Author’s note: Following is the third and final part of my latest story detailing adventures shared by my most direct proxy character, Kronisk, and a character fielded by a nice lass I met on World Of Warcraft. If you wish to read the previous parts, you can find part one here and part two here.
In part one, Kronisk and Corrigwen have returned to Kali-Yuga about a month after having a wedding ceremony on Azeroth. It is brought to their attention that the new stock enemy on Kali-Yuga, the Overlanders, have taken to taking long-distance photographs of schoolchildren in the Ursine village.
Part two concerned itself with a protracted battle between Kronisk, Corrigwen, several friends from the Allied Realms, and a reconaissance party of Overlanders.
This part will be relatively quick, and concludes the story.
When Corrigwen opened her eyes again, she found herself in a place she had never been before. It had similar aesthetics to the insides of the tower in which the Council Of Spirit-Wielders gathered. Black walls with black trims held up black ceilings above black floors, with little lights here and there to keep people appraised of what direction they were going in. But unlike the warm, comforting glow of the Mage Council’s tower, this building had a pervasive smell and aura that disturbed Corrigwen a great deal. It felt as if people that the Council Of Spirit-Wielders really did not like were brought here to die, or much worse.
Following Kronisk past a few doors, Corrigwen found herself standing outside a large and ominous-looking door, facing Orveron. Orveron had just come out of the room to have a bite to eat and gather herself, she told the new arrivals. Passing Orveron and going into the room, Corrigwen gasped a little when she saw what was inside the room.
The room was essentially divided into two sections. Behind a glass wall, strapped into a large metallic chair, was one of the elite Overlander soldiers. From the distressed, anxious look on this woman’s face, Corrigwen could see that the Overlander knew what was going to happen.
And what did happen was difficult for Corrigwen to remain to see. As Himalataiel stood near a panel with a number of switches, Kronisk would speak in long, slow sentences to the Overlander, who would only identify herself as Evangeline. After speaking for a while, Kronisk would ask Evangeline a question concerning the nature of her mission, how she came to be on the Northern coast, and the people she reported to.
At first, the answers that Evangeline offered were offensive, evasive, or both. With every utterance of an unsatisfactory answer, Kronisk would nod or glance at Himalataiel, who would in turn activate one of the switches on the board. Corrigwen did not understand how the mechanics in the chair, the board, or what connected them worked. But she did see that after each evasive answer, when a switch was turned, Evangeline would scream and cry as if someone was cutting one of her limbs off.
For a few minutes, Evangeline‘s answers became more useful. She would offer a little fragment, often a very little one, of understanding concerning the arcane or totemic process by which she had come to be on the Northern shore. Her mission objective had been a very simple one, one that she did not mind volunteering once she became acutely aware of the consequences associated with not doing so. She had been asked to map the paths that led from her landing point to roads within the Northern sector of the Allied Realms.
But then Kronisk began to ask Evangeline questions concerning the size and strength of the forces he could expect to follow her. The Overlander probably had her reasons, but this line of questioning made her very evasive. When asked about how units of her kind, what Kronisk had begun to call something resembling Battle Mages, were organised, she simply would not answer.
This prompted more use of the machines, which of course prompted more screaming, panting, and crying from Evangeline. Corrigwen was about to ask whether the Overlander could see the people on the opposite side of the glass when one lengthy, intense burst of pain caused Evangeline to gasp and pant in a pain that, after a fashion, could be mistaken by an unknowing observer for sexual excitement. Corrigwen declared to Himalataiel and Kronisk that she was leaving, and began to do so.
What came out of Evangeline‘s mouth next stopped Corrigwen in her tracks, and visibly changed Kronisk’s expression. Kronisk‘s expression was a lot like the Dwarvish people he so revered. It had extremes, it had neutralities, and it had very little in between. So when Kronisk‘s face went from blank to angry in a split second, Corrigwen knew the word offended him just as much as it did her.
Thousands of years of loathing and fear of women who were comfortable with, and embracing of, their sexuality had formed this word. Jokingly, one band from Kronisk‘s home world used this word in a song about associating with a woman of less than puritanical outlook in a graveyard. Kronisk had shared this song with Dwarrow of what was a young generation a few decades ago, and one of their bands regularly performed it today. But without that joking, qualified context, no people of the Allied Realms, not even the Halflings whose elder generations had very restrictive views concerning what their daughters should be allowed to get up to, used it. And from the look on Kronisk‘s face, Corrigwen could see why. Hearing it uttered in this manner, and in reference to Corrigwen of all the people, brought anger to Kronisk like a Dwarf to gold.
Himalataiel was clearly not amused by what the Overlander had said, either. She took one look at Kronisk. Kronisk nodded at Himalataiel. Himalataiel left the control panel and gently patted Corrigwen on the shoulder. In Nagëlheim Elvish, Himalataiel told Corrigwen that they had best leave Kronisk with the prisoner. Together, they walked out of the room, out of the halls, out of the building, and into a frosted, covered yard.
As frosted flakes floated through the air, Himalataiel asked Corrigwen if she was alright. Corrigwen‘s response was affirmative, with the qualification that she was more than a little uncomfortable with the idea of her husband using such hideous, hurtful methods to extract information from enemy prisoners.
Himalataiel began with the preface that she was not going to use the standard bullshit line about how the enemy would do the same to them. It was understood to be a given. Instead, Himalataiel urged Corrigwen, think about the words from the Overlander that prompted Kronisk to ask them both to leave. And as Himalataiel said this, Corrigwen was sure she could hear words sung in the common speech, but with a thick Elvish accent, possibly Orveron‘s voice.
(Water gives a sigh.)
Then, a scream, a blood-curdling one, issued from within the bunker that Corrigwen had just left with Himalataiel. In spite of the bunker being insulated enough to withstand the heaviest weapons the Dwarrow could muster, and then some, Evangeline‘s scream of pain cut through the composites and metals, reaching Corrigwen and Himalataiel.
As Himalataiel continued to talk, Corrigwen listened to the air. Every handful of seconds, she would hear a soft, harmonious voice repeat that
(Water gives a sigh.)
with an ominous, wheezy, harmonious whine in the background. As this whining sound escalated and the voice became more insistent, a certain number of repetitions would be punctuated by a shriek of pain so powerful that even the avian creatures out her in the outdoors would turn their heads in an effort to discern the source. Then, for a minute or more, nothing was heard at all.
Himalataiel had just enough time to finish saying that Kronisk would not be doing these horrible things if the victim had not offended him enough through proxy of Corrigwen. Then, with the bunker’s main doors opening and letting out air, Kronisk emerged, ice sticking to the stubble on his jaw and head as he walked to Corrigwen.
“We need to convene the Council and the rulers of the Realms immediately,” Kronisk said to both Corrigwen and Himalataiel.
Weaving his hands about, Kronisk created a portal to the city of Nagëlheim. After Himalataiel stepped through it, he closed it and created another portal to the city of Arterclius. When Corrigwen stepped through, she felt the familiar rush of travelling more than a hundred miles in a matter of seconds. Emerging in Arterclius and taking Kronisk‘s hand as he emerged from his own portal, Corrigwen followed Kronisk‘s lead as he strolled gently but firmly in the direction of the government’s chambers.
“I know how angry you are at that woman,” Corrigwen said to Kronisk. “But you do not need to keep hurting people for every slight you perceive as being against me.”
“It is not just you,” Kronisk explained as they entered the commercial tier. “To hear any woman saying that is bad enough. But to know that this woman has no second thoughts about using a word of hatred towards another woman simply for her perceptions concerning that woman’s sexuality is abominable. It tells me that the society we call the Overlanders is a more disgusting one than we originally thought.”
At the edge of the Military tier, Corrigwen felt a surge of delight at being greeted by King Trór Gravewater and his constant companions, Queen Andaráwen and Captain Frár Orcshield. In hushed tones, Kronisk told this trio that he had priority one news for them.
The circular table at which the Generals who made the majority of Arterclius’ defensive decisions was so big that a whole regiment of Dwarrow could sit around it with a foot of clearance between them, and still have room for more. For the sake of clarity, Trór, Andaráwen, and Frár sat with Corrigwen at the edge of the table nearest the exit doors and the largest of the viewing screens. The screen was large enough that one could fit two of the form that Kronisk assumed on Azeroth into its vertical axis and still have space to spare.
On this screen, Kronisk showed his audience a detailed map of the Northern coast of the land mass that the Allied Realms formed a large part of. A handful of days by boat to the North was the coast of Ginnungagap, or the forbidden mass as some cartographers called it. The presence of research bases and landing points for flying machines put paid to that designation. But that was the unimportant point.
What was important, Kronisk told the audience, was that the Overlanders seemed to be experimenting with different means to transport forces to the ocean betwixt the Allied Realms and Ginnungagap. The land mass on which the Allied Realms sat really had no formal name because until the Overlanders had come, its peoples tended to regard it as the whole of their world. The Dwarrow used a phrase that had become the default amongst all of the Allied Realms’ peoples, even the Elves: Domi Nostrae. It literally translated into common speech as “our home”.
Between Ginnungagap and Domi Nostrae, according to Kronisk‘s calculations, the majority of current-generation seafaring vessels took slightly more than two days to cross the ocean. That left a small zone in which a transport vessel of some sort could, with the right amounts and kinds of arcane energies, be teleported undetected, make its way to the Northern shore, unload passengers, and leave.
Another possibility, a more challenging one, was that the Overlanders had set up some form of forward base in this zone. The logistical side of this operation was quite intense, requiring levels of engineering and scientific research that the Allied Realms had skirted around but not quite filled in as yet. The prisoner that Kronisk had interrogated in the Mage Council’s detention facility would not budge in terms of disclosing which of the two possibilities were true, which left a number of questions needing answers.
If the first possibility, that vessels were being teleported to this zone and sent to the coast for various purposes, was true, it posed a few questions. Whilst Mages on Kali-Yuga used teleportation for various purposes, they did so only when it was absolutely necessary. Teleportation posed scaling amounts of cost in energy terms, relative to the amount of matter being transported. Mages only teleported themselves and the people they needed to take with them because after a certain gross weight, the power required would exhaust even Kronisk‘s enormous reserves.
The other possibility, that some form of underwater base had been built in the zone, had its own problems. It would need a number of things to work. The structures within would require constant maintenance, and the ability to withstand a great deal of pressure. Dwarrow were generally averse to large quantities of water, but all at the table understood when Kronisk told them that for a base of this kind to have escaped detection for this long, it would need to be quite a distance under the surface. And the further beneath the surface any object went, the more pressure it needed to be able to withstand.
Vessels would also need to be able to go back and forth between this base and the nearest port that the Overlanders could send supplies from. Said vessels would need to be able to submerse themselves in the water and rise to the surface through the use of different kinds of propulsion. They would also need to be capable of withstanding the same kind of pressure as the base itself.
Kronisk proposed two actions based on the information he had. Surveying and reconnaissance flights should begin over the zone immediately. Kronisk had different kinds of photographic equipment that could achieve the aims desired. The pilots and crews did not need to know what the equipment was or how to maintain it. One of the gunners’ stations on the sides of transport flying machines could be modified easily to hold this equipment. All that the gunner needed to do was sit with the appropriate eyewear and a remote control, and knock themselves out taking as many exposures as they could of the area as the flying machines did laps over and around it.
Natural forces could also be recruited to aid in this mission, if the appropriate spirit-wielders consented. Kronisk did not know for certain, but he guessed that the enormous mammals in the oceans that could swallow a Mountain Troll would be happy to report the presence of any strange bodies in the waters they inhabited. Perhaps those creatures were already trying to do so.
Trór‘s orders to his Generals, as they would be relayed through Frár, were both simple and complex. Flights over the zone indicated would begin immediately. Newer flying machines with greater speed and flexibility of purpose would be used, but the agenda remained the same. Reconnoitre the zone with all available photographic and seismic survey equipment, report the results directly to both Kronisk and King Gravewater. A whole regiment of spirit-wielders from all of the Realms would go to the shores and attempt communication with any of the intelligent marine life, to see what these creatures could share in terms of knowledge. Kronisk would begin immediately perusing his database of spirit-wielders for the best available animal specialists.
Declaring the meeting adjourned, Trór asked Corrigwen to remain for a moment whilst Kronisk and Andaráwen went and had a discussion that the latter had wanted to initiate for some time. In Azerothian Dwarvish, Kronisk needlessly assured Corrigwen it would be perfectly alright before following Andaráwen out of the nearest doors into the adjacent hall.
“I have been wanting to talk to you about where you are from for a while, lass,” Trór said to Corrigwen when Kronisk and Andaráwen left the room.
Corrigwen decided to sit at the table. Fidgeting and mulling over what to say for a lengthy, awkward moment, she finally told Trór, “Much of that is a classified matter. Were you not a King, and easily my husband’s favourite of the lot at that, I would not be allowed to say any more.”
Taking a seat beside Frár, a few seats down from Corrigwen, Trór chuckled a little. In a soft, gentle manner, he said, “I know very little of where you are from. There would only be two explanations that are possible. One is that you are one of the people I sent away from this realm at the beginning of my reign. Given that I have only been a King for about half a century now, I doubt that is the case. You are too radically different in several important ways from my people.”
Corrigwen said nothing. Being Dwarvish herself, she knew that Trór was leading up to a point, and was only investing these words in order to make sure his point was properly understood.
“Another possibility that just occurred to me is that you are from one of the uncharted lands to the Southeast of here,” Trór continued. “The brat out in the hall took an expedition there some years ago. He did not report any Dwarvish folk to be there. He did, however, say that there were many Humanoids with darker skin. He brought back pictures that he took clandestinely. It is a puzzling thing to behold.”
“If this suspicion is based only on the fact that light does not reflect from me when I am in the sun, then you are dangerously close to being offensive, milord,” Corrigwen told Trór.
“Aye, I had a feeling you would say that,” Trór said after a quick chuckle. “Your beloved explained the real evolutionary reason such differences occur in present generations, one that I think you have heard him tell others before.”
Corrigwen had heard the standard accepted story about how living and dying in places of extreme heat or sunshine, or places where such elements were at a premium, for thousands of years had visible effects on descendants. She did not know what to make of such an idea, but she did know that if Kronisk repeated this explanation to people in power, it was extremely factual.
“That brings me to the possibility I believe to be correct,” said Trór. “That you are not from anywhere on Kali-Yuga, much like the apprentice Kronisk has that nobody can determine quite whether she is primarily an Elf, Human, or Halfling.”
“It is highly classified in spite of how obvious it is,” Corrigwen said to Trór after reminding herself that the Dwarf King was referring to Minílwen. “But that is the correct guess. My husband prefers to use the phrase ‘light years’ when describing how far away the place I am from is, but it is around a dozen of those away.”
“What is the place like?” Trór asked sincerely, apparently unaware that he suddenly sounded like a little boy speaking to someone who had come from a place he had always wanted to visit.
Maybe that was really how Trór was reacting, Corrigwen thought. She still knew very little concerning this peculiar world, but from the manner in which its peoples discussed cosmological matters, it was clear that travelling to other bodies in the universe was still a privilege that not even the Kings or Queens held.
“My husband told me once about a time when he came back to the place of his birth after being absent for ten years,” said Corrigwen. “He said that everything was exactly the same, yet everything had changed to some degree or another. That is what seeing Kali-Yuga again after a few months on Azeroth is like. I keep trying to reconcile the difference between what is really there, what I remember, and what I am used to.”
Trór‘s reaction was both comforting and puzzling to Corrigwen. He smiled as if he was comforted to know that something he had believed since he was an infant was really true.
“Thank you,” Trór said. “Let us go out to the hall and reassure both of our loved ones that we have not disappeared.”
Giggling, Corrigwen stood and followed Trór out into the hall. Much of what Kronisk had written about this Dwarvish King was surprisingly factual. He was noticeably taller and heavier than other Dwarrow. He was also slightly softer in face. And his presence was reassuring. One felt glad to be on his side.
In the hall, Kronisk was standing on the opposite side to Andaráwen, laughing as she finished telling him what Corrigwen imagined was a story concerning the goings-on in the Allied Realms.
(In Corrigwen‘s consciousness, Kronisk‘s voice lightly echoed that the (very slightly) elder of the twin children Andaráwen had with Trór, Rundin Stonehelm, was grumbling incessantly about how an Overlander had been apparently tortured to death without him having the opportunity to participate. Kronisk added a couple of remarks for clarification before the echo faded. One, Rundin‘s absence from the interrogation was the only reason the Overlander in question was not dead. Two, the Overlander was still within the bunker, very much alive and being tended to by a couple of Healers. What happened to this Overlander upon recovery would really be up to the Overlander.)
Turning to face Corrigwen and Trór, Kronisk smiled broadly at the two Dwarrow. It was always odd to see Kronisk smile regardless of which form he assumed. On Azeroth, he was taller, far softer in face, and a little more lightly built relative to his height. But regardless, when his face assumed an expression of delight, it looked so unnatural and learned that Corrigwen often had to remind herself that this was just the way Kronisk naturally was. Having to force a smile into his face was simply the way he had been for many long years before she had ever met him.
“Lady Andaráwen has told me that she would like our company at dinner this evening,” Kronisk said mainly to Corrigwen.
Yes, that really is the ending. I left it open-ended in nature for a reason. Specifically, I want some feedback from readers. Nothing too dramatic, just an answer or three to some questions. This is your chance to influence the direction that future stories in this canon take, so pay attention.
Specifically, what would you like to see in further stories? What do you like or dislike about this one? I have one concept for a new story that I am considering carefully, but I rarely plan that much.
In any event, I hope this work was worth the time and effort to read.