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The Choice of Matram

Author: unknown
Place/Gathering Discovered: Cold Spring, Rhiassa (What Lurks Beneath III)
Date: December 3, 1011
Transcribed by: Faelinn Shadowmoon
The Choice of Korin Matram Amid the Darkness

A1. Korin Matrim was a humble soldier of the rank and file, and a pious
worshiper of The Just God for all of her life. 2. Serving the country of
Riverbend as a pikeman in their infantry, Korin Matrim took orders well,
understood her duty to her comrades and commanders, and fought with great
faith that The Just God held her close to His heart. 3. For fourteen years
the country of Riverbend and the country of Low Meadow waged war over
rights to the fertile land between them. 4. Bitterness and hatred flowed
from the endless months of conflict, and Korin Matrim grew up knowing that
those from Low Meadow were nothing more than hated enemies. 5. She had
joined the army seventeen months before, when she was finally of age, to
fight on behalf of her beloved Riverbend and stand against what she
considered a great injustice, Low Meadow's claim to Riverbend's territory.

B6. It was but six months after she first swore her oaths as a soldier,
everything about Korin Matrim's world changed. In the very fertile land
over which so much blood was spilt, the earth was torn asunder, and from
chasms deep and dark arose a new, greater enemy. 7. Legions of foul spirits
and demonic monsters spewed from the land, greedily pushing forward from
their beachhead, driving back both the soldiers of Riverbend and Low
Meadow. 8. Korin Matrim, on the field that day, beheld with her young eyes
displays of evil and carnage that chilled her very soul and that troubled
her sleep each night afterwards.

C9. Though divination and prayer, the priests of both countries learned
that the many years of hatred and bloodshed had weakened the spiritual
strength of the land between them, and that these denizens from the
underworld exploited that vulnerability towards their own wicked purposes.
10. Faced with an enemy beyond their combined experiences and
understandings, a fast, yet uneasy alliance was forged between Riverbend
and Low Meadow. 11. Korin Matrim, taught from a young age to despise the
thieves from Low Meadow, now found herself their comrade-in-arms, standing
beside them in the rank and file, ready to face an unearthly enemy with
much more at stake than the rights to the now destroyed fertile land.

D12. The remaining soldiers of both countries were pressed together into a
single haphazard army in order to withstand a superior foe, but old hatreds
deeply forged do not simply vanish due to circumstance. Between the two,
great animosity still existed. 13. Brawls and arguments amongst the troops
were common, and the honor and trust that is necessary between comrades on
the field of war evaporated, as neither side had any faith in the other.
14. The fear of betrayal and the shadow of distrust loomed over the
battlefield as the war against the demon army stretched into weeks and into

E15. Korin Matrim saw her own unit mostly obliterated with the first
appearance of the demons, and so was placed amongst a company of pikemen
from Low Meadow. 16. She found no peace amongst her fellows, but her faith
in The Just God preserved her. 17. Korin Matrim understood that duty was
part of that faith, and though she could not overcome her hatred, she
pushed it aside in order to serve Riverbend and in order to oppose the
servants of evil that now held all of their lives under siege. 18. Still,
her life amongst the soldiers of Low Meadow was not an easy one and she
sometimes despaired. The little slights that they levied against her wore
down on her soul, in particular at mealtimes, where she was forced to be
last in the mess tent and often was left with very little food, if any,
that was not the last, burnt scrapings. 19. Korin Matrim took to saving
part of her meal every day so that on the days when there was no food left
she would still have some small rations to sustain her.

F20. The war had dragged on for the greater part of the year, and slowly,
the armies of Riverbend and Low Meadow were pushed back. Seeing the
ultimate futility of continuously giving ground, the army commanders knew
that a greater offense was required, and a bold plan to press the flanks
was decided upon. 21. The company of pikeman in which Korin Matrim found
herself was to lead that charge. One early morning, on the Northern end of
the battlefield, her company and many others stood in formation, prepared
to prove that the war they waged, a war for their very souls, was not
doomed to end in defeat. 22. As the sun peaked over the nearby mountains,
their advance began and, their initial push successful, the soldiers found
themselves in the once-fertile, now hell-scarred, land that had been the
source of all of their pain. 23. On those broken fields they fought, sword
and spear, tooth and nail. There was even a chance, then, of driving back
the hell born to where they first erupted from the ground. And then, the
earth shook.

G24. It was as if the ground fell out from underneath them. All around her
company, Korin Matrim saw flames spew forth and the ground rend open. 25.
All around her, Korin Matrim saw her allies swallowed by fire or fall
screaming into the depths. 26. Then Korin Matrim, herself, felt the sear of
demonic flame, felt herself, the ground give way beneath her, felt the
sickening pull on her stomach as she fell. Then, all was darkness.

H27. Korin Matrim awoke. There was no way of telling how much time had
past, but from the dark, dried blood on her clothing she knew it could not
have been a short while. 28. All around her was stone and darkness, but
from the faint, unnatural embers scattered about, Korin Matrim was able to
see that she was trapped beneath the earth, surrounded on all sides by the
sheer face of rocks, no sky visible through the small cracks above. 29.
Whether her prison of stone was natural or constructed Korin Matrim did now
know, but she harbored little hope for rescue in either case. A pain shot
through her arm and leg as she attempted to get up. Both were likely

I30. As her eyes adjusted to the dim light, Korin Matrim realized she was
not alone. Another soldier, a young woman, laid unconscious only a few feet
from where she sat. 31. At first Korin Matrim noticed the heraldry on the
other's tunic, the colors of Low Meadow, and a wave of hate, almost
otherworldly, came over her; it was the fault of those thieves that the war
had come to this and that she would die in this cave. 32. But as Korin
Matrim bit back on her anger, she took in the severity of the enemy
soldier's wounds. It was clear that one of her arms and both of her legs
were burnt and shattered. Her face was bloodied and the scars of flame hung
across her eyes and forehead. 33. The young lady had not stirred, but Korin
Matrim could hear her shallow breathing and knew that she still lived, for
now anyway. 34. As Korin Matrim crawled closer she recognized the girl as a
soldier from her own unit. One of the many who had caused her to go hungry
on so many nights. 35. Korin Matrim's stomach growled in response to the

J36. Korin Matrim felt her anger rising again, but knew that she must
attempt to wake this enemy soldier despite her feelings. She gave the other
soldier a gentle shake, and just barely dodged as the young lady sat up
straight, and then howled in pain. 37. After the moments of chaos and
confusion subsided, the other soldier revealed to Korin Matrim that she was
blinded and unable to move without intense suffering. 38. What is more, her
voice was dry and cracked and she strained to move her lips to talk. 39.
Korin Matrim instinctively reached for her flagon to give the enemy soldier
a drink when she was struck by the thought that she should stop.

K40. At once, inside her own head, she perceived a voice. It was at once
her own but unnatural as well, as if she was listening to someone else
speak with it, unaccustomed as to how to use it properly. 41. "What are you
doing?" it asked. "You are trapped and your only chance of surviving long
enough to escape is to stay alive long enough to do so. 42. Why share your
water? Why share your water especially with one of those despicable thieves
from Low Meadow?" 43. Korin Matrim did not understand what was happening to
her; why her own thoughts resonated so oddly within her own head, but she
could not fault her thinking.

L44. The woman beside her was a hated enemy, the source of endless years
of war, the cause of the virtual death sentence that Korin Matrim would now
have to endure. Why then share her water? 45. Surly it would be unwise,
especially since the enemy soldier's wounds would see her dead before long.
46. And as Korin Matrim realized that the voice inside her own mind was
correct in every possible sense, she lifted the mouth of the flagon to the
young woman's lips, and let her drink long and deep. 47. Deep within her
mind she heard her own voice call her a fool. 48. Deep inside her heart she
knew what choice The Just God would ask her to make by virtue of her duty,
and she abided by it.

M49. There was no daylight to ebb as twilight drew near, but Korin Matrim
knew that night must have fallen by the chill in her bones. She was glad
that within her pack she kept a small sheepskin, a gift from her father to
keep her warm while she stood guard during the winter eventide. 50. She dug
it out of her pack with her one uninjured arm and placed it around her
shoulders glad to be shielded from the damp and dreary cold that even the
unworldly embers could not drive back. 51. Shortly she heard her companion
stir once again, from the uneasy sleep that she had slipped into. 52. Korin
Matrim's fellow soldier called for her then, since she could not see, and
the shiver in her voice was grim and pitiable. 53. Korin Matrim realized
that the young woman would not make it through the night exposed to the raw
elements, and so began to remove her sheepskin to give to her companion.
54. Again, the thought struck her that she was being foolhardy and she
heard her own awkward-sounding voice echo in her mind.

N55. "Ignorant girl!" It cried. "This thief, the cause of all of your
suffering, the bane of the existence of every one you have ever loved sits
here at your mercy and you seek to coddle her. You will likely not survive
the night without the warmth of that blanket and yet you insist on giving
it up to her. 56. Why does she deserve it? She will die in either case and
depriving yourself of warmth will not stop it from happening. Guard
yourself from the cold and forsake her!" 57. Korin Matrim reflected upon
these thoughts and knew that everything that was said was the truth. As she
painfully crawled closer to the enemy soldier it was clear to her that she
was unlikely to survive the night. What difference would a little warmth
make? 59. Again the voice inside her mind spoke the truth. And again, Korin
Matrim ignored it, and braving the merciless cold about her, removed the
sheepskin from her shoulders and draped it across the body of the enemy
soldier from Low Meadow. 60. Deep within her mind she felt a surge of
great, otherworldly anger. 61. Deep within her heart she knew what choice
The Just God would ask her to make by virtue of loyalty, and she abided by

O62. Korin Matrim slept poorly that night, barely able to withstand the
damp and cold. The lack of sleep did no favors for her condition, and she
felt sick and depleted in every sense. 63. She was aware of the break of
day only by the slightest hint in the scent of the air, for around her all
was still dark. 64. Between the severity of her wounds and the wiriness
from a troubled sleep Korin Matrim labored to even sit up straight and
perceive the enemy soldier, her fellow prisoner under the earth. In doing
so she could tell that the young woman still lived and so her sacrifice was
not in vain.

P65. Presently, Korin Matrim felt a sharp pain in her stomach and knew
that she needed food. From her pack, she extracted her most precious
treasure. The small bundle of food that she had saved from the mess tent to
sustain her when she was denied her supper. 66. She dug out her spoon and
eagerly began to partake of the humble, but much welcome meal. After only a
moment she heard her companion stir and again call out to her, this time in
a weak and faltering voice. 67. She asked Korin Matrim if it was truly food
that she smelt, and admitted that her hunger was so great that she should
think of little else. 68. Korin Matrim, overcoming great pain and
exhaustion, crawled over to the young woman and drew a spoonful of food
over towards her mouth. 69. In that moment she felt almost overwhelmed by a
fury that was not hers own as the voice in her head boomed loudly.

Q70. "Fool! Simpleton!" it bellowed. "This pitiful girl is your enemy! She
is a villain of the worst ilk! She has hated you and everything that you
hold dear from the very moment she was born. She has robbed from the very
mouths of your family and killed your kinsmen contentedly in battle. 71.
And now you seek to offer her the last morsels of your precious food
despite the fact that meal after meal her and her fellows have denied you
the same? 72. She is mangled, burned, moments from death, and nothing you
do will make a difference. Keep your food for yourself. She has not for
even a moment shown that she is deserving of it!"

R73. A great weakness overcame Korin Matrim and she fell to the ground,
her spoon clattering across the floor. Her body was seized by pain, she
felt dizzy from the untreated wounds and the loss of blood. 74. As she lay
still, summoning the strength of spirit to rise again, she could not help
but admit that the voice that echoed in her mind was correct. 75. This
woman was, in the end, her enemy. She was one of the thieves of Low Meadow.
The tip of her pike had spilled the blood of Riverbend's soldiers. 76. She
had treated Korin Matrim with nothing but disdain and dishonor even when
pressed together in the same cause. 77. She could not summon forth a single
good reason to offer the young woman a single bite of her meal. 78. Yet her
dedication to The Just God was true, and Korin Matrim understood that to
follow His way was to choose honor, even amid the darkness where no one
would see.

S79. With no small effort, Korin Matrim pushed herself to her knees with
her unbroken arm. In a slow, methodical crawl across the floor she
retrieved her fallen spoon, and, summoning what remained of her endurance
she dragged herself back to where the soldier from Low Meadow lay. 80.
There was precious little of the food remaining, hardly a single mouthful,
yet Korin Matrim longed for it as if it was the greatest banquets ever set
out for man or god. 81. Still, she was resolved to her course of action.
82. She lifted her spoon to the mouth of the young woman who was at once
her enemy and her ally, and raised her chin so that she could eat.

T83. The moment the food passed the lips of the enemy soldier, Korin
Matrim's mind became ablaze with flame, the weight of the anger that
assailed her forced her again to the ground, darkened her sight, and left
her gasping for breath. 84. The voice returned, no longer speaking in Korin
Matrim's own voice, but one dripping with malice and hatred, demonic and
foul. 85. "Useless girl" it said. "I had hope to draw strength from your
hatred, to squeeze from you the last vestiges of rage and terror in your
soul. But you have bean a meager, disappointing feast. 86. I am done with
you now and your death is all that remains."

U87. Korin Matrim no longer had any strength left to resist. The pain in
her arm and leg was replaced with numbness and a great cold began to creep
through her body. 88. Yet she felt no fear. For in revealing himself and
his purpose the demon had unwittingly given her peace. 89. Korin Matrim
realized that, through her love for The Just God, she had achieved a
victory greater than any she had ever won on the field of war. 90. She had
held true to her faith, even in the midst of temptation and misery. 91. As
the last vestiges of life ebbed from her body, Korin Matrim felt the
presence of The Just God within her, and as she closed her eyes for the
final time, resounding within her mind was no demonic presence, no
otherworldly voice. 92. Only the countenance of The Just God and the
promise of her eternal reward at His side.
Created by Faelinn Shadowmoon (Leanne Micciche) at 12-09-11 10:01 AM
Last Modified by Aeston Stromgate (Jason Rosa) at 12-20-11 01:56 PM