Gallant Heart: Story of Odin Chapter 3

End of an Era

By The RPGenius

Simon's Notes: The next area of this tale is mainly descriptive in nature, and so, not having an adequate time for a full translation, I will briefly relate the contents of this narrative.

The country of Ganne was a very open one, with few natural barriers such as mountains or rivers.  Ganne was not a large country for this reason, because defending it was difficult when one all sides were open to attack.  It is actually quite a wonder that they managed to be a formidable foe to the warrior country of Vallana with such a weak strategic position.  It is likely that if both countries were given equal natural defenses, Ganne would prove to be the stronger.

Vallana, by contrast, was gifted with several natural defenses.  The Zodiac Monsters had already decimated several of its most outer-lying forts and towns, but the main part of Vallana was still fairly safe.  Vallana's capital and most of its cities were almost entirely surrounded by great mountain ranges, you see, ones that were highly difficult to pass through alone, and certainly impossible to bring any large force through.  At its back was the ocean, and since the country of Ganne was entirely land-based, with no access to the ocean unless it went through the territory of another country, there was little chance of a sea attack.  In effect, there was really only one way to enter the main part of Vallana: Ralov Fortress.  This fortress was built by Vallana in the center of the only area in which the mountains parted to form a grassy, even strip of land.  Needless to say, Vallana put a great deal of time and effort into the upkeep and defenses of this fortress, for its position guaranteed that no large force could avoid it if entering Vallana.  Though this document indicates that Ganne had managed to overcome the fortress before in many previous wars, it was still the most important part of Vallana's defense.

Ralov Fortress is very different from the conventional styles of Ivalice's.  As one would expect, there was a high wall forming the perimeter; this wall surrounded a very unique structure.  The main part of Ralov was a large building that would look no different from a typical castle of this land save for one factor: the many small towers branching out.  Ralov's center building was surrounded by ten fairly small towers in a placement pattern forming of a decagon.  At the top of each was a stone corridor that connected it to the main structure.  Dormitories for the soldiers were located in the main building near every tower's corridor.  This way the soldiers could be deployed quickly to all areas in Ralov.

Bah.  I go on and on, and I meant to make this but a brief description.  I shall now continue the true translation of this story.  Let us see what happens next to the warrior Odin...

*  *  *

Odin stood upon the defensive walls of Ralov Fortress, gazing out at long expanse of green grasslands, lit only by the stars and a half moon.  On either side of him, many sorcerers and callers quietly did the same, watching the wind make and part waves in the grass as in the sea.

It was a simple enough plan that had been proposed, yet one that could only have been considered in such cataclysmic times as the ones that had befallen Vallana and Ganne of late.  Odin, along with all of Vallana's magic-using soldiers, would travel to and guard Ralov Fortress from the attack that would surely come from the demonic foes.  Almost all of the rest of Vallana's military (which, considering Vallana's reliance upon warriors rather than magic, was considerably larger than Odin’s force) had been mobilized to Ganne to assist in a major evacuation of the entire country.  Because it was based in a broad, open country, Ganne was simply too difficult to defend properly.  Thus, it would be evacuating to its neighboring countries, though the vast majority would be taken into Vallana.

It was not a plan that Odin liked.  Granted, he could certainly see the wisdom in it, and even admitted that it might very well be the only rational alternative left to the kingdom.

To begin with, transporting that many people all together was very risky, even with such an enormous military escort.  With such a number of people to defend, and with that much territory to would be easy for these monstrous fiends to take advantage of the situation and attack, causing mayhem.

The other major concern that Odin held about the strategy was what would happen once the refugees reached their destinations.  Until just the past few days, Ganne and Vallana were the bitterest of rivals.  Would the people of Vallana be able to disregard their past enmity and offer a home to their new allies?  Would the two peoples be able to live together until this threat had passed?

Odin knew these to be rhetorical questions.

Squabbles, bitter feuds, and bloodshed awaited these people.  They would be unable to work together, to come together as a whole.  No, they'd start small civil wars, causing internal strife that would make the situation of the country’s defense that much more impossible.

But this was the strategy that the ruler of Ganne and the ruler of Vallana had created, and Odin was bound by honor, oath, and duty to do his utmost to ensure its success.  And so he continued to stand upon the walls of Ralov, scanning the area before him for any signs of movement, friendly or hostile.

And then Odin heard it.

The sounds of distant battle, he realized, clenching Gungnir more tightly.  Explosions, screams of agony, and the roars of the horrible monsters reached the warrior's ears.  He and the soldiers with him peered hard out into the dark night before them, but could see nothing.  This couldn't be...for the sounds to reach them, surely the men should have been able to see the battle from here?  Unless...

Unless the sounds were not muffled by distance, but by walls.  Odin whirled about and rushed into the fortress, making his way through it to the large courtyard in the back of the great structure.

A scene all too reminiscent of the night before greeted the warrior's eyes.  Somehow, two of the beasts had managed to do the unthinkable: pass through the treacherous mountain ranges that surrounded Ralov Fortress and enter through the back of it.  The entire fortress had been caught unawares, and now the two fiends were slaughtering the soldiers within before any could cast their spells.

One of the monsters was the bulbous Queklain from the previous night's battle, with not even a scar to show for the last evening’s bloody combat.  His companion was unknown to Odin.  It was another monster whose main body seemed humanoid, as Velius had been.  The body was strong, with rippling muscles.  The part that made it a nightmare, however, was the garish grinning head of a lion with braided mane sitting atop the body.

Odin took Gungnir in his hands and hurled it with all the strength of a living legend at his foe.  Without Sleipnir to ride in battle, he would have to fight as a foot soldier, and since his Zantetsuken was much more suited for such a task than his Gungnir, throwing the mighty spear as a javelin was probably the best way for him to cause damage with it.

Skilled as he was in the many ways of war, Odin's attack flew true, and the powerful Gungnir buried itself up to the shaft in the ugly head of Queklain.  Odin turned his attention to the other monster, satisfied that the first was very dead.

To the warrior's great and unpleasant surprise, Queklain, without bothering to even remove the weapon from his skull, turned to his companion and said, as best he could, "There is the fool who killed Dorleeg, Hashmalum.  As you can see, he's rather more dangerous than the other rabble."  Odin took a small bit of comfort in the fact that Queklain at least sounded as though he were in a large amount of pain.

The other monster, Hashmalum, did not bother to respond, simply moving towards Odin and snarling eagerly.  Vallana's greatest warrior reached for his blade--

"Chicken Race!" Queklain called out.  To the warrior's horror, his arms dropped to his side, dead and lifeless.  Try as he might, he could not move any part of them.

"Yes, mighty warrior," Queklain sneered, pulling the Gungnir messily from himself and tossing it aside, "I wonder how well you'll be able to fight with the curse of No Act cast upon you, hm?  I--"

The demon's speech was interrupted as a sudden dark cloud formed above him and a monstrous bolt of lightning struck him, the thunder at so close a range nearly deafening.  After the bolt had surged through him, Queklain glared with his mutilated and now-blackened face at the group of spell-casters that he and Hashmalum had been battling moments before.

"I'll let you deal with that fool, Hashmalum, while I clean up out here," Queklain growled angrily, charging at the Vallana sorcerors.

Hashmalum turned back to Odin, but the crippled warrior was no longer there.  Looking about, Hashmalum saw the man entering one of the many towers of Ralov.  Snorting in mild irritation, the hellish beast gave chase.

Odin's long and powerful legs let him take the winding stairs three at a time as he ran up the narrow staircase leading to one of the armories of Ralov.  The mind of the warrior raced as he tried to formulate a plan of action while he climbed in the dim torchlight.  His arms were useless to him, meaning that he could not battle his pursuer face-to-face, or he would surely perish.  At the top of these stairs was a corridor leading to the main fortress, and the first major area of the building from that entrance would be an armory.  If Odin could only make it there...

While the kingdom of Ganne had chosen a recent path towards the research and refinement of magic in warfare, Vallana had chosen a path towards scientific research to develop new weapons in warfare, putting minimal emphasis on its magic-users (nearly all of the kingdom’s wizards were actually all outside battling Queklain, truth be told).  Right as the most recent of peace treaties had been signed, Vallana had found a powerful new weapon which, when lighted by fire, could achieve terrifying, powerful explosions far surpassing those that Ganne’s sorcerers were yet capable of.  Loaded into small canisters, a length of rope coming out from the container would be lit on fire, and the canister would be hurled from a catapult into either the enemy fortress's walls or into the oncoming opposing army, whichever the case may be.  The resulting explosion was devastating in either situation.  This new, dark powder had yet to be christened with a conventional name, but every one of the small store rooms throughout Ralov fortress contained several barrels full of the circular canisters.

It was the only thing Odin could think of that would be strong enough to defeat one of these beasts beyond conventional weaponry, which was now as useless to the warrior as his limp arms and hands.

Odin grunted softly as he continued to climb the stairs, a few drops of perspiration forming on his brow.  The cold, hard slabs of stone seemed to mock him as he climbed them, wearing him out as Hashmalum followed further down.  But he was near the top, he was sure of it, as he took in the flickering, torch-lit world around him.  Just a little more and he'd be there...

And then, Odin tripped.

Pain shot through the warrior as his chin landed hard upon the cold grey stone step before him, and one further down jutted into his chest savagely.  It was no more than a simple and careless error, but without his hands to pull himself up, Odin could not immediately stand and resume climbing the tower.

Hastily, he used his knees to push off of one side of the wall and get onto his back.  Before he could attempt to right himself, however, Hashmalum came into his vision a few steps below.  The monster’s face broke into a garish grin as he sped his ascent to take advantage of the warrior's plight.

Odin saw the glint of the eager hunt in Hashmalum’s eyes, could hear the excited breath he took as he came to spell doom for the warrior.  Odin had one chance to get out of this...or he would most certainly be dead.

The monster was all but on him, now.  Hashmalum drew back his arm, shaping his hand flat and letting the curved, cruel nails speak for themselves.  He prepared to strike at the fallen soldier’s heart...

And Odin reared his legs back and slammed his feet into Hashmalum's face with all his strength.  The strong, muscle-bound limbs built from years of hard training and combat drove against their target with such force that even the enormous and mighty monster was thrown back several feet--into air.  The beast fell down the stairs, tumbling and rolling out of sight.

Even before Hashmalum was gone from the warrior's vision, Odin was getting to his feet as quickly as he could while still being careful not to fall once more.  Once he was upright, he continued his climb of the remaining steps until he had reached the top.  He broke into a desperate run down the corridor leading to the main structure.  As his limbs carried him forward in powerful strides, he tried to calm his hastened breathing and to abolish the frenzied thoughts of what would happen should he fail in this plan.  He must think calmly and rationally now--panic would only hinder his abilities.

He reached the small room at the end of the corridor and slammed into the closed door blocking his path to the next room.  His momentum, power, and weight knocked the portal open, and the warrior tumbled into the armory.

As he worked hastily to stand once more, Odin looked around the racks of swords, lances, gauntlets, and various other weapons and armors until he had located a set of large, inconspicuous wooden barrels.  Once he was able, he rushed over to them.

One of the barrels' top had been removed, and Odin was satisfied to see that inside were many neatly-stacked canisters of Vallana's deadly explosive powder.  Just what he had been hoping for.

The warrior raised his heavy boot and slammed it into the large container, toppling it over with a dull thud.  One of the canisters fell out, but the rest were tightly packed enough to stay within the barrel.  Wasting no time, Odin aimed another kick at the overturned container and sent it rolling away down the corridor he had just come from.

As it slowly settled to a stop a few feet down the hallway, Odin leapt straight into the air.  His head smashed into one of the lit torches lighting the room, knocking it out of its holder and onto the cold floor of stone.

Odin looked up for a moment to judge distance and angle.  As he did so, his blood chilled as he saw at the far end of the hallway Hashmalum's head rising from the stairwell, its demonic features twisting to a ferocious grin as he saw his prey.

Odin forced himself to lower his gaze from the fearsome face of a lion satisfied that his prey would soon be his.  The warrior quickly judged the distance and angle between the overturned barrel down the corridor and the still-burning torch by his boots.  He then kicked the torch and watched it glide across the floor down the corridor toward the barrel as Hashmalum arrived at the top step and began quickly making his way through the same corridor.

Odin's kick was well-placed, and the torch lit one of the fuses of the canisters.  As the fire quickly traveled up the short length of rope, Odin turned away from it and his pursuer and ran to the stone doorway separating the armory from the rest of the fortress.  He stepped over to the right a bit, keeping his back to the wall, and knelt down to wait for the explosion.

He saw it vividly in his mind, his imagination leaping unbidden to create the scenario.  Hashmalum's methodical approach, an inescapable death.  The fuse's steady burning, an inevitable savior.  Death approaching its target.  Fire nearing its own.  Closer...


And then, the world erupted as tension became noise.  The fuse had won the race.

A blast of heat assaulted Odin as an immense explosion assaulted his ears and shook him inside and out.  As various debris came hurtling through the doorway, the entire stone wall that Odin crouched against blew apart, enormous blocks of masonry mingling in the air with the other flying debris.  Several large chunks pinned Odin to the floor.

As quickly as it had begun, the explosion ceased.  The only noise to be heard was a tremendous, yet far-away crash as what must have been the better part of the corridor between tower and fortress landed on the ground below.  And then, the soft sounds of falling bits and pieces of aftermath.

Vallana's finest fighter struggled to free himself from the confines of the debris atop him, but without use of his arms could not succeed.  There was no danger now, but Odin still wished to return to the battle with Queklain that he had been forced to flee from.

And iron vice against Odin's skull violently ripped him from his awkward prison and lifted him up--

To eye level with the blackened face of an enraged demon.

Hashmalum tightened his grip on his human opponent's head as he calmly and quietly seethed, "For such inferior creatures, you mortals certainly can be bothersome."

Odin struggled, trying to kick out at his enemy, to escape the monster's clutches, but could do nothing as his skull was slowly but surely being crushed.

Without warning, Hashmalum hurled the warrior into one of the mostly undamaged walls.  The blow knocked the wind out of the warrior, and he fell to the floor face-first, wheezing and weakly trying to rise.

"Still," the demon continued cheerfully, "Vengeance seems very therapeutic.  Seeing you beings bruise, your bones break, bodies really does just make me tingle with joy.  This existence of mine might just turn out to be very pleasant even with you pests."

Temporarily weakened as he was, Odin managed to raise himself only fractionally off the floor--and suddenly realized that he had used his arms and hands to do so.

Queklain's curse had worn off.

With renewed vigor at this discovery, Odin rolled aside as Hashmalum reached to grab the man again.  As Hashmalum recovered his balance, Odin got up as quickly as his body would allow, drew the cruel, curved Zantetsuken, and rushed his opponent.

The mortal combatant brought his deadly sabre down with all the force he could muster to cleave Hashmalum's skull in twain--and suddenly stopped.  But not of his own volition.  His demonic foe had grabbed hold of his arms as they brought the blade down, and was easily holding them in place, even as Odin's honed muscles strained to finish the blow.

Hashmalum's other arm lashed forward, slamming into Odin’s unprepared chest.  The warrior was knocked back off his feet, Zantetsuken flying from his grasp to slide several feet away.

Lying on his back, Odin was gripped by terror as he realized that he lay dangerously close to the edge of the corridor that had been obliterated.  Below he could hear the sounds of battle as Vallana's troops continued the battle with Queklain.  Indeed, if he were to look straight up he would see the starry sky above directly above his face.

But the warrior's eyes were focused on a different subject--that of Hashmalum bending down to bring his face to Odin's.  He could feel the hot, putrid breath of the monster steadily gushing onto him as the demon spoke.  "You mortals just don’t give up, do you?  You just refuse to acknowledge your fate, even as it looks right at you.  Pesky things."

Hashmalum raised an arm and clenched his fist to deliver a final blow.  Suddenly, a brilliant flare of light tore through the night's darkness as the enormous castle-like figure of Alexander rose from the ground far below, its holy light turning night to noon for a few moments as holy spears rained down from its crown to assault Queklain below.  Hashmalum roared in pain and covered his eyes from the pure light.

Odin saw this and immediately grabbed hold of the demon and with all his strength flung the demon over his head and into the now-bright sky.  Hashmalum hurtled to the ground far below as Alexander finished its attack and vanished, allowing the night’s darkness to once again blanket the world.

Odin lay for a moment, breathing heavily, before he forced himself to his feet.  He wearily retrieved Zantetsuken and hurried through the building as fast as his tired body was able to return to the courtyard and join his Vallanan allies.

When he exited the fortress's main structure, Odin was surprised to hear only the quiet sounds of night creatures.  The noise of conflict was gone.  Had Vallana’s sorcerers overcome their foe...or had Queklain murdered them all?

"Sir Odin!" came a call from the darkness many feet away, and the warrior sighed in relief that it was a human's voice.  As his eyes adjusted to the gloom, he saw two Vallanan wizards approaching him wearily, followed by several other mages bearing the insignia of Ganne.

"We witnessed the death of your foe as he fell from the high fortress, sir Odin!  To defeat him by are truly incredible!" one of the Vallanan sorcerers enthused.

"It was more luck than anything," Odin replied curtly.  "And what of Queklain?  Why are there Gannian mages here?"

"We are a small advance force sent ahead to alert the fortress of the approach of the first group of evacuated citizens," one spoke up.  "When we arrived, there was nothing to greet us but the sounds of battle within.  A teleportation spell brought us within Ralov's walls, where we found the beast and a few Vallanans battling.  We joined the fray accordingly."

One of the Vallanan wizards added, "Without their help we would surely have perished, sir Odin, for it was these Gannians' summoned Alexander which struck the final blow against our foe whilst we stood helpless in exhaustion."

Odin nodded curtly to the wizards of the neighboring country.  "Then I owe you my life as well, for it was Alexander's light which distracted Hashmalum long enough for me to triumph."

*  *  *

It was a task of but a few minutes for Odin to locate and retrieve his Gungnir from the courtyard where Quecklain had discarded it, and then he and his allies, old and new, returned to the castle walls wearily.  Already the sounds of the various creatures of the dark were beginning to return after their silence during the monstrous battle, and in the distance, the lights of torches could be seen, the sound of countless hooves and feet could be heard muted by the stretch of land between it and the listeners.

The first wave of Ganne's evacuated population was coming in search of safety within the protected boundaries of Vallana.

But if these monsters were able to enter Ralov through its back...if they were capable of avoiding altogether, as they must have been...was there any place left in even Vallana that was safe?

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