The flickering candle paused, only for a brief moment, the venerable knight felt time suspend as if the gods had blinked all in cohesion. Or was his mind playing tricks? Maybe it was more than a moment, he could not tell. Deep below the crypts of the temple where Sir Marcus often prayed, there was no light and no indication of the passing of time, except for the slow-burning of the candles.
He was spending more time below of late, searching for answers, searching for a sign that the old gods still cared for this world. His church was very disturbed about the rise of the demigods and their followers. The five heroes that had travelled to Between had held the hopes of Athien, champions all of them. But their greed for power had engulfed them, and now they had achieved a cult status of their own, with thousands of the younger generation worshipping them in place of the gods themselves.
The endless battles on Between were escalating. The heroes called to fight for the demigods were increasing in number and power. Like all the heroes, each time Marcus returned from a summons, a vestige of the power lingered. He found it exhilarating and often was forced into deep meditation to retake control of his emotions. Marcus was determined not to let the hunger for power consume him.
The pause of the candle, as if frozen for the briefest of moments, caught his attention again. Was he losing his mind, did it just happen again? Yes, no mistake. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. What was happening?
He then felt a brief touch on his subconscious, like a feather, an extraordinary sensation. Marcus felt at ease, not threatened, but sensed a tremendous and commanding presence, as old as time itself. Tears appeared suddenly and openly ran down his weather-beaten face, the salty taste working at the centre of his being, keeping him grounded. Too quickly, and without warning, he felt the presence disappear, leaving him empty and exhausted. Marcus toppled forward and lost consciousness before hitting the ground.
His back and legs were stiff, the pit of his stomach rumbling for food, his horse stumbled, frothing at the mouth. Marcus new he must stop and rest. Ever since the visitation in the crypts, he had become a driven man. He pushed himself beyond reason, this was the third horse in five days, but he was only a few hours away from his destination. To the left was a fresh running stream, he climbed off his mount and let the tired beast walk over to drink. Marcus refilled his water canister and splashed the icy cold water on his face, thanking Wellin for providing much-needed refreshment. He reached for his pack and found a stale piece of bread and a chunk of hard cheese, just enough to see him to the end of his journey.
A twig snapped. Marcus drew his ancient sword and wheeled around towards the sound with a speed that defied his age. He crouched at the ready as he peered into the dark foliage. The winter knight could see the outline of a man-sized shape, slightly taller and more muscular than himself. "Show yourself, stranger!". The figure emerged from the bush, his green skin and tribal markings revealing a male orc, his face covered with a bone skull mask.
A deep and thickly accented voice replied, "At ease, friend, I sense you have been called and touched by the same great power as I. From your eyes, I see you driven by that great power, just like me. Do not assume you are the only vessel of this message." The orc leaned on a thick, long totem and maintained his gaze on Marcus.
"You are Haksa, correct?" Marcus replied. "I have seen you Between as friend and foe."
"Yes, I am known as Haksa, orc shaman and protector of the old faiths. I had a vision, five days ago, that I was to travel to these parts in search of an ancient organisation, carers of the earth. I assume, by your religious garments, that you serve the old gods, and by your appearance, are driven on a similar quest?"
"I am Sir Marcus, Knight Protector of the Temple of Wellin, and yes, I experienced a similar vision. I follow a path that seems entrenched in my memory, and though I am certain that I have never been in these parts before, I tread with a sure foot, completely confident that I am on the right path." The orc replied, "I am intrigued by this calling and feel we are near journey's end."
After a moment's pause, Haksa said warmly, "Come, let us share the end of this journey."
The two companions set off side by side, the commanding orc easily keeping pace with Marcus' tired mount, weighed down by the heavily armoured knight. They were an odd couple, the knight dressed in full plate, his shield displaying the symbols of his family and order. By his side, a sword sheaved in an impressive and ornately detailed scabbard. Marcus held his head high, despite his weariness, as his eyes darted left and right, the fervour evident to any observer. And the orc shaman, half-naked, face covered with a bone mask, body completely covered in tattoos and markings. His belt arrayed with various pouches containing herbs and powders. Haksa's only visible weapon, a 6-foot long totem pole, covered with runes and symbols engraved into the timber, strapped to his back within easy reach.
Their path lead to a densely covered forested area. Haksa and Marcus now travelled in single file, following a game trail, and on occasion had to hack through stray vines and shrubs. This track had not seen recent use. The sun had just about disappeared when the trail widened suddenly, and they could see a glade not more than a dozen paces ahead with a fire blazing in its centre. The shaman and knight felt at ease and approached the opening without fear, keeping their weapons sheathed. They stopped at the edge of the circular meeting place, which was at least 50 paces across with trees forming a perfect circle around it. Two figures were waiting for them at the edge of the trail they had been following. One was an ancient human male, the other a young female elf.
The human stepped forward, his long silvery and somewhat wild hair framed a face etched with the markings of time, his deep grey eyes the colour of the ocean on a cloudy day. Eyes that reflected the echoes of a long-lived life, somehow combining sadness with joy and contentment. He wore robes made of leathers and natural linen, dyed in the colours of the forest on an autumn day. He wore no footwear and leaned against a thick staff, made of a thick branch from an ancient tree that appeared like both an extension of the forest and the druid who carried it, seemingly grown for this one purpose.
The elf girl who stood slightly behind him was young, dark-haired tall yet graceful. Both Haksa and Marcus instantly recognised her as Saiyin, the priestess. She wore leather body armour over her clothes, covering her torso, thighs and lower legs. Saiyin also had that determined and driven look in her eyes, shared by the two new arrivals. It seemed she was on the same quest as them, all three called to this strange place.
The human held out his hand in welcome and grasped both men in the traditional way of the druids, "Welcome, we have been expecting your arrival, please remove your footwear before stepping on this sacred earth, the time is nigh, and we have much to discuss. I am Llewelyn, leader of the southern conclave of druids, and I represent the Druids Council on this important occasion."
While the knight undid his buckles and removed his boots, Haksa looked beyond to the meadow where he heard a murmur of conversation, mingling with the crackle of the fire. There were several small groups of druids gathered in different areas, all speaking in hushed tones. Orcs, minotaurs, elves, goblins, humans, dwarfs and other races, seemingly waiting. All who were present wore similar clothing to the ancient druid. On the other side of the fire was another trail, identical to the one Haksa and the knight had used, leading deeper into the wild forest. Haksa thought he could see two cloaked figures, just beyond the light, but he was unsure.
The wizened druid beckoned for Haksa and Marcus to follow, and they obliged, Saiyin falling into step beside them. The chatter ceased as the druid reached a spot just before the hearth. The only sound remaining was the crackle of the fire as a calming quiet descended on the glade. Everyone held their breath in anticipation. Llewelyn closed his eyes and lowered his head, seemingly in deep concentration, still leaning on his staff, both gnarled hands enclosed around the thick timber.
As though compelled by an unseen force, Haksa, Saiyin and Marcus advanced just before the druid, reaching out to hold hands with each other, forming a small triangle, all facing towards the centre. They raised their heads, and the other people present could see their eyes were open but focussed on something unseen, out of sight. The remaining druids formed a circle around the edges of the clearing, hushed and aware of something important occurring.
The air stirred as a breeze quickly gained strength, from nowhere, tussling the druid's hair, and gave fuel to the fire, which grew instantly to double its size. The heat on each of their faces increased alarmingly. Then, as if in answer to the blaze, a slight drizzle began falling from the skies, it gained strength, just enough to cool the faces, wet the earth and stop the fire from growing any further. There seemed a perfect balance between all the elements and the beings present felt at ease and comfortable, being one with the old gods. Indeed, Wellin, Forin, Eldir and Arden were among them.
Saiyin, Marcus and Haska were all aware of this, their senses more alert than ever, they felt exhilaration as power coursed through their veins. The feeling was different and purer than when they had battled on Between. They felt in touch with the earth, they could feel the heat of the fire, breathe the air and feel the water on their faces, and all of it felt like an extension of their true selves. Tears flowed openly as all three wept at the honour bestowed upon them.
As the elements settled to a perfect balance, time paused, again, just like during their calling, only days earlier. All three spoke in unison, the deep gravel voice of the orc, the higher pitch of the female elf and the middle tones of Sir Marcus. All mingling into one, in an unearthly harmony, alien in sound to all present, yet entirely right and natural.
We answer the call, the call of the ancients, the call of all, the call of the earth, the call of time itself.
The rain intensified, the wind howled, and the fire grew in strength, as many among the onlookers fell on their faces, prostrating themselves, while others openly wept and clutched their companions.
Llewelyn, his eyes still closed, and hunched over his staff, spoke in a powerful and clear voice.
"How may we serve?" The other druids all responded in turn, "How may we serve?".
The old gods once again spoke through Marcus, Haksa and Saiyin. Their vassals. Bring forth the chosen, the two who are pure of heart, pure of faith and deed.
Two figures emerged from the trail behind Llewelyn. One was tall, close to 7 feet in height, the other almost half that size. Both wore thick cloaks, their heads covered with hoods. The clothes were of similar colour and design to Llewelyn. The hooded figures separated as each ambled around the fire, all eyes transfixed onto them. When they had both come alongside the ancient druid, they stopped and faced towards Haksa, Saiyin and Marcus.
Both knelt and removed their cloaks revealing two females, young for their race, adorned in ceremonial garb. All three recognised them as the druids Gendris and Svetlana. Their gowns were woven from pure linen, coloured in various greens, browns and yellows, a reflection of the surrounding forest. Svetlana, the dwarf, was almost childlike in appearance, and her wide eyes glistened with joyful tears. Gendris, a great minotaur, with apparent youth, cast her gaze downward, her demeanour proud and robust.
The three chosen spoke in unison again, Do you come willingly, do you give yourselves to the cause, do you accept the gods of old, the creators of all, and do you voluntarily submit to restoring the order that is natural and true?
Svetlana and Gendris responded in unison, a simple response, but weighted with the hopes of all expectations. "We do".
Time stopped, the fire paused, the wind held still, the rain abated, and silence.
We bestow you with the power of the ancients, go forth and use these powers to end the blight of the false beings. Restore the truth.
Time continued, the rain turned into a downpour as the winds fuelled the fire to even greater ferocity. Then, nothing. The rain, wind and fire all abated, leaving the air cool and the surrounding glade peaceful again.
Suddenly a roar broke the silence as two missiles thundered down from the sky smashing into the earth in front of Svetlana and Gendris. Both shielded their eyes; however, there was no fear behind their actions. Though they hit the ground with similar force, one originated from solid rock and earth, whose impact threw chunks of dirt outward in all directions—the other from a ball of molten lava which similarly cast-off embers of searing heat. Once the dust and smoke settled, and everyone present recovered their wits, they stood in awe of what appeared before them. First, a giant humanoid made of clay and stone. The element of the earth made incarnate. Beside it was a beast seemingly assembled from magma and lava. Bursts of flame shooting off from its body randomly.
The earth and fire elementals kneeled before the young druids, offering their servitude. Svetlana knew the magma monster as Inferno, the knowledge of its name suddenly implanted in her mind. Similarly, Gendris learned the earth elemental's true name as Terra.
The two young druids stood up, eyes still shimmering, yet they seemed older, something powerful within both of their beings, something ancient resided within. Both acknowledged their elemental champions in turn before dismissing them back to their home planes. They then turned to each other and hugged in a firm embrace.
Haksa, Saiyin and Sir Marcus all collapsed with exhaustion, as did the ancient druid.
Svetlana stepped forward, "We thank the gods for this honour, we are humbled to be chosen by the Druid Council and will use our new power and strength to restore the faith and ways of the old gods." Gendris nodded solemnly and said, "We will prevail". With this, both dwarf and minotaur turned and walked back through the path from where they appeared, quickly disappearing into the thick forest.
One of the druids, an elderly female dwarf, stepped forward. "We have all witnessed the power of the ancient gods this day. The gods have chosen us to lead the battle that which is to come. Let us prepare!"
Other druids attended the exhausted three, presenting refreshing drinks and dried fruit. It was not long before Marcus was feeling strong enough to stand again. He glanced at the orc and elf and thought, what a strange and odd group. The elf returned his gaze, and there was a deep understanding between them. Haksa, clasped the hands of both, "We share a spiritual bond, that transgresses time itself. All our efforts and beliefs have not been in vain. I count both of you as blood kin, and feel honoured to have shared this momentous occasion with you."
Both Marcus and Saiyin' kept quiet but nodded, sharing this moment and engraving it within their memories.
A few paces into the forest, on the outskirts of the glade, a set of piercing flame-like eyes peered out from deep within a hood, pulled low to obscure its face. One of the figure's hands absentmindedly rubbed its fingers across a smooth rock, whose surface shimmered with unnatural colours. The other hand flipped back and forth as a small flame, shaped like a snake travelled continuously through its fingers.
The eyes closed momentarily as a voice entered the figure's mind. "It is not your time Beam. Soon, it will come."
"When..?", he said through clenched teeth.
We are very excited about the launch of our 3rd major story arc in the unfolding Judgement saga. So far, we have Kruul's arc which describes the rise of the witch doctors and a scheme that threatens the existence of the entire orc race, and also Zaron's arc which follows his quest for immortality and the rise of the undead. In the Elementalist story arc, we discover that the old gods are ramping up their efforts to put an end to the demi-gods once and for all. Masters of the elements themselves, the old gods engage with the council of druids, a partnership that bestows elemental powers to the priests of nature. We also see the patrons of the old gods, heroes that have kept true to their beliefs and have pledged their lives to keep the old faiths alive within their respective races.
To celebrate the launch of this story-line, we have included a first look at the render for Terra, as well as patch #10 card versions of the re-worked Gendris and Svetlana. There are exciting things ahead in the ever-escalating conflict between the old gods and new, so stay tuned.
Terra was sculpted by Carles Gonzalez of SelWorks, who recently completed the re-worked Zhim'gigrak sculpt. We are very pleased to have Carles onboard and are happy to announce he has been commissioned to do the Cradol sculpt.
The Gendris re-work includes the following changes:
- Lightning Leap combat manoeuvre moved from level 3 to level 1
- Hold Person moved from level 1 to level 2
- Find the Path also includes a +1 MOV buff
- Root has been removed
- Added Elemental Command to level 3
The design team spent a considerable amount of time with the Gendris re-work. We wanted to include her new-found elemental powers without losing an identity that was fairly unique to her. With Lightning Leap available from level 1, she has the power to make a difference from the outset and should also be more easily levelled up. Find the Path remains characterful, however, the +1 MOV makes it a lot more useful and opens her up to powerful combinations with many other heroes in the game. Elemental Command is obviously the major change to her as the druids in Judgement join Warlocks and Necromancers with the ability to summon other models. Gendris has been touched by the element of earth, so she can now summon Terra.
The summonable version of Terra retains most of her original attributes, which we felt was important. She is expensive to summon, just like Dor'gokaan, and also drains an action each turn to keep in play, however, what she brings to the table is significant. Being able to summon Terra adds a completely new dimension to Gendris' play and also elevates her as a level-up target in your Warband.
Svetlana also had a major shake-up, her re-work includes the following changes:
- Soul Keeper moves from level 2 to level 1
- She loses the Stun combat manoeuvre
- Beast Master moves from level 3 to level 2
- She gains Elemental Command at level 3
A quick glance will tell you that even without Elemental Command, Svetlana receives a considerable buff with both her level 3 and level 2 abilities becoming available a level earlier. This gain is only marginally offset with the loss of Stun. Sol Keeper at level 1 means she is a fantastic model to partner with the undead, since she can accept their soul gains and then never lose them from dying for the rest of the game. Svet also retains all her monster interactions.
Svetlana, being touched by the fire element is now able to summon Inferno!
As we did with Terra, Inferno retains most powers from his monster form. However, you may notice we have also delivered him two big buffs that will also be applied to his monster card.
- MEL increased from 7 to 8
- AGI increased from 3 to 4
- Heat Conductor now applies to all basic attacks, not just flaming fist (i.e. Fireball gets it as well)
The design team have held back changing Inferno for a few patches, however, for #10 we decided to pull the trigger and bring his power in-line with the reward you get for killing him. The transition to a summonable version was fairly simple and ew are excited to see more of the fire lord on the battlegrounds of Between. Svetlana at level 3 is now boss mode.
We have a lot more in store for patch #10, so look out for the live stream within the next 24 hours. As with all patches, these changes will not be legal until the 1st of April, 2020.