Volumes of Segra: Land of Ruin
by Marion Storms
Normulios stood on an overlook in Purlieu 37. From here he had a good view of the landing docks and the courtyard leading up to them. Sarget and a detachment of wyrim soldiers were gathering at the docks. They were among the few wyrim left in Purlieu 37; among the last few soldiers in the city at all really. A considerable amount of the forgotten prepared to leave the city with them.
The surface was little more than a wasteland these days; the places that were inhabitable were few and far between. Many had already chosen to travel off-world, those that remained lived in floating cities high up in the atmosphere much like Purlieu 37.
Although it was not addressed openly, the wyrim were not welcome here. It was amazing how quickly generations of being allies in arms could mean nothing in a time of war. Before the war the wyrim were viewed as barbaric and primitive; and while their technology was a long way behind, they fought with ferocity and honor unmatched by many of the forgotten. If not for their help, the way may have gone very differently. It was a shame how near to the surface old grudges laid.
This world had long belonged to the wyrim; even in its damaged state the wyrim refused to leave. They chose to live on the surface, Normulios could not tell if it was inspired by hope or foolishness. Statistics indicated that the world was growing more unstable, but perhaps now that the war was over, some of the damage could be reversed.
The wyrim and the forgotten warriors began to load onto the transports. Normulios studied the crowd that had gathered for the sight. There were no cheers or parades to send them off; no deep-set sadness at the thought of them not returning. The crowd was relatively quiet, there was a deep feeling of disgust and even fear.
So much had changed since before the war; for better and for worse. The upper circle had decided that the simple knowledge of combat was dangerous; that the only way for society to recover was to forget; to keep society ignorant of their own capabilities. Let them remember the past but not how it was accomplished.
All of the soldiers as well as anyone who had played an important role in the war were given the choice of being banished to the surface or to be suspended “until a time when they are needed again.” Although not an official term, it was already common for the fighters to reference each other as “forgotten."
He was doubtful that this plan would work, but if there was a chance for lasting peace it was worth a try.
Normulios remembered when he was young; how the warriors seemed like such legends to him. Now they are treated little better than common criminals. The public saw them only as brutes with weapons; cold, insensitive creatures taught only to fight and kill. To some extent Normulios couldn’t help but wonder if they were right; in fighting for humanity had he lost his own?
From the crowd below, Sarget caught his gaze. Normulios knew Sarget well, he had fought beside him many times. Sarget was one of the wyrim clan leaders and one of few wyrim to become a paladin. Normulios saluted him, Sarget returned a nod then boarded the transport.
Once the transports were boarded they departed Purlieu 37 for the surface. If the surface became too much to bear, there were several abandoned equipment bunkers that laid underground where they could take shelter.
Once the ships had descended below the clouds, Normulios sighed. Very soon it would be his turn to be suspended. He turned and began to make his way through the city toward the gallery.
Each of his shod hoof steps let out a metallic ring against the pavement, and as he moved his armor clinked softly. Even simple things such as that set him apart from the main population. There was no need to be shod in the Purlieu outposts; the roads were smooth and well kept. Shoes were worn by warriors, for traveling across rough, hazardous terrain. The armor explained itself, as well as the metal clasp on his tail. While not as elaborate as some, it was much to the same effect as the fighting fists that some brawlers used to wear.
The gallery was a museum of sorts as well as a memorial; it was here that the soldiers who chose not to go to the surface were suspended in crystal. Many are displayed as statues throughout the gallery.
Normulios passed one of the displays; nearly two hundred men in full gear standing at attention all suspended, encased in crystal. Up-front stood one apart from the rest, beside him stood another statue; this one was not suspended, but instead carved. Carved in the exact shape and pose as the one that stood beside him.
Normulios turned his attention back to the first statue, he recognized him. While he had never had the chance to meet him personally, he had seen him around; he was another paladin. And beside him, that statue represented his guardian.
In the darkest days of the war they had found an unlikely ally. They had gained the attention of one of the Eternals. Unable to interfere directly, it instead assigned one of its knights to any who proved themselves worthy. These knights had come to be known as guardians and those to whom they were assigned as paladins.
Normulios looked back to the carving and how it mirrored the paladin; guardians can take whatever form is necessary so it was about as close of likeness as one could ask for.
“Knarin,” Normulios said quietly. Almost immediately there was a faint glow as his own guardian faded into existence. It was difficult to make out Knarin’s features, trying to make out his features was similar to trying to make out details beyond a lightning flash; yet somehow it was a different kind of light than what would hurt the eyes.
“Is this the right choice?” Normulios asked. “To remain suspended? Or is it cowardice to not face the world that we did this to?"
“It is not my place to change your decisions,” Knarin answered.
Normulios gave a weak smile. Same old Knarin, always remaining neutral. ”Until we are needed once more; it could be a long wait.”
“You know that time does not have the same grip on me as it does you,” Knarin replied.
“And if I should sleep forever?” It was not a new thought; “If this whole thing is just a publicly accepted way to be rid of the fighters?”
“It is my place to accompany you until your journey in the mortal realm has come to an end. If that is the case then I will meet you in my homeland. Either way I will be there when you wake.” Such confidence behind Knarin’s words; Normulios knew it was true but it was still a comfort to hear him say it.
Normulios heard someone approaching behind him, he flinched then forced himself to turn around calmly. It is over. There are no enemies here. Once he turned around he saw that it was one of the workers at the gallery that had approached him.
“Normulios?” she asked.
“Yes,” he confirmed.
She startled. Normulios followed her gaze and realized that she was looking at Knarin. Apparently she has never seen a guardian before.
“It is time,” she said. From the way she shifted her weight, Normulios could tell that for a moment she had actually considered running from them.
“Please follow me,” she said as she began to lead the way at a fairly brisk walk.
Normulios followed. He was at least impressed that as spooked as she was she managed to keep her composure. Although it was a shame that the reputation toward the fighters had grown so untrustworthy.
Knarin followed one step off of his shoulder. “Do you want me to accompany you?” he asked.
The question struck Normulios as absurd, although he understood what Knarin meant by it. Guardians were not of the mortal realm, their physical form was merely a means to better relate to the paladin and those around them. What Knarin meant was if Normulios wished for Knarin to remain in his physical form until the slumber claimed him.
Knarin was bound to Normulios, he was at his side even when not visible. “You always do,” Normulios said to him fondly. At that, Knarin once again faded out of existence.
She lead him to a back room. On one side of the room was a medical set up, on the other was a series of controls surrounding a central platform. A couple other attendants were making final preparations.
Normulios realized that he had subconsciously began double-checking his gear; that the buckles on his armor were in good repair and that his sword would come free without a catch. All troops in the gallery were suspended with their equipment. This assured that should they need to be awakened they would have familiar weapons in the same working order in which they left them.
“Normulios,” one of the attendants motioned him over then gestured at the platform.
He had spoken to others who had been suspended, but he himself had not experienced it. He took his place on the platform. Once he was in position, a force field went up around the pedestal. He could pick up on a faint, but odd scent as crystals began to form across his body, just as frost does on a cold lake. In less than a minute he was completely immobilized.
Normulios could feel his alertness fading as he lost himself to the deep slumber of suspension.