Marabelle, the slightly vacant flower girl from Burnside, stands before Brody, flanked by wolves. The alpha of the pack is attacking Good Dog Best Friend, while the rest of the pack growl at both the dog and the man. Calling the wolf back off the dog with a bark, she explains to Brody that they’ve been fleeing the taint, but doesn’t know how long for. They’re headed to a place called the Forgotten Plane (which Brody surmises to be some landmark), but the pack won’t let her tell him more as they don’t trust either Brody or the “birth mother abomination pup” as they term the dog. Saying that she belongs with the animals, she and the pack leave, as she leaves she turns to Brody and mouths the words “north west” to him. The alpha notices and bites her leg for her troubles.
Next morning, Brody asks James where they’re going, he responds north. When James presses the other officers on the matter they say they’re two weeks away from the front lines.
Serra translates more of the dragon book as they travel. It speaks of a ritual to become divine, but nobody who isn’t of dragon blood can do it. This all seems to be referring to lands far to the south. There’s much talk about how to take on the dragon’s powers from Chris, much thought about the treasure from Serra, disbelief from Brody and quiet interest from James, memorising the story as best he can.
Next day as they continue the march a pall of smoke can be seen off in the distance. James gets the officers’ nod to go investigate, although they won’t wait for them and will have to catch up. The typical level of interest from the defenders of the realm… They approach a clearing, finding a village up in flames. In the centre of the conflagration they find a red and black hooded figure, while the sharp-eyed Serra notices a red haired woman who bears a passing resemblance to James off to one side. The woman shouts “enough Brokai!” and vanishes. Brokai turns to the group, revealing himself to look identical to Brody. Claiming to be Brody’s brother, he says he can’t stay but leaves a present. Summoning some fire elementals, he sets them on the group then vanishes.
In the ensuing firefight the elementals are dispatched. The party then set about rescuing the villagers, with varying degrees of success. The majority of the villagers are holed up in the temple, but some were in the burning houses, so Chris, James and Serra set about rescuing them. Chris gets caught up in memories of Burnside, as the situation is uncannily similar, James is literally left holding the baby after rescuing one from a house, which he and Serra leave with the villagers, and explain to be careful about hooded priests coming to help with the reconstruction.
They then find Brody in the woods, unable to help due to the resemblance to Brokai, and convinced this is some plot to discredit or blacken his name.
Next day they catch up with the troop and resume the march. James is told to make a report but it’s again clear the officers really don’t care what happens to the populace.
As they proceed on the woods take a sinister turn, appearing more sickly and tainted. They continue the march until finally the entire regiment is attacked by zombies, and worse, a large, corrupted, sentient tree shambles out. It terrifies most of the group besides Chris, James and Serra, and a few others. The ensuing chaos leads to soldiers being pulled down and killed by the zombies, and in turn the tree begins raising the victims as zombies under its control. The three decide to hold their ground and give the rest time to escape, or try to kill it for the glory, or the valuable components… But officially to let the others escape, at least that’s what James plans to tell people should they survive.
In the ensuing fight all are badly wounded and barely escape with their lives. They manage to find a hiding hole where Brody again questions James’ authority. James, injured and tired of Brody’s attitude snaps at him to shut up and keep an eye out for survivors, or signs of pursuit. Serra tends to Chris’ injuries in the meantime.
Once the group are recovered and capable of travelling, they press on in silence. Finally, the forest starts to thin out as hurt and demoralised, the last free children of Burnside* trudge onwards towards their destination. Eventually finding a large canyon lined with fortresses, they gaze out upon the old Kingdom, the end of this journey and the start of the next, and the place where they hope destinies will be forged and truths will be exposed.
(*James’ note: For dramatic effect, neither a certain ranger or druid count when determining free children of Burnside.)