Tuesday, April 5, 2011

[The Realm] D is for Demons, Part 2 of 3


Heaven had fallen, or at least, half of it. The Gods above were distraught, bereaved, withdrawn, or even comatose… and one of them was dead. A full third of the Angelic Host had left, never to return. Another third were left bereft of hope, confused, and bewildered, wandering without guidance as the remaining Gods sought to save what was left of the Vault of Heaven, with the assistance of the last third of the Angels.

Below, the Great Pit yawned wide and spat lava and death. The World around it was going mad. The horrible, unnatural energies generated by the Fall of Galendar and the collapse of the Twilight-side of the Vault of Heaven caused plants to wither, animals to go berserk, the living to go mad, and the dead to rise. Their energies being drained in their efforts to save the Vault of Heaven, the golden orb of Suliir Sun-King and the silver orb of Iluna Moon-Queen dimmed and darkened, turning day into twilight. Dragons, Dark Elves, Orcs, and Trolls roamed free and caused further chaos and horror.

Upon the World below, the Taur Elthon and the Taur Duarg struggled to keep back the wave of destruction and death. Leihos Elf-Star and Flumon Fey-Moon, united at last against this common threat after long ages of estrangement; but the lights of their stars, day and night, dimmed, too, as they concentrated on saving the Elven realms from the Chaotic onslaught. Twilight turned into night, and save in the forests and meadows of the Elves, darkness reigned.

The first Winter fell upon the World.

Abandoned by their Elven allies, the Dwarves dug deep, when they were not busy digging out of the wrack and ruin caused by the Fall of Galendar and the opening of the Great Pit. Never forgetting an insult or an injury, the Dwarves consider the Elven abandonment of their ancient allies in this time as the First Betrayal.

Chaos reigned below, as above.

The Host of Amdosias, as his Rebel Angel followers now called themselves, retired to the distant wilds of the World, far from the civilized heartlands where Chaos now reigned. There they sought to freed themselves from the mental conditioning of the Gods and open their minds and hearts to their Father, the Dragon Primeval. There they could feel His Presence and His Approval. But He spoke only still to Amdosias; He told the leader of the Rebel Angels that so long as the Gods ruled still in Heaven above, His children could never be free from Their power, that his children could never truly know His Mind, and He could never fully welcome them into His Heart.

Dejected, bewildered, and angered by this news, the Host of Rebel Angels resolved to tear down Heaven with their bare hands, if need be. Together Amdosias and his elite cohort made plans to ally with the Dragons, Dark Elves, Orcs, and Trolls, to use them in diversionary battles to spread out the power of the Gods. They knew now that the Gods could die; thus, if weakened enough and caught alone, they could be slain, one by one, until they were too weak to defend the Vault of Heaven.

His strongest supporters Amdosias sent to the leaders of the Dragons, Dark Elves, Orcs, and Trolls. He also set other Rebel Angels to the gathering of other resources. One Angel named Horkos, the Keeper of Oaths, noticed the walking dead created by the dark energies of the Dead God as he fell unto the World. He quickly sought a way to control these creatures and use them in the coming battle against the Gods and the Angels and mortals loyal to them. Amon, the Hound of Tyrm, sought out the wolves of the wild, and turned them to their cause. Geryon, formerly the quiet and studious Overseer of Contracts, sought out the serpents of the World, the least cousins of the Dragons, and sought to turn them to their cause.

And so it went, as the Rebel Angels prepared to battle the Gods.

In the Vault of Heaven, Qnath and the Loyal Angels, and such Gods as were not in despair, sought to rebuilt and reinforce the remaining portion of the Vault. Sun-Fire and Moon-Light kept the Vault fixed in the skies, but many of the great works of the Gods were undone, many Angels still gibbered in madness at the sight of the Dead God and the Great Pit, and much work was to be done if all was not to be lost when the Rebel Angels attacked.

Many Loyal Angels were sent forth into the World to seek out the Taur Elthon, the Taur Duarg, and the Taur Dracos. While they had little success summoning the Gods of Elves and Dwarves, who were busy protecting their own peoples, among the Taur Dracos they found no few allies willing the answer the summons. Krakentiri and Kabanlari answered themselves, as did 77 Gold Dragons, and the greatest of the Dragon Mages, Katosari. This last sought to hold back the Darkness and Winter. To this end, he gathered together the last remaining shards of the Golden Dragon Orb, that which birthed Krakentiri, fused them with Adamant and Mithral, and bound the whole with the Heartscales of the 77 Gold Dragons who answered the summons. The whole was forged into a great spherical lantern. Each of the dragons present, including Krakentiri and Kabanlari, then breathed fire into the lantern, which burst into silvery-blue flame. Katosari then took the lantern high into the sky, where he placed it in conjunction with the Great-Star and Elf-Star.

The silvery-gold light of the Dragon-Star turned back the Darkness, and the World was no longer draped in Night. But it was still held in the cold grip of Winter…

These events all took place over a period of one month since the fall of the Dead God.

When the first light of the Dragon-Star struck the Vault of Heaven, Tyrm rose from his stupor. Without a word to any other God or the Angels, he set forth from the Vault of Heaven, with the self-avowed purpose of recovering the body of Galendar and, if possible, correcting his grave error. Normally, being a God, there was little threat to him out in the wider World… but now, with one God having died, and the Fall of the Dead God having caused unknown but potent changes in and around the Great Pit, his quest to find the body was not at all certain, nor his fate even if he did find it.

But set out he did, unarmed, for his weapon, the Blade Undaunted, had fallen into the Great Pit and was covered with lava and fire, lost to him forever. Only Qnath marked his departure from the Vault of Heaven. But others noted his arrival in the World below, spies of Amdosias, who quickly reported on his arrival and descent into the depths of the earth near the Great Pit, which still boiled and burbled and spat out lava and strange and terrible fumes.

Amdosias chose this moment for their concerted attack on the forces of the Gods; they would have no better chance to storm Heaven than when the Celestial Warlord was absent from his very own citadel! His allies among the Dark Elves, led by the Daughters of Morda and aided by Amon and his wolves, would attack the Taur Elthon and the Elves. The Orcs, led by Osgdagor himself and aided by Geryon and his serpents, would attack the Taur Duarg and the Dwarves. Such Trolls as could be gathered by the two Worldly forces would add further reinforcements. A Dragon Queen and her followers would reinforce each of the other two forces, while three Dragon Queens and their forces would attack the Vault of Heaven together with the Rebel Angels. Finally, Horkos, who had secured the secrets of Necromancy and Undeath, would take his Army of the Dead and seek out Tyrm himself in the depths below.

The battles raged in Heaven and on the World below for a full month. With Koram still sequestered in his throne room, and Tyrm away on his quest to find Galendar, the defense of the Vault of Heaven is left to Qnath… who is not at all a fighter, though he is an excellent strategist. He places the direct command of the Host of Heaven in the hands of Basiam the Bailiff, who, during this battle, earns well the sobriquet, “The Battle-Axe.” It is with this weapon that he meets and battles, hand to hand, with his former friend, Amdosias, on the very walls of the Vault of Heaven. It is with his battle-axe that he cleaves the Spear of Amdosias in twain. It is with his battle-axe that he shatter’s Amdosias’ helm and knocks him senseless, upon which Bienthe stood above the prostrate form of his leader and commanded the host of Rebel Angels to retreat.

The battles upon the World below go similarly, with the long-drawn out battles ending in the favor of the Gods, but only just barely. The Rebel Angels were unsuccessful in their primary goal, for not a single God was felled in battle, though many took great and terrible wounds, and great numbers of mortal creatures met their untimely end. Kaeron the Artisan, a former assistant of Vislak and one of the Rebel Angels who went mad when he saw the Dead God fall, took an unhealthy interest in assuring the deaths of the enemies of the Rebel Angels, performing a coup de grace with his hammer on them as opportunity permitted. Having consulted with Horkos on the nature of Undeath and Necromancy, he found that his own power grew with every soul he thus claimed…

Meanwhile, in the depths near the Great Pit, Tyrm continued his quest to find the body of Galendar. Passing through vast cavern systems ancient and new, skirting great seas of lava and steaming waters far beneath the earth, there he encountered monsters of nightmare, such that even the Gods knew not existed, had they existed ere the fall of the Dead God. Much to his horror, though, he realized that many of these creatures, warped and terrible as they were, had lived in the great depths long before the Fall of Galendar and the formation of the Great Pit! Between these terrible beasts and the sniping at him from all sides by the undead creatures at the beck and call of Horkos, he determined that he needed a new weapon. Thus he turned to the Great Lake of Fire near the heart of the Great Pit. There he found as shard of Adamant; perhaps, even, a shard shattered from the Roots of the World by the Fall of Galendar. For the first time in the whole age of the World, the Thunder of Tyrm echoed throughout the depths of the underworld. There, at the Heart of the Great Pit, he forged Holy Vengeance, the Blade Imperishable.

With this blade his progress remained steady, as all fell to the flame and thunder of his new weapon. He knew that he was getting close when swarms of Undead fell upon him like rain in a thunderstorm; but all fell to the God of War. He cut through the ranks of foul creatures like a farmer through wheat with a newly-sharpened scythe. He finally reached his goal at the Root of the World… and there discovered horror beyond even his imagination!

For when the Dead God had fallen and struck the Roots of the World, he punched through… not through to Beyond, but through to Somewhere Else. For Tyrm discovered a at the foot of the Great Pit a vast cavern, the limits of which even he, with his Divine sight, could not see. Scattered about the cavern were the shattered remnants of the Twilight-side of the Vault of Heaven. At the heart of the cavern was an abyss… nay, not an abyss, the Abyss, a great rift of unfathomable depths. Lit by the fires of the Forge of Creation, Tyrm saw that he had been beaten to his goal, for there lay the body of Galendar, spread atop the cracked remnants of the Twilight Altar, where once the Gods had met at nightfall for common prayers and rituals of blessing. Around the Altar stood 13 Rebel Angels, led by Horkos in some unholy necromantic ceremony. The Rebel Angels sought nothing less than the animation and control of the Dead God for their own vile purposes!

Tyrm went berserk. Had even the mightiest of the Rebel Angels been there, they too would have been cut down. The countless Undead servants were laid waste; the 12 Rebel Angels in service to Horkos were ripped asunder. Horkos himself survived only by the abandoning the ritual and diving out into the Abyss… Tyrm thought for certain that such was madness, and that he would never see Horkos again, much as he would like to, that he might finish him personally. He would, after a fashion, for though Horkos did not survive the fall into the Abyss, neither did he quite exactly die, either…

Victorious in his recovery of Galendar, Tyrm slung the body of his old friend across his shoulders and began the long journey back to the World above. He failed to see the strange shadows gathering around the fallen Altar, shadows that took on the form of the Dead God… too, he failed to hear the screams of anguish and horror rising from the Abyss, screams that all too soon turned to deep, maniacal sepulchral laughter.

Tyrm reached the World above even as Amdosias was struck low by the Battle-Axe in Heaven above. A full month had passes since the birth of the Dragon-Star, and two months had passed since the Fall of Galendar, the Sundering of Heaven, and the Rebellion of the Angels. The First Winter was in its second month, and wolves, serpents, and undead stalked the World while the forces of battle stopped to rest… for but a brief moment’s time, a fortnight, to mourn their dead and gather reinforcements.

When Tyrm finally arrived in Heaven seven days later, he barely noticed the signs of battle all around the walls of the Vault. As even the Vault of Heaven could not hold the body of the Dead God, he placed it in the hands of seven great Angels, Aeuphes, Solidissere, Rasonaeim, Oechil, Tertraein, Hieriel, and Estarin, who held Galendar lovingly as his body was cleansed and purified by the Angels Andoriel, Celandise, Rapheionas, Athael, Visaein, Honaraeis, and Aesias. Tyrm returned to Koram’s throne room, where he found the King of the Gods still in deep despair. He told the full tale of his quest, and of the forging of the Blade Imperishable, and his battles against the things-that-should-not-be, and of the Abyss he found at the foot of the Great Pit. He called to his attention the fact that neither Heaven nor the World below could hold the body of the Dead God… especially since the Rebel Angels had already tried to desecrate the body to their own purposes.

Koram remained silent and unmoving throughout Tyrm’s tale, until he came to the part about the Rebel Angels and their desecration of the body of the Dead God.

A terrible spark grew in the eyes of the King of Heaven at that moment, and the Adamant of the Throne of Heaven cracked as Sky King gripped its arms in wrath.

What Koram might have said at that moment will remain unknown, as Qnath, who had quietly followed Tyrm into the throne room, then spoke.

It is not meet that a God should be buried here, in the World. There is but one place for a Dead God… the Realms Beyond, whence We came. We must prepare.”

Koram looked to Qnath, and nodded his assent. Vengeance upon the Rebel Angels would have to wait.

Three days later the Gods gathered in the great square before the Council Hall. There the Seven Bearers and Seven Mourners brought forth the body of Galendar. They carried him, with the whole Host of Heaven and the Gods together, to the edge of the Vault of Heaven, to the nearest point of the Twilight Altar, ere it fell, and all silently stared over the precipice to the darkened World below. Night had fallen, in the twilight realm below, where only the Dragon-Star brought light to the World in the day. And this night, of all nights, was a conjunction of the Three Moons; and with Iluna and Flumon only dimly lit, the power of Rogull, the Dragon-Moon, was at its height, and the darkness below was flooded with his reddish-purple moonlight.

Wordlessly, Qnath and Koram opened a door to the Realms Beyond; through they went, with the Dead God carried by the Seven Bearers and attended by Tyrm and the Seven Mourners. A great honor was this, for no Angel had ever passed into the Realms Beyond. The Unbearable Light of Beyond was dimming in the eyes of the gathered Angels and Gods when, to their horror, they realized that the red glow of the Dragon-Moon was no longer the only source of light, for a new star had risen in the east, a blood-red star, the Morning Star of Amdosias, the Demon-Star.

Great and terrible was the Demon-Star. Nearly of a size with the Great-Star of Suliir, it sought to hold a place of preeminence in the skies above. But it was not a bright star of cheery golden-yellow, nor a merry star of bluish-green, nor a strong star of silver-blue. It was a pulsing, angry, lusty red star of crimsons and rubies, casting all that its light touched in rust and flame. It was forged from the Blood of Amdosias and the Hate and Rage of the Rebel Angels. It caught the Gods and Angels at the nadir of their despair, when their greatest leaders were gone to the Realms Beyond to see to the final disposition of the Dead God. The Demon-Star rose on the 66th day of the First Winter, 66 days after the Fall of Galendar, ten days after Tyrm returned to the World above with Galendar’s body from his quest to the Underworld, and three days after Koram was stirred once again from his melancholy by the terrible tale of Horkos and Galendar in the Underworld.

To be concluded...

No comments:

Post a Comment