king.
Rise: elvish for queen.
Riverin: elvish for prince (usually used for the likely future Ri).
Riserin: elvish for princess (usually used for the likely future Rise).
Selendenien Sindarin: one of the three children of the current king of the high elves of Bari Na-ammen, Ri Lienierre Moonlight. The eldest of the three is High Lady Angrellen Sunsear, followed by Riverin Grandarelen and the youngest, Ranger Marshal Selendenien Sindarin (Sunlight).
Malocchio: ‘Evil Eye’, in Italian. In-game terminology, an evil, forbidden, very destructive, and an almost always deadly spell. Anyone caught casting or possessing the spell is instantly executed in the Kingdom. Requires a complicated ritual to cast. The end result can vary depending on how it was cast, the intensity of the intent of the caster, and how badly the caster wants the intended to die. The end results can change from something as simple as a heart attack to causing the heart to physically explode, ripping open the rib cage of the person..