Saturday, April 21, 2007


The Ancestral Trail #17: Gator, Reptile Warrior

Battle for Power in the Shadowy Swamps


On the Seventeenth Day...

In the swamp a hidden danger
Beckons the unwary stranger.
Find the prize in Gator's mound.
Find the friend from good unbound.
Find the craft that saves the day,
Find the swiftly flowing way
That leads you to the land of dreams
Where all is never what it seems.

As the avalanche subsides, Richard continues to search for signs of Zard, but to no avail, and comes to the grim conclusion that the Guardian is dead. But then as he turns to his friends, he heards a gritty sounds and turns to see Zard approaching them from the left side of the cliff, carrying a giant battleaxe. The Guardian explains that he had to roll a large rock to the side to retrieve his weapon, and in doing so he had caused the avalanche, which he managed to escape before it grew too large.

With Zard safe, Richard says that they should get away from Cragmar's Plateau quickly and asks Melek to read the next prophecy. Realizing they should find Gator's mound to find a pod, the group begins to head down from the pleateau, following a small stream that headed down a slope. Eventually, the small stream grows into a stagnant river with clumps of vegetation growing beginning to dot the landscape. They have arrived in a swamp, and the Path Finder points to a large hillock settled inside the morass. They try to use several small islands as stepping stones across the waters, but the unreliable sturdyness of the islands forces them to wade through the waters eventually.

The journey through the water is unpleasant, as the heroes feel creatures slime around their legs beneath the waters and Richard is forced to carry the Book of Prophecies so Melek wouldn't drown. Eventually, they stop to take a breather, while hoping they wouldn't need to go back the way they came. Just then, Richard feels a tingling on his arm and looks down to see several slug-like creatures latched on his skin, suckling on his blood. He tries to bite one off when Zard stops him, saying those things are leeches and that the wound will be infected if he tries to tear them off.

Zard states that the only way to get rid of the leeches - which are covering him too, as well as Melek and Orkan - is to burn them, and proceeds to try to get a fire burning in the damp environment. Using some relatively try twigs for fuel, he scrapes his axe against a rock to get a spark going. Eventually, he manages to ignite a small blaze and asks Richard for his arm. Using a smoldering reed, Zard burns the leeches, which promply drop off the skin without trouble. After getting rid of several more leeches all over Richard's body, the Guardian does the same for Orkan and Melek before letting Richard do him. The group then gathers a certain type of leaf to rub over their wounds to numb the pain and prevent any infection.

Suddenly, a voice calls out from the swamp and orders the group to drop their weapons. Orkan doesn't hesitate and does so, which Richard and Melek hesitate. The voice demands Zard to drop his axe, but the Guardian doesn't comply and orders the voice to show himself. Moments later, a lizardman emerges from behind a pile of rotting logs. Zard orders him to come closer, and the lizardman does so, finally recognizing Zard's face. The lizardman gives a signal, and a small band of lizardmen emerge from hiding, all brandishing weapons.

The lizardman leader identifies himself as Fengal, and identifies his recognition of Zard as a Guardian and Richard as the Chosen One. Fengal states he and his men are on their way back to the Ancestral City, but Zard says that they are needed here to help them retrieve a pod at the hillock they've been approaching. Fengal says that he and his men have encountered several forces of the Evil One in the swamp, and that their leader is located on that very hill. After discussing some things, the trio, the Guardian, and the lizard forces head towards the hill, occasionally hearing slithering noises in the swamp all around them.

Soon they arrive at the hillock, and they see their enemy: a mob of alligator soldiers, well armed and armored. Behind them, sitting on a nest of branches, is a large alligator, who identifies himself as Gator. Gator orders his men to attack, and in a few moments the lizardmen are in a fight for their lives against Gator's fierce mob.

The alligators quickly overpower Fengal's men, which begin to fall one by one to Gator's army. During the commotion, Richard decides to take the initiative and begins to work his way around the field of combat, heading towards the back of Gator's best. Gator doesn't notice Richard heading his way, but Orkan does. Orkan, believing Fengal is doomed to die, and that the Evil One is his true master, comes to the conclusion that he must kill Richard and begins following the Chosen One.

Richard manages to get behind the distracted Gator and raises his dagger, hoping to sink it into the creature's neck, but before he can Orkan gets behind him and grabs his arm, causing Richard to lurch backwards. His blade cuts through the air and slices through a silk thong around Orkan's neck, a thong holding an amulet engraved with a horned emblem. The amulet falls to the ground and land in the swamp water, hissing upon impact before disappearing.

Richard turns behind him to see a dazed Orkan, who asks what was going on. Richard realizes that his friend has returned to normal and concludes aloud that the amulet must've been a trap set by the Evil One. He then remembers his mission and returns his gaze to Gator, who was now standing up directing his troops, still unaware of Richard's presence. Richard spots the Life Force pod sitting in the alligator's nest and plucks it from the creature without being seen. Unable to kill Gator anymore, the Chosen One and his friend slip away back towards the battle.

As they do, the remainder of Fengal's forces manages to cut a swathe through Gator's men. Seizing upon this opportunity, Zard charges into the fray with his battleaxe swinging. In fear, the alligators flee back to their leader. Gator takes charge and lunges into the battlefield, swinging his tale in a vicious swipe at the Guardian. Zard ducks, and Gator's tail strikes and kills one of Fengal's men. As Gator prepares for another strike, Zard swings his battleaxe with all his might and sinks it deep into Gator's chest. Gator falls to the ground, dead.

With Gator no more, the Evil One's spell over his men disappears, and the alligators emerge once again, in a daze as unwilling to fight. Now Zard may take them, as well as Fengal's surviving me, back to the Ancestral City. With the battle over, Zard approaches Richard and says that now they must part so Richard may finish his quest. Richard pulls out the Path Finder and the instrument points in a direction that Fengal states leads to the sea. The trio gives their farewells to Zard and his troops before the two parties part, with Richard, Orkan, and Melek heading over the hillock.

Thankfully, the waters on the other side of the hill weren't as dangerous as the trek into the swamp, and as they head down towards the cleaner-looking waters, they spot something sitting under a tree. To their luck, it is a boat carved out of a tree trunk, just large enough to carry all three of them out of the swamp.

After making sure the boat is secure enough to float, the trio hop into it and use makeshift paddles to push themselves down the water towards the sea. Eventually, the swamp begins to thin out as silence overtakes their journey. Fatigue begins to set in for the trio, and though they try their best to stay awake, Melek and Orkan fall victim to their tiredness first. Richard tries desperately to remain awake, but eventually even he succumbs to his fatigue, and the boat slowly drifts out to sea.


Gator is an enormous alligator that dwells within a large swamp. Like Dragora, Gator holds command over an army of lizard creatures of the Ancestral World, only his minions are alligators instead of regular lizards. Gator is also the protector of one of the stolen Life Force Pods, which he keeps stored in his nest. He is a fierce and powerful opponent with raking claws, powerful jaws, and a whip-like tail at his weapons, and he isn't afraid to take on an enemy head on.

"Behind them, an enormous alligator sat on a rough nest of branches and, as Richard looked at the deep-set yellow eyes, the long snout, the killer teeth, he felt a gush of terror run through his body."


In the seventeeth issue of The Ancestral Trail, things begin to pick up the pace as Richard and his friends locate another Life Force Pod, this time in the possession of Gator. This also coming almost immediately after freeing Zard from Cragmar in the previous issue. By the current count, four pods have been located and three Guardians have been saved, meaning two pods and three Guardians remain. With only nine issues remaining in the first Ancestral Trail, series, how and when will Richard locate the remaining pods and Guardians?

Also in this issue, Orkan finally returns to normal when Richard inadvertantly removes the amulet that kept Orkan under its control. It turns out that the amulet, which bore the mask of the Evil One, was a trap left by the Evil One in case anyone was foolish enough to take it upon defeating Dragora. The amulet seemed to work by first preying on the selfish feelings inherent in everyone, bringing them to the surface and causing a person to think of himself. When he is comfortable with these feelings, the Evil One takes hold, molding that person into one of his minions to do his bidding.


Zard: "Don't touch it! It's a leech. If you pull it off, its teeth will stay embedded in y our arm. This place is crawling with germs and bacteria. If the leeches don't such you dry, gangrene will set in before another day is out. The only way is to burn them off."
Richard: "How are we going to burn them off here? Everything's so damp."

"Now. Find as many of these [leaves] as you can and rub them over your wounds. The juice will take away the pain and stop them going septic."

Fengal: "A Guardian and the Chosen One! Surprises never cease. My name's Fengal. We've heard that many other survivors are regrouping at the Ancestral City. We are making our way there to join up with them."
Zard: "Good for you, but right now you could be more help to us. Richard has to retrieve a pod which is hidden somewhere up there."
"If you're going in there, you'll really need help. We've battled with a few of the Evil One's forces in the swamp already. Their leader is in there. What do you want us to do?"

"Welcome to my Kingdom! I am Gator. Whisper my name as you die. Get them!"


Orkan: "What happened?"
"I don't know, but I think everything is going to be all right now."
"I feel very dizzy."
"It was that amulet. It must have been a trap set by the Evil One. It changed you completely."

Go to #18 - Kronis, the Winged Lion

Saturday, April 14, 2007


The Ancestral Trail #16: Cragmar, Man of Stone

A Fatal Mistake on Plunderer's Plateau


On the Sixteenth Day...

A treasure burned needs water thrice,
A friend regained will cross it twice,
But water once brings danger near.
The rocks themselves a source of fear.
A rolling stone unlocks the jail,
Flight from there to no avail.
Cunning holds the key to all,
Death comes from a final fall.

The flash of flames around Richard engulf him, but last too briefly to burn him. The flames eventually begin to die down, giving Richard a better opportunity to search the flames for the missing amulet. His search lasts longer than he wishes, and soon he starts to think he'll never recover it, when suddenly he spots something hanging from a nearby tree branch: it's Golan's amulet, which had been blown away by the blast. Richard reclaims the amulet and discovers it still feels hot, before he rejoins his friends.

Richard waits for the amulet to cool enough before he uses his tunic to clean it. Unfortunately the amulet appears different and lacks its usual spark. Thinking the fire had ruined the amulet's powers, Richard hopes the amulet will regain its magic eventually. With the amulet back safely, the trio continue on their journey, moving out of the forest towards a series of rocky rapids. They cross several power currents using giant boulders, and upon getting on the other side safely, Melek reads the Book of Prophecies.

Richard quietly suspects that they need to cross water three times for the amulet to regain its powers, and for Orkan to cross it twice for him to return to normal. Suddenly, a voice from nearby calls out for help. He looks around and see nothing, so he calls out for the voice to identify his location. The voice states he is under the boulder Richard is sitting on. Sliding down tbe boulder, Richard finds a small gap between the rock and the ground.

Richards asks the owner of the voice who is he; the voice identifies himself as Zard, Guardian of the Reptiles, and asks Richard if he can get him out. Richard and his friends respond by trying to push the boulder to widen the small gap, but the rock doesn't burge. Using a piece of driftwood as leverage fails when the piece of woof snaps. Before they can ponder what to do next, the ground starts to shake as something downriver begins to stir. The three turn to see a giant man made of stone emerge from the rocky bank, noticing the trio near Zard's prison before grinning.

The stone man begins to move towards the three, his feet thundering across the ground. Zard shouts at them to run from Cragmar, who won't harm Zard as long as he's still imprisoned. Richard looks around desperately, and sees a large boulder balanced up on a slope with three tiny rocks. Getting an idea, Richard orders his friends up the slope. Orkan and Melek rush up the slope while Richard remains by Zard's prison to get Cragmar's attention. Cragmar apparently grows irritated and quickls his pace.

Richard quickly ducks behind the boulder and rushes up the slope to join his friends. When Cragmar arrives by Zard's boulder, he looks around in puzzlement for his prey. Meanwhile, Richard reaches his friends and quickly explains his plan to them. Cragmar looks up and sees the trio behind the boulder, frowns, and starts up the slope after them. Richard waits for Cragmar to get close enough before ordering the boulder to be released.

Because Cragmar is unable to move quickly, the rock appears on target to strike the rock man, but at the least second it strikes an outcrop and bounces off course, leaving Cragmar untouched. But the deflection of the boulder has an unforeseen consequence: the boulder strikes the boulder of Zard's prison, shattering it into rubble. From the remains of the boulder, a large lizard emerges and runs uphill towards Richard and his friends.

Cragmar doesn't notice Zard's escape because of his narrow miss from the boulder. When he sees Zard standing next to the trio, however, the man of stone roars in anger and starts chasing the group more zealously. The group begins to run, initially gaining distance from Cragmar, but because of Zard's speed he is forced to halt and wait for his companions to catch up, giving the stone man a chance to regain ground. Realizing running away was fruitless, Zard orders his friends towards a steep ravine. Richard thinks Zard led them the wrong way, but Zard orders them to duck behind a nearby boulder, knowing Cragmar would come after the Guardian first.

The trio hide while the Guardian performs a strange dance to taunt his pursuer. Without warning, Zard leaps up onto Cragmar's face when the stone man is close enough. Cragmar, too slow to be puzzled, brushes Zard off his face and reaches for him to grab the Guardian.

Zard evades Cragmar's clumsy movements with a quick jump to the side. Undeterred, Cragmar again reaches for Zard, only to have the Guardian evade him again. For a third time Cragmar attempts to catch Zard, only to have Zard to jump away, but this time Cragmar is ready. The stone man's left hand waits for Zard to dodge Cragmar's right hand, and the left hand grabs Zard's tail when the Guardian dodges. But Zard makes a quick motion and jumps over the edge of the ravine, leaving his tail in Cragmar's hand.

Cragmar, stunned that his prey had escaped so easily, tosses the tail aside and jumps in the ravine after his foe. A sudden crash erupts from the ravine and dust builds up in the chasm. When siilence emerges, the trio look down the ravine and see an outline of rubble which Cragmar had once been. The stone man had shattered upon impact.

The three ponder the fate of Zard when a familiar lizard figure emerges across Cragmar's remains, scuttling up the cliffside until he reaches the amazed trio. Zard explains Cragmar's stupid drive to go after him at all costs, and isn't concerned about the lack of his tail because of his misjudgement. He states he needs to retrieve his weapon, which Cragmar hid but luckliy Zard knows where it lies. He disappears over the lip of the ravine as he sets off to retrieve it.

During this, Orkan is uninterested and continues to quietly lavish attention on the amulet he took from Dragora. The amulet seems to whisper to him, telling him not to concern himself with Richard, calling Orkan the Chosen One of the amulet. Orkan smiles as a rhyme begins to play inside his mind:

Blood runs through the thickest lake,
Blood that makes the Gator wake,
Blood that others want to make,
Blood, the thirst that you can slake,
Blood that makes for no mistake,
Blood the prize that you can take.
Blood! The blood of those you hate!

Richard meanwhile watches Orkan and witnesses his friend lapsing into strange emotions because of the amulet. Richard decided to confront Orkan when a loud noise catches his attention. He turns to see an enormous avalanche roar down the cliffside where Zard had disappeared to retrieve his weapon. Richard recalls the words of the prophecy recalling a death with a final fall. Could it have referred to Zard instead of Cragmar?


Cragmar is a giant man of stone who was created by the Evil One solely for the purpose of guarding the Guardian Zard. Cragmar's intellect is very slow mentally and he has no weapons to use for fighting, but his strengths make him a reliable guard. His powerful strength allows him to destroy anything that can't get out of the way, and his stone body allows him to repel any conventional weapons that might hurt him. His slow intellect also renders him unable to be puzzled by an attacker, making him single-minded in any task set before him.

"From deep in the rockface, an enormous figure was struggling to free itself. It thrashed about, clawing at the rock with massive limbs until it finally stood in the open. It was a gigantic man made entirely of stone. His craggy features swivelled about before fixing on the companions. Then he grinned. From where they stood, the trio could hear the grating sounds as the stoneman's cheeks creased. He began to walk towards them. Every time his monstrous feet hit the ground, they heard the crunch of rubble being disintegrated underfoot."

Zard is the Guardian of Lizards and the Keeper of the Pod of Justice. Being the leader of the Lizard Forces, he is naturally a giant lizard. He his remarkably agile and speedy, and if his tail is snagged he can detatch from it with ease with the ability to grow a new one later on. His weapon of choice is a giant twin-sided battle axe. When the Evil One conquered the Ancestral World and Zard set out to seek help, he was captured by the Evil One and placed in the care of Cragmar, who kept Zard pinned underneath a giant boulder for a prison.


Another volume, another Guardian. With the sixteenth issue of The Ancestral Trail, Richard and his companions release another Guardian from the clutches of the Evil One, bringing the total of rescued Guardians to three. With the arrival of each Guardian, they each show off their unique abilities and strengths. Juroot, for example, appears to rely on his strength, while Kika prefers using her quick reflexes from a distance. With Zard, he seems to utilize his agility, though this is without his weapon, which will be revealed in the next volume to be a giant battle axe.

As the issue's monster, Cragmare proves to be an interesting, potentially dangerous foe despite his slow mind. While he is unable to move quickly, he is invulnerable to attack because of his stone skin, and his slow mind makes him difficult to confuse thanks to his single-mindedness. However, that narrow vision of his ends up getting him killed when he chases after Zard down the cliff, causing him to shatter on impact and die. He made a decent guard for the Guardian when Zard was imprisoned, but as a pursuer he lacked the necessary focus needed to capture someone more agile and smarter than he was.

Finally, Orkan's strange behavior begins to grow more disturbing with each volume. First the amulet made him indifferent to his friends, one who wanted to seek his own fortune and save his own skin whenever danger reared its head. But that has quickly evolved into a bloodlust, a desire to kill those that he hates. All of this accumulates into the poem cited above, a poem that reflects a dark future ahead for Orkan. Interestingly enough, the poem mentions a "Gator", which happens to be the main creature in the next volume of the series. Does this Gator have anything to do with this amulet?


"Never mind me! Get away from Cragmar. He's here to stop me getting out. He won't touch me so long as I'm still in the Evil One's prison. Save yourselves!"

"Get under cover! Don't mind Cragmar. He'll come after me first because he'll be in big trouble if the Evil One finds I've escaped. You'll be fine so long as you stay out of sight. Meanwhile, I've got a trick or two up my sleeve. Go quickly. Here he comes."

Melek: "How did you escape? We thought you were dead!"
Zard: "I knew Cragmar was stupid enough to follow me wherever I went. Luckily, being a lizard, I can jump anywhere and not be hurt. What I didn't foresee was that he'd get my tail, but it doesn't matter, I'll soon grow another. I must get my weapon back, though, and I know exactly where Cragmar hid it."

"They will never know. You are safe with me. Pay no attention to these others. Their concerns are not yours, their aims are not yours. They are foolish. You are wise. You need have no fear. Death is the only umpire. Victory is given only to those chosen survivors. You are my Chosen One."

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