Rift: Travels Through Telara
A new weekly series from Trion Worlds and Ten Ton Hammer featuring an exclusive look at the world of Telara, as seen through the eyes of one of its citizen scribes.
Greetings, people of Telara. If you are reading this then it means you are still alive. Congratulations. This is a Good Thing. (Although, I’m aware this last point is debatable, considering the mess our world currently finds itself in.) Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Padraic, and I am a Guardian scribe. Not overly impressive, I grant you, but the world needs scribes as much as it needs warriors. At least, that’s what I always told my father when he tried to force me to attend sword practice every day. As you well know, Telara is in a spot of apocalyptic bother at the moment, what with Regulos, a dragon lord from the Plane of Death, trying to break down the Ward that protects us from the six elemental planes. I know. A little bit upsetting, yes? All our living warriors have been called to arms, and even those who have died are being called back by the gods of the Vigil to fight against this evil. (Just so you know, I am not one of these Ascended beings; I’m just a citizen of Telara who has so far managed to survive the war.)
Speaking of little people, allow me to introduce my faithful companion, Bran. I know, I know. He’s not much to look at. Thin and pale. He looks as though a slight breeze might snap him in two. Very odd haircut, but that could be the fashion amongst the youngsters today, I don’t know. (Perhaps we will find out on our journey.) Bran will be my apprentice, carrying my supplies for me, making sure I have enough parchment and ink, that kind of thing.
At the moment he is staring vacantly into space. I prod him with my quill. “Say hello, Bran.”
Sigh. I should point out that Bran is not… how to put it politely, overly endowed in the brain department. But that’s fine. If I require stimulating conversation on our journeys, I will just talk to myself. I’ve done it before.
Today, Bran and I are visiting Tedeor Fields, the place where the final battle was fought against Aedraxis and he went ahead and opened up a Rift that allowed the power of Regulos to take over his body. We lost. Obviously. There’s not much you can do when the avatar of the God of Death makes its presence felt. Only days ago, the field was littered with thousands of bodies, but things are different now. The field of battle has become a makeshift camp. Tents have been pitched, cauldrons hang above cooking fires, giving off the aromas of meat and broth. (That reminds me, I haven’t eaten yet. Must remember to tell Bran to get us some food before we set off.) Newly Ascended heroes come and go on important errands, all of them contributing to the larger war effort. In the distance, I can hear the screams and shouts of the Ascended as they fight off the minions of Regulos.
A Living Legend
Cyril Kalmar’s life is already shrouded in legend and folklore. He seems to have been born as a fully-grown hero, a larger than life savior who the Mathosians embraced as a cul-tural icon. His exploits inspired bards to compose overly-long sonnets. The stories of his battles encouraged young men to take up a sword and join the army. He was a throw-back to the storybook heroes of ancient times, the perfect ideal of knightly virtue.
Except Cyril Kalmar is the real thing.
His exploits were already well known when Prince Zareph went to war against his brother, the usurper Aedraxis. Though Zareph knew Aedraxis was a dragon cultist, the Matho-sian people thought this was just a fight between siblings, something that would not involve them. Consequently, Zareph could not gain support for his fight against Aedraxis and he found himself besieged at what is now Shadefallen Keep in Gloamwood.
Everything looked bleak for Zareph. Aedraxis, surrounded by his dragon knight bodyguards and watching from a (rather cowardly) safe distance, ordered the final charge. He watched with mounting excitement as his men scaled the walls of the Keep. Soon, the crown would be his.
But then there was the sudden clash of steel from behind him. The screams of his men cut through the late summer afternoon. He turned and saw several of his dragon knights flying through the air to land, broken and bloodied, at his feet. Aedraxis looked on in horror and saw Cyril Kalmar himself framed against the lowering sun, his armor glinting red like a righteous omen of death. Kalmar raised his two-handed broadsword, calmly saluting the traitor-king. Then he launched himself straight into the center of Aedraxis’ body-guards, cutting his way toward the pretender.
The stories say fifty knights stood against him. Others say line upon line of dragon knights blocked his way, hundreds upon hundreds. Whatever the truth, Cyril Kalmar was vastly outnumbered, but he hacked his way through the bodyguards until none were left. Then he and Aedraxis fought one of the most terrible battles of all time. It was as if the very forces of good and evil faced each other upon the field of battle, and the prize was to be the souls of an entire world.
The songs say they fought for days in a colossal clash of power. Aedraxis couldn’t unleash his vile magic without forfeiting all claim to popular support, so he attempted to fight Cyril sword against sword. But Aedraxis was no match for Kalmar’s skills and he eventually realized he had no choice. Driven to desperation, he uttered a necromantic spell that melted the flesh from his mortal soldiers and brought them back to life. Then he set them on Kalmar and fled like a dog.
“Do you see?” shouted Cyril triumphantly to all those who were watching. “This is what we are fighting!”
Cyril stood atop a hillock, his armor now stained red with blood, as the undead creatures tightened their circle around him. But then Prince Zareph appeared, fighting his way through the hordes until he and Cyril stood back to back, the lone remnants of light on a battlefield given over to darkness.
None then doubted that Zareph was the true king, not with a folk hero like Cyril Kalmar fighting at his side. All Mathosia rejoiced, for with Cyril as his general, the prince would surely topple the newly revealed necromancer.
Unfortunately, this did not happen quickly. Civil war broke out, and when Aedraxis finally opened the rift at Tedeor Fields, Cyril Kalmar died with the rest of Zareph’s army.
But his story was not to end there, for the Vigil’s Messengers returned his spirit from the void and commanded him to lead an army of reborn heroes to help slay Aedraxis in his guise as Regulos’ avatar.
Cyril Kalmar accepted this wyrd.
I see Cyril Kalmar across the camp and approach him tentatively. The stories do not do him justice. A towering giant of a man, he wears thick plate mail that he carries as if it were cloth. He looks at me with eyes as dark as a summer storm and I finally muster up the courage to ask if all the stories about him are true.
“Yes,” he says. “They are.”
He says nothing more, but turns to a newly Ascended warrior to appoint him with a quest.
I feel hope. The fight goes on.