Bal Sagoth : Starfire Burning Upon the Ice-Veiled Throne of Ultima Thule

Symphonic Black / United-Kingdom
(1996 - Cacophonous Records)
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Teksty

1. BLACK DRAGONS SOAR ABOVE THE MOUNTAIN OF SHADOWS (Prologue)

[The Watcher in Stone:]
...And I stand enthralled and silent atop the ancient, shadowed mountain,
gazing in awe at the stygian, night-cloaked sky, as above me a wondrous flight
of ebon dragons soar on vast wings blacker than the darkling heavens... Mayhap
I behold the personal war-dragons of none other than the mysterious and
legendary Ophidian King himself, majestically riding the night winds to the
glorious field of some great and epic battle... By the gods, a more fearsomely
splendid sight in this world there cannot be!


2. TO DETHRONE THE WITCH-QUEEN OF MYTOS K'UNN (The Legend Of The Battle Of Blackhelm Vale)

[The Chronicles of War:]
The vast armies of Mytos K'unn, marshalled by a sorceress of great power
known as Zyrashana the Witch-Queen, had been cutting a swath through the
Eastern Kingdoms since high summer the preceding year. Empowering her troops
with great sorceries, she had s een all opposition fall before the ravening
swords of her forces since the first bloody campaign; the invasion of the
ancient and noble realm of Delania. The aftermath of the final battle had seen
the systematic slaughter of the Delanian royal family, an d the torture and
execution of all those who had been loyal to their banner. During the ensuing
months, more kingdoms and satrapies toppled before the might of Zyrashana's
legions, commanded by the fearsome and unswervingly loyal battle-lord Talus
Ebonfy re, a man of sublime brutality whom many beleived to be possessed by a
demon-spirit from the dark realms. Emboldened by their victories and the
expansion of their queen's dark dominion, the hordes of Mytos K'unn began the
incursion into the lands of the Northern Tribes, beginning with the grim and
brooding territories south of the Snow Kingdoms... the rugged homelands of the
warlike clans which had been recently united into a strong realm by the
powerful warrior-king Caylen-Tor, a man known to his allie s and enemies alike
as the Wolf of the North. Thinking the barbaric tribesmen little threat, the
Witch-Queen intends a largely unopposed march throught their lands to strike
at the wealthy and fertile realms beyond the Mountain Kingdoms to the west...
bu t Caylen-Tor has vowed that a searing torrent of blood and steel shall meet
all those who deign to enter unwelcome or drive their standard unbidden into
his land... As grim winter slowly yields to spring, the armies of Mytos K'unn
begin their march northwards, and news of the advance of the Witch-Queen's
forces into Blackhelm Vale, the valley known for centuries as the Gate to the
Northlands, soon reaches the highla nd stronghold of Caylen-Tor. Grimly taking
up his sword and spear and donning the woad of war, he vows that Zyrashana
shall pay in blood for every league she has dared venture in his sacred lands.
Scouts soon return with the information that the enemy is camped at the base
of the valley, preparing to march with th dawn. The court shamans forsee
rivers of blood and untold carnage, and great battlespells are woven as
Caylen-Tor leads his vastly outnumbered Northlander warriors to the misty,
moon-swathed e xpanse that is Blackhelm Vale. Legends say that the blood of
many kings has been spilled on the dark earth of the valley over the
generations, and Caylen-Tor promises to his grim gods that the earth will once
again drink deep this night. With his army si lent and brooding beneath the
moon, he knows that whatever the outcome, this night shall see a legend of war
written in blood and the deaths of men... a legend none shall soon forget...

[The War Testament of Caylen-Tor (On the Night of the Bloodying of Swords):]
O' grim gods of battle, empower us this night...
Anoint us with the crimson rain, feed our steel with slaughter...
Let every blow be a killing blow, grant us victory, or a warrior's death.
Come, moon-fogs, Descend to cloak our numbers, the heady scent of battle
beckons,
My ash-hafted spear feels good in my hands, girt 'round with spells (our flesh
gloriously) woad anointed,
Ravens awaiting slaughter soar high above, blood-worms bloat on red carnage,
I'll carve the moon-wheel in their flesh, as havoc churns the heather!

A swirling mantle of mist-magic swathes us, powerful spells woven by the
fen-witches of the great mere... Deep night and moon-mist shall be our allies
as we surge into the fray! At my bidding, the fog clears for a brief moment,
and I gaze down upon the v alley to behold the army of the Witch-Queen...
great tents arrayed upon the heather, powerful steeds tethered, the light from
countless burning brands illumining the night, many warriors standing, weapons
in hand... aye, all sword fodder.

Entwined in war-fogs...
Entwined by war-spells...
Blessed in blood as raven-saters, slake the thirst of steel burning bright,
Reap the harvest of spilled entrails, we'll return with many heads this night.
The death-ravening black fury fills me,
The spatter of hot blood seet on my lips,
This yard of steel sings a deadly song in my grasp!
Cleaving bodies left and right, a head falls with each swing of my blade,
A storm of shafts screaming form yew-bows, (through their armoured ranks we
shall) carve a path with steel, a blood-drenched swath!

And the thirst of the earth shall be slaked with blood at the fields of
carnage...
A staggering sea of crimson, a towering mountain of ravaged flesh,
All enraptured by the searing kiss of steel,
All surfeit from supping deep of the grim chalice of battle...

Brooding gods of the north, display to these outlander thralls thine ire,
Envenom our blades with the death-kiss of a thousand serpents,
Unfetter the dread war-wolves within us,
That their claws may rend, and their jaws may be reddened.

The bloodying is at hand!
My spear hammers into the chest of a warrior, and bright blood erupts
from his lips as he falls to the heather. I turn aside a vicious swordthrust
and my own blade snakes out to cleave the neck of the attacker, shearing
through his veins in a shower of d ark red. An enemy blade opens my shoulder
to the bone, but I sweep my axe out in a deadly arc, its iron head rending
armour and biting deep into flesh. Talus Ebonfyre's abdomen yawns open and he
staggers back as his intestines spew forth in a pulsing mas s. I sunder his
head with another blow as he falls and his skull yields to spill its steaming
contents to the earth. As I watch, a writhing, shadowy form rises from the
smitten corpse of the Witch-Queen's warlord and flees howling into the
night... I vau lt to the saddle of a riderless black war-horse and seize the
banner of Mytos-K'unn... for every one of us that has fallen, we have taken
five of the enemy screaming with us... the battle is ours!

Bright moon, gleam o'er moor and heather, wood and vale, deep fen and
lake, Grim mountains crowned with snows, great rings of stones, black 'neath
the stars, The storms extol our ancient glory, great mounds feed us, power
from the sacred earth. With faith and steel we walk our shadowed paths, our
blood runs as fire, swords blessed by sorcery.

Wolves of the north, raise thine steel to the skies, revel in the pride of
your wounds,
Let our victory-song ride the winds of this blood-gorged eve,
For on this night of red swords we have wrought a legend,
Forged in the fires of our rage, and tempered with the spilled blood of the
slain...

O' grim gods of battle, empower us this night and always,
Anoint us with the crimson rain, forever feed our steel with slaughter...
Let every blow be a killing blow, grant us eternal victory, 'til we die a
warrior's death.

And so did Caylen-Tor turn the armies of Mytos K'unn back from the
frontiers of his northern kingdom. Those enemy soldiers who fled the field as
the mist lifted and their banner fell, are hunted down and brought to their
knees before the king. Summoning a surviving warrior Mytos K'unn, Caylen-Tor
gives unto him two gifts with which to return to his queen; one is the fallen,
sundered banner of Mytos K'unn, the other is the cloven head of Talus
Ebonfyre. The king's words ring out over the blood-drenched m oor: "Take this
message back to your queen... if ever again she deigns to strike against my
people, the slaughter this night will seem as naught compared to the havoc I
shall visit upon her then." When news of the defeat and the fearsome message
of Cayle n-Tor reached Mytos K'unn, Zyrashana's spells of regal dominance
waned, and her many courtiers and councillors, liberated from the imposition
of subservience, plotted against their queen, 'til soon she was driven from
the great royal palace by her own el ite guard, her throne seized by an
ambitious baron who had won the favour of the nobles and mages of the realm.
Evading inprisonment and surviving only by her mastery of spellcraft,
Zyrashana fled to the satrapies of the east, and nothing more was seen or
heard of her for some considerable time...


3. AS THE VORTEX ILLUMINES THE CRYSTALLINE WALLS OF KOR-AVUL-THAA

Kor-Avul-Thaa... finest jewel in the crown of a realm of sublime glory,
greatest city in the Middle Kingdoms, mayhap all the world... Its splendid
walls of shimmering crystal could be seen from a hundred leagues distant,
kissed by the golden rays of the sun, or caressed by the ethereal fingers of a
midnight moon. Its magnificent spires and citadels, built by generations of
kings from the resplendent gifts hewn from the ancient bosom of the sacred
Crystal Mountains, had oft' times been the bitter envy of rival emperors, and
many were the sieges which Kor-Avul-Thaa had withstood and repulsed over the
centuries, for powerful sorcerers did weave great spells of protection about
the dazzling towers, and none may have passed unbidden through the vast
sapphir ean gates of mighty Kor-Avul-Thaa...

From the Journals of Sage Daelun

[The Oracle of Kor-Avul-Thaa:]
The sky rent asunder... black-winged devils surge forth from the void...
A maelstrom of crimson fire burns above us... what carnage has thou wrought?
Not sword, ballistae, nor burning brand
Could e'er these walls aspire to breach,
Yet now the city's fall is nigh,
As elder rites black fiends unleash.

High Lord of the Brotherhood of Dark Elucidation (Keepers of the
Forbidden Books of the First Cataclysm): By Klatrymadon and Zuranthus, such
ancient secrets we discovered within these sinistrous, worm-worn pages,
Etched with darksome glyphs and sigils, bound with fearsome spells, An
eldritch tide of stygian sorceries unfettered by the forbidden Tome of
Shadows...

Now thunderous cataclysm befalls the gleaming Kor-Avul-Thaa (The mystic
gate stands open!) The Xytaxehedron held to the stars... the incantation
uttered with eager tongues... (What long-shackled powers of the elder dark
have our conjurings loosed?)

By Klatrymadon and Zuranthus, the vortex blackens the stars above,
A vast plague of amorphous horrors descends to rend with fang and talon,
(As with torrents of blood the crystalline walls run red?)
And in the glooming chambers of our shadowed sanctum, we wait, half-mad with
terror,
To reap the slaughterous harvest which we have sown...

[The Chronicler of the Cataclysm:]
And beyond the vortex, the churning black waters of the void did disgorge the
Dwellers in Eternal Shadow,
And upon a horde of winged horrors, brandishing swords of ebon flame, they
rode out from the Gate...
And a terrible silence fell upon Kor-Avul-Thaa...

[The Echoes of the Oracle:]
The sky rent asunder, black winged devils surge forth from the void...
A maelstrom of crimson fire burns above us... what carnage has thou wrought?

[The Chronicler of the Cataclysm:]
The Chronicles of Time speak of only two other instances when the sky did
split wide and bleed forth such a torrent of horror as that which assailed
Kor-Avul-Thaa... One of those times was the fateful eve when the moon burned
black over ancient Lemuria, as a legion of ravening fiends emerged from the
Outer Darkness to visit catastrophe upon that realm... And the other... the
other manifestation of such a staggering cosmic evil is recorded only in the
ancient Scrolls of the Third Circle, a dark collectio n of terrifying
blasphemies which was believed to have been burned by the Order of Kl'aa at
roughly the same time as the first Tome of Shadows was discovered deep within
the Black Pyramid... These scrolls speak disturbingly of visitations to our
earth by creatures from a terrible place known as the Black Galaxy...
creatures which were able to span the vast expanses of time and space
separating our world from theirs in their great dark chariots, bringing
pestilence and carnage whenever they set foot upon the earth... And yet, the
scrolls also speak of the Others, known by some ancient, long-dead tribes as
the Travelling Ones... beings who did stand against the denizens of the Black
Galaxy and wage war with them across the nighted void. It is said that t he
Travelling Ones sailed the star-seas in huge silvern spheres ringed with a
myriad pulsing lights, and that in a great battle they drove their shadowy
foes back to the Black Galaxy... but at a great cost... The Travelling Ones
were drained of their cos mic powers and cast into a deep slumber, and some
say that they remain here still, hidden in mysterious, secret places, awaiting
the time of their reawakening. It was ascertained by those mages who found the
Tome of Shadows that certain gateways existed linking our world and the Black
Galaxy, just as maps carved into the stone walls of ancient tombs displayed
the pathway to the terrifying realm through the eternal blackness of the
void... and within the sinister pages of the dread book were the arcane k
eys... the rites to open wide these gates and give the dark wanderers beyond
the freedom to roam the earth once again... And the darkling lords did descend
upon Kor-Avul-Thaa to claim their splendid prize, and enthrone themselves
within the glittering walls...

[The Echoes of the Oracle:]
Not sword, ballistae, nor burning brand
Could e'er these walls aspire to breach,
Yet now the city's fall is nigh,
As elder rites black fiends unleash...

[The Brotherhood:]
By Klatrymadon and Zuranthus, in Kor-Avuk-Thaa, darkness reigns eternal...
Nevermore shall the city glimmer, for now the crystalline walls gleam black...
Ever black...

And so it was that the bedazzling and splendid Kor-Avul-Thaa did become
the City of Shadows, a sinister fortress of elder fiends and fearsome beasts,
unleashed by the meddlings of mortals aspiring to dark thresholds of forbidden
knowledge and arcane powe r, a nightmare city shunned and feared by all. And
not since the sinking of Atlantis was the fall of a realm so sorely
lamented...

[From the Journals of Sage Daelun]


4. STARFIRE BURNING UPON THE ICE-VEILED THRONE OF ULTIMA THULE

Spears agleam in the dying sun,
The blood is spilled, the battle's won,
From the icy throne of God-King shall rule,
When nine stars kiss the moon o'er Ultima Thule.

[Old Northlander war-song, found in the ancient scrolls of Volmyr]

The Final Part of Voryn Helmsmiter's Journey to the Ice Realm: Blood
drips from my frost-encased sword, forming a crimson blossom upon the ice...
My limbs cold, becoming as one with the massing snows... my eyes nearly frozen
closed. For how long had we travelled? The memory grows dim, lost in the
cruel, searing storm-winds. And now, at last... our quest is at an end. With
the blessings of the elders we began our journey beyond the great veil of
shadowed glaciers... They spoke of a prophecy foretold, an ancient and
glorious legacy, A quest for the realm of legendry lost to man since before
even the Star-Lords descended... Now, only I survive, my blood spilling to the
ice, turning to crimson crystal upon the deeply frozen earth. Elder sorcery
crackles and hums all about me, coursing through the sky, the snow... As grim
destiny approaches with the freezing boreal gales and this ancient prophecy
unfolds...

[Predication of the Elders:]
Go, follow the witch-lights in the northern night sky, beyond the great
silvern mountains... Let the sacred moon-crystal be your guide, beware the
sentinels at the Caverns of Eternal Mist...

Spears agleam in the dying sun,
The blood is spilled, the battle's won,
From the icy throne of God-King shall rule,
When nine stars kiss the moon o'er Ultima Thule.

Swathed in moon-frosts, in icy winds our blazon flying,
Iron gleaming 'neath the stars, black skies ablaze with astral fire,
White wolves (like silent spirits) haunt us, ever northwards, the ice-gem
leads us, glimmering,
Powerful spells entwine the shrine of legendry, mighty gates of frozen
splendour looming,
When the moon and stars shine as one upon the snows, the ancient ice-gate
opens, the prophecy is fulfilled!

Towering, ice-encrusted forms lumber forth from the freezing mist,
(Their eyes shimmering with a fiendish, eldritch malevolance...)
Our steel is raised against their weapons of gleaming crystal,
And the virgin snow is rendered crimson by bloodshed in a searing storm of
slaughter.
(Wounded, dying, my flesh rent by weapons no human ever forged or wielded, I
am beckoned forward by a strange, alluring force from beyond the veil of
swirling mists...)

Shadows, images form in the glittering rune-carved walls of this glacial
chamber,
Secrets frozen within the timeless vaults of eternity...
The throne of the time-lost ice realm, entwined in the mantle of such searing
star-born power...
This frozen, aeon-cloaked seat of immortal majesty... (of an empire forged
long before the vast seas rose in devouring fury!)

What shimmering swords raised in combat once sang with the glorious clamour
of steel on steel?
What splendid banners, billowing in the icy gales, once heralded the march
of these invincible silverclad legions to the blood-swathed embrace of epic
battle?
The glory of untold thousands of years past... this ethereal legacy of
mighty Ultima Thule.
The frozen eyes of immortal kings watch me... such a dark splendour!

The Guardian of Ice and Shadow:
The grim Ice-Gods sleep in these frost-bound tombs, illumined by the caress
of lunar fire,
And the kiss of star-gleam from the stygian void...
All is now as was foretold in prophecy, written in the very ether of empyreal
eternity...
The celestial alignment is night... the conjunction is at hand!

And nine stars illumine the northern heavens, a vast cosmic sigil with the
silvern moon at its centre...
Blazing argent light fills the chamber, engulfing the hewn walls of elder ice,
These ancient carvings in a time-veiled tongue, (etched into the primeval ice
countless aeons ago, now bathed in diaphonous incandescence by this storm of
lucent stellar power, their mindsearing meaning at last becomes known to me...)
their cosmic secrets unfold...
The ice-throne is encased by a shimmering wall of writhing cerulean flame,
A lambent flame far colder than the frozen surface upon which it dances...

And then, enlightenment comes, gleaming down upon my consciousness as the
bright moon gazes down upon this auroral vista... From my mind is lifted an
obscuring veil, a veil induced by sorcerous arts, and I realize I have been
merely a vassal of another's twisted will, a pawn in a game which is entwined
in treachery and malign aspirations to thresholds of great power. Such a
traitorous web has been spun! The elders of my kingdom bow in obeisance to the
vile priests of Xothan'kur, and it is their diseased machinations which have
urged me here, to the very heart of the far-fabled ice realm... for they seek
to usurp the power of the Conjunction, stealing the vast energies of the
Ice-Veiled throne and absorbing them into their own leprous, undead bodies, pe
rpetuating the adoration of their abhorrent liege for countless ages,
liberating his vile will and enslaving the realms of the world... Aye, for
generations they have plotted their actions, and I was the key to this plot,
chosen from birth for this fated journey... for the blood of the ancient kings
of Ultima Thule runs strong in my veins, and only once in every aeon may one
such as I stand before the throne during the great cosmic alignment, when the
sorceries of the ancient Ice-Gods are at their peak, and rightfully wield this
power unleashed... And yet I vow that the vile minions of Xothan'kur shall not
prevail... Liberating the fettered power of the moon-crystal, I sever the
tendrils of their dark conjurings, and their aspirations are at an end, th
eir spells broken by the very power which they sought to usurp! The final
vestiges of mortal life flee my body in crimson gouts, and at last I realize
what the fates have spun for me, and what is carved in the very ice all about
me... My destiny is at ha nd...

[The Herald of Enlightenment:]
And so, enrob'd by tendrils of starfire and the raiments of lunar mist,
The immortal liege whose sceptred empire is eternity,
Sits enthroned and brooding over his dark realm once more.
The last of my life's blood spills to the ice, (as star-wrought destiny is at
last fulfilled.)
Swathed in freezing flame...
The mystic wolves of the frost-moon (slowly, silently) encircle me,
Their eyes are blazing azure, and their fur is whiter than the sublime snows.
Such power! I am the Chosen... the secrets of the earth and the stars are
unlocked before me...
I am destined to reign forever... to reign from the Ice-Veiled Throne of
Ultima Thule!


5. JOURNEY TO THE ISLE OF MISTS (Over The Moonless Depths Of Night-Dark Seas)

[The Log of the Northern Mariner:]
The great serpent-prow of my ship, Wave-Render, cleaves the nighted
waters as we voyage across this dark, icy sea, towards the unknown... Above,
the bright winter's moon emerges a veil of cloud to cast its lucent rays upon
us, and a clinging, supine sea- mist writhes upon the midnight waves, swirled
by the cool, whispering wind which catches our great sail, pushing us onwards,
ever onwards... And beyond the tang of the darkling sea, the scent of night is
as strong and heady as a summer blossom. I know no t what awaits us at the
elder Isle of Mists... that grim and mystery-haunted place which beckons me to
its shadowed embrace, swathed in dark legendry and entwined in the mantle of
ancient sorceries... and yet I must hearken to its ethereal call... for ma
yhap the gods decreed this to be my final voyage...


6. THE SPLENDOUR OF A THOUSAND SWORDS GLEAMING BENEATH THE BLAZON OF THE HYPERBOREAN EMPIRE (Part: I)

[ALTARUS:] Gaze deep into the mists with your spirit-eyes, Xerxes... look far,
and tell me what you see.
[XERXES:] I see a land far to the north... a vast empire of dark endless moors
and snow-crowned mountains... a land of brooding citadels and warrior-kings
who hail to grim gods.
[ALTARUS:] Look well, Xerxes, for enlightenment hides within the fog-swathed
vales of Hyperborea...

[The King's Dream:]
By the onyx sceptre of my forefathers, the air is churning with auguries
of dethronement... Impending dread thus prophesized! In a dream I was bade
ride the argent-eyed unicorn to the Ring of Stones... There a torrent of
viscid slime assailed me, as pipes and horns sang the clarion of my
dissolution... And the usurpation of my ancient azure throne. Assassins stalk
the nighted halls of my palace... poisoned blades and chalices surround me.
I thirsted for a balm, but my thirst was slaked by an envenomed draught. My
swordarm shackled by tendrils of sloth... enthralled by the chasmed gloom...
Borne upon wings of labyrinthine dread... I awaken! I shall seek the counsel
of the sorcerer, keeper of the ancient scrolls of wisdom, and the Crystals of
Power...

[The Words of the Sorcerer:]
My liege, great and regal king... the mists disclose their secrets... you
are destined to wield a great dark power. Drink deep of the potions of the
apothecary, for upon thee now I bestow a shard of the mystic Crystal of
Mera... sacred artefact of the At lantean mages, won in battle by our legions.
My liege, the Crystal of Mera shall unveil the truth lurking hidden in thy
most fever-haunted dreams...

[The Voice of the Harbinger:]
The land awash with spilled blood, and viscera torn forth from the
sundered dead... Gorge the earth with flesh darkened with the claw and fang of
war... rent open the ravenous maws of worms...

[The King:]
The Crystal illumines dark secrets, the truth is known... a dire and
ancient threat is ranged against me. Hearken, the clarion is upon the winds,
now the call to arms is upon us all, Grim warriors, take up thy spears and
hone thy gleaming swords. Archers, string thy bows, brave knights, saddle the
steeds of war, The glory of battle is nigh at last, our banner shall fly this
day in victory!

My warriors, a legacy shall this day be wrought by our blades, decreed by
the gods, Blessed by the blood of vanquished foes. Our destiny beckons...

[Lord Angsaar, Dark Liege of Chaos:]
Come, great king of Hyperboria, march against me with your splendid
legions and shimmering swords. I, the Bane of the Atlantean Kings, the Scourge
of Lemuria, Archfoe of the Immortals of Ultima Thule, shall Crush you! I shall
visit a thousand plagues upo n your realm, and wreak untold havoc and bloody
carnage until I have your throne... and your soul!

[ALTARUS:] And thus, flanked by the splendour of azure banners, a vast army
marched forth from the great walls of the Imperial City of Hyperborea, and at
the forefront of the mighty legions, astride an ebon war-stallion, rode the
king, sunlight glinting up on his splendid armour... compelled by dreams, and
guided by the Crystal of Mera...
[XERXES:] Where? Where did the king's path take him?
[ALTARUS:] The king was compelled to lead his forces to the shadow-haunted
Mountains of the Dead, a grim and brooding place steeped in dark and ancient
legendry. Alone he rode into the gaping maw of a huge cave hewn into the side
of the tallest mountain co untless ages past by unknown hands. For three full
days and nights he did not emerge from the cave... until, at last, he rode
forth from the eldritch mountain once more, a terrible knowledge shadowed in
his icy eyes, and bearing in his gauntleted fist a huge black sword, a
magnificent ebon blade which no human blacksmith ever forged. Fearsome
sorcerous power crackled within the yard of black steel, dancing upon its
searingly honed, glyph-scored blade... and its bejewelled, dragon-carved hilt
did whisper arcane secrets to the king in a strange, elder tongue.
[XERXES:] But master, what powers did this blade possess? What secrets did
it hold?
[ALTARUS:] Many centuries ago, before even were waged the Great Wars
between the ancient kingdoms of Atlantis and Hyperborea, Lord Angsaar did rise
from his charnel-tomb and do battle with a powerful immortal warrior-shaman
over the possession of the elder Crystals of Mera, mystic gems of unparalleled
magical potency. Angsaar, his power swelled by forces from the vast Outer
Darkness, did smite his foe to the brink of destruction... but, with his
fading sorceries, the immortal mystically transferred his li fe-essence into
his great black sword, and scattered the magic crystals across the galaxy,
leaving Angsaar with a hollow victory and forcing him to return once more to
his dark Chamber of Slumber. The sword was lost for centuries, as were the
crystals, u ntil the one gem to remain on this world was discovered deep
beneath the northern seas by an ancient Atlantean wizard. And the sword...
legends spoke of how its final resting place would be made known by the
sorceries of the last crystal only when the bl ade's power would once again ne
needed to battle the Chaos-liege. This was the immortal's final, most powerful
spell... upon the reawakening of Angsaar, the sorcerous energies and undying
lifeforce encased within the blade would be transferred to its wie lder...
aye, the one who discovered the Shadow-Sword would be imbued with the power of
the immortal, and by the art of elder spellcraft, he would do battle with his
ancient nemesis once more...
[XERXES:] Then there looms such a cataclysmic battle!
[ALTARUS:] And so, from his Black Citadel, the Chaos-liege did send forth
his Horde of Wraiths to engage the army of the king...

[THE KING:]
Behold, a legion of undead fiends meets us upon the field of war. Face
me, Scourge of Lemuria, I wield thy bane, the Shadow-Sword... (and darksome
sorceries now empower me with thunderous might!) Hearken, the clarion is upon
the winds, now the call to arms is upon us all, The glory of battle is nigh at
last, into the fray we ride!

[XERXES:] The outcome, master... who left the field victorious? Did the
king prevail?
[ALTARUS:] The mists begin to disperse... for now, the images fade. That
tale shall have to wait 'til another day...


7. AND LO, WHEN THE IMPERIUM MARCHES AGAINST GUL-KOTHOTH, THEN DARK SORCERIES SHALL ENSHROUD THE CITADEL OF THE OBSIDIAN CROWN (Episode: VIII)

[Chapter 1: The Voyage of the Sorcerer]
The war between the Imperium and the allied Vyrgothian Kingdoms had raged
for years. Beginning as minor disputes over border territories, the conflict
had swiftly escalated into a full-scale bloody war, a vast series of epic
campaigns, fervently perpetua ted by the Emperor Koord and the Over-King of
Vyrgothia, both eager to smite their traditional ancestral foes and to win
great glory and the adulation of their people by seizing victory in battle.
Recent months had seen the forces of the Imperium display a staggering degree
of tactical mastery and battle prowess, contemptuously crushing the Vyrgothian
armies in a series of great battles, 'til at last, following the slaughterous
Rout of the Fields of Kai-Vorg, The Empire's finest fighting force, the fame
d and far-feared Legion of the Ebon Tiger, stood unopposed not five day's
march from mighty Gul-Kothoth, the greatest and most ancient fortress-city in
all the Vyrgothian kingdoms. The Legion of the Ebon Tiger could not easily
count their numerous and r esounding victories, and their commander, the
legendary warlord Baalthus Vane, made it clear to the Emperor that he was
eager to press on deep into the enemy's lands and seize the prize which
awaited him; the siege and capture of ancient Gul-Kothoth! And yet the Emperor
Koord did not order the Legion to march, for disturbing information had of
late been relayed to him by his spies in the Vyrgothian Royal Court... Dire
rumours abounded that the Vyrgothian mages had at last discovered the ancient
arcane r ites which would unlock the aeons-fettered power of the dread
Obsidian Crown, a fearsome mystical artefact countless thousands of years old,
a black-jewelled circlet believed once to have been borne upon the immortal
brow of the legendary Shadow-King him self! And it was written in legend,
that should the ancient spells of might entwining the artefact be reawakened,
then incredible near limitless ruinous power would thus be bestowed upon any
army carrying the Crown into battle... Had the mages of Vyrgoth ia truly
ascertained the time-lost conjurations required to empower the Obsidian Crown,
hidden for centuries deep within the marble vaults of its ebon citadel? Eager
to know the truth, the Emperor dispatched his most powerful sorcerer across
the great In land Sea to the Court of the Over-King, under the pretence of
offering the terms for the Vyrgothian surrender. He was bade use all his
sorcerous skills to discover the truth... a truth soon made clear by the
disdainful refusal of the Imperium's terms, an d the grimly fearsome message
given the sorcerer by Vyrgothia's Master Wizard, with which to return to the
Emperor: "And lo, when the Imperium marches against Gul-Kothoth, then dark
sorceries shall enshroud the Citadel of the Obsidian Crown..."

[The Wizards of Vyrgothia:]
Darkly bejewelled circlet of night,
Crown of the Elder King,
Unfettered at last the Trinity of Might,
The sceptre, the sword, and the ring.

[The Sorcerer:]
I stand upon the oaken planks of this great ship, (the splendid flagship of
the Imperium's navies)
Gazing at moon-gleam dancing on the vast, dark sea...
(And in my mind I behold) black crystals gleaming... ensorcellment!
I am enthralled by this nighted spell...
For I know that the slumbering sorceries
Of the Shadow-King's crown shall soon be reawakened...
And as I return to my emperor (shackled to such woefully grim tidings),
My spirit is borne upon the leathern wings of a great sorrow...

[Chapter 2: The March of the Imperium]
[The Emperor:]
Call forth the Ogre-Mage of the Black Lake
And the Swordmaster of Kyrman'ku,
Let them speak the Words Which Unfetter...
Enshrined for countless centuries, within its darksome citadel,
Five score and ten against the Tiger, (curse) the black crown of the
Shadow-King!
By all the dark gods, I swear I'll not be dethroned!
A seething forest of blackened blades,
A churning sea of ebon war-chariots,
A searing storm of flaming shafts,
All this havoc and more shall I unleash against my foe...
Into battle! The Legion shall march... the fall of Gul-Kothoth is nigh!

The Legion of the Ebon Tiger... six thousand elite warriors of the
Imperium, the pride of the Emperor's forces... Bolstered by heavy cavalry, and
a squadron of deadly scythed chariots... further reinforced by the Imperial
Frontier Army of one hundred tho usand highly trained spearmen and archers...
and never has this force met its match in battle or siege...

[Baalthus Vane:]
Our banner flies ever glorious, undefeated we stand, steeped in victory.
The Iron Phalanx, six thousand strong, our ever-honed blades, the Tiger's
gleaming claws.
Pride of the Empire, Scourge of the Vraii,
Masters at Turonium, and Kai-Vorg.
Smiters of the Southern Host, Routers of the Horde, Bane of the Over-King, we
march to war!
And so, the Emperor himself rides to rendezvous with Baalthus Vane,
accompanied by his sorcerous aide. The Legion of the Ebon Tiger reaches
Gul-Kothoth at dusk on the fifth day of their march from the fields of
Kai-Vorg, halting upon the great arid plan which stretches before the city,
the huge dust cloud sent up by their massed arrival obscuring the dying embers
of the setting sun. As the vast army begins to make camp, arraying their
splendid tents and banners, and assembling their gargantuan siege-wag ons,
the Emperor stands gazing at the huge brooding walls and colossal cyclopean
gates of the city-fortress before him, vowing that a torrent of red slaughter
shall befall Gul-Kothoth, regardless of any sorcerous trinkets the Vyrgothians
may possess, and that the Over-King shall pay dearly for his sublime
arrogance. And twelve leagues distant, an army of five score and ten, bearing
the Obsidian Crown, approaches the city...

[To be continued in Chaper 3: The Wizards Do Battle]


8. SUMMONING THE GUARDIANS OF THE ASTRAL GATE

It is written in the ancient legends... that high amidst the moon-swathed
peaks of the great Mountain of Shadows, hides the aeon-weary threshold of the
Astral Gate... the portal from our world, to beyond... It is said that one who
holds the key and knows the empyreal incantation may stand within the ancient
ring of stones atop the mountain when the stars are correctly aligned, and
unlock the mystic gate, summoning its sidereal sentinels, thereby attaining

ultimate enlightenment and wisdom unparalleled...

[Part 1: THE INVOKING]

[The Aspirant Reaches The Summit]

Keepers of the cosmic threshold, my ascent has been fraught with terror,
deathsteeped, storm-hammered. (These grim mountains are strewn with the bones
of the ill-fortuned dead.) O' Guardians of the Astral Gate, the spheres blaze
at last in trine... I hold the Key! (The trinity of stars shall touch the
circle of stones once more...) The incantation of Xuk'ul is known to me, the
Orb of Summoning earned with bloodshed! (The crystalline key to the Outer
Realms and the arcane rite to empower it are at last mine, Seized at
swordpoint from the citadel of the Black Templars. Enlightenment awaits!)

Many years ago, the mystic Orb of Summoning was seized by the mysterious
Black Templars,a band of sombre, plunder seeking knights from the kingdoms to
the east of the Great Sea. They wrested the sorcerous gem from the ancient
shrine of Azaimedes, where i t had lain hidden for countless centuries, its
true power and purpose known only to the dour shamans who tended to the elder
place of worship. It is said that the tapestry of slaughter woven that day was
unparalleled in its ferocity, and that the marble walls of the ancient shrine
were, and still remain, stained vivid crimson with the spilled blood of the
Orb's keepers.

Ka-kur-ra, I summon thee,
Zul'tekh Azor Vol-thoth.
Mighty Xuk'ul arise,
Kur'oc Gul-Kor, come forth.

I hold aloft the pulsing orb, astral spheres, empower the mystic key.
Ring of elder stones entwined in prophecy, the Rite of Invocation enthralls
thine power. Replete from drinking deep of darkness, black shapes dancing
'twixt the stones, Lucent beams lancing forth from the gleaming, cepheid
stars, a creeping mist ensorcells my tongue...

A great stillness binds the moon-cloaked mountaintop in glooming
shackles... (High above, the myriad stars gleam bright against the night sky,
three more resplendently bedazzling than the others, their sidereal auras
engulfing the stones...) And the central stone of the ancient ebon ring begins
to pulsate with a darksome energy... A thunderous maelstrom ablaze with
writhing celestially spawned power then rends the stygian night... (A vast
shimmering aperture, a vortex of heliacal fire... the pathway to beyond
beckons!)
The Astral Gate is open...
The Guardians have awakened...

[XUK'UL:] Impudent mortal! You dare summon us? If 'tis elucidation you
seek, you shall have it!

Such searingly terrible stellar majesty... my sanity is lashed like a
vessel on a storm-wracked sea. What price this invocation? Shall the singing
stars claim my very mind?

To countless worlds we travel, riding the endless black seas 'twixt the
stars... the ebon oceans of infinity... flying through a thousand suns, then
watching their light fade, as if it were but a flickering candleflame snuffed
by the wind. As beings of p ure energy we become one with the vastness,
transcending the ethereal walls of time, spanning at once this celestial
eternity, and yet existing as no more than a mote of dust within the vista of
its endlessness... Journeying beyond...

The threshold looms, (the star-way between dimensions stretches before
me...) The Gate To That Which Lies Beyond yawns wide... Unspeakable forces
gibber and pulsate in the Outer Darkness... Elder horrors dwell here, things
which were ancient and revelled in sublime galactic malevolence when even
Xuk'ul was naught but a bloated cosmic maggot, writhing and suckling at the
breast o f its amorphous mother... They-Who-Lurk-And-Breed-In-Limbo... the
squamous sovereigns of the elder void!

Primal terror drags my essence screaming back from the threshold. The
ichor of pestilent tongues clings to me, tendrils probing, the ire of fiends!

The ravening black worms of madness are devouring the shredded remnants
of sanity as I return to my slumbering steel-clad body... but as the
dream-veil lifts, I feel my limbs transform, flesh becoming cold stone...
enshrouded by a dark mantle of obsidian . And the laughter of the Guardians
echoes, carries upon the winds of this spectral eve. Such is the price of
enlightenment. And so, a new brooding sentinel of stone joins the others on
the nighted mountain top... Standing silently in the ancient circle of truth,
standing... waiting, Beneath the stars.


9. IN THE RAVEN-HAUNTED FORESTS OF DARKENHOLD, WHERE SHADOWS REIGN AND THE HUES OF SUNLIGHT NEVER DANCE

The Words of the Forest-King on the Eve of the Nexus:
I am the immortal King of the Deep Woods,
Servitor of the Old Gods of the Forest...
I hear the whispered words of the trees...
Such ancient secrets they sing...

Swaying serpents ring my oak-hewn throne,
Night and shadow are my hunting dogs...
Ravenous, they howl to be unshackled,
That their maws may be glutted with the blood of my foes.

Raven's claw... tooth of the wolf

Ancient trees my brooding sentinels,
Gnarled branches clawing the nighted heavens.
Spirits who dwell in shadow, unfurl thy darkling wings...
Awaken, o' elder creatures of this sylvan realm,
Stalk once more this ebon-cloaked eve.

I hear the whispered words of the trees,
Such ancient secrets they sing...

I stand now at the anvil,
Adamantine hammer in my hand,
In thunder-song the steel I smite,
A clarion heard throughout this land.

(Yawning wide beneath me...) the jaws of the worm...
(hearken, the spell is woven...) the call of the worm...
Raven's claw... tooth of the wolf

Ablaze upon the Altar of Stone,
The Sigil of An-rayuth, the summoning!
Folk of the Mist, Dwellers in Shadow,
The thrice-blessed wand of the Wood-Gods is beckoning!
At the aeon-swathed Shrine of the Oak I kneel,
O' Oracle of the Great Forest, hear me this night...

[The Sylvan Oracle Speaks:]
The gods of the earth and sky are watching, the circle is nigh on
complete... the nexus is at hand. But hearken... for a new enemy approaches
from the east... an enemy who hide their poisoned blades behind words of
falsehood sweetened with the ichors of carrion, to bind men's minds with
fetters of deceit. Speak now, o' Liege of the Deep Woods, Master of
Darkenhold, and the enemy shall hear you...

[The Forest-King:]
Yes... I behold now the face of the encroaching foe... Hear my oath! You,
clad in gleaming robes of sparkling saffron, engorged with the mindless
adoration of countless thralls who bend the knee in flaccid obeisance...
'neath thine vestments hides the ra nk stench of leprous corruption! Bring not
thine cursed icons into my ancient realm... your words of untruth shall not be
heard here! My steel is honed and thirsting for your life-ichors... aye, and
with my dying breath I'll spit defiance in your face!

Upon my great throne hewn of ancient oak I brood...
My mantle, the leaves stirred by the whispering of the winds.
The elder gods of the Deep Woods gaze grimly down upon me...
My blood courses through the trees and the earth...
And I watch in silence, ebon-eyed and raven-winged.
From every bough of my kingdom...

[The Lament of the Trees:]
Can you not remember? Have you forgotten the magic?
Sing to us your spells once more, and the ancient forest shall dance to your
words...

[The Forest-King:]
I stand now at the anvil,
Adamantine hammer in my hand,
In thunder-song the steel I smite,
A clarion heard throughout this land.

Can you not see the coils of the worm all about you?
Can you not hear the writhing of the worm beneath you?
Can you not scent the breath of the worm riding the wind?
Can you not touch the skin of the worm in all that surrounds you?
Can you not taste the ichors of the worm upon your tongue?
Do dreams of the worm not haunt your slumber?

[The Forest-King:]
I hear the whispered words of the trees,
Such ancient secrets they sing...


10. AT THE ALTAR OF THE DREAMING GODS (Epilogue)

Come, dark night... deep night,
Sweep away the fading embers of the cruel sun,
Let me at last dream 'neath the moon's sweet light,
For the quest is over, and the long day's done...

[Translation of glyphs discovered carved into the surface of the]
[mysterious Black Altar Stone.]




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