|TideBattle_Body_01_01||Even the snows fight us. It slows our march, and sinks its fangs into us, as if hungry to drain our warmth. It is a friend and ally to the Corrupted - the Corrupted use it as cover, hide in it, and strike without warning – we are only flesh, and while the isle may grant many of us a rebirth (or curse us), it does nothing to drive the cold from us. |
Frostbite has claimed many of us, and some of us have not the fingers to hold weapons, nor the strength to walk where the cold has eaten at their feet and toes. Several of us do not believe the Cleave is worth holding at this price, and many more believe that we have already lost to the Corrupted and the elements.
Still, we march. Still, we fight. I fear if we do not hold the Cleave, and we withdraw to warmer climes, we will be surrendering the heart of the isle to the Corrupted.
Yet we continue to fight, one and all.
|TideBattle_Body_01_02||The Bridge exposes us to the harshest wind, and many of us seek shelter behind the stone blocks. The watchmen at the bridge's end are not so fortunate – they must stare into the whipping wind and keep their eyes open to the threat of an attack – whether the frost wolves to the east, who are growing in number, or the incursions of Corrupted to the North. They must keep their eyes open, even when their lids are in danger of freezing solid.|
The two Wathers draw straws to see who mans the East edge of the Bridge. For as terrible as an attack by the Corrupted might be, the shadow of the ancient temple there and the way the wolves seem drawn to it is unsettling, and adds further burden to a Watcher's heart.
|TideBattle_Body_01_03||The Watchers on the western edge of the Bridge has reported of a new development – he claims to see silhouettes moving in the snows, out of gunshot and arrow range, moving in such small numbers as to be a waste of a target to our siege engines. Yet, he sees a few of these shapes a day – and there is no hint of their destination.|
“I fear they are hiding in plain sight, digging beneath the snow,” one Watcher muttered by the fire. “If they were there, we wouldn't know it until their blades were at our throat.”
The other Watcher laughed, but without humor. “That would be a mercy, to be free from this hell.”
There are other hells, I thought. Earlier in the season, I had seen what had happened to one of our band of scouts, walking with the Corrupted, marching in pace with them – not as slaves, but as the Corrupted themselves. There are other hells - the cold is but one of them, and far from the worst.
|TideBattle_Body_01_04||Soldiers are deserting. The gloom that consumed Wickbury was a blow to everyone, as was the sightings of what seemed to be priests leading the Corrupted. We were not fighting an army – we were fighting a crusade from the North. The loss of the Bridge only added to our woes, and many saw little to hold onto. “We cannot stop a tide that has already filled our flanks and now rises before us upon the Bridge. The battle will not be won here, we must retreat to Brightwood.”|
The talk grows in the camps. In the times when we were united in purpose, any such talk would earn lashes – cruel, but perhaps necessary. But then again, that may be why the alliance fell. Hearts may harden across many deaths, until you feel little at all. After that, there lies little difference between the Corrupted and the soldiers.
If we do not fight the Corrupted, they will consume us. If we fight the Corrupted, they will consume us. Either way, the spirit is tested, and it can only be tested so far before it breaks.
-L.G., Acting Captain
|TideBattle_Body_01_05||One of Rutherford's scouts returned – he was one of the ones who had drunk the Brightlake concoction, the one that gave strength to the spirit, and lessened the poison of the lands north of the Cleave. He had suffered, true, but he came to us in right mind, and – to our amazement – smiling.|
“They're not just what we once were,” he said. “They're still like us. I've seen beyond the fortifications – they have farms. Towns. Even what might be a church, at the summit of the mountain!”
The men mumbled their surprise, but I was the first to speak in anger – I held my tongue, to give the man some moments of peace to enjoy his return, but his words angered me beyond all reason. I shall walk, collect my thoughts – this fool of a scout, he does not know the truth in what he saw.
If we have not yet lost this war, the sighting of the church has done so, whether the soldiers realize it or not.
-L.G., Acting Captain
|TideBattle_Body_01_06||Rutherford's scout continued to speak as the night wore on, as if his words were intended to give hope – he prattled on, continuing on about the farms, the structures near the Shattered Mountain – the ‘civilization' in the North. When he spoke again of the church that he had seen, I could take no more.|
“You saw a church,” I heard myself say. “Yet the Corrupted have no religion like any we know. You think this means they are to be reasoned with? That peace will be easier? A church only means we have a canyon wider than the Great Cleave between us – not physically, but in spirit. We know they do not seek to kill us. Do you welcome conversion to… to that?!”
I pointed at the crown of the Shattered Mountain, the isle torn from its foundation. “You think you bring words of hope, that we might make peace, but I tell you – in a single structure, you have given us proof that there will be no peace until we are all as they are, and all worship as they do.”
We are no match for the Corrupted if a twisted religion drives them. I had no patience to speak to the man further – I shall do question him again when I have calmed myself.
-L.G., Acting Captain
|TideBattle_Body_01_07||The Rutherford scout, ashamed at my harsh words, did not boast further of his discoveries to the north, and the hope left his features. I felt no remorse in his newfound silence, for best he lose hope now and let truth guide his actions.|
I interrogated him most thoroughly. He said that yes, he had seen remnants soldiers we had lost in the camps to the North. He had seen many things… not simply the foul church he had seen, brimming with red light, but the labor of the Corrupted, and worse… leaders. The Priests we had seen upon the Bridge were not unique – there were many, all serving whatever twisted religion led them.
We had already seen what they could do at the Bridge… at the Wickbury. And would likely do so again – to think they numbered more than the three we had seen – it is a dark thought.
-L.G., Acting Captain
|TideBattle_Body_01_08||What almost broke me was when the returning scout spoke of the obelisks. Not the ones we'd seen to the South, not the ones common elsewhere in the isle. He saw others, larger ones, being excavated by the Corrupted. Worse, there were other obelisks already unearthed… but these obelisks, freed from the earth – and the scout paused at this, for I feel the import of his words was at last becoming clear to him – he said these obelisks seemed… alive, floating above cyst-like wells in the landscape – floating stones, like the one atop the mountain, harnessed by the Corrupted and their priests.|
“Like they are making a claim,” I prompted. His eyes widened at that, and before he could express his confusion, I cut him off. “Not like ours. Never like ours. A claim that is their own, one that will consume this isle. And in coming here, by adding to their ranks – why we've shown them the way to destroy us.”
We must fallback to the Brightwood. Others must know of what we've found.
-L.G., Acting Captain
|TideBattle_Body_01_09||We retreated into the forests, conserving our powder. We fell back on familiar trails, careful to strike at the Corrupted and then retreat before more came to its aid. When one of us fell, a soldier would stab a blade through the victim so that they might re-awaken faster and rejoin us at the front. The grudges among the soldiers grow, but in others, it becomes a curious competition, to stave off the most deaths – and for others, to quickly spill the blood of the fallen so they feel as little pain as possible and awaken, still ready to fight.|
It is a field of madness. We fight the Corrupted who have our corrupted brothers and sisters among their number, who, too, seem reborn to fight – we slaughter them as we slaughter our own, all for gaining a few feet of ground, to briefly hold a slice of the Ancients road – to anoint this land and claim its azoth with our blood.
When I stare at the Corrupted – the ones who bear tattered shreds of an age of a hundred years ago, or wear a rusted mask of a Conquisitador, I wonder if settlers ages past went through this cycle as well – and the only victory was in the corruption that spreads like the blood upon the snows.
|TideBattle_Body_01_10||I ran into people from the South, where they still fight over wood and flint and timber – great matters to them, but their words, their actions almost sparked me to anger.|
Did they not see who we fought? Did they not see the Withered and the Wraiths and the Corrupted as but the first symptoms of something far more terrible?
Their eyes are filled with azoth – and in a terrible moment, it reminded me of the fire in the eyes of the Corrupted, the twisted red light that seemed to drive them to violence, that seemed to consume them.
And I wondered if perhaps the Corruption and the azoth were both of the same well from which we drew.