Saturday, August 25, 2007


The Ancestral Trail #19: Nemis, Master of the Deep

In the Merman's Underwater Prison


On the Nineteenth Day...

Sea falls fast and deep
Ship speeds deeper still,
Down to hidden Coral's Keep
Where Evil wreaks its will.
Merman King locks the spell,
Guardian's magic is the key.
Chosen One must use it well
To set the others free.

The storm lashes lout at the boat fiercely, forcing the trio to sit and wait for the elements to cease battering them. After a while, the storm finally blows out, and the heroes discover that the storm has blown them into a huge lagoon, where land can be seen on three sides. Richard and Orkan begin paddling the boat while Melek starts bailing out water from the vessel.

Unfortunately, the shore gets no closer, and they realize that the tide is going out and pulling them with it. The approaching thundering of cascading water signals they are approaching a seafall - a waterfall created at low tide. The craft falls off the edge of the waterfall and shatters upon impact at the bottom. The trio each grab a piece of wood from the broken boat as they go under water, even touching the seabed, before they resurface. Coughing and spluttering, they swim towards each other to regroup. That's when Melek notices and points out a boat.

Although the ship appears to be in tatters, a rope ladder is hanging from the side. Richard and his friends swim up to the ship and clamber up the makeshift ladder, collapsing tiredly onto the deck. They look around and find the ship deserted, so they take the time to read from the Book of Prophecies. After reading the next verse, they suddenly hear footsteps and look up, finding the ship abruptly bustling with activity, with sailors appearing to get ready for a storm. Richard approaches the helmsman and thanks him for saving them before trying to pat his back.

To Richard's horror, his hand passes right through the helmsman's body, and he realizes that he and his friends are on a ghost ship. A loud whistle is heard and the entire ghost crew save the helmsman disappears below deck. The helmsman then turns the ship's steering wheel, and the schooner starts to dive nose-first into the water. In a panic, Richard orders his friends to get to a large diving bell on the ship's upper deck. The trio open the bell and climb inside, closing it moments before the entire ship is submerged under the waves.

Despite escaping drowning, the limited air supply in the bell immediately brings suffocation to mind. Looking through the bell's porthole, they watch as the ship skims across the floor of the sea through a coral maze that appeared to be more like a village than a reef. Suddenly, the ship comes to a halt and the diving bell topples off the deck and onto the sea floor.

The ghost sailors disembark the ship and drag the bell across the sea floor until arriving at a large undersea palace. The bell is taken inside a large throne room adorned with sea shells and filled with strange creatures. One of the creatures, a merman with a trident, approaches the bell. Melek recognizes the creature as Nemis, the Merman King, and tells his friends. The merman studies the bell's occupants and recognizes Richard as the Chosen One, proclaiming he will deliver him to the Evil One as a prize.

The merman asks that his prisoners in the meantime join the Guardians of the Fishes, Tishon and Shunta, and a large octopus approaches the bell to engulf it in order to entrap the three occupants. Richard sees the two Guardians entangled in a nearby net, and at that moment he hears Golan telling him to rescue the Guardians, and that he will be saved at the same time. Richard informs his companions of his decision to rescue the Guardians, and they agree.

After taking a deep breath, the trio open the diving bell hatch and push forward into the ocean, their escape not noticed by Nemis or the octopus. They reach the entangled Guardians and Richard begins to hack away at the net with his dagger. Moments before has to release his breath, one of the Guardians pulls him into the net and presses a scaly mask against his face, which amazingly allows him to breathe.

Two other masks are given to Melek and Orkan, and the Guardians use Richard's dagger to cut the remaining pieces of the net. But as Richard was regaining some hope, Nemis notices the escape attempt and lunges at the freed Guardians with his trident. Tishon and Shunta attack in return, but Nemis is powerful enough to drive them back. At the same time, the octopus realizes what's going on and approaches the guardians.

Suddenly, a dolphin emerges from the depths and slams into the octopus, sending it sprawling. The octopus quickly forgets about the escaped Guardians and turns on its new foe, but the dolphin manages to elude its every attack.

Yet the distraction of the octopus by the dolphin doesn't deter Nemis, who has the upper hand against the Guardians with his trident. Richard, remembering the prophecy, unbuckles Kika's belt and hurls it at the Merman King. The belt magically traverses through the water and wraps itself around the trident, snapping the once formidable weapon like a twig. With his power source destroyed, Nemis begins decaying. Beginning at his tail and ending at his face, his flesh strips itself from his bones until nothing but a skeleton remains of the evil creature.

With Nemis dead, the sea creatures that had surrounded the throne room suddenly start flailing around happily; the merman's death had freed them from his spell. The dolphin swims up to Richard and the Guardians, where Tishon identifies the dolphin as Doonar, the last of the Sea Mammals, and a creature who has been a thorn in Nemis' side. Shunta says Doonar will return the trio to the surface, and asks where they are headed next.

Richard pulls out the Path Finder for directions, and Doonar recognizes the direction as pointing towards Frigoria, a cold wasteland where his people are frozen. With the direction set, the trio climb about Doonar, but not before Shunta hands Richard a small bottle of oil that will protect them from the worst of the cold by rubbing it onto their skin. With the gift accepted, Doonar whisks the trio from the sea floor to the surface.

Upon reaching the surface, the masks covering the trio's faces disintegrate into the air. Within moments, the sea grows incredibly cold with ice everywhere, and application of Shunta's oil does little to relieve the chill. Eventually, they reach enormous ice cliffs that surround them on either side. The cliff is littered with dangerous channels, and Doonar picks the widest one he can find. Unfortunately, as he carries the trio deep inside the channel, the walls around them begin to narrow as ice begins pushing in from the sea at an alarming rate, trapping them where they float.


Tishon and Shunta are the Guardians of the Fishes and the Keepers of the Life Force Pod of Justice. Being twins, they are the only double-Guardians among the Keepers of the Life Force Pods. The gender of either of the two Guardians isn't known. After the final battle at the Ancestral City, the twin Guardians were captured by the Evil One and put in the care of Nemis the evil merman. Their weapons are revealed to be daggers later on in the series.

The Fish Forces are the creatures under the protection and command of Tishon and Shunta, the Guardians of the Fishes. The variety of animals that make up the Fish Forces isn't known exactly, but it is known that the Fish Forces are composed of water-breathing creatures only - sea mammals do not fall into this category. As with other Forces in the series - Insect, Reptile, etc. - the Fish Forces were under a spell cast by the Evil One and forced to do his bidding. After the death of Nemis, the Merman King, the spell was broken and the Fish Forces freed.

Doonar is a dolphin that dwells within the waters that fall between Tuska's island and the ice land Frigoria. When all of the sea mammals were imprisoned in Frigoria by the Evil One, Doonar escaped their fate and chose to become a thorn in the Evil One's side. He did this by attacking Nemis, who held captive the Guardians of the Fishes and had all of the Fish Forces under his control. It is Doonar who manages to buy Richard enough time to save the Guardians from Nemis by distracting the octopus that otherwise would've re-captured the Guardians.

Nemis is a merman who dwells within the waters of the Ancestral World. As the Evil One's leader of his water-based forces, Nemis is charged with guarding the captured Guardians of the Fishes. His weapon is a trident that not only acts as a powerful weapon but also gives him strength to face several powerful foes at once. But this trident is a double-edged sword - if broken, his power source is lost and he dies.

"A vicious-looking merman holding a coral trident floated towards them. The merman swirled to a stop by the porthole and peered into the bell. His features were thin and pinched and a bony nose jutted between cold, slanting eyes. His menacing stare held them entranced before he finally spoke."


Almost immediately after saving the Guardian Tuska from the previous issue, Richard and his friends decide to rescue the twin Guardians of the Fishes in issue nineteen of The Ancestral Trail. This puts the streak of found Guardians/Pods in consecutive issues at four, starting with the rescue of the Guardiand Zard in issue sixteen and including finding the Pod of Valor in issue seventeen. Only one Guardian remains to be found, along with two Life Force Pods.

One thing that this issue does demonstrate quite well is that Richard, despite being the Chosen One, cannot save the Ancestral World on his own. Even with his companions Orkan and Melek, Richard still needs outside help from time to time. This was shown when Nemis and the giant octopus were bearing down on the Guardians, and the dolphin Doonar appeared to help them. Without Doonar's help, the Guardians would've been recaptured, and most likely Richard and his friends as well. Some people might call this a deus ex machina, but I feel it fleshes out the Ancestral World and shows that the world does not exist in a vacuum, waiting for a hero to do all of the work.

Finally, you've heard about it several times before, but now you finally get to see it: the playing card that is meant to represent Nemis. Looking at the picture in the card, it is obvious that the picture bears little resemblance to the picture used on the front cover. Whereas the card's Nemis is more human in feature (albeit in a grotesque manner), the cover version is more monstrous in form with his beast-like features. Of the two Nemises, the cover version wins over the card version easily: while the card version can be mistaken for an old man who had taken a bath for too long, the issue version looks like a creature that can kill you.


"It's a ghost. We're on a ghost ship!"

"I hope we don't have to say in here long. The air can't last forever."

"At last! The Chosen One. I have waited for such a prize. You can join the twin Guardians of the Fishes, Tishon and Shunta, until I deliver you to the Evil One."

Richard: "Where did the dolphin come from?"
Tishon: "It's Doonar, last of the Sea Mammals. He managed to escape the spell that fell on the rest of his people and has been a constant thorn in Nemis's side. We were lucky he was here today."

Doonar: "Then you're headed for Frigoria. It's the coldest place I know and it's also where my people are being held prisoner in walls of ice."
Richard: "That's where the Path Finder directs us, so that's where we must go. Perhaps we can help your people."

"Take this. It's a special oil which will protect you from the worst of the cold if you rub it into your skin. Good luck and thank you for saving us from Nemis. May you fare as well in your next encounter."

Saturday, August 11, 2007


The Ancestral Trail #18: Kronis, the Winged Lion

Fight for Freedom in the Whispering Maze


On the Eighteenth Day...

A treasure now regains its sheen
When past water thrice has been,
Leads them streetwise through a maze
To a hero's captured gaze.
Return with rope to lead him out,
But death of evil is in doubt.
Who once was brave is braver now.
Fight the waves from stern to prow.

The trio are awakened in the boat by wakes rocking against the vessel, and they quickly discover that they're lost at sea. A curtain of mist falls over the boat and destroys visibility, before eventually the mist lifts and the three find themselves in calmer waters. Looking up ahead, they see what appears to be an island. Realizing they had entered the land of dreams as mentioned in the Book of Prophecies, Richard and his friends make their way to the island, passing beneath a massive arch before finding a harbor.

Upon reaching the harbor, the trio climb onto shore, noting the ancient lighthouse on the far end of the waterfront and a series of narrow streets that lead to the center of the island. Sensing that something is watching them despite everything appearing deserted, Richard leads Orkan and Melek down a street. He then suddenly hears a flapping sound above and looks up. Emerging from the glare of the sun is a monstrous winged lion charging straight towards them, and Richard quickly yells for his friends to run.

The three duck inside one of the nearby mansions on the street, moments before the winged lion rams against the house a couple times in an attempt to topple it. The house remains standing, and the lion tries intead to reach inside the house with one of its giant paws. Richard and his friends huddle out of reach, and eventually the lion gives up, flying away with a loud roar.

With the lion gone, the trio huddle together and look at the next verse in the Book of Prophecies. Upon reading the verse, Richard remembers the amulet and how it was meant to heal after crossing water three times. With the crossing of the rivers on Cragmar's Plateau, the waters of Gator's Swamp, and the sea surrounding the island, the amulet has indeed regained its sheen. Concerning the rest of the passage, Richard suggests searching the maze of streets.

They exit the house and make sure to maintain good cover in case the lion attacks again. Soon they reach a large door, which they push open to reveal a maze of corridors. Richard uses the amulet to guide them, listening to unspoken directions from Golan, while at the same time he thinks he sees strange shadows dart in and out of view from time to time. Eventually, the three reach a large center arena in the middle of the island town. In the middle of the square, tied to a pillar, was a unicorn man, who glances nervously at Richard and his friends.

Richard assures the unicorn that they are friends come to rescue him. The unicorn is relieved and reveals himself to be Tuska, Guardian of the Mythical Beasts. Tuska also identifies the winged lion as Kronis, who has taken Tuska's dagger and halberd, the only items which can cut the unicorn's bonds. When Richard reveals that they've already encountered the winged lion, Tuska admires the three's escape of Kronis, considering the creature's incredibly poisonous claws. Richard vows to bring back Tuska's weapons, which the unicorn reveals are hidden in Kronis' lair in the harbor's lighthouse.

The trio give their farewells and rush to the door to head back to the harbor. They pause when they wonder how they'll return to the square through the village maze, and Richard remembers Melek's rope, which can stretch beyond its length. Tying one end to the door, Richard pulls the rope, which indeed does stretch and snakes its way behind the three as they go back the way they came.

After a while of traveling, the trio find themselves at an unrecognizable corridor. Before they could double back, the shadow of Kronis descends upon them from above. In a panic the three run through the maze of corridors before emerging in a dead end. Luckily, the tight space of the passageway prevents Kronis from getting close enough, allowing Richard and Orkan to fight back with their blades. Within moments, Kronis retreats after his paw is sliced by one of the blades.

With Kronis gone, the three rush out of the dead end and miraculously find themselves at the entrance of the maze. Without thinking they dash into the nearest building. Richard fears that Melek had dropped the rope in all of the ensuing ruckus with Kronis, meaning they would never find their way back to Tuska, but Melek proudly reveals he had kept the rope the whole time, causing Richard to hug him in elation. With the rope still in their possession, the trio exit the house and make their way towards the harbor, where blood drops indicate Kronis had returned to his lighthouse lair.

The group reach the lighthouse, where Melek is told to stay put so he won't be in the way. Rirchard and Orkan climb the lighthouse's rail-less stairway to the top floor, where they prepare to enter the winged lion's den. Orkan strings an arrow and Richard draws his dagger, and the two of them burst into the room, where they find Kronis licking his wounds in the corner of the room. Beside him are Tuska's halberd and dagger.

Orkan fires several arrows at Kronis, striking the creature's hind leg and right wing joint. Richard then shows true valor and approached the monster to retrieve the weapons despite Kronis' lethal claws. Several slices of his dagger causes Kronis to roar in agony, giving Richard enough time to pick up the weapons and get to s afe distance. As Richard retreats back to the stairwell, Orkan fires several more arrows, striking Kronis' throat and lung.

As Richard and Orkan rush down the stairs, Richard notices Kronis pull the arrows from his body and start to crawl after them. The two reach Melek downstairs and begin following the rope back through the maze to the square where Tuska is held captive. Upon reaching Tuska, Richard uses the Guardian's dagger to cut through the ropes, watching them slice through remarkably easily. Richard hands the Guardian his weapons as Orkan reminds them that Kronis is chasing after them.

The four run from the arena and use Melek's rope to lead themselves back out of the maze, where the rope returns to its original length. As they approach the lighthouse, where Kronis has finished crawling down the stairs, shadows start to materialize around them and approach the winged lion.

Tuska calls out an order, and the shadows quickly engulf Kronis; the monster disappears beneath the cloak of shadows within moments. As Kronis is enveloped, the shadows begin to gain color and shape, and soon Richard can make out the forms of mythical creatures. Tuska senses Richard's awe and explains that these new creatures are his forces, the mythical beasts. They had become shadows after Kronis had imprisoned Tuska, but now they are regaining their original forms upon Kronis' death.

With their job complete, Tuska leads the trio down to the shore, where their boat is waiting for them. Tuska bids his new friends goodbye, saying he'll see them again soon. As the three paddle themselves from the island, Richard notices a sea creature regain its form like the land beasts on the island did.

As the three push their way through the waters that separate the island from the main land, the sea suddenly turns rough and begin tossing the small craft side to side. Their paddling has little effect on their progress, and minute by minute their boat takes on water. The possibilityt of sinking begins to look very real.


Kronis is a monstrous winged lion that serves as one of the Evil One's guards. As a lion, Kronis has the basic arsenal of weaponry - strong muscles, powerful jaw, and sharp claws - but has the added bonus of the ability to secrete poison from his claws, a poison potent enough to kill hundreds of men with a single scratch. Kronis dwells in the lighthouse overlooking the island of the mythical beasts, where he stashes the weapons of the captured Guardian Tuska.

The unicorn man Tuska is the Guardian of the Mythical Beasts and the Keeper of the Life Force Pod of Knowledge. When he was captured by the Evil One and imprisoned by the winged lion Kronis, he was tied to a pole in the center of the island of the mythical beasts, bound by a rope that only Tuska's own weapons - a dagger and halberd - can cut through.

The Mythical Beasts are a race of creatures that dwell within the Ancestral World. While the Common Beasts are composed of creatures found within Richard's world, the Mythical Beasts are composed of beasts that are found in myths and legends. Beasts such as minotaurs, griffins, dragons, and sea leviathans are just some of the Mythical Beasts. When the Guardian Tuska was imprisoned by the Evil One and Kronis, the Mythical Beasts were reduced to mere shadows of themselves, forced to wander their island home. After Kronis' death, they regained their life force.


Another issue, another Guardian. As The Ancestral Trail reached the three-fourths mark, the pace begins to pick up concerning the retrieval of the Life Force Pods and the rescue of the Guardians. With the saving of the Guardian Zard in issue sixteen, the finding of a Pod in issue seventeen, and Tuska's rescue in issue eighteen, one begins to wonder why the Evil One decided to clump them so close together like this. Did he think he could properly guard them in this region of the Ancestral World? Evidently his thinking was off, if the incompetence of Cragmar, the weakness of Gator, and the pitifulness of Kronis is to be believed.

Also in this issue, the identity of the Pod retrieved from Gator is revealed. When Richard faces Kronis in the beast's lair, he knows he must claim Tuska's stolen weapons if the Guardian is to be freed and faces the winged lion despite the monster's lethal poison claws. At this moment, "Richard show[s] true valor." The Life Force Pod is therefore the Pod of Valor.

Finally, another observation concerning the Ancestral Trail playing cards needs to be made regarding their images. In the playing card for Kronis, the winged lion is depicted as a fiery red monstrosity all over, from hair to skin. In the issue itself, Kronis' coloring is more varied, albeit more dulled, with yellow fur and and a greenish main and bloodshot red eyes. This is yet another example of the discrepancies between the playing card pictures and the issues, but in the next issue the most extreme example of this will be revealed.


"The prophecy's right. Regain a treasure its sheen! It's the third time we've crossed the water, and the amulet's back to normal!"

Tuska: "I am Tuska, Guardian of the Mythical Beasts. Kronis, the winged lion, made me his prisoner and took my halberd and dagger - only they can cut me free."
Orkan: "We've seen Kronis already."
"You've done well to escape him then, a single scratch from his claws delivers enough poison to kill an army."

Richard: "Did you notice any shadows following us?"
"Yes, some of the shapes looked like the incredible beasts described in Morbane's book."

"These are my forced. They are the mythical beasts, the half-believed figments of legend. This is our city, but when Kronis imprisoned me, my forces became mere shadows. They were left with no strength and no power. Yet you can see them filling out even now. When Kronis dies, they will be flesh again."

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