Myth: The Fallen Lords story

Although the hero of every age of light is different, every dark age is ushered in by the same beast - a transient divinity that seeks only conflict - The Leveler. And so Tireces returned as Moagim to end the Age of Reason - and Connacht, the great hero of the Wind Age, returned as Balor to lay waste to the greatest empire the world had ever known. Myth II - Epilogue

… the seventh wave of Thrall stumbled and climbed over the slippery, piled dead and Mazzarin saw The Watcher with them and at last knew the number of his days. Avatara Flavor Text, Myth TFL

Introduction

It can’t be hopeless.

Two nights ago half a dozen men and I crouched around a campfire, trying to stay warm, and one of them said those words. He’d joined the Legion only three weeks earlier, and started talking to himself after a Ghôl’s cleaver removed three fingers from his left hand. He squatted there in the dirt, repeating that sentence. If he was looking for reassurance or sympathy, he came up empty-handed, for no one else said a word.

Tonight I sit by a campfire fifty miles northwest, remembering the way he screamed this morning when four thrall surrounded him, knocked the sword from his good hand, and hacked him to pieces.

I never got his name.

The war in the North is in its seventh year, and I grow tired of writing this record. Force of habit counts for something, but I’ve written of so many half-hearted assaults, so many retreats - why do I go on? Writing down every detail I could remember - the names of dead men and burning cities and the feeling of heat at our backs as we ran away, again - used to help me sleep at night. Now it’s just something to do between fighting and sleeping.

Sometimes the sense of futility is overwhelming. Now that most of this blackened continent belongs to the Fallen Lords and their servants, it’s easy to become discouraged. Sometimes I feel that holding on for seven years means nothing, that chronicling this slow death of a world and its people means even less. Our efforts seem to make no difference, and I wonder why I ever thought joining up with the Legion was a good idea. My grandfather always told me I had a bad head. Sometimes he would strike it for emphasis.

In the last month I have dreamt of my grandfather repeatedly, for reasons I do not understand. I loathed him as a child. When I was younger my sisters and I spent summers on his farm, performing the menial labor that any sane adult fobs off on children.

I remember dreading the summer and the bitter old man it brought, lugging his pumpkins a full mile from the field to his slap-dash barn, running in terror from his malnourished animals.

I hated it then, though it seems almost idyllic when compared with this summer. Perhaps that’s why I dream of it.

The only relief we had during those summers were the nights when the old man got drunk. He was a sorry drunk; a single bottle rendered him immobile for the evening, and his words ran together like rainwater dripping down the rope that holds a hanged man aloft. Sometimes the liquor ate a hole into the living parts of his mind, and he would forego his usual giggling stupor and tell us stories that had been told to him while he was young: about one named Connacht who delivered the world from darkness.

The way the stories had it, Connacht came out of the east right around the same time that a comet took up residence in the Western skies. At the time the world lived in the long shadow of the Myrkridia - a race of flesh-eaters too horrible to describe to children, or so my grandfather said. I have heard other stories of them since, and it seems that no two people can paint the same picture of what the Myrkridia were or how they were able to keep the land stricken with fear for hundreds of years. I’d dismiss them as a complete fantasy were it not for the conviction - and the fear - in my grandfather’s bleary eyes when he spoke of them.

Connacht was the first human in a thousand years to survive a battle with the Myrkridia …and he didn’t just survive, he prevailed. He hunted them down and imprisoned them in an artifact called the Tain, a prison without walls which the smiths of Muirthemne had forged for him. When the Myrkridia disappeared, Connacht ascended to the Emperor’s throne and presided over what is now known as the Age of Light. His story fades away at this point. Some say he died, or was assassinated or kidnapped. Others say he left Muirthemne in search of some powerful artifact. Supposedly the immense power of items like the Tain both fascinated and terrified him, and he is known to have sought out objects of similar power - the five Eblis Stones, Tramist’s Mirror, the Total Codex.

He destroyed the ones he could, and secreted the rest; in any case, none of them have been seen in centuries.

In fact, all of this is ancient history. But Balor and the rest of the Fallen torched Muirthemne just a few years ago. And I’m reminded with a quick look over our ranks that we are not the brave Connacht’s army, but a scruffy rabble in the service of The Nine. I doubt Connacht will swoop in to save us.

Back when I joined up with the Legion there was a mad Journeyman who regaled anyone too tired to move away with his theory about the Edge of All - that line between the land and nothingness out beyond the kingdom of Gower, where Connacht arose. He claimed the world is double-sided and constantly spinning, like a coin tossed in the air, and the living and the dead are held to its surface by sorceries too powerful for humans to master. “…And so the light and the dark hold dominion successively, and the land belongs in turn to men, or to the undead.” I grew as tired of his affected vocabulary as I did of his idiotic ideas, but I confess I felt a small twinge of sadness when he died. I never got his name either.

For the last week the camps have been abuzz with the rumor that The Nine have got their hands on something which can change the course of the war. Most of us are inclined to dismiss this as nonsense, but seven years of bloody battles with the tireless and seemingly infinite armies of the undead will do that. I admit it seems ridiculous. A talisman that will keep us alive, that will somehow give us the strength to outwit and outlast Balor? You’d think The Nine would have used it earlier. It’s just a rumor anyway, and I’ve learned not to put much faith in rumors.

The men of the Legion have heard too many promises that everything will get better any day now. No one wants to hear the words spoken out loud, so I keep mine to myself, and I suspect others nurture hope as well, though they may not speak of it openly.

Would we carry on, fantasizing of a future beyond war, if we hadn’t a chance?

If this were so, we wouldn’t be able to carry on. Yet here we are.

It can’t be hopeless.

Crow’s Bridge

Wednesday August 3, Crow’s Bridge

Yesterday our legion entered the village of Crow’s Bridge and halted there for the night. We are just four days march from the besieged city of Madrigal now, and with a little luck should arrive there in time to prevent its capture by the enemy.

Shiver, one of the Fallen Lords, has been attacking the city for two days, but so far has been held back by its defenders. We all know the battle for Madrigal will decide the fate of all the Northern lands, and that if it falls we will soon have nowhere to retreat but the ocean.

Fearing for their safety, the villagers here pleaded with us to remain when we broke camp this morning. None of them understand yet what is happening, but they have all seen the refugees from the south, and they are frightened.

Our officers seemed unsympathetic until the people returned with nine young pigs and ten dozen loaves of bread. Fifteen of us are to stay now, perhaps to fight boredom instead of the Fallen Lords, and watch the bridge here for two days.

A Traitor’s Grave

Tuesday August 5, King’s Highway

Having turned back the attack on Crow’s Bridge, we headed south to rejoin the Legion in another small town called Otter Ferry. On our way we met a force of our own men hurrying in the opposite direction, who gave us ill news.

The vanguard of our army, twenty thousand men, has been camped near Otter Ferry for two days now. The mayor of that village must have guessed our plan to cross the Scamander River behind the main enemy force, and to attack them by surprise.

Perhaps in the cowardly hope that he would be spared when the Dark sacked Madrigal, the mayor intends to betray us to the enemy. A quick death will be too good for him, but we will have time for nothing else.

One of the locals knows of the clearing where the mayor arranged his meeting with the Dark, and will lead us there.

The Siege of Madrigal

Friday August 8, Otter Ferry

Our vanguard has crossed the Scamander unchallenged and remains hidden on the southern bank of the river. Their assault will begin two hours after midnight against Shiver’s right flank, at the same time the Madrigal garrison throws open the Gate of Storms and attacks her from the front.

But I won’t be anywhere near Madrigal when this happens. An hour before the main attack a small group of men and I will head in the opposite direction and strike at the enemy camp alone, hoping to divert forces and attention from the city before the real battle begins.

The plan is to fight our way across a bridge and into the captured village of Comfort. From there we’ll locate the enemy camp and create as much of a diversion as possible.

Every thrall that remains in the camp to deal with us is one less that our main force must hack to pieces at Madrigal.

Homecoming

Monday September 15, Outskirts of Tyr

The battle for Madrigal lasted four days without pause. Shiver fell on the first night in a spectacular dream duel with Rabican, one of the Nine. No one expected this. We have never before challenged one of The Fallen and won.

But the truth behind the victory is stranger than any of the rumors. Apparently The Nine found the severed head of one of Balor’s enemies from the old days, buried out in the desert under several tons of sand and rock, and managed to start talking to the thing. Balor is the power behind The Fallen Lords, and we figure his enemy is our friend.

They say that The Head had an old score to settle with Shiver, and told Rabican that her one weakness was vanity, and showed him how to exploit it.

The Head appears to know something about everything, and now it has us looking for an artifact called the Total Codex. Its been located in the ruined city of Covenant, but the first group sent to retrieve it has not returned.

In a few minutes Rabican himself is going to send a few of us through a World Knot to Covenant, to bring back the Codex.

Flight From Covenant

Monday September 15, Shepherd’s Gate, Covenant

The Watcher has entered Covenant from the north, and his tireless undead are raping the old city a second time; tearing down what few structures stand in their way, and choking the sky with dust and smoke. That he wants the book which now rests at the bottom of my pack is clear.

Against my better judgment, I opened the Codex last night to a random page and read about the life of a man not yet born, who would resurrect the Myrkridia and visit horrors on the world without equal in history or myth. I believed every word. I have resolved to destroy the thing before allowing it to become an instrument of the Dark.

Mauriac is on his feet now, talking to the men. We met him and a few other survivors of the first expedition hiding in a collapsed cellar a few hundred feet away from the outer wall, and joined them for a brief rest until dawn.

Mauriac was prince regent here during King Alric’s adolescence, and knows of an underground tunnel just outside the city which leads to Shoal, a village four miles away down the coast. The King’s family used it to escape Covenant when Soulblighter leveled the city twelve years ago, and today we hope it will help us elude the Watcher.

Force Ten From Stoneheim

Friday November 7, The Plain of Scales

We were two days in that tunnel out of Covenant, the Watcher crossing above us every few hours, shaking the ground in his fury and twice nearly burying us alive. Sometime on the second day the tremors grew less distinct, and we were relieved to find nothing but rats and mosquitoes waiting for us when we reached Shoal.

Not wishing to return west we headed down the coast toward the old city of Scales, where we met Maeldun’s southern garrison and turned over the Codex.

We learned there that by coincidence the combined armies of the North are only four days behind us, heading for the mountains to stop The Deceiver, another of The Fallen Lords, from crossing the Cloudspine before winter.

But we can’t wait for them: There is a World Knot west of the Cloudspine and The Head insists that the enemy has learned to travel through the Knots. If we don’t destroy this portal we might hold the mountains only to be outflanked by forces emerging from the Knot behind us.

Eight Dwarven irregulars and every man in Scales from the Legion have volunteered for the mission.

Bagrada

Wednesday November 12, Fool’s Traverse, Bagrada

Damn I hate the cold. A few months of warm weather and you forget what it’s like to have your eyes frost shut and the snot freeze in your nose. And it doesn’t bother the undead one bit either, I’m sure.

We’re up here in the mountains to stop The Deceiver from crossing into the west before winter closes the high passes. Its already started to snow pretty hard, so we shouldn’t have to be here longer than a few more days.

Bagrada is a maze of tiny canyons criss-crossing the mountains between the Plain of Scales and Forest Heart. There are thirty small groups of men like mine waiting at key junctions inside the pass, but the main body of our force is camped in the valley below. With hot meals and dry beds.

I guess the worst thing about having a reputation for being a bunch of hardasses is that the Legion always finds itself where the fighting will be ugliest. So we’re up here as the first line of defense against an attack by The Deceiver.

Tyrfing just came running into camp bellowing that our scout’s signal fire has gone out. That means trouble.

Ambush at Devil’s Overlook

Friday November 14, Devil’s Overlook, Bagrada

The snow hasn’t stopped in two days, and in some places the drifts are already twice the height of a man. Even The Fallen will have to wait until spring before they try to cross the mountains here again.

But not all of the enemy retired ahead of the snow. For the last two hours we’ve watched a column of a hundred soulless, separated from their masters and obviously lost, wandering the canyons below. The Dwarves are running about like delirious children. It should be a spectacular ambush.

Rabican has held Seven Gates, and the snow has begun there as well. We have done the unthinkable. We have pushed The Fallen back to the mountains.

But our success here is tempered by Alric’s failure to return west with the eastern army before winter, and the Watcher’s continued presence behind us. It’s not going to be an easy winter.

The Five Champions

Wednesday November 19, The Barrier

I have turned back my journal a few months and placed the next two entries in chronological order after Bagrada, where they seem most appropriate.

I did not witness the events I am about to relate, but instead repeat here the stories of those who survived them. It wasn’t until after the disaster at Forest Heart that the rest of us even heard about any of this.

It all started when The Nine learned that Alric had been captured by The Deceiver, and his army decimated. I’m not certain how they figured this out, but I’ll bet The Head told them (and this was back when the Head could do no wrong).

At the behest of the Nine, our officers chose five champions from among the Legion. They were carried over the mountains by balloon and dropped at night in the rough desert twenty miles from The Deceiver’s camp.

Their instructions were to rescue Alric by any means available, and to return him to the west. I believe that The Nine were suspicious of the circumstances surrounding Alric’s capture, and wished to discover why The Head had sent him over the mountains.

Out of the Barrier

Wednesday November 19, The Barrier

Finding Alric, the companions later told me, was the easy part, and breaking the enchantments which bound him the matter of but a few moments consideration. It wasn’t until they turned to escape, leading the barely conscious and unresponsive Alric, that the rescue became a thing of legend.

The companions say that Alric became more and more lucid toward the end, and revealed things that day in the desert which only made sense in the light of later events. He continually returned to the belief that he had been betrayed.

Alric babbled about a suit of armor so powerful that its wearer was invulnerable to attack and tireless in battle. He claimed that it was buried somewhere in the eastern desert, and that he had been sent by The Head to retrieve it.

They say Alric talked about The Head often, ridiculing The Nine’s belief that it was one of the avatara of Connacht. Connacht was the great hero of the Wind Age, who drove the evil Moagim from the earth, and The Head claims to have been one of Connacht’s closest advisors during this time.

Once Alric even spoke of The Head’s defeat by Balor, where it lost its body. But I’ve begun to wonder how one of the avatara of the Wind Age outlived Connacht himself by hundreds of years, to fight Balor in a battle long before the West had even heard of The Fallen Lords.

I have been unable to reconcile this with what I know of history.

Silvermines

Sunday November 30, Outskirts of Silvermines

The old stories all tell that when Balor freed the Watcher from his prison under the Cloudspine, one arm was left trapped in his prison of solid rock. Bound by a powerful confinement dream, it should have remained there forever. But it didn’t.

We’re a hundred miles from Bagrada and two days ahead of the rest of the Legion today, outside a town called Silvermines, looking for the Watcher’s arm. You have no idea how small it makes you feel to be poking around the ruins of an abandoned town looking for the shriveled arm of the second or third most powerful sorcerer in living memory.

I don’t understand how the arm got to Silvermines, or how The Nine knew where to look for it, but I can tell they want it bad. They hope to use the Watcher’s arm against him, if we find it. Rather like knowing his true name, only better. Again, I don’t pretend to understand.

Problem is The Deceiver is thinking the same thing. Some of The Fallen are over a millennium old, and their rivalries go back just as far. We know The Deceiver is looking for the arm too, and has been digging up Silvermines since last summer.

We’re going in this evening to grab it.

Shadow of the Mountain

Sunday November 30, Foothills of the Cloudspine

The enormous volcano overlooking Seven Gates is erupting for the first time in ten centuries. The tremors started late yesterday and since midnight there has been a constant rain of hot ash and fire. Even here, thirty miles away, it already feels like summer.

As if the mountain’s fury were an ill omen, Rabican was encircled and crushed by the Watcher, who attacked by surprise from the west.

The survivors of this battle who have reached us speak of ribbons of fire tearing flesh from bone, and thick clouds of poison which rotted whole formations of men to pieces in moments. Our wizards were powerless to stop the carnage.

They also say that the pass of Seven Gates has become a raging river, fed by snow melting as the volcano heats the earth around it. The defenders who remained in the pass are surely drowned, and in a few days when the water is gone the pass will be open again, and undefended.

But none of this concerns us. What remains of the Silvermines garrison is less than ten minutes behind us now, determined to claim the arm. We are all too exhausted to continue running, and our scouts have chosen a hill up ahead where we can make a stand.

I’ve heard there are a number of our own men among those pursuing us, turned to the dark by The Deceiver. None of us look forward to meeting them in battle.

Seven Gates

Sunday December 7, Seven Gates

The Watcher drove his army without rest through the fleeing remnants of Rabican’s forces and into Seven Gates. We are there now, inside the pass, where he then clashed with The Deceiver on his way east. The bodies of the undead are everywhere, melted and broken. It seems inconceivable that anything could have survived.

I don’t know why he attacked The Deceiver, unless somehow he found out what was going on in Silvermines. One of the veterans said that these two had it out after the battle for Tyr, twelve years ago, and that the Watcher barely survived. I have a feeling the real reasons for what happened today go back even farther than that.

Whatever the case, while the battle raged only a few miles away and we thought the Watcher was coming for us next, I was glad nobody had asked me to carry his damned arm.

It looks like the volcano will keep Seven Gates open through the winter, so Maeldun is sending out patrols to retake the pass. The Legion’s growing fame seems to draw danger like a bright candle attracts moths, and if any of the enemy survived the floods and fighting I’m sure we’ll be the ones to find them.

So ends the seventeenth year of the war.

Forest Heart

Tuesday May 19, The Edge of Forest Heart

It’s spring again, and after five months of rest the Legion is once more on the move. Last week we passed through Seven Gates into the eastern lands over the Cloudspine. The Fallen seem to have abandoned the mountains, but for what reason we cannot tell.

The Legion is here alone, camped on the edge of Forest Heart and dangerously far into the territory of the enemy. Two of the Nine are with us, Cu Roi and Murgen, trying to make contact with the forest giants who live in this place, to beg their help against the Dark.

No man has seen one of the giants since the first battle for Seven Gates thirteen years ago. They helped contain the fury of Balor himself for three years, but on the fourth they did not return and the pass was lost.

One of our scouts just came crashing through the brush, winded, and a crowd of excited men has gathered around him. Someone hurrying out of the group paused beside me long enough to say, “Soulblighter is here. Put that in your journal.”

Heart of the Stone

Date Unknown, Inside The Tain

I do not understand what has happened. Falling back before two myrmidons in Forest Heart, I was enveloped by a greenish haze which tore me from the earth. Now I find myself here, in a vast underground cavern with many of my comrades. We have been unable to find any way to the surface.

Murgen believes us to be trapped inside the Tain, a relic forged by the Smiths of Muirthemne during the Wind Age. Soon after its construction, the Tain was taken from Muirthemne by raiding barbarians from the south, and believed to be lost forever.

But they say that the darkest artifacts have the ability to bend men to their will. Calling soundlessly to the wicked and discontent from thousands of miles away or hundreds of feet beneath the earth or sea, and that in this way they always come to light again, no matter how buried or forgotten.

So it was that Soulblighter rediscovered the Tain.

The artifact was used only once before it disappeared, by Connacht, against the terrible race of the Myrkridia. Until now, Murgen said, no man except its creators knew where its victims were taken. I’ll try to feel privileged while I starve to death.

I have nothing more to write.

The Smiths of Muirthemne

Date Unknown, Inside The Tain

Tradition tells us almost nothing of the Myrkridia save for the horrible skull platforms they would build from the severed heads of their enemies. We found one of these a few hours ago, thirty feet high and a hundred feet across, each skull arranged with a mad precision that was terrifying to behold.

Many of the skulls were human, or at least humanoid, but among these were others which were certainly not, whose shapes and curves I have tried to forget ever since. In the center of the platform, far above our heads, rose the ancient battle standard of the Myrkridia.

We left immediately.

Murgen believes that we are close to finding a backdoor. A secret exit from the Tain added by its creators so they could escape the thing if it were ever used against them. It will be hidden, of course, and almost certainly protected by traps, but it is our only chance of escape.

These caves are so vast that we’ve been able to locate less than fifty of the four thousand men we suspect are imprisoned with us. Murgen hopes that he can release the others after we have escaped, by destroying the Tain at the exit.

I asked him if doing so would also set free everything which had ever been imprisoned in the Tain, but got no response.

Sons of Myrgard

Sunday May 23, Near Myrgard

I think Soulblighter lost his nerve when the Tain shattered. To him, only a few seconds passed between the invocation of the thing and its sudden destruction, while it took us two days to escape the caves inside it.

Anyway, he didn’t stick around to figure out what went wrong.

Messengers reached us today saying that Maeldun has lost Bagrada and that The Deceiver crossed the mountains at the Stair of Grief. Worst of all, what’s left of the Nine had it out with The Head, which had apparently been double-crossing them ever since they pulled it out of the ground last summer.

Something like a civil war erupted back west, too, as thousands of our own men unexpectedly rose to defend The Head. Two of The Nine were killed, which makes them something like The Three now, if you also subtract Murgen and Cu Roi, who did not escape the destruction of the Tain, and the others who have died this year.

The only good news is that Alric is still alive, and will join us tomorrow.

This far east, the Dwarves with us are closer to their occupied homelands than any of their race has been in fifty years. Not expecting to return, many of them have decided to give up their lives rather than abandon their country once again to the Ghols who have overrun it.

What follows is their story.

A Long Awaited Party

Tuesday May 24, Myrgard

What I record next is hearsay, though the Dwarves who remained with us after Forest Heart swear by its truth. It seems impossible that they could have any knowledge of events occurring hundreds of miles away, deep in territory long held by the Ghols, yet their conviction does not yield.

I repeat here their story, and allow the reader to come to his own decision.

Led by their pathfinder, Balin, the Dwarves landed in the midst of a sea of Ghols and laid waste to them with grenades and satchel charges. But the enemy boiled like ants from their burrows in the mountain, and each one that was killed seemed to be replaced by two others.

Yet at last the attacks ceased, and the Dwarves found themselves masters of the bloody patch of ground where they had taken their stand. Bodies and pieces of bodies lay everywhere.

A swift council followed their unexpected victory, and the survivors resolved to locate the Ghol’s ancestral stone godhead and blast it to fragments. The Ghols have worshipped this enormous piece of unworked stone since the birth of their race, rolling its hundred tons wherever their migrations have taken them.

The continued presence of the Ghol’s idol at Myrgard is a blasphemy, and to destroy it would be to spit in the face of their entire race.

Now more than ever, the Dwarves expected to die.

The Road North

Monday June 15, The Edge of the Dire Marsh

The Legion has come two hundred and fifty miles in little more than two weeks. Not returning west, to safety, but headed north, toward the melted cities of the Trow and Balor’s fortress.

Back in Forest Heart, Alric convinced our officers that the west was lost. That our small force could contribute nothing to the hopeless battles that would soon be fought around Madrigal, Willow and Tandem. These cities would fall, he said, and all their people would die, whether we sacrificed ourselves or not.

Then he told us what we could do instead.

Alric was interrogated by Balor during his captivity, and he learned by chance that Balor had bound each of The Fallen to himself, to ensure their obedience to his will. The Fallen draw their power through these links, and were Balor to be killed they would all be powerless. The armies of the Dark would collapse.

So Balor must fall. But today we are only at the edge of the Dire Marsh, nearly five hundred miles from his fortress, with the Watcher waiting in ambush ahead and Soulblighter shadowing us from behind. We have a long road before us.

A few men and I are leaving the main column in a few moments to discover the fate of a scouting party which has not returned. None of us expect to find them alive, but we must recover an artifact carried by their leader, gr’Uman, Lieutenant of Archers.

Across the Gjol

Wednesday June 24, The South Bank of the Gjol

The Legion has reached the Gjol, the poisoned river which feeds the Dire Marsh. Soulblighter has been continuously engaging our rearguard for the last two days. Between this and the Watcher’s many ambushes along the way, it seems as if the two Fallen are racing to see which can destroy us first.

We will cross the river at midnight, but leave a number of men in ambush for Soulblighter when he tries to follow. Alric intends to hit the Watcher while Soulblighter is delayed, and then flee north before either can force a decisive battle.

Yesterday I saw iu’Shee, captain of archers, with a fist full of white arrows five feet long and tipped with fragments of bone. I lost track of who was carrying the Watcher’s arm when we fled Silvermines, but I suspect its turned up again.

I was one of the men chosen to hold the Gjol against Soulblighter.

The Watcher

Thursday June 25, Near the Watcher’s Camp

We retreated from the river into chaos. There was no time to write until the following day, when we finally left the swamp for drier ground in the north.

We held Soulblighter at the Gjol long enough to let Alric spring his trap on the Watcher. Turned out I was right about those arrows: Alric had been working on them since we entered the marsh two weeks ago, and they were tipped with fragments of bone from the Watcher’s arm.

I sure wouldn’t have wanted to get stuck with one, but apparently they turned the Watcher into stone, leaving him paralyzed and helpless.

But he didn’t die. Thirty berserks chosen to accompany the archers tore through the enemy and piled the bodies of the dead at the Watcher’s feet, but all were killed before they could deliver the final blow.

Rather than leave such a dangerous enemy behind us to be rescued, a hundred men have volunteered to return and smash him to fragments before help can arrive.

River of Blood

Monday July 20, Outside Rhi’anon

None of us miss the mosquitoes and leeches of the marsh, but this bleak landscape is hardly better. We are outside the old Trow city of Rhi’anon, abandoned centuries ago in the war which nearly exterminated their race. Each hour brings us closer to Balor’s fortress and almost certainly to the end of our own lives.

After weeks of shadowing us, Soulblighter’s army vanished after the battle on the Gjol. He’s certain to show up again soon, but meanwhile its given us a welcome rest from fighting.

Alric has been busy again, hardly sleeping I’m told, planning for the coming battle. A single berserk reached us yesterday, after having come all the way over the mountains from the city of Willow, fourteen hundred miles away. He delivered to Alric a single package the size of a man’s fist, wrapped in rags, and refuses to talk with anyone about events in the west.

A small group of us are going into the city ahead of the main force tomorrow, to secure a bridge which Alric fears the enemy would destroy if we attacked in force. Once it has been secured, the Legion will follow.

Pools of Iron

Tuesday July 21, Rhi’anon

I am not a coward. I think that my actions over the last seventeen years prove this. Yet I was relieved to not be among those chosen to die.

In four hours, just after sunrise, the twenty-two hundred survivors of the Legion will attack Balor’s fortress. Those men will surely die. There are perhaps half a million of the enemy between here and the stronghold.

Alric left at dusk, alone. The old maps, he says, all show a World Knot in Rhi’anon, though it has never been used in our time. He intends to find it and bring through a hundred picked men to a point he believes will be almost on top of the fortress. From there we go after Balor.

We have watched a dim comet grow brighter each night until now it is visible by day, and at night brighter than the moon. Some of the men have taken it as an omen for ill, but only the next few days will tell.

Before he left, Alric told us that Madrigal had fallen.

The Last Battle

Tuesday July 21, The Fortress

Alric’s plan is a mad one.

One of the many strange things we found while trapped inside the Tain was the shredded battle standard of that long dead race of evil creatures called the Myrkridia. I thought that we had left it behind, but someone must have climbed that horrible pile of skulls and brought it out with them when we escaped.

The Myrkridia were the most vicious servants of the Dark in another time, now long past, and Balor himself imprisoned them within the Tain. Or at least that’s what Alric says. I’d always heard that the Myrkridia were hunted to extinction by Connacht, the great hero of the Wind Age.

Alric says Connacht and Balor are two different names for the same person. I think four months in the desert addled his mind. How could the greatest hero of the Wind Age, the king of Muirthemne during its Golden Age, become the greatest evil of our time?

Alric intends to approach within a hundred yards of the fortress, and raise the Myrkridian standard. Because of Balor’s old enmity toward the Myrkridia, Alric is certain that this will so enrage Balor that he will come to deal with us himself.

All we have to do is plant the standard and wait.

The Great Devoid

Tuesday July 21, The Great Devoid

“Balor has been killed before,” Alric told us after we raised the Myrkridian standard, “and each time it has only made him more powerful. Our best hope is to cut off his head, and hurl it into the Great Devoid. Only in this way will the world be rid of him forever.”

As Balor approached, Alric drew from his robe one of the five Eblis Stones, and for a few moments it made him an equal of Balor. I have no doubt that this is what was brought to him yesterday, though where it was found or how Alric arranged for it to be delivered I have no idea. I am only certain that he must have set this plan in motion months ago.

There are fewer than thirty of us now, most of whom are men I’ve never seen before. The rest of the Legion was sacrificed in front of the fortress, to give us time to take Balor’s head while Alric held him motionless.

After writing these last lines, I will bury this manuscript so that it may survive even if we do not. After all the danger we have faced, it seems ridiculous to do that only now. I cannot see what could possibly stand between us and the Great Devoid, only a few thousand yards away.