The Great Conflict, and the world, has ended. Magic is forbidden so that the world can heal. I believe it’s stolen your memories, too. Which is why you and I are keeping this journal. You, reading this tomorrow, and me, writing this today.
Remember this if you can:
Your name is Carth. You are a warrior, aged boy. You are in the service to the Warlord’s clan in his mission to restore order to the Realm. Ask daily for your payments. For an index of items, places, people and locations, refer to the scrolls next to this one.
* * *
It has come to my attention, Carth, that you do a lot of marching. Your legs feel sore right now, don’t they? Take comfort: I promise they’ll hurt worse tomorrow.
Today you marched through a strange place. Pebbles wormed their way into your sandals, but any time you stopped to try to remove them, others roughly shoved you forward.
You spent the whole day trapped inside a box of men, weary and footsore, trekking through red mists with flashes of glowing purple motes. You were told that the first battle in the Great Conflict began here. The one that ended the world and created the monsters you’ve joined the Warlord in hunting. Rocks bubbled and steamed in the heat heat, and the dirt and ground were fused with the outline of blades.
You marched down the length of a river, choked with magic as thick as molasses. The heat baked you so much you worried your cloak would be set alight.
Clarissant and Anthea have assured you that this isn’t the case.
You did not stop marching until you were on the other side of the field, beyond the boulders that let out wailing steam and beyond the far-off grass that braided itself. Near the evening it began to grow cold, and your box of warriors marched past mud pits filled with grasping hands with fingers broken at odd angles.
Things only got stranger from there: The molasses-thick river picked up speed, but the faster it went the more hands you saw rising up, holding candles that were not affected by winds; gullies and small ponds filled with faces smothered in lacquer masks. Toward the end of the field the grass turned to sand, and each step unearthed thousands upon thousands of burnt teeth and fangs and cracked, black jawbones.
As you crested a hill and cleared the field, a chill whispered down your back and I swear you felt a pair of eyes follow you. You told yourself not to question it. Never question what you see in the battlefields leftover from the Great Conflict.
* * *
That night you huddled into your cloak during the nighttime cold. You kept to yourself, watching various factions under the Warlord’s command speaking in various tongues that you couldn’t understand. As you listened, you gathered some names that these creatures used often to refer to themselves. It was as if they were one entity.
When you read this tomorrow, you should find a river just over the hill. You wondered if it had a name. Were you marching toward its source?
Where were you, anyway?
You decided to ask Anthea.
“On the road,” she grunted, which you understood well enough, but you could see that for yourself. It didn’t exactly answer where you were going.
You asked, and she told you that you were chasing a warband of monsters. You needed to intercept them before they found a colony of survivors.
The Warlord’s company tramps down the road for miles. Such a great gathering of folk, isn’t it? You wondered who could possibly oppose this force? Surely there can be no larger gathering of warriors.
You’ve got a long sword at your side. You don’t think you know how to use it, do you? Draw it out of its pouch. Feel that wood-and-leather handle? Feels like a handshake between old friends, right?
You’ll use that sword that kill the monsters. Folk say that creatures like them are mutants with large tusks and vomit-colored flesh.
And you’re all too eager to join the Warlord chasing them. Do you even remember why you’re fighting these thing?
I do. But by the time you read this, you won’t.
But you’ll take up arms against them, anyway, won’t you, Carth? Who knows—maybe victory will make the pain go away.
I know the answer.
You’ll have to find out.
Special thanks to my patron on Patreon, Alicia Cameron