Monday, February 14, 2005


The Ancestral Trail #9: Living Death-Traps

Caught in the Jaws of Killer Plants


On the Ninth Day...

The growth, the fumes,
Beware the foe. The hungry fire
Never tires. See - it boils.
The flame. The soil.
Death believes in leather leaves.
Foes explode. The brave are slowed.
Danger waits where water flows.

Richard, Orkan, and Melek prepare for the onslaught of the charging beasts, Richard and Orkan's swords drawn. But before the beasts bear down on the trio, they stop and crowd around the heros, whispering to themselves. Then a wilderbeest steps out of the crowd and approaches Richard. He introduces himself as Broon, the leader of the Common Beasts, and presents Richard with a mail shirt of silver link.

Broon explains that the mail is of a metal that can withstand all weapons, and that it is a token of gratitude for Richard saving them from Enlil. The amulet that Enlil wore around his neck was the key to his power, and its destruction freed the Common Beasts from his hypnotic spell. Richard thanks Broon for the gift and informs the leader of his adventures, including that Golan is waiting for all survivors in the Ancestral City, along with Juroot and his bird forces. With this knowledge, Broon and the Common Beasts follow Richard out of the dungeon.

Outside, they find the hell hounds have also returned to normal. Orkan cuts through their collars to free them before Broon bids farewell to the trio. As the wildebeest leads his band away, Richard and his friends make their way around the volcano's slopes toward a distant mountain range, eventually walking through several skeleton-like trees. Just then, they hear the sounds of fierce yells and barked orders, sounds they know all too well.

They discover that they've stumbled upon a ferocious battle...between Cozards and Grapfrits. They watch as a Grapfrit disappears inside a tight metal box of shields held up by the Cozards, moments later re-emerging while sucking the blood dry from a screaming Cozard soldier. Meanwhile, one Cozard manages to use its sword to slice a Grapfrit in half, sending its sickening intestines spill across the ground. After noticing several dried-out Cozard husks due to the Grapfrits, Richard declares they are mad for even being near the battle and urges to get moving once again.

The trio march away from the battlefield, pressing on into the woods. As they do, they notice "bronze-tinted shoots pushed up amid the charred stumps, and giant, leathery plants rose among the dead wood. Richard's throat tightened as he took a second look. Thick, curly tentacles unfurled from the bottom of each plant, and tall-necked, fleshy pitcher-shaped flowers rimmed with saw-like teeth reared up towards the sky. Their delicate amber colouring was veined with dark rust, and from their bases sprouted little tendrils, each ending in a miniature version of the parent growth."

Gruesome scenes of combat litter the plants. They see the remains of a lizard between one plant's jaws, while the corpse of a bat dangle's in another. They even see bits and pieces of a Cozard floating in one of the plant's juices. As Richard comments on how the plants look as if they're alive, a furry little animal in spotted fur darts into view, looking around nervously. Richard looks at Orkan, who states that the animal isn't in league with the Evil One. As the trio watches, the little animal leaps onto one of the flowers and tips forward to drink from something inside the plant. The plant's sides quiver and the saw-like teeth begin to close.

Without warning, Melek rushes forward towards the plant. The dwarf grabs the creature's hind legs and tries to pull, but the plant's grip is too strong. Undeterred, Melek tugs again and leans inside the plant. Richard tries to warn Melek that the plant is a trap, but it's too late: the dwarf is dragged into the plant's mouth, leaving his legs outside to dangle frantically.

Richard tells Orkan that they have to get Melek out; the plants seem to live on flesh. Orkan circles the plant looking for a weak spot while Richard grabs Melek's legs to try and pull him out. However, Richard soon starts to feel quite tired and realizes that the plant is giving off some kind of sleep fumes. Richard and Orkan then try to hack the plant open with their blades, but they bounce off the leathery hide. Then Richard suggests burning the creature open.

Richard searches for some tinder while Orkan digs a hole near the plant's base. With only Melek's feet visible now, Orkan piles the tinder into the hole and uses a sharp glasslike stone to strike the tip of his sword, creating a shower of sparks. The tinder instantly catches fire, which quickly spread to the base of the plant. Within a few moments, the plant is completely alight, throwing its jaws wide open. Richard quickly takes the opportunity to pull Melek to safety.

As Melek coughs and splutters, Richard and Orkan notice a familiar gray mass still barely alive inside the burning plant's mouth. Orkan comments that the creature is nearly dead, but Richard's goodness shine's through and he reaches inside and pulls the creature from the plant's mouth, ignoring the sting of the acidic juices. The creature looks up at Richard with frail eyes, then notices the flaming creature and, terrified, bolts from Richard's hands and disappears into the vegetation.

The trio notice that the plant is burning brightly with an intense heat and realize that the Cozards might be on their way to investigate the smoke. As the fires begin spreading to other plants in the patch, the trio race away from the scene through the deadly forest of carnivorous plants. Just then, they heard a loud explosion and look behind them to see oily palls of smoke rise into the air, carrying the sickening smell of burning leaves. A second explosion makes them realize that the plants are exploding.

As they attempt to run from the exploding fauna, they begin to hear screams of pain. The explosions have caught up with the Cozards, and the fires are burning through their armor and into their flesh. Overhead, a swarm of Grapfrits tries to outrun the explosions as their wings burn. One flaming Grapfrit attempts to attack Orkan, but the pigman slices the creature in two with his sword.

Orkan realizes that the Grapfrits know of a way out and orders his friends to follow them. But their guides soon succumb to the fires until they are all killed. Richard and his friends still make their way toward the mountains, but as they leave the forest of plants they find themselves in front of a wide lake. As the fires close in, Richard looks behind him and thinks he sees Golan's face in the smoke, looking at the lake. Without a second thought, he tells his friends to jump into the lake.


In terms of the overall story, the ninth volume in The Ancestral Trail is more of a place-holder in that it does little to develop any of the important plot points. However, it does provide further insight into the world that the Ancestral World has degraded into since the arrival of the Evil One. Despite being allies, Cozards and Grapfrits are attacking one another. A once beautiful forest has been overrun by killer plants. One of the few creatures that escaped the Evil One's touch almost became food for one of the carnivorous plants. The Ancestral World truly is a frightening place.

Perhaps the most interesting thing that goes on in this episode is that a clue is dropped as to what the second Life Force Pod that Richard found in Enlil's dungeon is. The clue can be found on page 139, where Orkan and Richard noticed the almost dead creature inside the plant's mouth. When Orkan comments on it nearly being dead, Richard's "goodness shone through" and he pulled the creature out to safety. This clue indicates that Richard found the Pod of Goodness.

On a final note, the Living Death-Traps have the distinction of being the only (exclusive) front cover creatures that did not receive a card in the card game. While the killer bees from issue six didn't receive a card either, at least they shared a title with Cozards, which did. The reason the Living Death-Traps are excluded from the card game is because the creators thought it would be better to use the Grapfrits instead. There are only 52 cards in the deck: 26 for Good, 26 for Evil. And since there are 26 issues in the series (at least in the series set in the Ancestral World), one Evil creature - the Living Death-Traps - had to be excluded to make way for the Grapfrits.


"This mail shirt is for you. It is made of a metal that can withstand all weapons. It is small reward for our freedom. The Evil One's amulet that Enlil wore around his neck was the key to his power. When it was destroyed, the spell we were under was destroyed too."

Orkan: "Look! The Grapfrits have sucked out every drop of their blood."
"Then we're mad to even be here. Let's go."

"It's too nervous to be in league with the Evil One."

"Orkan, quick. We've got to get him out. I think these plants live on flesh. They're just like enormous Venus fly-traps."

Richard: "Are you okay?"
"I don't know. I feel very sleepy, and my face hurts."

"It's the plants. They're exploding. Run!"


The Ancestral Trail #8: Enlil's Dungeon

Dicing with Death in the Bubbling Volcano


On the Eighth Day...

Cross the gap without mishap,
An arrow saves the day.
Find the side but Chosen falls,
Save him fast! Then at last
From blazing fires comes the glow.
And then you know that air reveals,
The pod to feel, and Evil steals
The beasts to meet the blow.

Richard tries hard to figure out a way to cross the chasm that cuts through the tunnel, knowing full well that Zock is right behind them. He looks across the chasm and notices that the flame torches lining the wall continue on the other side of the gap. He then notices the torches' metal clamps and has an idea. He tells Orkan to tie Melek's rope to an arrow and fire it over one of the clamps; they can then cross the chasm via the rope.

Orkan calculates the odds and ties one end of Melek's rope to an arrow. He then aims carefully and fires the arrow, which manages to lodge itself in the bracket. Richard tugs the other end of the rope as a test - the rope holds firm. Orkan then begins making his way across the chasm along the rope while Richard and Melek hold the other end. Melek follows along the rope while Richard is left holding the end. With his friends safely on the other side, Richard now comes to the moment he had been dreading: swinging across the chasm on the rope.

Just then, he hears a loud clamor behind him and turns to see Zock and his men almost upon him. Unable to turn back now, Richard places his torch in his pocket before stepping out into space. He swings through the black chasm before his feet lands against the rockface on the opposite side. He then quickly begins to climb the rope while Richard and Melek haul him up. As he scrambles up, a spear whizzes past his face and sinks into the rock, encouraging Richard to move even faster.

Suddenly, Richard feels a lurch on the rope - the bracket holding the rope is loosening! Orkan urges Melek to pull harder and Richard to climb faster, which they do. Knives and clubs continue to be thrown as the scrambling Chosen One as he finally reaches the top of the chasm and crawls onto solid ground. With no time to catch their breath, they head down the tunnel away from Zock's horde.

Soon, the torches along the wall peter out, relaced by a faint green glow coming from the very rock. After a while, the trio comes to a fork in the tunnel and decide to consult the Book of Prophecy. After reading the prophecy, Richard decides to use the Path Finder to decide where to head; the instrument ends up directing them down the right-hand tunnel. Down the tunnel, they begin to detect the smell of burning. When the tunnel opens up into an enormous cavern, they see a narrow path leading to a monstrous craggy wart in the cavern's center. They have found Enlil's dungeon, sitting in the middle of an active volcano.

The group heads down the ziggzagged path towards the craggy wart until they find themselves standing in front of a massive pair of iron-studded doors, secured shut by a heavy sword supported by iron brackets. "On either side, tethered to the rock by a thick chain, stood a huge, savage-looking dog. The dogs' eyes stared blindly ahead, their pupils small black pinpoints at the center of bright golden embers. The beasts' heavy jaws were bared to display blade-sharp teeth, and beneath the dogs' spiked collars bulged barrel-chested bodies. The animals were straining forward, snarling and pawing the air with their claws."

Orkan tells his friends that he'll keep the dogs busy while they open the doors. Orkan then draws his sword and approaches the hell hounds; the dogs rage forward, pulling their chains to the breaking point. While Orkan distracts the dogs, Richard and Melek duck under their taut chains and remove the heavy sword securing the iron doors, summoning every ounce of their strength to remove it from its braces. Once the sword is removed, they push the massive doors ajar.

Richard then tells Melek to wait while he goes help Orkan. Richard darts under the chains and returns to Orkan's side, telling the pigman that he'll take things from here. Orkan nods and heads to the doors while Richard draws Juroot's dagger. Richard then pulls the tunic of Golan's cloak over his head, rendering him invisible. The dogs are stunned to see their prey disappear, leaving a weapon floating in mid-air. Richard takes this opportunity to make a dash for the tunnel, leaving the hounds to howl in realization and anger.

Inside Enlil's dungeon, the trio make their way down a hallway filled with columns and carefully engineering beams, a scene resembling a cathedral. The tunnel grows smaller and smaller until it finally ends in an untidy pile of boulders. The companions creep over the boulders and see a gigantic cave on the other side. The center of the room contains a sulphurous, bubbling lake of molten rock. A narrow, jagged path creeps around the seething cauldron, and walking along that path are a chain of beasts carrying massive logs to feed the fires. They are obviously in pain, but their eyes suggest a hypnontic obedience.

High above the cauldron on two stone pillars perch two enormous bats, watching their slaves intensely. Richard realizes they must be Enlil and Erna, and he almost squeals in delight when he notices a pod sitting on an intricate stand of tiny bones...right in front of the bats. Orkan asks how they're going to get the pod when it's sitting right in front of Enlil, when Richard senses Golan telling him to use the cloak.

Richard tells his friends to distract the bats while he gets the pod. He then slips the hood over his head again, disappearing from view. Orkan and Melek step out from behind the boulders and near the raging lake of lave. Enlil and Erna notices the two intruders immediately and flap their wings in rage, preparing to attack.

Orkan and Melek quickly grab stones littered about the floor and start throwing them at their adversaries. One of Orkan's stones misses the bats but hits the stem of a thin, chalk-white column. The column snaps and manages to loosen a field of stalactites hanging directly above Enlil and Erna, sending down a rain of stone spears. One of the stalactites catches the chain of an amulet featuring the mask of the Evil One around Enlil's neck, sending the charm into the bubbling lava below. The remaining stalactites pierce the evil bats' wings and bodies, sending Enlil and Erna tumbling screaming into the cauldron.

As the battle comes to a surpise end, Melek and Orkan notice the pod rise from its stand and realize that Richard's got it. The pods floats its way back to Orkan and Melek before Richard removes the hood. The trio then quickly head back down the tunnel...when they hear an ear-searing screech, following by a raw, frightening sound: the beasts in the cavern crying out with one pained voice. Inside the tunnel, the companions turn back to see Enlil's slaves advancing towards them, their eyes glazed and their march unstoppable. Knowing they couldn't outrun then, Richard and Orkan draw their swords. In their minds, they realize that this is the end of their quest...


Enlil is an enormous bat-like creature who dwells within a live volcano inside an intricately designed dungeon. Because the volcano is dying, he keeps a team of slaves to feed massive logs to the volcanic flames in order to keep the fires going. Enlil is cruel and vicious, and he watches over his slaves night and day. By his side is his wife Erna, who is just as wicked as her husband and incredibly greedy. Around Enlil's neck is an amulet in which the mask of the Evil One is inscribed, though the amulet's purpose is yet unknown. Enlil also keeps watch over one of the Life Force Pods and never lets it leave his sight.

"High above the lava cauldron sat two huge, menacing bats. Scalloped, black wings spread threateningly at their sides. Slitted, bloodshot eyes surveyed the scene below with intense concentration. In front of them, mounted on a tall, intricate stand made from tiny interlocking bones, rested a small purpose object."

The Common Beasts are creatures who possess the bodies of men but the faces of land beasts. Orkan the pigman is a Common Beast, as was Merkat the leopardman. Richard's first encounter with a wide range of Common Beasts is in Enlil's dungeon, where he sees a train of Common Beasts dragging logs to feed the fires of Enlil's dying volcano. After Enlil and Erna are slayed, the Common Beasts march as one to face those who killed the bats...


In the eighth issue of The Ancestral Trail, another major story moment is realized when Richard secures the second of the Life Force Pods. As with the first pod, the ninth volume will reveal through clues in the text which pod Richard has obtained. He has already found the Pod of Endurance, what will this pod be?

As noted previously, Melek's rope came in handy in the eighth volume despite a little plot hole in the seventh volume. When Orkan threw Zock's soldier into the lake, nowhere did it mention that Melek's rope was removed before he did so. Of course, one could easily assume that this was more implied than anything else, and that it's nothing to really worry about. The rope will come in handy again later in the story, but nowhere does the issue mention that Melek secured his precious rope after he and his friends used it to cross the chasm.

It's interesting to see that the battle between Enlil and Erna was hardly a battle at all. In fact, it was arguably downright anticlimactic. The bats were not killed by sword or cunning but by accident, and their battle hardly lasted that long, either. However, it does demonstrate that not all evil creatures are invincible and that they all don't have to be super-invincible and very tough to kill. Enlil and Erna were wicked, but that was probably all they were. But what was that mysterious amulet around Enlil's neck...?

Finally, the people who printed out the Ancestral Trail playing cards made a mistake for Enlil's card. Instead of Enlil, the card shows a picture of his wife Erna.


"If you tie Melek's rope to an arrow, and fire it over that metal clamp, you can get across while we hold the rope, Melek can follow and I'll swing across."

"Hang on tight, and don't look down."

"I'll keep them busy while you open the doors, but you'll have to be quick."

"How on earth are we going to get close enough to get the pod? It's right in front of them."


The Ancestral Trail #7: Zock, Cannibal Chief

Trapped in the Caves of Flesh-Eating Dwarfs


On the Seventh Day...

Captives bound, caged underground.
Release is found in length around.
A magic beam by evil seen.
Enemies will rise from below,
And dark waters carry the foe.
Prisoner's plight beyond the stern,
Now the slithering monsters turn.
A new deep opens 'ere the burn.

The three companions sit uncomfortably as the voices get closer and closer until a squat dwarf appears from the gloom, followed by a crowd of smaller dwarfs. The lead dwarf introduces himself as Zock, and claims Richard and his companions as his prisoners. Zock then uses Jaroot's dagger to cut the trio free from the stalagmite and orders the other dwarfs to take them to the brood-hall.

Their hand still tied, the trio is forced to march through a maze of intricate caverns while watching the dwarfs play with their weapons. As Zock leads his band deeper into the mountains, Richard asks his friends who these creatures are. Melek replies that they are his people, but now they're under the control of the Evil One and have become cannibals. He adds that the dwarfs are more than likely taking them to the pot.

After a while, the trio and their captors finally emerge into a vast, domed cavern. In the center of the cavern stands a magnificent totem pole adorned with faces of wicked glee and savagery. All around the cavern are giant cooking pots, and some of them are bubbling at full blast with lifeless limbs floating inside their sickening stews. Richard then recognizes the smell he detected earlier as freshly slaughtered meat, rank and salty.

The cannibals lead the three into a giant wooden cage, which is then hoisted into the air. They then watch as their weapons are placed on a nearby boulder before Zock leads his people out of the brood-hall. Orkan tries to break the cage, but the wood is too tough and the rawhide bonds are too strong. But despite the feeling of helplessness, Melek points out that at least the dwarfs didn't take the Book of Prophecies. The three read the ancient text in a hushed voice to see if it's any help.

The three ponder the meaning of the riddle for a moment before Richard notices Melek's rope hanging from the scribe's waist and excitedly points it out. Orkan states that they need their weapons, not a rope, but Richard exclaims that they can use the rope as a slipknot to haul their weapons in. Orkan jumps on the idea and takes the rope from Melek, quickly creating a simple slipknot. Melek then takes the rope back and, with his hands through the bars, throws the slipnot at their weapons. As if by magic, the knot lands perfectly on Orkan's sword hilt.

The rope tightens around the hilt as Melek pulls the weapon in, and when it reaches the cage Orkan grabs the weapon; however, Orkan also points out that they still need an escape plan. Richard then remembers the pod and quickly checks under his tunic; to his relief, Zock hadn't taken it or his bag. As he rumbles through his bag, to his surprise he finds his torch. A quick check of the batteries reveals it still works. An idea forms in Richard's mind of how they can escape, and he reveals it to his companions.

Meanwhile, Zock and his men are arguing about Richard and whether or not they should eat him. The other two are obviously creatures of this world, but Richard is odd, and eating him might bring bad luck. Zock finally decides to leave Richard for now and eat the other two now. With that decision, he leads his men back towards the cage in the brood-hall, the drums pounding furiously. He orders one of his men to bring Orkan and Melek down to him. One dwarf leaps onto the cage and opens the door before stepping inside and making a grab for Melek. Quick as a flash, Orkan raises his sword against the cannibal's throat while Richard uses tied the rope around his wrists.

Zock is taken aback for a moment, but quickly recovers his composure, pointing out that they can't pull that same trick twice. Then, as he orders his men to capture them, Richard shines his torch fully on Zock's face, causing the cannibal chief to drop Richard's weapon in surprise; to him, the light appears to be coming from Richard's hand. Shrieking that they're sorcerers, Zock and his men flee from the hall in terror.

Stunned at their plan worked, the trio quickly jump down from the cage and collect their weapons before running down a brightly lit tunnel. As they head further down the tunnel, they begin to hear the growing beating of drums once again, signalling Zock was coming after them. Richard is at a loss at what to do...when he senses Golan calling from inside. He leads his companions down a turn in the tunnel, where the air soon grows cool and fresh. Upon rounding a corner, they find themselves at the edge of a vast underground lake, and at the edge of the lake are a number of rafts and boats.

Despite the mention of monsters in the riddle, Richard still insists they use a boat because Zock was closing in. Orkan suggests that they untie or skuttle the remaining boats, but before Richard can do this, the sounds of drums and stomping feet are heard coming down the tunnel leading to the lake. The three companions and their prisoner leap into the boat and push off. Orkan mutters that they should've gotten rid of those boats, which prompts the prisoner to spit at Richard, saying bravely that Zock will catch them.

Richard and Melek put all of their strength into rowing across the lake, trying to put some distance between them and Zock, when the boat comes to a sudden stop in the middle of the lake. Orkan takes Richard's torch and looks into the water, but cannot see anything...until he notices something moving. Suddenly, a giant eel leaps out of the water, its snapping jaws barely missing Orkan's arm. The companions then see by the light of Richard's torch that a mass of squirming eels have surrounded their boat, preventing them from going any further.

Meanwhile, back across the lake, Zock and his men reach the boats and jump in, continuing their pursuit. Zock's private boat is illunimated on either end by skulls used as candleholders. As the cannibals row their way across the lake towards their prey, they cry out in triumph.

Zock in pursuit Posted by Hello

Orkan responds by taking the dwarf prisoner, raising the cannibal above his head, and throwing him into the water. An instant later, the eels that surround the trio's boat head towards the thrown dwarf, clearing the way for Richard and his friends (just as the prophecy had said, Orkan notes). With the eels now feasting on the poor cannibal, the three begin rowing their way back across the lake, with Zock and his men now blocked by the eels.

The three reach the opposite edge of the lake and quickly get out of the boat. Seeing a tunnel leading off the lake, Richard leads his friends in that direction. They path appears to lead the group to their salvation...until it abrutly ends at a wide chasm with no path leading to the other side. Seemingly trapped, Richard groans as he hears Zock and his cannibals grow closer and closer...


Zock is the chief and leader of a race of dwarfs that have become cannibals under the Evil One's power. Very little is known about Zock except that he is cunning and ruthless. Because of his relatively large stature compared to most other dwarfs, as well as he commanding presence, Zock commands a lot of respect from his men, who follow him without question. However, Zock is also very superstitious; he and his people see the great totem pole inside their brood-hall as a carving worthy of respect, and salute it every time they pass it. It's also Zock's superstition that causes him to fear the mysterious light from Richard's hand.

The dwarf forces are an ancestral race composed of dwarfs in the Ancestral World. Melek is also a dwarf, and he gets to see firsthand what has happened to his people when he meets cannibal chief Zock. Zock's tribe is actually Melek's people under the spell of the Evil One, and the dwarf forces have resorted to cannibalism to survive in the fallen world that is their land. They have also resorted to superstition, worshiping an idol in the middle of their village.


In the seventh issue of The Ancestral Trail, the story again demonstrates the descructive power of the Evil One, only this time in another light. In the previous issue, the story showed the dying Green Man Wood; in this issue, they show a once-good race under the influence of the Evil One's power, i.e., Melek's own people, the dwarfs. There are very few things that the world can almost unanimously decry as morally wrong - cannibalism is one of those things. So for Melek's people to change into such creatures shows just how much the Evil One has corrupted the world.

The seventh issue also adds in something that should've been expected: modern technology in a fantasy world. When Richard used his torch on Zock, the cannibal chief was afraid and thought it was magic. Many books have been written about time-travelers or people from our time being whisked away to a fantasy world who use modern technology to wow and/or frighten the locals. Richar's usage of his torch not only helps him and his friends escape from Zock, but also allows a bit of a comedic moment that, while not laugh-out-loud funny, is slightly amusing.

Finally, it should be noted that this issue insert a bit of a continuity error that will pop-up in the next issue. When Orkan grabbed the cannibal in the cage, he used Melek's rope to tie him up. After this, there was no mention of him ever untying the rope from the dwarf's hands; for all we know, the rope was still attached to the dwarf's hands when he was thrown into the lake. However, the rope will show up later in the story...


Richard: "Do you know who they are?"'
Melek: "They are my people, but now they are under the control of the Evil One. I heard that they have become cannibals."
Orkan: "So why haven't they eaten us? Where are they taking us?"
Melek: "To the pot, I suppose."

Richard: "Let's take one [boat]."
Melek: "What about the monsters in the riddle? They could be out there!"
Richard: "That's right, but we don't have a choice. Zock will be upon us any minute."

Orkan: "We should've scuttled those boats. Zock can still chase us!"
Richard: "There was no time."
Cannibal: "Pah! You'll never get away. Zock will catch you."

Go to #8 - Enlil's Dungeon


The Ancestral Trail #6: Cozards and Killer Bees

Death Squads in the Dying Woods


On the Sixth Day...

Marching, flying - death at hand?
The brave must fear them both.
Hark the words in ruined land
Of wise and ancient growth.
Wings that weapons cannot quell
Will catch them unaware.
Chosen's choice of touch will tell
And lead them safe to open air.

Richard, Orkan, and Melek slowly and carefully make their way down the mountainside until they begin descending inside a straggly forest. They notice signs of the lost Book of Prophecies - broken branches, fresh clads of earth - and follow them until Orkan sees a familiar leather-bound book resting in the precariously bent branches of a cedar tree. Once on the ground, the three head to the tree and Orkan reaches up to grab the Book of Prophecies. Within a matter of moments, the book is back in their possession.

At Richard's suggestion, the trio reads the next prophecy. With that done, they begin heading into the forest down a valley. As they do, they hear a faint rustling through the trees. Soon, the sound picks up a noticeable rhythm, and then they hear the sounds of marching feet and brisk shouts. Orkan quickly recognizes the sound as Cozards, the Evil One's stormtroopers, and orders his friends to hide. They spot a wide crack in the base of a narrow tree and cram themselves inside the narrow space. Once inside, they wait nervously as the Cozards arrive at their location and begin marching past them.

Once the Cozards have marched past, the trio wait for a few moments before they decide it's safe to emerge. Moving in the opposite direction of the Cozards through their smashed path in the undergrowth, the three head deeper and deeper into the forest. The forest around them is either dead or dying, with green foliage shriveled and trees as white as bones. Orkan comments that the forest's appearance, called Green Man Wood, is the Evil One's work - he wants the whole Ancestral World to be like this, either dead or in his power.

Eventually, the three burst through the dead undergrowth into a clearing, where a giant oak tree stands, still struggling for life. They rest for a moment against the tree to regain their strength. Then Richard feels something on his shoulder; he shrugs it off as a branch. He then feels something grip his arm; he turns to Orkan and Melek, but finds that they have closed their eyes. He then feels a strong grip on his arms; Richard panics, suspecting they have fallen into one of the Evil One's traps.

Then a voice calls out from the tree, saying it won't hurt Richard. Richard stands up, along with a now awakened Orkan and Melek, and they look around for the voice's owner. Richard then notices a face sketched in the tree's bark, a face that appears friendly. The tree then begins speaking again, saying it must pass on a warning. He warns the three about the Cozards, as well as enemy flying squads that are on the lookout for anything that movies. Orkan replies that they've already dealt with Grapfrits before, but the speaking oak says that there are others that are dangerous with deadly stings.

Orkan whispers to his friends that the tree must be talking about the Grapfrits and that they had better leave quickly. Saying goodbye to the oak tree, the trio continue on their way. Richard mutters that they're thankful they now know what the prophecy is talking about. After a while, they come into another clearing with dead foliage all around them when Richard hears another sound inside the trees: a faint, steady hum growing in strength. Richard quickly cries out that it's the Grapfrits, and the three run. As they do, Melek looks back and sees something emerge from the trees. He motions for Richard and Melek to look as well, and they do.

"Out of the trees, coming towards them like a black hand, was a huge swarm of bees. From afar, the bees looked a dark, smokey mass, but already the first scouts were edging nearest. Even from a distance, Richard could see that they looked more like huge hornets than bees. The bees' narrow bodies were marked with the pointed horn of the Evil One's mask. Some bees were armed with gigantic stings, ready for action. The drone had reached a note of shrill fury."

Orkan recognizes the creatures as killer bees and what the speaking oak was really talking about. The trio run into a high wall of an endless thorn hedge, but Orkan's sword cuts them a path through it. After pushing their way through the branches, they emerge out into the open with mountains looming in front of them. Without stopping, the three head along a dry riverbed, using it as a natural staircase to climb the rockface. Just then, they hear a vicious bellow behind them - the Cozards have returned.

As the riverbed peters out and the mountain grows steeper, Richard sees Golan's features above a narrow gap in the rock. He leads his friends to the gap when they hear footsteps behind them. They turn to see a lone Cozard heading straight for them. Orkan tells his friends to get inside while he faces the Cozards, drawing his sword in the process. As he does, he manages to barely avoid a spear thrown at him from below.

The lone Cozard then attacks Orkan, swinging his menacing axe. The axe grazes Orkan's cheek, causing the pigman to lose his balance. The Cozard then raises its weapon for a final attack...when it suddenly lifts a hand to its neck and stumbls. Orkan takes advantage and swings his sword so hard against the Cozard that he drops his blade. The Cozard tumbles off the rocky slope, leaving Orkan to pick up his sword and join his friends inside the gap.

As he enters the crack, Richard points excitedly down the mountain: the killer bees are attacking the Cozards! Orkan adds that a bee had stung that Cozard scout in the neck. As the three watch, the bees, completely starved in a forest of death, find the Cozards as better pickings than the trio they had chased earlier, not caring that they Cozards are also in service to the Evil One. They swarm down on the Cozards in a giant fist, using their powerful stingers to piece the Cozards' tough armor. But the well-disciplined Cozards use their training well, forming tight boxes with their shields and keeping the insects at bay as best they can. While the killer bees break through the Cozards' defenses through their weakest points, the Cozards manage to advance, leaving dead and crushed insects in their wake. Both sides are evenly matched.

With the Cozards and killer bees distracted, the three head inside the gap and deeper into the mountain. They surprisingly emerge inside a dome-shaped chamber. Feeling Golan's presence with him, Richard leads his companions into another nearby tunnel, taking them down a dark, low tunnel. Just then, as they press farther and farther, they hear a fearful rumbling. At first thinking it's the Cozards following them, Richard realizes that it's a rockfall! Before the three can run, the roof over their heads collapses, pinning the trio to the ground under a large pile of rocks.

Richard loses conciousness for a moment before reawakening, feeling the rocks' weight against him, making it difficult to breathe. He begins thinking that his quest has come to an unglorious end when he realizes that it isn't under any rubble. He's instead sitting up, in a dimly-lit cave, the pressure against his chest coming from tightly bound ropes bounding him to a giant stalagmite. He looks around to see Orkan and Melek bound to the same pillar. He then hears a soft rumbling which he later realizes as scratchy voices approaching them from somewhere within the cave. He also picks up a sour odor that smells vaguely familiar...


In Green Man Wood, most of the forest is either dead or fallen under the Evil One's control. The sole survivor of the Evil One's onslaught is the Speaking Oak. While weakened greatly from the lack of nutrients to be found in the forest, he manages to use the last of his strength to warn Richard and his friends of the dangers lying within the wood.

"The roots fell away and Richard jumped up. At first glance the tree looks just like any other. Then Richard noticed a face sketched in lines of withered bark, concealed among natural bumps and creases in the wood. The craggy face looked kind and friendly."

Cozards are the Evil One's stormtroopers and make up a great bulk his vicious army. In the Ancestral World, where the Evil One holds control over most of the land, Cozards are mainly used as search-and-destroy units, deployed to kill anything they find. Cozards are not incredibly smart, but what they lack in intelligence they more than make up in their ability to fight. They're also surprisingly disciplined, and in the heat of battle they're very capable of overpowering their adversaries with a range of military tactics at their disposal.

"The Cozards were short and squat. Heavy armour clanked on their bodied, and from every joint there projected sharp metal spikes. They were armed with axes and barbed spears. The only vulnerable points seemed to be their faces, where steel helmets opened to reveal razor-sharp teeth, squab noses and deep-set eyes. Behind the formation, an officer bellowed harsh commands."


The sixth issue of The Ancestral Trail introduces us to the Evil One's stormtroopers, the Cozards. Armies such as this are a staple of fantasy, and the Cozards appear to be based heavily on the orcs from Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Like the orcs, the Cozards are mindless but disciplined and dangerous, and in an army they are downright deadly. Interestingly enough, the Cozards do not appear anywhere else in the story except in a very brief scene three issues from now and at a very crucial issue later on in the story...

Another thing of interest is that though Melek lost the Book of Prophecies at the end of issue five, the three recovered the book fairly quickly at the beginning of issue six wit barely enough effort. This is simply the author using cliffhangers to keep the audience coming back for more while giving a little twist on the story. In issue five, the prophecy mentioned a treasure being lost, which Richard assumed was the pod he had recovered from Baal. But the treasure ended up not being the pod but the Book of Prophecies. After that twist, they quickly recovered the book and got on with the story.

Finally, it's interesting to note that while the Cozards received a playing card, the killer bees didn't.


"The Evil One's search-and-destroy units will kill anyone they come across. They're disciplined, mindless and completely ruthless."

"This is Green Man Wood, and this is what the Evil One has done. This is how he'd like the whole land to be - either dead or in his power."

Speaking Oak: "I must pass on a warning. I am the only survivor here. The rest of my family have fallen to the Evil One, and I have little time left myself. A few days at most. I know you are the Chosen One, and you must heed my advice. Watch out for Cozards."
Richard: "We've seen them already."
Speaking Oak: "Be on your guard always. There are eyes and ears everywhere now. Enemy flying squads are on the lookout for anything that moves."
Orkan: "Grapfrits! We've dealt with them before."
Speaking Oak: "No, no. Others that are dangerous, with deadly stings."

Richard: "Look! The bees are attacking the Cozards!"
"I know. One of them got that scout in the neck. Luckily it didn't go for me."

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