Crushed Earth

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Crushed Earth Preluding Lights
Reunion Soldier A icon.png
Reunion Caster icon.png
Bounty Hunter A icon.png
Rusthammer Member
Possessed Soldier icon.png
Rusthammer Member Boone
Ursine Soldier icon.png
Ursus Soldier
Two Chernobog survivors leave Ursus for the wastelands, seeking out the legendary "Rusthammers." However, in the wastelands, things are rarely that simple.
<Background 1>
Gareth Careful. Walk slowly.
Illa I'm alright... no need to prop me up.
Gareth Save your strength. We're still not clear until we're over that mountain.
Illa How far are we now... from Ursus?
Gareth Not that far. We aren't deep in the barrens yet... not deep enough.
Illa Let me just breathe for a moment...
Gareth Go ahead. I'll wait.
Illa ...Huff...
What's past the mountain, to the northeast?
Gareth Kazimierz people's land, I think.
But we're not going that way.
Illa This is the first time I've left Ursus.
Gareth You'll get used to it.
There's nothing left for us in Ursus.
<Background 2>
Gareth Phew... this place looks good enough.
It's almost night. Let's set up camp here.
Illa Um... how much do we have left in rations?
Gareth We've gone through more than half the haul from the warehouse. Plus what we traded for from the wandering settlement, we still have about four day's worth... not a whole lot.
Watch our bags. I'll look for some firewood.
Illa This place is... so quiet.
Gareth That's not a bad thing. We should be wary of anyone passing by, though.
Call it a stroke of good luck that we came through without any trouble.
Bandit groups and outlaws, packs of wild beasts...
Most would say the barrens are a fatally dangerous place to be.
Illa Can we really find our way to these "Rusthammer" people?
Gareth There's no reason the vagabonds would trick us. There'd be no sense in tricking us.
Rusthammer's people are operating nearby, that much plenty know.
Illa Will they accept us?
Gareth We can't be sure, but we have to try.
Illa Long before, in the village... the soldiers all said the "Rusthammers" were a vicious, barbarous lot, thugs who killed for pleasure on the wastes.
They all said that, and afterwards there were people in the team who told of them too...
Gareth Rumors aren't sure to be truth. Have you forgotten how those bastard noblemen spoke of us?
Illa "Insatiable, ruthless Reunion bandits."
Gareth All the old patriarchs of Ursus need to do is make a bag of rumors up, and they can turn anything they don't like into maneating monsters for the commoners.
It's a customary trick of theirs. This definitely isn't like that, as far as I can see.
Illa Have you met them before?
Gareth I have. It was even while I was serving.
That year was the year they said the borderland armies went into Kazimierz territory, plundering villages.
Illa Ah... I heard about that from someone in my own village.
The captain mentioned it too. They all died after, apparently?
Gareth The captain told you all that?
They were Ursus regulars. A whole army platoon, armed to the teeth, bringing full sets of combat equipment past the border. There's no hope of completely fooling us about what was happening.
The looting was just an excuse by the brass to shift the blame. Maybe the soldiers really did want to stir up a battle, you know.
Sadly, things didn't go how they wanted. I don't know what took place in Kazimierz's hilled forests... but not a single one of them came back. A total annihilation, more or less.
As for the truth behind why they crossed the border... they're all dead, and who cares anymore.
But their death isn't solely down to the Kazimierz people... that I know for sure.
Illa So what happened?
Gareth It was the fourth day the soldiers had crossed into Kazimierz... a sentinel reported that a great group of wastelanders entered Ursus' own borders.
Illa Wastelanders?
Gareth Back then, I was stationed right at the border garrison's resupply station, and when the sentinel announced invaders, nobody in the barracks took it seriously.
Though you don't often see a whole crowd of barrenland vagabonds on their last hopes, it's not new, either. Especially not at the Ursus border.
They sent out a little squad, ready to intercept the poor saps and boost manpower a little in the jurisdiction's mines. Nothing too strange compared to their usual business.
Illa Let me guess. That squad didn't come back?
Gareth The next morning, a guard with his face coated in blood scrambled into our camp. It wasn't just the squad who got wiped out. Three neighboring checkpoints had completely fallen too, and only he made it back out alive.
The station officer at that time wasn't as stupid as now. He determined it was Kazimierz soldiers disguising as barrenland wanderers and springing attacks on checkpoints, so he immediately reported a need for reinforcements to the higher-ups.
It took until then for us to realize, our Originium communicators had lost all signals from allies within range, and we were sitting fowlbeasts on our own. After that, that night...
After the sun set, a sound of metal beating traveled all throughout the valley, fearsome and ear-piercing, like the primitive drums of war.
And then there were people. So many people... more than a hundred... maybe more than a thousand, carrying countless rough works of weaponry, shouting rallying cries we had no hope of understanding, charging madly into our camp.
They looked like humans, yet you couldn't sense the "human" part of them. I thought they'd gone crazy, because even if the comrades by their sides were blown away by artillery, the pace of their assault didn't slow one bit.
I'd say that's the most terrifying attack I've ever experienced. Forget Reunion's countless battles afterwards, none of them could compare to that evening of insanity.
Illa ......
Gareth They only retreated once first light finally came over the valley.
Innumerous corpses piled all around the camp, bloodstains and marks from Originium Arts bombardment everywhere... the whole day through, the air was filled with a smell of rust so thick you could vomit.
Illa ...That's just too excessive.
Why attack the Ursus Army with no regard for the cost? What was their goal?
Gareth That's the crucial bit.
After a few days, a backup unit finally made it. It was only then we learned that two Infected mines nearby had been totally plundered, they'd set everyone in the mines free, and burnt down five whole military supply warehouses in the area.
They hacked up the officers and mine overseers they caught, and tore every Ursus flag and landmark they found to shreds...
Rusthammer washed off the traces of Ursus, and left behind not a single mark in the ruins.
What was most important was, the unlucky lot who gallivanted into Kazimierz land had practically lost all of their rear reinforcements. Once the Ursus Army had reacted, it was already too late.
Even now, I still can't comprehend their lunatic conduct.
But "wasteland scum who slaughter for pleasure" wouldn't raid the Ursus Army in order to free the poor people in the mines.
They're not normal thugs, I'm certain of that.
Illa ...That story really is...
Gareth Hard to believe, right.
Illa I still have no way to tell... if it would be a correct choice to join them.
Even someone of Mr. Patriot's caliber got...
Gareth Don't think about it. Let's just go to sleep.
There'll always be a way.
Illa Maybe...
<Background 3>
Gareth We're here...
Illa This is where... we were looking for...?
Gareth "Straight north from the second peak, on top of a massive, upright boulder."
I didn't imagine it would actually be here.
A rust-speckled iron hammer is stuck upside-down in a boulder on a peak, the black rag tied to the handle like a flag fluttering wild in the wind.
Gareth "If you wish to join us, then search for the rusthammer in the rent-apart rock."
This group likes a bit of dramatic delivery, huh.
[A mysterious warrior shows up.]
Rusthammer Member This isn't dramatics, this is a symbol.
If you want to live on the barrens, you must be like this hammer.
You don't need to be sharp, but you do need to be tenacious.
Illa !
Gareth ......
Rusthammer Member You don't resemble... "ordinary passers-by."
I recognize the symbol on your clothes.
Speak. Tell us why you sought us.
Gareth You... you don't look like you're Infected.
I thought...
Illa We-We want to join the Rusthammers!
Rusthammer Member Join?
Weak, timid, fearful, helpless...
You're scared of everything upon the barrens, shivering, like livestock awaiting slaughter.
[The Rusthammer member threw a shovel and pick at Gareth and Illa.]
Rusthammer Member Here. Pick these up.
Illa Wh... What are these? A shovel and pick... and a beast trap?
Gareth What do you mean by this?
Why give these tools to us?
Rusthammer Member You want to join the Rusthammers? Then prove yourselves.
Gareth What?
Rusthammer Member Prove you belong to the wastes. Prove you aren't livestock incapable of surviving beyond their pen.
We are warriors. We are the wasteland's conquerors. We look after each other. We share everything of ours.
But we will not care for unbearably weak trash.
See that gorge over there? It's a kind place to be, the kindest all around here.
In the gorge is everything you need.
Survive for a month here.
If even that's beyond you, then head straight back where you came as soon as you can.
Gareth Survive? For a month? In a place like this?
You've got to be fricking kidding me.
Surviving on the barrenlands with just these?
If you just wanted to watch us die, why make it so complicated? Wouldn't it be so much easier to do it right here?
You're just going to laugh at us as we die on the barrens? Is this some sick hobby of yours?
Or is persecuting the Infected one of your joys, too?
And I thought you weren't like the other bandits... you bunch of...
Rusthammer Member ...Hahahaha.
Infected? Infected??
Persecute the Infected? Hahahahahahahaha...
Come on over, take a look at this moron.
While the grand Rusthammer man laughs wildly, a hunched-over man appears from behind the crag, the Originium crystals terrifyingly ugly on his skin. The man's forceful gaze pierces through his untamed hair, sizing up the person before him.
Rusthammer Member Look, look, look, Boone.
Do you see? These are your "Infected comrades."
Rusthammer Member Boone Bullshit. I have no comrades this weak.
Gareth Y-You're Reunion too...
Rusthammer Member Here, nobody cares whether you're Infected or not. Nobody cares what kind of special rank you have.
Nobody fricking cares.
Man, woman, old, young, Sarkaz...
Reunion? Fallen noble? As long as you embrace the wilderness, cut away from the poison blood of civilization, we are all equal.
Gareth ......
Illa Just one month, was it...
Gareth Illa?
Rusthammer Member That's right. If you can hold out for one month, that'll show you're part of the wastes, that you've broken free of civilization's fetters.
Once the time comes, you'll be a part of the barrenlands, and our Rusthammer brothers and sisters will welcome you.
Illa Alright... it's a deal.
Rusthammer Member Not a bad attitude. I have great faith in you.
I wish you good luck, young lady.
[The Rusthammers leave.]
Gareth Illa, are you serious?
Illa We... don't have much choice, do we?
Gareth No. We still have rations. We can go back, go back to that vagrant village, think of another way.
Illa Don't mess with me! We never had that much in supplies! You haven't eaten for two days, I've noticed that!
Gareth I...
Illa We're comrades in arms, aren't we? Comrades have to look after each other, right?
These Rusthammers... they're able to survive here... perhaps we can do the same.
Gareth ...I suppose.
Illa Lend a hand. We'll find a place to set up camp first.
<Background 1>
Fifteen days later
Illa ...Why isn't it moving...
Gareth Shh! Don't make a sound. It took the bait.
Illa And I feel it's about to run.
Gareth Calmly... wait for it... wait…
It moved!
Illa Just a bit more... just a bit more...
[The two caught the wild animal.]
Gareth We caught it! We caught it! Hahahaha!
Illa Oh, wonderful! Wonderful!
Gareth Hahahaha! Alright.
Illa, pass me the knife.
Illa Here it is.
<Background fades out and in>
Illa There really were burdenbeasts here. This is my first time seeing one wild.
Gareth With all this meat, we can smoke it, dry it in the cave, and it'll keep for a while…
At least for the next long while, we won't have to eat dried sandworm.
Illa I'm not sure if that wandering village is still around.
Gareth What made you think of it suddenly?
Illa Even if we smoked this meat, we wouldn't finish it. Maybe we could trade it with those wasteland wanderers for some supplies.
Like a couple seeds or something...
Gareth Has anything happened with those mossoats?
Illa Listen to you. Have you never planted anything before in your life?
Gareth ...I haven't. I was born in the city.
Illa Heheh. My little city friend, food is hardly that easy to grow. You'll want to properly learn.
Gareth Who's a little friend... You're barely older than me.
Whatever, I'm dropping it.
Those wanderers barely ever stop in one place, but there should be a few settlements below the mountain to the east. If we have the chance, we can go take a look.
Come over here, let's take all this back in.
Illa Alright.
<Background 4>
Gareth Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen…
Illa Still half a month to go...
Gareth I hope those Rusthammers mean what they say.
But I feel like now, it doesn't matter whether we have them or not.
I've been feeling more and more like we can survive.
Illa I've actually wondered the whole time... Why would there be a cave like this in a gorge? It doesn't seem naturally formed, either...
Gareth I'm betting this was an ancient mine.
Illa A mine? In this completely desolate area? Was it the Kazimierz?
Gareth Can't say it's either Kazimierz or Ursus for sure.
Can't even be sure if it's a country we're familiar with.
Before, when I was in the army, someone told me all these ancient stories.
They said that centuries ago, millennia ago, Ursus wasn't yet Ursus, Kazimierz wasn't yet Kazimierz, and so many countries were emerging across the land, growing, becoming strong.
And in the end, once again because of war or Catastrophe or some other reason, they were destroyed, and fell to pieces.
Catastrophes repeatedly swept the earth, any trace of these countries' existence cleaned up along with them. Everything we can find was left underground, just like this mine, for example. They say loads of other places all have ancient remnants like this.
Illa So that means...
These places weren't always barrenlands, but were once towns and cities where people lived?
Gareth Maybe.
Illa If... If we keep living in here, and get more and more people like us, we might just be able to set up a small town or something...
This gorge goes south to north. It could hold plenty of people.
And then I'd be Mayor Illa! And you'd be Deputy Mayor Gareth!
Gareth Alright, enough daydreaming. Help me hang up the meat.
Illa Alright~
<Background fades out and in>
Twenty-nine days later
Illa Gareth! Gareth!
Gareth What is it... so early...
Illa Quick, come look, the mossoats!
Gareth !
Are... Are these buds?
Illa They are!
Gareth Great! Great! Oh, that's amazing!
So we can plant grains here after all!
Illa I'm guessing the burdenbeast bone powder played a part.
Gareth Alright, let me see... what was the most important thing, again?
Illa Water!
Gareth We won't have enough relying on that mountain creek. We'll need to think of some other way.
Illa But... there's no other springs anywhere nearby.
Gareth Our only option's to head to the foot of the mountain east and try our luck. There's trees there, which means there's a water source.
Illa But that's too far away. Would we be carrying water every day?
Gareth It's far, but it's worth it.
If these mossoats can grow properly, then it'll all be worth it!
Let's sort our things out, and we'll head to the woods to look.
<Background 3>
Illa It seemed to be pretty close... I didn't think it was so far…
Gareth We'll need to think of something later on, figure out an even bigger container.
It's not realistic to carry it just with water pouches.
Illa Hold on... what is this?
Are these footprints? There's other people nearby.
Gareth Footprints? What footprints?
...No... these...
These are army bootprints!
I'd recognize these sole markings anywhere. These are Ursus army boots.
What... What are Ursus soldiers doing here?
Illa What do we do...
Gareth ...Let's hurry back. Get our things in order.
We need to leave this place. These marks... they haven't gone too far, and there's at least twenty of them by these footprints.
Illa Wait! We have other options, too.
If we don't light a fire... they won't be sure to notice the cave in the gorge.
Gareth They'll find us sooner or later! Even if we don't light fires, what's the use of hiding in the cave day after day? We don't even know if they'll leave or not!
They've come to get me. I knew the colonel wouldn't let me off so easily...
Illa No! I'm not leaving!
Gareth Illa!
Illa Where would we even run to? I'm already sick of running! I joined Reunion so I could live with some semblance of self-respect at all!
This past month... life this past month has been tough, undoubtedly, but what does it matter that it's tough?
There's no taxmen, no nobles! There's prey in the forest, mossoats in the ground, all of my own!
This whole month, I've lived like a person! And not like some beast just dragging out its life!
Gareth Illa, calm down a little, listen to me.
As long as we're still alive, we can always find some place that belongs to us, and if we die, we'll have nothing at all!
Illa Don't tell me, every time we run... every time we run, we have to abandon everything that's already ours? Why should I let those wretches destroy my life again and again!?
First, my village's people... my little sister... then Sharla... the captain.
I'm not going anywhere today.
If today I die, then I'm dying in this gorge. Everything in here was our painstaking work. This is my new home.
I'm not going anywhere!
Gareth ...Illa.
Illa Stay here, Gareth. Let's fight them.
We're warriors of Reunion. We're not cowards.
Gareth You...
You're right!
These goddamned sons of bitches!
Those bastard nobles, and Colonel Lomono... damn them all... damn them all to hell!
[The Rusthammer member from earlier, who turned to have watched Gareth and Illa all along, revealed himself.]
Rusthammer Member Good! Excellent!
You finally resemble the spitting image.
Gareth !!
...It's you!
Why were you... Were you nearby the whole time?
Rusthammer Member You were to survive on the barrens for a month. All I did was check in daily to see if you were still good and going.
Gareth Forget that for now. There's Ursus nearby...
Rusthammer Member Don't get too wound up. All I'm hearing is a few paltry little annoyances.
Illa Then... have we qualified?
Rusthammer Warrior Qualified?
You're Rusthammer already, sister.
Gareth ......
Rusthammer Warrior And you. Though you came just short of your willpower crumbling, I'm very happy to see you chose the right path.
Compromise and escape are never-ending. Remember that.
Welcome, brother.
Rusthammer Member Now, as well as that, a group of idiotic prey are heading straight for the beast trap. You shouldn't miss this.
Gareth Prey? What prey?
Rusthammer Warrior They're here.
[An Ursus Army soldier showed up along with some others.]
Ursus Soldier I knew there'd be people in this gorge.
You really have given me the runabout, you know, Corporal Gareth.
Gareth ......
Ursus Soldier You shameful deserter. You even dared mingle in just to steal food supplies from the army warehouse.
Did you truly believe you could trample on the Ursus Army's dignity and then so vainly flee?
Colonel Lomono's very angry. Particularly angry. Only lopping off your head can quell his fury now.
Time to pay for your crimes, you Infected scum...
Rusthammer Warrior Black-clothed Ursus brutes... twenty-four of them.
Ursus Soldier Heh, I see you're quite merry with these flesh-tearing savages! Surely you don't think a couple of barrenland natives can save your lowly lives?
Now kneel and off yourself. I can promise you a death in one piece.
Snipers, ready...
The masked Rusthammer warrior uses the weapon in his clutch to beat the ground.
One sound.
Two sounds.
In the next second, the entire ravine echoes with an ear-piercing pounding, chaotic yet resounding clear.
Battle-cries, roars, together with a chilled gust that blows through the ravine, like the great land itself has let out a primeval scream.
At this instant, Gareth sees it.
Upon the cliffs and ledges of the gorge's two sides stand wild warriors, packed together.
Their clothing ragged, adorned in worn metal forged into crude armor.
Their postures twisted, grasping simple but fearsomely shaped weapons.
Ursus Soldier C... Captain! H...
How... How many is this???
Ursus Soldier H-How could this be?! What about the sentinel? Where did the sentinel go?!
Rusthammer Warrior If you're looking for your "sentinel," then right here.
Ursus Soldier These... helmets... weapons, how could you possibly...
Rusthammer Warrior My brother and sister, welcome to the wastelands. This is your first hunt since joining the Rusthammers.
Illa I'm glad of the chance to join you in battle.
Rusthammer Warrior Battle?
Sister, we never "battle."
As more and more Rusthammer warriors show themselves, the Ursus soldiers are stunned, not daring to make a move. When they begin to speak, all the twenty-four can do is stand there silently.
Rusthammer Warrior They–the so-called "countries" and "civilizations–display, from the root, their evil. Their colossal nomadic cities, their ugly steel creations, their metal fetters and cells cast from malice, are the sinister proof of their sin.
They have stolen everything. They have plundered this world's minerals, seized its water and land, and taken it all for their own.
–Destroy! Destroy! Destroy! Destroy! Destroy!–
The chaotic yet resounding metal pounding echoes through the whole gorge.
They shout, strike the earth with the handles of their weapons, the collision of metal and rock as if thunder rolling through the dark.
–Destroy! Destroy! Destroy! Destroy! Destroy!–
Ursus Soldier Have no fear! They're just a bunch of lunatics!
Get into formation! P... Prepare for battle!
Rusthammer Warrior They tremble. They fear us. We destroy. We hunt.
Cast away the fetters of civilization. We will never be weak again.
Catastrophes sweep the wastelands...
Rusthammer Warriors Rusthammers smash the world!