Freedom's Legacy
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+~Freedom's Legacy~+

While Darkfall Passage is not the most dangerous place, the rough transition from the more habitable, populated region of Tuskini to the freezing, mechanical wasteland of Raven is bound to be jarring.

The footsteps of C.L Atlas are the only thing that breaks the silence of Darkfall Passage. He misses the unique, dark beauty of the trail. The sky is nearly completely blocked out by large oak trees, the leaves blowing in the autumn breeze. The blood orange hue of sunset peeks through the trees, wrapping Atlas in gentle warmth. The tattered journal that he has discovered recently has his undivided attention and is also the reason why he is here today. While he was reading the journal, he came across a passage that said "In a discussion with Saoirse about what motivates us to continue to fight, the subject of conversation shifted to her past. In a passing remark, she mentioned the town of Böria. I inquired further: I did not know where this town was. All she said was it was on the path to Raven. She seemed uncomfortable, so I didn't ask anything else. I suppose I will have to ask again later. " He believes that if he were to find this town, then he might be able to acquire some clues about Valentina, as well as this friend of hers that she has mentioned.

After an hour of mindlessly scanning the dirty pages of Lieutenant Valentina Eckhart's journal, Atlas glances upward to make sure he's not about to run into a tree or trip over a rock. He does a double-take upon seeing a signpost that isn't marked on the map. The old, oak wood signpost is barely standing and has two arrows pointing in different directions. The arrows are warped and eroded, and Atlas can hardly tell which direction they are pointing in. One arrow points to the left, and is labeled "Raven." The path to the left is of sand and dirt, and there is rarely a place that isn’t marked with the footprints of travelers. However, it is the arrow that points to the right that catches the attention of Atlas. The markings on the arrow are messy, and the carvings have worn from age. After staring at it for a few seconds, Atlas determines that it says "Böria." Atlas has to stare at the ground for a moment to spot the path, which is nearly invisible. Atlas smiles, pleased that he was able to find where he was looking for.

Checking his map, Atlas wonders to himself why the town isn't marked on it. Perhaps it is just too small of a place to warrant being marked? Did whatever community that lived here not want to be able to be discovered just by looking at a map? Whether that is true or not, Atlas' interest has been piqued, and he thinks himself lucky that he was able to find the place that the journal mentioned. Looking farther down the path, Atlas can see twisting, rotting trees wrapping around each other and over the trail, almost like they were arranged to be that way. “Nature works in mysterious ways,” Atlas thinks to himself before re-aligning his tired feet to the thin path on the right, beginning to walk once more.

The path is much more difficult to traverse than Atlas thought. The trees are tall, the branches are thick, and Atlas is far too large of a man to be leaping over trees and climbing through gaps. He often finds himself searching for a way through the trees and brambles, only to have to use his hunting knife, which would be considered a falchion in the hands of any other man, to cut through the less thick branches. Atlas eventually finds the thought creeping into his mind that perhaps he shouldn’t be here, but he shakes it off. His curiosity and his desire to uncover the truth about the Awoken are too strong.

After nearly three-quarters of an hour of traversing the maze-like congregations of branches, Atlas emerges into the sunlight, covered in small scratches, leaves, and dirt. He stands back up to his full height, and silently thanks whoever might be listening for letting that experience end. The golden sunlight hits his face, basking him in a much-needed warmth. Letting out a sigh, Atlas observes his surroundings.

A clearing. Tall, mountainous rocks shield the clearing from any outside forces, and Atlas feels lucky that he was able to find the only entrance. Inside the clearing, Atlas sees a village. Or, at least what used to be a village. The wooden buildings have elven architecture, with tall chimneys and flowing designs. However, Atlas cannot embrace the natural beauty of the village, as it is in a state of abandonment and neglect. The buildings are mostly gone, some reduced to nothing but a blackened framework. The plants surrounding the clearing are dead, charred, or ripped from their roots.

As Atlas takes a few steps forward, he feels an uncomfortable wet feeling in his shoes. He looks down and finds that the clearing is partially flooded. Small, blackened pieces of wood are floating in this ankle-deep, murky water. The wood was likely part of the buildings. Trudging forward, the water becomes slightly deeper, but it would only be a problem if Atlas was not as tall as he is.

Slowly making his way through the village, Atlas finds several buildings that suggest that a community once lived here, but was either driven out or left. Because of what Atlas has found so far, he is leaning toward the former. However, there is one building that confuses Atlas slightly. A structure that resembles a house. This building is the most intact out of all of them, although it's still mostly gone. Stepping into the building, Atlas immediately sees something wrong. Something of an ivory color is sticking out of the water, stuck in the soil beneath it. Atlas approaches the object, and, getting a firm grip on it, yanks it out of the ground.

The rough object is coated in a thick layer of earth, but it's not a problem for Atlas, as the dirt slides off of the object like a knife spreading warm butter. He looks at the object for a moment before realizing what he's holding. A femur. He is holding a bone. He hurriedly drops it, unnerved by its presence here. He shakes off the feeling of unease and continues exploring the structure.

The bone he found is not the last. While exploring the structure, Atlas discovers a good variety of bones, from other leg bones, to a clavicle, to a pelvic bone. He finds two drastically different sets of bones, one seemingly belonging to an adult, and one that is less developed than likely belonged to a child. Atlas shudders at the thought of who these bones could have belonged to, and what happened to them.

Walking through what was likely a door frame at one point in time, Atlas enters a small room, about seven feet long and ten feet wide. There’s not much here, but he feels like the dirt beneath his feet is unsteady and loose, like it’s simply resting upon an object rather than packed into the earth. Kneeling and cringing at the dirty water soaking into his pant leg, Atlas reaches his hand into the water and sweeps aside some of the dirt. He doesn’t need to work hard at all to reveal some more wood. Sweeping away more dirt, he sees a handle that is covered in dull green rust. He has a moment of pride and accomplishment, happy that his tribulations were not for nothing.

Wrapping his fingers around the handle, he begins to pull on it. After applying some decent force, the handle lifts, and the wood is revealed to be a trap door. Water begins to pour into the newly revealed passage, and Atlas leans over to look downward. Thankfully, due to his giant lineage, Atlas can see into the darkened space. There’s a metal ladder that reaches downward for about ten feet. Atlas mentally and physically prepares himself for whatever may be down there as he descends into the space.

Turning around, Atlas’ eyes land on the small underground area. The place is just as flooded as the rest of the village, but there’s something else here. A small wooden table, worn by age and erosion. On top of the table are unlit candles of black and red wax. Some have been lit before, some haven’t. Resting in the center of the table is a single arrow, which is in near perfect condition. It doesn’t look like it’s been fired, but the tip of the arrow is coated in a dried, crimson liquid. Atlas reaches forward to pick up the arrow, but when his fingers make contact with it, he instinctively flinches backward as he feels a pang of pure dread.

Glancing around in paranoia, Atlas reaches forward to try picking up the arrow again. He successfully lifts it, but he instantly drops it, due to an unexpected sensation that snakes up his arm. Heat. The arrow is burning hot. He stares down at the arrow in confusion for a moment before something else catches his eye. A book. It has a black, leather cover, and there is an intricate design of a tree embroidered in white. The book is clasped closed with a strap, and the pages that he can see are yellow and wrinkled from the water flooding the room. Atlas reaches out to pick up the book, but his eyes are drawn to something else on the table. A piece of wood, with angular carvings engraved on it. After looking at the carvings for a moment, he recognizes that the carvings are Infernal runes that spell out three words: “Steward of Agony.”

Upon reading those words, Atlas feels another pang of dread, and the intense need to flee from this place. He turns around to comply with this urge, but then he remembers the book he saw on the table. He picks up the book and exits the underground area, then begins to run out of the village of Böria. He clambers his way back through the trees, earning some more scratches for his efforts, and makes it back to the signpost from before.

When Atlas feels that he is at a safe distance from the village, he sits down against a tree to regain his lost breath. He reflects on his behavior just then and wonders why he felt the way he did. He normally would never flee without a good reason. There was something there that made him feel pure dread, and he doesn’t think it was anything good. He pulls out the waterlogged book and undoes the strap, hoping that, if there is anything written in here, it would provide him some context.

Atlas closes the book. The words beyond that are going to take more time to decipher, because not only is it written entirely in elvish, but the water has caused the ink to bleed through slightly. Atlas is glad that he found another piece to the puzzle, but finding the journal made him realize that this puzzle has more pieces than he expected.

Atlas questions why he found the journal where he did. If it was one of Saoirse's personal belongings, why would she have left it there? Was there something that motivated her to leave it there?

Saoirse, the Veil Piercer. What happened to you?

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