_Content Archived from the Original Vainglory forums - originally posted by “TheGreatClockwyrm” on the “10th of April 2015, 5th of May 2015, 28th of June 2015, 22nd of December 2015 and 4th of June 2016” Archived by @ThePinkOtter _
I strongly recommend reading @Sokolva’s piece of lore, Journal of Adagio Darkwing before reading, or you may become confused at some parts of the story. Plus, it’s also a great piece of lore.
If you are interested in hearing the music the protagonist heard as you read (you’ll know what I mean) you can find two versions of it below.
Chapter 1, Brothers
From the Collected Works and Teachings of Peridotus the Wise
Chapter 47; Verse 117
The companionship of others is as much a burden as it is a blessing. The wise man is wary of those he deems his friends as well as those he deems his enemies, for the prudent man outlives the reckless one by many years. Beware the knife of friendship; for when it comes, it shall pierce not just your heart, but your soul as well.
The Reaper of the Eastern Hinterlands. The Fearbringer. The Ravager of Armies, the Bane of the North, the Greatest of the White Bears. All these names I have been called. My enemies flee when they see my approaching form, terror taking root in their mind and pouring out from their mouths and eyes. I relish the sound of their screams, their irrational terror as I approach, as my sword slices a bloody arc through their chests and legs. My great horned helmet scapes the very sky itself as I wade through the utter carnage and desolation that I have sowed here.
Once, the Northern Tribes were mighty. We ruled all of the Hinterlands to the north of Halcyon. We extended as far east as the mountains where the Elder Dragons slumbered, and we conquered as far west as the edge of the Hinterlands themselves. The world was our plaything, to be shaped and crushed at our whim. A toy like that of a child’s, to be played with and eventually razed to the ground.
But that was before my time. Now we are few, and fighting is constant. My clan, the White Bears of the Eastern Hinterlands, rule but a disparate archipelago. We have sailed west, and found hostile tribes that we called brothers scant decades ago. We have sailed north, to the edge of the world. We have sailed south, and found an armada of strange creatures, much like the snow lynxes of the hills, but standing on their hind legs like men. I have heard stories of the western tribes who tried to fight these great cats. The wreckage of the ships left over was enough to discourage even the most foolhardy among us. I have seen the gaping holes in the sides of the men, huge chunks of flesh completely missing from their body. I have seen these things, and wept at the injustice Mother Yrla has showed us. We were mighty! We were the finest warriors this side of Halcyon, berserkers of the north that brushed aside injury and dealt killing blows with savage efficiency. And now we are pathetic seafarers, doomed to wage war against our brothers until none of us are left.
I am not the chieftain of my clan, but I am looked to as such. Our true chieftain, Gvalgo, is old, and weak, but he is wise, and respected. He may not lead us into battle against the western tribes personally, but he does draw up stratagem, deploying our meager navy and army to search for any honor or valor that has not already been swept away by the tide. I lead our men into battle, and I slaughter without remorse or hesitation- only sadness. The glory of battle has never felt so pathetic. My sword, Dalgênor, sends men to Mother Yrla, to their ancestors, without discrimination. I hack and slash, not even sure why. I am no hero, no leader- I am a savage, who kills out of tradition instead of necessity. I have seen good men fall, headless, or skewered by an enemy blade, their lips still forming a curse, their eyes still full of hate. Is this the will of the gods? I may never know.
My wife is my only consolation. She is the most beautiful woman you could hope to meet- her eyes are blue as the first summer tides, her hair as fair as the sun’s gentle morning rays. The lips on her mouth form a perfect scarlet oval, begging to be kissed. Her breasts are round and full, and spill out over her corset, perfect for the suckling of a babe. Her hips sway as she walk, captivating the eye of men. The fire I feel when I stroke her smooth, alabaster skin awakens something within me, something I forget every time I am away. And all this she knows, and relishes in.
She is not only appealing to the eye. None but Gvalgo can match her wit, her intelligence, her vivacious charm that beguiles the mind as well as the senses. She handles a sword as well as any man I know, save perhaps myself, and her knowledge of history keeps the young’uns awake long after their curfew, her tales of heroes sailing mighty ships and slaying great beasts. Her songs no bard can hope to match, her lyre making the most hardhearted of us burst into boyish tears. I am grateful the Mother Yrla paired me with this wondrous beauty, and that I have her as my loyal wife.
My father and mother have long since passed away and found peace in the gentle arms of the Greatmother, but their memory lives on in me, and my adopted brother Valgos. Valgos has always been…different. He is squeamish at the sight of blood, and cannot even eat his meat raw, as we all do. He is not the bravest among us, or the strongest, or the smartest. He does not wield a broadsword or a battleaxe, but rather, a slim spear and a bow. His long lashes, curly dark hair, pointed nose, gangly build, and long, articulate fingers separate him from the rest of us, with our stocky shoulders; strong, rough hands; fair hair; and brutish features. But I love him as if he were my bloodbrother, and I would rather die than see him come to harm.
Valgos has acted strange of late. My wife and I have allowed him to live with us for many years, and I have always gently urged him to find a wife of his own, to settle down and raise a young one. He never seems to hear. His hands fidget as he paces his room, and he mutters strange things. He is deathly afraid of the thunder, and the lightning that precedes it. At the first sound of a storm, he will sprint the length of the house, wailing as loudly as the banshees of legend. As the thunder grows louder, rocking the strong foundations of our simple home, he curls into a desperate ball, his eyes alight with berkerker madness, and yet it is only the eyes that are possessed. No inner fire tightens his muscles, no bloodthirsty rage pervades his actions and speech. But a demonic flame possesses his eyes, and they fill me with visions of the future- of a glowing sword, a deathly wail, a bright violet flash. Nothing can shake him from these strange fits of madness, where he speaks in tongues unbeknownst to us, mumbling about stars and curses and crystals. I worry for him.
One day, Valgos comes to me. His hands are shaking, his eyes are wild with some secret madness, and yet he speaks evenly and clearly. He tells me stories of the old times, when we bargained with the Elder Dragons to the east, exchanging meat and wool and lumber for the Vain energy the Dragons hoarded in abundance. How that energy spurred us to great deeds, how it inspired the legendary heroes of old to conquer our enemies’ lands and slay the mighty beasts that threatened our people. Indeed, it was that same energy that possessed my ancestors as they drove off the Skaarfungandr, the fiery monstrosity that had plagued us for decades. Valgos urges me to sail for the east, to the Elder Dragons, to recover that energy once more. With it, he says, we can rebuild our shattered society. We can revitalize the sick and raise the dead, extend offers of alliance to our brothers-turned-enemies.
I do not like the look in his eyes as I agree.
We prepare to depart, and Gvalgo gives us his blessing, instructing me on how to parley with the Dragons. Taking only my three strongest warriors and Valgos, we pack the ship full to the brim with strips of cloth and wool, flasks of beer, huge logs of wood, salted hams and roasted birds to bargain with the slumbering Dragons. I give my wife one last kiss before I step on the mighty boat that will take me and my men to the eastern mountains.
The journey is long, but I am comforted by the companionship of my brothers-in-arms. We eat and drink well, and fight the harsh summer gales that rock our mighty ship with mountain-high waves. The rain stings our muscled chests and strong, hairy arms as we pull the oars tirelessly through the icy northern waters, as Valgos keeps watch in the crow’s nest, warning us of glaciers and ice floes. I have not seen a trace of his madness since we stepped on the boat. He laughs and works alongside us, without the fear of thunder or the crazed murmurings of the future. I see now how much good this journey will do both me and him.
After two short months of sailing, we reach the eastern shores. A rocky beach greets our weathered craft, and I jump from the deck to the rolling tides below. With long, greedy strokes, I relish the feel of the waves on my chest, and soon find myself on the beach. Valgos is right behind me. My other men unload our bountiful cargo to the sandy slopes, and I instruct them to stay put until my return. Waving for Valgos to follow me, I set out in search of an Elder Dragon to parley with.
The beach soon gives way to a dense forest. The trees here look as if they once stood high, but now they are black with age and their bark is brittle and rotted. Every so often I find a tree with long gashes in the bark, ugly black sap oozing from the wound. Valgos becomes excited, his eyes alight again with that terrifying blaze of insanity, saying that this is a good sign, that Dragons are near. I pray to Mother Yrla that he is right.
We soon reach a large, grassy clearing. A huge tree, dwarfing the others by several dozen meters, stretches high into the sky. As I watch, its bark darkens and twists, and it seems to shrink ever so slowly. No birds chirp their welcoming songs. No small rodents scuffle amongst the leaves in search of food. All is deathly quiet. A small house, roughly as large as my boat, sits in the highest branches. No ladder leads up to the house, and so I assume that this is where a dragon must reside, since only someone, or something, that can fly could reach it. As I step closer to the arboreal abode, Valgos stoops to investigate some large object in the grass. I call up to the house, heaping praise upon its draconic master, begging for him to accept my generous offers of meat, wood, and cloth, if only he would spare some precious Vain energy. I remember what Gvalgo tells me to say, to compliment the dragon, to-
"One whose steel shall break the curse of old!’ my brother’s voice screams.
A searing pain suddenly grips my chest, and all at once I feel as if I have been immersed in icy cold water. I am drowning in pain, choking on its cruel mastery of my nerves and thoughts. The burning agony emanates from my chest, rolling out in waves of fire and death. With all the strength in my body, I look down, and see a massive sword, burning with a sickly turquoise fire, sticking out of my torso. I feebly grasp for it, trying to pull it out, my hands sliding off the blade. A fire spreads throughout my body, and I collapse. I am burning, burning alive. The sword is still within me, a cold, dead weight, its fiery steel dancing before my eyes and awakening a long-forgotten part of my mind. A strange, lilting tune clouds my thoughts, a primal melody on a reedy wooden flute, that sings to me of death by fire, of betrayal in the shadows, of the desire to rend flesh and crack bone. Deep, somber baritones join the song, splitting my skull with their unearthly chanting. My insides are boiling, and I feel my heart stop beating. How am I still alive? I cry out to my brother, and in the haze of my unbearable agony, I hear the sound of footsteps over the din of the primal chords, and I turn my head to see the rapidly retreating form of my brother. I scream his name, again and again, as he fades from my vision, as the fire liquefies my insides and blackens my skin. The last thing I see before I die is the wilting, sickly grass.
My eyes open. I am in a clearing, with tall black trees surrounding me. Did I fall asleep? I blink several times in quick succession, and then sneeze violently. It is then that I see the sword.
An ancient fear awakens in my mind, and I scramble backwards. The sword follows me. I shakily climb to my feet, and I realize- the sword is embedded in my chest. I am confused for a moment. Not confused as in; there is a sword in my chest, shouldn’t I be dead? but confused as in; why is there a sword in my chest? as if it being there were a strange oddity, not unheard of, but strange nonetheless. I place my hands on the sword, whose hilt lies right before my face, its blade going in my chest and tapering to a cruel, sharpened tip three feet from my back. I stare at my hands in wonder. They are a sickly grey, like ash, and I can see every bone beneath my papery skin. My fingers taper into long black nails, like those of a hag or witch. I rip open my loose flannel shirt, tearing it from my upper body- and find rotting, ashy skin that crinkles when I touch it. I feel my face. My skin is close to nonexistent there- my teeth are sharp, like those of a wolf’s, and I have no nose, just a gaping triangular hole. My thick beard, braided into two thick ropes on either side of the sword, is as white as snow, and a nagging memory, like a sneeze or an itch of the brain, reminds me that it used to be a strong, healthy blonde. My horned helmet feels unnaturally heavy. I throw my ruined shirt down on the ground, and collapse.
Days pass as I lie on that accursed ground. My breathing grows ragged, and my chest burns with every breath. The sword seems to have a life of its own, breathing, yes, but burning me with each of its breaths. I am most certainly dead, but how am I here? How do I still breathe, and feel the grass on my bare, muscular back if I am dead? Why do I still desire a filling meal, a hearty drink, a warm touch from a woman’s hand? These questions remain unanswered as I sleep a restless slumber, my eyes wide open in wonderment of the world.
I could not tell you how long I lay in that clearing. My mind wandered from this world to the next, seeing things that cannot be unseen. The spirits joined me in my restless slumber, whispering promises of redemption, of revenge and loneliness. They torment me with their impish smiles, snickering, their soulless eyes seeming to mock me in my solitude. They drift closer to me, reaching out their hands to stroke my beard and ribs. Suddenly, the unholy sword sparks, and its small, dim flame roars into a turquoise bonfire, searing my chest and chin. The spirits wail in agony and disappear in a flash of light and smoke.
Finally, the sword speaks to me. A nagging voice, not speaking, more like a feeling in my gut, urges me to stand. I roll to the side a little, and brace my elbow against the grass. My legs are weak from laying down for so long, and so I stumble a little when I stand. One would think the sword’s weight would keep me off balance, but it does just the opposite- infusing me with unbearable pain, but also a fiery strength. I lean heavily on a tree, and look up, seeing a small house in its branches. Black sap drips from the porch, several hundred feet in the air, splattering on my face. I recoil in anger, in defiance at this black liquid. It dares strike me? Before I even know what I am doing, I pull the sword from my chest with a sickening slurp, holding it in one hand, and begin striking the tree, again and again, with a manic rage, gouging long slashes in the gnarled black wood. With the sword out of my chest, I suddenly feel drained, defeated. My brow droops, and I collapse again. I clutch my chest, as it burns, burning much worse than it had when the sword was sheathed there. I finger the gaping wound. I could fit both of my huge grey hands in the hole, with room to spare. My breath comes in short, ragged gasps. Am I about to die? A agonizing sensation fills my whole body, and I turn my head to the sword lying beside me.
The music has returned, drowning out anything else. A simple, sinister melody on a wooden flute, reinforced by the male baritones chanting an ominous beat. My mind wanders, and I see terrible visions. A huge purple crystal suddenly explodes, sending shards of it at me, piercing my mind. I clutch my head in agony, and my chest continues to burn, burning with a fire of the apocalypse, a fire that puts Skaarfungandr’s to shame, now that I am free of the sword. A serpentine form with a grotesque red mask speaks in my mind, but I cannot hear it. The music continues to play, primal and devastating to hear, an orchestra of doom.
My third and last vision is strange. As I clutch my burning breast, awaiting a second death, I see a heavenly figure. It is like that of a man, backlit by a blinding light, but it has wings, huge black wings. An angel of death. It laughs at me, curling one taloned finger, its eyes full of mirth. It turns, and disappears into the light. I cry out for it to return, for it to help me, but it does not respond. The music stops suddenly, on a single, discordant note.
My eyes finally open. I feel revitalized, stronger. I realize the sword has returned to me, sticking out of my chest like some gruesome monument. I stand, and grasp the hilt of the sword with both hands, and slowly draw it out. As soon as the sword leaves my body, I am overcome by a wave of nausea and agonizing pain. Immediately I sheath it back in my body, and I feel stronger. The pain is still there, constant and burning, but it is not as bad as when the sword was out of me.
I stagger through the forest, a blind man who can see, a cripple who can walk. My hands grope the seemingly neverending darkness, and the sword lights the way. Its sickly flame revitalizes me, showing me the path as I stumble through this wretched wood. Finally I reach the shores, and collapse on the surf. The sword, sensing my need, burns brightly, and I feel a wave of new pain- along with a fresh burst of vigor. I stand, sand caking my chest and trousers, and stare off into the ocean. A beautiful sunrise is just beginning to form, streaking the sky with a symphony of violet, orange, and even bright green. My eyes water at the sight, not out of melancholy, but out of profoundness. I stand there for the early hours of the day, weeping, and watching the sun slowly rise up from the depths of the far off horizon, like a child waking up from a long winter’s rest.
The sword whispers to me again, and I set to work. I must escape this accursed place, and find somewhere to settle down, search for a way to free myself from this unnatural burden. I find a strong tree, untouched by the blight that seems to have affected its neighbors, and gradually I draw the sword from my chest. I am expecting the wave of pain and nausea this time, and overcome it. I focus, and manage to concentrate on contact with the sword. I imagine it is an extension of my body, a third arm. The pain lessens somewhat and I get to work. Using the sword, I set into a comfortable rhythm. Hack, rest. Slash, rest. Slice, rest. The tree soon falls to my unrelenting efforts. Using the sword again, I slice the once-mighty tree into small logs. I sheathe the sword, and welcome the burst of pain and energy.
Using a tough weed that grew in abundance on the rocky beach, I lash the logs together to form a humble raft. Taking a large stick twice as high as me, I fasten it in a wedge in the middle. I return to the clearing from whence I came and fetch my shirt. Returning to the raft, I rip my shirt apart, unfolding it into a large cotton square, and attach it to the stick in such a way that it can serve as a suitable sail. With my raft complete, I push it out to the ocean and climb aboard, letting the natural current drift me out to sea.
I turn, and take one last look at the mainland, moving farther and farther away as I drift out to sea. The trees are all shrinking, I realize, growing blacker and more decrepit as I watched. This suddenly filled me with an emotion I had not yet experienced. Was it guilt? Anger? No, no. It was sadness.
For weeks I lay on that solitary craft, at the mercy of the ocean and sky. Twice storms threatened my tiny boat, but no huge waves sunk her to the seabed. Lightning and thunder played a deadly duet together, striking in harmony. I scream at them, begging them, challenging them, daring them to strike me. Thrice I came close to being struck, but never did lightning or her thunderous companion ever harm me. The waves stung my arms with their salty brine, washing fish onto my raft. I tore into them hungrily, savoring the salty, chewy flesh, and cracking their bones to suck the sweet marrow hidden within. The sword glowed brightly at times, angrily, especially when it thundered. The unholy fire that burned its blade and me was not affected by the water. In fact, the rain and seawater only seemed to anger it, making it blaze brighter than ever.
Finally, I run aground on some beach, tiny bits of ice washing up with me. Snow is falling gently. The wreckage of three warships are scattered along the shore, along with many corpses of men. Weapons, dead bodies, and disembodied limbs are strewn everywhere, and I pick my way through them carefully, in fear of getting my foot stabbed by an errant sword. Footprints in the snow seem to lead up to a cliff, where I can see what appears to be a large village.
I sprint up the path to the village, curious to see what is up there. I find more bodies of men along the path. Some wear the mark of a white bear, others a red wolf. A nagging itch in the back of my mind persists, as if I know these men.
When I finally reach the village, I am shocked at what I find. More corpses than ever line the streets; men, women, children, the elderly. Houses, shops, armories, and taverns all lie in various stages of disrepair, with doors smashed in, windows broken, gaping holes in the roofs. Axes and swords are buried in the bodies of the dead. Some corpses are headless, or missing arms or legs. Some have their backs bent at unnatural angles.
I find myself in front of the largest building so far, in the snowy village square. The door lies askew. Striding into the massive hall, I find the corpse of a shriveled old man, slumped back in his throne, an arrow in his throat. He wears a gruesome smile on his face, his eyes still laughing. More dead bodies sit in chairs around a long banquet table, their faces in their now-cold meals, or slumped back in their chairs, a morbid grin on their face, shattered wine glasses at their feet. A splitting migraine jolts my skull. A vision of this old man, alive and well, flits through my brain. He is sitting across from me, pointing to a map, talking about troop placement and places to hide the archers. The vision passes, and I find myself staring into his lifeless face once more. Disgusted, I turn and leave the banquet hall.
Unsure of where I am going, I stop in the village square, the snow falling around me in delicate snowflakes, coating my shoulders and boots. Suddenly, the blade flares bright for a moment and jerks me to the right. I collapse to my knees in the snow before a simple wood cabin, directly to the right of the huge hall I had just left. The door is wide open.
The blade gently pulls me forward, towards the cabin. A light flickers in the doorway.
Six corpses greet me in the first room, which appears to be a mixture of a kitchen and a sitting room. One is at my feet, another of the warriors who bears the mark of the red wolf. An arrow has pierced one of his eyes. His skin is blue from the cold, and frost coats his hair, beard, and eyebrows. His lips are a dark blue. Four other corpses, strewn around the room, with arrows sticking out of their heads, necks, or chests, are essentially the same- bearded men bearing the mark of a red wolf, with blue skin and lips from the cold and frost in their hair.
The last corpse is different however. He is slumped at the foot of the stairs, sitting upright. A small bow lies at his feet, and an empty quiver is strapped to his back. His cloak is marked with the head of a snow-white bear. A massive longsword, almost as large as mine, has impaled his skinny frame to the wooden step behind him. Dried blood coats the wound, and pools around his legs. I crouch down to inspect his face.
Suddenly, I am stricken with a migraine that splits my skull. The music strikes up again, the furious wooden flute and baritone choir pounding the inside of my brain, growing louder and more fervent with each note. I scream in pain, and fall on my back, convulsing and thrashing. Memories cloud my brain: a vision of this man, curled in a ball, madness in his eyes, as lightning illuminates the room and thunder booms outside. He cries out, grasping the throat of an invisible foe, and looks straight at me. Another searing jolt of pain races through my head. The scene changes: him racing into battle on a snowy plain, holding a small spear aloft, screaming a battle cry. This scene melts away to his face smiling, his mouth forming the word “brother”.
The pain subsides, but the music keeps playing. I inspect the face of the man before me. His eyes are rolled up in the back of his head, and his head is lolled back on the step behind him. His skin is a darker blue than the others, and when I touch it gently with one outstretched finger, I recoil at the cold. His lips are purple, and his long, pointed nose is bent at an unnatural angle, as if it had been broken. His long lashes are coated with frost, as is his long, dark hair. Long, skinny fingers are grasping at the hilt of the blade, as if to free their tormented body after death.
The migraine has returned, but it is less painful as before. The blade gently pulls me up the steps. I delicately step over the body of the man I seemingly once called brother.
Another warrior of the red wolf lies dead on the stairs, a small, slim spear in his belly. I step over his corpse, as the sword drags me to the top of the staircase. It pulls me faintly to the right, into a small bedroom.
The migraine intensifies, but I walk into the room. A sizable hole in the roof lets in the snow. Already a layer of the thick, white precipitation has covered the floor, bed, and two bodies. I see another soldier, impaled by a long, thin blade, feminine in design. He is half-buried by the snow, and bears the mark of the red wolf.
The second corpse appears to be a woman, but I cannot be sure because it is buried completely by snow and ice. My dead, grey hands dig the corpse out, and I roll it out into the middle of the floor.
My hungry gaze travels the length of her body. Her arms clutch a small baby, swaddled in rough woolen clothes, close to her curvaceous figure. Her skin is blue and flecked with snow and frost. Her once-beautiful blond hair has fallen in a brittle, frozen sheet to the floor below, and her lips, once red as blood, are now bluer that the fire of my sword. The baby’s face is frozen with ice and snow, its peaceful expression preserved forever by the wintry air.
All at once my memories come rushing back to me in one agonizing headache. The pain is unbearable, and the primal music roars and shrieks in mt mind. I remember the thrill of battle, slicing bodies with my blade, Dalgênor, and kicking their corpses out of my way. The smell of my wife’s hair, the feel of her warm, white skin. Discussing strategy with Gvalgo, and the long nights by the fire with him, reminiscing the tales of old. Rowing a boat with my kinsmen, feeling the brine on my cheek and smelling the scent of wet wood.
Riding into battle with my brother, the snow on my beard, holding Dalgênor aloft, screaming a triumphant battle cry.
Sailing to the eastern lands with my brother to bargain with the Elder Dragons.
Feeling this blade straight from hell pierce my chest, cleaving my soul in two, and forever burning away my will to live, as my brother abandons me to die.
I cry out to the gods and gather my wife and son in my cold, dead hands, weeping to the chilly morning air as the snow falls gently around me.