Wierderganger - Of Germanic origin, meaning "Again Walker". Tales of the dead rising have been told for centuries. Associated with plagues, mysterious deaths and even weather changes, their existence in stories is usually vengeful, sexual, or are merely depicted as nightmarish monsters that survive on an unholy hunger. The reason for a person to awaken from the dead could be the result of nearly anything, ranging from not having their names removed from the burial clothes to dying in battle. Remedies for these lurking creatures varied from driving a stake with one thrust into the mouth, binding the head to the ground beneath it, or forcing a stone into its jaws, keeping it from biting. All the cultures of the world have their own versions of the undead… some are simply more frightening than others.
Snowy rain and blinding fog, such is the usual here. The Trennt Mountains have been the sight of battle. A battle that has left thousands dead, both ally and enemy.
In the early evening, a Commanding Officer approaches a large hillside camp on horseback in a light snowfall. His uniform is adorned with such honors that it is easy to tell that he is a high-ranking officer, yet still active in battle. Riding with him is a small group of fellow soldiers meant as reinforcements. Their number is a quarter of the soldiers already at the camp. The Commander halts at one of the resident officers of the camp and begins to dismount his horse. The officer is an average sized man with good looks but no appearance of the roughness about him that is usually seen in soldiers.
“Sir,” the younger man greets as the Commander passes him and makes his way into the biggest tent meant specifically for him. Upon entering the tent, the Commander picks up a glass and pours a drink for himself. “It is good to have you here, Sir,” the young man tells the General. “When Captain Amory was killed in battle, command fell to me, but I felt this conflict was important enough to require the guidance of an officer as… experienced as you,” the man says standing at attention.
The General turns, still with drink in hand. “Sending word for me was the right thing...” he wonders the younger man’s name.
“Mikhail Koza, Sir.”
“So tell me Koza, what do you think of this enemy army that killed your Captain?” the General asks calmly.
Still at attention, he replies, “They are… sturdy,” wanting to choose the right word.
“Do you know the name of their Commander?”
“Brigadier General Eber Soldat… Sir.”
The Commander’s grip on his glass tightens as he thinks of the weight that name carries. He looks back up at the officer. “Not many have survived confrontations with Soldat. His mind is honed for war,” the General starts to leisurely walk around the table serving as a desk. “How long have you been at this stalemate with his army?”
“The last conflict was before word was sent to you, Sir.” The General glances to the ground, seemingly lost in thought. “What are you thinking, Sir?”
“I heard he is the relentless type. It’s quite strange he has not attacked again. From what I hear he is the relentless type.”
Abruptly, there is a call from outside the tent and another soldier enters hastily, the urgency pushing aside any need for permission. “Commander.” Koza turns to the young soldier who is half his size in girth and muscle.
“What is it?” the General asks.
“There is a man approaching… It is Soldat.”
“Soldat?” the Commander looks puzzled. Immediately, he leaves the tent, walking past Koza. “What does this mean?”
As the Commander passes through the flap of the tent, he steps out among his soldiers. Unable to see more than a Der Vorfahr soldier hopping down from his horse, the Commander watches his men gather around the couple of horses. Gradually, the men begin to move back, making a path as another Der Vorfahr soldier comes forward.
Somewhat entranced by the myth walking towards him, the commander stares at the warrior, the falling snow in the mountains speckling his black uniform of cloth and leather. Leather the commander recognizes as a different pattern than the other soldiers.
Under the fundamental threat of a Der Vorfahr soldier, the black uniforms, the weapons forged of strong metals, the combat training that mixes brute muscle with well-thought plans and tactics, there is a threat to this man all its own. His dark eyes stay fixed on the Commander with such a calmness that one would never think those eyes had seen war, seen bloodshed, or pained deaths of men. His pace, a steady one, as though he was the maker of time, instead of victim to it. His air, as though it were his own camp he walks into, rather than an enemy’s.
The last of this man’s threat is his sword. The Commander briefly looks at it, examining the weapon as he approaches. Different from any metal of Der Vorfahr, Soldat’s sword holds the Commander’s gaze. The long sword worn loosely at his hip is oddly different from most he has seen. The long thin handle ended with a round silver pommel, the crossguard, and two curved pieces of silver tipped by their own round balls.
Soldat steps up to the Commander and speaks, “Lieutenant General Borvo Larkonov?” his Germanic tone is rich with power and smooth with control.
After the General’s comprehending pause at the idea of having this man right in front of him, Larkonov replies, “Yes, and you are Brigadier General, Eber Soldat?” the ominous man gives silence as his reply. “I must say, it is quite something to have you here before me. With all the stories I heard of you, I was beginning to think you were not a man of flesh and blood,” he says, fully aware that he must keep his guard.
Soldat’s manner is eerily tranquil as he simply answers, “I have heard little of you.” Larkonov wrinkles his nose at the sedate insult. “What I have heard is that you are important… Valuable.”
Said so plainly, the Commander’s brows lower to meet the wrinkle on his nose, an uneasiness building in his gut. “Why are you here, Soldat?”
“…I am here to surrender.”
The dazed Larkonov flinches and looks the man over for deception. “You? Surrender?”
“Shall we discuss terms?”
Larkonov turns to Koza, then proceeds to his tent. “Come this way.” He halts suddenly, realizing Soldat would be at his back. Larkonov nods towards the tent entrance. “You first, General.” Soldat moves into the tent. Koza enters last
and closes the flaps of the to allow some privacy. He then walks over to Larkonov, standing ready to defend his Commander should Soldat attempt something. The enemy watches Koza, then looks back to Larkonov. “So what are the conditions of your surrender?”
Almost as if in a moment of pain, Soldat crosses his arms and folds his hands inward. “It is the Plague.”
“There is a sickness through your camp?”
“It has eliminated nearly all of my army. The numbers have so vastly decreased that continuing to make a stand against you would be pointless.”
An expression of confidence grows over Larkonov’s Face. “I see,” he examines the desk and papers, discussing battle strategies resting on it. “I will accept your surrender then, and you shall bring the remainder of your surviving army here, the ones who are not sick.”
“As you say,” Soldat replies coldly.
“It is a pity that such a powerful battle figure as you has met defeat in such a pathetic way,” Larkonov says with poise, almost having honesty in his tone. With the sound of metal hitting metal, there are sudden cries that reach through the tent. “What?!” Larkonov rushes toward the entrance, past Soldat who stands unmoving, his eyes setting on Koza. Shoving at the flap of the tent, Larkonov charges out to find the soldiers he was summoned to bring as reinforcements, all lying dead, the last one of them being cut down by one of the Der Vorfahr men. The soldier yanks his axe from the man’s body, setting it to his broad shoulder and giving a grin to Larkonov. “What is this?! Why did you all do nothing?!” He growls at the camp of soldiers who stand, watching the site of their own being killed. Larkonov rages as the soldiers ignore his gesture and stand without taking any action. At this point, Soldat comes out of the tent and comes by the Commander as Koza follows suit. Fighting his frustration, the Commander begins to calm his nerves, examining the faces of the men around him. “Koza.”
“Yes. Sir?” He answers, behind the two commanders.
“These are not Amory’s men, are they?”
“Neither are you?”
Gliding his eyes to his side, his swallowed dread turns to Soldat. “It was you who sent the request for reinforcements? You, who said you wanted me to come?”
Rather emotionlessly, Soldat looks to Larkonov. “As I said, you are important.”
Fully realizing the trap he has walked into, Larkonov makes his last request. “Would you let me pray?”
The familiar sound of metal being unsheathed answers the man. Soldat, drawing his sword, swings it with a pace defiant of the General’s leisurely nature used in all else. Closing his eyes, Koza reopens them, hearing the thud to the ground. Blinking, he sees Larkonov’s body lying, while his head rests a stride away from it. Koza lets out a breath, pity sounding in the puff of air.
Sliding his blade back into the sheath, Soldat crouches and picks up Larkonov’s head by a clump of hair. “This war is now ended.” He moves past Koza, aimed for the tent. Koza watches the Der Vorfahr soldiers disguised in enemy uniforms begin to cheer, while Ermanno swings his axe and chuckles.
“We killed the last great commander.” Thayer approaches, looking over the body left behind in the snowy mud. “Like the Commander said, the war is over with Larkonov’s death.” The young soldier half Koza’s girth in size and muscle smiles at his life-long friend. “It means we can go home, Mikhail.”
Hearing the peace in his voice, Koza turns to Thayer, setting a hand gently on the blonde’s shoulder with a soft rocking motion. “Yes, Johan, home.” Thayer watches Koza turn away from him, and with sadness on his face.