By Gudrun, Conservation Editor for The Arendelle Guardian
ARENDELLE; NORTHULDRA – The Russian Empire has been cut off from invading Arendelle by sea with the sinking of the Baltic Fleet. However, Anna has little time to prepare as Katina Romanov prepares the next stage of her assault. This month, it’s an invasion by land – a direct strike on the ancient forest of Northuldra. If successful, it will open a southern route to Arendelle that Anna can’t stop with her current forces.
The general leading this second phase is Grand Duke Nykras, who has taken over the invasion after fellow Grand Duke Yaraslaf’s death at Elsa’s hands. Nykras is an ancient being called a lich, a living corpse held together by black magic. The Arendellian High Command has credible reports from the Northuldra warrior Amira (who nearly faced down Nykras in a showdown on the Russo-Arendellian border) that he can open portals from his netherworld home at will. Honeymaren and Yelena suspect that he plans to overlay his dimension of undead warriors and corrupting magic directly into the forest, bypassing any need for Russian transportation.
The overlay will be devastating to the pristine flora and fauna of the forest, while the undead armies are a terrifying threat to the peace-loving tribe that has known no war except a skirmish with King Runeard’s troops thirty-five years ago. Finally, Nykras’ black magic could be devastating against the nature spirits that guided Elsa to her destiny as the Fifth Spirit.
From what we know of the intel from spies in Saint Petersburg (Arendelle’s espionage capabilities have been severely kneecapped since the death of Sergeant Severin), Nykras was once a common soldier in a long-forgotten Russian principality. He was on the frontlines of defending the Kievan Rus’ against the Mongol horde in the 1238. Slain in battle, he was somehow offered an infernal bargain of immortality by the boyar family that would eventually become the House of Romanov. These boyars that came to rule over Moscow were vassals to the Mongols, but eventually rose up against their overlords and expanded their rule over the entirety of Russia, expanding further across Eurasia. The title of “Grand Duke” comes from this genealogy of Russian nobles, with future Romanovs abandoning the title for grander ones like “tsar” and even “emperor.” Aiding the wars waged by the Romanovs was Nykras himself, who relished wreaking revenge against the empire that killed him. But his vengeance remains long after the Mongol Empire’s end, and Katina is now directing it against our kingdom.
Given the grave threat to Northuldra and the ramifications of Arendelle, Maren, Yelena, Ryder, and Amira have been hard at work turning the forest into a minefield of nature-friendly booby traps. Over the last few months, Yelena has marshalled every man and woman of fighting age to train with Amira the hunter, whose superb tracking and martial skills are worth over a dozen skilled soldiers. Northuldra is the tribe’s home ground, so Maren and Yelena intend to make sure that Nykras suffers for every inch of forest territory that he tries to take.
Finally, the spirits themselves are being called in to assist in this colossal struggle, with Northuldra elders singing and recounting old myths around night campfires to attract the sympathy of the Nokk, Bruni, the Earth Giants, and Gale. The elemental forces have responded positively: even though they have little time for worldly politics, they recognize the threat that Nykras poses to their home. Their awe-inspiring power and control over Northuldra’s magic will be critical to the defenders. They also have an additional incentive to stop Nykras: should the lich open a portal into the ancient magical river of Ahtohallan, he’ll likely attempt to seize its power, the result of which is almost unbearable to imagine.
Anna released a press statement intended to rally Arendellians and Northuldra alike, declaring that the Northuldra were part of Arendelle and vice versa. “I only regret that our forces in Arendelle are devastated and won’t be able to help Maren much. Northuldra will be a critical strategic holdout for us this month, and I know with every fibre of my being that Maren will defeat Nykras,” said the queen.
The tribe is ready, and Maren and Amira stand ready to resist the nether overlay that will herald Nykras’ arrival. The strategy for this deadly, large-scale battle for the forest will be quite simple: to hold out grimly, fighting off Nykras and surviving his corrupting dark magic. There will come an opportunity to deal a fatal blow to the Grand Duke. Whether the tribe’s leaders can do so before the entire forest rots and the spirits die is another question.