The Ancestral Trail is an old magazine series published by Marshal Cavendish over a period from 1992-3. Written by Frank Graves and illustrated by Julek and Adam Heller (with computer-generated graphics in the second half by Mehau Kulyk), it tells the story of a boy called Richard who is suddenly plucked from his home world and into a new place, known as the Ancestral World. There, he learns from an old man named Golan that he is The Chosen One, appointed to save this world from a great evil being known simply as The Evil One. Said Evil One has already conquered the Ancestral World by stealing six pods from the Tree Of Life and imprisoning six Guardians (more on that later).
Richard, meanwhile, has two different coloured eyes, one green and one grey. The green eye sees only good; the grey eye sees only evil. Joined by a pig-man called Orkan, and a dwarf called Melek, Richard embarks on a quest to recover the pods, reinstate the guardians, and rally the forces of the Ancestral World together for the final battle, all within 26 days!
However, after the final battle is won, instead of returning home, Richard is catapulted into a new adventure in the deadly Cyber Dimension, a world where machines rule and carbon-based organisms cannot survive. Placing his trust in a small robot called Robo (no, really) he faces a desperate struggle to find a way back, while constantly on the lookout for the servants of the supreme overlord of the Cyber Dimension - The Evil One.
The Ancestral Trail is split into two halves, of 26 issues each, making a total of 52 issues. The first half takes place in the aforementioned Ancestral World, and describes Richard's struggle to restore good to the world. The second half takes place in the Cyber Dimension, and is about Richard's attempt to find a way back to his own world. It is in this second half that The Evil One is finally defeated.
Bestiaries and Political Structures
Seven races - Landsmen, Insects, Reptiles, Birds, Fish, Mythical Beasts, and Common Beasts, populate the Ancestral World. A Guardian represents each of these, and these Guardians form a council that rules from the Ancestral City, at the centre of the Ancestral World. Each Guardian has a pod representing his/her life force, and these pods hang from the great Tree of Life at the exact centre of the world1. Each pod also represents a quality in an individual, such as goodness, wisdom, etc. The person who finds them will take on that quality; for example, when Richard finds the pod of endurance, he is able to withstand high temperatures. Richard's main objective is to recover all the pods.
When The Evil One came to the Ancestral World, he mutated and enslaved many of its people and created various monsters of his own design. These include Tolosh, little hairy creatures who make piranhas look tame, and Scorpionmen, deadly guardians of Sand City. He also created a large number of unique monsters to guard the pods and the Guardians. These included a giant, a three-headed cobra, an evil genie, and a terrifying dragon demon2. The Evil One's most common creatures are Cozards (like orcs, but more intelligent) and killer bees.
There is little political system to speak of in the Cyber Dimension, The Evil One is in overall charge and uses his dark robots to enforce his rule. There are also peaceful, silicon based organisms called Wigmats, who are persecuted by the evil machines. They help Richard on his quest.
In the Cyber Dimension, Richard must recover seven 'Omni Pieces', little glowing metal shapes which, when brought together at just the right place, open doors to other dimensions. While Richard is in the Cyber Dimension, his power is slowly being drained by The Evil One. This is so he may become human in order to pass through to Richard's dimension and take over the Earth. The Evil One's plan is his own downfall, through draining Richard's power he becomes mortal, and can therefore be killed as easily as any human.
Richard - the reluctant Chosen One, destined to save the Ancestral World from evil, but he really just wants to go home. His green eye sees the good side of life; his grey eye sees evil.
Orkan - a battle-hardened common beast with the head of a pig and the body of a man, who becomes the Guardian of common beasts at the end of the first half.
Melek - a dwarf who was once a scribe before The Evil One came, Melek stole The Book of Prophecies from the great library and knows a lot about the monsters our heroes encounter.
Golan - the Guardian of Landsmen who pulls Richard into this situation, and is also leader of the Guardians.
The Evil One - pretty self-explanatory really, rules the Cyber dimension and wants to rule the Ancestral World and Earth.
Robo - a small robot who helps Richard out in the Cyber Dimension. He is programmed to eliminate Richard if he collects all Omni Pieces, but the friendship he and Richard forge through their adventures allows Robo to override his own programming. Hates Teeza.
Teeza - leader of the Wigmats, who joins Richard an his quest after he defeats a particularly nasty machine called Galaxia, who eats Wigmats.
The Book of Prophecies
According to the story, Melek swiped this huge book from the great Library in the Ancestral City just before it was overrun by evil. Among other things, it contains numerous prophecies that predict the rise of evil and the path of The Chosen One to eradicate it. It is also known that only The Chosen One may unravel the book's secrets completely. A prophecy is reproduced on the first page of each issue. It obscurely describes what is going to happen in that issue, but is of little real use, as it is a complete riddle. After finishing the issue, however, the reader may look back at the prophecy and think, 'Hmm, so that's what that meant.' In some cases, it may be possible to use the prophecy to guess what will happen next after getting approximately half way through an issue.
In the second half of the series, the prophecies are replaced by binary messages from a screen on Robo's chest. This message, if it can be decoded, reveals the weakness of that issue's main bad guy.
The entire series may possibly be a metaphor for growing up. Richard's quest could be seen as a rite of passage, with the recovery of the pods representing the finding of such qualities within oneself. At the end of the adventure in the Ancestral World, he is a lot more mature, but is then suddenly has to face the altogether much more unfriendly Cyber Dimension, and the Ancestral World was no walk in the park. The Cyber Dimension may represent early adulthood, when it seems that everyone is out to get you and you have to hang onto whatever friends you can. As for The Evil One, he probably represents the sum total of all the bad things that can befall a person, and when Richard defeats him, it marks the end of suffering and the beginning of true adulthood, in a world that is friendlier than it first seemed. Or it may just be a good story.
Included in the first issue was a large, flat piece of mostly white paper with a stylised border. As the series went on, various pieces of cards were given away, which were fitted onto the base to form a map of the Ancestral World, showing places our heroes had visited. The fitting together was quite a challenge, but well worth the effort.
With issues two to eight of the series, a number of playing cards were bundled free, featuring various creatures and characters from the Ancestral World. Each had a different score in six attributes: Good/Evil, Size, Strength, Magic, Trickery, and Weapons. There were a number of games, described in some issues, to be played, most of which revolved around whose card had the highest score in a certain category.
Cards were also printed in the second half, featuring characters, beings, and machines from the Cyber Dimension. Because there were very few good guys in the Cyber Dimension, the cards used the following characteristics: Speed, Intelligence, Size, Weapons, Strength, and Function.
The Role Playing Game
Along with the playing cards and map, various other cards and doo-dahs were given away with the first half of the series. These were used to play an RPG where up to four people acted out the struggle between good and evil, though they were free to make any changes they pleased. The rules would require a whole separate entry to explain in full.
A couple of gamed were given away with the second half. These included a version of chess featuring robots, and a strategy game called 'Mainframe Control.'
Scattered throughout the illustrations were certain reoccurring elements. These included such things as a pair of cute little beings called Shoomi and Shoobi, who showed up on average twice in every issue. There were also fragments of the Evil One's mask scattered throughout the pictures in the first half, and these were replaced by parts of computers for the Cyber Dimension. At times, there were also other things to look out for, such as pods and weapons. These helped turn the whole thing into a somewhat more cerebral pursuit than merely collecting parts of a story.