Part I - 'Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Man? '
Time: Thursday, possibly Friday. Saturday? The lack of natural light made it difficult to be certain.
Place: A land plagued with untold evil.
Before we set off proper on this most noble of endeavours, I'd like to take this opportunity to share with you some of my initial thoughts, both on the challenge before us and on the approach I have chosen.
As I arrived from my travels hungry and restless, I was at once forced to partake in acts menacingly referred to only as 'The Tutorial'. Was it a trap? Was it some kind of sick test? My mind was racing, albeit in a controlled and efficient manner. Like a human super-computer from the future.
Taking into account my Special Forces background and my overwhelming physical presence, I felt I was ready to hit the ground killing, but alas I found myself on foreign soil, and amongst lesser men than I. Fortunately for them I had the mental fortitude to allow such blatant disrespect to pass unavenged. In adherence with the Laws of Men, I granted them this request.
I completed the rather feeble test of character in fine style, up to a point. I blazed through it so fast that I have no doubt, none whatsoever, that I set some kind of record. A record I doubt we will ever see broken, certainly not in my lifetime. This is where the phrase 'up to a point' becomes an important one. Let me explain.
This flawed test of character was feeble only in so much as it was rigged. It was loaded. It was far beyond any kind of ethical framework I had previously known. The Gods forbid the word impossible, a word that shall seldom otherwise pass these lips, but the odds simply didn't stack up. Even for a man such as I, a man blessed with the might of 10 men.
It was upon me like a flash. They called it Vanguard (not to be confused with the failed Unionist movement of the same name). As I stumbled upon this huge, grotesque beast in what seemed to me a heartbeat, I instinctively sought to do what I do best - take care of business.
My already inhuman senses were heightened to levels beyond that of basic scientific comprehension. I commando-rolled behind a large pillar to my immediate left, and in one gazelle-like movement I simultaneously took up full Universal Block stance and Half-Karate stance, all the while relaying vital situational information back to my brain-centre in real-time. To the untrained eye it may have looked like I simply fell over, but no. I was pairing my physical strengths with my renowned strategic mindset. Pretty much the first thing they teach you at West Point. Elite soldiering 101. I can eye up a volatile situation and immediately have 5 possible plans of attack, minimum. It's how I was trained. By now it's second nature.
I quickly drew my weapon and mouthed to the fiend that it was go-time. It was Brian-time. But it was not to be. I had finally met my match, for the first time in my life. The behemoth showed little of the sportsmanship that I pride myself on, refusing to grant me the split-second I required to size it up and take it down, hard.
It sucker-punched me. No messing. Straight shot to the back of the head. No glimpse of a warning, no posturing, just straight-up destructive force. Prison style. That was the moment everything changed.
The world as I had known it until that instant seemed alien in comparison. My time spent trapped behind enemy lines in occupied France now seemed like little more than a early summer's stroll. My fourth tour of Vietnam but a lad's holiday. In that same instant, I came to fully realise what I'd gotten myself into. My extensive military training could only take me so far in this environment, even when coupled with my mastery of countless martial arts (all the good ones). No, This was different. This was the hue of dungeons and the scowl of night. This had changed me irrevocably. There was no going back. I knew then and there that I had 2 choices - either I accept the challenge before me, or I allow this all encompassing terror to consume me. You can probably guess what I chose.
As I came around, I found myself in a strange and mystical place known only as the Nexus. I was left to ponder one simple question, a question that goes right to very essence of a man - do you have that extra something inside of you, that special make-up that elevates the select few amongst us to the extraordinary heights that are required, all in the selfless defence of our way of life? Mine and yours. Our children's!
Well that much is not yet wholly self-evident, but even at this early stage I am confident. If anything I'm probably a touch over-confident.
And though I fell to such a devastating defeat at close quarters, I did not allow, nor will I ever allow, the good name of the House of Adenhart to be tainted. That same great dynasty for which my father gave his blood, as his father did before him. I will not take the easy path. I will tread my own walkway. I will continue to trust in my sword and my cat-like reflexes.
Ranged attacks are only ever of use to 3 kinds of people - the physically weak, those lacking a robust tactical background, and those with some form of bow. Not one of those accusations could be levelled at myself.
I'm a soldier in the truest sense. That is the crux of the matter. The last thing these animals will ever see is the glimmer of my trusted blade, and there's something quite beautiful about that. I will learn magic, of that there is no doubt, but I will do so only to impress the gentlewomen of the Nexus as they sing of my inevitable victories. I will not act callously towards the demons, though they openly invite such contempt.
So before we take of our rest, I will say only this to the Vanguard creature - we shall meet again in a different place, and at a different time, but with a different outcome. You will feel the cold, hard steel of my broadsword run through you, of that much you can be assured. And as the last whisp of soul seeps from your bloated body, you will look me dead in the eye, and you will politely apologise for the cheap-shot. This isn't over yet, big-guy. Not by a long way. You crossed the line. And you could do well to warn your fellow demons of the coming of Brian, for collectively they too shall atone for the terrible mistake that you yourself have made this day.
Next we will be travelling to a dark and distant land that I like to call 'The First Wee Bit of The First Big Stone Bit'. Also known to lesser men as 1-1.
But for now we rest and we regroup.
Part II - 'From This Day, to The Ending of The World '
How can a man go back into the world after an experience so profound?
How can he once again walk among them, all the while pretending that this slow grind towards inevitable death and suffering is any sort of just or proper expression of the great possibilities of the human spirit?
The truth is that I can't know if there are answers to such questions, at least not yet. I need to rest now - lie low for a while, wait for this strange veil of anxiety to lift. Then can we really spitball this thing, but for now it's just a waiting game. A game I happen to excel at.
I'm coiled tight though, should any of these God-damned demons try to step to me.
Let's put this all into some sort of context.
Time: 0400 hours – Sunday.
Place: Somewhere outside of the Boletarian Palace.
How did we allow this happen?
These are strange and daunting times that we inhabit. I stood at the approach to the Great Palace for what felt like an eternity. By this stage the concept of time as I understood it had lost all meaning. I turned awkwardly, still weary from my travels, and took up partial Reflective Knee stance.
As I drew heart from my solid base, I thought it an ideal time to recite some wise old words to no one in particular. Looking back, they had fallen on deaf ears. This mattered not. At the very least they served to prepare me, psychologically, for the kind of balls-to-the-wall violence that I knew would be asked of me, and that was fast becoming my calling-card.
And I spoke:
We go to liberate, not to conquer
We will not fly our flags in their country
We are entering this cursed land to free a people, and the only flag which will be flown in that ancient land is their own
Show respect for them
There are some who are alive at this moment who will not be alive shortly
Those who do not wish to go on that journey, we will not send
As for the others, I expect you to rock their world
Wipe them out if that is what they choose
But just as you are ferocious in battle, you shall be magnanimous in victory.
You will see things that no man could pay to see
This land is steeped in history
Tread lightly there
If there are casualties of war then remember that when they woke and dressed this morning, they did not plan to die this day
Allow them dignity in death
Bury them properly and mark their graves
It is my foremost intention to bring every single one of you out alive
But there will be those among us who will not see the end of this campaign
We will put them in their sleeping bags and send them back
There will be no time for sorrow
Even as I offered up this hallowed call-to-arms, it dawned on me that much of the content and general message held little relevance to the challenge that I was faced with. Again this didn't matter - the words themselves held great personal significance. They were the same words with which my great grandfather, Colin of Adenhart, had sent his men valiantly into battle that triumphant day at Hog's Head.
And in what was now suddenly my reality, the full extent of the fight ahead hit home.
The great armies of Adenhart had numbered 10,000 or more at Hog's Head. Professional soldiers drawn from all 4 corners of the kingdom, united under that one glorious banner. All of them highly trained men. Fine men. Here I stood now, alone and bitterly entangled.
Faced with a situation so dire, lesser men would have crumbled. There is little shame in that.
But did I really now stand alone? Not never.
I carried with me that day the hopes and aspirations of all of Adenhart. I was charged with the collective strength of each and every one of those great warriors that had fallen before me, and bolstered with the fair wishes and cumulative wisdom of all of the men, women, and children of my storied homeland. In this assurance I found great potency.
Considering the many intangibles I also brought to table (not least my steely self-confidence and bear-like tenacity), I trusted I was well equipped for the task at hand. What other choice did I have? Add to the equation my sword and shield, and I was beginning to look slightly overpowered. Would it even be a fair fight?
If only time would tell us, then that time was here and now.
Sword grasped fearlessly in both hands, I exploded into a fairly brisk walk. Back straight and chin high, I was exhibiting great poise, lightning-fast lateral quickness, and formidable natural toughness - like the ultimate, conclusive evolutionary extension of Jerry Rice, or Mary Peters, my overall form was perfect. I mean I looked good. Really good.
Maintaining peak physical fitness isn't easy, it takes a special kind of person to cope with the elite levels of dedication and sacrifice that are required, but it was at times like these when my advanced athletic ability might just make all the difference.
I was immediately in amongst it, smashing through makeshift wooden ground-defences like a human howitzer, raining down fire and destruction with a precision and a totality the likes of which they couldn't have known before. A force of nature, I was at the eye of the storm in a millisecond, a trail of sorry corpses scattered in my wake.
Encountering a primary enemy hostile, I braced for Defensive stance and quickly scanned the immediate Forward Area. In terms of weaponry, this one had come dressed for the party.
The demon was exposed at 5 o'clock, having otherwise taken up superior elevated positioning. When an ocular pat-down of the secondary hostiles confirmed they posed no threat, I moved firmly to secure the area the only way I knew how, the way that I had been trained to - by murdering everything in sight.
But word of the coming of Brian had clearly preceded my arrival, and they were readied. Or so they had thought.
As I stepped through the fog to be swiftly surrounded, I promptly went to work. I was a man possessed, slaying any and all that crossed my path. I accept gratitude humbly, though it is not what I seek.
Much of what then followed remains an awful blur - twisted flashes of terrible violence fizzing through an otherwise empty blackness. When you're operating at this level of extreme, skilled brutality, then it suddenly becomes unattached. Unthinking. I was a tremendously powerful killing machine, devoid of any trace of doubt or human emotion.
But even though I had fought so bravely, I fell before the Phalanx - literally. I got ahead of myself, bursting in through an archway, weapon drawn, loudly announcing the name of Adenhart - a grave signal of deadly intent. Basically trying to send out a message.
I duly fell to my death, but that matters little now. I will pick myself up, dusk myself off, and come back at it harder and smarter. This time I'll have the key situational intelligence needed to prosper. The final, elusive piece of this sick jigsaw puzzle. The demons know this just as well as I do.
Yes. I must rest. Only then can we hope to head on forwards, on towards the next bit, the bit immediately after this bit. I know not what it's called.
That much may be true in your world, and in worlds I too have known - worlds of logic and boundaries and reason. But in this wretched land things are rarely as they seem, even to a decorated maverick of my magnitude. Ideas long established in the Land's of Men hold scant court in the ghastly and ominous predicament in which we find ourselves.
Hold strong, friends of Adenhart, for there remains but one single and unalienable truth – we will have our day again.