Last year when I thought about what I might put into Break 4, I didn’t have a lot of content in mind. I figured I would just fill up space with some graphic descriptions of cruelty. Luckily, the amount of effort I’ve put into Bardass! chapters has evolved to the point where Break chapters are now roughly the size of Quest chapters. I almost feel bad about Kruseid’s Break chapter being so bare. But honestly, even now I think he’s a boring character to write. He has a one-dimensional role, and there’s just not much room for me to do anything interesting with him.
Chelsea, on the other hand, I feel like I’ve nerfed over time. Younger Chelsea is pretty much the same as she’s always been, but older Chelsea was initially planned to be incredibly brutal, animalistic, and downright cruel. She still has shades of her old character, but now she has a sort of misplaced regalness to her.
If, from reading this, you get the feeling that I’ve lost control over my own story, rest assured. I’ve always written as if the story has taken a life of its own and I’m just trying to decipher it.
Break 4 – Chelsea the Feral
Balken’s army appeared seemingly out of nowhere and swiftly decimated the kingdom of Astoria in a single night. No one knew then that Balken’s grip would extend to all of Rym. From Astoria, Balken’s army split into two forces: the southern force led by Lodi and the western force personally led by Balken.
The western force was hindered by the Rhean army, which used their familiarity with the terrain of the forest to their advantage. The Rhean army had many victories against Balken’s army, though Balken himself never participated in the battle. His army was again split in half there, waging a prolonged war with Rhea while Balken ventured into the Scar’s Tear and Lorath, and from there, further west into Harl.
Indeed, Rhea was actually the final kingdom to fall to Balken’s army, in a battle led by Ranka the Venom Mistress.
The army Balken left to attack Rhea consisted primarily of a union of bandits and marauders as well as deserters from Astoria. Though they were all clad in armor made from Astorian iron, this didn’t make them an effective army. They very much depended on Balken’s power and leadership.
As soon as Ranka took over the Rhean campaign, the tide turned in Balken’s favor. She ordered the men to lose their suits of Astorian armor so they could maneuver better in forest terrain and armed them with arrows tipped with a slow-acting poison. The poison acted much like a disease: once it comes into contact with blood, the blood itself becomes a poison, which spreads and poisons others by touch. Survivors from the first battle against the Ranka-led forces were treated, spreading the poison from front line fighters to supporters. Within one week, Rhea’s defenses had begun to collapse from the inside, and Ranka herself led a full frontal assault into the heart of Rhea.
Ranka: Alright, you slouchers, don’t go crazy. There’ll be plenty of time to plunder after we’ve taken over the castle. I want you to search every inch of this place and look for secret passages! The Dark Lord says not a single person of nobility must be left alive!
Dark Soldiers: Yes, Mistress!
Ranka: I do love the sound of that. Hm? What’s that? Ah… Archers! Someone’s fleeing through the garden! Shower it with arrows and pursue!
Archer Captain: You heard the Mistress! Fire everything you’ve got!
Ranka: Send scouts in to pursue and retrieve any bodies! We can’t afford for a single person of Rhean royalty to escape!
Darting through the thick Rhean wilderness was a cloaked man carrying a small, gaudily-dressed girl in his arms. Three arrows were stuck in his back, but he refused to allow them to deter him from his mission. The young girl was only four years old, barely able to speak. Her red hair was primped and adorned with the utmost care all her life. Venturing this far into the Rhean Forest was something that was never meant for her under normal circumstances.
Princess Chelsea: Donovan, we go back!
Donovan: Sorry, but this is for your own safety and for Rhea’s future.
Princess Chelsea: Go back, go back! Where Mama?
Donovan: The Queen is… She’s… she had to go away. And sorry, but you can’t go back.
Princess Chelsea: Where going?
Donovan: To the Rhea Falls.
The Rhea Falls is the largest of the waterfalls along the edge of the Rhean Plateau. Beyond its curtain of powerful flowing water lies a hidden cave known only to Rhean royalty. Donovan used the last of his strength to lead Chelsea there, and to the Guardian of the Forest, an ancient blue dragon.
Guardian of the Forest: For what reason do you defile my home with your presence and present unto me this dying child?
Donovan: D-dying? No! Chelsea… Chelsea can’t die! She’s the future of Rhea! You can’t let her…
Guardian of the Forest: You cling to life, though you are already dead. Your death has spread to the girl. She will soon follow.
Donovan: She can’t! Please… Balken’s army is the enemy of Rhea… No, all of Rym! Chelsea is the last Princess of Rhea! You have to save her! Save Rhea! Defeat Balken!
Guardian of the Forest: The one you call Balken… is no enemy of mine.
Donovan: W-WHAT? But you have a pact with the Rhean royal family!
Guardian of the Forest: I have, and it will be respected. I am your ally, but I am not your slave. Know your place! My pact is not with you, but with the dying child.
Princess Chelsea: Me?
Guardian of the Forest: Is Balken your enemy?
Princess Chelsea: Who’s Balken?
Donovan: Balken is… He…
Guardian of the Forest: SILENCE!
Princess Chelsea: What is enemy?
Guardian of the Forest: Your enemy… is many things. For now, it is… that which means to do you harm.
Princess Chelsea: That’s bad.
Guardian of the Forest: Indeed.
Princess Chelsea: Do you make enemy go away?
Guardian of the Forest: I have that power… but I do not. If you wish, I may grant you such a power. Is that your wish?
Princess Chelsea: Please?
Guardian of the Forest: Then… I will grant you my blessing.
Donovan: Then… she’s saved?
Guardian of the Forest: Chelsea will have the power to protect herself in the future. But to cleanse her body… I demand an offering.
Donovan: Then… my life. Take it!
Guardian of the Forest: You are already dead. You cannot offer me your life.
Princess Chelsea: You want… ‘off ring?’ I have ring.
Guardian of the Forest: Offering unacceptable. However, you have something to offer.
Princess Chelsea: What?
Guardian of the Forest: Your own life.
Donovan: That’s… impossible!
Princess Chelsea: Okay.
Donovan: Princess! You’ve been tricked!
Guardian of the Forest: The pact has been made. Your life is no longer your own. From now on… it is… the forest’s.
The Guardian of the Forest then shattered into a million blue lights. With its massive body now gone, a hidden chamber was now revealed. Donovan hobbled toward the chamber, and Chelsea followed. Within were three different types of eggs and one white cub.
Donovan: What’s this?
Princess Chelsea: They… my new friends.
Donovan: Huh? What makes you say that?
Princess Chelsea: I know.
Donovan: You know? I… I see… So that’s it… You’re… the new…
Donovan smiled and finally collapsed from his wounds. The poison would finish him off in his sleep, but he died content.
The three eggs soon hatched as a tortoise, sparrow, and lizard, and together with the white tiger cub, they grew alongside Chelsea, who had been granted strength and the ability to commune with wildlife. She named her new friends Bob, Sue, Rio, and Bea; their true names suddenly appeared within her mind, but she was unable to pronounce them properly, and she disagreed with them.
In terms of humans, Chelsea lived alone. She was strong enough to fend for herself thanks to the blessing of the Guardian, but with no one to guide her, she observed nature to learn how to live on her own. And when her friends had grown enough, they too joined in and helped maintain order within the forest. After five years had passed, Chelsea had outgrown the dress she escaped in. But she never left the waterfall cave without it, tying it around her waist for good luck on hunts. Though she always bathed and washed her dress at the base of the falls, her dress had slowly changed from a pristine white and gold to a tattered and murky gray.
It was this strange, messy, naked child that Kruseid’s party encountered at the Rhea Falls, and they had no idea what to make of the vision.
Kruseid: Is… is this what the people of Rhea have been reduced to?
Meuri: No… there’s no way… Even Balken wouldn’t drive children out into the wilderness.
Without warning, Chelsea attacked. Swinging a large club she fashioned out of a fallen branch, she knocked Kruseid away. Roegen responded quickly and fired an arrow at her, but Chelsea’s instincts were honed, and she was spry on her feet. She avoided the arrow with a leap and pounced on Roegen. Chelsea clawed at Roegen’s face, but her hand was repelled by Meuri’s barrier. Shocked, she jumped away from his body.
Chelsea: Who you?
Roegen: Well, at least she can talk. In a manner of speaking.
Chelsea: This is my home! Why you here?
Kruseid: We’re on our way to Rhea. Um… is there a village nearby?
Chelsea: Village? This is my home!
Kruseid: Yes, you said that… but I don’t see any buildings…
Chelsea: You mean castle? That is my old home. I no go back.
Meuri: Your old home?
Roegen: That’s what she said. Uh… what’s your name?
Chelsea: Chelsea. Chelsea Mari Rhea.
Kruseid: Rhea? You’re…
Meuri: Princess Chelsea of the Rhean royal family?
Roegen: I would have thought Rhean royalty dressed better and had a firmer grasp of language.
Meuri: Why can’t you go back?
Chelsea: Donovan say so. He gone now.
Kruseid: She must have been in hiding after Balken’s army stormed Castle Rhea.
Meuri: Don’t you want to go back to the castle?
Chelsea: Yes… But I Guardian of Forest now! No leave forest…
Roegen: Sometimes you have to leave the forest to protect it.
Chelsea: That true?
Roegen: Call me the guardian of Verdant Forest. I’m here with these two because I want to defeat the enemy of Rym, the Dark Lord Balken.
Chelsea: Balken… He… Donovan’s enemy.
Roegen: It’s because of Balken that this Donovan is dead, right? Then he’s your enemy too. If we defeat Balken, then the people of Rhea… the people of this forest, they will be protected. That’s your responsibility, isn’t it? As the guardian of the forest and the Princess of Rhea. No… its Queen!
Chelsea: But Mama is Queen.
Kruseid: Your mom is-
Meuri: She’s not Queen anymore. You have to be Queen.
Chelsea: But why?
Meuri: Balken is the reason your mom is gone.
Chelsea: So… we beat Balken, Mama come back?
Meuri: Er… no. Balken made her go away… forever. She can’t come back.
Chelsea: You mean… she dead?
Kruseid: See? She can handle it. And you wanted to pussyfoot around the subject. Yeah, she’s dead! Everyone you knew is dead! They died years ago! And it’s Balken’s fault!
Chelsea: So… Balken strong?
Kruseid: Yes, he is.
Chelsea: Then… I will fight!
Kruseid: You need to trust me more, Meuri.
Meuri: How on Rym did that just work?
Roegen: You got me. But at least we’ve got another ally. Chelsea, I think we should take you back to your old home now, and see what you’re fighting for.
Kruseid: No. First we head deeper in.
Roegen: Deeper into the forest?
Kruseid: I have a feeling we’ll be okay as long as Chelsea’s with us. Besides, if we want to defeat Balken, I think we’ll need the help of the wizards of Lorath.
Thus, Chelsea joined Kruseid’s party along with her four friends. Together they found the ruins of Lorath and fought with Duvall, the last survivor of the kingdom, before adding his power to their forces. Then, they traveled to the castle city of Rhea. There, they revealed the discovery of their Princess, the last remaining member of the royal family, and brought to them the hope they desperately wanted.
Chelsea: Castle… We take castle back, yeah?
Kruseid: No. It’s best that we bring the spirits of the people up. Then when the time comes, they’ll help us take the castle back.
Chelsea: Why not now?
Kruseid: If we start taking kingdoms back, Balken will learn of our movements and respond in full force. We don’t have the strength to take on Balken’s army alone. Our plan is to strike straight at the head. Balken himself. We’ll catch him unawares in Aria. Once Balken falls, the rest of his army will follow, one by one.
Duvall: It’s a strategy I expect from the Prince of Astoria. Unfortunately, we’re going to lose our tactical advantage.
Kruseid: How’s that?
Duvall: Chelsea ordered her beasts to attack the castle before she even asked for your explanation.
Chelsea: Heh heh…
Even as a red sparrow and blue flying lizard, Sue and Rio held incredible power. By focusing fire on a single target and flying away, the two were able to kill Balken’s soldiers, one by one. Such a slow pace would never succeed in taking the entire castle, however. Nevertheless, Chelsea charged the gates with Bea at her side and Bob in her palm.
Duvall: We can cut our ties here and chalk this attack off as an isolated incident, proceeding with the plan. Or, we can lose our advantage and put Rhea at great risk, and possibly lose our lives in the assault. I think it’s a no-brainer.
Kruseid: It is. But we didn’t come here to dash the hopes of Rhea. We need them to erase Balken’s influence from Rym, and they need their Princess. Let’s back her up!
Meuri: It was nice knowing you.
Roegen: Chin up. We might surprise ourselves!
Duvall: Hmph. That’ll be the day. But if we can’t handle this, what chance do we have against Balken? Okay, I’m in. Just get me some guards that are still alive. I have plans for them.
Chelsea’s beasts proved an effective diversion, and had the castle defenses in chaos. Frantically, they began shooting arrows into the air. With their defenses down, it took little effort for Kruseid and Chelsea to slaughter them with their swift and furious attacks. They were soon followed by Rhean citizens, who took weapons from the fallen soldiers and joined the attack.
Ranka: What’s the ruckus out there? Can’t our troops handle an ill-conceived rebellion?
Scout: Mistress Ranka! Battle report!
Ranka threw two daggers – one each at the heads of the two scouts.
Ranka: Hex magic trickery. I’m not so easy to kill. These two eyes of mine are the only scouts I need!
Ranka bolted from the throne room and peered down at the castle, which had now become a true battlefield.
Ranka: Their spirits had been broken. Why do they fight so fiercely? This couldn’t have been started by themselves… Guh!
A turtle with an indestructible shell crashed into Ranka’s head, knocking her backwards. The girl that threw it at her had scaled up the castle walls and into the throne room.
Chelsea: Who you? Why you in my home?
Ranka: Wha? Insolent little…
Chelsea easily avoided Ranka’s daggers and pounced at her. Ranka was surprised by her speed, but her reflexes responded in time to throw a handful of poison powder in front of her. Chelsea stopped her attack and reeled back, wiping the powder from her face and vomiting on the floor to reject what poison she inhaled.
Ranka: Eww… it wasn’t supposed to do that.
Chelsea: I know that! Bad plant dust!
Ranka: You could tell just from…? No matter… You’re fast, you’re strong, and you’re just a girl… but I will kill you and end this here.
Roegen: Oh, I think not. I’ve got an arrow screaming to give you a kiss.
Kruseid: You’re one of Balken’s generals? I was expecting more. Tell us what you know, and we may just spare your life.
Ranka: That clothing… and that emblem… Verdant noble? Astorian army? Working together? Ha ha ha ha ha!! This is too perfect!
Duvall: She’s gone mad. Before I even placed a hex on her.
Ranka: Okay, okay. I know when I’m licked.
Kruseid: So you’re surrendering?
Ranka: Not a chance. ARCO!
The throne room was suddenly cast in shadow, and Ranka was surrounded in a black haze. Roegen released his arrow, which vaporized in the air where the darkness was thickest.
Kruseid: What magic is that?
Ranka held up the black scale hanging around her neck for all to see.
Ranka: Congratulations. You’ve just condemned yourselves and this kingdom. Arco, Poison Cloud!
A dark poisonous haze filled the room. Meuri purified the air, but Ranka had escaped. Victory was theirs today, but the heroes knew it would be fleeting. They fled Rhea, knowing that staying to defend Rhea would have meant their deaths. Some Rheans followed their advice and escaped, living to tell the tale of their victory, while those who stayed to defend the castle and their homeland lived to tell the tale of the horrors that followed.
After Balken’s fall, the heroes returned to Rhea and once more took control of Castle Rhea, this time leaving Chelsea in charge to rule.
As time passed, the child Queen and her four beasts all grew stronger and successfully protected Rhea from multiple attacks from rebels, the remnants of Balken’s army, and armies raised by former nobles of Rhea, who had lost all power and influence under Chelsea’s rule.
She never learned how to rule a country, and she refused to learn the decorum required of someone of her stature. At best, she would on occasion dress like royalty, as it reminded Chelsea of her mother.
Although she learned much about Rym and its people during her travels with the Seven Heroes, Chelsea preferred her old lifestyle. She saw Rhea as just part of the forest she has been charged to protect, and as such, she applied the laws of the wild to her people. She protected her people directly by seeking out criminals in the streets of Rhea and delivering swift, violent justice to them. Unfortunately, she often mistakes her own tax collectors as criminals, and she is largely unaware of what to do with the gold in her coffers. As such, she is seen as a champion to the poor – mostly farmers. But Rhea’s famed army had been reduced to a girl and four beasts, and its once-thriving marketplace into little more than a farmers market.
Her primary focus now is on Lorath, which sits curiously in the middle of her forest. She sees it and the Scar’s Tear as a threat to her forest. Though she respects her ally’s borders, she had been trying, unsuccessfully, to shrink Lorath’s territories by planting trees in the Scar’s Tear.
Title: The Feral
1 – Guardian Club: A thick club made from Rhean wood and enchanted with the power of the Guardian of the Forest. It has no real power by itself, instead acting as an extension of Chelsea’s body.
Chelsea’s land mount, Beatrix is fast, nimble, and moves any terrain with swift efficiency. Her powerful pounce and sharp claws are capable of tearing through nearly any opponent, and her battle roar strikes fear into hidden foes.
Bob has an impenetrable shell capable of withstanding any physical attack. His low range and low mobility make him ineffective at attacking, but his venomous bite is incredibly effective when it connects. Bob is also capable of spinning on its shell at high speeds to create blinding whirlwinds.
Riona is the last Torrential Dragon, and thus one of the Four Guardian Dragons of Rym (the remaining three being the Tundra Dragon, Magma Dragon, and Shadow Dragon). Riona can stay underwater indefinitely and swims faster than she can fly. She is also capable of adding healing properties to water.
Susan is a Phoenix, a red bird large enough to mount. They are capable of amplifying the power of the sun and redirecting that power to attack their enemies or using that power to enhance their own capabilities. Should she fall in battle, the stored up energy in her body will erupt at once, destroying everything around her. The residual energies from the explosion will then form an indestructible egg.
Next time, on Bardass! Kent suffers a loss when he returns from Wynn, shaking his spirit just before Balken’s army begins to make its first move. Is he the Knight he thinks he is? The Thief he’s been made to be? Or… The curtain rises anew in Quest 21 – A Knight’s Strength.