Brut Legor
Kent Worden
Zel Gothen
Ward Yanok
Gram Taggart
Ella Petra
Korin Matram



The Choice of Korin Matram
Amid the Darkness

A1. Korin Matrim was a humble soldier of the rank and file, and a pious worshiper of The Just God for all of her life. 2. Serving the country of Riverbend as a pikeman in their infantry, Korin Matrim took orders well, understood her duty to her comrades and commanders, and fought with great faith that The Just God held her close to His heart. 3. For fourteen years the country of Riverbend and the country of Low Meadow waged war over rights to the fertile land between them. 4. Bitterness and hatred flowed from the endless months of conflict, and Korin Matrim grew up knowing that those from Low Meadow were nothing more than hated enemies. 5. She had joined the army seventeen months before, when she was finally of age, to fight on behalf of her beloved Riverbend and stand against what she considered a great injustice, Low Meadow's claim to Riverbend's territory.

B6. It was but six months after she first swore her oaths as a soldier, everything about Korin Matrim's world changed. In the very fertile land over which so much blood was spilt, the earth was torn asunder, and from chasms deep and dark arose a new, greater enemy. 7. Legions of foul spirits and demonic monsters spewed from the land, greedily pushing forward from their beachhead, driving back both the soldiers of Riverbend and Low Meadow. 8. Korin Matrim, on the field that day, beheld with her young eyes displays of evil and carnage that chilled her very soul and that troubled her sleep each night afterwards.

C9. Though divination and prayer, the priests of both countries learned that the many years of hatred and bloodshed had weakened the spiritual strength of the land between them, and that these denizens from the underworld exploited that vulnerability towards their own wicked purposes. 10. Faced with an enemy beyond their combined experiences and understandings, a fast, yet uneasy alliance was forged between Riverbend and Low Meadow. 11. Korin Matrim, taught from a young age to despise the thieves from Low Meadow, now found herself their comrade-in-arms, standing beside them in the rank and file, ready to face an unearthly enemy with much more at stake than the rights to the now destroyed fertile land.

D12. The remaining soldiers of both countries were pressed together into a single haphazard army in order to withstand a superior foe, but old hatreds deeply forged do not simply vanish due to circumstance. Between the two, great animosity still existed. 13. Brawls and arguments amongst the troops were common, and the honor and trust that is necessary between comrades on the field of war evaporated, as neither side had any faith in the other. 14. The fear of betrayal and the shadow of distrust loomed over the battlefield as the war against the demon army stretched into weeks and into months.

E15. Korin Matrim saw her own unit mostly obliterated with the first appearance of the demons, and so was placed amongst a company of pikemen from Low Meadow. 16. She found no peace amongst her fellows, but her faith in The Just God preserved her. 17. Korin Matrim understood that duty was part of that faith, and though she could not overcome her hatred, she pushed it aside in order to serve Riverbend and in order to oppose the servants of evil that now held all of their lives under siege. 18. Still, her life amongst the soldiers of Low Meadow was not an easy one and she sometimes despaired. The little slights that they levied against her wore down on her soul, in particular at mealtimes, where she was forced to be last in the mess tent and often was left with very little food, if any, that was not the last, burnt scrapings. 19. Korin Matrim took to saving part of her meal every day so that on the days when there was no food left she would still have some small rations to sustain her.

F20. The war had dragged on for the greater part of the year, and slowly, the armies of Riverbend and Low Meadow were pushed back. Seeing the ultimate futility of continuously giving ground, the army commanders knew that a greater offense was required, and a bold plan to press the flanks was decided upon. 21. The company of pikeman in which Korin Matrim found herself was to lead that charge. One early morning, on the Northern end of the battlefield, her company and many others stood in formation, prepared to prove that the war they waged, a war for their very souls, was not doomed to end in defeat. 22. As the sun peaked over the nearby mountains, their advance began and, their initial push successful, the soldiers found themselves in the once-fertile, now hell-scarred, land that had been the source of all of their pain. 23. On those broken fields they fought, sword and spear, tooth and nail. There was even a chance, then, of driving back the hell born to where they first erupted from the ground. And then, the earth shook.

G24. It was as if the ground fell out from underneath them. All around her company, Korin Matrim saw flames spew forth and the ground rend open. 25. All around her, Korin Matrim saw her allies swallowed by fire or fall screaming into the depths. 26. Then Korin Matrim, herself, felt the sear of demonic flame, felt herself, the ground give way beneath her, felt the sickening pull on her stomach as she fell. Then, all was darkness.

H27. Korin Matrim awoke. There was no way of telling how much time had past, but from the dark, dried blood on her clothing she knew it could not have been a short while. 28. All around her was stone and darkness, but from the faint, unnatural embers scattered about, Korin Matrim was able to see that she was trapped beneath the earth, surrounded on all sides by the sheer face of rocks, no sky visible through the small cracks above. 29. Whether her prison of stone was natural or constructed Korin Matrim did now know, but she harbored little hope for rescue in either case. A pain shot through her arm and leg as she attempted to get up. Both were likely broken.

I30. As her eyes adjusted to the dim light, Korin Matrim realized she was not alone. Another soldier, a young woman, laid unconscious only a few feet from where she sat. 31. At first Korin Matrim noticed the heraldry on the other's tunic, the colors of Low Meadow, and a wave of hate, almost otherworldly, came over her; it was the fault of those thieves that the war had come to this and that she would die in this cave. 32. But as Korin Matrim bit back on her anger, she took in the severity of the enemy soldier's wounds. It was clear that one of her arms and both of her legs were burnt and shattered. Her face was bloodied and the scars of flame hung across her eyes and forehead. 33. The young lady had not stirred, but Korin Matrim could hear her shallow breathing and knew that she still lived, for now anyway. 34. As Korin Matrim crawled closer she recognized the girl as a soldier from her own unit. One of the many who had caused her to go hungry on so many nights. 35. Korin Matrim's stomach growled in response to the realization.

J36. Korin Matrim felt her anger rising again, but knew that she must attempt to wake this enemy soldier despite her feelings. She gave the other soldier a gentle shake, and just barely dodged as the young lady sat up straight, and then howled in pain. 37. After the moments of chaos and confusion subsided, the other soldier revealed to Korin Matrim that she was blinded and unable to move without intense suffering. 38. What is more, her voice was dry and cracked and she strained to move her lips to talk. 39. Korin Matrim instinctively reached for her flagon to give the enemy soldier a drink when she was struck by the thought that she should stop.

K40. At once, inside her own head, she perceived a voice. It was at once her own but unnatural as well, as if she was listening to someone else speak with it, unaccustomed as to how to use it properly. 41. "What are you doing?" it asked. "You are trapped and your only chance of surviving long enough to escape is to stay alive long enough to do so. 42. Why share your water? Why share your water especially with one of those despicable thieves from Low Meadow?" 43. Korin Matrim did not understand what was happening to her; why her own thoughts resonated so oddly within her own head, but she could not fault her thinking.

L44. The woman beside her was a hated enemy, the source of endless years of war, the cause of the virtual death sentence that Korin Matrim would now have to endure. Why then share her water? 45. Surly it would be unwise, especially since the enemy soldier's wounds would see her dead before long. 46. And as Korin Matrim realized that the voice inside her own mind was correct in every possible sense, she lifted the mouth of the flagon to the young woman's lips, and let her drink long and deep. 47. Deep within her mind she heard her own voice call her a fool. 48. Deep inside her heart she knew what choice The Just God would ask her to make by virtue of her duty, and she abided by it.

M49. There was no daylight to ebb as twilight drew near, but Korin Matrim knew that night must have fallen by the chill in her bones. She was glad that within her pack she kept a small sheepskin, a gift from her father to keep her warm while she stood guard during the winter eventide. 50. She dug it out of her pack with her one uninjured arm and placed it around her shoulders glad to be shielded from the damp and dreary cold that even the unworldly embers could not drive back. 51. Shortly she heard her companion stir once again, from the uneasy sleep that she had slipped into. 52. Korin Matrim's fellow soldier called for her then, since she could not see, and the shiver in her voice was grim and pitiable. 53. Korin Matrim realized that the young woman would not make it through the night exposed to the raw elements, and so began to remove her sheepskin to give to her companion. 54. Again, the thought struck her that she was being foolhardy and she heard her own awkward-sounding voice echo in her mind.

N55. "Ignorant girl!" It cried. "This thief, the cause of all of your suffering, the bane of the existence of every one you have ever loved sits here at your mercy and you seek to coddle her. You will likely not survive the night without the warmth of that blanket and yet you insist on giving it up to her. 56. Why does she deserve it? She will die in either case and depriving yourself of warmth will not stop it from happening. Guard yourself from the cold and forsake her!" 57. Korin Matrim reflected upon these thoughts and knew that everything that was said was the truth. As she painfully crawled closer to the enemy soldier it was clear to her that she was unlikely to survive the night. What difference would a little warmth make? 59. Again the voice inside her mind spoke the truth. And again, Korin Matrim ignored it, and braving the merciless cold about her, removed the sheepskin from her shoulders and draped it across the body of the enemy soldier from Low Meadow. 60. Deep within her mind she felt a surge of great, otherworldly anger. 61. Deep within her heart she knew what choice The Just God would ask her to make by virtue of loyalty, and she abided by it.

O62. Korin Matrim slept poorly that night, barely able to withstand the damp and cold. The lack of sleep did no favors for her condition, and she felt sick and depleted in every sense. 63. She was aware of the break of day only by the slightest hint in the scent of the air, for around her all was still dark. 64. Between the severity of her wounds and the wiriness from a troubled sleep Korin Matrim labored to even sit up straight and perceive the enemy soldier, her fellow prisoner under the earth. In doing so she could tell that the young woman still lived and so her sacrifice was not in vain.

P65. Presently, Korin Matrim felt a sharp pain in her stomach and knew that she needed food. From her pack, she extracted her most precious treasure. The small bundle of food that she had saved from the mess tent to sustain her when she was denied her supper. 66. She dug out her spoon and eagerly began to partake of the humble, but much welcome meal. After only a moment she heard her companion stir and again call out to her, this time in a weak and faltering voice. 67. She asked Korin Matrim if it was truly food that she smelt, and admitted that her hunger was so great that she should think of little else. 68. Korin Matrim, overcoming great pain and exhaustion, crawled over to the young woman and drew a spoonful of food over towards her mouth. 69. In that moment she felt almost overwhelmed by a fury that was not hers own as the voice in her head boomed loudly.

Q70. "Fool! Simpleton!" it bellowed. "This pitiful girl is your enemy! She is a villain of the worst ilk! She has hated you and everything that you hold dear from the very moment she was born. She has robbed from the very mouths of your family and killed your kinsmen contentedly in battle. 71. And now you seek to offer her the last morsels of your precious food despite the fact that meal after meal her and her fellows have denied you the same? 72. She is mangled, burned, moments from death, and nothing you do will make a difference. Keep your food for yourself. She has not for even a moment shown that she is deserving of it!"

R73. A great weakness overcame Korin Matrim and she fell to the ground, her spoon clattering across the floor. Her body was seized by pain, she felt dizzy from the untreated wounds and the loss of blood. 74. As she lay still, summoning the strength of spirit to rise again, she could not help but admit that the voice that echoed in her mind was correct. 75. This woman was, in the end, her enemy. She was one of the thieves of Low Meadow. The tip of her pike had spilled the blood of Riverbend's soldiers. 76. She had treated Korin Matrim with nothing but disdain and dishonor even when pressed together in the same cause. 77. She could not summon forth a single good reason to offer the young woman a single bite of her meal. 78. Yet her dedication to The Just God was true, and Korin Matrim understood that to follow His way was to choose honor, even amid the darkness where no one would see.

S79. With no small effort, Korin Matrim pushed herself to her knees with her unbroken arm. In a slow, methodical crawl across the floor she retrieved her fallen spoon, and, summoning what remained of her endurance she dragged herself back to where the soldier from Low Meadow lay. 80. There was precious little of the food remaining, hardly a single mouthful, yet Korin Matrim longed for it as if it was the greatest banquets ever set out for man or god. 81. Still, she was resolved to her course of action. 82. She lifted her spoon to the mouth of the young woman who was at once her enemy and her ally, and raised her chin so that she could eat.

T83. The moment the food passed the lips of the enemy soldier, Korin Matrim's mind became ablaze with flame, the weight of the anger that assailed her forced her again to the ground, darkened her sight, and left her gasping for breath. 84. The voice returned, no longer speaking in Korin Matrim's own voice, but one dripping with malice and hatred, demonic and foul. 85. "Useless girl" it said. "I had hope to draw strength from your hatred, to squeeze from you the last vestiges of rage and terror in your soul. But you have bean a meager, disappointing feast. 86. I am done with you now and your death is all that remains."

U87. Korin Matrim no longer had any strength left to resist. The pain in her arm and leg was replaced with numbness and a great cold began to creep through her body. 88. Yet she felt no fear. For in revealing himself and his purpose the demon had unwittingly given her peace. 89. Korin Matrim realized that, through her love for The Just God, she had achieved a victory greater than any she had ever won on the field of war. 90. She had held true to her faith, even in the midst of temptation and misery. 91. As the last vestiges of life ebbed from her body, Korin Matrim felt the presence of The Just God within her, and as she closed her eyes for the final time, resounding within her mind was no demonic presence, no otherworldly voice. 92. Only the countenance of The Just God and the promise of her eternal reward at His side.