Sun Tzu in Valhalla!

                Within the Kuan Ti Territories many old rivalries exist in Valhalla much as they did in the world before. Sometimes these old enemies are replaced with new foes. Occasionally ancient rivals will even unite in a common cause against some greater foe. It is a scene that plays out over and over again across the face of Valhalla.

                Within the Chou Principalities, a number of small kingdoms coexist. Though in the world before Valhalla these kingdoms fell into war, the horror and tears of that war have not continued here. Instead the small nations have found a way to retain peace.

               To the north, the Mongols and the Ming Dynasty approach all-out war. This fact is destabilizing the nation. Some of the smaller nation states have begun to choose sides in the conflict. To date, the Win, Yah, Zhau and Wei have assembled small armies and marched them to aid the Ming Dynasty. Many of the other principalities have begun to marshal home-guards to defend against possible Mongol raids.

               In the midst of this turmoil a name from the past has stepped into Valhalla. Though he is a Newbie, his name is synonymous with war. The venerable Sun Tzu is alive and well among us. He has been named the General of the Wu army.

               The first rumors of his arrival were ignored, rejected out of hand as the fantasy of the desperate and hopeful. With the announcement of his generalship, however, the last doubts of his existence have been wiped away. What still remains is the debate over his intentions, and how effective he will be.

               “This is not the same world he knew,” explains Christopher Husten, a professor in Military History from Ada-Kar University. “In his past life he was used to iron age weapons. He not only didn’t know what firearms were, but couldn’t possibly conceive how they could be used in combat. Sun Tzu might have many of the key principles of combat down, but how quickly will he learn to utilize the musket and the cannon? How well can he defend against it?”

               Others, however, offer a different theory. Sean Chow of the World Free Press believes that Sun Tzu has been in Valhalla a lot longer than believed. According to his article, he first saw Sun Tzu five years ago when he was on assignment in the Kuan Ti Territories. He was in a small village in Wu when he heard a rumor that Sun Tzu had arrived in Valhalla. He managed to track the Newbie down and even snapped a series of photos as he was whisked away into the king’s palace.

               In his article, he details this occasion: “I was able to take about a roll of film before he disappeared. Unfortunately, due to the Tech Zone, only three of the photos turned out.” The three grainy photos depict a confident-looking man walking amongst a military guard.

               Not seeing the man leave the palace, Sean started asking questions. Eventually he met with a government official who laughed at the rumor and told him that the story was exaggerated. The Newbie in question was not Sun Tzu, but a simple foot-soldier who had come to Valhalla. Welcomed as a hero, the man had decided to rejoin the army and was promoted and was already en-route to his new post. Being a common enough story, Sean pursued it no further.

               Now, five years later, Sean has posted the two-day-old photo of Sun Tzu being given supreme command of the Wu Army next to his photos taken five years ago. The likeness is uncanny!

               It is unclear what this means, if the allegations are true. Ostensibly, it means that Sun Tzu has spent the last five years learning about Valhalla. That would be more than enough time to travel the world and learn not only about modern weaponry and their uses and limitations, but also how tactics have changed over the years. With such information, a military genius like Sun Tzu could easily develop plans and contingencies to create a truly effective army.

               Even if Sun Tzu just arrived in Valhalla, the effects of his presence have sent shockwaves around the globe. The people of Wu have started leaving their homes to join the army, every one of them wanting to fight for the famous general. The King of Wu has called for mercenary forces to assemble as well. The Adventurer’s Guild is rife with offers to join a division of soldiers under Sun Tzu’s command.

               What will eventually be done with this army is not quite so clear. To date the Wu Principality has been reluctant to get involved with the Mongol-Ming conflict. It is unlikely that the arrival of a single general would alter that political stance. On the other hand, having a powerful army often leads to the overwhelming desire to use it. Some have suggested that such an army could threaten the other Principalities in the alliance. Others believe that the news might entice the Mongols to perform a pre-emptive strike before the Wu army can be fully formed.

               Whatever eventually happens, it is clear that Sun Tzu’s arrival will continue to arouse speculation and interest throughout Valhalla. How Sun Tzu eventually performs in battle could pave the way for new strategies and tactics, or we could be witness to the fall of greatness.

Scientists to Probe Southern Mists

                Today the well-known philanthropist Jackson Antwerp announced the launching of two ships charged with unraveling one of the biggest mysteries in Valhalla. The “Anabel” and the “Argos” launched from their home port in Megalopolis with a mandate to explore the Southern Mists.

               A variety of well-known organizations have partnered to make this journey possible. Included in this group are the Ada-Kar Institute of Magick, Divine Technology Associates, Washington University, and the Adventurer’s Guild. Jackson Antwerp was also pleased to announce that in a last-minute decision, a Gorgonian envoy has joined the project.

                The Southern Mists have long been a source of mystery for the citizens of Valhalla. The ever-present, ever-shifting wall of fog that surrounds the southern pole has filled the world with speculation and legend. In fact, it ranked second on the list of questions that scientists would like answered (only trailing behind “why do people come to Valhalla?”).

                Theories of what lays within the Mists are spoken of in whispers and with wild speculation by scientists and laymen alike. The Mists have been called a porthole to other worlds as well as a gateway to damnation. Many people that have voyaged into them have simply never returned. Lost at sea or swallowed up by a wrinkle in time and space, their fate will probably never be known.

               There are also those that claim to have crossed into the mists with harrowing tales of strange lands filled with stranger beasts. There are tales of beings that live only in two dimensions, demons that practice non-Euclidean geometry, and bridges that pierce the sky and lead to the stars. Many of these tales have been disproved as hoaxes, while others have been chalked up to the inane ramblings of schizophrenic minds.

               We do know that some creatures, and even people, have broached the Mists and have come into Valhalla from some other realm. The creature that nearly sank the USS Lawrence Mason last year was reported to have emerged from the Mists. Besides such creatures, however, we know that a number of people have traveled here from the human realm, the most famous being Amelia Earhart.

               Could the Mists be a direct conduit between the worlds? Jackson Antwerp plans to find out.

               “We hope that the scientific study of the mists and the areas surrounding them will give us our first clue,” say Mr. Antwerp from the comfort of his Megalopolis office tower. “Next month we will dispatch our forces for the first phase of the investigation.”

                Specifically, two vessels will be launched with a seasoned crew, a team of top scientists, and a hand-picked group of adventurers to serve as protection. The ships, of course, harbor both sails and engines due to the constantly shifting tech zones that have been reported so close to the mists. Likewise, scientific equipment ranging from high-tech radar and electromagnetic sensors to primitive barometers and sextants will be present. Perhaps most important are the buoys rigged with a variety of instruments that will collect data remotely.

                “With this information we hope to track the outer extent of the Southern Mists. With luck, we might even be able to locate its center.” Mr. Antwerp explains. “In truth, any details we can glean from the voyage will only spark more questions. At present we know virtually nothing about how this phenomenon works!”

                Phase two will require the use of drones to explore further into the mists. “We will determine exactly where the Event Horizon lies. Does it shift? Is it possible to return from it if the drone is tethered to a ship safely outside of the zone? Do its effects differ if you are in the air, in the sea, or beneath the ocean’s surface? Can radio waves or photon communicators break through the mists to report back to the scientists? These are all questions that have never been answered. They soon will be!”

                In Phase three a team of volunteer scientists and adventurers will push the boundaries of our world (and perhaps sanity) to voyage into the mists themselves. Though planned as a short-term mission lasting no more than an hour, the crew must know that there is a distinct possibility of never returning. As such they will be outfitted for a journey lasting up to five years.

               Such a journey is, however, far into the future. The project is only funded through the first phase of the operation. It is believed that the knowledge and techniques gleaned from the first phase will raise the required funds for the second phase. Likewise, success there will make the final phase a possibility.