The Democratika

Full Version: Of Kings and Monsters
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This post was written in collaboration with Jokullheim.



The rich sound of singing rang through the factory, punctuated by the clank of hammers on steel and the hiss of boiling water. 

Clank. Hiss. Clank. Hiss. The imposing figure of the Oberjall loomed over the assembly line beneath him. “They are treated properly?”

“Of course sir!” said the greasy foreman next to him.

“I shall verify that myself.” the Oberjall went down the stairs that connected to the catwalk he was on to the factory floor below. He came up behind one of the workers and asked “Are you treated well brother?” the factory worker looked nervous at the sight of the foreman “Do not be afraid of this rat, brother. Speak truly.”

“No Oberjall, we are barely fed enough to survive, and the living complexes are drafty and cold, so many die in the winter of sickness and plague.” 

The Oberjall wheeled around and caught the foreman by the throat. “YOU LYING PIECE OF TERRAN SCUM!” The Oberjall snarled “I SHOULD KILL YOU HERE AND NOW!” 

“My lord?” The Priest of Eosken spoke up.

“Yes, Firey One?” 

“Maybe we should let The Lord of Flame sort him out?”

“Agreed, Holy Flame.” The Oberjall, still holding the foreman, walked back towards the catwalk and walked until he was above one of the vats of molten refuse. “Let the fire reclaim you, Heretic! Bask in the glow of Eosken, for you are impure.” He let go of the foreman’s throat and watched as he fell into the red-hot slag. “You!” he pointed at the worker with whom he had spoken” You are now foreman of this factory! We need these Panzers!” 




New Konigstadt
Candanadium

The Oberjall Erik Frostbjorn looked out of place In Magnarplatz Palace, the home of the Kings of Candanadium, even though he was wearing casual clothes instead of his ceremonial furs. A man of his build found it hard to blend in anywhere, and he looked especially out of place in the traditional Kanadiaans sitting room, with a spread of afternoon tea and biscuits laid out in front of him. The Oberjall’s back was as rigid as a board, though he sat on a richly upholstered lounge chair. He dwarfed even King Herman III, the newly coronated king in the west, who was dressed sharply in a light grey suit and cravat, reclining against the velvet cushions with his handleless teacup in his hand. However, upon hearing the tale, the King put down his cup of tea, took a deep breath, and leaned in to speak to the Oberjall.

 “You traveled across the continent to confess to murder? In the name of Eostre, no less. The First Flame would tell you that this is blasphemy.” The King spoke to his Jökullheime counterpart in the High Kaltach of their ancestors, which was still the auxiliary language between the various noble families of Kaltachia.

“Among other things, cousin.” The Oberjall stated in an icy manner. Though enmity between Candanadium and Jökullheim was a thing of the past, the men of the west had never seen their northern cousins as their true equals.

“And what would those things be?” The King returned the Oberjall’s icy glare. Unlike the kings of Candanadium, the Oberjall of Jökullheim was not a hereditary position. Any man of Jökullheim could challenge a living Oberjall for his position, who would be compelled to fight to the death to maintain his honor.

“The stateless lands, or at least the peninsula, belong to Jökullheim, whether they agree or not, and I need your assistance in reclaiming them. They… are being funded by Terran intelligence agencies and my soldiers cannot stand against them.”  

“History has taught us more than a few lessons about expansion.” The King took another sip of his tea and gestured to the traditional Candanadian stained glass windows next to them, depicting the famed duel between King Hans the Great and the enterprising Oberjall, Aljax. “Military affairs are hardly my area of expertise, but there has been no evidence suggesting that the Terrans, as cursed as they may be, are meddling in the affairs of greater Kaltachia. Of course, I can instruct the Chancellor and the Royal Intelligence Service to look into the matter, but I am told they are currently quite occupied.”

“They killed 15 Candanadian nationals in a bombing of the only international airport in the country, crippling our industry and acting unusually aggressive and well organized for lawless manneskjansemhefurskarpayktafrotnumfiski(roughly translates to toothless-bunnies-that-have-no-personal-hygiene-and-thus-smell-of-fish)!” 

The King did not understand the Oberjall’s last comment, but did not care enough to reply. “I have heard of the incident, yes. We have made a condemnation of the event and increased long-range ranger patrols in stateless territory, but we cannot pin the attack on one particular city or settlement. As despicable as this act may be, this does not give us cause to aid in your expansion. If anything, it proves how ineffectual Jökullheime administration is.”

“We have suffered under the Greatsword Treaty, and therefore cannot defend ourselves!” The Oberjall roared. “We cannot have more than a thousand standing troops, and we are always thirty years behind in technology, and some of my troops are still equipped with axes for Eosken’s sake!“ The Oberjall was referring to the treaty that Hans the Great forced upon the remaining Jökullheime chiefs after decapitating Aljax.

“A two century old treaty that has not been enforced since the end of the Belkhomirian War. Jökullheim’s current faults are entirely its own. If I recall correctly, we increased the amount of aid, both financial and material, to Jökullheim at the last Kaltach Union congress, at your request no less. While the rest of Kaltachia has liberalized, industrialized, and progressed, Jökullheim has been stuck in the past. You are afforded all the privileges of a regular Kaltach nation, but Jökullheim can hardly progress when its young men are preoccupied with killing each other over the title of chief rather than doing a day of honest work. I apologize for my harsh words, cousin, but it is the unpleasant truth.”

“You speak truth Cousin, I have let my emotions rear their ugly head once more and spoiled our pleasant conversation.” The Oberjall paused, his hand drifting to the hilt of his ax. ”Do you hear that cousin?”
 
“It is not a very wise move to threaten the King of Candanadium in his own home.”

“No, thought I heard something.” the Oberjall relaxed “Once a fighter, always a fighter.”

“The Household Guard of Candanadium are quite capable in their duties. You will find no danger here. I know that the Jökullheime take great pride in their hardiness, but in the west, we have abandoned the tribal ways for civilization and progress. I would think it wise for Jökullheim to do the same.”

“I agree Cousin, I shall try to move forward, but it may take the other chiefs some convincing.”
The Oberjall looked at his phone then back at the king. “Your hospitality is much-appreciated Cousin, Alas, I must be going now.” the Oberjall stood, and then looked as if he had forgotten to do something, and just then remembered.

“Cousin, I have a gift for you.” the Oberjall produced something from his bag. It was a flash drive, labeled in High Kaltach as Projekt Wendigo.  

“I should remind you that the Chancellor is responsible for all affairs of state. You would be better off meeting with him instead.”

“Yes, but you are kin, he is not.”

“You may share with him anything you share with me. Kinship or not, he represents the Volk of Candanadium.”

“Cousin, this contains a cultural discovery that would invalidate the feudal ways of my people. We found the tomb, the tomb of Eosken himself!” 

“The tomb of Eostre? Do not blaspheme, Oberjall. The Book of Flame teaches us that Eostre appeared in the flesh only thrice, to King Wilhelmus to lead him to Great Kaltachia. He never walked the earth of Kaltachia.”

“I believe the records are wrong, Eosken was the guiding flame, the light who brought us to the wastes along with his sister. He was a man, yes, but now he is a god.” The Oberjall produced a copy of Of Forge and Frost, the holy book of Jökullhiem.

“It seems to me that this matter is better discussed with the First Flame and the Sisters of Our Lady.” In the Kanadiaans version of Eostrism, the Book of Flame was the sole holy text, with the Jökullheime texts being viewed as only guiding documents and often criticized by Candanadian priests.

“That is true cousin, but the flame burns bright no matter what angle you view it from, no? Eosken was buried in a silver casket wrapped in red-hot chains, placed in a palace made of obsidian and gold. We have found all of that!” 

The King sighed, for he had forgotten how religious the Kaltach of the north could be. “Perhaps the tomb of some early saint or martyr of the faith. Given the proximity to the old Kaltach lands, it would not be unheard of. I’m sure the Ministry of Candanadian Heritage and the Church of Eostre would not hesitate to fund an archaeological expedition to the site you speak of.”

The Oberjall brightened. “Much appreciated cousin! Maybe we can finally discover the cause of the fall of Old Kaltachia.”  

“I shall bring this up with the Minister of Candanadian Heritage at the next Privy Council meeting. Would you like me to arrange a press conference as well? Jökullheim would be in the spotlight once the Candanadian media caught wind of this development. It may even do something for your tourism industry”

“Thank you again, cousin, may you rule for many years.” 

“Long may we reign.” The King finished his tea. “Would you join us for dinner?”

“As much as I love your chef’s cooking I must be going now, regretfully my father has decided to die on me, even though he was on life support.”

Ach, forgive me, I had no idea. My deepest condolences, and I wish you a safe journey home.” The King opened the door to the sitting room for the Oberjall, the two guards outside saluting as the hulking man turned to walk away. Another guard led the Oberjall through the winding corridors to the back courtyard, where a group of Household Guards in their traditional spiked helmets and sabres were practicing drill. He walked through the courtyard, through the gardens, and to the rear gate, where a driver awaited him.

The Oberjall got in his transport, and was driven away. The king was about to turn away from the window when a massive explosion lit up the night sky. The Oberjall was dead. 




Brukallhide
Jökullheim

Even in Jökullheim, the Royal Broadcasting Service could be received loud and clear. Jökullheim had no need for a television station, let alone an external public broadcaster,  when barely any of its 200 000 residents had access to electricity. The longhall of the Council of the Chiefs of Jökullheim, however, did have a television, wheeled in on a pushcart and plugged into a diesel generator in the corner, which was chugging away loudly and producing a foul black smoke. The chiefs enjoyed other modern comforts, such as a telephone and a functioning toilet in a chamber in the corner, unthinkable to the average Jökullheimer.

Gueten Morgen. Good morning. The Oberjall of Jökullheim was killed last night on his way to the airport after speaking with His Majesty the King, when his personal vehicle exploded due to what has currently been ruled an engine failure. The Royal New Konigstadt Constabulary has begun an investigation into the death. His Majesty the King refused to comment on the content of his discussion with the Oberjall, but an emergency meeting of the Chiefs of Jökullheim has been called to address the issue-” the TV clicked off.

“My fellow Kaltachians! We are here to discuss the passing of Erik, Oberjall of Jökullheim, and the rebirth of Jökullheim itself!” There were murmurs among the gathered chiefs, among them the Candanadian ambassador, who could not look more out of place dressed in the traditional Kanadiaans military costume of high leather boots, double-breasted coat, sabre, and pickelhaube. As an ambassador for the King of Candanadium, Prince Gerhardt von Magnar would have to sit on the Council of the Chiefs of Jökullheim, as the King of Candanadium had been made an honourary chief voluntarily by the Jökullheime following the death of Aljax, impressed by Hans the Great’s martial prowess. King Richard had taken his duties as honourary chief very seriously and thought that appointing anyone less than a member of the House of Magnar would be an insult to the honour of the proud Jökullheime, and King Herman had not thought to undo his father,  which is why he sent his own cousin to the frozen north with a letter of credence bearing the crowned tri-maple. Though Prince Gerhardt spoke Trefjalli, the Jökullheime dialect was about as far removed from Trefjalli as one could get, and he had to strain himself to follow along with the meeting. The portly man dressed in the traditional furs of Jökullheim who had called the meeting to order carried on.

“My late cousin Erik was a man of ambition and capability, traits that are often separate. Before he died he gave me this: an almost complete map to what he called the ‘Tomb of Eosken’, leading me to ask of you, as a leader and a kinsman, to help finish what he started, and solve the broken puzzle that is our past!” The chamber broke into cries of approval as fists and drinking horns slammed onto the oaken table. Axes were drawn and filled the air as the gathered chiefs took up a chant that the prince couldn’t quite make out, but he drew his sabre nonetheless, out of respect. The large man at the front of the earthen hall pounded the table and gestured for the chiefs to come to order.

“Eosken is the lord of forge and flame, but he also brought our brothers, the Kanadiaans, to their homeland, under a different name: Eostre.” This piqued the ambassador’s attention. He personally had never read the Jökulheime holy texts, but he was certain that they did not mention Eostre guiding the Kanadiaans to Candanadium. He had thought that was exclusive to the Book of Flame. “He left our homeland to save our brothers from the maw of darkness, but in saving them, he himself fell to its heavy claws.” All of the chiefs bowed their heads in remembrance.

“My lords, the Book of Flame teaches us that Eostre lives. He lives as long as our sacred flames burn from the steeples of our churches and within our hearts. As for this grave, let us discuss it further once it has been properly examined by the relevant experts.” The prince felt that he needed to speak up before the chiefs took any drastic actions.

“The Prince speaks truth, my lords.” The priest of the twin gods spoke for the first time, his voice muffled slightly by his iron mask. “Eosken lives as a god, but his mortal form was slain that day.” That was not the official line of the Priests of Candanadium, but the prince was satisfied. He nodded to the masked priest in gratitude. In Candanadium, priests of the Lord of Flame simply wore robes of red and a necklace with Eostre’s sigil, but it seemed that there was a practical need for armour in Jökullheim. After all, when every man carries an axe, it is only natural to be prepared.

“Nevertheless, even if it is not the Tomb of Eosken, it is part of Jökullheime and Kaltach history and should be recovered.” The chief who has called the meeting pronounced. “In light of the death of Erik, a new Oberjall must be pronounced. However, instead of single combat, we should elect our new leader through this council.” Murmurs rose.  “We cannot afford the loss of another chief, therefore we should choose one outside of the council who would answer to the council.” He said, cutting off protests. “We should take this opportunity to move forward, not digress into barbarism!” 

“Hear, hear!” The prince yelled over the angry Jökullheimers. The axes hadn’t come out yet, but tempers were flaring. The King had told him that the late Oberjall had agreed that Jökullheim must liberalize and progress, but being unfamiliar with Jökullheime culture, he had not expected opposition. The prince, however, knew from experience that change was slow to come to the northeastern corner of Kaltachia, where the men were as hard as the iron they forged.



Epilogue
Rural Jökullheim

The tundra was an endless expanse that stretched as far as the eye can see. The wind was like daggers, and his military-issue parka did not shield him from it, chilling him to the bone. Their helicopter was an hour out of Brukallhide, the capital city of Jökullheim, but to him, it seemed more like a provincial town in the north of Oseania, like Magerberg or Thüleberg. Professor Joseph Claus-Webber was not a man who enjoyed the countryside or the wilderness. He was quite content with his life in downtown Port Newcastle, enjoying the hustle and bustle of Oseania’s largest city and teaching at the central campus of the University of Port Newcastle. He was one of the leading experts in Candanadium and around the world on ancient Kaltach history and traditions, specializing in Trefjalli mythology. So when a former colleague offered him a place on the expedition to the supposed Tomb of Eostre, as claimed by the Jökullheime, he simply could not say no. He was no stranger to Jökullheim, having taught a semester in Brukallhide, but he was not a fan of the lack of modern comforts, and he had found it hard to get around with the bit of heavily Oseanian accented Trefjalli he had. In fact, he had found that he sometimes had a better time being understood in Proto-Trefjalli than standard Trefjalli. He had spent some time in Trefjall in the 70s, and could not help but notice how similar modern-day Jökullheim was to the suburban Hofn or Akranes of that era. 

The professor rubbed his gloved hands together to bring some feeling back into his fingertips. One of the rangers sitting by the door poured him a paper cup of hot tea from the insulated thermos he had strapped to his side, which replaced his regular canteen. The professor pulled down his scarf to sip at the now lukewarm beverage, a welcome relief from the biting cold all around. Though they were riding in an enclosed transport helicopter of the Royal Candanadian Air Force and not an open-door attack helicopter of the army, there was little heat inside the cabin and the roar of the blades and the whistle of the wind drowned out any attempt at conversation. They were a small band of scholars, professors, and archaeologists from around Kaltachia, eight in total, guarded by a ten-man squadron of Candanadian Rangers from the joint Kaltach Union military base in Brukallhide and a local Jökullheime guide.

“How in god’s good name the Jökullheimers survived in this inhospitable wasteland is beyond me!” A man exclaimed in Oseanian, presumably for the benefit of the large party of Candanadians. He was a portly, stout man from Trefjall, who had emigrated to Canadanadium in the 90s following the fall of the TNF regime and the country’s liberalization. The professor could not recall his name, his age beginning to wear down his memory, but he knew that he was also a cultural expert on the Jökullheime, having met him at a conference in Klettastrond or Fort Trefton a few years ago. Joseph had learned, or rather re-learned, all of this during the eight hour plane ride from Port Newcastle, the man loudly grumbling all the way about how absolutely confusing the airport’s layout was, how dreadful it was that he had to change planes in Port Newcastle and not fly directly from his hometown of Selfoss, how cramped the seats were, and how bad the food was. Joseph had wanted to tell the man to shut up on multiple occasions, but in the end common sense had prevailed.

“Less than a click from our destination. We’re here.” the pilot spoke for the second time, startling everyone but the rangers, who had headsets connected to the pilots’ microphones. Joseph had thought that the rangers had looked terribly amusing with their traditional bush hats worn over their wooly toques, but when he asked one of the rangers about it, he had learned that the bush hat was a ranger’s pride, and that rangers must always wear their bush hats in the field, regardless of conditions or practicality. The tradition supposedly started with the Caskhomirian Rangers, who were the precursors to the Candanadian Rangers, but nobody knew the exact reason why.
 
“Beginning descent.” The other pilot came over the intercom. The whirr of the great rotor blades began to slow as the helicopter moved closer to the frozen earth. Joseph heard a great clunk, and then the rotors were still. The rangers slid the two doors on either side of the cabin open and hopped out, prompting the researchers to do the same, grabbing for their heavy packs and equipment. Everything and everyone was unloaded in less than five minutes, and a ranger gave a thumbs-up to one of the pilots, who saluted him and started up the engines again, the rotor blades spinning faster and faster until the helicopter was nowhere to be seen.

“The chopper is heading back to Brukallhide to refuel and resupply. They’ll be back in six hours. We’re by ourselves until then.” One of the rangers yelled to the gathered group as the helicopter ascended. The rangers had slung their service rifles in front of their chests. Unlike the regular force, they used the older semiautomatic C53 rifles, not the modern select-fire C70, as the C53 was known for being more rugged and reliable in the wild, a tale that was told by many who served in the Tara Insurgencies and the Second Crisis. “The site itself should be less than twenty metres away from here, if…” The professor heard none of this as he absorbed the majesty of the two obsidian and gold doors in front of him. “Gods be good… This is it. The mausoleum.” He squinted at the inscriptions through his snow goggles. “Are those… Old Kaltach runes?”

“Yes, it must be.” Another researcher came up next to him. “Ehwaz, Ansuz, Berkanan, Mannaz, Wunjo. Greeting to all those who come, in the name of Eostre.” He placed a hand on the door. Another researcher produced a camera and began rapidly taking pictures of the doors. 

“Look! Beneath them! Trefjalli!” The man with the camera pointed out. Joseph squinted harder.

“Trefjalli, yes, but also written with Old Kaltach runes. Proto-Trefjalli, by my reckoning.” Joseph examined the inscriptions harder. “No…” This was not the Proto-Trefjalli he had studied during his time at university. “It’s something else. Something older, perhaps.” He motioned for the man with the camera to get a picture of the Trefjalli inscriptions. “It seems to be a direct translation of the High Kaltach text above. Does anyone speak High Kaltach? Presumably the original variety?”

“I do.” The portly Trefjalli man from the plane stepped up. He gazed upon the words. “Greeting to all those who come in the name of Eostre and his Lady, our Master and Mistress of Fire and Earth. Here lies a man most honourable and pious, most venerable and mighty. Peaceful may he rest, for valiantly he fought.” He managed. “The rest is too weathered to make out, but this is in incredible condition. Judging by the style and spelling this dates back to the 11th century, maybe earlier.”

“Eostre and his Lady?” 

“The Mistress of the Wastes, Eosken’s sister.” The guide spoke in heavily accented Oseanian.”She is the one, who in her grief, froze over Jökullheim.” 

“Yes, yes, I see.” Joseph had remembered this quirk of Jökullheime Eostrism from his time in Brukallhide. “Shall we carry on then? It seems that most of the structure is subterranean.”

“We’ll lead the way.” The seniormost ranger offered. He pushed against the doors, and when he saw that it would not give, called for a crowbar. He worked the tool between the two doors until a great chunk of ice gave way, then opened the door with a kick, to the protest of the gathered academics. The rangers went in, rifles at the ready, with the Jökullheime guide and his hunting rifle bringing up the rear. The researchers were armed with high-powered flashlights.

The doors gave way to a cavernous hallway, with a set of ruined stairs at the end, the cobblestones loosened and the steps worn down with age. Icicles drooped from the frost-covered ceiling, which was once adorned with carvings and inscriptions. The staircase descended further down than Joseph anticipated, but eventually, it gave way to a central chamber. The rangers lined up against the earthen walls and put away their rifles, now that it was clear that the mausoleum was safe.

Flashlight beams revealed the centerpiece of the room, a raised platform with a heavy silver casket on top, covered in runic writing and prayers. The casket lid was bound in place by golden chains, dusty but largely undamaged. 

“Bound in chains. We are, I presume, all aware of what this implies, in the Kaltach custom?” one of the scientists broke the silence that had settled over the room.

“Confined to the underworld, never to return. A damnation, but also a possible blessing.” Joseph added. “I guess we will learn which it is.” He gestured for the crowbar.

“A moment.” A man with a heavy Kanadiaans accent interjected. “I feel it is appropriate to first ask Eostre for guidance and forgiveness.” He turned to one of the rangers. “Chaplain. Would you lead us in prayer?” Joseph had just noticed the small flame emblem above the ranger’s three chevrons, which denoted him as a sergeant but also a chaplain of the Eostrist faith. His age truly was weathering down his nerves.

“Yes, I feel it is appropriate.” The chaplain held out his hands and the Kanadiaans rangers and researchers bowed their heads. “Heilige Eostre, we ask for your flame to light our way on this expedition and to guide us to knowledge and wisdom. Deliver us from evil and shield us against those who would do us harm. We seek not to bring down upon us your wrath. Shield your servants, O lord, and lead us to the wisdom we seek, for we pursue this in the name of the Volk of Kaltachia, our Volk, and your chosen Volk. Let it be done.”

“Let it be done”. They echoed. Joseph whispered a prayer to the Oseanian gods, as far away as they may be, and he noticed the Trefjalli man do the same but to the gods of Trefjall.

The Jökullheime guide had taken out his axe and was kneeling after orienting himself towards the Isle of Kaltach, as is the way of his people. After a brief prayer, he was up again. The ranger who had opened the door handed the crowbar to the chaplain, who first broke the chains that held the sarcophagus closed, then wedged it under the lid, wiggling it around to dislodge any ice or frost holding it in place. Another ranger on the opposite side began sliding off the lid of the sarcophagus, as another ranger rushed to help him. Soon, they were able to slide it off entirely and placed the lid on the ground. The flashlight beams were now all on the contents of the sarcophagus.

The skeleton of a man who easily would have breached seven feet in life stared back at them, wearing almost perfectly preserved half-plate, half fur armor. He had a gilded crown of gold and bone on his head, and he clutched a huge greatsword in his boney grasp. He wore a necklace with a golden flame pendant, marking him as a follower of Eostre. There was an iron mask over his face, not unlike the flame priests’ traditional garb. Tablets of stone lined the inside of the sarcophagus, each filled with inscriptions and diagrams. 

The silence was broken by the guide swearing in his native tongue. He had leaned too hard against an ancient wall and revealed an antechamber of some kind, the earth crumbling at his feet. The rangers jumped and grabbed for their rifles once more, but the sight that lay before them was something even more surprising than the contents of the sarcophagus. The guide stood at the entrance to an offshoot chamber, containing axes, swords, shields, bows, even a massive longship that must have been constructed on-site, as it could not have possibly fit through the doors in its current state. 

“This is incredible! This must be the most well-preserved Trefjalli longship we’ve discovered to date!” Joseph exclaimed, pushing past the small crowd to examine the ship.

“What’s that behind it? There’s a banner of some kind on the wall. Can I get a light?” A dozen flashlights were now trained on the wall.

“The blue eagle. The traditional Kaltach sigil, quartered with…” There was another device that Joseph couldn’t quite make out.

“The wounded eagle. The sigil of the Kanadiaans, before Wilhelmus. This means our gargantuan friend was Kanadiaans, but more importantly, he led joint Kaltach armies into battle.” The Trefjalli man gestured to the wide assortment of weapons. “These will have to be loaded up into the chopper and catalogued.”

“What about the contents of the sarcophagus and the bones?” One of the researchers had picked up one of the stone tablets and held it up for all to see. “This seems to be some kind of schematic. Look, there’s a diagram of some sort of mechanical contraption.”

“The tablets we’ll bring back, along with any other material with runic texts on them. The bones we’ll leave here for now, out of respect. How feasible would it be to establish a camp here?” Joseph turned to one of the rangers.

“With the current amount of supplies from the base in Brukallhide, not very feasible. I’ll put in a request with my superiors to bring in supplies from Welka or maybe Belkhomir.”

“I suppose all we shall do now is wait and get some of these inscriptions translated. Do you have any more of that tea, ranger?” And the ranger poured him another cup of the dark tea as Joseph took one of the stone tablets and focused his flashlight beam on it. This was bound to be a long expedition.


~END~