forlorn vignette: karina's journal
Some of us, when the reality of the invasion broke through the final barriers of disbelief, fled the cities. Great Parthen, the Jewel of Anristen, was emptied in a matter of days. Piren of the Clusters, Huredinth the Ancient, Selemos Sion and Gated Rune followed suit. It was the same in the Southern Lands – Izak, Tergit, Bial, Volor, Ria Mnes, in all the cities of the Constellate as well as the Principalities of Thorn across the Fourth Sea.
Enormous caravans, farraginous and densely populated, crisscrossed the lands. Windships and aerial caravels dotted the skies. On rivers, lakes and seas thousands of vessels of various types jostled for position. They carried everything they could: mementos, treasures and keepsakes; artwork, books and esoterica; husbands, wives, lovers and children; pets, merchandise and food.
People abandoned their homes in the search of safety, only to find that the very places they had deemed safe were already in ruin. The enemy found the refugees in vast open spaces and burned them in massive funeral pyres that included everything that meant anything to them.
Some of us, when others ran away, elected to stay for various reasons. There were those who still could not accept the putative evidence right before their eyes – they persisted in a strict disbelief, as if by force of will they could deny the chaos around them. There were those who were resigned to defeat – in the face of terror they gave up the fight and hoped only to survive and eke out an existence under the new masters. There were those who simply refused to leave their homes – families who had spent generations in one place were determined to make it their final resting place. There were those who looked at horror in the eye and decided that the most reasonable course of action was to drink themselves into a stupor, sheathed from the unacceptable by smoke and alcohol.
People engaged in the heart-breaking game of trust, wagering their past and present against the uncertain future. But the fatal games were not dependent on fortune or happenstance, and all players who anted up paid with their lives.
Some of us, when opportunities became apparent in the confusion, took advantage of fear and looked to make profit. They bottled water and claimed it a nepenthe against the growing darkness, refashioned religious amulets as potent charms, and claimed to speak on behalf of the invaders, exacting atrocious amounts of money in exchange for the aegis of their dubious embassies.
People would eventually learn in the harshest possible terms not to trust these miracle workers, but it was a lesson many refused to accept. Many continued to swear by the efficacy of their glowing trinkets. Thousands died with ornaments clasped in their hands.
Some of us, sensing the end of our days, took to battle. Heroes rose by the hundreds, alone or in groups, and fought the grotesqueries with various motivations. Those who lived for glory died in the charnel pits, pleading for their lost lives. Those who lived for honor died bereft of honor, reduced to tooth and claw when their shiny weapons broke and when their splendid armor shattered against the enemy. Those who bore great magic fared little better. At first their magery seemed an effective hindrance to the legions that swarmed the lands, but as they exhausted their finite spells against the seemingly infinite army, they too fell, withered husks of great men and women perished evoking everything they knew in one final futile strike.
People fought as they knew how, but the enemy had different rules of engagement. Entires armies were destroyed as they rested, for the evening was when the vespertine enemy was most cruel.
The last of us, watching the best of us fall in countless mounds, barricaded ourselves in secret places. But in time all of these were ferreted out and gutted, overwhelmed by the enemy’s unholy intelligence and power.
But the cleverest of tacticians, the most careful of mages and the most paranoid of warriors – a pitiful number- convened and made desperate plans.
The fortress was named Forlorn, after the Ilkaren word for our world.
And in Forlorn we dared to hope.