The Lost and Unremembered

Jhen Brego, Lorandis Manrak, Falister Khaen, Strayfer Drokan, Thadon Reiloh, and Gerrox Tanadohm are all veterans of the Radhast Front - Imperial casualties: ~16,000,000 sick or injured, ~3,782,644 dead, final numbers unknown.

Soldiers of the 117th Infantry Army, 32nd Brigade, "Syton's Avenging Sons" Regiment.

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SW:GDA High Command - Oristicon

Prologue

These meetings would fall under the observations of the Darths, should they choose to contribute, intervene, or otherwise. A holo-recording device sat in the midst of some of the greatest minds in the sector, all focused on taking the planet below them: Oristicon, cursed and traitorous. Befouled in name and construct by the rebels - though entirely a stronghold of interest for the Empire.

In summation, the moot consisted of:

High General Helmut Wissenburg, of the 117th Infantry Army - fresh from the campaign that killed his treasonous brother; Lord Conrad von Kreigenshire, Duke of Reikholm, and Commander of the Kysticos Dragoons present in the conflict and Commander of the 5th Grand Army; Admiral Reuder Hains, Commander of the Glacier; Colonel-General Jugo Domner of the 1st Grand Army; Colonel-General Sutherford Battresk of the 2nd; Colonel-General Hammond Pask of the 3rd; and Colonel-General Ulystrand Mannkerdeim of the 4th.

Helmut had won reasonable favor with the Darths after successfully slaying the Jedi responsible for drawing out the conflict on Radhast. Though Lord-Commander Heslok sought after his own glories of winning the battle for oil, the Darths were quick to see that such a goal was the extent of his plans. Heslok didn't even know of the Jedi General, Erastus Wissenburg, until Helmut pointed it out to him. Helmut purposely bled the Republic white using his 117th Infantry Army, so that Erastus would show himself - and, on the last day, Erastus was truly desperate enough to commit to a single fight. Such was the end of him.

Heslok was relieved of command despite his victory, and summarily executed for his shortsightedness.

Helmut would wear the cloak of his slain brother as a trophy, even to this meeting. Conrad von Kriegenshire had something to say about that, as well as a great many other things.

"You Sytonians have a daft way of dividing the spoils," he chirped. Helmut just glared at him.

"We are gathered under the observations of the Darths to put into action a plan to overwhelm the rebels and pave the way for a true Imperial invasion," the Wissenburg grunted, his skeletal face crackling dryly. "The 1st and 2nd will make their advance in support of the 3rd and 4th Armies. Once the push is made towards the initial mountain range the 5th will advance and sweep the area. Clean,"

"We are waging a War of Movement, are we not?" the Duke.

"The rebels are entrenched deeply, and information is scarcer the further the fortresses go. We are tasked with opening a foothold. A wound, so that the Darths may utilize our forces as they wish,"

"Good, you've done it, we can all move out now," Conrad laughed. "Except, that would be too tedious now wouldn't it?"

"Beg your pardon?"

"If we are to wage a War of Movement, then let us strike them faster than anything your Radhast Front ever accomplished. Two months for oil? Give me an afternoon and I'll have two of these bunkers flushed out,"

"Bunkers? These are ancient castles dating back over 1,000 years, they are meant to endure anything - most of all your backwards antique of a war,"

"Is that doubt I hear? Last time anyone in your family had doubt you spend fifty years hunting them down just to see them bleeding in the mud,"

Helmut said nothing, and the congregation continued their vigilant behavior.

"I vote in favor of the Duke," Jugo mentioned. Others followed, the majority.

Helmut sighed. He had planned a war that would last for a few weeks, but the Duke promised an afternoon. He would keep the idea in his pocket moving forward, however. For now he reinstated his duty as High General, as the trusted Fist of the Darths. Majority meant nothing, but von Kriegenshire would have his glory.

"Hey Jhen, you ever hear about these Dragoon lunatics we're fighting with here?"

"No, why?"

"They're a mounted corps but they don't use speeders. I saw them coming in on... weird looking things,"

"Yeah?"

"About six feet tall at the shoulder, white-grey fur, they had long faces. I heard some stories too, that they ate flesh and crushed bone under their stone feet,"

"What kinda monsters are they?"

"I think I heard someone say they're called... horses."

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SW:GDA - The Radhast Front

It's a long way to Dromand Kaas,

It's a long way to go

It's a long way to Dromand Kaas,

To the sweetest girl I know!

Goodbye, Rormugandr,

Farewell, Kastenda Square!

It's a long long way to Dromand Kaas,

But my heart's right there

I've been trained not to keep journals, but I see men drawing. Surely they won't mind. I've been told the front is just over the next hill, some fifty miles or so. We'll be there by morning. I cannot keep myself from smiling, those filthy Republic dogs will finally get what's coming to them!

We couldn't land directly, since air superiority is heavily contested. Infantry carriers have to be used carefully. Same with walkers, and armored assault vehicles. Even though they're powerful, our commanders tell us that they wouldn't stand a chance under concentrated artillery bombardment. It's fascinating just how many trees are here. I thought this was a warzone?

Of course I jest.

I shouldn't be this happy, but I cannot wait. I get to kill my first Republic trooper tomorrow! Ma and pa will be so proud, and maybe I can tell Tisha how I feel when I get home.

I hope we'll be back by holiday. Last Empire Day was spent in quiet memorial for my brother. This year, it'll be in loud celebration - Jhen spilled Republic blood to avenge Ghander! I'll try and sleep now, we have a long march ahead of us. There are walkers and grav tanks in support, but they'll peel off and reinforce those incoming Infantry Armies that are sorely needed at the Front.

I'm told they'll be there at the next great push. That's when all the killing will start, I reckon.

But I digress, I need to sleep.

Radhast.

With its subterranean oceans of oil, owed to some great apocalypse millennia before, it soon became the object of both Sith and Republic desire. Federation forces - and Alliance - were too sparse in this part of the galaxy, and had other ventures to pursue. Thus, the stage was set for the Radhast Front - a colossal 1,600-mile series of trenches, barbed wire forests, artillery emplacements, and killing fields fully dividing a land mass below which sat the largest oil deposit on Radhast. Size estimates ranged from 55 billion barrels of oil to 65 billion, according to rudimentary geological scans. Control of that oil meant dominance on Radhast, and one more planet for either faction.

Supplies for both Imperial and Republic forces had to be airdropped in, meaning air superiority had to be maintained - but also that it changed hands constantly. Imperial artillery bombardments had continued to rock the Republic trenches for six weeks prior to the first shipment of fresh troops. This would open up the first day of fighting, with Imperial troops hungering and eager for a quick victory.

In their minds, the Republic lines were at their breaking point after constant artillery fire. The 886th, 415th, 961st, 773rd, 303rd, 787th, and 117th Infantry Armies were sent to finally break their resolve and force them off-planet.

These combined armies made up over 3 million soldiers, all intent on overtaking Republic positions and claiming Radhast for the Empire.

Commanders, too, were eager for a quick victory. One, in-particular, had been hunting for a commendation from his superior officers. Namely, Lord-Commander Garrod Heslok - overall commander-in-chief for the operation. He made it his personal mission to destroy the Republic forces present on Radhast down to the last man, no matter the cost.

If a million Republic soldiers died and he lost 999,999 Imperial soldiers, then it would be a victory in every sense of the word to him.

The Hell at Radhast, therefore, had no opportunity to be overruled at the time.

There are no trees here anymore. Even thirty miles into the march, there is a distinct change in atmosphere and color. We would hear the artillery crawl before. The winding roar of the turbolaser batteries, they were victory in our ears. Radhast had been a beautiful planet once, I can see.

Damn the Republic. Damn them all!

I would spend my life a million times over to see a Darth cut down the last Jedi!

Conditions waiting for the soldiers were bleak, to say the least. The infantry already present were remnants of the various artillery support regiments sent prior to those soldiers trained as actual infantrymen. They were quite formal about it all, however. The Infantry Armies were all greeted with open arms, some blockades had soup ready. It was like going on vacation, almost. Exotic planet, new friends, but that was when the briefing started.

Widespread commlink usage allowed the battleline to be informed simultaneously, but even such a technology was limited. Considering the general decay of technology at the time, as well, breakdowns across such a wide range of battle were bound to happen.

The battle waged at the fork of the River Larrast was named after that foreboding body of water. A season of rain had begun just days prior, leaving the trenches a wet and muddy affair. The water ditches carved beneath the wooden footboards overflowed easily, leaving many soldiers to contract "trench foot", requiring either substantial supply of rare antibiotics and bacta treatment or amputation. Poor management of biological waste also led to widespread infection, as did the resulting rats and flies nesting inside of uncollected corpses.

It was not the fault of the soldiers, but rather the complete lack of safety. Putting one's head over the trenchline for even a split second risked sniper fire. Scavenged wood or even the rare plasteel used to maintain waste removal were honestly better to help fortify gun nests or mortar positions. Material was rare, save for ammunition, bodies, and mud.

The imagined glories of the Infantry Armies sent here to die for oil would soon fade away to the grim reality of war. Constant, unrelenting, and ultimately empty.

Private Brego leaned against the dirt palisade. It was cold, wet. The material between him and the mud served only as a temporary escape. It was the mud he had seen many of his comrades die on already. Snipers were everywhere. The lighthearted mannerisms of his platoon had disappeared only a few days ago, but it felt like years. Jhen didn't sleep ever since he saw Alger's brains splattered across the backside of the trench.

Laserfire didn't seem so dangerous before, but the concussive blast tore straight through his plasteel armor and out the other side. His blood boiled for a split second, simmering there. There where his mouth used to be. Faint scatterings of teeth, a jawbone. Burned flesh and skin. Traces of fat. It clung to Jhen's nose, his throat. He could taste it, and vomited. Not because of the sensation of death invading his very senses.

Alger was looking right at him when he died, and he still was. The cracks in his helmet formed from the laser blast, that last lingering sense of consciousness left in Alger as he died, was focused on Jhen. Private Brego had knelt in place at that moment of uncertainty. He vomited and the water carried it around his ankles. Instinct put his helmet on. He didn't. Nothing in his body wanted to do anything but stay there and cry. But he got his rifle in that split second of anger and confusion, his entire body twitching. His blood curdling. His muscles and bones and marrow all locked in that one position.

Standing, behind the earthworks. Finger squeezing the trigger, firing back at something - anything. Across the field, across that empty grey and brown and black. Across the wire. Across the craters, where spent shells slept.

His comrades pulled him back down.

"Why are you wasting ammo?" they roared.

"They killed Alger!" he stammered back, but they pulled him back up.

It was 0453.

"Then kill them later. Keep on patrol, soldier. Zero Hour is in about two and a half."

He just nodded. Slowly, weakly, and kept his head down. He stayed there. Helmet off. Instinct had faded. Emotion took over again, and he looked at Alger. Poor Alger, young Alger. Like a brother, Alger. Staring back at him. Empty now, Alger. Why did you have to go? He had signed up for the 117th on the same day as Jhen. A farmhand from a neighboring village back on Syton. He knew his way around a rifle, but wanted to use a gatling one. Though it would be a 'hoot'. Gatling gunners were always on duty, always on call. He had one little sliver of uncovered post - so he could see through.

And then gone. Jhen picked up an arm, and hoisted the weight of a torso onto his shoulders.

Snivelling, choking. Alger was a good friend, a good man. He had a girl he was going to propose to back home. Beautiful, strawberry blonde hair. Eyes blue like the sky, like how the sky was supposed to be. Here it was always grey.

Always dead.

Jhen had to move Alger away, take him someplace. The artillery support had a place to bury the dead, that was good as any. But it was just mud, a hold full of mud and water.

Jhen just set Alger down on the ground.

"I'll set you right when the water's down, old boy. I'll... I'll do you right, for Jorey back home yeah?"

He had the decency to at least clean Alger's face a bit, what was left of it. Closed his eyes for the long sleep, then went back to the trenches.

Zero Hour was just three and a half away. All clocks were set for 0730 at the trenches of the Larrast.

Lord-Commander Heslok had gambled a great many things with his strategies on Radhast, but by far the most extensive risk was posed by his interest in tunneling under the Republic line.

Miles of tunnels were interwoven beneath the No Man's Land, and warfare in those closed quarters environments was not uncommon. Yet Heslok wanted something more. Something different than just outflanking the foe. He ordered a truly gargantuan amount of explosives to be placed along the Republic line at Larrast, the idea being that there would be no resistance left at the Larrast and the stalemate could be broken with a massive infantry charge.

Over 60,000 tons of high-yield laser-charges, directly imported from the adjoined naval deployment, were put inside several of these tunnels in complete secret to Republic forces. These explosives were meant to bombard planets, but the naval battle above Radhast necessitated those munitions being poured into enemy ships and not into enemy fortifications. But, Heslok's word was law and the bombs went off without a hitch - save for one, the nineteenth out of twenty, which failed to detonate until ten minutes into the infantry charge.

No Caption Provided

The largest of these explosions was said to heave dust so high into the atmosphere that it was visible to neighboring Imperial ships - dust, because all moisture had been instantly evaporated in the blast. It was roughly equivalent to a week's worth of concentrated bombardment all released in one, colossal burst. Electrical storms persisted for an hour afterwards, sending rolling torrents of thunder persisting throughout the battlefield. Most of all, however, it created rain.

Blankets of it, sheets of it, so much rain that the No Man's Land turned into a quagmire, nothing but mud and puddles and small lakes of grey and brown water. But the charge was ordered all the same.

At the behest of the whistles and the officers, 100,000 men fixed bayonets and surged forward into the gap. Private Jhen Brego, among them.

First came the whistles. Then the cheering, and the shouting. Jhen didn't move at first. He was third in line. Then the men beside him did, and instinct too over. That feeling - 'instinct'. More, he was caught in the tide of bodies. The wave of momentum. The moving, breathing ocean of plasteel uniforms.

He still didn't believe it - the explosion in front of him shook the water in his flesh, the marrow of his bones. Every part of his body, still recovering from the earth-shaking noise. Yet, men beside him were moving - nay, shouting! Officers, whistles in hand, making that ear-piercing sound, strength still left in their lungs. Strength still left in their legs, their arms, backs, and stomachs. This must have been the power of the Empire!

Was there a Darth nearby? Were they watching? Surely they were! This was a blessed battle, being looked upon by the Sith themselves! Jhen's lungs expelled their energy into a cacophonous noise, joining the ranks of the others. The mud swallowed his boots, but he took them back. Nothing on this planet was going to stop him from winning - WINNING!

By the Darths, they were going to WIN! A great victory, a great battle! What a tale to tell! What a life to live! To hear the sound of IMPERIAL artillery at their backs, to see the power of IMPERIAL munitions in front of them! To see the pain, to hear the howls of fear from the Republic lines... it was simply intoxicating! He felt a shock like no other, he was going to avenge Alger! Avenge his fiance! Avenge all those artillery support men who died before the Infantry Armies got here! Those damn snipers. That damn rain, concealing them, keeping them safe.

NOWHERE LEFT TO HIDE, COWARDS! YOUR RAIN HAS GONE, AND WITH IT THE CERTAINTY OF DEATH!

Then! Then... what is happening?

Koric, why are you in the mud? Why have you fallen? Tripped, eh? In your fervor? Get up, come on, we're not even halfway there. The crater is still open, they're still in the dirt and coughing in the smoke. Come on Koric.

Koric.

Koric.

Jhen looked from that man he knew since training camp, and back against the horrid grey, that horrid empty death of the Republic line. The rain was falling again.

No Caption Provided

The death was falling.

He ducked into one of the many holes carved out by turbo-laser fire. Barbed wire clinging to his uniform. Officer Braldt was behind him, and whistled, waving for more infantry to come. More men. More bodies.

Jhen dragged himself out of the hole, stood once more, but the gatling lasers started to open fire on the other side.

Rifles.

Mortars.

The Republic hadn't been crushed, not even by the bombs. They were filling into the gap now, guns blazing. Laser bolts ripping into his comrades. Laser fire on both sides now, tearing and emptying. Then, rage. An overwhelming energy in his limbs, prying him out of the muck, racing forward, bayonet charged.

He surged behind one of his comrades, Hauk, but only for a second. A las-mortar round burst in front of both of them, sending Jhen into a spiraling black. He could feel himself moving, only barely, but life existed in his limbs yet. He reached for Hauk, lunging in his blindness for that friendly shoulder to grasp and pull down into safety. He felt like he had to spit, and so he did, but a taste emerged. Meat? Had he died... and gone to heaven for a taste of fresh, cooked meat?

Holiday at the farm, an ugrog on the fire, sizzling in its porcine fats and juices.

He spat, undercooked. Mother, what are you doing? You never... undercook...

Jhen's eyesight returned. Hauk was there.

Half of him stretched out of the crater, reeled in by entrails and by flecks of blood and bile. Jhen's helmet had been compromised by the blast. The frontal plates of his armor were no longer that ashen-white of the chosen camouflage, but splattered in a grounded meat color. Pink, and red, and white - the pale emptiness of what was once Hauk. In his mouth, perhaps pieces of kidney, perhaps more entrail. Liver. He spat again, screaming, shouting, howling, in both pain and panic.

Vomit, a horrendous retching came next. Two men, a medic Thadon and a fellow infantryman Lorandis, pulled him away. Away, from the promise line. Away, from the certain victory. He was kicking at the mud, reduced to childish yowling and the tantrums of a reduced intellect. At that moment, there was no logic, only raw emotion. He didn't express anything besides that oppressive, empty noise.

It was something being used across the No Man's Land. A form of communication only the deepest parts of their brains could understand. No language existed for it, could exist.

"Hurt. Help."

"Anyone."

"Please."

The charge had failed.

72,000 casualties were inflicted.

33,902 men would die in less than an hour on the first day of the Battle of the Larrast.

Over two million would follow in the months to come. Months of grueling, endless, miserable trench warfare.

The price of Radhast's oil had been chosen.

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Northern Star #1: Secret of the Hammer

"Sven!"

Dinner. The year is 1066, a year of great change. But it is early in the winter months. By modern calendars, it is only January 3rd. It just so happens to be the birthday of one of Sven's children, Olaf. He departs from observing the setting sun, one of his pastimes, and goes into the one-room home designed for a family to live privately in the village ecosystem. Scandinavia is home to many tribes of warriors frequently called vikings at this time. To the nearby British, they are simply known as barbarians.

Sven lives in a village in Sweden, near modern-day Stockholm.

"So, how did you like shooting your first arrow Olaf?"

"I want to do it again! And with your bow, father,"

"Not until you're a bit older. That bow weighs more than you do,"

A quiet night. But with the morning, history will be made.

---

January 4th, 1992

---

"Push Mrs. Lincoln!"

Thirty-six hours in the delivery room. Sarah and Marshal Lincoln just wanted a second child, and already complications were piling up. Marshal balanced work, coming home to a worried Shawn - their oldest - and immediately going to the waiting room. Shawn liked the idea of having a baby brother, but he missed his family. He played Street Fighter alone again that night.

His father came home later than usual, his face stained with tears, but he had a smile on his face. He held Shawn close, and laughed.

The next morning, Sarah had her whole family in her room on the fifth floor. Her worrywort husband, their inquisitive little Shawn, and now their stubborn Ronnie. Ronnie Lincoln, it had a nice ring to it.

---

January 4th, 1066

---

The longhouse buzzed with excitement. Chief Thaur held a parchment in his thick hand, eating a breakfast of roast pig and bread with the other. It, by definition, meant that a new king had been crowned. Even without an eye, Thaur could see and understand the letters put in front of him as they melted into words. He slammed the note on the table, and raised a heavy arm with a thunderous shout.

"Harold Godwinson? King of England? Feh, Harald won't stand for that. Next thing you know, the Christians will all flock to our shores, looking to convert us or kill us. Damn English. Curse them! Curse the English forever!"

"Where is Sweyn? Where is the Danish King? Does he not oppose this?"

"It matters not. This is a fight between Harald and this new upstart coming to power across the waters,"

"What will that mean for our people? You control many villages, Great Thaur, and bring to bear nearly 1,000 soldiers at any given moment. Surely King Harald can see your worth to him,"

"Aye, that he will,"

Thaur sat back down in his chair. He had much to think about this day, for if he were to give all of his soldiers willingly there would be no one to defend against potential English or Danish raiders. Harald and Sweyn were still rivals, after all, no matter the English involvement in their legends. Then again, he risked his honor and that of those he chose to stay behind if he were to deny them travel to the longboats for war.

"Give me a day to think this over. By the morning of tomorrow, I shall have my decision,"

---

January 4th, 1999

---

"Happy birthday,"

It always rained on Ronnie's birthdays. Even when he was born, the weather outside twisted and turned into a horrendous thunderstorm.

"Loser,"

It helped wash away the blood. Some neighborhood punks looking for a good time harassing their underclassmen. Kept hitting him until he couldn't move anymore. He managed to fight back, and broke one of their noses with a hard right. He learned it from watching Mike Tyson, something called a cross counter. He analyzed those movements. Experimented, and executed perfectly.

Still, didn't help he was outnumbered three to one.

Shawn found him limping home and dragged him inside. Sarah brought ice cream home that night, and Marshal tried calling the police. Apparently, the delinquents were already picked up and hauled off to a reassessment center.

"Happy birthday Ronnie. We love you,"

---

August, 1066, in the court of King Harald

---

Tostig Godwinson, brother of the English king. He came to the land of Norway following his banishment from England, possibly out of a sense of revenge. He wanted allies in his new life as an outlaw, allies with power and influence. Though not necessarily evil, he did desire to satisfy his lust for wealth and status. He taxed the Danish population of Northumbria relentlessly, looking to pay off his debt he accumulated during the wars he and his brother waged against the Welsh. This did not go over well with the denizens of Yorkshire, who ousted him.

Looking to repay Earl Edwin of Mercia and his older brother Morcar for their generous deed to the people of Northumbria, Tostig eventually made contact with King Harald. The earl of Mercia and his kin were responsible for pursuing Tostig nearly all across the British seafront. Abandoned by his men, Tostig had nothing to offer but his life and the crown of England. He knew how his brother would wage war to defend his kingdom and country. Already, Harald would have been hungry for that conquest.

Seeing such a low-hanging fruit proved impossible to resist. Harald took Tostig's offer later that month, and began to assemble his armies.

Those of Chief Thaur were already sworn to him, as of earlier that year, already giving Harald a substantial boon of manpower.

---

Present-day, Gothic City, inside the financial offices of the Ghant Corporation and beyond

---

What are you doing with your life, Ronnie?

The dreams of twelve years ago seem so distant now, buried by college work and responsibilities. You have a college degree now. Do something with it. Don't squander your life away in a worthless job doing something worthless. Be somebody. Or at least that would be what Shawn would say at a time like this. You stand up. You dust off your pants, and get back to what you started. I miss you Shawn. It hurts all over. Did I get run over by a truck? It burns, too. Every muscle crackling.

The sky wasn't so dark before. It wasn't raining. The thunder...it's getting louder...

---

Seven hours earlier...

---

"Lincoln, stop slacking! I want those reports done yesterday!"

Of course it always came back to him. Ronnie never drank, never had time to. His breaks often consisted of going out the back door and smoking. Hardly ever ate. The glug of the water cooler remained his only source of actual nourishment. But today, nothing like that existed. No breaks. No lunch. Just work. Tireless, endless work. He had to give up his weekend this last work period because a coworker had to take care of her sick child. She might had been lying, but Ronnie liked her. No sense in saying no to a hot mom, right? But now he regretted it. Regretted every second of losing that perfect weekend full of sitting at home and sleeping.

Such precious sleep.

It might have changed what happened.

His boss screaming in his ear, always blaming him for what happened. At least, that's how he perceived it. Cubicle life sucked. The higher-ups only came down to inspect you. To judge you. Then their cronies came by and called you into the office. From there, you either had a job or were on your way out - permanently. Just keep working. The roar of the copiers and printers grated on his nerves. He hardly had any rest these past few months. Lately, a grinding noise kept him awake. A sound like distant thunder. It wasn't in his head, he swore up and down by his own senses. It always seemed to call him from the north, where he window pointed towards the edge of town. Gothic City sucked.

But now, he was in his boss's office. Getting chewed out. The reports he had to complete by today were missing, purely because the reports from the past few days were deleted by the company's faulty computer systems and he had no backup copy. Reports of what exactly? The larger company's financial records. Money he would never see, being put on paper with ink and with such a high frequency that the stacks of parchment probably amounted to a few months' rent for his crappy apartment. Although the man in front of him yelled and ranted, muffled to the outside by thick glass, Ronnie could still hear something from far away.

Something he knew all too well. The grinding of the machines, the trampling feet, people in a hurry to nowhere. It all surmounted into a horrible noise. A sound like thunder.

In one swift motion, the man in front of him became a target. An enemy. Threatening the animalistic urge of the human sitting in front of him for self-preservation by verbally abusing it. Like prodding a wild beast with a stick, retribution inevitably came sooner or later. A hard fist, tempered by white-knuckle calculations scribbling madly into notebooks for a last-minute effort at completing the tiniest mistake on a stack of papers reaching the ceiling, flew out of nowhere. On the other side, a man who broke the vow he made for himself. Don't do anything stupid with that big brain of yours, Ronnie.

I'm sorry Shawn.

---

Security came almost immediately and dragged him out back. The place where he once found salvation in a puff of tobacco residue became a savage and dark corner of existence. The boss shuffled out the back door with an ice pack on his swollen cheek. He closed and locked the door behind him, shoving the keys into his hand and damn near gutting Ronnie with a few shanks of the shards of metal used for his car and house. Such delicate things, forgotten by most people, and taken for granted. Not for anyone in Gothic, though. Anything could be a weapon.

"You piece of sh!t! I picked you up out of the f*cking streets and you hit me? F*ck you! F*ck you! F*ck you!"

A lie. Everything a lie. Ronnie fell face-first into the muck without a fight. He lost not just the fight, but everything in sight.

"Take him out to the woods. Bury the f*cker. Kill a deer or something and bury it on top of him so the police won't find him."

---

And so here we are, except Ronnie's not six feet under. His captors ran away once something crashed down from the heavens, a lightning bolt that still sears his flesh. They thought maybe the cacophony took him as well, but he yet lived. Burning alive, but still twitching with life. It was at this point he turned his weary head towards the epicenter of the blast. A hammer? No, not any ordinary hammer. As he reached for it, thinking of nothing else to do, he heard...a sound.

Of THUNDER.

---

September 20th to October 14th, 1066 - and beyond

---

Three battles shaped the foundation of English history. First came Fulford, where Tostig finally earned his revenge against Edwin and Morcar. However, many historians tend to focus on the battles of Stamford Bridge - and more importantly, that of Hastings.

The Battle of Stamford Bridge became the final resting place of King Harald of Norway, who was succeeded immediately by Duke William II of Normandy, more colloquially known as William the Conqueror. With Hastings, the floodgates were opened for a Norman conquest of England. And so history marched on as it was preordained to do.

A Swedish man named Sven went unremembered at Hastings, where he died fighting for the conquest of the English. He never saw his family again after leaving for foreign shores. But his bravery solidified a place for him in Valhalla, where all warriors go to bask in the glory of a heavenly afterlife. Yet even this did not satisfy Sven. He voiced his concerns to Odin, who would allow him to leave Valhalla if he could find someone worthy of retaining his warrior essence so that it could pass once more through the golden gates in the afterlife.

For many years, Sven watched as great generals and mighty soldiers rose and fell. All of them were powerful and worthy of remembrance, but none of them possessed that spark of inspiration Sven searched tirelessly for. One day, he decided to follow the life of Ronnie Lincoln, whose life seemed intertwined with the spirit of thunder and lightning, the symbols of Thor. Ronnie had within him a burning spirit waiting to be unleashed, the blood of a true Norseman.

It did not happen until that one fateful day, where he fought until he could fight no longer, ensorceled in a berserker rage and given a bravery uncommon to Midgard. On that day, the lightning cascaded down and with it the mystical hammer imbued with Sven's warrior essence. Odin accepted the trade, and sent Sven's spirit to Hel where he could finally live out his eternity with his wife and children.

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To Make a War Machine

(This is a collab, copied and pasted word for word from a PM between Drake and I.)

Drake once had an authentic name, duly to his average life, both relinquished as barbarous torture swapped sane for insane. Yet, he always abode by one law: survival.

The supercilious, jocose smirk across his masked face as he received a new assignment, proper for his ultimate prowess and dexterous demeanor. Yet, no skill would purge the malevolence contained within Canadian borders. Barely being able to profit if not by his other half. His thorough counterpart.

The complete War Machine, tameless and pulsing with power.

---

"I'm what?!"

Arnold Masters. Simple man with a simple plan. Twenty million for one job, but there was a catch this time. The Chief saw Arnold's lackluster track record of C and B-class assignments. Real simple solo stuff, scattered here and there instead of Arnold maximizing his potential. He was better than this easy garbage.

"You're going in with another guy from somewhere else in the company. I hear he's just as good as, if not better than, you,"

The giant mercenary put his hands on his head and exhaled deeply, already steamed.

"His name is Drake. Your plane arrives in thirty minutes. Play nice."

---

"Say what? I am amazing on my own! There is no 'we' in Drake, brother!" His strident mumbling reverberated, folded arms as he gazed his hirer in disbelief.

"S-sir, with all due respect, but not even your skills can fulfill our task."

The somewhat bubbly, panicky man approaching Drake savvied the mercenary's arrogant , egotistical behavior, appealing for a glistening brilliancy, the Carmine Comedian nodded reluctantly.

"Fine. We will split it, half to each."

Wiping sweat from his face, the assistant beckoned. "His name is Arnold, we picked him exactly to act where you, uh, lack prowess."

Piqued by the statement, Drake ironically rolled eyes. "Sure, might as well be Hodor, cause I have no flaws."

---

"I don't like him,"

His itchy trigger finger would have gone straight for his oversized shotgun if not for the fact this was supposed to be his partner.

That and, apparently, he was impossible to kill.

"Please, Mr. Masters sir, you have to work with him," Paul responded sweatily, pushing his glasses back up his nose.

"I don't have to like it though,"

The Scarlet Psychopath. Carmine Comedian. Other alliterations. Something about his mask pissed Arnold off right away, and his knuckles cracked as he clenched his fists. This was all part of calming himself down. For the next seven hours, he had to ride in a cramped two-man airplane with this guy. Hopefully he liked KISS.

---

"Oh my, what big weapons you have!"

The cachinnating mercenary waded into the room superciliously, unwavering composure staring Arnold with parched, alabaster eyes veiled by a rubicund and obsidian mask. An oscillating mind as he projected his wrist forth for a steady handshake, adamantly ignored, he simply bobbed greetings, pointing a finger toward his ally's jowl.

"Listen here, Hodor. It's just a job and as I am the most qualified merc... And the most good-looking one too, lemme define a few rules. One, we don't NEED to like each other. Two, you slow me down, you are my enemy, therefore killed. Three, we split the profit if successful. Four, we all need to remind me of my awesomeness from time to time." Wisecracking, he folded both arms, dimpling ironically.

The travel was straightforwardly messed up, Arnold's taste for music matched the Carmine Comedian's, Drake ceaselessly swapped the CD for an AC/DC disc, much to his grievance's displeasure.

---

I REALLY don't like him.

"My name is Arnold, you dork," he spat. "And while we're establishing rules, one: never order me around. That's the only rule I have, so sit there nice and quiet,"

The plane's radio suddenly stopped in the middle of the solo on Strutter.

"What the hell are you doing?!" Arnold shouted, his hands on the controls staying steady as he turned his head angrily. "Put it back!"

Drake was touching the bottom of the CD.

His greasy fingers all over Arnold's precious album.

"FFS, at least put it in the case! Show some mercy, man."

---

"Sure, Arnold, Armani, Hodor. No problem big guy!" Quipping, Drake rasped the bottom of Arnold's ostensibly favorite CD, scarcely savvying the ire it would inflict.

"It is so shiny!" Teleporting at a somewhat distant seat, he slid leftward, stumbling a bit prior to crouching.

"This is my precioussssss!" Doing his best Gollum impression, he seized the album. "But if it's mercy that you want."

Arnold's trunks were already swinging the assassin's direction when he cased it back. "Yo, calm the f*=ck down! We in the middle of a plane, big guy. And there better be no motherfckin' snakes on this motherfckin' plane!"

---

Drake had somehow locked the volume on the radio to damn near maximum, which in combination with his antics, wore on Arnold's nerves even further. He saw no autopilot function for the plane, so programmed his own and incorporated it into his psionics. As long as he remained conscious, the plane would continue flying as if he were still at the helm. This enabled him to move around freely.

And he had an idea.

"Hey Drake, you wanna play a game?"

Before the Crimson Comedian could conjure another quip, Arnold unleashed a roll of duct tape in his direction, prepared to do whatever it took to keep him from making another joke from 2006.

---

"Nope!" Leaping upward and forcefully swiping his muscular leg against Arnold's skeptical visage, arms elevated above his head with a cacophonic shriek. "You won't terminate me, Dalek!"

Sheathed katanas aback, crisscrossed and merely moving as Drake rushed through the airborne vehicle, hysterically yelling whilst his hard-headed partner darted behind.

---

One swipe, and Arnold missed, hitting his own hand on the baggage compartment. Out spilled Drake's belongings, ranging from spare (and unwashed) uniforms to...rubber ducks? The smell alone warranted the big guy's disgust, and he just got angrier the longer he was near this maniac.

"Hold still damn it!"

In an unpredictable series of shenanigans, Arnold missed his mark once more and plowed his head through the hard floor, falling unconscious on the spot. Of course, this meant that the plane was about to crash, and Arnold was the only one who knew how to fly it - psionically or not.

---

"My tighty-whities!" Drake superfluously yelled, kneeling as the scattered clothing intensified an acre scent present on the plane. This time, however, it was Arnold's mistake as he jolted onward and slightly missed Drake's seemingly melancholic stance, diving head-first onto the carpet. The timber ornaments of the vehicle were set ablaze by a set of incendiary grenades.

"Ah, fck. We are going to n--" Barely did he recapitulate as the airplane collapsed, the barrel of an AK-47 smashed against the infantile mercenary's head, pursued by a rubber duck, toilet paper and... Arnold?

The heavy thud as both quarreling figures throbbed against the ceiling. "Jesus, you REALLY need a diet." Grappling a flying pair of sockets midair, Drake devilishly grinned. "He's gonna be sooooo pissed." Cleaving Hodor's visage and overwhelming it with the abhorrent, strong smell of his bare-washed sockets. "Ugh, I didn't have time to wash these, did I?"

---

Crashing in the middle of Nowhere, Canada, wasn't the worst part.

Not even the stench of greasy socks was enough to make Arnold angry enough.

But what woke him up out of all the contributing factors to this was that he could not escape Drake now. He planned on doing the job alone after throwing the psycho out of the plane. Instead, they were stuck together. He coughed as he woke up, tore the sock off his head and spat.

"I think I got some in my lungs. Jesus, what do you use those for? On second thought, don't answer that,"

Standing up now, he shook his head and started a scan of the surrounding area.

"We'd better find somewhere to hide. If we're anywhere near the base, they would have seen us go down."

---

A dreadful crash site as debris splattered in the encompassing region, enkindling flames of ire as Drake mumbled, stuttered and cursed Arnold, also known as Hodor. Scallywag demeanor as flesh scarred and charred prior to healing entirely. Marginally locating themselves, the Carmine Comedian's head fluctuated, as if pivoting tirelessly. Almost as he was going to puke, the odor and fall puzzled him tremendously.

"Where the f are we, Hodor-bro? This seems like a roller coaster of death, I feel the scraps filling my tummy!" He was not ironic, a huge chunk of metal traversed his stomach, dripping burgundy blood on the gelid, filthy soil.

"What do I use those for? I wear them. Only problem is, when you are a decent merc, you can't afford to wash your clothes every weekend. And they usually get a LOT bloodstained." Reclining on a fallen trunk, he cautiously removed the scrap, grunting woefully and panting. A few seconds passes before he tiptoed behind the gigantic goliath and inquired their location.

"Yo, metal-head, you have any idea where we are? I really need to collect on their dead asses and so do you, I reckon. By the way, what brung such a weirdo to merc's life, if you don't bother answering."

---

"Well, we're in the middle of Bumblefck, Nowhere, for one thing," Arnold grunted.

"And my name's Arnold, ffs,"

He had half a mind to bend the metal protrusion in Drake's torso so that he couldn't get it out. But instead, he pushed his way out of the wreckage and watched him pull the chunk of airplane away from his meaty innards.

"Judging by the autopilot's trajectory, and what little information about the facility we do know, I'd hazard a guess that it's just up the hill. We were supposed to HALO drop within five minutes of us crashing. So,"

He pieced together an obstensiously large shotgun, complete with working parts down to the last infinitesimal mechanism, out of spare airplane parts and loaded it with similarly customized-on-the-spot shells.

"Let's get moving."

---

He ignored Drake's inquisition into his personal life, but the question did not go unthought-of. Arnold was just too angry right now to have a casual conversation with the person responsible for shtting all over his otherwise perfect day.

Drake quiescently arose from the pile of debris he had been laying on, smiling quite imbecilely, a pathetic shriek of a laughter, an evanescent sarcasm, it was time to work and his inquiry awoken his own past memories.

"Sure, Arno. You know I probably won't remember that, right?" Faking a chuckle, he followed attentively, unsheathing a katana, one he brandished with utmost precision.

"Sorry about the question, big guy. Not the right time. You have any plans? Knocking wouldn't be exactly brilliant now. I can teleport myself inside and clear the zone for your entrance, if you wish." Nodding, he spoke quite seriously, putting aside insanity for a jiffy.

---

"As much as I'd like to see you get torn to shreds, I don't think I have to remind you that there are things in there we don't know about yet. Things that might hurt, severely maim, and/or grind you to pieces,"

He started to think about this statement some more.

"On second thought, go ahead. You can totally do this by yourself."

He already scanned the surrounding area, and smiled for the first time in this escapade.

Soon he would be enjoying the Carmine Comedian's screams of pain and agony instead of his inane gibberish.

Little did either of them know, this was the beginning of something (Drake:
Little did either of them know, this was the beginning of something (Drake: "Special! Stupendous! Awe-inspiring!" Arnold: "Miserable.") ... ... ... special (Drake: "AW COME ON!" Arnold: "Stop whining! We got work to do, or is your memory really that bad?" Drake: "You ever get the feeling you're being watched?" Arnold: "ffs")

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