Nordel (Chapter 1)

Nordel is going to be our first novel in what we hope to be a trilogy of books. This will be a long-term project running alongside our main goal which is the design and release of the Ulandi wars core box set. We are very excited about writing the stories and creating the background and lore to the characters in game. So excited if fact that we just had to publish chapter 1. We hope fans love reading about the adventures from the Ulandi universe and we can’t wait for the first book to be finish. To whet your appetite here is chapter 1. Enjoy.       

Chapter 1

REXCORE HOME WORLD OF THE COREX

The chamber was stiflingly hot, with sulphurous yellow steam rising from the ceremonial rock at the front of the Rexason temple. Inside the enormous octagonal entrance hall, stood eight statues. Each was five times the height of a normal man, with everyone holding aloft the manuscript of The Ancients; a revered index recording the knowledge of the Corex race. Unusually, each statue faced the wall, the detail on their faces hidden from Narrex. Each held a different pose representing the eight warrior classes within Corex society. All eight had their eyes fixed on the ceiling and each one looked up at the finely detailed oil painted map of the early known Ulandi galaxy. Like the rest of the building, the map was old, and was painted before most other creatures in the Ulandi galaxy had crawled out of the primordial filth. For this reason the painted ceiling was the only part of the entrance hall that was clean and protected, an invisible projection shield of pure energy ensured its safety. Beyond the shield, the rest of the room was covered in a fine layer of black soot, a common sight in most northern parts of Rexcore. 

Rexcore, the home planet of the Savage sons, and one of the oldest and proudest clans in Corex history. Tygon The Vanquisher was the founding father, a fearsome Corex leader who led the Savage sons with the might one would expect from a Corex warlord. He was a brute of a warrior, leading his Sons from victory to victory, taking no prisoners in his relentless pursuit to conquer the easten regions of the Ulandi galaxy in the name of the Corex race. Tygon and the Savage Sons fought for centuries crushing many worlds and exterminating hundreds of races in the name of progress. When Tygon was finally defeated in battle, his body was returned to Chinda, the first world which he had conquered. The planet was renamed Rexcore on Tygon’s orders as a tribute to his eldest son.  

 Rexcore is a world of two halves. North of its equator stands the planet’s only continent, a red rocky mountainous world, with high red topped volcanic mountains that sweep down into deep rocky valleys. Ancient lava rivers carve their way through a primordial landscape giving off toxic fumes as they slowly weave their way to the sea. To the south lies vast oceans with scattered islands anchored within the red hot seas where the lava rivers from the north meet in a crescendo of fire and steam. 

To live on a planet like Rexcore you had to be resilient. In the volcanic areas to the north it was a cauldron of extremes. The temperature was unbearably hot, the air thick with sulphurous gases. Hot ash would rain down from the summits, covering the ground in deadly steaming cinders. The south was no better, the sea would boil where lava flow met the ocean. The axis tilt that Rexcore had inherited meant the southern area received little light from its sun. Thousands of iced capped isolated islands were scattered in the polar regions, trapped between the hot seas of the north and frozen ice lakes of the south. The planet demeanour suited that of the Savage Sons. An unforgiving world for an unforgiving clan.   

Living in such a harsh environment was tough. The Corex race was already one of the strongest in the galaxy, but Rexcore had made the Savage Sons stronger than most. Tygon knew this, which is why his dying wish was to make it their home. A Corex life span was ten times that of a normal man and their extensive life allows them to grow old, but growing old was not that easy on Rexcore.  

The Corex elders pass down their knowledge of forbidden technologies, space travel and ancient science to the next generation in a ritual known as ‘The Hacker’ which was carried out in the very temple where Narrex stood. He walked into the entrance hall, the floor was made of rustic mosaic stone tiles, walking barefoot he could feel the heat coming up through the floor from the magma rivers below. A variety of smooth hand painted coloured tiles carved out different paths one could take to different areas of the building, he was on the red path that led from the entrance hall to the main chamber. 

Narrex stood admiring the painted ceiling, he was without armour nor did he carry any weapons, he just wore a simple ceremonial dark brown tabard robe tied closed with thorny rope, as was the tradition in all Corex temples. He was a large brute of a Corex, an unmistakable warrior. His legs flexed with powerful muscles, toes curled and spiked at the nails. Powerful arms that had seen more wars than most would have dreamed possible. His face was that of typical Corex, a beastly face with a mouth full of shape teeth hidden inside a canine snout that protruded out. He had a scare that almost covered his left eye where no fur would ever grow again, a lesson in combat he would like to forget.  

When he was young, and the time had come for him to do the eight rituals, he had no doubt in his mind which warrior class he would be placed in. The warrior tournaments were unbelievably tough. Narrex was convinced that no human or any other race for that matter would even pass the first stage of the Corex trials. Like a lot of things in Corex society, the trials were divided into eight parts, eight being a sacred number. The sequence of rituals began underwater, the candidates would be strapped into Hengra cages and dropped into the frozen waters of Gruts lake. This particular lake was in the centre of an extinct volcano, located on the far south of Rexcore. Once dropped, they would have to escape from their chains, then from the cages, then if strong enough, swim five hundred metres to the surface. If they survived, they would then have to make it to the shore and just hope the local spinny tooth fang fish didn’t spear them. 

There were all manner of ritual trials, from endurance tests to hand to hand combat; Narrex knew he would excel at them all. Undefeated, Narrex was the best in his field, that was until he met Goreblood in the sparring arena. 

 ‘Incredible, is it not?’ Said a voice that sounded like gravel.

 ‘This Rexason is one of the oldest on Rexcore, its age unknown even to me.’ A grizzled Hacker elder stepped out from under an archway on the northern wall. Narrex looked at her with contempt. 

‘Just atom date it!’ He snarled. 

‘And risk damaging a part of our heritage?’ Replied the elder with a sneer to her tone. ‘This temple,’ she continued, ‘like other Rexasons, stands as a living history to our race. It holds knowledge that you warrior classes can’t comprehend.’ She gave him a long hard stare whilst shaking her head in contempt.

Narrex understood the anger behind her voice, he was smart enough not to insult her, or her temple again. Hacker elders were very touchy if anyone dared to insult their precious building, and being of such high rank, it was unwise to upset them. 

She stood in a ceremonial leather robe, with a gold trim adorning the bottom. Around her waist was a ritual blade that ran the full length of her leg. Although the finely decorated blade was purely formal, Narrex knew she could wield it if she must. 

‘I presume you are here for…’ she paused, ’for him,’ her face showed obvious disgust. 

‘Yes,’ replied Narrex, ‘I was told he was in the temple.’

‘Yes, he has been here all week. Plotting his revenge, no doubt.’ 

‘He called for me, where is he?’ Asked Narrex, his patience running thin. 

‘He is in the Bano at the top of the tower,’ said the elder, as she gestured towards the western archway. 

‘Thank you, I’ll take my leave,’ replied Narrex. He took the smallest of bows, barely tilting his head, and walked past the Hacker, out of the entrance hall and through the archway. 

          On the other side was an even larger ceremonial room, again octagon-shaped with eight equal finely decorated walls. In the centre, stood a large fire pit made from smooth black marble. A stairway led to a platform which extended into the middle of the pyre. The whole structure was surrounded by eight golden shields, each pointed inwards towards the flames. Rexes apprentices stood on guard, again eight in total, all wearing their ritual robes and blessing the inferno with their baptism of sacrifice. Above the fire pit, high in the ceiling was an aperture that allowed the flames to rise into the ether.

Two large doors dominated the rest of the room, one stood to the east and the other to the west.  The east tower was known as the Hark, the west tower the Bano. Narrex headed towards the west entrance, which was guarded by two Zenarock guards of the clan Darkdeath. He knew them both by name. They had been in Goreblood’s service since the second reckoning. He bowed his head towards the gate guardians and raised his right hand. He moved it from his left shoulder to his right, the standard Corex military salute. The wardens returned the gesture and opened the large finely carved wooden doors. A gust of warm air was released with a hissing sound, blowing Narrex matted fur away from his face. He passed through the doorway giving his cousins from the Darkdeath another bow of respect. 

The tower was tall, stretching high into the smoked filled sky. There was a grey, heavy stone spiral staircase that ran up the middle of a finely carved pillar. There was no hold rail on the stair, just a succession of missing stones in which one could place their hand for support. Various rooms led from the staircase, the tower served many purposes, defence, lookout, storage, and accommodation, they could all be found within the western spire. 

As Narrex neared the top, he noticed an open door from one of the lookout areas. The room was just two floors below the Bano and had a Savage Sons clan banner hanging over the mantle. Thinking it unusual he stopped and pushed the door fully open, it creaked as it revealed the room’s contents. The chamber was empty apart from a single silver dish that had been placed on the floor in the centre of the room. 

Narrex was not as well educated in Hacker tradition as he liked to be and he began to ponder why an entire room had been dedicated to a silver dish. Cautiously he stepped inside, the floorboards creaking as he entered. 

The room was immaculately clean, the traditional hand carved stone work had been scrubbed by hand, the floorboards polished to a fine shine, and unusually, the ceiling rafters had been white washed. He scoffed at the bazaar, out of place area, thinking it a huge waste of time and feeling sorry for the Rexes apprentices who had spent their time preparing the chamber for yet another pointless ritual. 

Peering down at the dish, he noticed it had a thin layer of water at the bottom. He kicked it with his bare foot and watched the water inside splash and create a thin swell line that travelled to the outer gold rim. The dish was beautifully crafted, made from a dull matt silver metal that he presumed was handmade. He hadn’t noticed it at first, but the dish was lying on a lavish rug of various colours with knotted tassels at the end. He was usually observant and the sudden discovery of the rug made him scan the room once more to make sure he hadn’t missed anything else and to check that he was definitely alone. 

He looked back at the dish, deeper this time and saw his own reflection staring back at him. He smiled at his rugged face and began to admire his defining features. He sneered, displaying his teeth and feeling proud of his stony look.

‘Nothing but a gimmick!’ He spat and he tried to turn away from the dish to leave the room but an uncontrollable urge rooted him to the spot. He suddenly found himself staring intently at the dish, he snarled at the object in frustration, nothing in this universe could control Narrex, yet somehow this dish had lured him in, hypnotised him, tricked him almost into stepping into the chamber, he suddenly felt foolish and needed to leave but could not, the dish was somehow forcing him to look. He eyeballed the mimicking mirrored image that stared back at him, something was wrong with his reflection but he did not know what. He moved closer to the dish, scanning his face for the abnormality, searching for the irregularity. It was his eyes, they for reasons he could not explain, they were not his own. 

He focused more on his reflection, concentrating so hard that it began to hurt and he could feel pressure building from behind his temples. It was the colour, it was subtle, but his eyes were a different colour. They appeared dark red rather than their usual deep brown. They seemed to get more vibrant the more he looked, and they began to flicker with realism. Quickly they seem to turn from dark red to vivid brighter red. He blinked several times to clear his mind, thinking that the vision was down to fatigue but when he opened his eyes the colour of them had changed again. This time they appeared to be more animated, burning bright red, yellow and orange like the fire at the bottom of the Rexason temple. The fire began to feel more real to Narrex and he could feel the heat from within the vision. HIs eyes were now an inferno getting larger and more furious. He tried to turn his gaze away from the dish but could not, the dish was holding him in place. He looked on helplessly as the vision continued, his own eyes burning in the mirrored image. The vision changed once again and his burning eyes turned into that of a burning planet, it was crumbling and breaking into pieces. He forced himself to focus more, looking at the image, his eyes were dry and sore now and he found it difficult to centre himself. The vision then came into focus and he realised that the burning planet in his vision was that of his homeworld of Rexcore!  

He jumped back from the reflection, rubbing his eyes in an involuntary way, checking that they were still present and not burnt to ash. He quickly returned to the dish checking his reflection once again, this time his eyes appeared normal. He knelt down grabbing hold of it by the rim and giving the water inside a shake to see if he could get the vision to return, but all he saw was his normal reflection. He let out a primal roar and in his frustration threw the dish across the room, sending it spinning. It crashed against the wall making an almighty crashing sound that reverberated around the small chamber. How dare it mock him he thought, he needed to know what the vision meant? Was it a prediction or a true vision of the future? How dare it now fail silent and shield its secrets, he needed to know. He could ask the Hacker or at a push Goreblood but then they both would have known that he had trespassed into the room. No, better for them not to know, he thought, if Goreblood knew then he may appear weak of will, it would be better for him to keep the secret. He turned his back on the now overturned dish and walked back out of the room, slamming the door closed behind him in a dismissive fashion. He stomped away back up the spiral staircase and to the destination he should have been at before he got distracted.  

The Bano was a room located at the top of the tower, traditionally it was where the Hacker would pass on their teaching to the Rexes’ apprentices. It was a lavish room, tiled from floor to ceiling. On the floor was a mosaic spiral, similar to the one in the entrance hall. It started as one approached the door and slowly made its way to the centre of the room. This represented the path the apprentices had to take to achieve the higher ranks of the priesthood. 

          There were various chests and bookcases scattered around the room. A large wooden meeting table surrounded by eight chairs was located in the east area of the tower. On the opposing wall was a long curved bench that ran half the circumference of the west side. In front of the entrance door was a small stone table, with a single candle with eight wicks burning, above it proudly hung the Savage Sons clan banner. Goreblood stood on the centre circle. He very rarely sat, thinking it a sign of weakness. He viewed a digital map that was being projected onto the easten wall via a small white box that sat on the table. He was alone apart from a hovering security droid that slowly circled and patrolled the chamber. 

There had been another assault on the Grand Alliance satellite world of Nordel, which sits on the far southeastern border of Alliance space. It was an unprotected planet and far from the main Alliance fleet. The Thatcherling of Narcan had been fighting a bitter battle there with the locals, and the planet had been engulfed in war for over a year. Goreblood had been pondering for many months as to why the Alliance had not sent any reinforcements. 

‘Why let one of your own burn in flames when you could protect it and burn those who disrespect you?’ he said out loud. 

‘They are weak my lord,’ came the reply. 

‘They are either weak, scared or simply do not care,’ replied Goreblood to the newcomer. ‘I do not believe they are heartless, so that leaves weak or scared.’ Goreblood turned to face Narrex, who was standing at the entrance of the chamber. 

‘Tell me, Narrex the Hated, If you owned a territory would you not fight for it? Would you not smash all those who dared attack one of your homelands and drive them out until all are dust!’ 

‘I would my lord, unless…’

‘Unless?’, Goreblood interrupted his lieutenant, ‘Unless you do not have the heart or the resources to do so. The Alliance is becoming weak, they no longer have the assets and the connections like they used to. Member planets are leaving because they can no longer offer the protection they need. They are not warriors like us, they are skittish cowards, too busy with their bureaucracy and hierarchy to care about the smaller members of their clan, and like them, Nordel is weak and ready for the taking.’ Goreblood stabbed his clawed finger at the digital map. 

‘We can strike them from the south where their richest cities lie. I want my revenge on the Alliance after what happened on Kkrag. We will strike Nordel and finish off what the Thatcherling of Narcan started.’ He pointed at some data on the projection, it was displaying a map of Nordel in a light green hue.

‘They have already attacked and destroyed the landing fields at Brandon, Hornhill, Mushtag and Ravenhorn. The two orbiting stations have been raided and there is no sign of any reinforcement fleet.’ He turned off the projection, and walked over to a window on the farside of the room looking out into the volcanic landscape. 

‘Do you remember what Dalion did to me at Kkrag Bay Narrex?’ 

‘Yes my lord, I will never forget our defeat,’ Narrex replied in his low, guttural tone. 

‘Nor should any Corex,’ said Goreblood as he gazed longingly out of the window. Gorebloods’ assault on Kkrag was only 18 months ago, but the war had already gone down in Corex history. Kkrag was a capital world with an endless supply of resources, however that endless supply was also protected by an almost endless military. Attacking a planet like Kkrag was a foolhardy affair.  A countless number of troops would be needed to assault such a world, it would take the clans entire naval resources to mount such an attack and even then it would only be enough to bring down the planet’s protective shield. Goreblood knew that attacking a world as powerful as Kkrag wasn’t to be taken lightly. It needed planning, politicians manipulating, brute strength alone would not be enough. If he was going to pull off one of the most ambitious wars the Corex race had seen since the battle of the Cragghorn than a more cunning approach was needed.

It was years in the planning, first he began by befriending the poorest of Kkrags civilians, secretly wiring them credits and offering them food in return for nothing. Slowly he built up their trust at the same time as undermining their own. It was not difficult to make the populus turn on its own politicians. They sat there in large hab blocks with plenty, where the others had nothing but the clothes on their back. Slowly he pushed for more, and began to ask for favours in return for more and more luxury goods. Promising those willing to follow the Corex everything they could possibly want. 

Tricking the poor, homeless and drug dependent population was easy, but to influence members of higher rank was a different matter. But like many Corex, Goreblood was cunning and he had time on his side. Once he had a foothold he knew he could work his way up to achieving his ultimate goal. He called the operation puppetmaster, its endgame was to exploit members of the planetary defence team and get the codes for the shielding gateway. A plan which his peers thought of as weak, using spies and espionage was not the Corex way, it was always brute strength that won the day. But Goreblood proved them all wrong when his finely crafted attack fleet arrived in Kkrag space and the defence gateway had already been disabled. 

The war was fast and brutal, the Alliance was not prepared for such a savage assault. Goreblood’s ships had taken out all the primary and secondary satellite defence systems and his Savage Sons clan had made planet fall. The second largest city fell within days and the Sons pushed on to the capital of Kkrag Bay. He could see victory in his sights, however he failed to take into account Dalion Trivain. The Grand Alliance master general and one of the most powerful men in the galaxy. The rumour was he had deserted the Alliance to pursue his own goals and that his fleet was on the farside of the galaxy seeking their own riches. However his intelligence was wrong, Dalion had not abandoned the Alliance at all, Goreblood was deceived by him. Dalion somehow knew of his attack and his reinforcement fleet was standing by, it dwarfed that of Goreblood’s Sons and there was nothing he could do but to issue the retreat. 

‘Did you look into the dish?’ asked Goreblood, Narrex was surprised by his question, he hadn’t realised that Goreblood knew he had entered the room.

‘The door was open, my lord.’

‘And you were curious, correct? It is not your fault. Whoever sees the bowl will be drawn in by it, and they will unknowingly find themselves looking into the dish. It is somehow…irresistible,is it not?’ Said Goreblood. He started walking on the yellow stoned tile path looking down at his feet as he went. ‘Tell me, what did you see?’ 

‘I saw the reflection of my own face.’ answer Narrex sharply. 

‘Now, now Narrex, just the reflection of your own face? Or something else?’ Narrex felt that his master was trying to trick him, he was unsure whether to tell the truth. He was concerned that maybe looking into the dish was a sign of weakness, and he did not want to expose himself. Was the dish a trick? Had Goreblood and the Hacker set this up to test him? The door was left open and for a reason, nothing is done by chance in the temple, everything is planned. Was he meant to walk into that room? Or was it just there to trick him? He chose his next words carefully. 

‘At first my reflection was just that, but on closer inspection my eyes were not my own.’ Goreblood smiled and let out a small laugh.

‘Always with the eyes, the gateway to what the soul desires. How were they different to your own?’

‘At first they were my own eyes, but the more I looked the more they changed. They became red, then the redness turned to fire, burning fire, I could feel the heat,’

‘Burning fire…and that was all?’ enquired Gordblood.

‘Yes my lord.’ replied Narrex. ‘I am ashamed to say that the dish then angered me and I threw it across the room, nothing more.’ 

‘Interesting, burning eyes and anger. You must be of strong will Narrex. Most who look into the dish see devilish nightmares and untold horrors. Visions of their future and vision of their past. Some have even gone mad with rage looking into its waters. I have seen the strongest of warriors fixed to the dish, not being able to move, almost like it can trap the weak minded, forcing them to stare. Some have been trapped for days, unable to move, just looking at their own reflection.’ Goreblood let out a small snicker.  

‘But you, you just had a vision of burning red eyes, and then the strength to throw the dish away, a strong will indeed Narrex.’ He paused for a brief moment, contemplating Narrex time with the dish. He looked at him, admiring his form and slowly  nodding his head in approval before repeating to himself in a much quieter sinister voice.  

‘A strong will indeed.’  

‘If I may ask my lord, what is such a…thing doing here in the temple?’   

‘You are right to be curious, the dish is indeed a strange artefact.’ said Goreblood.

‘And not of this world.’ guessed Narrex.

‘Correct.’ 

‘Then, where?’ added Narrex.

‘In time, my good friend, in time, now back to the matter in hand. How long will it take to ready a landing force?’ Narrex was frustrated at being cut off like that, he had more questions he wanted to ask about the dish in the room and his vision. But he knew Goreblood well enough, once his master had moved on, then that was the end of the subject. 

‘We can be ready in a day my lord,’ replied Narrex ‘but what of Thatchlings? They are also an enemy of ours, when we make planetfall, will we not be fighting this war on both fronts?’ Goreblood turned and gave Narrex a disappointing stare.

‘Are you afraid Narrex?’ he howled, a sense of jovial disbelief in his tone. ‘My good friend, each time we have met the Thatchlings in war, have we not crushed them under our foot? He didn’t wait for an answer to the question. ‘We have crushed more of their pathetic race than any other. It’s true that when we arrive they will want our blood, and they can try, but I believe that Nordel is too strategically important to both races.’ He paused, ‘I plan a pact.’ 

‘A pact!’ Screamed Narrex ‘with those back stabbers! We can not trust a single word that comes from the months of thatcher scum!’ Narrex loathed the Thatchling’s of Narcan. He had fought them many times and still hated each and every one of them. Goreblood laughed again. 

‘Correct!’ He grinned ‘that’s why we will double cross them first. I will confront their leader and challenge him. I will convince him that our paths and joint goals are similar and offer him a deal, 50/50 control of the planet and access to our technology.  He won’t dare refuse an offer like that. I will even offer him a squad of Corex warriors as his own personal bodyguards. Once Nordel has surrendered to us, I will execute the order and remove the head of the Thatchling’s leader, crush what remains of their army and we will take Nordel for ourselves.’ He finished triumphantly.

‘Do you believe that the Thatchling will accept your offer?’ Asked Narrex.

‘Not only will they accept my offer, they will beg for our help. The Thatchling are greedy, they will accept any offer for tech or weapons. And if they do not, then we will simply crush them and take Nordel ourselves.’ Narrex smiled at the thought of simply crushing his sworn enemy. He accepted Gorebloods’ plan thinking it was foolproof. He was sure that the Thatchling would welcome the pact but if they did not then even better. He had not seen war for over 18 months and he was itching to go to battle. 

‘The time has come.’ said Goreblood. He walked over to a chest on the far side of the Bano. The chest was in keeping with the rest of the room, wooden with leather straps and tarnished, metal fittings holding the lid shut. He opened it and reached inside pulling out a staff-shaped object wrapped in an old faded brown coarse cloth. He placed it on the table, carefully unwrapping it. Inside was an elegant sword, the handle was made of carved bone with piping purposefully running up to the hilt. The blade itself was red with the name ‘Bloodchild’ engraved on its side. It was Goreblood’s own personal weapon, handed down to him through generations of his family. He picked up his weapon, comfortably feeling its weight, it was perfectly balanced and the blade was sharp enough to cut through any steel. 

‘Did you know that my father killed the prince of Mauu with this very sword? He sliced his head off with one cut and presented the headless corpse to his wife. He gave the High Priestess a choice. Either surrender or face the wrath of my father’s warband. She took less than five seconds to make her decision to surrender their riches that day.’ Goreblood’s voice oozed with pride and menace as he recalled his fathers victory. 

‘Soon, soon the blood of our enemies will taste this blade again.’  Turning to Narrex and snapping back to the matter in hand, he slid the blade into a scabbard on his back.

‘I want you and the troops ready for dawn. Once the light rises above Mount Slaughter we launch.’

‘I will ready our troops immediately,’ said Narrex ‘We will be prepared to leave at sunrise my lord.’ 

‘Excellent,’ Goreblood replied, ‘at sunrise we go to war.’       

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