When the Amakna Gazette started running with what it called "the Zaap mystery" on its front page, the Assistant Director of the Office of Frankly Bizarre Affairs, Retlaw Renniks, called his two agents into his office. It was time he took a closer interest in these temporal anomalies…

Office of the Assistant Director for Frankly Bizarre Affairs

8:01 a.m.

Fax Mystheur and Nada Skelet stood in the middle of the room. Renniks's glasses reflected the pages darkened by all the notes and information that the two FBA agents had collected since they started their investigation. He licked his index finger and turned to the next page in the notebook.

"Sit," he said with a neutral tone.

Mystheur and Skelet obeyed and took their places in the chairs across from their director's desk. They looked at each other. It was hard to tell what their boss was thinking at that very moment. In the heavy silence, and without looking up from the case file, he grabbed a newspaper and pointed to the front page headline. It read: "The Zaap Mystery: Are We in Danger?"

After a few long seconds punctuated only by the sound of Renniks turning a page, Agent Fax started speaking:

"It's a good article! It does a decent job summarizing what's been happening around the portals in recent weeks: anonymous witness statements, descriptions of visions and other hallucinations, theories, and so on… Obviously, it's a bit short on concrete details, but overall I'd say it's… What?"

Agent Skelet was giving him the side eye. She was staring so intensely that he could almost hear her saying, "Zip it, Fax!"

"What Agent Mystheur's trying to say is that the press doesn't have any real knowledge of the facts and it's very hard for them to understand what's going on…"

"And you, Agent Skelet?" interrupted Renniks. "Do you have any 'real knowledge of the facts'? Do you understand 'what's going on'?"

The redheaded Sram took a few seconds to reply – his questions had sounded like a veiled rebuke or trick question, and she knew something about those! The Xelor started talking:

"We interviewed a key witness who gave us more information about the inscriptions on the Zaap in Sufokia Bay and…"

"Yes, I read your report, Agent Mystheur. A key witness that got away, right? Even though that very same witness is our prime suspect, at least for the vandalism to the portal. We are talking about that very same witness, correct?"

Fax turned toward his partner, covered his mouth so his boss couldn't read his lips, and whispered:

"Warning! Minefield ahead! It's a trap, Skelet! Toss a smoke bomb and let's get outta here!"

The assistant director's chair scraped loudly on the floor as he stood abruptly.

"Me too, Agent Mystheur, I'd like to be somewhere else, too. But when I'm done with you, I have to go upstairs and convince my superiors that this department is of some use and I don't have much of anything to give them at the moment…"

"This 'department' has gathered evidence," said Nada, "taken witnesses' statements and found links between the events. Even the inexplicable eventually gets… explained!"

"All it takes is a little time…" asserted the Xelor.

"…and asking the right questions," continued Nada, "thinking, observing, connecting the dots, and…"

"…giving the truth a chance to reveal itself to us," finished Fax.

"I prefer 'track down and unmask the truth', but everyone's got their own method," corrected Nada.

"Agent Renniks, we've made progress on Percimol thanks to Wahn Jolsh, and Nada has, in my opinion, figured out the last clue found on the Sufokia Zaap. Remember? 'CHAMPION OF…'?"

"The last inscription, after 'JULITH', 'LEORICTUS', 'AGONY', 'DATHURA', and 'PERCIMOL'," said the redheaded Sram.

"It's most likely the CRIMSON DAWN CHAMPION!" asserted Fax, holding out the report put together by Agent Skelet.



Crimson Dawn

This event was documented by the historian and geographer Herototos (circa 425-480), seen by many as the leading historian in the World of Twelve due to the impressive volume of his writings. His approach focused more on facts, science and magic, and less on inspiration from fables and folklore. He's often called "the Grampy of History" by the Huppermages who study his writings and spread his knowledge in schools. In our time, we still rely largely on his work, which spans History from the creation of Xelor's Clock (0) to his death (circa 480).

His book, The History and Geography of Our World, devotes considerable attention to the War of the Cities between Bonta and Brakmar, in particular that war's first battle, the Crimson Dawn.

I've noted the elements evoking the presence of a Crimson Dawn Champion:


On Septangel 12 in the year 26, the dawn was cold, and light could barely penetrate the morning gloom. The Bontarian outposts, held by the Knights of the Order of the Valiant Heart, were white with the first signs of frost, the sentinels numb from the early onset of winter. They huddled around the braziers, trying in vain to warm up. The forest, whose multitude of little noises usually started rustling to life at this hour of the morning, was completely silent, but for a cry that had been heard several times during the night. At first, the sentinels had paid it no heed, but now they squinted into the distance towards its apparent source in the south – a horde of Goblins was barreling down on them! Bonta was under attack by Brakmar's armies.

While a colossal battle between the shadowy Hyrkul and the centaur Menault could shift the balance with every blow of blade or estoc, another decisive fight would take place a few kametres away. Indeed, an armada of Trools was waiting for the signal to surge out of the forest. At their head was Gghrugh, who was uncommonly, almost supernaturally cool-headed for a creature of his kind. His character had been forged in the arenas of Minh. There, he had reigned champion for many years. An eternity of fooling death, anticipating attacks, getting through defences, and never giving in to his emotions – for indeed, anger, sadness and fear were the only true enemies in any fight.

His mission was clear: destroy the White City's east flank. He was simply waiting for his master Hyrkul's waves of monsters to have meticulously pushed back the Bonta troops and assembled them in front of him. Once they were caught in a vice, all he'd have to do is set loose his horde to attack from a third side and cut them down.

When the moment was right. He raised his hand. Behind him, Trools thirsty for blood were eager to charge. A humming sounded out in the night. He clenched his fist, and the horde charged in the greatest rage. Cries of terror and then pain mixed with the Trools' sinister laughter. Gghrugh moved so rapidly that his opponents seemed to barely hinder him and his advance. With the force of his jaws and fists, he was showering deadly blows wildly around him and grabbing his opponents by the arms or legs to slam them against each other, single-handedly fraying a path straight to the gates of Bonta.

He immediately began pounding the heavy doors made of wood and forged iron. Again and again. Until they cracked. Until he was interrupted by cries of distress that, this time, seemed to come from his own side… A white tide had suddenly begun decimating his allies. The white tide consisted of ghosts of the Knights of the Order of the Valiant Heart who had fallen in combat. By what miracle? He didn't know. But once again, neither fear nor doubt invaded him. He pounded even harder on the doors to the White City. Again and again. Until the cracks broke open. Until his fists were covered in blood. Behind him, his brothers were falling under the slicing blows of that white tide, and he himself was cut repeatedly, but he continued to break down Bonta's doors.

Hyrkul sounded the retreat. Bonta was saved in the nick of time. Yet, one fighter from Brakmar had continued the battle. One of them – and only one of them – had managed to penetrate the White City. The ghosts had sliced him open, covered his body in gashes. And yet, as the sun finally broke over the horizon in a crimson dawn, Gghrugh had won his battle.

Back in Brakmar, the Trool was welcomed with full honors and worshipped as a hero for many decades. Everyone called him the "Crimson Dawn Champion".




When Assistant Director Renniks finished reading the file, he looked up and – as inscrutable as ever – opened a desk drawer and pulled out a drawing of an impressive Trool.

"According to new witness reports, this is the latest creature to appear near a Zaap…"

To be continued…

If you want to investigate this character further, check out these stories:

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