|„We knew not...
And so we fought, fought until in our ignorance we brought about the end of the old age. Senseless wars were waged under the reign of the Circle; so blinded were we in our constant quest for power that we did not foresee what was to come, could not comprehend the fate we had sealed for our world. As the shadow fell upon the Eye of Aonir, the Masters of the Elements, answering the call of the Thirteen, cast off their bonds and roamed free. Their power and rage unleashed, the ancient Elements once again began to fight amongst themselves, as they have since the beginning of time.
In their anger, the Elements heedlessly ravaged the face of the world. The earth burst open and its glowing blood flowed freely over the land. Columns of fire stretched toward the sky, up to the maelstrom of black clouds that seemed to swallow the horizon. Scorching storms of ash and poison upheaved even the highest mountains and ground them to dust. The oceans began to boil, greedily tearing away at the coasts.
One day and one night the rage of the Elements lasted, before the shadow passed. Then they were banished, just as they had been once before, and a deathly silence fell upon a scarred world.
Only a few of us managed to seek shelter by the Stones. There we lay; some crying to, others cursing the Gods that had let this happen. Yet we were blind, refused to accept the obvious truth… we were to blame.
For we knew not…"
Ishtar Magnus „The Darkest Hour“
|For many generations before the first humans descended from the Windwall Mountains, dragons ruled the land. They soared freely through the sky above Fiara, their power and wildness unmatched and their freedom unbroken. It was during this time that a white dragon was born; a dragon more powerful than all that had come before him. From an eyrie high over Godmark he took to the skies, and beneath his wings, the land froze. His scales were of the purest white, his eyes as cold and clear as the winter skies and his breath carried the chill of eternal frost. No other dragon could match his size or power, for he was the essence of winter. His brothers and sisters fled from him, and his mere presence covered the land near him in a thick layer of ice. Soon, he became known throughout Fiara as Aryn, the Frostweaver.
But as powerful as his magic was, so great was the loneliness that tore at his soul. No living creature could survive in his presence, cold and death were his only companions. Longing for company, he searched the lands, yet all fled from him, and the more he searched, the more suffering he brought. Were he to continue his quest, Fiara would be soon covered in ice, frozen in an endless winter, but unwilling he was to end his search.
With each passing year and each beat of his white wings, more and more of Fiara was lost. Eventually, his search brought him to the edge of a gigantic forest in the south of Fiara, known by its Elven name of Finon Mir. As frost, the sign of his coming, began to cover the treetops, the Elves, then a very young race, began to search for a way to stop the Frostweaver from destroying their home. Unaware of Aryn’s quest and certain that none amongst them could hope to match his power, they called to their gods and prayed for advice. The gods, however, remained silent, leaving the Elves no choice but to prepare to flee. Soon after the first snowflakes began to fall through the branches, the Elves began to flee to the South. Only Cenwen, one of the five Elven leaders, started out fearlessly across the barren, icy plains to face to the dragon alone.
The cold chilled her to the bone, ice and death surrounded her as far as the eye could see. The closer she came to the dragon, the more the cold bit into her flesh, and soon, Cenwen felt her consciousness slipping away. To keep from falling into deadly sleep, she raised her voice and began to sing. She sang of hope, of warmth and kindness, as many generations before her had sung at the campfires in Finon Mir.
Aryn heard her voice from afar and glided down from the sky to find the origin of the song. There, kneeling in the snow, he saw the Elf queen, and though she was helpless and close to death, her song remained strong and clear, her pure and beautiful voice her only defense against the cold. The dragon touched the ground and lowered his mighty head – never before had he beheld such beauty. As soon as she saw him, the Elf queen called to the dragon. “Hear me, O mightiest of dragons! Here me, O envoy of frost and bringer of death! Your presence ends all life and brings perpetual winter to the land. Soon the ancient forest that is our home will turn to ice beneath your wings, and my people will perish. What do you ask? What can change the Frostweaver’s path and save my people?” Aryn lifted his head, his icy stare piercing Cenwen’s heart like a dagger.
“Know, child of the forest, that I have been searching, searching since the beginning of my time, for an equal, for a companion. I have seen the pain and suffering my journey brings to this world, but your courage has opened my eyes – the destruction of others will not end my plight. I will return to my homeland and wait there, wait in the lonely mountains, wait for the end of time.
Your people shall live, but there is one thing I ask. You are the first, the only to have come this close to me, and your song has touched my heart. Accompany me and sing your beautiful song for us – and your brethren will be spared!”
Cenwen stood tall, and after a brief pause, spoke to the Frostweaver.
“I am yours, Frostweaver! Take me with you to the North and I will warm our hearts with hope for as long as I am. But spare my people!”
No sooner had she spoken than the dragon swept her up and took to the air.
“So be it then! If all your people are as a brave as you, then they are indeed worthy of life. Should your folk ever be in trouble, they can call on me and my power will be at their disposal. This will be part of our pact, I give as I take. The frost will never harm them and the power of the ice shall be theirs as long as they live in remembrance of you.”
Thus spoke the Winterdragon and turned to the North, back to the barren mountains beyond the Grimwarg Peaks. There they settled, and while Cenwen sang, he wove a shield of ice over them, to protect them from the world and the world from him for all eternity.
Only the glacier they call Frostweaver reminds us of this pact between the Elves and the most powerful of all dragons. To this day, Humans and Dwarves tell tales that the songs of Cenwen can still be heard there sometimes, in the icy wilderness of the Northeast.
Only the the children of Cenwen and Aryn know, however, that the Winterdragon still lives and gives them his power, while listening to the Elven song deep beneath the ice.
Eleyna Songweaver „The Beginning of Time“
|The Second Dream: The River of Souls|
|The Second Dream: The River of Souls
The sun was just beginning to set when I awoke. Wisps of smoke from the smouldering herbs wafted through my chamber, the soft red glow of the setting sun basking the room in an almost mystical light. The time without time, neither day nor night, had broken. It is said that the world of the living, the realm of the dead and the spirit worlds are closer together at dusk than at any other time. It is also said to be the time when Hirin, Messenger of the Gods, collects the souls of the dead and leads them to the other side. Once again, the thundering of hooves accompanied me as my consciousness slipped away and I sank into the depths of my dark dreams.
When I opened my eyes again, I looked out upon a grey land. The sky was dark, full of black clouds, and the light was ashen. No sun, no moon, no stars. Time seemed to stand still in this barren place and the silence was almost deafening. This strange grey desert stretched out as far as I could see, and I slowly realised what my eyes beheld – I was in the no man’s land between life and death. My heart turned to stone and the sense of desperation was suddenly overwhelming… no hope can exist here.
The only sound to break the silence was the snort of a horse. I turned around, hoping to make out the source of the noise, hoping for a sign, a way out of this horrible nightmare. With feet as heavy as stones I made my way through the gray dust. Each step raised a cloud of dust, dust as fine as ash, dust that left the taste of ground bones on my tongue.
After what seemed to be an eternity, I came to a valley that opened like a wound in the barren plain. From the bottom of the valley, I could hear murmurs and whispers, sounds like water flowing, or thousands and thousands of voices, babbling, moaning, calling. This was the Mor Duine, the River of Souls. From the beginning of time to its end, the Mor Duine flows between the worlds, carrying our souls until the end of days. Its surface shimmered like silver, its waters flowing through the dusky light until it disappeared from view. Down by the river bank, I saw the source of the noise that had brought me here.
It was Hirin, Messenger of the Gods, an imposing figure atop his black steed. He had ridden his mount to the edge of the river and behind him, on the bank, I could barely make out the shadowy contours of the dead. With a barely perceptible twitch of the reigns, the gigantic horse took a step into the water, which seemed to want to drag horse and rider into its silvery depths. Yet the animal stood firm, and soon the first souls followed, climbing down into the current. Deeper and deeper they waded into the water, passing horse and rider, until they were lost in the depths of the river. As this eerie procession continued, I realised that there was no hall for the dead, no garden of delight for the chosen few, only the river, whence everything that has been taken from it returns. The Mor Duine controls our souls, holding them captive until a new time and a new life is ready for them.
Yet there were a few who stayed back from the water, hiding, fear and hate visible in their shadowed faces as they turned and crawled from their destiny. The mighty horse reared, snorted and stamped impatiently in the water, its rider pointing the way, demanding obedience to the natural order. But these fools kept crawling, fleeing from the river, refusing the deity’s command, full of cowardice, until finally, Hirin gave up and rode off, up the ashen hill, full of contempt for these pitiful souls.
No sooner had the God disappeared when I saw the others… hundreds, thousands, emerging from the shadows along the river banks, where they had hidden from the Messenger and his anger. Now they came to welcome the new arrivals, and as they passed me, I saw the hopelessness in all their distorted, ethereal faces, and the boundless hate for the life that refused to welcome them back, hate for the order they refused to follow. Here, on the banks of the river, they had become outcasts, prisoners of their own fear and desires, captives for all eternity. This is the realm of the dead; here, on the banks of the Mor Duine, where they wallow in self-pity. And then they came for me; like animals they crept closer and closer, their loathing wafting toward me like a poisonous breath. Frozen with fear, I looked into their scornful faces and terror overcame me. No living creature can fathom the depth of their hate, the hate of those destined to stay in this place forever.
With a thundering of hooves, the messenger tore me from their midst, tore me from this dream and back to the twilight of my chamber. Only the rush of the Mor Duine still sounded in my head, the murmuring, whispering of the endless river.
Ishtar Magnus „Seven Dreams“
|He appeared from a group of trees right in front of us and stopped, scenting the air.
Up until this moment, the day had been bleak and uneventful. After setting out in darkness before dawn, we had been trudging across the seemingly endless hills and frozen marshland for hours, the journey passing as slowly as a bad dream. Now, almost instantly, I was wide awake and sharpened my senses, ashamed at almost having been caught off-guard.
A layer of frost covered the brown grass of the frozen marsh, reflecting the red rays of the dawning sun and bathing the flatlands in an eerie light. Bushes of reeds huddled together at the banks of icy ponds, while gnarly trees stretched their barren branches to the sky. A sharp wind blew from the east, over the jagged edge of the Frostweaver, chilling us with the icy touch of the gigantic glacier and whirling clouds of powdered snow off the steep walls and across the marshlands. The abrupt end of the massive glacier ascended like impregnable wall of ice to the east, blocking our view into the land of our enemies. Grey clouds passed over the frozen cliff, driven relentlessly by the wind, forming a celestial fortress beyond the glittering rampart.
The scout moved again and squatted, eyeing his surroundings, breathing heavily, his breath rising like steam in the cold air.
Soon, he would disappear into the bushes again, I thought. My clammy fingers sought the wood of my bow, which lay on the stones in front of me. No sooner had I reached its shaft than I felt Galad’s hand on my shoulder, a silent warning to hold back. The Utran archer was older, wiser and more experienced than I, and his instincts rarely failed him. A few seconds later, three more scouts slid silently out of the bushes in front of us. One careless move, and I would have doomed us both. Trying to remain as still as possible, I mustered the four figures who appeared to be communicating silently with hand signs.
The orcs were tall and burly, with dull and dark hide. Their movements were quick and fluid, and they had little in common with their clumsy, green-skinned cousins, the Grarg, that I knew from my homelands. Known to the people of house Utran simply as mountain orcs, they call themselves the Sharok.
The scouts arranged themselves in a half-circle around a group of trees, and thankfully remained unaware of our presence. Again, there was movement behind the trees and more orcs appeared, obviously less concerned with stealth. Like a pack of wolfes they emerged from the undergrowth one by one and spread out. I counted no fewer than twelve, their bodies colored with paint and smeared with animal blood, spears and clubs gripped tightly in gnarly fists. They made a smaller semi-circle around the group of trees and squatted on their heels, their watchful red eyes glowing like embers. With quick breaths they drew the cold air in greedily, scenting for prey. I felt Galad stiffen next to me and shortly, the leaders of this small band came out of the trees. The first was a tall warrior bearing the black iron armor of a veteran. He stopped amidst his men and muttered a few commands in the growling speech of the servants of darkness. Like dogs they followed his orders, creeping further apart to make room of the second new arrival.
The shaman seemed small next the armored giant, but he was surrounded by an aura of malice and evil as only the true minions of Zarach possess. None of the other orcs so much as looked at him, the wind blowing the scent of their fear in our direction. As they cowered in the grass, even the armored orc turned away from this fearsome creature, avoiding eye contact. Then the shaman dragged something out of the bushes. At first, I could only make out a tuft of blond hair before I recognized the shape of a human. It was Dunhil, part of the first group, bound by rope and gagged with a thick strand of leather. His group had left an hour before Galad and I to scout the area north of the Icegate. Luck had obviously not been on their side.
The shaman gazed around suspiciously, then looked to the group of trees and nodded his head, seemingly satisfied with the choice of location. He threw his prisoner to the ground and knelt down beside him. With a growling singsong, he began to draw iron spikes from his belt and ram them into the earth. The other orcs mouthed the words of his song silently, like an often-heard prayer. Suddenly, the shaman grabbed poor Dunhil and thrust him down onto the spikes. Weakened, but still conscious, the scout still managed to break his fall slightly with his knees, yet the spikes penetrated his flesh an inch deep. At that instant, I nigh on charged the group, but again Galad’s hand held me back. The Utran began to retreat slowly, inching away from the orcs and their captive.
As Dunhil’s blood slowly began to cover the earth, the shaman raised his voice, his eyes glowing with power and madness. My comprehension of the dark tongue was still limited at that time, but I understood enough to know he was calling the ancient spirits of this place, asking for their power and protection in the upcoming battle in exchange for this human sacrifice.
As the orc ritual progressed, the air seemed to thicken and a cold wind began to blow, shaking the branches of the trees and sending a shiver down my spine. The shaman reached down and grabbed the dying scout’s hair, holding his head up as the orc raised his voice once again. Calling to the Blood God, he reached for his belt and grabbed the Claw of Zarach, a ritual weapon with five blades, bent and twisted like the roots of a tree. He held the claw high above his head, praying for the blessing of the Blood-drinker. His followers growled and hissed, in a frenzy of anticipation for the bloody deed they knew would follow. Their breath steamed from mouths distorted by rage and hate, their horrible stench wafting over to our hiding place. Galad crawled faster, but I was spellbound by this bizarre ritual.
A thunder rose from the heavens and the earth shook as if the Blood God Zarach himself had shaken in anticipation. The black clouds gathered quicker and quicker, streaming over the edge of the glacier and blocking out the light of the new day. The slobbering shaman gripped his weapon tighter and struck out to slit Dunhil’s throat and thus complete the ritual.
Where I had been frozen by fear, something else took hold of me now. Even today I am shamed by the foolishness of my actions that dismal morning. Despite Galad’s warning grip, I rose as if in a dream and drew my bow. With frostbitten fingers I pulled back the bowstring and in the blink of an eye unleashed an arrow straight into the shaman’s forehead. The orcs froze, their chant interrupted, but it was only an instant before their surprise turned to rage. The armored veteran was on his feet in a flash, lept over his comrades and thundered toward me like a raging bull. Paralysed by fear, I could only stare at the charging warrior, the jagged edge of his sword ready to split my skull, when a arrow from Galad’s bow shot into his throat just above the cuirass. He fell and skidded to a halt mere inches from my feet, his eyes glaring at me with hatred and bloodthirst as he drew a final breath.
With a blood-curdling scream, the other orcs arose and took their weapons.
“Run, you fool!”
Galad’s voice broke my paralysis and I turned and ran. Another arrow from the Utran’s bow zipped past me and I heard a thud close behind me, followed by a gurgling scream.
“Run! Run! Hurry back the camp! Tell them they’re coming!“
Again, the bow sang and another orc dropped to the ground. I ran to the west, stumbling over the rough terrain, heading for the safer ground on the slopes of the mountain. The orcs’ screams became louder and louder, and I saw them coming from every direction. From north and south the fearful screams of an entire army sounded, rising from the marshes. Like a wave they rose, a sea of fearful creatures, throwing off all secrecy and joining their comrades, smelling blood and prey. Growling and slobbering, the orcs started to chase me. Now the first of their war drums started to beat, louder and more threatening than the rolling thunder of a coming storm. The thundering that washed over the marshes was overwhelming, driving me forward like a leaf on the wind. And then the heavens opened and rain began to pour down from the grey clouds that had followed the army from the east. I stumbled on through icy winds and hail, and as much as the sleet and rain hindered my progress, so they also hid me from the horde of orcs that followed me. I ran and cried, cried not just because of the bone-chilling cold and pain in my limbs, but also for Galad, who had sacrificed himself to spare me.
Only when I felt rocks under my boots did the rain begin to slow and the clouds lighten, and I made out the familiar silhouette of the mountain peaks. In the distance, at the foot of the cliffs, I could see the banners of the Utran camp. The guards had already seen me approach, and had signalled the main camp. Only now, close to the relative safety of the
camp, did I dare to slow and turn around. My message was no longer needed. Through the clouds and fog, the fires and torches that the approaching army had ignited after the storm appeared as a glowing red line along the eastern horizon. The Sharok had come through the Icegate, were invading our lands, and tomorrow the Blood God would hold a feast.
And the powerful, pulsing beat of the orc drums rolled like distant thunder, a thunder that bode ill from the east.
Angar Arandir „Thirty Days on the Border“
|Guardian in the Mountain|
|„Is that the bridge?“
For an instant, I stopped and enjoyed my moment of solitude. Before me, a huge canyon opened up, allowing for a spectacular view of the snow-covered peaks of the western Windwall mountains. As far as the eye could see, the peaks stretched out as a massive ocean of rock, covered by the spray of eternal snow, frozen and unchanging to the eyes of mortals. Wisps of cloud were driven by the wind across a steel blue sky and cast subtle shadows on otherwise immaculate planes of white. The crunching of snow under boots behind me hailed the end of my short rest.
„What other bridges would you expect to find in such a forsaken place, human?“
Skjalf stomped past to me, bearing the load of his pack and innumerous axes. Not that the weight really seemed to hinder him, in fact, as we had learned the last few days, hardly anything bothered the Dwarf. He sneered at me and started the descent down to the bridge that we had been searching for days.
Like a small strip of perfectly formed rock the bridge crossed the dark chasm of the canyon. The supporting pillars that disappeared into the unfathomable depths below seemed almost too thin and elegant to support its weight. Truly, this was a prime example of the architecture of the empire of old, a testament to the skills of the Dwarven masters, whose ancestor now descended the slope before us.
Now, the others began to pass me, the exhaustion leaving no room for other expressions on their faces. Caele, a lock of whose red hair always managed to free itself from the bonds of her hair-bands and whip her face rebelliously, slowly unpacked her bow from the protective fur as she strode toward the valley. Joshua, who still bore the same expression of disgust as the first time he had set foot on the snow, pulled the gloves from his elegant fingers and brushed snow and ice from his sword and quiver, cursing under his breath as he followed Caele. Gunthar was the last, his bald head uncovered despite the cold and his heavy arms crossed over the shaft of the huge axe that rested on his neck. He rolled his dark eyes as his gaze passed over me and he followed the others down through the snow. In the last few days, we had all cursed each other many a time for so easily following the Dwarf’s tales and gold. This was no place for humans. But at least we were able to get away from the war for a while.
I took my shield from my back and joined the others.
We crossed the endless abyss on the narrow bridge. Over five hundred paces long, it spanned the canyon to a snow-covered slope that was visible between the harsh cliffs in the west. This narrow path of stone was the only way to reach the white rise that opened amist the vertical rocks, the passage to an unknown mountain which we were to climb.
We met neither the traps nor the ancient magic that Skjalf had warned us about and reached the other side of the bridge unharmed, but chilled by the icy winds. Our boots dug into the virgin snow and the cold air carried the noise across the glittering surface of the steep slope that led up into the clouds. Wisps of snow blew over the the shining surface like ghosts. It appeared as if no living thing had ever set foot here before.
“We’re going to climb the whole mountain with our weapons drawn? There’s nothing…”
“Not the whole mountain. Look!“
Skjalfs armored hand pointed up the ravine and silenced my half-hearted protest. With each step we took, the silhouette of an imposing gravesite loomed more and more clearly out of the fog of the cloud cover. Into the face of the cliff, Skjalf’s ancenstors had carved a gigantic doorway, narrow and tall, surrounded by a wall of statues that stared down at us sternly with their cold, stone eyes. Silently, we looked up with awe to the massive gate that, surrounded by the fine fog of the clouds, seemed to be as far off and as huge as the mountain itself. Skjalf quickened his pace as he strode ahead.
“This is the grave of Torgen, the last of the Dragon Slayers. It was built in his honor by Urgrim, the greatest of the Dwarven master builders. Many years and many lives did it cost, including that of the builder himself.”
The Dwarf’s voice sounded grim.
“Urgrim never left this place.”
“What is this Lördir that you seek? An heirloom?”
Caele tried in vain to shake a lock of hair from her frostbitten face, her clear gaze fixed suspciously on the armored back of the Dwarf.
“What does it look like? At least tell us this!”
Oblivious to her questions, the Dwarf strode on, but his hand reached out as if by reflex to check for the heavy double-edged axe her carried under his pack. It looked to weigh at least three times as much as Gunthar’s huge weapon, and none of us knew why he had brought it here to the frozen peaks of Windwall.
“You’ll know soon enough. Let’s go!”
Onwards and upwards through the knee-deep snow we waded. Our heavy breathing rose like white flags to the north as we fought our way through the white sea until we finally reached flatter ground. The gate was not far now, and to the left and right statues of fallen Dragon Slayers rose out of the snow. The sun was just starting to set and drew golden-red streaks across rocks and sculptures as we approached the grave in the blue shadow of the mountain. Around us were many smaller monuments, some hardly recognisable under the blanket of snow, others showing fierce dragons and raging demons. A battle, frozen in stone here in the endless winter. The wind blew fiercely amongst the creatures and whistled between their claws, creating an eerie, surreal song.
We started to slow.
Like a thin veil, the threat of danger lay upon this place. Even the Dwarf moved cautiously, his armored fist not leaving the handle of his axe. Suddenly, Joshua drew a sharp breath and we followed his gaze to the mountain. Only a few paces separated us from the door, where the snow had recently been disturbed. Bones lay strewn there, the carcasses of what might have been mountain goats, ripped and disemboweled as by wild beasts.
Without a word, we readied our weapons and made a circle. Watching, waiting, we heard only our own breathing and the strange song of the wind. Above our heads, stony faces looked to the east, oblivious to our presence.
Then he jumped right in front of me and landed on a monument, a club of stone and wood in his hairy paw. For a split-second, I saw a huge, human-like form with a great, goat-like head staring down at me. With a ear-splitting roar, he launched himself into the air and his club slammed down on me. I only just managed to raise my shield to try and ward off the blow of the weapon.
A blow from the hammer of the Smith God himself could not have been worse. My shield rang like a bell under the force of the stone club and I dropped to my knees, my shield arm numb to the shoulder. Snow flew into my face and half-blind, I ducked under the shield and sought my sword which the blow had knocked out of my hand. Again, the club crashed down on me, banging the shield against my head, almost knocking me unconscious. In my desperation, I supported the shield with both arms and forced my knees to support me – but alas, my numbed limbs did not obey. As if from a great distance, I heard the sounds of battle behind me, snow blowing around me like a white storm. Once more, the mighty weapon rushed towards me, striking the edge of my shield, breaking the leather straps and sending it flying like a leaf in the wind. The force of the blow knocked me to the ground and the Brute, half human, half animal, roared in triumph.
His roar struck me with almost as much force as his club, his putrid breath showering me with spittle and carrion. In a daze, I crawled away from the monster and as I saw his club raised to the sky, ready to deliver the killing blow, all I could do was stare, paralysed by fear. Suddenly a shadow danced across my face and one of Skjalf’s axes flew past me, embedding itself in the Brute’s skull. For a instant, we both held our breath, then the Beastman dropped dead into the snow like a falling tree.
I forced my numb limbs to move. Three other Brutes lay dead in the blood-red snow. My companions were breathing heavily, but I saw no wounds.
“What took you so long?”
“Should I have split your skull as well, human? Next time, just play dead and stay out of the way!”
The Dwarf’s strong hand reached out and pulled me to my feet. Without a word, Joshua handed me my sword and the sorry remains of my shield. My shameful smile disappeared as we heard another fearsome roar. Our weapons raised, we looked about, expecting another onslaught, but no attacker was to be seen, only the stony faces of the sculptures staring back at us. The roar could still be heard, dull and seemingly coming from the rock itself. Skjalf tore his axe free and pointed to the rocky gate.
“They’re coming through the gate! Stop them at the stairs, if they get out in the open, we won’t stand a chance!”
Driven by the Dwarf’s stern voice, we jumped up and rushed to the gate. It towered above us like a cliff, and I wondered how these beasts, who were without a doubt extremely strong, would ever be able to move such huge doors. Yet they began to shake, frost and dust raining down on us. With an unearthly grating sound, the first door opened enough to let out a stream of huge, horned creatures, at least two heads taller than Gunthar, but still almost human, carrying axes and clubs of wood and stone in their hands.
Two fell at once and tumbled down the stone stairs, struck by arrow and bolt. The others were upon us in an instant, Gunthar’s axe striking out and biting into flesh and bone. I ducked under the blow of one of the Horned One’s clubs and rammed my sword into his open flank. With a gurgling scream he pulled me down as he died, and we both struck the hard stone of the stairs so that once more I saw stars before my eyes. At that moment, the portal thundered again and began to open further, the huge doors scraping over the rock, pushing stone and snow aside.
For an instant, the battle stopped, as if dulled by the thundering of the doors. Faster and faster the doors opened and finally, we saw the great power that moved it. Never before had I seen a Giant, and so I lay paralysed with despair on the blood-stained stones. Taller than many a tower this beast loomed in the open gate, his massive arms swelling at the effort of pushing a weight than not even a hundred men could have moved an inch. Wild eyes glowed down at us from between a black beard and mane, and despite his barbaric appearance, it was clear how old and powerful this beast was.
While we humans were paralysed by this appearance and the word that it uttered in our language, the Dwarf stood fast. “Your deathsman, Lördir! Many years you have gone unpunished, now you will reap the wrath of the sons of Urgrim!” The Giant lowered his hateful gaze and fixed the Dwarf. The ancient enemies stared at each other for a heartbeat, then the Giant stormed out of the gate with a roar.
The very mountain seemed to tremble under his thundering steps and, thrown into the air by the shaking rock, I tumbled helplessly down the stairs. For an instant, the sky was black as the giant strode over me, crushing creatures and stone under him as he bore down on the Dwarf. Humans and beasts alike struggled to get out of the path of this moving tower of blind rage. Only Skjarf remained motionless. The Dwarf had removed his backpack and reached for the heavy axe strapped to his back. Just as the giant raised his fist to squash the Dwarf, Skjalf threw the axe. With all his might, he launched the weapon toward the giant, its twin blades glittering in the twilight like a deadly butterfly.
A surprised groan escaped the Giant’s throat. As if swatting an insect, his huge hand moved to his bloody forehead. Then he began to fall, for a seemingly endless instant seemed to teeter like a rotten tree before he started to tumble forwards. Skjalf turned and ran from the impending disaster, but the Giant’s hand reached out and closed around the fleeing Dwarf, crushing him as he thundered to the ground, dead.
For an instant, there was silence. The wind blew the huge cloud of snow that the Giant’s body had flung into the air to the east and with a quiet rustling, dust fell from the open gate. Then the growling and snarling around us became louder as the Beastmen shook off their numbness. We looked around and each of us saw the same thought in the others’ faces. Our journey was over, there was nothing for us in this place. No matter how much gold or how many treasures lay in the Dragon Prince’s grave, the price of retrieving them would be death. And so we took our weapons, grabbed our belongings and started to run.
Through the deep snow we half ran, half slid back toward the bridge. The beasts were close behind us, growling and roaring. They were able to move through the snow faster than we, and as we reached the bridge, they were almost upon us. Finally we started out across the narrow, rocky path that spanned the bottomless canyon as fast as our boots would carry us. The Brutes hesitated for an instant and as the first stepped out onto the bridge, Caele turned and dropped him with quick flash of her bow. With an arrow in his skull, the body of the Beastman fell silently into the darkness.
None of the others followed us and we reached the other side in safety. As my companions continued to run, I turned and looked back. They were climbing back up the white slope, back to the grave that they had made their home. As unwelcome guardians, they would secure the final resting place of the Dragon Slayer and the Master Builder until the winds of time had carried away the mountains themselves. Our tracks would soon fade and with them the memory of us and this day’s events. The beasts, however, will still be here. Northwind blew softly down the slopes and brought fresh snow.
|The Lance of Kings|
|A stormy wind blew that day. It toyed with the fallen leaves of the old forest and whipped the trees into a swaying sea of autumn foliage. Through the rustling boughs, the golden light of the setting sun danced across the armor of the attackers, as if to court the dark figures. The forest itself seemed to welcome this triumphant procession with the red and gold leaves that swirled around them, beckoning them further. We waited.
They came out of the forest and stopped. I viewed their ranks as they stood at the edge of the wooded area and looked across the tournament grounds to our city, which they hoped to take by the end of the day. From North to South their ranks extended, shoulder to shoulder, a wave of iron and steel that would soon crash over us. Their banners fluttered in the wind and the long bands flew the colors of the rebels over the heads of this massive army. The grey wolf of the House Wulfgar, the Feather of Iskander, the white axe banner of Hallit and, at the center of the army, the purple banner with the black shield of the House of Utran, with whose men I had once fought side by side. Only a few remained here to protect the Queen, and her banner of blue and gold flew above our heads in the evening sun. Only one house remained true to the Queen and the realm of Nortander. The Leonidar had marched so far with their armies and would follow the line of kings, either to death or into exile. It seemed the Queen had decided upon death. We waited.
The sound of horns signalled their ranks to advance. With a thundering of boots, the army began to stream out of the woods and out onto the meadows of the tournament grounds. A signal rang out from the first wall and resounded up over the three large ramparts on the slopes of the Allen Gor, that would protect the fortress and the city of kings. Around me, the archers raised their crossbows. Soon, the waiting would end.
Like the drumbeat of an execution, the sound of thousands of boots washed up to us. With each step, our death came closer and closer, only our pride on the executioner’s block would be left for us. Then, finally, came the long-awaited signal and from our ranks a black cloud of crossbow bolts was unleashed that climbed into the evening sky and then descended like a swarm of insects onto our foes. Even on the windy heights of the third wall could I hear the sound of the bolts crashing through armor, shields and flesh of our enemies. They would have no lesser price to pay. As the command to reload was issued, a voice sounded over the battlefield, surreal and unimaginably loud.
Following the thundering command, everything stopped. A silence descended upon us, the insistent flapping of the banners in the stormy wind the only reminder of the imminent battle.
A figure emerged from the ranks of the rebels. “Wife of a dead king, men of Leonidar. Listen to me!”
Isamo Tahar, Mage of the School of Westbrandt, once aide to the King and the torch that had set this kingdom on fire, opened his arms as if to embrace us as brothers. Only now, so close to victory, did he dare to show his real face and his smile was sour to those of us that knew his real intentions.
„Today, on this battlefield, men of a kingdom divided face each other! It is up to you, woman, to end this slaughter and heal the wounds of your land!”
Only the wind seemed willing to reply to his taunts.
“You husband is dead, and with the demise of your son, the bloodline of the Imperials has ended! Release the throne, your family is no more!”
Many of us looked up to the royal castle and the stony balcony from which the King had spoken to his people, and where the Queen had spent many a long night waiting for her son to return. But it was and remained empty.
Again, the Mage’s voice rang out.
“Do you want a woman as your leader, Northmen? A woman without imperial blood, old, weak, and broken?”
In silence we stared down at him.
“Then I shall show you the power that is worthy of reigning this realm. No dragon slayer will be your leader. Dragon masters will rule!”
Even before he had finished speaking, we saw a shadow pass the sun and dread of what was to come sank down on us. With great wings, the gigantic lizard swooped down out of the golden red sky, as big as a castle, its black body scuffed and scarred. It was an ancient dragon, and in the beating of its wings echoed eternity. It hovered over the rebel army and each beat of his leathery wings sent a sulphuric blast of wind across our fortress. We could all sense the age of this creature, and its very presence threatened to defeat us as we stood paralysed with awe and fear. A murmur made me look up.
The Queen had stepped into the light. Alone, she stood on the stony outlook in the wall of the King’s Keep and her tall, slender figure shone in a white gown like the light of the moon. In her hand she held the Lance of Kings, that great weapon from the time of Dragon Slayers that many a warrior could not even lift. Yet her slender, white hand held the weapon steadily as if it weighed not more than a stem. Her eyes were clear and burned hard and bright as stars.
Her long, thin hair and gown blew in the stormy wind like a banner as she lowered the tip of the great lance, kneeling before the ancient dragon. Not loud, but clear and light her voice sounded down from the castle.
“Will you forgive me, o master of the skies? Will you forgive what must happen?“
Every ounce of stone, every inch of steel and every man’s heart shook with the mighty voice of the dragon, a voice that carried the weight of the ages and the pain of endless loneliness like a distant thunder.
“And will you forgive me, Queen of Mortals, for what I will bring upon you under the ban of this curse?”
No answer came, only an instant of silence. Then the dragon swung his head down and a stream of flame burst forth from his throat. A storm of fire rained down upon the castle walls, devouring wood and flesh in an instant. Screaming, our ranks broke and the flames continued, destroying everything in their path, higher and higher to the woman kneeled there. With her slender arms, she held up the mighty lance that divided the flames, protecting her from a fiery death. No matter how long the dragon rained fire down on the Queen, and though the very stones around her began to melt, he would not be able to break its ancient magic.
Finally, the fire stopped and the dragon let out a roar. His claws ground into the walls, pulverizing stone, armor and flesh like rotten wood. Great gusts of wind from his wings blew us down and the castle began to buckle under his weight. The lizard clawed into the wall and its great mouth shot out toward the Queen, capturing her. Back and forth the dragon threw the slender figure until he finally tossed her into the air, her body crashing into the stone of the wall. If the dragon’s teeth had not crushed her body, that blow surely must have, yet still her hands held tightly the shaft of the lance. In falling, just before she plummeted down to the stony pedestal, her body arched and with all her might she launched the massive lance into the dragon’s throat.
With a gargling sound the dragon let go of the wall. Gasping, he showered us with deep red blood, and two beats of his massive wings took him backwards out of the city. In the eyes of the beast, it seemed that humility and pain had been taken from him and with a murmur that almost sounded like relief, the dying dragon fell from the sky and buried his former master and the leaders of the rebel army under him. Like waves on a pond the army of attackers broke apart, leaderless and confused.
We all looked in dismay up to the stone upon which the broken body of the queen lay. Then, in a seemingly impossible act, she stirred and an outcry rang out amongst both armies. Slowly, she got up, willing her body to rise inch by inch, until she stood before us, her white hair billowing in the wind. No words did she have for us, nor for our enemies, yet her clear eyes gazed down upon us.
Like a great thunder, swords, lances, banners and shields were dropped to the ground as both her followers and the rebels sank to their knees, like a wave of humility crashing over the ranks of men. And so, on this day, ten thousands of soldiers of the Northern Realm kneeled before their rightful leader. The line of Dragon Slayers had been restored, and even without the traditions, no leader would ever dare to rebel against the will of this first Queen of Nortander.
Even the dwarf guards of Hallit and our elven allies kneeled down before this mortal, whose willpower had defeated the dragon, the pain and even death itself.
Angar Arandir „Dove and Sparrow“
|The sixth dream: Red|
|Silhouettes as black as the night crept at the edge my vision through the smoke-filled twilight of my chamber. They spun their web of fear in my mind and whispered promises of what was to come. I sought to escape the dream that awaited me, to jump up from the sweat-stained sheets, but fear lay like ice in my veins and pressed me to the bed. And so I lay paralyzed and clutched my frozen soul until finally, I heard the sound of hooves and it began anew.
Red half-light breathed around me like the inside of a smouldering body. The stench of decay and blood strangled my throat and the heat bit into my numb flesh. A hissing, snorting and shouting reached my ears, dull and distant, yet omnipresent and perpetual like the sound of a huge fire.
Now a sobbing sounded from the red fog and I saw a girl in a red-stained shirt, not far from me, cowering over a blood-covered bird that lay there. Again, she sobbed and her whining cut into my heart. I reached out, wanting to hold and comfort her, but claws dug into my flesh and dragged me away. Hundreds of limbs took hold of me, covering me like worms, their claws ripping the very flesh from my bones and dragging me down to the ground that opened up like a bloody wound. From the twilight grew shapes, fangs flashed like daggers and gigantic bodies unfolded, bodies distorted and disfigured as if mocking the natural order. A breath of heat and blood lay in the air, heavy like oil yet still intoxicating in its promise of power and death.
Still I strove to reach the crying child, to give her solace and hold on to the spark of humanity that I believed to see in her. But suddenly, she turned to me and I saw her face as I stared into empty holes from which bloody tears flowed over ghostly-white cheeks. Her whine was no longer a crying, it was a demented giggling that escaped between small, sharp and bloodied teeth from her small throat. She grabbed my hair and forced me to look to the ground.
As I looked down upon the bird that crawled there, I realized I was looking at myself, the grey dove of my soul, its feathers heavy from the blood of slaughtered dreams, old and weak, caught in the senseless dance of perishability. Now child and beasts alike began to scream and rejoice, as if mocking my pitiful existance. In that instant, I wanted to scream with them, wanted to leave my old, grey flesh behind and like them, become strong and immortal, craving only the pleasures of the flesh. For here, they were gods, each and every one an arbiter of life and death.
Yet Aonir’s Star still glowed inside me, a small pinpoint of hope and faith, reminding me of my human soul. Recognizing my doubts, they spat at me with disgust, clawing my flesh and sinking their fangs into my body as they began their meal, a horror of which I cannot tell while awake. When they were done, they tossed my ravaged body aside and I began to fall.
I fell into the bloody lap of the earth, down an endless abyss, between small bridges of red rock, down, and still further down. Massive chains of dark iron spanned the walls of the chasm, black links covered with rusty hooks to which the bodies of the damned were slung, hanging for eternity over this pit of endless despair. And I saw the Red Horde, crawling up from the glowing depths. On stone towers they climbed up, an endless stream of red bodies. A mass that grew like a tumor under the surface of the world, and slobbering, they shouted and screamed in their craving for flesh and souls. The fires of the earth inflamed my mangled body and like a screaming torch I fell past thousands of them, praying for the merciful release of death.
Then, finally, the sound of hooves brought me back to my chamber, but only when the next day broke and my throat was raw and hoarse did my scream end. To this day, the very memory of that scream still threatens to plunge my mind into madness.
Ishtar Magnus „Seven Dreams“
|Morning began to break. We had allowed the followers of the sun their pathetic sleep and gathered our strength in prayer until the first rays of morning shone down upon the ruins of the holy sanctuary. The time for their execution had come.
I knelt upon a ledge in the wall and looked down to the sun-believer’s camp. They were humans, although this time they were not soldiers. They were either scouts or thieves, judging by their torn leather garments and simple weapons. Between the ruins, wisps of morning mist drifted like ghosts in the golden light where the humans cowered together in their pitiful campsite. The stench of their unwashed bodies and their fear was overpowering, even up on my perch high above their heads. I stood to give my servants a sign and sprang down amongst them.
The weight of my armor was soon forgotten as I whirled among them, my blades flashing and their steaming blood surrounding me like a red cloud. Effortlessly, the shimmering moonlight of my swords bit through their pathetic armor and stinking flesh. They were so weak, paralyzed by useless fear and confusion, that I was almost angry at them. I always preferred a good fight to senseless slaughter, but these ones allowed themselves to be butchered like cattle. Distorted faces rushed by me and their screams merged with the tearing of flesh. Soon, only a last one was left standing and I remembered my duty. My sword stopped at his throat and he froze with fear, staring at me over the silvery surface of the blade with his watery eyes, breathing his fear into my face. And so we stood for an instant as the dying fell to the ground around us.
Shain Tal’ ach, a battlemaster of my group, stepped out of the fog. His armored fist held the black braid of a skinny, dirty excuse for a human woman who cried out shamelessly in fear.
“She was hiding in the ruins.”
I lowered my blade from the man’s throat.
“Put them in chains. Both of them.”
The battlemaster let go of the human and shouted out his orders. Instantly, the humans began to cling desperately to each other, pressing their dirty faces together before falling to their knees, crying. My men turned away, repulsed by this open display of weakness. The disgusted gaze of my warlord wandered further, looking out over the ruins to the East where in the halls of obsidian, the Master of Ceremonies awaited us.
“Only two sacrifices tonight. The Archon will be angered.”
I stared at the human campsite, only a few daggers, and a bit of food – what a pitiful existence.
“It will have to do. These were not warriors, only farmers and fugitives. They died too quickly.”
Then I looked to the crying pile of human misery at my feet and sought the feeling of disgust that so many of my kin felt. But there was only a strange, unique sensation that at that time I neither understood, nor did I want to.
„Get them moving, night comes quickly at this time of year!“
When we reached the city, it was already dark. Without cleansing ourselves, we dragged our offering to the great hall where we were eagerly awaited. We strode through the ranks of our relatives, our breathing heavy from the quick march, barely able to keep the rhythm of the tubular bells that had begun to sound upon our arrival. Under the high ceiling of the hall, our procession continued endlessly, lined by a wall of silent faces, mirrored in the shining floor of obsidian. My wife nodded to me from the crowd and I returned her gaze respectfully, yet I felt so out of place, with my dirty armour and bloody weapons, as if I myself were a barbarian.
The high Archon awaited us as the end of the hall under the round window, where the silver disc of the moon was moving into place.
The cold light of our lord appeared as a shining ray and shone down on the Archon and the Book of Sermons that lay on its massive pedestal of silver. The beam was so bright that the white pages of the book seemed to glow, bathing the book and the pure skin of the Archon in a surreal aura. This was the holiest hour, the brightest of the full moon. Murmurs of prayer floated like a fog of sounds from the hall.
My battlemaster passed me and knelt before the Archon on the polished obisidian while around me, my men fell to their knees in reverence. Only I remained standing. “The Dracon Craig Un’ Shallach comes before the Archon with an offering!” The Archon came out from behind the book, his long robe flowing around his slender figure and seemingly merging with the floor. His eyes measured us and his hard gaze punished us for the unworthy sacrifice.
“You bring us a meager offering, dracon.”
Then he looked at me and in our eyes, the old fight for power flared up, a fight that my caste had long lost. I remained silent and with an almost invisible smile, he turned away. “First, the man.”
Full of expectation, the hall murmured as the Archon stretched his left hand to the face of the human, a face distorted by fear. He dug the nails of his right hand into the palm of the left, opening his flesh in three wounds, from which dark drops of blood began to drip onto the human’s skin. At first, they persisted as black pearls. Then, as so many times before, it happened – the black drops began to twitch, to slide left and right. Legs appeared and turned the drops into black spiders, a legion of greedy servants of our lord that at once began to burrow into the human’s flesh. Screaming, the faithful servant of the sun began to squirm, while the Archon watched over his victim’s suffering with silent glee.
”Your flesh will decay, the price of your gods’ sacrilege. Your blood will flow as a sign of your weakness and for our lord’s pleasure!”
I gazed down upon that which I had seen so many times before and waited silently for the end, turning toward the within and seeking the pleasure and satisfaction, but could not find them. I looked into the eyes of the woman, saw her look at her dying husband, a desperate look filled with the full power of her senseless emotions, cutting his pain like a dagger and deep as the almighty sea of mourning.
Those eyes paralyzed me. Then, as in a dream, I drew one of my blades and severed the screaming man’s head from his torso. A quick step, and the woman also fell to the ground, her throat slit.
An outcry and murmur filled the hall and I felt the unbelieving gaze of my men. The Archon stumbled, stunned by the outrage of my actions.
“What have you done?”
Confused, I sought an answer for something that I could not explain. As if from another, distant place, my voice sounded, strong and clear.
“They were only peasants, their sacrifice not worthy of his hall.”
Silence surrounded me as I looked around. There I stood, my armour covered in the blood of the sun-believers, and was recognized for what I really was: A doubter, already tainted by the worshippers of the light, stained with the marking of their weakness. Rejection flowed like a wave of ice through the crowd and I stood alone.
Yet the Archon smiled his thin, almost invisible smile. I was the leader of my caste and untouchable to him, but in that instant I had given up my power.
“Pray, brothers and sisters! May the wrath of the Silverweaver pass us by!”
I started to go, still numbed by my action, hoping that which was inevitable would not follow.
“You seem to be weary of your task and unable to complete your duties.”
He said the formula, and though they were only words, not magic, he might as well have summoned the fire of Barga Gor upon me.
“You will receive a new task. You will go to our fortresses in Urgath, where a new challenge will be waiting for you.”
It had been said. Slowly, I turned to face him.
“It is a long journey. You had best leave immediately.“
There was nothing left to do, nothing left to say. So I strode on, heading for the gate at the end of the hall, and with every thundering step of my armoured boots, the crowd seemed to part further, as though they feared me and the disease of weakness that had infected me.
The slaves, their mouths sewn shut, took hold of the handles and began to open the great gate for me. I turned to face my wife who stood silently in the sallow wall of faces. In her eyes, I searched for the power of the human woman’s final look, but could not find it, neither there nor in my heart.
So I just lowered my head in respect, turned and went through the gate, leaving the hall and my homeland.
From the writings of Craig Un´Shallach
|The light wind took hold of the withered rose leaves and drove them over the calloused palm of my hand. From there, they rose on the warm evening wind, flying out over the white balustrade, joining the thousands of dark red petals dancing across the roofs of Talindar.
A sliver of the evening sunlight shone down the shaft and bathed one side of this strangest of cities in a pale red light. For the emperors, the dwarven master builders had built the pure white palaces, temples and balustrades into the sides of the massive shaft, elaborate structures connected by stairs and bridges. A gigantic work of art, made of rock so white it was almost blinding. Almost a mile deep the buildings stretched into the depths, carved into the very walls of the abyss. From the edge of the shaft, streams of water from the mighty Lake Vajar were channeled through an intricate system of pipes, canals and waterfalls down to the city, creating a fine mist over the abyss that glowed warm in the dusk. And everywhere, there were gardens full of red roses, dark and strong in colour, their smell the constant breath of this place.
The roses were all that remained of the splendour of this city. For generations now, it was only a grave, a lonely, mysterious place, where on a quiet night the ages whispered. My gaze wandered back to the trembling leaves on my hand.
“They are dying.”
Urgrim, king and priest, passed me with the steadfast marching so typical of a dwarf as he descended down the white stars.
“That’s why we’re here, human. Come on!”
The other dwarves marched passed me without saying a word, their heavy armour and axes only seemingly out of place in this lovely city that would prove to be so deadly. Only Skarvig, a Hallite from Windholme, who was closer to me than any of his less talkative brethren, knelt next to me and grasped an armoured fist full of red petals.
“Poured with dragon blood. Their red is the darkest and purest, they blossom for many generations. Only evil can taint them.”
I looked into the dwarf’s grey-bearded face.
“Evil awaits us down below?”
The dwarf stood and shouldered his axe.
“Evil will come to us. Tonight.”
As we reached the great stairs at the foot of one of the halls, Urgrim stopped. The eyes of the dwarf king gazed testingly over the steps. From here, one could see all the way down the labyrinth of stairs and bridges until they disappeared into the misty depths which lay in darkness. The king put down the head of his heavy axe and nodded.
“We will wait for them here. Bring the baggage into the hall.”
We did as we were told. Without speaking, the dwarves went about their work, stowing their packs and tying up anything that was not needed for battle. No unnecessary word was uttered in the dusty hall. These warriors had fought in wars many human lives ago, they all knew of the approaching battle and death that crept up towards us. He who had no explicit task was busy checking his weapons or knelt in prayer. Skarvig came towards me.
“You have led us well, human. But now go, Urgrim will understand.”
I looked at the silent dwaves and Urgrim, who was praying with the others further back. Right knee and fist on the ground to honour Niethalf, his head lowered, the old king was like a statue. The last light of the evening came in through the entrance of the hall and glanced off the fine decorations of his armour and the silver of his beard, so that his dark shape was speckled with fine points of light, a sea of stars. He seemed as ancient and solid as the mountain itself, and even in this humble pose, the power of the centuries that lay in his shoulders and arms made me feel weak and unworthy.
“I will stay.”
The Hallite’s gaze measured me long and hard from under his grey eyebrows.
“You do not know what awaits you. But as you wish. Get ready, they will be here soon.”
Brok nodded. The guard had come in from the steps in front of the hall and looked silently around the group. The dwarves rose and sought their axes and shields, and I followed them through the old doorway. Only the last rays of glowing light shone from the roofs at the top of the shaft. From deep below us, something was crawling up to the city, a swirling cloud of grey that streamed up over the bridges and stairs toward us. Without a word, the dwarves closed rank and stood in battle formation, Urgrim at their lead.
The grey continued to crawl and under the rain of red petals I saw the mass of creatures that surged toward us. With bared fangs and razor-sharp claws, hundreds of wolflings climbed the stairs, crawling over each other, clubs, daggers and short spears in their claws. I slipped an arrow from my quiver and drew my bow.
With a booming voice, Urgrim began to sing. His mighty bass sounded like a bell, and soon, the other dwarves joined in. In their thundering tongue, they honoured their god and forefathers. The wall of sound was enough to slow the advance of the wolflings, with many shying from the iron wall of dwarves. But the others pressed forward, and soon the growling horde washed over the last of the stairs. I shot once, twice, saw my targets fall, and they were upon us.
With the sound of a thousand hammers the grey horde crashed into the wall of dwarves like a ship against the cliffs of Ironmark. Their attack smashed into the shields, was split by the axes, the force of the following rows throwing the wolflings up and over the dwarves like a breaking wave. Axes and hammers plowed easily through the midst of them, broken weapons and crushed bodies tossed aside like toys.
Unprotected by the wall of dwarves I fled into the entrance of the hall, trying to protect my back and defend myself as best I could with my bow and dagger. But for every wolfling slain, three more came toward me and soon, all I could see was the gleaming of fangs and claws.
Three times they retreated, and three times again they began to attack. Only as the morning sun began to colour the roofs of Talindar red did they retreat, but not into the depths. A stone’s throw away, they stopped at the foot of the stairs and stared up at us, as if waiting for something. I cowered against a wall, my dagger arm covered in blood to the shoulder, my quiver empty, my bow shattered. Next to me leaned Brok, as if only resting for a moment, but he was as dead as Gundar, Durin and Graurung who lay in their blood on the white stairs.
Urgrim still stood at the lead, he had not moved so much as an inch, but his armour had been pierced in many places by the wolfling’s spears and blades. His breathing was even, but with each breath, the sounds of death could be heard, a red foam dripping into his white beard. The other dwarves had closed rank and waited for the next attack. And finally, the creature the dwarves had been awaiting appeared, the source of all this slaughter. In the morning light, it strode over the white steps, greeted by the perpetual rain of petals, and stopped at the bottom of the great stairs.
A hideous creature it was, covered with red fur, with a skull like a great wolf, huge claws and fangs glittering like swords, eyes of black fire. Evil wafted towards us, for this creature was a mark of shame on the light of the world, a creature of hate and anger that had no place in the order of life.
I tried to get up, forcing my weak knees to work, when I saw that Urgrim was already marching toward the creature alone. Over the bloody steps he strode, casting aside his shield and taking his mighty axe in both hands. Whispering and growling, the wolflings parted and moved away as the dwarf stepped in front of the monster. Immediately, the mighty claws of the red wolf struck out to grip the dwarf in their deadly embrace, but Urgrim’s axe flashed, quicker than the eye could follow, arcing up into the monster’s chest. The claws froze in mid-strike and the creature stood silent.
The king tore free his axe and a black sickle of blood rose into the morning sky. The red one wavered, the weight of his body crushing a white railing before he plummeted, past the palaces and bridges, down into the mist at the foot of the city.
Urgrim staggered, coughing out a last cloud of blood. One last time, he held up his axe and shouted the name of his god with his dying breath. Back and forth the cry echoed from the pale walls of the city around us, resonating from windows and gates, as if a thousand fallen kings were joining his cry. It was then that the wolflings turned and fled, falling over each other, wanting only to get away from the dwarf and his voice, down into the depths. With the last echo of his cry the dwarf king fell dead on the bloodied stone.
Skarvig was the only one to break the ensuing silence. “It is done, the roses will blossom again and she can rest. Collect the dead, we are leaving.”
Silently, I followed the warriors, not understanding what had happened, but too weak to ask.
Weighed down by the dead, we finally reached the top of the shaft as evening broke and were able to see the open country once again. Outside of this strange place, I found the courage to ask Skarvig.
“She? Who is she?“
The old blacksmith smiled his grey smile.
“The king loved his daughter very much.”
Seeing my blank look, he continued.
“Know, human, that very few women are born to the dwarves. And those few are beings of such beauty, such frailty, that a thousand warriors would sacrifice themselves for them. The people of Niethalf are a dying race.”
He looked wistfully to the horizon, as if an old friend awaited him there.
“The king’s daughter loved this place, she would dream of the roses every night. Urgrim could not stand to see her unhappy.”
I stopped in my tracks. No treasure, no ancient feud.
“All this, for the dreams of a woman?”
Skarvig stopped and looked at me. The disdain in his eyes was not directed at me alone, but to all humans, with our greed and follies.
I looked down to my hand and saw the dark red petals the armoured fist of the dwarf had put there. Then he turned away, following his brothers, marching steadily under the weight of his axe and armour over the small ridge to the west.
The evening wind took the rose petals from my hand and whirled them up and away, towards the golden light of the dying sun.
Angar Arandir “Wintertime”
|The Dark Shore|
|The drums had stopped. Like on a signal our column halted its advance.
Warm, stinking rain poured down our faces as if it wanted to drown us and the dark mud sucked at our boots. This land had been eating at us since we had first set foot on in; it drained our bodies, spirits and mind. The land of Urgath gulped us down like a hideous toad, only to spit the remains out across the ocean whence we had come. Where we belonged.
Lightning shot across the sky and lit up the line of trees ahead of us. There lay the jungle like a breathing tumor, its sweet, foul stench filling our nostrils and sticking to our bodies and clothing, while the rain filled our mouths. The drums had stopped, the jungle was silent. Everyone waited for battle.
Again, lightning flashed and I looked around to my comrades, saw their faces in the pale light, numb with pain and exhaustion. As the thunder began to roll, darkness enveloped us once more, leaving only the sound of our heavy breathing and the perpetual noise of rain. The jungle around us remained silent. For the blink of an eye, as the next bolt of lightning lit up the sky, I made out a huge, hideous form between the trees; I saw the bloated body, the long, gnarly arms, the ugly skull and the enormous club the creature held in its claw. Then blackness returned.
Like a curse the word spread through our ranks. None of the officers uttered a word, there were no calls to order. We were no more than a crowded pile of fear, fully aware that the jungle would likely become our grave this night.
The mud trembled under the onrush, only slightly at first, then like a quickened heartbeat. I do not know if the first row had even lowered their spears, but it would have made no difference - the short shafts were no match for what awaited us. We were soldiers of the sea, not land warriors. Then the beasts arrived like a thunderclap of deliverance.
With an ear-splitting noise the trolls broke through our lines, the power of their attack crowding our bodies together like sheep at a gate. Stars danced before my eyes as my comrade’s helmet threatened to crush my face. Desperately I fought against the wet iron and struggled for air. Ahead of us in the darkness I heard the ungodly sounds of battle, the cracking of the trolls’ clubs and the death screams of my comrades. Like cattle we stood there, screaming, wedged together, waiting to die.
Another bolt of lightning shot overhead and revealed our foes. There were not many trolls, but they passed through our ranks like a scythe through crops. The leaders with their leathery, scarred faces drove the others into our wall of spears, unrelenting with their tree-long chain whips. Again and again, the trolls’ clubs mashed into the mass of men, crushing weapon and soldier alike, hurling them through the night like dolls. One of the others flew over our heads, then it was dark again.
I rammed the shaft of my spear into the mud so as to not be buried beneath the waves of corpses. The sounds of battle came ever closer in the darkness, I could hear the roaring of the trolls, their primal screams full of pleasure and thirst for blood. Then my comrade’s helmet was torn from in front my face, and I stood unprotected in the darkness. Blind and shaking with fear I raised my spear, its tip meeting resistance.
I thrust it forward.
The ensuing roar almost knocked me off my feet, and in the short light of another flash I saw what my spear had struck. Like a tower he loomed over me. His grey chest was wrapped in coarsely sewn leather, his dripping body pierced by broken spears. By all counts he should have been long dead, even before my spear had stuck into his breast, but the troll’s roars where only full of rage, for the beasts knew neither pain nor fear of death. For a fleeting instant of light, we stared at each other, and he roared all his anger and wildness into my face before darkness fell. His club struck me, tossing me aside and sending me flying through the night. For a moment, I felt the wind around me, could not tell up from down, before the stinking mud finally engulfed me and with it the merciful darkness of unconsciousness.
I woke surrounded by a dull sound like thunder, a sound that shook the mud under my broken body. A new day was dawning in Urgath, the stormclouds on the horizon were glowing in the crimson light of sunrise, highlighting the silhouette of the jungle like a demonic aura. The tangly trees ensnared in rampant vines and the thousands of eyes that sough shelter there were lit up by an unholy glow, as though the land itself was satisfied with the bloody meal it had been served the night before. In the green ponds that night’s rain had created lay the distorted corpses of my fallen comrades. I was alone, with only the omnipresent thunder as company. Painfully, I raised my head from the mud, seeking the origin of the sound. At that instant, they broke out of the undergrowth around me, grotesque shapes in the light of the rising sun. There were hundreds of them, hundreds and hundreds storming past me, an army of trolls at full march, and their onrush made the earth quake. Silent and paralysed I lay there, as growling shape after growling shape passed me in the morning fog, heading west. The fort was lost, our journey to this cursed land over once and for all.
Then something huge, something disgusting broke out of the forest, the sight of which I cannot describe today, but which forced my broken legs to flee, away from this creature and the horrors of that place. But as I fled blindly through the undergrowth, something was always with me, mocking and taunting me like a foul breath on my neck. And since that day, the malice and horror of that place, the darkest of all lands, has haunted me.
Jon Dundwer „Urgath“
|Aonir’s sacrifice and his instructions for the Guardians|
|And so Aonir, the Wanderer, descended onto Eo after weaving the bane and forming the face of the earth out of the elements. There he planted the Seed of Life, the most valuable of all his assets.
When he was finished, he lingered there. Weakened and fatigue, he wished to return home to the distant shores he had once set off from. However, the concern for his new creation would not cease from his mind.
Therefore he sent his light out across the Star Sea and called for his children. They soon hurried across the Eternal Abyss to stand by his side, and he spoke: “See my creation. I have formed a fertile terrain out of this once broken world. And the Seed of Life will soon bloom. However, I cannot dwell here to tend to my creation. Therefore I have called you to fulfil this duty.”
“Father,” his children replied, “the powers you have banned are merely asleep. Even if we unified our powers, we would never be as mighty as you are. How will we be able to face all the dangers to come?”
“No worries!”, the Wanderer answered. “As long as the shine of my light can be seen glowing from the distant shores of our homestead, my powers and the bane will be in effect. I shed my blood to make this world a part of me, like many others before.”
With these words Aonir forged a blade of sharp stone and jabbed it into his body. Many drops of his blood fell onto the face of Eo. Wherever a drop touched the land, they turned into purest crystal and the Godstones were formed.
Exhausted, the Wanderer spoke to his children: “From now on my power shall guide you. Though there are yet many challenges awaiting you. Tiara, eldest of my children, your home shall be the Disc of the Sun. And as you dance among the flames, you will offer life here the necessary light and warmth it requires to survive. May you never tire, Tiara.
Nor, my son, you shall receive the Disc of the Moon as your reign. Watch over the nights and the creature’s sleep once Tiara has moved on. Your light will shine cold, but it will be a welcome sign for the creatures of the night.
Daughter Elen, wander through the country and guard the forces of life. Watch over the treasures of nature, the plants and the creatures of the forests. Give them the water they so urgently need to survive and be their friend and protector.
Ulm, you shall be the Keeper of Diversity and Change. Nothing shall last forever and change shall determine the face of this world. May your powers give the flowers their colours and the creatures their variety.
Niethalf, your might shall form them and strengthen them. You will give them the power they need to survive. As we know, this world will not be without dangers. In the depths of the earth I want you to forge their souls, giving them courage and truthfulness; willpower and strength.
However, you will also encounter those who are weak or double-minded, the ones who do not pursue their lives based on the truth. They too, shall have an advocate, and that shall be you, Zerbo. Your deceitfulness and finesse shall offer them assistance and provide an example.
Shanna, my daughter, you will pass graciousness and blandness on to this world. In the homes and families, your soft hand shall guide their way. Show them the joy of life, of work and of being together.
Hirin, you will be the Harbinger, the one to bring good and bad. You shall accompany the souls of the dying to the Halls of Death and guide those born into life. Sleep, death and dreams, but also happiness and health will be the goods you trade. May they fear you and love you at the same time.
And at last you, Ereon. You will be the Keeper of their Knowledge. Science, research and magic shall provide a better future for the races. You shall take down all their knowledge and legislations in a book, so that I may learn the story of my creation when the end of time arrives.
Now set off and fulfill these duties until the end of this world has come. In return, every creature shall render homage to you in thankfulness and loyalty, as you are their guardians and their preservers. Yet keep in mind: my creation is immaculate; it is the beginning and the end, the present and the future. The Seed of Life shall sprout and grow, as I have created it. Watch over it, for every life is unique.”
And with that the Stargod Aonir quit speaking and left Eo to return to the shores of his homeland. From there his light shines protective over his children as they now protect us.
Nonetheless, they shall never interfere in our history and never shall they join forces with the creatures of Eo, nor shall they accept them as friends. These are the Rules of Aonir and they apply to the gods as well as the creatures of Eo. Whoever breaks them shall accept the curse of the Father God.
Transcript form the Runecircles of Erolfin, translated by Har Emet in the year 12, today called the Age of the Swords
|The morning rose with a thunderstorm. The breath of the wind was heavy with blood and ashes, a black maelstrom rising up from the battle to devour the sky. As far as the eyes could see the bodies of the Malar were undulating.
Hirin spurred his horse on, away from the circle of light that the hammer of his brother Niethalf cut with wide sweeps into the hordes of the Malar. Hirin’s goal was the source of the stream of bodies. The god of death and dreams pressed his black mount through the enemies to mete out justice at last and to take the life of the human whose madness was the reason for all this.
Under the steaming hooves of his steed, the Malar scattered to ashes and the heavy axe of the god swung left and right through the bodies of the monsters like a pendulum of inevitability. The steed climbed up a hill, stemming like a cockle boat against the wave of creatures. Behind the rider the storm, pierced by the lightning of his stormsister Elen, surged uphill and whipped the cloak of the god of death like a black flame around his armored body. When at last the steaming mount of the god pierced the crest of the wave Hirin looked into the face of Janus Malacay, the human who once used to be the High Alchemist of the Hyboric Emperor and who now declared himself to be the master over life and death of the whole world.
The gaze of the man was lost in reverie, while bloodmagic gushed from his wide-spread arms, forming one Malar after the other and filling them with life only to have them die under the axe of the deity moments later. Hirin pressed his horse on towards the man in whose eyes the mockery with which he had disobeyed the gods and the laws of life still gleamed.
Out of the maelstrom of the sky the dragon Ur descended on Hirin, ready to defend his master. But Elen’s lightning hit the beast and cast it a mile away, where it crashed into the sea of creatures like a meteor and for the first time Hirin saw a trace of fear in Malacay’s eyes. The lips of the alchemist seemed to form words as if he wanted to explain and appease. But the axe of the grim god rose high up into the black sky and came crushing down mercilessly, cutting deep into the flesh of the blasphemer.
And then the Malar started screaming.
They reared their hideous visages to the sky and shouted out the pain of their master, a scream coming from a sea of mouths with a sound as if the whole world would be burst asunder. And when the bloodmagic fell apart, the Malar fell apart too. They dissolved into bloody pieces and were carried away in the whirling storm along with the dying echo of their screaming.
Silence fell on the field of battle. Elen’s storm died down and a cold wind scattered the black clouds to lay bare the remains of the battle to the sun’s face.. The gods stood in a circle around the dying man, whose blood-covered lips were distorted in a derisive sneer.
“All the gods of Eo are needed to bring me down! So I can die in peace as I know now that your creation will always bear my mark! The mortal human who stole the secret of life! Even on the River of Souls my mocking of you shall be heard!”
“No, Janus Malacay“, said Ereon, the Wise. “You shall not experience the mercy of eternal sleep. Beyond the threshold of death, your true punishment will wait for you, and it will be much crueler than your sick mind is capable of imagining. You shall never rest in peace!”
And then the gods heard the breath of the dragon Ur who, hurt and weak as he was, tried to reach his master’s side. Hirin menacingly stepped closer and lifted his axe, when the voice of his brother Ereon sounded again. “Stop, brother! This first-born has simply fulfilled his bloodoath. Let the disgrace be punishment enough for him!”
This is how the gods left Malacay and the dragon Ur behind. The old dragon lay still and listened to the last breaths of his master and with each gasping breath a heavy burden seemed to be lifted from his heart. But then Malacay’s hand reached out for him.
“Listen to me! We are both still alive and you are not yet freed of your bonds!“
And again the alchemist smiled his dying smile.
“You are to take a last oath for me! An oath that will preserve my work and the bloodline I created forever! Now listen carefully...”
|Storys of Eo (field letters)|
A bloodline founded by the hyboric alchemist Malacay. Long after the gods destroyed Malacay, the Shaikan still honor the tradition of combining their blood with the blood of a dragon. Outcast by the gods as Malacay’s heirs, they live in the borderland between the humans and the Norcaine. They are godless and they aren’t attracted by light or by darkness.
The blood of the dragon with its power of life gives them incredible power, but their cruel past and, above all, their notorious disloyalty have condemned them to a life as outcasts.
The Book of the Islands
May you be damned, blood of the dragon!
How long have we been fighting together, side by side? And now, at the crossroads where everything is at stake, I see you under the banner of the enemy?
Then come and let me taste the lethal blade you know how to handle so well! Because if friendship means nothing, then what good are banners and kingdoms?
May you be damned, child of Malacay!
The Writings of Luther Belentor
Paladin of the Golden Flame
What do I want?
Perhaps you believe an alchemist is only occupied by ridiculous things such as making gold or preparing love potions?
Well, I will create a substance that will not only heal all illnesses, but also stop aging and pain for ever! No more suffering, no war will scare us ever again! The Materia Prima will make me immortal!
To the glory of the emperor, of course.
High Alchemist of the Hyboric Empire.
Humans of the Highmark, eagle of the West! Dwarves of the Middle Mountains, from the iron heart of Fiara! Elves of the white tree! Let's all shake hands!
Let's thank the darkness for forging this bond in its fire of hatred! Just like a good blade, we've grown harder and harder with each hammer blow that has fallen down on us! Now the fires are extinct and the steel is formed. Whatever may happen, let it happen. We are ready!
United for the Light!
Ijlos Andar on the foundation of the Realm
If the Highmark is the eagle of the West, then the Westguard will probably be its disheveled hatchling. Rarely is a noble lord willing to warm his heart for this small, plagued piece of land that is always fought over, and where no riches are to be found.
But like all the disdained, the Westguard has this rough loyalty to those that manage to love it. Respect this country and even in the roughest times it will offer you the grains to feed your dear ones.
Founder of the Westguard
And thus we fought until the last day of the old era dawned. In senseless wars under the slavery of the Circle, sticking at each other like grim death and not knowing what was going to happen to us. And when the shadow fell over the eye of Aonir, the Lords of the elements, awakened by the call of the Thirteen, cast away the spell of the god. And the primal powers raged and their ancient battle about domination once again swept over the face of the world, just like it had done before the beginning of time.
The Darkest Hour
In their raging, the elements carelessly destroyed the face of the world. And the earth burst asunder and its glowing blood flowed over the land. Lances of fire shot miles high into the sky, up to the maelstrom of black clouds that swallowed the horizon. Storms of ashes and poison eradicated whole mountains, threw them high up in the sky and ground them into dust with their force. And the boiling oceans threw themselves onto the shores, roaring and greedily devouring the land.
The Darkest Hour
The Materia Prima is also known as The Seed of Life, Aonir's Gift, or The Kiss of the Gods. It is the power which represents the foundation of all life and the origin of each and every thing walking about the face of Eo.
It lay in the blood of the first races, but in us, their descendants, one can find only traces of it. That is why we have to suffer and die, as a mere echo of the first creatures. We have to remain in remembrance of those majestic creatures that traveled our skies and roamed through our forests. Perhaps it is our envy that turned us into hunters and murderers.
Perhaps it's good that we are mortal.
About the Substances
What do you want to do? Wait until the Light crawlers die laughing about your cowardice?
Join me on a journey full of blood and death, on a journey many a song will be sung about!
Follow my banner and we will sweep over the lands like a storm, fighting for a country of our own! With blood and iron to the pleasure of Zarach!
The Iron Lord
We have been hunting him for a long time, longer than any other of his kind.
Our griffon riders chased him from the air above the glaciers to the tops of Grimwarg Mountain. And the fire of this cunning beast burned down many a comrade from the sky until our lances penetrated its flesh at last. That is how we caught Ur, the last of the great dragons.
Chronicles of the First Hunter
Hundreds of harnessed teams took the dragon in chains to the court of the emperor, where the dragon was going to receive the last lethal blow from the sovereign himself. But when the weakened saurian was dragged before the sovereign, a figure wrapped in robes stepped up front and demanded the dragon for himself. I cannot describe my surprise when I saw the sovereign quickly agree.
Later on I was told that even the emperor is afraid of this preparer of poison who decides who is going to live and who is going to die at the court.
Chronicles of the First Hunter
Me, a thief? Shall I get down on my knees and ask the gods for forgiveness? Didn’t they give me the mind to discover the secrets of life?
I will show them what a mortal mind can do. Let their creations burn! I despise their balance! I will create a world of perfect creatures that know neither suffering nor death. I will form life that doesn’t need to hide in the shadow of godliness! Now the gods shall learn what it means to be afraid!
High Alchemist of the Hyboric Empire.
What are they complaining about? They have chosen their own fate after all!
What do a few of their miserable years of life mean compared to an army of invisible assassins? The deal is perfect!
And your father's work now bears its darkest fruit.
The Pact can never again be undone!
When the Malar began to destroy the creation, and the flood of Malacay’s creatures seemed to suffocate the country from West to East, the gods came down unto the world. With Tiara’s flame and Niethalf’s thundering hammer, they smashed the Malar. Hirin rode through the flood of creatures up to their source and placed his blade in Malacay’s body.
Chronicles of the Shaikan
The gods went to the alchemist, who mocked them even in the face of death. That is when they promised that his soul would never find peace. His real punishment would wait for him beyond the threshold of death, so they left him dying. The wound that the god of death had inflicted could not be healed, not even by the powerful blood.
Ur, the dragon, moved to the side of his master. Malacay ordered Ur to protect his work as a pawn for his life guilt. That is how the dragon swore to continue the bloodbond and protect the people Malacay created through the fusion with dragonblood.
Chronicles of the Shaikan
When death finally came, Malacay cast his last and desperate spell. Once again he united his blood with Ur's, only this time his soul and essence of life flowed into the dragon along with it.
That is how Malacay's soul escaped the gods' punishment. Since this time it lurks in our blood, a stigma that will refuse us the love of the gods forever.
Chronicles of the Shaikan
These crystal fields were made out of frozen time by the shapers who have disappeared long ago. Magic is in every grain of sand at this place and in the soft breeze the crystals are singing of promises and memories.
Nobody knows why the shapers created this place, but I think just like us they were searching for an answer. Why are we here? Is it true what the old writings tell us? Did the gods create us out of sheer whim? Or are they too only futile sounds in the eternal song of time.
Music is for the weak. A Norcaine prefers to rejoice in the musical sound of his blade as it bites into the flesh of the Light worshippers. That is what we have been taught.
But as much as I kill and as devotedly as I pray, there is still this emptiness, a shore where my black wrath runs dry and silence is waiting like a lonesome maiden, not knowing what its waiting for. Should I be sad?
I hope that you, my half-blooded daughter, will manage to finally understand this place. For me the only comfort is battle.
Interesting of you to ask that...
Yes, indeed. Much of our magic knowledge is based on Malacay's work. The intelligence of this man by far outdid us all! You wouldn't believe what some of the lower magicians would do just to be allowed to cast a glance at his famous laboratory.
That is why the Circle decided his legacy has to be protected by a full army at all times! After all we don't want Malacay's knowledge to become the toy of some... careless characters, am I not right?
Now where would that take us...
Necromancer of the Circle
I wish I could write to you about hope and heroic courage, but the only words flowing from my feather are words of terror. This war is the work of a fool.
More and more of them are coming from the Steel Shore every day. The Malar, born from blood and madness. I hope you will never have to behold their horrible bodies, never have to watch their ghastly fangs tear your comrades into pieces. You are the sole reason I am still fighting.
They are coming.
Winterlight. When I think of that fortress in the eternal ice of the northern Windwalls, I look back unto the beginning of the end to my long journey.
After the rune spell was taken away from me, I had tried to pay back my debt, to avenge what I had done in the centuries under the rune. It was pure irony that when at last I had found the death that was supposed to bring me release, my deeds touched the heart of a Shaikan and he gave me his dragonblood. The Soul Carrier could not foresee that this would condemn me to continue my life of atonement.
Satras had replaced Halicos as commander of the Shaikan, and when I followed him on the mission to Winterlight Peak, I was only a Shaikan soldier like many others. But there, my life took a new and unexpected turn.
I warned you.
The Circle mages fused their bodies with the Archfire, and all their spells are woven with the power of that merging! When the Circle mages were destroyed, it was only a question of time until the spells they created their marvels with would start to dissolve! How overconfident were we to think that of all their achievements the portals would linger? Did we really imagine Rohen had thought of all this, had created a comfortable bedstead for us, so we could slumber peacefully towards our future?
Now we have to watch our world falling apart, and all the lamenting and pleading will not save us.
We can only fight for the last remains of once rich countries like dogs fighting over a bone dropped from the master's table. The world as we knew it is no more.
Master Askan, Scholar of Portal Magic
University of Sevenkeeps
With each moon more messages fail to appear. With each portal failing, I lose a province. My kingdom now only stretches as far as I can see from my room. Enemies besiege even the little that is left, be it orcs, Norcaine, or trolls. The question is not whether my kingdom will be conquered, but instead only who will overrun us first.
Gods and old hostilities have become irrelevant, only the concern for food and water for our people guides us all, be it servants of Light or Darkness.
It seems foolish, but as often as we have cursed the Circle mages, what would I give now to know their power among us. Let them rule and play their mean tricks, if only my people are allowed to live!
Ulf, the Persistent
King of the Highmark
Even if the continent Xu is a thriving garden again, some of its places are so pervaded by what happened there that even the power of the Dryad couldn’t make their barren faces green again.
When I entered Ghostwatch, I could feel the desperation of the Dark Ones, who had been chased here by our troops through all of Xu. I could feel how in an inhuman effort, weeping with exhaustion, they turned this old Shaper harbor into a fortress. While their best warriors gave their lives for a short delay of our victory, they built hundreds of ships and escaped out into the open sea, not knowing where to go and without a home port.
Even if now we curse the day when we were denied the destruction of the Dark Ones' scourge, in a place like this you cannot help feeling awe for their power and iron will.
Empress of Empyria
The Shapers are also called the children of the gods. They were the first people walking the face of Eo, learning the ways of magic and shaping the first cities from the bones of our world. That is what gave them their name, the huge buildings and artifacts they created with their skills. Stone, metal, glass, even the invisible powers of thoughts and dreams they shaped according to their wishes. Even today fallen statues the size of mountains, whole plains covered with strange machinery, and landscapes wrapped in magic glass testify to the creative power of the first people to populate all of Eo's continents.
But no matter how many wondrous powers they might have possessed, still one day the ordeal came and made them fall. And with it came the enemy that would hunt and destroy them.
The Awakening of Time
When the Shapers had populated all of Eo, their thirst for knowledge turned to things beyond the world. They discovered the Archfire, the essence of magic in our world. It was far too powerful even for the Shapers to understand and control. The temptations of the Archfire made their culture break apart and decay to sheer madness. But then the mighty dragons rose from their dens and like the wrath of creation they swept away the cities of the Shapers, chasing away the wicked. Only a few Shapers managed to escape into the great forests of Finon Mir, the dark caverns under the Grimwarg Mountains, or the eternal ice of the Windwalls. There they fell back into barbarianism and eventually adapted to their new life. That is how the elves came into being, who inherited their mental power, the dwarves, who were blessed with their crafting skills, and us humans, who inherited their thirst for knowledge, but also their thirst for power.
The Awakening of Time
Do not think the Circle has always been corrupt.
At first we only wanted to protect and preserve the knowledge of the Archfire. But I do remember that when we still believed in the rightfulness of our cause, someone in our midst was already corrupted.
Hokan Ashir had not been admitted to the Circle in order to watch over the execution of magic, instead he was accepted so that he could be controlled. But back then he was already planning the Blades, his most perfect creation. Enlivened by the power of perfect soul stones and made out of pain and cold metal on a dark forge, these blade-armed monsters were absolutely obedient and mercilessly lethal.
In things like that he had always been very inventive.
The Shapers even built cities close to the dragon dens, so that they could study these rare creatures. But when the Archfire found its way into Shaper culture, they forgot about these majestic beings, just as they forgot about all the other miracles of the world. Then came the moment where all the dragons rose as if on command. They came from the mountains of Godeland, flooded the skies in swarms to descend on the Shapers gone mad. Their fiery breath consumed the corrupt and burnt all arrogance out of their minds. Their flames made the proud monuments fall to pieces and soon wind and ashes were the only inhabitants left in the cities of the Shapers.
It never became known what made the dragons act like this, but Eo returned to balance and the lands breathed with relief. The dragons ruled the plains and the skies, proud and free. Until we came.
The Time of Swords
When I entered this country, I only did so because of the debt I had to pay. But when I look around me now I see my homelands, I see friends at work. I see a country that was won through courage and that is thriving through loyalty.
You might be right, that I, who does not belong to your dragonblood, cannot command this country any longer. But I would rather go down into the depths of Barga Gor than abandon it in this hour! You might ask yourself, what is this mercenary still doing here? I am telling you, I received my pay a hundred times already! My sword belongs to the Westguard, and I made this contract with someone greater than you!
Former Commander of the Westguard
The Archfire is the heart of all magic. But just like the sun shines too brightly to focus on it directly, the Archfire is something whose true essence is our ruin. This fruit is not meant for us, as we are no gods. Only Aonir's power could tame the wrath of our world, and we would be foolish to think otherwise.
But when you walk the paths of magic, you will hear the call of the Archfire sooner or later. It is not so difficult to conjure it, almost as if it wanted to be found. In the beginning it is painful, very slowly the body needs to get used to the touch of the Archfire. But once this consecration is completed, everything else is easy. However, its power only creates the longing for more power. When one day you notice that even the death of friends seems a small price to quench this longing, it is far too late...
Like a sailor drifting towards the unknown on a wild river, I can feel the concerns of the world stay behind me. A future is streaming towards me; whose wavering mists my eyes cannot penetrate any more. The ropes are cut, and the helm is set. Now time has to run its course.
|At all times, Mages have brought about unrest in the world with their thirst for knowledge and power. The Circle was founded by an agreement of all nations to put an end to the intrigues of the magicians. The thirteen most powerful Mages of the nations, adherents of both light and darkness, joined the Circle. They selected the city of Mulandir, built by one of its members, Isgrimm, as their seat, independent of all governments.
For long, the Mages of the Circle discharged their tasks with earnestness, establishing an era of peace and justice. They deciphered the secret of the Allfire, which extended their lives and gave them power far beyond any known sorcery. For hundreds of years, they would guide the destiny of the realms from the shadows. However, such power comes at a price, and their minds would soon begin scheming once more, bringing peace to an end and casting Eo into disarray.
Rohen Tahir :
Rohen is one of the most powerful Circle Mages and knowledgeable in many areas. He has perfected his skills with Elemental magic, particularly in the fields of fire and ice. Obsessed with magic and the domination of Archfire, he is constantly seeking out new ways to master its powers. He commands an army of orcs to do his biddings.
One of the most powerful necromancers to have ever lived, feared even by some of his fellow Circle Mages. As a young Zerbite, he discovered the Mask of Belial while exploring the Black Jungle on Xu. His purpose seems to be the creation of ever new forms of Undead and he is constantly seeking new ways to build his armies.
Uram the Red:
Uram was a powerful occultist talented in the field of fire magic which gained him the title "the Red" during his time at the Circle. A demonologist of the highest order and one of the pioneers of exploring the demonic realm, Uram is constantly seeking to advance his influence on the demon realm and summon ever greater servants.
Shar from the Isles:
A mage who did the seemingly impossible: bringing the Medusas of the Lost Islands under his control, earning him a seat in the circle. His servants now guard the halls and towers of the circle. His forte also lied in the field of earth magic.
Raith the Black:
Raith is a powerful Norcaine Dark Mage who once uncovered the secrets of the City of Souls, which earned him a seat on the Circle of Mages. He excels in Black Magic and has shown little regard for the affairs of others, though he is known to be searching for Hirin’s Hourglass, seeking to conquer death and time itself.
Ianna the Singer:
Ianna’s charming personality hides a darker side, where here mastery in Mentalism lets her see everyone as merely a toy to play with in one of her elaborate parties. Staying on her good side is going to take a guiled tongue and outright flattery.
Isgrimm the Smith:
Isgrimm perfected the use and study of the glyphs and by seeking out and studying Shaper artefacts has become the greatest of artificers and the greatest Stoneshaper of Windholme. As the builder of Mulandir, the seat of the Circle, his pride in his creations knows no bounds and he is constantly seeking new ways to hone his craft.
Zahaar the Snake:
Zahaar is a hexer of the Norcaine, master of poisons and other sinister types of magic, often out, searching for ways to hone his craft. His poisons are renowned across Eo for brining certain, painful death.
Yria of the Light:
Yria was one of the pure-blooded elves from Finon Mir. Due to her prowess in White Magic, she became a famous healer and has dedicated herself to securing peace across Eo, trying to heal the wounds torn by war and strife. Do not mistake that for weakness – Yria has ways to pacify you with or without your cooperation.
Gor the Changeling:
Gor was born into the Grarg Orc clan on Urgath and has studied beasts and monsters of all kinds, to enable him to take their form. It is said that he is able to transform into beasts tall as the sky and so terrifying that just looking at them will make your heart stop beating. He is also a skilled summoner of earth magic.
Silverhand, Master of Mirrors:
Silverhand is the best illusionist of his time, using his mental images and mirages to mislead friends and foe alike. He seldom acts himself, but his eyes and ears are always close to the happenings of Eo.
Undergast the Weaver:
Undergast is the most accomplished scholar of the Circle, his thirst for knowledge and books second to none. He may be a worthwhile ally if you are willing to give up your knowledge, but will stop at nothing to obtain it if you are not.
Joining as the final member of the Circle, the Piper was a prodigy at various kinds of magic, but perhaps best well known for his mental spells and charisma that allowed him to win the favour of many, which is why his armies often consisted of all kinds of races and creatures.
Command mighty heroes and armies and send them on countless quests. Fill your grimoire with spells to grow your power and raise your wizard’s tower to become the greatest mage of all time. Conquer Eo in this rich turn-based strategy game set in the world of SpellForce. Become the greatest of mages in this turn-based fantasy epic set in the world of SpellForce! From the humble beginnings of your small wizard’s tower, send forth your minions and heroes to explore the realms of Eo. Grow your influence and power and fill your grimoire with arcane knowledge. Face off against magical competitors in your hunt for ancient artefacts and hidden secrets as you build up your tower and area of influence to unleash the greatest spell the world has ever known.
In a world beyond imagination... In their immeasurable greed and constant thirst for power, the thirteen most powerful Mages of all time doomed the land, hurling it into an endless spiral of chaos and despair. Entire countries were wiped out in the blink of an eye when the devastating power of the Elements was unleashed – Elements summoned by dark rituals. Continents shattered like glass, the pieces strewn about like leaves in the wind. Huge armies, bound by the the power of ancient runes, brought war and destruction to the lands that survived the initial onslaught. All that was left were a few islands, connected by magic portals. Now, only a few years after the end of the Convocation, evil is back – stronger and more powerful than ever before – to finish what was started. Yet there is still hope. The prophecies tell of a human. A human damned to immortality, bound forever by the power of the blood runes… Soon, the time will come when the power of one may change the destiny of many. For better or for worse...
The great ice dragon Aryn, the Frostweaver who in ancient times almost froze the world over with its terrible breath is awakened by a servant of the dark god Zarach. This Fial Darg (prince of darkness) has stolen the elven queen Cenwen away from him. In ancient times Cenwen saved the world from Aryn by calming him down and locking her self up with the mighty dragon. The Fial Darg wants to use the blood of the elven queen in a ritual to bring back the dark gods into the world of EO. With the elven queen gone chaos is once again ruling the lands. It's up to the player to restore order one more time.
With "Shadow of the Phoenix" the SpellForce trilogy about the fate of the mighty rune warriors comes to its stunning conclusion. Continuing both storylines of the previous games "SpellForce - The Order of Dawn" and its add-on "SpellForce - Breath of Winter" the game enables the player to continue to use either of his previous characters and rise up to Level 50 with them. The brand-new video presents fans with a sneak peek into the breathtaking new landscapes in which Shadow of the Phoenix takes place as well as showing some of the new enemies they will encounter. Find the video to Shadow of the Phoenix here:
For five years the terrible conflict around the mysterious Shadows sundered the country of the Dark Elves and fanned the flames of a civil war amongst them. Even beyond the borders of their territories unrest prevails: a new power rises in Eo, a threat that seems to spread its shadow over the whole realm and endangers the people's ancient alliances...
After the convocation, the world was shattered and splitted into islands, small remains of land prevented from total destruction by the stones of gods. Rohen, once a powerful mage of the circle, dedicated his life to linking the remains together with portals. He used the power of the archfire, a dangerous arcane force discovered by the circle in the ruins of the Shapers. The force which had driven both the circle and the world to the edge of destruction should have helped him to create a new world. Through the portals, food and water was delivered into the devastated and barren realms, new empires were forged and a rejuvenated Eo began to rise. Rohen even sacrificed his life for that cause. But he forgot that the powers used were a remain of the circle and bound to it. With Hokan Ashir gone, the magic cast by the circle decayed, and the power of the portals began to crumble. While the beginning of these events was nearly undetected, the aftermath is chaos and devastation, as the inhabitants of the islands try to get into the most fertile realms. Homeless groups are straying around in search of protection, while once glorious empires are teared into chaos. And nowhere emerges a blink of hope to fill the crumbling portals with new power...
It is the year 518. The rebellion of the renegade mages, known as the Mage Wars, has been quashed by the Crown. However, it was a Pyrrhic victory: Whole regions have fallen into anarchy, refugees roam the lands in search of shelter, and a mysterious, deadly plague called the “Bloodburn” has arisen and is spreading rapidly. In times like these people cling to any sign of hope they can find. The Purity of Light, led by a charismatic man called Rondar Lacaine, claims that mages are the source of all misfortune – and that only the second coming of Aonir, the father of all gods, will return Eo to its former splendor.