Part 1 Prologue
Compendium of Chad
Scouting Team Six
Chapter: Play Something Games, Win Something Prizes
“What the fuck was that?” John bemoaned while Elissa bandaged his hand.
“I don’t really know at this point…idiocy? Insanity? Does it matter? Should probably sterilize that wound, though.”
“Fuck off, Hulk; there is no need for distilled alcohol for this wound.” Elissa brooked no bullshit from the diminutive Mage. “Any wound from an artifact of the Undead requires far stronger than mere alcohol.”
“Eh, worth trying,” the robed man moved ahead of the two in the dying light, “at least the dumb cunt didn’t throw it too hard.”
With John firmly ensconced in Elissa’s care, Gerard took it upon himself to throw a rock at Hulk. “OW!” With the target hit and work to be done, Gerard took stock of the situation.
“Stop it. Investigate the artifact and note anything of worth. Elissa, how long will it take to heal? Do we need to return to the city for supplies?” Gerard’s unyielding and frosted tone put a decisive end to further silliness.
“Didn’t go deep, so a few days, at worst…which is most of the time with you lot.” Taking the opportunity to add her own minor gripe where she could.
“No supplies needed,” she continued, “but I will have to perform a Divine Healing spell at least every few hours, please, no heroics.”
“Thank you, Elissa, and fuck you, Hulk,” John added.
Gerard took a closer look at the wound before marching in his usual manner upwards to Hulk.
“And?” not bothering to prompt the man, knowing from experience that any information would be forthcoming, helpful or not.
“A fractalized Obsidian razor-edged sphere, artisan work at the least…” Hulk started, not turning from inspecting the black object where it lay, bits of John’s hand attached and all. “Also, John needs to eat more red meat; this much blood loss at his age isn’t healthy, ya know?”
“Losing half your hand isn’t an AGE-related medical issue, Hulk, for fucks sake,” exasperated Gerard, turning back to Elissa for confirmation.
“What IS it? What do you KNOW about it?” Gerard continued, as it appeared to be one of those rare moments Hulk wasn’t useless.
“IT is a device highly capable of hurting DUMB people. More than that, though, it also has a pretty wicked spell for exsanguination via a million cuts engraved on it. Well…on, in, above, in the general area of what may be considered the entity known as IT has a spell of truly deviant nature. That’s probably why John picked it up; he could never resist those kinda things, ya know.”
“I don’t know and have zero plans of knowing about anything in that regard, Hulk. What else? It doesn’t look like any of the last artifacts. Also, clarify wicked.”
“Again, get fucked.” John tacked on, refusing to engage in a nonsensical argument.
"So you know those spells that you can get engraved on reallllllly nasty daggers? Like, the ones that go in, up, twist it all about?
Lots of blood and all that? Scale that up a bit, and you have that." the Mage drawled out, kicking the fist-sized sphere a few feet.
“OUCH! Fuck seriously? That was meant to be a Mithral weave tip boot. Cheap arse merchant.” Hulk continued, waving the remains of his boot and a grazed foot at the rest of the party.
“Spells ON spells, ON Enchantments…damn…that’s a number,” he said, finishing his thoughts aloud.
“Record it, tag, and bag it; you know the drill,” Gerard ordered, unwilling to risk further items or welfare on testing the object personally.
“Sure thing, Boss,” Hulk replied, more than happy to get a closer look.
The Obsidian had been carved to reflect light in off itself to create a spell of bloodletting from an object with zero noticeable way to ‘hold’ the magic that powered it.
Devious indeed, but the lab would be the ones to further probe its mysteries. Gerard and his team were on a mission, and strange artifacts were not on the Tier One priorities list.
It may be helpful; it may be nothing more than a curiosity… it just was not his purview; finding the last item on the Emperor’s list, however, most clearly was.
Order of Brilliance Archives
Lost Order of Chad
Scouting Team Six
Prologue Part Two
“Thank the Divines, should be a village up ahead, I can smell some roast pork” Hulk exclaimed with relief and an overly exaggerated sniff, “a good barbeque and some beer will be a welcome relief!”
Gerard took a moment to pull out his map.
“No beer… we aren’t stopping for rest tonight. We resupply and move out to the Dukes, it’s only a few hours trek from here.” as an afterthought, to keep the Mage happy, he added, “You can pester the Duke for a drink then, I am sure he will oblige.”
“Good enough for me, hope he’s not one of them wine drinkers,” replied Hulk, with a slightly sour look on his face.
“Pft…like that has ever stopped you.” Elissa pointed out whilst jostling in front of him, “Yep, definitely something burning up about two or three kilometers over the ridge.” Her sharp eyes could discern the smoke against the snow.
“Well, lead the way” Gerard dropped back to allow Elissa to take point traversing the snowy woodlands. “John, how’s the foot coming along?”
“Fine thank you ser!” John snapped out, a little too sharply, pain clear in his voice.
“Alright, maybe we can get a healing salve at the Village” Gerard was clearly unconvinced.
“No! No! I’m good to go Ser!” the last thing John wanted was some Village concoction on his foot, as a Disciple, cultivating pain is the way for gains. “As soon as we get to the Dukes, I will ask his Court Mage to take a look.”
“Good man.” Gerard nodded, to cultivate pain was one thing, but to risk permanent injury is a grievous danger. “Hut, let’s move”
Trudging through the snow built up further towards the ridge, Gerard’s sensed a deep evil and sharply whistled the immediate halt signal. The group near-instantly assembled from their respective roles on patrol, concern on their faces.
“You feel that John?” he probed his Disciple.
“Ahhh….maybe?” John answered hesitantly.
“Focus. Listen. Do you hear any of the usual hubbubs of a Village?”
“Ser, I can’t hear anything,” John muttered a bit dejectedly.
“Exactly you idiot, that is what I was saying. Gods above, how many rocks did you break with your head during initiation…” Gerard teased, but his heart wasn’t in it, taking a moment to still himself he turned to Elissa.
“Head up to the top of that tree and see if you can spot anything amiss”
Elissa nodded in affirmation and whispered up the tree. Minutes later, she returned with a near emerald-colored face.
“That isn’t pork you smell Hulk…the…the Villagers…oh god” and promptly vomited over Gerard’s shoes.
After a moment of respite and a swig of brandy Gerard had demanded from a confused Hulk, Elissa could finish her sentence.
“Dead…they’re all dead. But not dead. There is no way they can be alive, and if they are, then we need to kill them immediately, I saw some people waving frantically up high on the Temple roof, yet many more…things surrounding the Temple itself. I know not what I saw, only that we should consider calling for backup.”
Gerard took her words in pensively and steeled his resolve.
“No backup, we do not have the time. If there are Citizens alive and in danger, our duty is to them first.”
The team looked mildly shocked, it was unusual for the Brother to take risks, but they could not deny the duty that he held.
“Prepare yourselves, what Elissa has seen is not what has bothered me so.”
Hulk and his favourite Rum
As the team summited the ridge overlooking the village, the devastation became clear to them all.
Rotting corpses and skeletal figures were swarming the Temple, its meager Divine protections providing a temporary respite, but there was only so much that any enchantment of the Order of Protection could take.
A horde of near hundreds of assorted zombies and homunculi of stitched-together body parts was clearly more than just the village’s inhabitants, it should have been home to fifty or sixty people tops this far north. Graveyard’s worth of bodies filled the village square.
“Undead…but more than that…I haven’t fought one since I was a Disciple, yet I never saw creations such as these” admitted Gerard “This speaks of foul necromancy, be alert, there may be a Lich or dark arts Mage behind this.”
“How can the four of us face that!” Elissa shouted at Gerard.
“With blade, bow, and courage,” Gerard said through gritted teeth. “We can’t take on an entire army of the undead by ourselves, but we can distract them for long enough to save the civilians”
“Hulk could provide an illusionary cover… but what if the Undead don’t respond to it, or worse see right through it” Elissa considered for a moment. “Hulk, what do you think?”
“Can’t say I’d know…maybe? If they are being controlled though, I’d guess that I’d have to fool the controller, cause those ugly fuckers don’t look like they really care much about whatever I can conjure up” Hulk responded with a quizzical look, “We just arrived, who knows how long the survivors have been up on the roof. I reckon we look for a choke point”
“Agreed, their numbers will work against them and we can whittle them down, but where,” Gerard asked the team. “And what about John?”
Gerard gestured to the young man who was standing behind him, looking pale. “He’s not ready for this.”
“I can fight,” John said quietly. “I want to help.”
Gerard hesitated for a moment, then nodded. There was no room for softness in dire times and John had almost grown a beard in, if there was ever a time for him to prove his worth to the Brotherhood, now would be it.
“We will clear a path to the Temple wall and jump over from there, we only have one shot at this. We will then ask the locals for any information, perhaps there is a crypt or cavern system near here that we can utilize for defense. Hulk and I will clear the way, Elissa you keep an eye out for any Mages”
“Be careful, Gerard,” she said as the two started to run.
“May your arrows strike true, Elissa…Hulk, are you ready?” Gerard returned.
“As I’ll ever be” the mage replied, quickly putting away his bottle of rum.
The warrior and the mage started to run and glide respectively down from the treeline, into the fray.
Hulk began casting as he reached the snow banks at the village entrance, fire elements swirling up around his legs and into his hands. Gerard had drawn his sword, its soft white glow illuminating the snowy night.
At first, none of the undead had even looked their way, but as Hulk unleashed his first spell, incinerating tens of zombies, the horde turned as one with a multitude of eldritch screeches.
Hulk faltered momentarily at the sheer volume unleashed, but regained himself quick enough to erect a barrier between him and a horrific creature of sharpened bone, sinew, and grotesque features, his diminutive size helping him narrowly avoid a gob of miasmic slime that had been launched at him.
Meanwhile, Gerard had begun a whirlwind of blades, severing limbs and heads with every movement of his blade, with each death the blade’s white light grew more intense. His family heirloom, the Longsword of Light, was famed for its damage to those who had fallen to the darkness of the universe.
“We’re almost there!” Elissa shouted over the din of battle. John was right behind her, fending off any zombie that strayed too close to her. He was panting hard, but he didn’t complain. Gerard and Hulk were ahead of them, clearing a path through the undead with fire and steel.
Just as they had leaped over the Temple wall, John stumbled and went down with a cry. Elissa turned to see him clutching his leg, his face pale with pain. “John!” she cried, running to his side. “What happened?”
“I got hit by something,” John gritted out. “I can’t feel my leg!”
Elissa swore softly.
She knew they couldn’t carry him all the way to the temple roof.
And even if they could, there was no guarantee that they would be able to hold off the undead long enough for the civilians to escape with one of them unable to run.
“It’s all right, the mission comes first,” John said bravely. “Just make sure you save the others.”
“No,” Gerard said firmly. “We’re not leaving you behind you idiot, we made it this far, we will find a way.”
He turned to Elissa and Hulk. “Get John to the temple roof. I’ll hold them off.”
For the moment, the horde had to backtrack to the Temple entrance, as the wall was too high for them to scale.
Elissa hesitated, but Hulk nodded and scooped John up in his arms, with the aid of a minor gravity spell. John was a Disciple, and Hulk’s tiny frame would not be able to lift a leg without it, but this left him unable to cast without dropping John. They kept running along the Temple wall in order to divert some of the Undead away from the entrance.
Gerard didn’t reply, knowing that every second counted. If he could just breach the entrance, and barricade the door, then he would have time to plan their next moves.
After turning his head back to make sure that Elissa had left with Hulk and John, Gerard lept off the Temple wall to dance with the dead, his sword raised and near blinding with Holy fire. If only he had more time to find the true source of the miasma he felt.
Order of Brilliance Archives
Lost Order of Chad
Scouting Team Six
Prologue Part Four
As Gerard charged into the hordes surrounding the Temple entrance, an unholy groan sounded from deep within its stone inner walls, the sound channeled from the depths below it.
Fuck, he thought with a hint of despondence,
That has to be from the catacombs…
this is no mere incursion, this is an invasion.
Every Temple of the Order was built to last, be it to serve a few hundred villagers or a thousand townfolk. In the bitter depths of Winter, a Sister could always be found stoking a hearth and dishing out portions of bread or pottage to the poorest of the Empire. A Temple held vast grain silos and was almost as big underground as it was above, with many levels dedicated to various purposes, such as the ice room that stores Winter ice for those too poor to afford the services of a Mage Enchantment specialist.
The only fire to be found for Gerard was the Temple Village amenities, the poultry coop, and the wooden bathing pavilion reducing his night vision to the point that the holy light of his longsword was his easiest frame of reference as he sliced and diced a path of carnage and gained the attention of the whole horde.
There was a scant thirty meters between him and the temple door, which he assumed was barred, but for the moment just leading the horde away from the rest of the party would have to do. Rejoining them was a problem for future Gerard, staying alive was the focus, and with the dying rays of light, he only could pray to the Divines that the zombies needed light to see.
Those he had fought in his youth certainly did, but they were merely animated corpses, generally by a lone Dark Necromancer or awakened Lich in a crypt. He doubted either would have the skill and miasma necessary to have created the horrific caricatures of people with wolfish teeth and exposed sinewy flesh.
He had never seen anything quite like it, and although the blessed suit of Holy plate mail that the Quartermaster had provided him for the mission had served him well, attempted bites turned heads to ash.
Where your regular undead will attack anything with a pulse, he could swear that these almost had sentience. They almost fought better than your average pikeman, with feints and distractions. Gerard was pushed to his limit in just keeping on ducking, weaving, jumping, and dodging his way through burning and collapsed buildings.
Elissa watched briefly when Gerard’s blade first met rotten flesh, pulsating with every hit, but the Undead that had chased them thus far had been drawn away and the back entrance was within sight, several disgusting yet humanoid zombies remained pounding at the door, but the more horrific creations had taken off in pursuit of Gerard.
“I’ll take out the ones by the door and we can make a dash for the roof, Hulk, about that illusion? Could you use it to draw the horde off Gerard somehow?” Elissa asked.
“I can try, but as I said, no idea if it il work or not,” Hulk replied, dropping John unceremoniously onto the stone wall.
“ARRTAAAHGHHH!” John screamed, gathering the attention of the remaining undead.
Ooops, Hulk was too preoccupied running through hundreds of various illusion spells “Sorry!” he said to John, for the first time ever.
“FUUUCKKINNNG BASTARD!” John continued, Hulks ‘Dome of Silence’ spell being cast a little too late, “What the FUCK is wrong with YOU!”
“I forgot man!” Hulk pouted, until Elissa slapped him, hard, across the face. ‘OW! What was that for!I said I was sorry…”
“Both of you shut the fuck up” she hissed and directed their attention to a large troll corpse that had emerged from one of the burning buildings, immediately notching an arrow and letting loose at a zombie scaling the wall,“This is your fault Hulk! Do something useful already!”
Hulk took the rebuke in stride and focused his attention on the necrotic troll.
He had never seen any troll like it, which was saying something. Being part of a scouting troop for six years gives a person plenty of time to get acquainted with the various species of trolls and other species of Plouton, and climates that they inhabited or raided.
This was definitely a deceased of one of the Northern Tuska tribes, one of the more barbaric variants. Whereas some Trolls, like the Burning Fang tribes of the South, could at least be reasoned with when alive, if one spoke the tongue, the Tuskas were as likely to eat you as they were talking to you. And this was a specimen of extraordinary size, at least four times the height of the Mage.
Trolls never stop growing in their lifetimes, however, the larger they get, the more they consume. In the harsh winters of the North, cannibalism was not uncommon, and troll-on-troll violence was the norm.
This one looked like he ate whole TRIBES for a meal, that’s got to be the largest, UGLIEST motherfucker I have ever seen, Hulk thought, and who the fuck decided a troll needs swords for fingers!?
With the permafrost of the North, it may have been dead a year ago or hundreds, it was too disfigured by the foul corruption of miasma for Hulk to tell.
The occasional flash of light from Gerard in the distance at least let them know that their Senior Brother was still alive, but for how long…
With the Troll having emerged from whatever it was eating, making it into the Temple safely was going to be a question of speed, misdirection, and deflection. For if it turned their way and saw the three of them, John would surely die.
There was no way that any of the three would survive a swing of its tree trunk arms or lethal steel and bone-spike embedded fists.
Elissa sent a prayer to Saint Stacy for the safety of Gerard, and to bless her next arrow, for if there were ever a time she wished for the Divines to notice her, now would be it.
She just prayed that it would be one who might aid, as the last thing the team could afford was the attention of one of the Dark Gods.
A further groan vibrated through the thick stone of the temple, immediately the troll’s head snapped towards the three.
thought all three.
Order of Brilliance Archives
Lost Order of Chad
Scouting Team Six
Prologue Part Five
The Troll bellowed in anger, its deep voice booming off the temple walls.
It charged forward, each lumbering step shaking the ground. Elissa loosed an arrow, but it merely bounced harmlessly off the Troll’s thick hide. Hulk glanced at John, struggling to get up the stairs with his broken leg, and then back at the Troll.
He sighed before muttering a few words and gesturing with his hand. A stream of fire shot from his fingers and engulfed the Troll. The Troll bellowed in pain as it stumbled around, flailing wildly and smashing into the temple walls.
John used the distraction to make it inside the temple door. Elissa followed, arrows nocked and ready in case the Troll recovered too quickly. Hulk kept up a steady stream of fire as he backed away towards the door.
Eventually, he made it inside, with the Troll’s horrific screeches of agony punctuating the snowy night.
“We have to find Gerard!” John said, trying to stand up and failing. “He’s our Brother, our leader, and he’s in trouble.”
“John, you can’t even walk,” Elissa said, trying to push him back down. “You’re going to get yourself killed.”
“I can try,” John said stubbornly. “Gerard would do the same for me.”
“And if we all die because you’re too injured to fight?” Elissa asked. “What then? Besides, I’m the better fighter anyway. You stay here and rest; I’ll go find Gerard.”
“No way,” John said. “I’m coming with you.”
“No,” Hulk replied, with finality, “Elissa can cover you and treat any wounded; I can’t do both, I’ll find Gerard, and we will meet back up on the Temple roof.”
“Fine,” Elissa sighed. “We can’t all go running off into danger.”
John frowned but nodded. He didn’t like being left out of the action, but he could see sense in it.
“I’ll find Gerard,” Hulk half-whispered, as if he were not so sure of himself, “You two focus on getting the civilians to safety.”
“Be careful, Hulk,” Elissa murmured, a rare warning from her to him. Ill omens never bode well for a mission.
With that decision made, they set off into the Temple. It was dark and musty inside, and creatures were lurking in the shadows. Hulk cast a minor illumination spell and activated his wards. What good were they if you never used them after all?
After a few hours of searching, room by bated breath room, through the labyrinth of Temple basement levels and trying to follow the sounds of fighting, Hulk finally caught up to Gerard. Beyond the next door, he could Gerard grunt in pain amidst the din of sword meeting bone.
The scene was a massacre, blood was everywhere, and bodies were strewn about the room, yet still, several foul creations were left clawing at the lone beacon of light in the room.
In the center of it all was Gerard, still standing despite being surrounded by enemies.
He was fighting valiantly but exhausted and outnumbered. When he saw Hulk come into the room, he shouted something that sounded like for him to ‘get out of there,’ but Hulk would do no such thing.
Hulk charged into the room and unleashed a powerful lightning bolt that took out several undead creatures in one link of continuous lightning.
After regaining his composure and thanking the Divines, Hulk hadn’t destroyed what he had just found. Gerard panted and looked quizically at Hulk.
“Where…the…hell did that come from!?” In their years together, Gerard hadn’t seen such fine control over lightning from Hulk.
“Little trick I learned watching those Storm Vultures and how they’d touch wings before zapping ya,” Hulk replied.
“Huh…well, thanks anyway, those built out of corpses are tougher than your average zombie. Good thinking to not use your normal spells to not light the black powder on fire.”
“The black powder?” Hulk’s tone hinted he was not entirely up to speed.
“Yes? When you entered, I told you to watch out for the black powder?” Gerard’s post-battle exertion was not in the mood to deal with the mage’s frequent word games.
“Right right, of course, good thing you told me, was going to barbeque 'em otherwise” Hulk was going to do no such thing and was simply trying to preserve mana. Still, if he avoided blowing them both up, Gerard didn’t need to know that.
“Quite a few barrels here, musta been doin’ a lot of mining recently,” Hulk observed.
“Yes, and that bothers me as this is an agricultural district…in any case, we need to reconvene with the others and see if they’ve found the civilians.”
They made their way back up to the Temple roof, Gerard’s injuries slowing them, but Gerard had always stood tall where a lesser man would fall. This aspect in his youth had led to a downfall of spectacular proportions. His service to the Brotherhood since had long redeemed him of his more hot-headed feats of youth.
They found Elissa and John waiting for them close to the curved stairway up to the Temple’s ground floor. They were relieved to see that Gerard was alive and unharmed, but it was short-lived as they heard the Troll starting to pound on the Temple’s main door.
The creature seemed to have recovered from its injuries; a troll’s regeneration carried over to its Undead form.
“We were going to look for the civilians, but we got stuck holding off the Troll at the door,” Elissa reported to Gerard. “I can keep it from doing too much damage with an arrow or two for a while, but it keeps coming back!”
Fantastic , thought Hulk, I kill the dead fucker. It’s still slow, but now I have to make it deader. Re-kill it? Gah, fuck all of this; if Elissa wasn’t so squeamish, I would at least have some rum left.
He decided to not inform the group that his mana was dangerously low.
Morale was tenuous at best.
The horrific beast intended to make dinner of the puny human that had burned it, with a sheer hatred for Hulk gleaming in its eyes.
Gerard knew that was not the vacant stare of any regular Undead.
“John, get back down the stairs and to the end of the hallway. Do not come out until we say so,” Gerard ordered.
The young man nodded and started moving,
“But I want to help!”
“Yes, John. We know you do, but you are a liability here. We must focus on stopping that ugly fucker as quickly as possible.” Hulk bluntly pointed out.
“But, I can help! I can fight!” the young man said defiantly.
Elissa looked at him with an almost maternal expression.
“John, here is not the place. We need you back in the Temple where you will be safest, for all our sakes.”
“We can’t worry about you when there is a more pressing problem,” Gerard responded, gesturing towards the Temple door on the far side of the cavernous hall.
The Troll had begun splintering further chips of wood off the inside of the Temple door.
Gerard knew it was only a matter before the thick Ironwood locks were broken. The monstrous beast would tear into anything still within… he had already seen it casually eat a few former humans in his foray out to distract the horde.
With hopes of success fading, Gerard made his decision.
“Abandon the hall; we go up. We have to locate the people Elissa saw waving.”
And pray to the Divines they had a solution to this clusterfuck, he muttered under his breath.