Valkyria Chronicles: Journey into the Darkness
Chapter 1: Descent
August 23, 1935
Following the success in Fouzen, Squad 7 of the Gallian militia was sent to the Northern coast in order to take back the country's primary industrial region. For that matter, the first objective was to take back Marberry Shore. Because of narrow paths along the coast and heavily fortified cliff faces on the beaches, a frontal assault by any force was thought to be impossible. However, the solution to the problem came from one of the youngest and yet the most ingenious member of the squad, Isara Gunther. Indeed, 16-year-old Isara made enough smoke bombs to cover the advance of her squadmates past the 2 pillboxes defending the entry point towards the enemy camp. From there, the Edelweiss tank and Squad 7's soldiers managed to take down all enemy forces and take control of the area.
However, the aftermath of this battle was also the end for Isara when the sound of a single gunshot suddenly pierced the calm and Isara fell to the ground as the bullet hit straight to her chest. Rosie was paralyzed and in utter shock as she watched her newest friend fall to the ground. Meanwhile, her squadmates took cover as a small group of Imperial soldiers started firing towards the Squad 7 members. Welkin managed to see for a split second the face of the enemy soldier who fired the first shot.
After a brief firefight, the very few Imperial soldiers left ran away from the skirmish to the dismay of Largo. Once the firefight stopped, Welkin, Alicia, Largo and Zaka joined Rosie in trying to comfort Isara.
"Isara!" Alicia shouted in despair.
"Isara... no..." Welkin said. He was visibly crushed by what just happened.
"Sorry... your dream... I wanted... I so wanted... to make it real... just for you, Welks." Isara replied as her voice was getting weaker.
"My dream? What do you mean?"
"Before... you told you wanted to... to fly... remember? You wanted... wings... so we could... see the... the sky together."
Welkin clenched his teeth in despair as he remembered his old dream and remained speechless for a few seconds. "We will. We'll go flying real soon, Is. I promise."
Upon Welkin's last words, Isara smiled one last time before she closed her eyes and died peacefully in Welkin's arms. Alicia, Rosie, Largo and Zaka then understood that their squad's beloved little sister was lost. For Welkin, it was a crushing blow although he didn't want to show it as the squad's leader and no one expected what was about to happen next.
Later in the evening, Welkin already returned into his tent since a few hours earlier. He explicitly ordered to be left alone that no one would come to disturb him unless there was a matter of life and death. He was still in utter shock and massive disbelief that his sister, the only family that was left for him, was now gone. As much as he tried to keep his composure as the coolheaded and cerebral person he always was for the sake of the men and women serving under his orders, the grief and pain became overwhelming for him.
Suddenly, Welkin let his emotions get the better of him for a rare moment and started pushing and throwing his stuff on the ground in anger. "GOD, DAMN YOU! WHY DIDN'T YOU TAKE ME INSTEAD OF HER? WHY? DAMN YOU!" he shouted and the members of Squad 7 outside could hear their commander. They didn't think less of him at all, on the contrary. The men and women of Squad 7 were first and foremost civilian volunteers; they knew the pain of losing someone or something close to each of them because of the war. They were only hoping Welkin would find a way to go through the mourning process.
As Welkin stopped, an unexpected memory came across his mind.
*Flashback scene, 2 years ago.*
"It's about removing the scalp either from a dead body or a living person as written in this book. The initial purpose was to show each scalp as a trophy in battle, but it also became linked with business trade in some cultures. Back in the ancient times and until the last century, they say that Darcsens were unfortunately the target of numerous scalping acts across Europa as people who hate Darcsens used scalps to count how many they killed."
"That's horrible. When was the last time something like this happened in recent memory?" Welkin replied.
"I heard that some Imperial paramilitary Death Squads were sent into Gallian villages during the First Europan War. They apparently performed mass executions of Darcsen civilians during the first weeks of the war, and then scalped the dead bodies after torturing, raping and killing them."
"Tell me that the ones responsible for such horror have been brought to justice, Faldio."
"Unfortunately, no one was ever court-martialled mainly because the bodies were burned. With only testimonials from survivors, we could never gather enough evidence to convict them for war crimes."
"I hope no other Darcsen will ever have to suffer such horrible fate. They are innocent people as far as I can remember about them."
*Flashback scene off*
Suddenly, Welkin had an idea growing in his mind. Although he never revealed it to anyone, Welkin felt a burning desire for revenge growing ever stronger within him since Isara was killed by Imperials who then ran away earlier in the day. Now that the thought of scalping re-surfaced in his mind, he knew exactly what he wanted to do next. 'If I have to make them pay for their crimes, I'll do something that will scar their minds forever as the payback they deserve.' Welkin thought to himself.
At the time, voices were heard outside discussing about the Imperial forces that retreated away from Marberry Shore. "Do we have any news about where the cowards are hiding, Aika?"
"From what I know, they must be around 12 kilometres in the woods east from here. I also heard those guys were also part of Darcsen hunting squads, Vyse. That's what Zaka told me; he saw the unit markings on their uniforms."
"That's really awful. I won't show them any mercy if I face them later on."
"Neither will I, Vyse. They will pay for Isara and the others."
Upon those words he just heard from the conversation, Welkin got what he needed to know. He took a knife and slightly cut the palm of his left hand for blood to flow out. Then, he took the blood from his left hand and started "painting" his face red. Once ready, Welkin took a rifle, a knife and a hatchet as his weapons. But he also made sure to leave his Gallian officer's coat behind for this personal mission.
Welkin sneaked out of his tent silently and moved to the horse stables which belonged to the Imperials earlier. Without being spotted, Welkin took a horse and rode quietly towards the woods. A very short time later, Alicia walked by the stables before she spotted the rider approaching the tree line in distance and going towards the woods. Welkin turned to have one last look backwards and saw that he wasn't being followed at all; however, Alicia managed to recognize Welkin's face in distance.
As the Gallian lieutenant disappeared into the woods with the horse, Alicia was still in shock at the sight of Welkin with his face painted with blood and going alone towards the East.
At 12 kilometres to the East, 15 Imperial soldiers were taking a rest around a small campfire after retreating away from their positions in Marberry Shore. They set up a perimeter with a few soldiers guarding the perimeter for the night. On the West side of the perimeter, 2 Imperial soldiers were having a smoke when Welkin was slowly approaching them from behind. After spending a few minutes studying the area and the exact location of all Imperial soldiers, Welkin quickly dashed forward towards the 2 guards, slit the throat of the first one with the knife before stabbing the other guard straight to the heart. The action was so quick that neither of the 2 Imperial soldiers could let out a scream to warn their colleagues.
Knowing that another pair of soldiers was protecting the perimeter, Welkin moved swiftly towards them and managed to sneak in position behind them, waiting for the right moment. Less than a minute later, Welkin jumped ahead and slit both guards' throats. At the same time, one of the sleeping Imperial soldiers just woke up, but he was unaware of the danger lurking in the area. Having spotted the awaking enemy, Welkin waited his prey to isolate himself away from the rest of the group. Slowly, the Gallian lieutenant prowled through the woods waiting for the right moment to attack the lone soldier who was moving towards the area where the 2 guards were guarding the Western part of the perimeter.
"Lukas? Sven?" the Imperial soldier asked for the 2 guards' whereabouts.
When the soldier arrived in the area, there was nobody there. Suddenly, the soldier felt something hitting his feet after walking a few steps further. When the Imperial soldier looked to the ground with some help from the moonlight shedding some light upon the land, he saw the dead bodies of his squadmates on the ground. Terrified by the sight before him, the soldier drew his handgun out of his holster ready to shoot at anyone unknown to him. However, that was underestimating Welkin's ability to use nature on his side and it only took a split second for Welkin to stab the enemy soldier to the heart from behind. However, the dying Imperial soldier had the time to pull the trigger and the resulting gunshot sound got all 10 remaining Imperial soldiers waking up.
"What the hell was that?" the Imperial sergeant and squad leader asked.
"Sounded like a gunshot, Sergeant. Franz's not here. There's nothing from Lukas, Sven, Tim or Miroslav either."
"All right, defend the perimeter. First unknown is a dead one."
Despite the unexpected noise resulting of his last kill, Welkin took advantage of the enemy's confusion to identify the enemy squad's leader. While the Imperials were taking position around the campfire, Welkin was taking advantage of the darkness of the night, the trees and bushes as cover for his next move. After waiting a couple of minutes and leaving the Imperial soldiers into a growing anxiety, Welkin aimed his rifle towards the Imperial sergeant and killed the latter with a straight headshot.
"The Sergeant's down!" one of the soldiers said.
"Where did that come from?" another soldier asked.
Meanwhile, Welkin moved quickly to another position before taking aim again. This time, the Gallian lieutenant shot a corporal and a soldier dead in quick succession. Then, the other Imperial soldiers started firing towards the shooter's position. However, Welkin was already moving to the next spot with a good view on the enemy's vulnerable position.
"Did you see someone, Peter?"
"No, I can't see a thing."
Before anyone could react among the Imperials, Welkin kept on moving and firing one shot at the time. After killing 3 more enemies with the same hit-and-run tactic, Welkin's rifle was out of ammo. Instead of reloading his rifle, Welkin decided to proceed with close quarters combat knowing that there were only 4 enemies left; all of them were expecting him to show up from mid-range or further.
With the speed of a demon, Welkin emerged out of the darkness, charged towards the 4-man group and knocked the first soldier down with a clothesline hit. Then, the Gallian lieutenant used his hatchet to knock another soldier's rifle aside. In that last action, a gunshot was fired and accidentally hit a third Imperial soldier to the stomach. Quickly, Welkin unleashed a quick combo of hatchet slashes and knife cuts to the stomach and back of the enemy soldier before finishing off with a hatchet strike to the head. In a desperate move, the fourth and last soldier of the group tried to swing his rifle's buttstock at Welkin's head. However, Welkin was agile enough to avoid the hit, knock the rifle off the Imperial's soldier's hands, use the rifle to knock the soldier away and finally jump on the disarmed enemy. Immediately, Welkin finished off the soldier with a knife stab straight to the neck.
As the soldier who got stunned by the Gallian lieutenant's clothesline hit earlier tried to get up, he was immediately spotted and then struck by another deadly hatchet hit. Welkin then looked around him for more hostiles, there was no one left standing and only one soldier desperately crawling away from the campfire after sustaining a gunshot wound to the stomach.
"Show your face, Imperial!" Welkin ordered with anger in his voice to the wounded soldier crawling a few meters away.
When the wounded crawling soldier turned to face Welkin, the latter was shocked to see that the soldier before him was the same one he spotted earlier in the day. The wounded soldier's face was lit by the campfire; he was the same one who fired the bullet that killed Isara. The soldier looked to be barely 18 years of age.
"Have mercy on me, PLEASE!" the Imperial soldier begged.
"Mercy? Why should I? You took the life of someone dear to me earlier today. You killed innocent Darcsen civilians in Fouzen; women and children. I know about your affiliated squad... Darcsen hunter." Welkin replied.
"We had... orders to do it. And besides, everyone... hates Darcsens in Europa, even in Gallia. I was doing... a favour for everyone."
"Really? Then, I'll do you the favour of giving you THIS!"
Without hesitation, Welkin channelled all of his anger and thirst for vengeance by throwing the hatchet at the young Imperial soldier's head before Welkin went on to strike the downed soldier multiple times with the hatchet. At the same time, the lieutenant let out an animalistic cry, venting his anger. Knowing that all enemies were now dead, Welkin then proceeded to push the young soldier's helmet away and started using his knife to scalp his last prey. Later in the night, Welkin scalped all of the other 14 Imperial soldiers just as Europan warriors of old did, but Darcsen hunters were the victims this time.
August 24, 1935
Early in the following morning, members of Squad 7 were already awake as they usually do for every morning. Some of them were taking their breakfast; others were reading the reports written by Irene Ellet for the newspapers. At the time, none of them bar a few people were aware of Welkin's disappearance and no one was prepared for what they were about to see.
"My God... Oscar, Jane, look behind you!" Emile Bielert said to his brother and Jane Turner.
Behind them was Welkin riding slowly on his horse out of the woods towards the camp; he was covered in dust and blood. Hanging all over his upper body were the scalps of the 15 Imperial soldiers he killed in the night. All the members of Squad 7 turned their sights in Welkin's direction while the latter was looking at no one in particular on his way. His eyes were almost empty.
"What the...?" Oscar asked as he watched in horror the sight before him.
"I thought I saw so many horrible things already, but that..." Jane couldn't find her words either.
"Welkin did that?" Edy asked.
"Looks like it." Lynn replied.
As Welkin made his way through the members of his squad, many of them were in utter shock horror to see their commanding officer, normally a very cerebral and coolheaded man, exhibiting the proof of his barbaric actions. A few sensible hearts couldn't take much of the horrible sight, especially Susie Evans who hated blood and violence more than anyone. "I think I'm gonna puke." Susie said before running away quickly.
"Please don't look, Aisha!" Catherine O'Hara said as she, Karl Landzaat and Lynn quickly moved in to prevent young Aisha Neumann from having a look at such a horrible sight.
Having seen the other soldiers gathering, Alicia, Largo, Rosie and Zaka ran to see the reason behind the gathering. As soon as they saw Welkin, the same reaction of horror struck the depths of their minds. "Wel... Welkin?" Alicia asked in disbelief. The lieutenant didn't answer.
"He followed the path of vengeance. Isara's death must have broken him more than we expected." Zaka said.
"Poor Welkin... Isara, please watch over him. We can't afford to lose him now." Rosie said.
"What's going on here? Why is there a fuss?" Captain Eleanor Varrot asked as she and Faldio pushed their way through some of the Squad 7 members.
"Elle... You won't like it if you see what I see." Largo replied.
Captain Varrot and Faldio then saw Welkin on his horse, with all the scalps hanging over his upper body. The 2 officers realized that Welkin already went for a bloody revenge against the remnants of the enemy garrison at Marberry Shore, the ones who killed Isara and who once were deployed in Fouzen. Everyone who knew enough about Isara was already shocked by her death, but the last thing anyone expected was a coolheaded man like Welkin to be such a mess showing off the scalps of 15 Imperial soldiers. Once arrived by his tent, Welkin got off his horse and carried the scalps inside before secluding himself alone inside the tent.
"What is going to happen now?" Largo asked.
"I don't know, but I hope he's not a lost cause already. For now, I have to make sure General Damon doesn't know anything about the responsible of this savage act." Eleanor replied.
Some time later, Faldio decided to talk to Welkin, try understanding what happened and why. Welkin was sitting alone in his tent, fixing nothing in particular and the bloodied scalps were hanged everywhere inside the tent.
"Welkin! It's me, Faldio! Are you okay? Talk to me, Welkin."
However, Welkin remained silent and nothing seemed able to get through his shell.
To be continued