Authors: David Bilsborough
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To black sheep, herd-strayers, wanderers, gaps and cunnans the world over; to all those who know a lie when they see it.
To anyone, in fact, who has taken the king’s shilling and shoved it right back down the king’s throat
Let the gods, senators and ministers fight their own useless and bloody wars
. Tower of Darkness. Throne of Evil. Undercroft of the direst rawgr ever unleashed from the vile hands of Olchor.
‘. . . Unholy Trinity of Darke Angels, Archangels
of Olchor, from Hell have been hurl’d;
Scathur the Herald, the Wolf from the Sea, has ris’n
now releas’d from his frozen prison
and walkes now upon the wyrld.
Gruddna, the Fyr-Draikke, Engine of Destruction, has from the Pit crawllen.
And Drauglir, greatest of them all, from blacken’d sky has fallen
Darke Angel descends where the wyrld ends . . .’
Verge of the world, the northernmost rim of the continent, and beyond that the island of Melhus. A land of turmoil, of fire and ice, where the four elements wage constant war with each other. Winds filled with shards of ice scream like a host of rapacious demons from the very heart of Eisholm, terrible enough to flay the skin. Volcanoes there are too, mephitic behemoths of incandescent fury that cough great pyroclastic clouds upon the seething ice-fields below.
‘. . . For Evil has forg’d its Avatars, and rais’d itself a tower, a kingdom of pestilence, a domain of resplendour infyrnal, and woulde reache oute its claws o’er this wyrld, Lyndormyn (whose carapace yet be so perniciously infest’d), rain in blood o’er lesser orders, and besmear its illimitable darkness o’er all . . .’
Vainglorious in their darksome apotheosis, the unholy trinity judge that heaven will suffer them to go unchallenged:
‘. . . But the clash o’ firmaments resounds, like the baying of Heaven’s Houndes, o’er the beshiver’d ice of the Wyrld’s Bounds, continent’s jagged rim. For we came, warriors grim, Pel-Adan’s finest, in numbers undream’t of in this age or the last . . .’
Vanguard of Unferth-wielder, banners held high, horns blaring in defiance, the multitude of knights valiant journey to the land of fire and ice in ships beyond counting. Relentless, they storm the Maw, thrust on through the Moghol and arrive at last unto Smaulka-Degernerth, the Hall of Fire:
‘. . . Then, earth-shaken, Gruddna did awaken, its coils unfurl’d, and haul’d its scaly bulk from the Underwyrld. Its head uprear’d thru the ebon smog, eyes flash’d like bescarletted stars thru fog, unfolded its wings, wall to wall, o’er the Hall o’ Fyre . . .’
‘Valour! Valour! We can do this. Just keep your eyes peeled for its weak spot, then shoot without hesitation. Don’t hang about!’
‘. . . Thru visor’d helm ’gainst the awful glare did we stare, and the hostages we now saw, hung spiked upon pinions’ claw, the Oghain-Yddiaw, eyelids peel’d bare to afforde them no shield ’gainst the light so bright, blinding them of sight, steaming eyes milky-white . . .’
‘Vizards down! It’s coming in for another sweep . . .
‘. . . With a roar that splinter’d this glassy hole, and lay our legions low as a field of hay, upon us the fiery juggernaut did roll. In a rush of beating wings that drove befor it the blackness of Hell’s bowel, the nectar of its maw disgorg’d ’pon our ranks an ichor so foul, which then did kindle from the river of fyre to engulf us all . . .’
Victims now, some have time to scream then die, some to melt into mire, others merely to vanish into vapour.
Oaths, though, have been taken, votive entreaty that can be broken only upon most terrible retribution.
‘. . . In that hall in multitudes did we fall, building a wall of blacken’d flesh, crisp’d meat, a dike of dead, insufferable heat. Yet thru befouling waftings of opiate smoke, tho reel we might, and scream and choke, our crossbows were let fly, loud as tempest’s cry, and the air did sigh with the breath of God . . .’