The sun is setting over Newerth, and some early snowflakes are falling on me as I write my final words down. My deathbed will be a floor of dirty, cold leaves covering the cold, dirty grounds of Caldavar. Here at the end of things I have but one hope; that someone receives this letter, my memoirs, as it were, that it is not destroyed by these mournful snowflakes that bears down on it as arrows raining down on the soft skin of men. I hope my words will survive me, maybe they will one day find the eyes of some young man with his head full of heroes and honor.
I was a soldier once, clad in armor and pride, but before that, I was a writer. Adkarna is a city that loves it's poets and bards, especially if they tell of bravery and glorious death. I wrote many a story about proud warriors cutting their way up to Maliken Grimm himself, and many a story about these same warriors dying in the embrace of fair maidens. Now that I am writing my own story, I find I fell to a maiden fair, and she did not embrace me.
At some point or the other, while writing these texts of heroism, I started believing what I wrote myself, even though I knew it was all fiction. I began to long for participating in these glorious scenes. It did not occur to me, although now I cannot imagine how, that all my stories ended in death. Death was to me nothing but an apt ending for a story, an ending which did not require me to write sequels. Only now am I finding out, that death is the opposite of everything.
Joining the Legion in Adkarna is easy, too easy, and without much thought I kissed my mother good-bye, shook my father's hand, hard, stole one last glance at the girl, Elizabeth, whom I imagined I would marry some day, and gave myself over to the great adventure. Training was short and hard. When they found no muscles on me they decided I was best fit to clean latrines “'til you get that soap-stinking smell outta ya”. In the Legion's latrines I learned that fair maidens were not brought on campaigns, and that Caldavar was a very long way from home.
For the life of me I cannot understand what there is in Caldavar worth fighting over. Some pine trees, a few acres of grass - crawling with monsters - and a river so contaminated even the flies stay clear of it. I am not so lucky, the flies are enjoying themselves in the pool of blood that's forming on my stomach, and I cannot spare the energy to wave them off, lest I will be unable to finish my life's work.
Within three turns of the moon we were given our first armor and our first orders. “March to Caldavar”, they said “Drive the demons back to Hell” they said. Before me marched two brothers who were of the mid-lane 1st company. William, a short but comely youth with a manner about as tame as that of the typical sheep, kept making praise to the Legion for our heavy armor,“We'll be invincible, and when we ride back victorious the sun will reflect in our shields, baffling everybody as if, as if, we'd been a million fireflies!”. Clerval, his brother, was far less convinced “Sure, they're pretty to the eye, but they weigh a ton and make marching a royal *****” the hard-clenched Clerval remarked. After half an hour of their pointless discussion I could stand it no longer and decided to give William a knock on his shoulder pad, denting it in doing so.
It was not until the third marching day that I caught sight of our commander. Ophelia, the famous princess war-maiden were announced by an increasing shushing sound among the men followed by an awful lot of shuffling in the lines. I had expected the beautiful silks of the wealthy ladies, with skin as white as milk. I could have accepted a girl all in mail, as us, bludgeoning her way past the soldiers. I was shocked when her presence revealed itself to me, only for a second, among the men. She was walking past, clad in nothing but a few pieces of leather, looking more like one of the cheap women wandering the streets of Adkarna then as a consort of kings. She eyed the lines of goggling soldiers with a dismal mine and strode quickly ahead. Behind her lumbered a huge cow-like creature on two legs. Clerval began explaining to anyone that would listen that princess Ophelia was famous for caring more about her cow-men than she had ever done for any real man, in fact, he had heard, she had cared about the cow-man all night! Only I saw the lieutenant making notes of the conversation. Last thing I heard, William got a tentacle hooked with sharp teeth through his stomach, and Clerval was found limp and cold at the shore of river Styx.
Our base camp was a sad story, a village consisting of houses too small to room a grown man and magical turrets which, although mighty at a distance, looked as if they could be chopped down by a proper axe. We spent the last days of summer in the village, inspecting the Hellbourne defenses, gathering supplies and setting up strategies. Many great operations were schemed, some said we should bravely storm the very heart of the enemy base with every man we got while other suggested a more devious tactic, striking key positions and then falling back behind our towers. Ultimately, Ophelia herself entered the meeting, and after taking a quick glance at the different suggestions, decided that we would meet the demons in small groups, releasing our strength slowly. The generals all looked horrified, but nodded their heads nonetheless.
On the 20th day in the camp every soldier was called to a gathering by the commander. We stood in strict lines in front of the holy World Tree, and before us came the five heroes that we were supposed to entrust our lives to. Ophelia had equipped a large staff, crowned with a rotting goat's head, and a ridiculous tiara of sorts, making her look even more the parody of royalty. Behind her walked an ape with a large wand, it's fur static with electricity and it's eyes dim and unconcerned. After him came the fearful Predator, all claws and snarls, and the Scout, who tended to flicker in and out of vision. Who would ever want to follow such into battle, I ask you. They did not even have names of their own, and in battle, one could any moment change faction, and the other would disappear at the first sight of danger. The Scout smiled a grim smile as he glanced at me, as if he had seen into my very mind.
Last of the champions came a slender woman, golden mail covering her young, strong body and a spear as thick as my arm rested in her hand. She smiled an angelic smile, and seemed to glow from within her very soul. I was struck by love from the moment I laid eyes on her. I forgot all about Elizabeth and all about the war. Having been enclosed with all these brutish men and this princess whom disgusted me for so long, I wanted nothing but to feel this angel's lips against mine, her body against mine... but Ophelia spoke up and my feelings were contaminated. Ophelia spoke:
“Fellow men, mer, Sol's chosen ones... This is the day that we take back Newerth” Was this love of body alone? my brain wondered. No, no, our souls are as one! my heart explained. “We will fight the demons in the fields, in the rivers and in the forests!” We will flee this hell and live our days together, and I shall be content, my heart shouted. She is a hero of the Legion, you are a latrine-cleaner of the Legion, she won't even look at you, my brain whispered. “Just as long as you, my men, keep pushing forward, all they put against you will be be nullified by Sol's might!” Ophelia cried, “Legion, are you...”. Our commander whirled around, annoyed, and stared at the Scout and the Predator, who were arguing violently, their dialogue hardly intelligible to me, as they spoke human language mixed up with strange, alien words. The Predator seemed to think that the Scout had joined the fight out of purely egocentric reasons and that the Predator would be unable to assemble any loot from the fight. The princess cursed and turned back, finishing her speech simply “Legion, onwards, to glory!” after which the gathering was swiftly disassembled. I stayed awake all that night, the night before the war to end all wars, thinking about how I could win the heart of my muse of war.
I had overheard the lieutenant speak of the bottom-lane as “lost, with only Valkyrie to defend it”, and understood that he was talking about my woman. I concluded that I would have to fight alongside her in order to win her respect and love, and thus changed name tags with a youngish fellow from the bottom-lane 3rd division, in exchange for a few of the gold coins that we were granted, curiously, after the gathering. Why we would receive payment before our job was done made little sense to me, especially since there was nothing to spend it on, but even so every soldier received some good 40 gold coins each.
I had barely time to arm myself before the sound of a mighty horn called forth the first groups of soldiers. It seemed to take days, though in reality it can't have been three hours, before my group was ushered onwards. After a short while I saw Valkyrie, my beloved, standing in the middle of the road and my lungs filled up on pride and joy. Behind her raged the battle, a huge wyrm was consuming the body of it's own ally, while a vile woman dressed all in spikes stood overlooking the demons. I was surprised to see my lady not joining the fight, and even more so when we reached her and she shouted “Halt!” and blocked our path. The man next to me screamed “Why? They need our help!” and my beloved answered with a crooked smile.
That instant the vile Hellbourne hero flew through the ranks of the allied soldiers in front of us, splashing their blood across the battlefield. I was aghast. Then there were no time for amazement, as suddenly a huge brute of a demon was charging towards me. His first strike blinded me with pain, his second made my head shriek but the third and the fourth I did not feel, but I noticed my sword slashing at the enemy even as my body was deaf and numb. Eventually the demon fell, and so did all the rest of them, leaving us to contemplate the battlefield. My two fellow soldiers were both dead, one with his head ripped off, and the other... the other with a spear, as thick as my arm, in his back. My eyes filled with blood and tears made out the silhouette of that hell-spawned angel whom I had adored so, and using my last strength I flung myself towards her.
Now I am lying here, a beautiful javelin nesting itself in my intestines, and the futility of this death, and this love appears to me. My battered hand has slaughtered demons, held a woman's hand, wrote masterpieces and yet this, this little piece of information will be it's legacy: Reader, the Legion is your doom. There, now, Death is done waiting.
- Victor Vicci