All characters and events are based on actual events that took place in game. The 2nd Chronicle is beginning September 24 on our server Chronicles of the Horde. Message me if you would like details on how to join us. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoy it, it was a lot of fun to write!)
1st Chronicle of the Horde
Zarkon turned up his mug. Spicy southern mead failed to burn away the recurring nightmare of his miserable and cursed existence. Damn the gods, he had found her once again.
Fate led him to the jungle. He hated the jungle. All around he found hot, putrid, ceaseless rain and the sting of a thousand insects. Nonetheless, he was there. It seemed illogical, without reason, until she came running through the trees.
She was as he remembered her. Purple eyes scanned the forest as she swept her bow from side to side. Her hair was long and white. She’d pulled it into a braid to keep her vision clear and tracked her quarry through the forsaken forest.
He stepped forward to greet her. Just as he emerged, she leapt away into the foliage, chasing an unseen prey. She never noticed his presence.
His fortitude failed as he entered the clearing, he was unable to pursue her. Not yet.
“Nevermore” he said distraught. Tears filled his eyes. He battled to maintain control as he could feel sanity slipping ever so slowly from his grasp. He knew he could not stop, dark magic stole his willpower and enslaved him to her ever hopeless rescue. Thorny chains of the curse bit deep into his very soul, enslaving him utterly and without relent.
He looked through blood shot eyes at the trail she bounded down. He knew he must follow. He knew not how it would happen this time. He knew only that it would be terrible and without remorse.
Crom’s mocking laughter hammered the barbarian once more.
Zarkon bellowed in frustrated rage, emptied his mug, slammed it to the table. “Wench!” He bellowed and held out the flask. The tavern girl filled the mug once more. She scurried away from the Cimmerian as if her life depended on it.
She learned long ago that men who came to this establishment did not always behave with civility. He looked as far from civilized as any who had passed through this establishment in a long, long time. He was shirtless, wearing only what appeared to be a fur tasset, leather boots and bracers. A large double-bladed axe hung from the thick belt at his hips. He was powerfully built, as all Cimmerians are, yet compared to those of his own clan, he was the runt. Not that any would ever dare call him a runt. The small Cimmerian still stood half a head taller than any man in the tavern.
The barbarian drank more as the night marched on. He stumbled to his feet, teetering back and forth in an epic battle with gravity. “Wench!” His voice boomed over lively music of the tavern. Again, she rushed to the table. He reached to his belt and tossed the girl a sack of gems and coin. “Go!” he rumbled through deep wolf like Cimmerian accent. Her eyes went wide at the small fortune.
Zarkon stumbled toward the bar. He pushed the barkeep out of the way as the doorman stared maliciously, though, unwilling to impede the dangerous looking savage. Muttering to himself about cursed gods and cheap brothels, Zarkon picked up an untapped barrel of mead from behind the bar and headed for the door. His axe handle caught a row of mugs sending them crashing to the floor. Observing the chaos, the drunken warrior chuckled to himself. He tossed the barkeep a gold coin with a mildly apologetic look, stepped bye the astonished man, and nearly toppled over.
The barkeep yelped to the guard, “Do something you cur!” The guard simply opened the door giving way to the Cimmerian, who belched loudly upon exiting the tavern. A host of onlookers witnessed his stumbling silhouette slip into the night.
Moments later, a crash was heard followed by the startled cry of a horse. The doorman and barkeep ran outside to see the Cimmerian, now soaked in mead, roar in rage at the like-wise soaked equine. On the ground lay the shattered remnants of his barrel.
“Hell spawned creature!” Zarkon yelled as he wound up with drunken fury. He unleashed a mighty blow that could have cracked open a star metal node, intending to smash the horses face with the all the fury of the wild north.
If only it had connected.
The old war-horse, “Ranger,” was wise of his master’s anger and drunken temperament. Ducking at the last second, he sent the barbarian tumbling into the alleyway. He looked indignantly as if to taunt the drunken warrior, stamped his hooves twice on the dirt, and gingerly trotted away.
The bar-keep and the door man looked at each other, neither wanting anything to do with an angry, drunk barbarian, and glad to be rid of him. They shrugged and went back inside, leaving the man to his fate.
The barbarian sagged to the ground, the battle with gravity at its end. Now cuddled with a broken broom, pair of rotten potatoes, and the rest of tomorrows trash, the mighty Cimmerian warrior slipped into a deep, restful, sleep, oblivious to the world around him.
The dancers laugh and frolic at the foot of his throne, Isabell next to him laughs in excitement as one of the acrobats performs a thrilling stunt that defies gravity and explanation.
A great feast is being held in her honor; the Horde has spared no expense to celebrate the announcement of her adoption. Even Bran Helder, usually dour and moody, is light on his feet, smiling as he makes his way from one conversation to the next.
Moog is there, the wily old devil is up to his old tricks performing simple feats of magic for the laughing horde of children in front of him. The kids squeal in excitement as Moog pulls a gold coin from behind the ear of a young boy, who then erupts in nervous laughter, a slight smile grows on his face.
Suddenly and with no warning at all, the boy looks at the Cimmerian warlord with cold murderous eyes. “THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT!!!” the boy screams in a deep and unholy demonic voice. The child, who’s eyes are now filled with an unholy blackness, snatches large chair and hurls it at Zarkon.
Unable to dodge it in time, it connects with astounding force against chest of the stunned Cimmerian. His body is thrown across the room from the fury of the impact. The child then grins at the Cimmerian with rows of dagger sharp teeth and then lunges at the khan that would be…
Zarkon starts awake, instantly blinded by a bright light. Something small and pebble like hits his face, and the sound of laughter follows. A sudden pain expounds from every facet of his body, mostly from within his head. The light hurts, but seems to be lessening as the world around him comes slowly into focus.
Something else hits his head, larger this time and followed immediately by the laughter of children. Suddenly recalling the demon boy of his dream, Zarkon jumps to his feet, his entire body rejecting the idea of movement but responding none the less.
Something runs down the side of his face, is it blood?! He brushes it with his hand and a foul odor floods his nostrils. Small slimy chunks of what appear to be rotten potato run down his face and hand.
His vision is still blurry when yet another object, much larger this time connects with his chest, nearly sending him back to the ground. He clearly hears the sound of children laughing harder now, and his vision clears enough to see a band of street urchins scatter as he scowls at them as only a Cimmerian could.
As he steps away from the alley, bits of trash fall from his beard and his body as he takes note of his surroundings. The street is alive with rush of the mid-day market. Vendors shout their wares as pick pockets stroll the avenues in search of the next mark.
“I need to find Quartas” Zarkon mutters to himself, hoping to talk the Mitran priest into concocting yet another one of his miracle hang-over cures. He stumbles out into the alley and into the city proper, ready to begin a brand-new day.
[Chapter 4, Exiled Lands, Weeks later]
The Cimmerian stares down at the now blood-soaked floor, looking for a way to make it all piece back together. His thoughts no longer…“fit” if that was a way to say it. He could not accurately describe it. He knew he was not himself. His mind was not always his own. The mead helped, it distracted him for a time and if he drank enough…he sometimes even slept.
When he did sleep, it was always the same nightmare…He saw her thrown from a cliff. He saw her run through with a sword. The fire… the pack of hyena’s… the cannibals…
…So many deaths…over and over again… always he found her…always she died.
He takes another drink, longer than the last, trying to fill the cracks in his soul with the wretched liquid. He did not understand…that night he had set out to kill a demon and had done so! But now…this.
He slowly looked up at the rage filled face of the tavern owner and his shocked patrons, his eyes filled with questions, madness and fear…
[The night before]
The thunder of the horse’s hooves shattered the silence as the steed and his warrior charged through the night. The man and beast became one as they hurtled through the black jungle with a blacker purpose.
This was not alcohol swaying a man’s passion. This was not murderous intent. This was something deeper…more sinister. This stank of demons.
The rage that broiled in his heart could be felt like a hot wind as the man and beast raced along the dark and narrow trail. Magic broiled around the man and mount. In his deepest mind, he screamed to himself to stop, but the magical rage only laughed at his impotence. He knew that laughter…it was Crom’s laughter. It was always there, ever since the day he lost her…every time she died…he laughed.
He always laughed.
The enraged warrior entered a clearing. Fog rolled across the jungle floor, the moonlight beamed down from a starry sky, giving the fog an iridescent glow.
The warrior dismounted the sweat soaked horse, smoothly drawing his axe and shield as he did.
“DERKETO, I HAVE COME FOR YOU!!!”
The Cimmerian roared into the thick jungle. He banged his axe on his shield and stomped his feet on the ground.
He raged into the night with an almost inhuman howl. In an instant, the living jungle became as silent as a tomb. Zarkon hears only his blood thundering through his veins. His vision blurs with a violent red hue, the need for battle is all that consumes his conscious thought.
but…be wary warrior…
something wicked this way comes…
The thick jungle foliage suddenly gives way to a true demon of the night. A massive black panther of unholy origin slithers out of the darkness and on to the moonlit clearing. Its burning red eyes illuminate the fog that flows slowly into the foliage. The earth smolders and rots wherever the beast lays its clawed feet, death following wherever the vile creature treads.
The putrid smell of feces and rotting flesh permeates the jungle as the demon nears its quarry. It stalks forward, coiling up with wrath and venom and hate, eyeing the barbarian with an unholy wickedness and preparing to devour him utterly. It opens its massive maw to reveal rows of razor sharp, massive teeth. Its breath rancid and cold and soulless. It shrieks into the night with an unholy tenor and tenses to launch into the barbarian.
Zarkon charges in first! Not allowing the creature time to act, with his shield raised and axe overhead he races towards the fell creature, roaring the ear-splitting battle-cry of the north as the Cimmerian charges into battle…
[The next day]
He rode slowly back to the beach-side tavern to present his promised prize to the tavern wench…the head of Derketo, the seductress demon in what had to be her true form.
It had taken Zarkon hours of bloody, tiring work to saw off the demon’s head, most people did not realize the kind of effort that went into taking such a trophy. Demonic hide and sinew were tough, the bone was tougher still, but the wench was going to love it! The task was a worthy one, and he smiled as he pictured the head of Derketo hanging as a prize above the bar of his favorite tavern.
He smirked at his thoughts, it felt good to kill demons, to do good again…it helped him to feel whole once more, like his old self. He smiled inwardly (Not outwardly, Cimmerians never do that) as he rode on.
The sun lazily climbs the sky and the vast ocean to the east rises and falls in a swirl of radiant colors. The world comes slowly to life. The barbarian rides happily on towards his destination…
[Two days previous]
The tavern wench, a beautiful(ish) young nordheimer, had mentioned, JOKINGLY, to the barbarian that “Derketo ruled her life and she was now her slave!” in an attempt to get into his pants (a girl has to work).
Upon hearing this however, the very drunk Cimmerian exploded from his chair, stole a mug from the bar, downed the entire beverage and left exclaiming that “No demon will enslave a such an innocent and beautiful flower!” and then that “This demon will be dead by sunrise, we will mount the head in your honor!” in a such a slurred and inebriated manner, that no one really understood what he actually said as he rode away in the greatest of haste!
The demon-slayer rounded the bend and the tavern came into sight. He approached the front entrance and dismounted, carrying the sack that held the massive bloody head. The smell was horrific. While animated, demons smelled bad enough, but in death…it was something else altogether. None the less, he would present the great prize to her and win her unending affections, the two would swirl together in a mixture of passion and ecstasy.
He would mount the unholy head above the bar himself with nails of silver and recount the tale of his battle to throngs of fans from across the land as they came to marvel at the wonder!
As he walked into the bar, the dancer closest to the door doubled over retching at the horrible smell. An invisible tidal wave of disgusting odor slams into the patrons and workers of the bar alike as the ocean breeze follows the returning champion into the tavern. People lurched from their seats and raced for the door. Several people vomit as they run, unable to hold back and leaving trails of bile and slime among the overturned tables and chairs.
Zarkon threw the sack on the ground, and announces to the speechless tavern wench, “I present you my lady, with the head of Derketo.” and then spilled the contents out on to the floor.
The head rolls to her feet. The great tongue lolled to the side as the dead eyes roll back into its head in a strange cross-eyed way…blood begins seeping out of the severed head, pooling at Zarkon’s feet and quickly spreading across the floorboards. The few patrons left in the bar gasped at the sight, Zarkon himself was the most stunned of all.
Sitting on the floor was not the head of a great panther-demon…but that of a horse, freshly killed. He stares in disbelief and agony as the blood continues to slowly smother the tavern floor.
One seemingly drunk old man in the back, apparently unaffected by the smell, begins to cackle in laughter. He stands up, laughing harder still and walks out the door. Unknown and unseen by Zarkon and the rest of the stunned crowd, the old man dissolves into thin air, continuing to cackle as he fades into nothingness.
The gods are cruel.
[Exiled Lands, decades ago]
The forces of Set had invaded from the southern deserts, great armies scorched the earth as they slowly invaded the northern low-lands. The north had resisted, standing against invasion after invasion, growing hard with the determination of free men who wished to remain free. Warriors from the farthest reaches marched to the aide of the embattled now embattled Horde clans, the war grew as only a wild fire could.
Soon it was to grow to become an inferno of death.
[Chapter 7, Exiled lands, a long time ago, just east of the Breach]
“I wish they would hurry up and get on with it!” the man standing in formation behind the Warlord Zarkon the Mighty. He did not know the man, a new recruit out of New Asgarth. Zarkon looked to the young warrior, “Patience soldier, they will come soon enough, and with plenty of them to kill for each of us!” he said with a confident grin.
They had been standing in formation on the top of the canyon for hours, waiting for the invaders in the valley below to come to battle.
“I wish they would f**king get on with it…” Zarkon thought to himself as he gazed out at the vast army assembled below. Hundreds of thralls and beast of all kinds. The Rhino’s where powerful beasts and could trample a line of battle with no effort at all, it seemed that the Setites had brought hundreds of them.
The fortress of the Horde sat atop a large rock bluff, commanding the valley below. The only access to the fortress was through a narrow canyon path that led up and around to the main gate. The canyon itself provided a natural choke point in which the Setite horde would not be able to use its grand mass against the smaller northern force. The Northern Alliance had gathered all they could to defend the homeland. Cimmerians, Vanir, Nordheimers and tribesmen of all northern lineages stood together to repel the southern invaders. Free southerners had against the forces of Set. The divine of Mitra, Uriah, the head of the Mitran faith in the exiled lands had even promised to assist the soldiers of the north, and even now a host had been gathering and was to move against the flanks of the Setite force.
Suddenly great horns blasted from the Setites, drums pounded off the walls of the canyon and the very sound shook the rock walls themselves. The thunder intensified as Zarkon saw his worst fear realized, the war rhinos were forming up at the front of the enemy lines.
The great horned beast formed at the front of the setite battle line. As soon as the massive wall of armored death had solidified. Again the war horns shattered the silence, signaling the order to attack. Hundreds of war rhino, all of them armored and deadly, at first slowly lumbered towards the Horde and its allies but soon the lethargic charge galloped into a thundering charge.
Isabell, master of the fortress artillery ordered the trebuchets to open fire on the charging mass of rhinos. Great and massive explosive jars began to slam down into the charging setites. Huge holes ringed by bodies and viscera exploded amongst the oncoming formation. Still, they charged on, holes quickly being filled by the massive numbers.
Bran Helder, champion and wizard of the Horde, confidently walks out in front of the Alliance battle line, directly in front of the charging war beast. Isabell orders the artillery to cease fire as the enemy mass closes to near to friendly troops to fire safely. The champion patiently stands as the war riders howl for his blood. Bran smiles as he looks out and into the charging setite Horde.
“Watch this ****ers!” He intones with an evil grin as he produces a fire orb in each hand.
With a mighty heave, he hurls both orbs to a predetermined position, exploding on impact. The result was terrifying. A MASSIVE explosion rocks the canyon. The blast is so powerful, the front lines of both armies are knocked back by the shockwave. Soldiers on both sides are blown from their feet as a huge mushroom cloud rises from the canyon entrance. Smoke and ash and dust rush out from the explosion, leaving the battlefield shrouded in darkness as even the sun itself is blotted out in the chaos.
For years the wizard had been stockpiling explosives for reasons known only to himself. Upon hearing of the invasion, Bran had approached Zarkon with the idea of setting a trap for the snake worshippers once they had arrived to destroy the Northern Horde and its allies. He would have riders bring in all of the hidden caches, and rig the canyon itself as a weapon. On the night before battle, Zarkon, Bran and the best rangers of the north crept out to the canyon entrance that was between the two armies, and after hours of painstaking and silent work, had rigged the canyon walls to blow.
The explosion was massive.
Nearly the entire host of war beast had been blasted into bloody pulps of flesh or completely buried by the massive rockslide caused by the blast. Bran looks to Zarkon innocently, “Maybe a bit much?” He says with his eyes still glistening at the beautiful explosion that just was. Zarkon orders reserve troops forward to relieve the front lines still reeling from the effects of the blast.
Soon the lines are reformed and Zarkon looks to Johanna, his friend and beast master, “Send the wolves to buy us time to reform on the peak of Brans rockslide.” He orders as he dismounts his horse, moving to join the front ranks of infantry as they prepare to move out. With a single word from Johanna, a huge pack, hundreds strong, of greater northern wolves emerge from the rear of the northern lines and charge into the dust and smoke that now fills the canyon. Just before pulling his own helmet down over his face, Zarkon orders his troops to advance into the chaos below. As the troops marched down into the canyon, the wolves would be heard within the dust cloud snarling and tearing at any remaining setite riders. The wolves quickly finished off the survivors and on command returned to Johanna’s side.
A roar was heard as the setite war drums erupted in the signal for an infantry charge. Unable to move as fast as their less armored enemies, the northern troops braced halfway down the slope as setite light infantry charged up and into the canyon, over the rockslide and into the advancing north men.
For three days the setite army tried without success to dislodge the northerners from the mouth of the canyon. At sunset of the third day, the Setite arch-mage made a deal with a demon that would change the course of the battle and of the future forever more…
The sun rose over the breach, the ancient structure standing in silent vigil as the battle played out beneath its ruins. Zarkon watched as it climbed into the sky, noting that it was time for war councils to convene.
The north men had fought bravely these last three days, killing a hundred setites to every one northerner. The allies had the advantage of excellent defensive ground and better troops, but still worry creased the lines of the captains faces as Zarkon entered the campaign tent. The men were exhausted. Moral was low, and despite Rojali the quarter masters’ best efforts, wine and mead where not enough to settle the men after a full three days of fighting. They were simply exhausted.
Zarkon conferred with the allied generals and it was decided that despite still being outnumbered fifty to one, the north men would attack this day. Moral was becoming a dangerous issue, already desertion had begun to take a small toll on the allied force, mostly from the wilder tribes and militia; but friendly losses where more costly, and losses from desertion stung the worst. He knew that if the battle went on for much longer, the alliance could begin to crack under the strain.
Isabell, not always commanding the artillery, was a master diplomat and worked diligently to hold the alliance together. Messages had been sent to the Mitran host, scouts reported they were to be forming at the rear of the setite army, to attack the invaders in the flank once the alliance engaged.
Zarkon had no way of knowing if the messages had ever reached Uriah, the divine leader of the Mitran faith who had promised to assist the Horde against the hated men of the snake. The Mitran attack would be critical to the success of the northerner attack. If they could execute the plan, the war council believed that the setite Horde could be broken. Moral was a problem among the free warriors of the north, to the slaves of the south it had to be a nightmare.
The Cimmerian warlord dismounts his horse in front of the northern host, just finishing a rousing speech. “FOR THE NORTH! FOR FREEDOM!” He raged, letting his Cimmerian lineage overtake his mind and soul as he re-joins the battle line. He bellows a war cry and charges, the freemen of the north charged with him.
The northern attack sliced into the setite Horde with the savagery of a jungle cat. They tore deep into the invaders position, killing as they went, leaving behind only the dead or impossibly wounded to mark the passage of the assault.
With each forward step, Zarkons chest filled with hope, he began to believe that when the Mitran attack came, it would be the end of the invasion. It would crush the will of the mercenary-slave army. The war could finally end and he could return home. His true home.
Harder and harder they drove until the setites, reeling from the unexpected attack, began to organize and solidify the lines. The advancement slowed and then ground to a bloody halt. Still there was no sign of the hoped-for assault from the Mitran forces. They should have been here hours ago!
Disaster then struck in two distinctive and deadly blows.
First, a courier raced up to Zarkon, chest heaving with great exertion, and delivering the message with a shaking and desperate voice that a portal had opened behind the castle, spilling out unholy monstrosities into the keep. Rojali and Isabell where organizing a defense as best they could, Isabell had sent word that the castle would fall quickly if no help could be sent back to reinforce the tiny garrison made up mostly of cooks and house staff.
Second, and equally as terrible, the divine of Mitra had been assassinated by his apprentice. The apprentice had the declared himself the new divine by right of ascension and had declared Zarkon and his allies as heretics. He ordered the Mitran host to return to the south, abandoning the beleaguered northerners to the fates they had brought upon themselves.
The battle had quickly turned against the alliance. The sheer and massive numbers pressed the freedom fighters back towards the castle step by step. They fought as warriors possessed by Morrigan the goddess of war herself, but still they were pushed back, again and again until finally, the army of the north was completely trapped between two enemies, the setites from the south and an unholy horde from the portal the north with only the castle left to protect them. The allies where doomed.
Zarkon looked back, the gates of the castle a mere hundred yards from his position. Inside he could see furious fighting from within, explosions and screams erupting from his home, accenting the deadly battle outside in a symphony of loss and destruction.
In a desperate attempt to get within the walls, Zarkon, Bran and the honor guard charged through the unholy minions with savage intent. None could stand against the two warriors as they desperately tried to reach their friends inside the fortress. Rojali, within the walls of the castle, fought desperately against a group of undead warriors trying to destroy her and Isabell’s makeshift barricade on the second-floor arsenal. That barricade was all that stood between the women and children who had sought shelter in the castle at the onset of the battle.
They had gathered everyone they could to defend the keep. Every man, woman and child who could carry a weapon stood with them in the blood soaked and desperate defense of their home. Cooks, dancers, blacksmiths and carpenters pulled weapons from the arsenal and stood with the two heroines.
Isabell knew, she could even sense that Zarkon was fighting desperately to come to her and Rojali’s aid…
Zarkon was covered from head to toe in blood, gore and bone dust. He looked to Bran, his chest heaving with exhaustion, desperation in his eyes as he spoke to his brother in arms. “We are not going to survive this old friend. Isabell and the others are trapped inside. We cannot hope to make it to them while we are trapped here!” Zarkon shouted over the cacophony of battle. “We do not have the strength to break through!”
Bran returned his gaze, neither warrior saw fear in the other’s eyes, only that grim look of final and brutal determination. Bran nodded at Zarkons words, a cold look, as cold as black ice overtakes his visage. "Well f**k.” Bran replied in a cool and detached tone as he began yet another push towards the gate. The wizard-warrior then slew the skeleton to his front, and cast a spell of necromancy as they pushed forward towards the keep, calling the dead to his aid.
Zarkon was sickened by the sight of his former comrades in arms and enemies alike, wrenched back once more from the halls of Valhalla to be reanimated and fight on in defense of the alliance. He knew what his friend had done and the price he would have to pay for using the dark art at a later time. Such magic always had a price to be paid for its use. Undead soldiers stood and charged the enemy blocking the paths from the gate, forcing a pathway to their besieged friends on the other side.
Isabell drew and fired again and again. She was the master of the Eye of Khan, and every shot showed. Setites and demonic creatures alike fell to arrow after arrow as they tried to force a way through the barricade. Suddenly she reached for an arrow and there was none left. Panic flashed in her eyes as the barricade burst apart a heartbeat later, shattered by a corrupted gorilla. The great beast leapt into the air and landed on top of her, pinning her arms and knocking her bow over the ledge. The beast lunged for her face, ichor and slime flying from its maw…
Oenomaus, Isabells oldest friend, slams into the creature with the force of an enraged living mountain. Despite the undead creatures’ greater mass, the pure strength and unbridled fury of the warrior forces the creature off of Isabell just in time. Oen and the creature roll away, Rojali drags Isabell away from the melee just as a huge explosion blasted through the tower wall. Rojali, who had just dragged Isabell to safety, is heaved from the ledge of the ruined wall and falls into the chaos below. Isabell, covered in blood and ichor, screams as she reaches desperately to save her companion but unable to do so.
Another explosion rocks the castle and Oenomaus is blasted across the room, slamming into the opposite wall with bone shattering force. His armor absorbs the worst of the shock and he regains his feet, stubbornly moving again into the furious melee broiling at the shattered barricade in an attempt to push back the attackers.
Isabell, still gasping for breath, rolls to her side as the stone and wood of the front wall of the fortress give way to more and more punishment from outside. The front towers and wall collapse after explosions rock the once mighty structure to its foundations. The floor gives way to a fiery hell beneath, Isabell is unable to get to safety. As she falls to her death, tears of defeat fill her eyes. In her last moment, despair gives way to rage as she plummets into the flaming abyss of her former home.
Suddenly, she is jerked roughly upwards, Oenomaus, broken and battered but never beaten manages to grasp her quiver strap as she fell. The haggard warrior hauls her once more to safety as he scans for an exit. None is found. His eyes dart left to right, his chest heaves in exhaustion, but he still refuses to give up hope. From the stairwell behind the shattered barricade scores of setite warriors and unholy minions storm the citadel howling in rage and glee, ravaging everything as they purged the proud fortress from bottom to top.
Isabell gets to her feet, she stares hopefully with blurry bruised eyes at the stairwell, hearing a sound she had thought to never hear again.
A Cimmerian war cry…
The small party had arrived at the base of the volcano in the midst of a terrible storm on a hopeless and desperate quest.
During the chaos of the destruction of the castle, a specter appeared to Zarkon, offering information of a sacred relic that could help turn back the tide of the war. The apparition told of a magical relic of great power, a hammer, forged for Crom himself that would imbue its wielder with magnificent and terrifying power.
With the Setite’s victory over the North, assisted by the mysterious opening of a magical portal, things were bleak indeed for the northern alliance.
He had to try, or die doing so.
Ominous thunder boomed through the black clouds, lightning cast the darkness aside in brief moments, revealing glimpses of hell itself come to earth. The Cimmerian looks up to the fiery crags, and it seemed that in that briefest of moments they looked back into him.
He hoped he liked what it saw. He climbed on.
Zarkon, Isabell and Bran scouted the mountain in search of the entrance to the fabled Hall of Crom, seat of the now slumbering god. Within this great hall was a great throne, the throne of a deity. Here the shade had told Zarkon to look for the hammer of Crom himself.
The demon had told the warrior that the tribes of Cimmeria were once a great people, crafters of great magic and wonderous structures. The ancestors of cimmeria had been cast out of their homes by a great calamity, set to wonder the earth until here they had made their home. They had used the last of their great magic to craft this very hall in honor of the one true god. Crom honored these people by placing his own smithing hammer upon a dais. Here it had been kept for centuries in reverence and in secret. At first a society kept vigil over the hall, but as the decades turned to centuries, knowledge of the hall and the hammer were lost to antiquity.
“I see it!” Bran cried out over the roar of the volcano. Isabell was not far from him and came to see what the wizard had found. The crested a small ridge that revealed a square cut, man sized opening in the face of the rock. A strange glow emanated from within. “Zarkon is searching the western face, let’s go and get him, then we will go inside.” Bran said to Isabell. As they turned to leave the cave, a shadow passes just outside of their vision. The hairs on Isabells neck stand up and she looks warily around her, scanning for threats. The glow from within the shaft flickers for a moment as she gets the feeling that they are being watched. Suddenly the entrance slams shut, sealing the two adventurers inside the mountain. Seeing no way to return the direction they came, Bran Helder, and Isabell of the Horde have no choice but to enter the Hall of Crom. Somewhere in the darkness, an icy smile forms as the specter watches the unkowing heroes enter his trap.
Zarkon heaves with all of his might, propelling his body upward to the next ledge. He had always hated climbing, and here he was, hanging by his fingernails to a tiny rock ledge on the side of a huge fiery and demon infested volcano.
He shoved the thought aside as he reached for his next hand hold when suddenly, a shadow burst forth from the rock itself knocking the barbarian away from the rock and stone and into a free fall into the gorge.
He slams into a huge boulder with a terrifying crack of breaking bones. His left shoulder disintegrates upon impact. Reeling in pain, Zarkon gains his footing on the rock and with his one good arm manages to draw his war-axe. A dark shadow forms in front of him in the shape of a man. Zarkon grits his teeth and his eyes narrow at the sight of the specter.
The shadow raises its hands and the rock at Zarkons feet melts and reforms around the legs of the badly injured warrior. From behind, a large rock slams into the back of his head. Trapped and unable to move, the barbarian warrior slumps forward, the world going black around him.
The Sorcerer looks into his crystal ball, the image of a near dead barbarian clinging to life on the side of the flaming mountain. He smiles knowing that his plans thus far have worked to perfection. Of course, they have! They were HIS plans, weren’t they?! He chuckled at his own humor.
He leaned over to the glowing ball and began to whisper magical words to the wounded barbarian.
“You have been cursed by Crom for trying to steal his hammer…”
And he continued on, laying the groundwork for his next chronicle of torment. He had found a new land, far from the wretched exiled lands. A great power was hidden in this new land, this savage and wild land.
He would harness that power. The world would soon know his name. They would lament and despair at his coming.
Soon. Very soon.
He smiled once more and continued his litany of incantations, there was still much work to be done.
Something wasn’t right. Moog knew it in his gut. He had been told to return the horses to Sepemaru, but as he walked slowly south something burned in his gut. He turned, the great volcano dominating the landscape with its fiery and hellish presence. He had to go back, against Zarkons orders he just had to go back.
Just then, the furious sound of a galloping horse approached from the south. Johnanna, riding at break neck speed screaming at the top of her lungs, “BACK! GO BACK! ITS A TRAP!”
Isabell approached the altar in the middle of the great and ancient hall. Dust filled the air as she stepped slowly towards what could have been the very throne of Crom. On a dais beside it, rested the mighty hammer of Crom.
Isabell reached for it. Bran, a step behind her grasp her shoulder tightly. “Don’t!” he said. “The spirit told Zarkon that only one of Cimmerian blood could wield this hammer.” Isabell looks to Bran, “I am his adopted sister, therefore am part Cimmerian!” She protested. “Besides, there is no time, it’s here, we are here!” Without waiting for more argument, she grabbed the hammer and stepped down towards Bran. “See! I told you it would be…” She screamed in agony as her body went rigid. Her body levitated from the floor and beams of purple light shot from her eyes and horrible stretched mouth. She writhed in agony. Bran lunged to help his friend but on contact is thrown back from her with a mighty explosion of magical power. His body is flung into the darkness as the volcano itself begins to rumble and shake in an ominous warning of impending death.
From the very darkness from which Bran Helders body flew…a cackle is heard. Mad and furious, gleeful and terrible all the same.
Moog climbed over the ridge and his fears where confirmed. Ahead on a great boulder lay Zarkon, broken and bleeding. Moog rushed to his commander, scrambling over the loose volcanic stone. Johanna shoves Moog roughly to the side and begins to try and treat the dying Cimmerian’s wounds.
“Zarkon! Zarkon! Where is Isabell?” Moog yells almost frantic. Uriah shoves the panicked soldier away from the wounded barbarian, “Get back damn you or I will throw you from this rock myself!” Shouts Uriah.
Suddenly, the volcano rumbles and then explodes in magnificent fury. The earth shakes and heaves as rocks begin to tumble down the flank of the angry mountain. A great purple light erupts from the very center of the mountain, a great roar is heard bellowing from the mouth of the fiery abyss.
Johanna looks to Moog, “We have to go!” Moog turns to race up the mountain but a sudden blast from the now raging volcano knocks him to his feet. Johanna kicks him in his side. “Get up! Help me with him!” He shouted over the furious cacophony. Moog looked desperately up into the hellfire and smoke, then back to his broken commander. He rushes to help Johanna…
1st Chronicle Epilogue
Zarkon set the Mug down. He stared at it for a long time, just… thinking. A lot had happened in the last few days. He stared at the mug; the mug seemed to stare back at him. His eyes begin to burn with the anger of the memories.
It was Uriah, the believed to be assassinated divine leader of the Mitran faith who had found the barbarian passed out drunk in an alley in Sepemaru. “Hello old friend!” The middle-aged former priest said cheerily to Zarkon as the warrior struggled his way back to consciousness. Zarkon stirred slowly at first, obviously confused at the sight of his friend but then suddenly, with the quickness of a jungle panther, the half-drunk warrior rolled away from the priest and drew his axe, preparing to cut down the now chuckling apparition.
“What spirit are you?!” Demanded Zarkon, who was still struggling to fully gain control of his wits as he awoke from his alcohol induced slumber. “Peace, peace!” the supposedly dead priest said with a grin. “I am not dead, as you can clearly see. I stand here among the living with vigor and purpose, very unlike you, my friend.” He looked to the hung-over warrior. “Now! Up! Up! We have much to discuss! Come come! Tsurumaru is waiting with a few friends who are going to help clear things up.”.
With that, the wizened priest offered his hand to his old friend. “We must go at once and there is no time to lose!”
Not an hour later, Zarkon was feeling much better, thanks largely to Tsu’s miracle hangover remedy. He and Uriah had traveled to the lodging of the Mitran priest where Zarkon had found a hot bath and a meal prepared on the table. Uriah and Tsu spoke briefly and ushered the Cimmerian off to the bath, commenting that he reeked of trash. After bathing and dressing, the refreshed warrior returned to the main room only to be shocked by what he saw.
Standing in the room waiting for him was his sister Isabell who was shadowed by a small girl. He faltered as he saw her only to be caught by the strong hand of Uriah, who helped steady his friend. “Steady now, things are not as they seem.” He whispered to Zarkon. Isabell stepped warily at first towards her brother but then rushed him, her hands flying to embrace him in a hug so tight the muscled warrior struggled to breathe.
“We can stop this all now, stay with us and trust me!” She whispered excitedly in his ear. “Suhani knows where we have to go and we can stop this from…” Uriah steps towards the violet eyed woman and speaks softly but sternly. “Time is short, we must make haste!”
The former divines voice then took on a grim tone as he turned to face Zarkon. “As you know I was supposedly assassinated during the battle of the breach.”. Zarkons eyes harden at the mention of the terrible fight. “My troops where indeed prepared to commit to the battle. We had formed our lines and had begun to march when a messenger from my order arrived.” The man spoke in a gravelly voice. “The information would force upon me a terrible decision. It was a report from two of my agents embedded within the Sanctum of Set. The assassin’s guild had spent months gathering information for me…”.
“Assassin’s guild?!” Isabell interrupted, confusion settling in on her brow. Uriah only chuckled warmly. “To be the leader of a faith is to have a head that must wear many hats.” Said Uriah with an almost distant tone. He continued, “Two warriors of skill, under oath to me and me alone by special contract with the guild had been…observing…who I believed then to be my greatest enemy. They had successfully infiltrated the Setite council and the highest level. They nearly died getting me this.”. From within his tunic, he produced a small wooden box, ornately carved on the sides. I left you on the battlefield to ensure this items safety. I faked my own death to get this to you. These two nearly died themselves to get it here and even now we are in grave danger.
Isabell and Uriah had discovered that the curse was in fact not the wrath of Crom. The God had not awoken. The laughter in his head was not the curse of a god but the magic of a man. A wizard of which little was known of save for that he wielded great power and was of the evillest intent.
The wizard had cast a spell over the Cimmerian warrior, one that had nearly smashed the man’s sanity. Stuck in an endless cycle of experiencing his sister’s death in a multitude of manners, the once great general had nearly been broken. He suffered helpless agony again and again as he watched Isabell, her salvation always so near to his grasp, slip away to yet another horrible death.
“Who?” Zarkon began to say but stopped abruptly as two veiled warriors seemingly materialized from nowhere to stand before the assembled adventurers. “They refer to themselves only as the shadows.” said Uriah. “I have come to refer to them as Sire and Mistress.”. Each warrior, one garbed in black and the other in white, saluted the Cimmerian in greeting. Zarkon respectfully returned the gesture and turned back to his friend. Uriah handed him the wooden box.
“What is this Uriah?” He asked in a stony voice. “I care not for magics or tricks.” Argued the barbarian. “This one magic you must use I am afraid. I made it myself with the materials the shadows brought me, and it will help to show you much truth.” said Uriah in an urgent tone. “There is not much magic left within it. Each use drains it further and I fear you will be the last to see its use. It is a cleansing crystal. A shard of great magical potency. Shards have many uses, but this particular one has been made to reveal magical influence to its user and cleanse corruption from its spirit.”. He handed the box to the Cimmerian who reached for it warily.
Zarkon took the box from his friend and opened it. A twelve-sided crystal floated within. It’s yellow magical aura, flittered and sparked like a candle flame about to die. Despite his Cimmerian misgivings for anything magic, he trusted Uriah completely. He took the crystal from the box and upon touching it his body went rigid, veins pulsing from his head and neck. His eyes rolled back into his head and he fell to the floor.
[A little while later…]
He opened his eyes and they immediately went wide with shock. The world around him pulsated with magical aura. He looked about and everywhere he could see, great silvery webs of colored light spreading throughout all of existence. He looked to Uriah who stood stoically in front of him, the man simply beamed with magic, Isabell and Suhani were the same yet when he looked down to his own hands his heart nearly stopped in shock.
Great thorny chains of black and purple magical power ripped and shredded the air as it tore through his body. The yellow light from the crystal intensified and shimmered brightly when it came into contact with the dark magic, popping and fizzing as it pushed back the evil spell that had leeched itself into Zarkon’s body. Suddenly, as the two magics started to interact, Uriah began to chant a rhythmic incantation, and Zarkon fell to his knees. Blackness consumed Zarkon and he knew no more.
Uriah continued the chant and the chains that bound Zarkons soul went tight under great strain. Uriah’s chant grew in intensity as the room within the house began to heat. Uriah chanted faster and faster; his voice now carried by the magical incantations power. He eyes began to glow with white fire as he looked to Zarkon, reached for the Cimmerians chest, and ripped the magical chains free from the bonds that held them to his soul.
Zarkon sighed loudly and collapsed to the ground.
[Sepemaru, Uriah’s Safe house, hours later.]
Isabell raced through the household, a terrified look on her face. She ran into the room where Uriah and the still incapacitated Cimmerian lay, the shadows following close behind her. “Uriah! There are reports of great danger rising to the south of the city, a great storm is forming on the horizon, it is magical in nature there is no doubt of it.”.
A grim but determined look fell over the mitran’s grizzled face. “Then it has begun. Isabell you must listen to me. I had hoped there would be more time to explain, but the fates have acted and so must we! A wizard of terrible power has come. I learned of his existence through the discovery of a strange flow of magic I found while exploring the mountain of fire. The power was unique among magics, its flow was dark and dangerous as any black flow is, yet unlike dark magic which has to be fed to grow with rituals or sacrifices, this power grows naturally and without aid. It was very much like the ancient wells of light magic but never in all the histories has a dark well been found. The massive power that would be obtained for a sole user of a well would be god like.”.
Uriah’s face looked ashen as he spoke further “All I ever found where whispers of the power. I knew of its existence yet could not pin-point any true source. Then came the battle of the Breach.” His eyes go to a distant place as speaks on. "As we neared the rear of the Setite position I sensed the magic enveloping the entire battlefield and the fortress. I used my seeing crystal to view the enormity of the web of arcane might and knew instantly that someone had found a way to access the dark power. A large roiling mass of it formed around the area that the portal was to appear in.
I knew then that though you appeared to be winning the fight, you and the armies of the north were in grave danger. The power had entangled itself within my own host and we were helpless to repel it. I knew that whomever was behind this fell magic could be using it to observe our march and knew our plans.
You know what happened when my army turned south once more. Now you know why I had to do what I did. The ruse had to be complete. The use of that power presented a far greater danger than any you have ever known. The Setites where mere pawns to the magic, the Divine Exodus himself has been bewitched by its power." Uriah continued urgently and the storm grew louder and seemed to strengthen outside.
“It all made sense to me then, the years of study had not been in vain. The root of the power lies within its…” Uriah trailed off as he looked out the southern window of his home. His face turned as white as he gazed into the approaching storm.
Suddenly a roar of terrible might slammed into the city from within the chaotic and growing maelstrom. Every soul in the area stood in shocked awe at the sight of the roiling mass of purple and black shaded clouds forming to the south.
The sky turned from a brilliant blue to a menacing black in mere moments as the sun was blotted from the sky. Red lightning bolts shredded and ripped through the tempest, and another roar shattered the stunned stillness of the desert oasis town. Massive and dark forms moved through the chaos towards the city, the closest of them breaking through the magical cloud.
A huge creature of unholy origin materializes from the nearest of the clouds. Massive fleshy tentacles lash out towards the buildings on outer edges of the city, smashing through them with titanic force. Rocks, bodies and debris scatter in all directions as another tentacle smashes into the cities southern gate, the shock-wave from the impact leveling everything in the nearby area.
Isabell looks to the still unconscious Zarkon and then to Uriah. Uriah, an old soldier of many campaigns in the service of Aquilonia, lifts the Cimmerian from his rest and roughly throws him over his shoulder. “To the horses! Now!” Uriah shouts to the party as he races to the door. They race outside to find pure chaos. Hordes of people run north in a desperate race for their lives, chased by fell creatures who howled for blood.
Isabell and the Shadows mount horses as Zarkon is roughly strapped to a saddle as they make haste to exit the city. Uriah, not mounting looks to Isabell. “You must get him to the western coast. A ship waits there. Give the captain this and he will allow you passage.” He hands Isabell his signet ring and a sealed scroll. “A great calamity approaches this land and it cannot be stopped here, it is too late! The source of this dark power lies in a savage wild, many leagues from here. There you will find the source of this evil! You MUST stop it! Go now, gather all that you can along your journey and never return here!”. He hands the reigns of Zarkons horse to sire, yelling loudly to be heard over the desolation. "Take him! Keep him safe! Keep Isabell safe! If fate allows it, we will meet again, but for now you must GO!” Uriah then charges back into the chaos of the falling city on a task solely his own. The adventurers ride away from the doomed city, chased by the agonized screams of the dying and the demons of hell.
For leagues they rode, and at every turn chaos ripped across the land. Fire and torment reigned supreme, demonic hordes devastated all as they marched further across the exiled lands, destroying all in its wake.
Finally, after days of harrowing and deadly travel they arrived at the small port where the last of several small merchant ships hiding in a covered harbor loading refugees. Isabell ran to the master of the port, and upon revealing Uriah’s ring, her and her party boarded the ships and left the exiled lands.
Zarkon pushed the mug away. He had no taste for it.
The sea outside rocked and heaved as the small ship full of Refugees made its way across the ocean, slowly and purposefully sailing towards this new land. This savage and wild place where the darkness was said to grow.
Zarkon looked to Isabell and the small child who hid behind her, the child who could possibly hold the key to finding and defeating this terrible genocidal evil. The child, Suhani, glared at him and scampered off when she noticed his gaze. She did not speak. Uriah had warned Isabell of this when they met, none the less, Isabells loving nature seemed to be winning over the young orphan, Zarkon hoped he could find out what Uriah had meant in his final letter, the one he had handed Isabell in haste. There were other details in that letter. Terrible details and hopeful ones alike.
He turned to look across the small deck, bursting with landless people and homeless wanderers. Shock and pain shown on most faces but also a shared look of grim existence and desperation encompassed the survivors of the magical cataclysm.
Desperate people make the fiercest warriors he thought to himself. He would turn them from a desperate rabble and mold them into a mighty horde. A horde of warriors with the power to stand against evil. A horde with a light to shine back against the encroaching darkness of this near hopeless twilight.
He would do this or he would die trying.