The Westerlandes (Sequel to the Story of Lem)

Intro
There he lies, the battered body of Kroga Trinth as the last of his powers are fading away, back into the Heart of Disorder. The final blow dealt by an artillery shot from the Throwan Moor, it managed to breach Kroga's dark shadow-shrouded shield... Kroga is broken to the point of no recovery and the Heart of Disorder has already admitted defeat and is siphoning his powers back...

While the wounded armies around him cheer and celebrate, Sir Rhoderick Rugnar just stands here, quietly and demoralized. Staring at the body of Kroga, still silently breathing. Even Baz'aptar was cheering until he catches the gaze and the grim expression of Rhoderick.

It was Rhoderick who committed treason by ignoring Vella's orders that led to all of this. The world is wounded, kingdoms burned and its inhabitants are just remnants and refugees, living by a thread in the shadow for their former glory... And he sees himself responsible for all of it. Baz'aptar tries to talk with Rhoderick, but he's not responding.

After several minutes, without saying a word, Rhoderick leaves and takes a sailboat, but not before Baz'aptar catches up with him one last time. He asks him what he was going to do and where he's going. Rhoderick responds simply with "I'm going to apologize to Vella and set things right.". Baz'aptar realizes what he's going to do and urges him not to do it, but Rhoderick already sets off.



A Hero's Sacrifice
Arriving at the ruins of Castle Hilenika, Rhoderick approaches the massive crack in the floor, a seemingly bottomless crevasse, resonating with dim, but visible deep golden pulses of order. He gazes at the depth and actually sees it! It's really truly real! The Hearts are real! Baz'aptar was speaking the truth all along. Not that he didn't believe Baz'aptar, but now he actually sees it for himself!

Rhoderick sits down, right at the edge of the crevasse, he attempts to feel the pulses. The only way his mind could describe the feeling is like an overwhelming sense of warmth, familiarity and home... This must be the feeling that the Dwarves of Keshak felt while fighting over the Chalice. Bringing tears to his eyes, he is drawn closer to the edge... He stands up, takes a few paces backwards, takes one last look at the smouldering ruins and the visible shores of the mainland around him and then runs and throws himself into Heart's gaping wound...

Upon touching the blood of the ley lines, Rhoderick's mortal body disperses, giving back all of the power he was granted through his quest to to slay Kroga Trinth. The purity of his blood and the power stored in his body released into the wound is enough to mend it and seal the aorta shut.

The Heart of Order, now no longer losing the majority of its power through the wound starts sending out tremendously powerful and aggressive pulses, unlike any it has ever released before! Empowering the Trinthians, also boosting their confidence and determination. Meanwhile obliterating the lingering disorder that has corrupted the other Hearts and is turning the wildlife into frenzies.

The grim darkness looming above the lands starts to fade as the first rays of sunlight start to pierce the sky in the areas that suffered the most...

Rhoderick's sacrifice is the catalyst for mending the entire world. Humankind rises up against beasts once more and balance is starting to be restored.


The Eternal Realm of Order
Rhoderick's spirit is still feeling alien to the afterlife and barely conscious as he softly lands in the Realm of Order. Thousands of honored spirits of past Lycida champions solute him as he's guided by the absolute masses of Trinthian spirits to the innermost core of the Heart, where the Nobles of Trinth reside. Time doesnt flow regularly here, yet he can sense everything from the living realm at once. It's like a telepathic broadcast, he can see, hear and be aware of everything happening out in the living world. Everywhere the aura of the Heart of Order can reach, he can see and feel those areas in his very being. As if the Heart is draining a bit of him, but instead of simply taking away power from him, tiny parts of his being are spread out and divided across all the ley lines. He can sense Baz'aptar, Edea, his former comrades, even Kroga he can sense.

Only mere seconds seem to pass as he finds himself standing in awe before a colossal, intact version of Castle Hilenika. Two very bright spirits that do resemble guards, but don't resemble humans stand before the massive, four-story high doors...
Hundreds of thousands of eyes silently gaze at him and the door.
Initially, the two guards ignore Rhoderick's presence, just as they would do with literally any other spirit, but sensing that nearly every single spirit among the hundreds of thousands is urging and yearning for Rhoderick to enter, the two order entities start to show clear signs of unease. After half a minute of intense silence and staring, they knod at Rhoderick and the towering doors start to creak open.

Vella's spirit appears before him, unlike other spirits, she shines bright and appears almost entirely corporeal.
Rhoderick stands in awe as Vella appears and he kneels before her, expecting her furious at him, but in truth, she's just extremely sad.
Sad about everything Rhoderick went through, his ultimate noble sacrifice and sad about how she stood powerless against the Heart. Rhoderick did the right thing and what the free-willed side of her wanted, even if that led to the near extinction of all humankind in the entire world. The largest calamity that has ever taken place in the history of mankind.

Rhoderick's spirit, concentrating all of his regret, sorrow and sincerity into his words started to speak: "I'm sor--" But the spirit of Vella interrupts his words and asks him to stand up. Vella, now kneeling before Rhoderick instead, speaks with all of her emotion and sincerity and says: "I'm sorry I wasn't strong enough. The powers of this cursed place turns us into puppets. You're a good man, Rhoderick. The most strong-willed and pure-hearted spirit among all who roam here, regardless of your bloodline and affinity to this damned god."

Rhoderick, barely able to grasp or process the words just spoken to him, collapses in tears. All of the thousands of spirits around him start to cry too and as a result, the very pulses of the Heart of Order become stained with sourness and sorrow, against the will of the Heart.

The two Order entities begin to flare up and the entire realm begins to tremor in an unnatural way. The demi-god of Order itself, the sentience of the Heart, THRINTHIUS, begins to appear and coalesce. A colossal entity, floating above the realm, dwarving even the massive Hilenika Castle. It addresses Rhoderick specifically in ear-rupturing loudness and perfect rhyme:
"MY CHAMPION, DO NOT FRET! FOR YOUR LEGACY DOES NOT YET END. THE WORLD AND ORDER ARE STILL IN GRAVE PERIL! THE ONE KNOWN AS BAZ'APTAR HOLDS FORBIDDEN KNOWLEDGE THAT MUST BE PURGED AND MADE STERILE. HE AND ALL WHO KNOW OF THIS KNOWLEDGE MUST BE STOPPED AND DESTROYED AT ALL COST! COME, CHAMPION AND I SHALL REMAKE YOU INTO A WEAPON TO BRING ORDER TO OUR LANDS BEFORE ALL IS LOST."

Vella looks Rhoderick dead in the eyes, her expression portrays sadness and defiance.

Rhoderick wipes off his tears and nods at Vella with an iron expression. He stands up, just as TRINTHIUS starts to reach for him. All of Rhoderick's sadness instantly turns into rage as he unleashes a fierce cry with all his might, almost shattering his own very being: "I WILL NEVER SERVE YOU!!!"

In that moment, the entire realm around Rhoderick freezes and starts to dim, as he is now alone in a space, in front of a man-sized projection of THRITHUS. Rhoderick is stripped of any emotion in this place, he can only speak the truth in a monotone voice. This time, he speaks in an almost entirely regular voice.

"Why, my champion? Have you been corrupted by Disorder? Your mind twisted by magic? You are my Chosen One."

"The way you control us... your... subjects... me... Vella... Makes us into slaves."

"I fail to see your point, 'Rhoderick'. All I do is to keep the world in a state of Order and balance through selfless devotion. My name is TRINTHIUS. I AM TRINTH. You have seen first hand what happens if it Order fails."

"No. I know the truth. We are nothing but fuel to your god-engine. The doings of Disorder have nothing to do with your selfish manipulations. All living things are nothing but pawns to you."


"Impossible... How did you..."

"A good friend told me, Baz'aptar."


At that moment, Thrintius was gone from sight and Rhoderick found himself in yet another place. This one much more loomy and grim, entirely devoid of the addictive aura's of Order. In this realm, he sees nothing but scarred souls of crippled figures and halfbreeds.
He feels... Weirdly empty and drained here... The figures kind of remind him of Kroga Trinth and that's when the realization hit. This must be the horrible feeling that Kroga went through while growing up. It feels terrible, as if gnawing at his very being, but if that's what he must endure in order to defy TRINTHIUS, so be it...


Rhoderick can sense some oddities though, it's as if all spirits in the other realm are trying to reach him and drawing slightly nearer by the day...


Aftermath of the Calamity
Baz'aptar, Edea Gilwyn, Sultan Herzani, Baron Gurnstaad and Padishah Evelander are having an urgent meeting at the Ubon Fortress, just 10 minutes after Rhoderick has departed, they were all present at the siege on boats, directing their forces and coordinating the final assault.

The leaders are truly convinced they cannot rebuild their kingdoms without a Trinth to govern over them and that they are doomed if no being of Order is there to watch over them.

But as someone asks "But who could possibly fill that role? The bloodline is ended!", Edea points at Kroga's defeated body, twitching and gasping for air on the floor... Slowly dying...
 
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