04 March 2014
“One, two –he’s coming for you! Three, four – he’s at the door!” Is part of the little song that’s started to spread across borders close to the Prime Zone. Monsters have always been part of horror stories only invented to scare the younglings, but there was truth behind this song. While most folk took it as a mere song thought up by someone with a bit too much time on their hands, few know the terrible truth behind it, and soon more will learn it.
When the Imperium learned of a new hero among the Keepers - the mysterious Nox - all the research centers got an urgent task to find a way to neutralize this new threat on the defense lines.
The laboratory in Greedwald came closer to success than anybody else. Lord Carlos was deeply interested in the Imperium's victory and in the achievements of science as well. Even during the wartime he spared no effort or expense and managed to equip the research team with everything needed. Melany Lipri, widely known in the scientific community for her researches of the Touched and primebiology know-hows, was invited to lead the experiment.
Several new living samples were created during this experiment. The sample #13 was recognized as the most successful among them. It contained some material taken from large totoolian scorpions and a bit of northern "blood" - idmarian spider's genes. The cocoons of those insects were posing hazard not only to foresters and smaller species of the Touched but for lone travelers lost in the Idmar's Forest as well. Their poison mixed with totoolian toxin was going to have a disastrous effect on any living creature.
The resulting half-breed was ultimately close to Nox grown by the Keepers in its specifications, and the research team decided to focus its efforts on this sample. It developed a special armor which contained not only biological but also mechanical materials to improve creature's defense and speed. Muscles of the monster had been built up in several steps, and its body was constantly being filled with Prime. Meanwhile, the researchers were testing its intelligence and training it to follow some basic orders. The creature appeared to learn pretty slow, but Lipri was certain that sample #13 (or Gennadius, as she jokingly called it in honor of some ancient war leader) was much smarter than it appeared.
And one day the creature actually proved it. Highly restricted amounts of Prime had started to enter the chamber once again. Sample #13 suddenly smashed a wall by pulling the chains out of the plate with uncanny ease, destroyed a prime-lamp and disappeared in the darkness. Only a withered cocoon hiding a tunnel to the Idmar's Forest was left in the chamber. The accident was victimless... for a while. Security officer started to cry the alarm, and Lipri frowned.
The first expedition in chase of the beast was sent immediately, without any delays. The dead bodies of all its members were found pretty soon as well. Lipri was inspecting corpses of poisoned soldiers when a cynical thought of a true scientist had crossed her mind: "One thing is reassuring - it couldn't have gone far away indeed." The second troop was headed by a Hero. After his resurrection, an experienced Warlord asked for a backup of one or even two Heroes, and warned that the hunt may linger on.
Several days have passed. No more mere mortals were sent to catch the monster, but troops of Heroes weren't able to take the prisoner back as well. Warlord was sure that it is impossible to deceive the cunning beast and bring it back alive on call of this "nerdy wench". Meanwhile, Vryl was free and dangerous not only to hunting heroes, but also to nearby residents.
In a brave study, lieutenant Lipri came out of the castle and started walking along the city wall. It seemed that today she would have to give an order to kill Vryl beyond control... although she didn't want to.
Lipri was distracted from her sorrow by a chirring sound. She turned around with a startle - the escaped Vyrl was standing just a few feet away from her. Lipri's heart died within her. In her study, she had unwittingly gone deep into the forest. Now, in spite of the fact that the outer castle wall was still visible above the tree tops, the woman was too far away to get help or at least call for it. She had no doubts she would die concerning how strong and blood-thirsty her creation was, and she understood that this cunning fellow should have realized her role in the experiment already. He probably had put the eye on her long ago. Or, more specifically, his deadly tail.
But Gennadius wasn't eager to attack his creator. Instead of it, he placed something on the ground, moved it towards Lipri and made an impatient chirring sound again. Lipri saw a piece of chitinous carapace with metal reinforcement. Confused, she looked up at him. He broke out chirring and chirping, comically drew his horns in, rolled his eyes up as he was dead, and then chirred again, moving a piece of carapace towards Lipri.
She started to understand: "Oh you're a sly one! You've noticed that we'd been sending the same heroes after you, and that means we can resurrect them! You want that for yourself? But you need to follow our orders, are you ready for it? Will you give me your catalyst?" In reply, monster not only made several affirmative sounds, but also moved his tail up and down, which certainly meant his agreement.
Like a lamb, he returned to the laboratory with Lipri. He was absolutely gentle, following orders and showing his superior intelligence. The first resurrection of Vryl as a Hero was performed in a presence of tripled security platoon, and everything went down peacefully. Vryl, having the power of a Hero, has become highly competitive with Vryl. And, more importantly, as he was able to resurrect, he would obey anyone with a catalyst.
Soon enough, the Imperium bristled against its southern neighbor with a poisonous tail of a new military unit: ruthless, dangerous and evasive Vryl.
Forests outside of Egizar have been touched by the Prime Zone and are considered too dangerous for promenades and even usual hunting. However, it was no usual hunting. Since recently, people from adjacent villages were disappearing pretty often. The Touched were not uncommon here, places were considered dangerous, and local folks got used to the fact that sometimes, once in several months, the next villager wouldn't come back from the forest. But there were almost two dozen of them "lost in the woods" for less than three weeks, and that was too much! A local lord ordered to send troops and study out this new threat residing in the forests of the Prime Zone. Three heroes followed by one and a half dozen archers left the castle at a day-break to walk into the depths of the forest, going north towards the Prime Zone.
Early on, everything was just fine - they have found no traces of the "unknown Touched" or their victims. Acrid Naga started to bugger about "s-s-silly villagers-s-s" who probably had discovered a new sort of a drunkenberry and were celebrating it somewhere on the outskirts. "They will s-s-sober up and come back." Not a joke to write home about, but nevertheless, all other members of the troop were led to believe in a positive outcome of this trip.
The third day brought trouble. A troop of archers ordered to get some firewood for an evening camp hadn't come back. They were found pretty soon, but nobody could tell what had happened to them. Firewood was scattered all over a clearing, bodies were disfigured by poison, and their eyes were iced with horror. Silence deepened within the troop.
The next morning, Prince of Thieves disappeared. He was the last one to keep the night watch - apparently, the reckless hero had seen or heard something, decided to explore it and went into the woods all alone. Needless to say, his companions found no trail of the Prince. "He mus-s-st be in the castle already. Res-s-s-surrected and fresh after the Prime S-s-spring" - grumbled Naga. "He could at leas-s-st have written a note, telling what he s-s-saw." But nobody smiled.
The next day was keeping them in suspense. "It's the calm before the storm" - thought the Immortal leading the operation. And the storm has finally broken at sunset. The troops, resting on a tree trunk, jumped on their feet as soon as the ground started to shake under them. The next moment a beast arrived in the center of a clearing, scattering piles of dirt all around. One of the archers managed to squeak "Monstera!" As quick as lightning, the beast turned over to the sound and smashed him with its tail. Poor archer couldn't even scream, but his comrades screamed instead: Right in front of their eyes, the archer became acid-green and... blew out, spraying the nearby troops with poison. Meanwhile, the nameless beast (which actually had something in common with monstera used by the Keepers in military assaults against enemy outposts) turned to heroes and attacked them.
The fight was hot - the creature lashed around the clearing, mining into the fight, disappearing under the ground, mauling everyone with its terrifying claws and seemed almost invincible. The archers were killed within several minutes, and both heroes tried to stand at bay. Naga was the next one to fall, overtaken by powerful strikes of the creature's tail. He died, hissing: "Be s-s-strong!" And the Immortal was. Curiously enough, he actually won by using one of his classic tricks - falling and rising again, to finish the fight by one mighty blow.
The beast kissed the dust. The mission was accomplished. The Immortal stood up, shaking his buzzing head, and went in the forest in hopes to find some small Touched, kill it and regain his vitality... And he was lucky, though not quite as he expected. Within a few feet of the clearing, he found a hole where this damned creature lived, and three eggs laying in it. It appeared that the monster had come from the Prime Zone to lay its eggs. Well, it seemed that all human sacrifices were not useless. The Keepers were able to speak any language. Even tigers, Flame Throwers (they were considered demons once) and monsteras served them in a fight.
The Immortal reported his success to the castle and handed his findings to the lord. When hatched, little Noxs drew all possible attention. In spite of their highly aggressive nature, they never attacked any mentor, probably taking them for their parents. After a little while it developed that this new species of the Touched can be a powerful weapon of Adornia - Noxs were dangerous, poisonous, clever and obedient. And pretty sensitive to Prime. So sensitive, that one day the lords decided to improve them with all the power of Prime and tried to initiate them as some kind of Heroes.
And they have become not just some kind, but true Heroes - able to resurrect again and again, powerful, dangerous and, more importantly, intelligent. Though Noxs still weren't able to speak plainly, they could recognize any human commands or reactions and remained loyal to their masters. Soon enough, new Heroes departed to the frontier, arousing fear in the enemies of Adornia.