Welcome to our sixth newsletter, the first of the year! Nice to see you all again, we hope you had a lovely set of holidays. Here at CSE, we’re really looking forward to a fantastic year, one we hope will be filled with milestones passed and accomplishments achieved! It’s shaping up to be a great one.
Over the holidays, we grabbed some new furniture and put that together for our new office lounge space. It’s been great to have someplace more comfortable for having a conversation about tasks, priorities, or cool (or slightly crazy!) design ideas for Camelot Unchained™. It’s also a neat spot to eat lunch!
Primed to tackle a new set of projects, head coding wizard Andrew started things off right, with some major improvements to client efficiency. With such a big, important change, there were definitely risks, but we’re weathering them pretty well. While checking off P.A.T. checklist items one by one, the programming team has also been finding a bunch of little, annoying bugs, and squashing them. Bug hunting is a pastime for the brave of heart and bold of code!
We put our City State Entertainment™ logo up on the wall, so our hearts can swell with pride as we walk into the office each day. Scott, Mike, and Jenesee all slaved over making it as straight and flat as they could, and hey, it came out awesome! All hail the mighty banner of City State Entertainment!
As we head into a new year, we’d like to wish you all a wonderful beginning of the year. To get you in the mood for starting the year well, please enjoy this, the sixth issue of Unveiled.
Dragon Accident Report
The New Year has brought new troubles with the terrifying winged beasts. A rash of incidents has swept the area, with crashes, fires, and a few close encounters. It is still unknown whether this is due to a few creatures, or a large number. However, what is certain is that something has roused them to a state of high activity. What could be the cause behind this dramatic rise in accidents? Stick around as we read between the lines on many reports and seek the source. No clue is too obscure, no sky too clouded for us to stop searching for more information on these strange sightings.
Thank you, thank you, thank you! We passed the Sound Engineer goal like it was standing still! We are all looking forward to listening to AWESOME sounds and effects in the game! Mark has interviewed some extremely interesting folks, and things are looking good.
Our new stretch goal is pretty darn exciting as well. Hug The World is a goal to contract/hire additional artists, to help us build out the game world! It’s all about improving the art and assets we’ll have at launch, and it’s a very careful stretch goal, that can only help, not harm, our launch date! We’re very excited about this goal, and we hope you are too.
-by Jenesee Grey
Welcome to the section where we talk directly to you, the Community! Here is where I take your thoughts on the forum and attempt to give you more information on some of those unanswered questions!
Q. I’m worried about making bad choices early in the game with my ‘main’ character. Can you tell us more about how bad early choices can be remedied in the game over time rather than entirely re-rolling a character? What systems are in place to help players either slowly or quickly correct mistakes – or are some mistakes forever? -Drooge
Drooge, I can understand your concern about making careful and thoughtful choices at character creation. After all, that is where you choose your Realm, race, class, Banes and Boons, and primary stats, so it really shapes your character and how you intend to play.
We expect a lot of online guides to spring up (especially with what Mark has in mind to encourage that), which will help you and others down the road. Hopefully, with our open UI system, we can even integrate some of those into the in-game character creation! We don’t plan to toss you to the wolves to live with the consequences, at least without information first.
Our intention is not to lock you into a choice you will regret, but to give you meaningful and varied options to help make a character uniquely your own. Don’t forget about the Path system. Whatever abilities, weapons, and etc. you choose to use are the ones that increase in effectiveness. If you change your mind about how you want to play, you can alter your actions to reflect what you want and begin to gain proficiency in new abilities. Stats and ability proficiencies develop over the course of your character’s lifetime, so you can re-direct that as well. It is a slower way to evolve your character than building it exactly how you want at creation, so it’s definitely worth being mindful at the beginning, to make things simpler. Although Path choice will allow flexibility in certain things, some choices are forever, like Realm, race, and class!
Q. How do you reconcile the concepts of having an “old-school” feel in certain aspects, as touched on in the Foundational Principles, with systems that seem original or do not fit the traditional concept of what “old-school” is, such as various BSC ideas never done before? -Sornin
When we talk about an “old-school” game, we might mean “well before MMOs even existed,” in the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons tabletop dice-rolling era, or the era where MUDS reigned supreme, if you were talking about computer games. These tabletop mechanics and the method of meaningful character creation aren’t traditional in modern MMOs. Modifiers, player position, critical successes and failures, skill checks. and etc… these are all very old-school mechanics.
While we don’t use all the exact features of every old-school game, the philosophy of challenging mechanics that offer the opportunity for endless creativity in personal story and gameplay innovation are a powerful mix; one which we are also trying to achieve. Some of the best parts of D&D are the strange twists in how players use abilities to have the most epic battles in endlessly inventive ways. We think BSC and old school are the perfect mates! Keep in mind that during the Kickstarter, we said “Camelot Unchained will draw a lot of inspiration from “old-school” games and MMORPGs while also mixing in some new features,” so we think we are doing just that.
Q. Caveat to the following question, so I don’t sound like a scrub / WoW player: I know that obvious CSE has limited funding and has only presented the FIRST pass of the building system, so things are expected to be less “nice” looking in the beginning.
That being said.
Should we expect that, in the future, structures created with the building system will be made of cubes a la Minecraft? Or should we expect something with a little more finesse such as what we see in Windborne and Everquest Next? I’m fairly sure this would be preferable to most for immersion / aesthetic purposes, I’m just curious if this is currently a main goal, secondary goal, stretch goal, or unplanned. -Halcyon
No, it won’t look like Minecraft™ with all squares! Unfortunately, we probably won’t be able to provide the graphical fidelity of a game with prefabricated 3D models, but you can definitely expect a lot more than piles of cubes. We are looking for a system that will please those who really enjoy the architecture and creativity of games like Landmark™ and Windborne™.
If you take a look at our Kickstarter, you can see an example of a more primitive form of the current building system we’re working on. As we get a little further along, you will start to see some of the ways we’re making sure structures can look like anything, from simple stone blocks to timber halls, without compromising the capacity for free-form building.
Think of it as looking at a grid, where you can fit whole building parts together that are pre-crafted, as long as they fit within allowable areas in the placement system. No floating towers though, real structural stability applies!
Q. Do the dragons hold a grudge against the Vikings? Being they’re the only realm strong enough to have killed one? -Raygar
Sigurd seems pretty proud of that dragon head at the top of his throne, doesn’t he? What tale is to be told, and whether it will echo the classic tale of Fafnir, remains to be seen in the Becoming™ Stories of the future. I can say, however, that you should be on the lookout for a revised and edited release of the Úlfhéðnar Becoming Story below. Don’t let the other Realms hear that the Vikings are the strongest, or more than dragons might be a concern!
Where does gold come from? How will island hopping work? How should caravans travel?
Don’t miss out on these and other great discussions in our forum!
Look What You Did
Many thanks to Joyousgard, who was a good sport and a great poet!
Here’s the haiku he wrote for the Tuatha Dé Danann:
Strife, again, does reign.
Deep-rooted and boughed aegis;
Thanks, Joyousgard! Lots to ponder in those brief lines.
For our next contest, how about we go big? Dress yourself or your pet up with household items or what-have-you to look like a Jötunn (Frost Giant), and take a picture with that classic enigmatic glare! Check out the dramatic concept art here, and post your pic in this thread on our forums!
Many thanks to Anhrez, who sent Bull this cool little trinket! CSE pride!
Dose of Design
-by Ben Pielstick
With all the design work that has been going on lately with combat, crafting, and building, we haven’t taken much time to talk about how it all ties together in the economy. Typical MMORPG economies are so different from what we’re building for CU that it is easy to make assumptions and get nervous about how things might work. This seems like a good time to outline some of the fundamentals and start building a better picture of what makes our economy work.
Since crafting is such a big part of the economy, if you’re not familiar with our crafting system it’s a good idea to check out thecrafting information we posted back during our BSC days last year. Our dedicated crafter class is going to be responsible for creating nearly everything in the game, from weapons and armor to castles and siege engines. Crafters can also go out and help support allies in RvR, so crafting is involved enough to keep a character busy full-time. That’s why our crafting system has its own dedicated class rather than being a secondary role.
So if combat characters aren’t gathering, making, and selling items, and they can’t go out and farm in PvE like other games, how do they make money? Essentially, combat characters in CU are paid as soldiers for their Realm. When you play the game, you will earn money based on your role in fighting against the enemy Realms, as well as how well your Realm as a whole is doing each day in the war, relative to its population.
Since crafting characters are the source of virtually everything combat characters need, this income is the basis for the economy. Combat characters will of course be able to do a little of what we call “popcorn crafting” to do some basic self-sufficiency tasks, such as simple armor repairs and consumable crafting, but any advanced creation of new items is exclusively the responsibility of crafters. While there are a few things such as housing plot costs, which are paid directly back to the Realm, most of the income that goes to combat characters can be saved for paying crafters for upgrading items and replacing old ones that have run out of durability.
As explained in the BSC presentation referenced above, there is no auction house in CU. To buy items from crafters, combat characters will need to seek out shops which sell the items they need. No auction house also means no instant item transfer across a large game world, which creates a basic localized system of supply and demand, where availability of items is limited to the shops where crafters have decided to sell them.
As a combat character, if you don’t want to worry about the economy much, you don’t have to. The basic items you need in order to play the game should be readily available at moderate prices just about anywhere you can find a crafter, but you can expect it to take more money and effort if you want every piece of your equipment to be perfectly created to suit your exact specialization. If the player-built city where you live is short on something special, you might have to pay extra or travel to another town to get what you want. However, that also means something for crafters: there is money to be made by crafting the items that are in short supply in your area, or even from buying and transporting items via caravan from one place to another to resell at a higher price.
So since crafters are taking in all this money from selling the items they make, what do they do with it? In addition to housing plots and other basic expenses shared with combat characters, crafting has a lot of associated costs which are paid to the Realm in order to take money out of the economy and minimize the effects of inflation. Money will be exchanged between crafters for buying and selling resources, upgrading and replacing equipment, paying for storage space and transportation, but a significant amount will ultimately end up going back to the Realm. Costs like the maintenance of ships and caravans, the hiring of NPC assistants, and the extra land plots for storage and shops take a significant amount of money out of the economy in order to minimize inflation. By carefully balancing these costs against payment from the Realm for doing combat, we can maintain a fairly stable economy where prices don’t increase dramatically over time.
As you can see, we have a long road ahead as far as the economy goes, since it is such a big part of so much of what goes on in the world of CU. Even though it will be a while before all of this fully makes its way into the game, in the coming months you can expect to see some of these features start to appear on our checklists as they become integrated into the many other systems that help to drive the economy. In the meantime, we’re always interested to hear your thoughts and ideas, so stop by our forums and let us know what you think, and what you’re looking forward to the most!
“For the sake of the industry and especially our piece of it, I hope we have a lot of successful MMORPGs coming out next year and beyond. Speaking as both a dev and gamer, we need it to happen, badly.”– Mark Jacobs
-by Scott Trolan
The Art Team has started the New Year right where we left off: making things that look GREAT and making them WORK! We are designing atop our successes with the Stormrider, as well as building the new mage model. We are adding new bones to the master skeleton to allow for full skirts and cloaks. Between the character geometry parts of the Stormrider and mage, character customization is beginning to take shape. We expect to test our efforts shortly, once animation is finished on the master skeleton rig to allow for skirt and cape movement.
New mage casting and spellbook animations are in the works. There is plenty of experimentation to be done on that front, but it will be exciting to see what comes out of that. As I said last month, we are challenged to show magic casting in an engaging way, that will convey spell intention though animation, effects, and UI. We have so many ideas on how to tackle that, but the challenge will be trying and testing them internally and externally, in order to find the right choice for gameplay.
2015 is the year of the Goat Duck!
Bonus Art Update
-by Sandra Pavulaan
Here’s an extra-special Tuatha Dé Danann Archer concept art piece, done by Sandra! Pretty neat, ain’t it? This wintry bow expert just put one right between somebody’s eyes.
State Of The Build
-by Brian Green
Welcome to a new year for the State of the Build! The programmers are back in action after holiday break and are busy adding more features to the game. It’s particularly exciting right now, as we’re coding several systems that will likely be in the final version of the game.
One big project for this month is ability crafting. As discussed previously, players will have access to components to construct and customize their own abilities. About half the engineers are working to implement the first version of ability crafting this month. Here’s a look at what’s going into the development of this system:
After Ben designs a system, we figure out a scope that makes sense for the first version. We decided the goal for the first version of ability crafting is to allow players to be able to re-create the abilities we currently have in the pre-alpha build. This will allow us to test all the different parts with elements that are familiar to the game already.
Bryce has been working hard on the UI with James Koo, using web API systems. We have a UI to construct abilities, a spellbook to store created abilities, and a way to communicate those changes to the server.
Bull is working on an editor for the components. The editor is the primary tool for Ben to define the components and then make tweaks for game balance later.
Rob has been working on server and client code. He’s creating an ability object the server can work with, as well as figuring out how to let the server communicate with the client about the animations and effects used by these new abilities.
Tim and Andrew provide valuable commentary via reviews and discussions on problems we face. Sometimes we can be so close to our own code that it takes an outside perspective to suggest changes.
As for me, I’ve been coordinating all these different parts as well as coding the glue in between. I take data from the database to construct component objects that Rob uses, and also expose it to the web API for Bryce to use. Plus, I work with Ben and the rest of the programmers to keep the development supporting design, and to coordinate changes where needed.
As you can see, even this one part of the game is an incredible team effort. Now, highlights of recent changes to our test server:
Channeled abilities are in! These are abilities that will be disrupted if the player moves or is interrupted by damage.
Added “pools” as a shape for abilities. Pools cover the ground and affect anyone on the ground inside the area of effect.
Greatly improved performance for character rendering and adding flexibility in attaching models and effects to existing models.
Added cape masking support to editor and client to allow a cape to use different animations from the rest of the character.
Improved the crash reporter to give better information for client crashes.
Added a colorful new performance HUD element that breaks down client performance for testing.
Improved synchronization between client and server better while jumping. Also removed accidental double-jumps.
Players should now slide along the ground and down slopes.
Falling damage! You will take damage based on your loss of velocity when you stop.
-by Rob Argue
The Physics Bit
Making physics feel good is a matter of matching expectations, which is a bit of a balancing act. People have two sets of expectations for physics in a game: expectations that come from actual real-world physics, and expectations that come from how physics behave in other games.
Matching the expectations of actual physics is a more interesting and involved process that it appears. On the surface, it seems like something that should be easy to program; just pick up a physics textbook, plug in the equations, and presto, physics! Of course, for any of you who have done programming, you know it is never that easy; there are always bugs.
Sometimes, the problem has a quick fix, such as characters getting stuck on a certain point on the map. Other times the problem is more subtle, for example “projectiles feel wrong.” The problem with this situation is that it is generally hard to tell what about a particular implementation “feels wrong,” unless you have another, correct implementation, to compare it against. At some point you have to lean on intuition to know that something feels wrong (say projectiles), and diagnose the problem (they are not travelling in parabolic arcs, for example).
Matching expectations that players have built up from other games is the trickier half of the process; there are no guiding formulas, and no agreed-upon “correct” version of physics in this context. Plus, when we use physics to model concepts with no real world analog, such as magic, things can get very confusing. After all, what are the exact mechanics behind how a fireball homes in on your enemies? Coming up with the right math here, while loosely guided by physics intuition, is mostly about throwing formulas at a wall and seeing what sticks in a satisfying manner.
To some extent, we also want to let the math have a life of its own. This means programming a set of rules when we don’t fully understand the consequences. Take fireballs, for example: we could have fireballs make a beeline straight at the target, or we could have them attempt to turn towards the target, but still be avoidable. The latter allows us to have unexpected (but not unpredictable) events occur, such as a fireball hooking around the tank and hitting the healer right in the face. This approach better affords emergent gameplay, and those watercooler moments which we all love so much, and in my opinion, make for a better game.
In the end, you have to look at the bottom line: Do the physics we have implemented lead to fun gameplay? This, of course, raises the question of “what is fun?”, but I will leave that for another time.
-by Jenesee Grey
Welcome to the Spotlight, which is a Community Spotlight this time around. Let’s talk about a trending topic: Socialization in MMOs, and where it has gone.
This weekend I had the pleasure of speaking on a panel at PAX South on this very topic, and it’s been quite a Hot Topic in the forums, on a thread in Something to Think About. The response has been rather intense, as everyone seems to have a different idea about what socialization means and how we should achieve that, even IF we should try to!
Some of the stories from my fellow panelists that really resonated with me got me thinking about this even more. I’d like to go over some of these, and offer an idea of how this could be handled in Camelot Unchained.
One story was about being in an instanced area, and never seeing another person except NPCs. Alex Albecht from ZergID was talking about how those NPC’s were capable of handling many needs the player had, and made it unnecessary to find anyone else to interact with. All he needed was his garrison. Everyone was essentially present, but invisible to one another, as each played our own version of the MMO.
You don’t have to worry about instances in Camelot Unchained, as everything should appear to be a seamless open world. There will be starting ‘zones’ where safe cities are, and The Depths™ in its own special place, but you should never feel like you are in a single-player RPG. Whether it is smaller roaming bands of people or giant epic battles as soldiers battle for a keep, you will have lots of opportunity to join with fellow fighters. We have also talked about crafters having group options, in order to make some very special items. We want to encourage player cooperation, dynamic gameplay, and exploration.
With questing and content so expected in PvE MMOs, Larry Everett from Massively wondered if things are now “too spoon-fed” to create socialization. He spoke a lot about older games like Star Wars Galaxies and the informational auction house, which told you where to go to actually meet the crafter to buy an item, instead of the way a typical in-game auction house works.
We won’t have an auction house in Camelot Unchained, be certain of that. However, I can’t wait until you see our crafting system Vision Document, which the team is previewing now. One key concept is the ability to make an item that is special, and specifically suits the buyer and their needs. This is going to be a wonderful addition to the game. Even if we have NPC-run shops for more general items, it is going to be well worth it to cultivate a relationship with your crafter. Crafters will certainly want fighters to help them get resources safely to their Vox as well, and the social and reciprocal relationship between crafters, builders, and fighters is going to make for some wonderful moments to remember.
Patrick Mulhern from Lorehound talked about things like Dungeon Finders making socialization unnecessary. You no longer have to talk to ask people to help you group or give you questing tips. He longed for the old days in Zelda when you asked your friends how to get out of a forest or other tricky areas.
We want to make Camelot Unchained a game where you can be successful with solo play OR large group battles, all while helping your Realm. We won’t force you to be sociable (har har) if you prefer solo play (although I think talking and sharing experiences makes things more fun!) but you will certainly be helping to contribute to the larger social order as you help your Realm triumph! Whether you are stepping in to gank someone who is foolishly separated from safety or scouting ahead to scope out the enemy, you will be helping your Realm dominate. Since your daily report rewards and gold are based on factors of the Realms actions as well as your individual ones, it is in your best interest to communicate and work well together with those who are also soldiers and crafters toward that common goal.
I spoke about the difficulties of leveling in old-school MMOs. They provided the need for groups, as well as incentive for goodwill, to encourage repeat socialization. If it is hard to kill your enemy, you will want to find other people to make it easier. Once you get rolling as a group, the instinct is to keep going. If you are successful, the good feelings inspire continued grouping with that person.
For our game, leveling is slow and primarily horizontal. You will be able to immediately participate, whether you are a brand new player or an experienced veteran. Camelot Unchained is a rich and complex game, so we do plan to have a mentor option for those willing to lend a helping hand to the new player as they become familiar with the game and get an idea of how best to help their Realm. As you wield weapons that need advanced repair and replacement, coordinate with fighters heading to a battle, or gather resources to make your crafting items, you will find yourself inadvertently forming a Realm community. Making friends should be a natural part of the game, and won’t always require a specific effort.
The talk ended with a mass expression of yearning, from both the panelists and the audience, to find a middle ground between the games we love. How can we make a game that doesn’t leave a player lonely in the midst of thousands, while at the same time avoid alienating players with outdated mechanics that are obsolete? Is there value in those ideas to be adapted and reforged? We hope to bridge that middle ground with Camelot Unchained!
What do you think? Join us on our forums to talk more!
-by Max Porter
Behold the rewrite of a Becoming™ story. It came originally from Mark’s own deft hands, and now that our Loremaster Max has gone to work on it, we’d like to present it to you anew!
The Becoming – Úlfhéðnar The Berzerkers
Attend me now, young Úlfhéðnar, and hear the doom to which you were born. You will learn many things. You will learn of the pain and suffering that mothered us, and the bloodlust that fathered us. You will learn of the Great Wyrm and its subtle poison. You will learn how your power was forged, and why the cost to wield it is so great.
In the eons before the Piercing, when the Old Gods still walked the land, our people grew to love the bitterness of war. Our ancestors traveled fearlessly, conquering and raiding by land and sea. We fought for gold and plunder, certainly. But our true love was the taste of battle: Our husband the ringing of steel, our wife the smell of blood, our children the bodies of the glorious dead. To this day, we look to Ragnarök for answers, and the crashing of spear on shield thunders in our hearts.
The mysterious storms from the heavens changed our hearts forever.
When these Veilstorms first spread through our lands we rejoiced, hoping that the time of Ragnarök was upon us at last. We sharpened our blades and sang the old songs, ready for the final battle.
However, the wild storms did not bring about the doom of the gods. There was no poetry, no rightness in the land; the storms were spawned by enigmatic powers from far away, beyond even Ásgarðr the great.
The tale I have called you here to tell you concerns a family that was caught in such a storm.
It was a dark day, and the children’s play was subdued. The hills looked on as the winds rolled over the grass, bringing long and sinuous clouds that crackled with magic and stained the sky in endless streaks of darkness as they rushed overhead. The children stood in awe and watched the storm come.
Their mother Embla was inside the great farmhouse she had built years ago of tall oak trees, sorting the plunder from her last voyage. Their father Askr was at the lumber mill, planing the boards of a mighty longship. Neither one of them saw the storm clouds gathering. Neither one could hear the cries of the children as the thunder made the hills tremble and the air shudder. Neither of them knew when the terrible storm coalesced, and a huge stream of cloud slithered down out of the sky and plucked their children up like a hungry serpent.
In the Cursed Lands, they call this a Malevolence, the most terrible storm from the pit of beyond.
The storm shook the walls of her house, and Embla ran to the door to call her little ones inside. She peered out into the rain that burst from above, feeling the terrific forces of magic pull at her skin. The children were nowhere to be seen: from the fence to the vegetable garden, from the old stump to the woodpile, there was no sign of them but a few wooden toys scattered on the ground.
Screaming for Askr, she ran out into the tempest, reaching up to the sky as if pleading for help. But the wild storm only howled louder, destroying her house behind her and tossing the trees into the sky. Embla ran hither and thither, searching and calling out as the wind and the magic tore at everything around but left the woman untouched, as though it were cruelly mocking her.
Askr found her sobbing in the black rain. When Embla told him that the storm had taken their children, he screamed with grief, shouting into the darkened sky. He swore revenge and swung his axe in rage, but there was nothing to fight. He called upon the strength of the war-god Týr, but there was no answer. He searched for signs of his children, desperate for anything, but Embla had already looked. Like a raiding party, the storm had swept down and taken their most precious possessions.
The couple watched through tear-stained eyes as the swirling tempest spent its malice and billowed away. The darkness slithered through the sky. A pair of eyes burned white-hot from the center of the storm as it went, taunting their weakness from afar.
They were parents; their children were gone. Askr and Embla wept for hours, pouring their pain into the earth. They held each other fiercely, two figures alone in the blasted landscape. It was the way of our people to take from others; they did not know how to bear such a loss.
When their tears were spent, Askr and Embla begged the Allfather for the wisdom and insight to seek out what was lost. They swore an unbreakable oath to search the world until they could reclaim their missing children. With nothing but Askr’s axe and the unfamiliar sorrow in their mouths, they set off across the twisted land.
They wandered for many years, finding nothing. They walked until their feet dragged, their shoes crumbled away, and their clothes were worn to rags. They passed with barely a scratch through the Veilstorms that tore the land apart, and through joyous battles their people waged for glory.
Askr and Embla grew numb to the desolation around them. They felt too much pain to lend a hand to the other folk they passed, whose lives were decimated by storms or war. They never found word of the Scornful Storm, or of their children. Yet they went on, impelled by bitter grief and forlorn hope.
One day, the couple came upon a tiny settlement that was caught in the grip of a violent Veilstorm. From high above the village on the slope of a mountain, they watched blankly as the clouds became darker and darker, crackling with magic. The Veilstorm was becoming what they call a Malevolence. The winds ripped at the buildings as black rain fell, and magic forces blasted the earth. The villagers ran for cover and screamed for help beneath the swirling clouds, but Askr and Embla were too weary to respond.
The clouds pulled away for a moment to reveal one red-haired man standing tall in the central square of the village. As the wind whipped at his clothes, he raised his arm to defend a small boy by his side. They had the same bright red hair: the boy was his son. Bolts of black lightning struck down around him, but still the man held his ground, defending his boy with everything he had.
At this sight, something shifted in the hearts of the weary travelers. A father defending his child from the storm would do everything in his power, even give his own life, for his son. They felt his fear, his suffering for his child as if it were their own. Pushed forward by the wrenching horror within their breasts, Askr and Embla stumbled down the mountainside.
Below, the darkness gathered as the Malevolence began to writhe and take shape. Two white-hot eyes glowed within the thundering clouds, and a terrible hiss washed over the earth like a vast wave, leveling buildings. The red-haired man still stood. Shaking, he drew a bright sword and held it high, shouting defiance into the sky that drowned him out.
Askr and Embla’s eyes widened and they hurried faster as the storm clouds gathered still more. A vast serpent began to take solid shape, coils wrapped all the way around the town. Its vast head swept down to face the little father in the square, a tongue of lightning flickering in and out.
The running couple looked at one another. They knew they would be too late.
Crying out to the silent gods, Askr and Embla felt rage fill their souls. They saw there was no help coming; there was no escape for the boy below; there was no mercy in the storm. No pain is like the pain of parents that lose their children. They knew at once and for all time that the world is chaos and noise, and no meaning can be found anywhere. Their fury screamed white-hot in their minds and burst out of them in howls of wrath. Their hearts beat faster. Spittle plumed from their mouths, and their eyes started from their sockets.
The storm crackled back, its magic reacting to the mighty will of the bereaved parents. Whether Odin Allfather finally answered their prayer or the Scornful Storm’s magic changed them, the speed of Fenris himself entered their limbs. Askr and Embla swept down the slope like an avalanche, and the land shook under the force of their footfalls.
In the village square, the red-haired man braced himself and swung his sword at the monstrous serpent. He was no match for its power, and the blade shattered as it struck the scales of the terrible beast. The snake’s head split wide in a vast grin as its mouth opened and it swallowed the brave man up in an instant.
Unafraid, the boy now stood alone. He reached for the haft of his father’s broken sword and heaved, but he was too weak to lift it, and the edge of the mighty weapon dragged along the ground. With cold hunger in its eyes, the storm-born snake heaved its coils and raised its head for another strike. The boy only stared up at the creature in defiance.
It was at this moment that Askr and Embla reached the village square and came between the snake and its tiny prey. Askr raised his old wood-axe and roared. Magic flowed over and around the couple, and they were greatly changed, appearing as mighty warriors instead of aged wanderers.
The beast’s lightning tongue flickered and it knew their scent immediately. Hissing with scorn, it opened its mouth and unleashed a flood of dark magic that ripped through the air toward Askr with all the power of the Veilstorm itself. The spell would have torn him apart had not his wife reacted instantly. She knew no words of magic, only that the storm sought to take him from her; Embla’s fury channeled power into her soul. She threw up her hand, magic curled from her fingers, and a clever spiderweb of power glowed in the air above Askr.
The dark magic rebounded harmlessly from the web, which shimmered bright in the darkness. Alarmed, the beast struck at Embla in a sudden rush. She leaped nimbly away, and would have escaped the beast entirely but for one of its gleaming fangs, which nicked her ankle through her worn-out shoe.
Askr turned as the snake’s head crashed down to the earth. Through the fog of rage, he knew he was alive and unharmed thanks to his wife’s magic. He lifted his axe and howled. The sound that ripped from his throat thundered over the maelstrom in a keening call, filled with mourning for the losses of his people, and they were many: the countless children devoured, the villages and farms blasted to bare stone, and the red-haired father who died defending his son.
Caught in a breathless moment of wrath beyond measure, Askr stood tall and strong as a bear. The bereaved father brought down his axe on the beast’s neck with all the strength of the thunder-god himself.
Though the colossal monster tried to rip free of the earth and escape, it was too late. The serpent’s scales splintered as Askr’s axe smashed through, severing skin, flesh, and bone. He split the Great Serpent in two.
However, that was not quite the end. The thing’s flesh shifted and changed, though Askr tried to hack at it again and again. The black rain hissed to a halt as the serpent’s body melted into mist beneath his axe and slithered away to rejoin the clouds. A high shriek rang through the air, higher and higher until it passed out of hearing. As though battered by the rays of a hot sun, the storm faded away to nothing.
With the monster defeated and the storm gone, Askr and Embla collapsed to the ground, exhausted. It is said they slept for a week there on the blighted earth.
The red-haired boy stood guard over them, keeping other survivors away. He held on to his father’s broken blade though he could not wield it, and kept up a constant vigil.
When they finally awoke, the couple was refreshed in both body and spirit. They knew they had reached the end of their long quest. Askr and Embla appeared years younger, as if their long mourning had been washed away.
They told the red-haired boy that they would make a life here and rebuild the village. If he desired, he could live with them and they would teach him all that they had learned. However, once the boy was certain they had recovered, he explained that he must depart. With the passing of his father, the well-being of our people was now his to guard. As he left, dragging the broken sword behind him, he told the couple, “I am Sigurd, son of Sigmund, who should have been our king. I will remember this village.”
Askr and Embla lived on for untold years, and eventually they had many more children to fill their days with joy. All were born with the marks of the storm in their blood, and were taught to know the pain of others. They learned to control their power, to unleash anger only when needed.
However, the Great Serpent left its mark as well: The tiny scratch on Embla’s ankle had a dark poison that seeped into her blood, and stayed there. All of their children, and their children’s children to this day, are also heir to the darker face of fury; to scorn, and to unbridled bursts of temper that some say make our gift into a curse. But so long as we see Ragnarök before us and the lessons of wrath behind us, we know who we are.
We are sacrifice, loss, and pain. We are the wolf-skinned, that no blade nor fire can defeat. We are the anger born of strongest love. We are the Úlfhéðnar, who fight for our king until the day of the last battle.