Bal Sagoth : The Chthonic Chronicles
1. THE SIXTH ADULATION OF HIS CHTHONIC MAJESTY
From a fragmentary transcription of the sixth Latin edition of the Chthonic Chronicles, believed lost during the great fire of London in 1666:
"O', great and luminous one, who came from beyond the stars to slumber serene beneath the earth of the third sphere, hearken to me! Hear me, o' mighty one, o' great Khthon! Awaken and hear my adulation, o' divine and glorious god of gods! From thy hoary tomb thou shalt ascend, and the earth shall be enraptured by thy majesty!"
"Khthon! To the ancient Lemurians, you assumed the guise of a beautiful azure-skinned woman with great black wings, to the Atlanteans you manifested as a brilliant fiery sphere of searing radiant energy, to the peoples of Ultima Thule and Hyperborea you took the form of a titanic crystalline dragon. Yet your true form is beyond the ken of men, darker than the blackest heart of deepest night, more terrifying than the very essence of fear itself... thou art terror incarnate! From the timeless void you came, son of the Z'xulth! Falling like a burning star from the black heavens! Praise the Dwellers In Eternal Shadow! Glory to They-Who-Lurk-And Breed-In-Limbo!
Excerpts from translator's cautionary notation:
"Behold these repositories of fearful arcane knowledge, tomes of aeons-old cursed lore which was surely ancient even when the ill-fortuned antediluvian civilizations which initially articulated it first committed such dread lexicons of terror to shuddering memory! Fear these legendary encyclopaedia antediluvia, these ebon necronomica of shunned rites and diabolical adulations! The Tome of Shadows, the Forbidden Books of the First Cataclysm, the Epsilon Exordium, the Scrolls of the Third Circle, the Oracle of Antediluvian Blasphemies, the Diabolist's Lexicon, the Arcana Atra Libri, the Thirteen Cryptical Prophecies of Mu, the Manuscripts of the Cultists of Ur, the Chronicle of Shadows, the Black Bible of Kor-Avul-Thaa, the Ancient Book of the Six Keys, the Cydonia Manifesto, the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, the Star-Maps of the Ancient Cosmographers, the Cursed Books of the Z'xulth, the Praxeum Codex, the Chthonic Chronicles!
I now know that there is something inestimably evil at large throughout the cosmos. It is a ravenous and pitiless storm which rages across the universe, permeating the very fabric of creation, existing simultaneously in all dimensions, wholly unconstrained by linear time. This force is the black, quasi-sentient mana which sustains such ageless revenants of the Z'xulth as the dread Dwellers In Eternal Shadow and the unspeakable They-Who-Lurk-And-Breed-In-Limbo. When beings whose essences are intrinsically malefic choose to embrace this darksome energy source, the resultant sinister symbiosis can be sublimely diabolical, as evidenced by the black blight that was the infamous pseudo-human sorcerer Lord Angsaar! And of course, the malign Zurra, that abominable result of an experiment by the Ersatz Ones gone disastrously wrong; an ill advised attempt to clone the Kl'aa genetic template of mighty Zuranthus in the Mera spawning vats beneath the Pre-Cambrian sea, only for the matrix to become contaminated by the errant cells of a captured fiend of Z'xulth! The result was a prime fiend whose capacity for evil and wanton annihilation was exceeded only by a penchant for self agrandizement and his rampant psychological instability. In many cases, the potential for ruination and dominion that such entities may aspire to is constrained only by their own physical and psychological limitations, as the toll which the dark mana takes upon the host's mind and flesh is not insignificant..."
2. INVOCATIONS BEYOND THE OUTER-WORLD NIGHT
The Testament Of The Winds:
Many thousands of years ago, they ruled the globe. But the pressing fist of great power carried a heavy price, and now their dominion has fallen beyond time and shadow. Look now, to the interior world...
Ah yes, this ancient map (its true origin unknown... mayhap even crafted by the same vaunted cartographer as the infamous Piri Reis map itself?) won in a game of cards at Portsmouth docks... a fortuitous hand indeed! (This could eclipse even Blackthorne's discoveries in Antarctica!)
Wagered by a grizzled mariner (in whose weary rum-addled gaze gleamed the knowledge of something far greater)...
Twin axial portals to the inner reaches... one at the very polar pinnacle of the world, the other hidden beneath the lost ice-bound megalopolis! (See also: "In Search Of The Lost Cities Of Antarctica")
Seeking answers to the cryptic riddles of the universe,
Secrets of the blackest (most impenetrable) deeps of the umbra,
Wreathed in frozen shadow and ice-bound peril,
Subterrene halls of horripilated wonderment...
Tatsumaki Maru voyage north, ever north!
Cleave a path through the massing Arctic ice,
Agleam with all the colours of the aurora,
Far beyond Ny Alesund lies our goal.
Wreathed in frozen shadow and ice-bound peril, agleam with all the colours of the aurora,
The portal to the tenebrous cryptic core of this world's subterrene inner sanctums.
Invocations and ideograms (dreams of the Xtaxehedron?),
Conjuration of the inner world's (tenebrous) denizens,
And their star-spanning progenitors, spawned beyond the outer-world night.
Hail Klatrymadon, Ave Zuranthus,
Arise great Kur' oc, come forth, lord Guul-Kor
Kur' oc, Guul-Kor,
These darkling subterrene dominions, astir with strange and terrible beings, sired by entities whose genesis
was far beyond the nighted void of our own outer-world! The legacy of the First Ones, spawn of the Mera! But, it is here written that one day, when even the War of the Lexicon and the cataclysmic Great Chaos War have faded to naught but distant memory, a great conflict shall be waged between the forces of Order and the dread avatars of the Z'xulth. Vile fiends of the Outer Darkness, They-Who-Lurk-And-Breed-In-Limbo, The Dewllers In Eternal Shadow unleashed through The Gate To That Which Lies Beyond! The Black Galaxy disgorges its malignant horrors! Mankind shall suffer inestimably at the hands of these sinistrous black titans of maleficent Chaos!
Ebon ziggurats and monads beneath the earth... A Vril-Sun rising!
These stygian pitch-black vaults are filled with batrachian devils,
Dire crystalline watch-dogs of the chasmed deeps,
(For the gleaming jewels of truth are not without their protection...)
Vril-gorged adamantine fiends of the threshold,
Spawn of the ersatz interior sun. (Behold, a vast plasma-fuelled crystalline illuminatory orb... a vril-sun rising! And marvel at the colossal terra-forming machineries of the First Ones!)
Quaere verum... Sic itur ad astra!
The Testament Of The Winds:
Far, far beneath the surface of this coruscating sphere, at the very core of our mysterious globe, lies
the true path to man's dark destiny beyond the heavens...
3. SIX SCORE AND TEN OBLATIONS TO A MALEFIC AVATAR
The following are excerpts from handwritten notes discovered secreted in a hidden alcove in the west wing of the Phillips-Ervin Museum, London, England. Sealed in a leather canister, the aged script was accompanied by an ornate bronze key of unknown origin. The author of the journal remains unidentified, and the artifact was only chanced upon following the museum's partial destruction during the spring of 1941...
Fragmentary entry I:
I have come into possession of a certain ancient book, a collection of arcane scrawlings reputed to have been derived from an even earlier transcription, allegedly lost during the great fire of 1666. The Chthonic Chronicles! I cannot disclose here the precise and rather unsavoury means by which I acquired this weather-worn tome, but I immediately recognized the veracity of the fevered inscriptions contained within. Apparently derived from an incomplete Latin translation of the original source material, the text sporadically lapses into an indecipherable tongue which the transcription cryptically notes as being Old High Atlantean. Glyphs, sigils, occult pictograms, six score and ten oblations to some malign entity of colossal evil...some diabolical avatar of the Z'xulth. Khthon! I must delve further into the foreboding depths of this great black book...
Terrifying axioms, shadow-haunted lexicon,
Clandestine cults, ancient spells, cryptic rites, the summoning!
Lore from time immemorial, acolytes, diabolists,
Blackened tome of blasphemy, the Chthonic Chronicles!
Lore derived from ancient tongues, Grimm's Hold Sanitarium,
Oblations here, six score and ten, this avatar, malevolent!
Fragmentary entry II:
Caught in the maleficent whorls and verticils of this dark tome... but what lies at the heart of it? A vespertine viper's nest of sublime wickedness! What I discovered within this shadow-haunted volume was a terrifying axiom so inestimably terrible in its magnitude that it would shatter all man's carefully orchestrated views of the cosmos and render utterly redundant previous theories on the origin of humankind. Lore dating from time immemorial; lore surviving in the records of long extinct civilizations, be it inscribed upon parchment now crumbled to dust, etched into the sand-whipped, glyph-scored stone of hoary temples, or committed to verbal traditions long since ingrained into some collective tribal memory. This is no globally common myth cycle, no collection of universally allegorical folk tales; it is all cold, pitiless truth!
And yet, such enlightenment has not been a prize easily won...I have communed with native shamans, consulted with misanthropic diabloists, I have confronted the martial agents, acolytes and cultists of clandestine sects who would see their knowledge safeguarded at all costs. Hildebrandt and the Quorum have treacherously attempted to have me commited to the baleful confines of Grimm's Hold Sanitarium, yet I have circumvented their insidious plot to put an end to my vaunted research. Damn their traitorous eyes! I must confer with Blackthorne upon his return from the Peruvian expedition... or mayhap Stone if ever the poor wretch regains his sanity...
Stygian gramarye, etched with blasphemy,
Whorls and verticils, black with baleful spells,
Vespertine conjurings, doomsayer's prophecy,
Pellucid lotus-dreams, spawn of the elder fiends,
Cryptic halls, squamous mass, malevolent diabolist,
Black desire, nighted woe, shunned and forbidden tome,
Brooding dark, deepest night, ritual, abhorrent sight,
Whispering, malignity, hearken to the summoning!
(This black desire, this nighted woe, this vile shunned and forbidden tome,
In the brooding darkness of the night, now witness this abhorrent sight,
The whispering, malignity, now hearken to the summoning!)
Fragmentary entry III:
What titanic demi-gods once strode the boiling surface of the young earth, treading the shattered surface of mighty Pangaea beneath their ersatz feet? What fearsome entities were already inestimably ancient when mankind himself was naught but a collection of mindless random atoms, a viscous puddle of gelid protoplasm teeming with the raw materials of life, transient cells of primordial slime, all naught but malleable and tractable clay to be worked at by unimaginable sculptors, immortal star-spanning fiends! What inhuman eyes even now watch the inconsequential toilings of man from afar? The answers to these questions of denied primacy and direful cosmogony were too repulsively horrific to contemplate, and yet... I knew the truth!
And more terrifying still... The Z'xulth and their villainous agents of depravity even now walk among us!
But what price these revelations? What dire agents of malignity safeguard such cryptic axioms against the prying intellect of man? I must confesss, oftimes in the brooding darkness of the night, I have sensed their malefic gaze upon me, lurking, inexorably dogging my every step, their existence perceived only as some unnamable sense of fearful unease, and the occaisional glimpse of black shimmering against black in the depths of the teeming shadows... I hear them whispering when the mantle of darkness silences the world, and the sibilant words they utter are not for the minds of men to know. O' how I wish I had left those vile and fathomless depths of cryptical lore wholly and mercifully unplumbed! O', how I long for the assuaging balm of ignorance to once again soothe my ravaged mind! But such pleadings are, of course, ultimately in vain. I must keep my wits about me. Even now the stars align, the celestial spheres moving into the prophesied positions of the great astral conjunction. Am I to be ground to dust between the grand gears of this pitiless cosmic engine of destruction? The die is cast, the endgame nears.
Wait... they come, they come for me! Is it Hildebrandt, or something far, far worse which stalks me this night? The key... I must hide the key!
4. THE OBSIDIAN CROWN UNBOUND (EPISODE: IX)
From Sage Daelun's "Chronicles of Antediluvia", volume XVIII:
Episode I: The Fall of the Shadow-King
Episodes II & III: The History of the Great Wars
Episodes IV-VI: The Rise of the Imperium
Episode VII: The Quest for the Trinity of Might
Episode VIII: And Lo, When The Imperium Marches Against Gul-Kothoth, Then Dark Sorceries Shall Enshroud The Citadel Of The Obsidian Crown (recounted on the second Bal-Sagoth album; "Starfire Burning Upon The Ice-Veiled Throne Of Ultima Thule)
Episode IX: The Obsidian Crown Unbound (The Legions of the Imperium Storm the Cloud-Capped Palisades of Gul-Kothoth)
(here recounted on the sixth Bal-Sagoth album; "The Chthonic Chronicles")
Episode X: The Shadow-King Reborn
Episode XI: The Battle of the Nine Armies (The War of the Crown)
Episode XII: The Great Rebellions and the Dissolution of the Imperium
The Obsidian Crown Unbound (The Legions of the Imperium Storm the Cloud-Capped Palisades of Gul-Kothoth)
Chapter 11: The Siege Begins
And so the mighty and resplendent armies of the Imperium assembled before the towering cyclopean walls of ancient Gul-Kothoth. It was some time before the billowing dust cloud raised by the massed arrival of the vast imperial host settled, ultimately dissipating as the shadows of dusk descended. With nightfall, the imperial army's countless torches, braziers and cookfires illumined the dark plain before the fortress like a coruscating sea, painting the stygian heavens the colour of flame. And the high summer's night passed swiftly. At length, the dawn approached tentatively, and with the first signs of the newborn sun etching its promise upon the skies, the martial preparations commenced in earnest. A brief and perfunctory exchange between the Imperial Herald and the fortification's Watch Commander held no surprises, and the Emperor's banner was duly driven into the seared earth before Gul-Kothoth with a chilling finality. Vast siege engines and powerful ballistae were hauled inexorably into position, alongside a battery of katapelte and petrobolos. The one hundred thousand strong Imperial Frontier Army, having planted their regimental blazons into the arid soil, waited with a disciplined patience born of never having met defeat in pitched battle or siege, the dreaded Imperial War-Leopards straining noisily against their iron-link leashes to the rear of the cohorts of conscripts and auxillieries. The pitiless Iron Phalanx and their Lord Militant Commander had assumed position at the head of the army's Alpha Wing, polished swords, spears and poll-axes reflecting the glow from the myriad torches and braziers which still burned about the Imperial Host. And behind them were drawn up the legendary Legion of the Ebon Tiger, Pride of the Emperor, the infantry and cavalry famed throughout the Great Northern Continent, personal regiment of the feared general Baalthus Vane. True to their martial reputation, the six thousand strong Legion were inscrutible in their jet black armour, their sable banner billowing in the chill breeze which skittered over the plain. And finally, astride his azure-shaffroned warhorse and surrounded by his elite guard, the silvern-armoured Emperor Koord himself studied the precipitious gates with a disdainful scrutiny. At the Emperor's right hand was the renowned Swordmaster of Kyrman'ku, an eastern bladesman of preternatural skill and the most revered and expensive mercenary in the Imperium. At his left, the infamous Ogre-Mage of the Black Lake brooded silently, swathed in a stygian cloak and fuliginous cowl and exuding an aura of implacable malevolence which unerved even the bravest of the Imperial troops. The Emperor had deemed the services of these two nefarious renegades pivotal to the execution of the Final Campaign, for they alone had knowledge of the mysterious arcane rite known as The Words Which Unfetter.
And, behind their titanic time-worn palisades, the defenders of Gul-Kothoth beheld this awesome force ranged against them and shuddered, not with fear, but with an awful and night-cold anticipation.
THE EMPEROR KOORD: General Vane, we begin the final stage of this campaign with the rising of the sun. This war which has raged for decades shall finally be decided here, before the hoary walls of ageless Gul-Kothoth. The Imperium's last and most glorious victory is at hand. The procrastinating sybarites of the bureaucracy have been threatened and bribed into compliance over this venture. This more than anything else is why I have deigned to grace this final battle with my Imperial presence, even against the advice of the Grand Vizier and the sage counsel of the Seers.
BAALTHUS VANE: You shall enjoy watching the Ebon Tiger bloody its claws, sire. Our victory here is assured.
THE EMPEROR KOORD: You should not call in your falcons before the hunt is done, my loyal servitor. Overconfidence is but one of the many foes a general must face upon the field of war. Today, the precepts and maxims of the Imperium shall be tested, and we shall see whether the velvet glove of diplomacy or the iron gauntlet of conquest has proved the more effective tool.
BAALTHUS VANE: The days of the feudal suzerainties are long gone, my liege. The Imperial Military Council is the only entity fit to govern the dominions. The fall of Vyrgothia shall today render the truth of the Imperial Mandate self evident.
THE EMPEROR KOORD: And yet I am vexed, for as you well know, the sorcerous emmisary I despatched to the Court of the Over-King has warned that the Vyrgothians may have recovered one of the artefacts comprising the fabled Trinity of Might; the legendary Obsidian Crown itself! In the hands of a skilled thaumaturgist, it is said that the Crown may be used as a weapon of unparalleled destructive potency.
BAALTHUS VANE: The Shadow-Sword! The Obsidian Crown! The Ebon Sceptre! Feh! The power of the Trinity is but a myth! No antiquated trinket weilded by a religious fanatic will prevail against the Legion, sire. Our steel is proof against such diabolism! Behold! Gul-Tryarch has fallen, Gul-Azlaan has been given to the earth, Gul-Nomedes is naught but smouldering rubble, and soon we shall surge over the shattered remnants of Gul-Kothoth's renowned walls! The Vyrgothian Alliance shall crumble when these gates are breached, and the Over-King himself shall stand before thee in shackles!
THE EMPEROR KOORD: Indeed. At any rate, I have been blessed with foresight enough to prepare a contingency should the foe fulfil that fearful potential which has been weighing heavy on my mind. But now, the sun rises! Let it begin! Let the final chapter of our legend be written! Give the word! Raze Gul-Kothoth to the ground!
The Imperial War-Skalds:
An age of fire, sword and shield,
The thunder of the battlefield,
The clarions call, bring down the wall!
May the Empire's glory never fade,
Righteous fury guide our blades,
We march to war!
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!
Chapter 12: The Fall of Gul-Kothoth
And so it was that a terrible and inestimable carnage was unleashed upon the field of battle. Colossal stones, firebrands and howling iron-tipped missiles rained pitilessly down upon the hero-hewn walls of Gul-Kothoth. Vast and serpentine cracks appeared in the ancient cyclopean edifice, and hundreds of warriors, both attackers and defenders, perished in the fray, either crushed beneath the ceaselessly assailed testudo, hammered to crimson pulp by the merciless storm of unforgiving stone, or burned to blackened husks by the nightmare onslaught of flaming quicklime and saltpetre. Scaling ladders raised and repulsed in turn, storms of razor tipped shafts exchanged by the combatants, isolated skirmishes raging upon the ramparts, men blade to blade and clarions bellowing embattled defiance. For seemingly inumerable hours the sanguineous battle raged, with no quarter asked nor given between the bitter ancestral foes. And the gates held firm.
At length, the mightiest of the Empire's iron-hooded battering rams, dubbed The Bringer of Woe, was brought to bear upon the besieged fortress, and, with the shadows of dusk lengthening upon the field of war, the centuries old Primary Gate of Gul-Kothoth was finally sundered amidst an earsplitting cacophony of shattering oak and iron louder than any storm-born thunderclap. With the rending of the mighty gate, and vast fragments of the ancient walls yielding, buckling and crashing to the blood-sodden earth, the Imperium's forces breached the defenses of Gul-Kothoth and surged into the Vyrgothian Alliance's last and most renowned stronghold.
And it was at that fate-steeped instant that an army of five score and ten, bearing the Obsidian Crown, arrived upon the field of battle.
Chapter 13: The Wizards Do Battle
THE SORCERER: By Klatrymadon and Zuranthus! They come! They come, weilding the Circlet of Night! The dire warning issued to me as I stood before Vyrgothia's Master Wizard has been proved no idle boast! The citadel's spells of containment breached... the Black Crown is upon us!
THE EMPEROR KOORD: It is as I have forseen! Be spry, my sorcerous lackey... join the Iron Phalanx in entertaining these latecomers while I prepare a reception worthy of their audacity!
THE SORCERER: By your command, o' luminous Imperial majesty!
At once, the far-feared and martially renowned Iron Phalanx wheeled to face the newcomers, and at the command of a decurion, a volley of armour-piercing shafts screamed skywards to rain down mercilessly upon the foe. And even as this transpired, the Emperor's Prime Sorcerer, emissary of the Imperial Court and master of those arts which speak to man in narcotic dreams from the darkest and most silent places, summoned forth that black potency which lay entwined in stygian tendrils within his mind... an ireful power born of they who writhed upon the shores of Pangaea before man's progenitors ever erected their lofty spires to the restless skies. And yet Vyrgothia's Master Wizard, unrivalled Arch-Mage and adept of that lost Eastern order who journey beyond the boundaries of time and space upon those nebulous wings born of the sacred Azure Lotus, rose to meet this power which lapped at the periphery of his mind like a midnight tide, and stood firm against its insistent siren call.
And upon that arid field of war, the sentinels of light and shadow spoke to eachother in tongues dormant since the Third Moon fell burning from the heavens, and not sweet were the words they uttered.
Until at last, with the armies poised to clash, and with dusk painting the sky a deep crimson exceeded in its vibrancy only by that bloody rubicund hue which stained the battlefield below it, the Emperor's mage fell, and the aeons-old might of the Obsidian Crown was finally brought to bear against they who had breached the walls of ancient Gul-Kothoth.
The Imperial War-Skalds:
Sundered, the gate of the ancient fortress,
Besieged! Now breached stand the walls.
And lo, there and army of five score and ten,
Behold! The Obsidian Crown.
Embattled, the wizards, their weapons arcane,
Untramelled, the circlet, the Prime-Sorcerer slain,
The Crown's peerless power, the Emperor's bane,
Dark magicks and havoc, now red carnage reigns!
Like the prow of a blood-hungry vessel of war rending the waves of a midnight sea, a luminescent blade of shrieking cerulean light lanced from the legendary black circlet locked tight within the gnarled hand of the Master Wizard, and clove mercilessly into the glorious ranks of the Imperium. And all who were touched by this ruinous arc of coruscating radiance knew no more... Men and beasts reduced to blackened husks, charred shells of smouldering ash, lifeless effigies which toppled to the seared earth to be dissipated by the whispering breath of the wind. Again and again the ravaging radiance smote the ranks of the Empire, leaving a noisome charnel-pit of nightmare in its crackling wake. The forces of the Imperium were plunged into a howling vortex of disarray, and, faced with the unthinkable prospect of defeat, the unprecedented first routing of the Emperor's glorious army began to become a grim reality. Yet for all the unparalleled carnage which had erupted about them, there was one regiment of Imperial troops for whom the taste of fear was bland compared to the sharp tang of rage which sat bitter upon their noble tongues...
BAALTHUS VANE: By all the gods of war! Stand fast, hounds of the Imperium! 'Tis true... steel is no use against this ignoble magical trickery! But if our souls are bound for the Pit this day, we'll damn well take a few of these bastards with us! Onward, my Legion! Alpha formation, banners high! Glory to the Emperor! Into the foe! Show them the Tiger's claws!
THE LEGION: Never quarter, never mercy, never retreat! Praise the Emperor!
THE EMPEROR KOORD: My sorcerous thrall has fallen, but he has bought us time enough to riposte! And General Vane's mettle may yet turn the tide of war back in our favour. Now, let the final act be played out! I call thee forth, Ogre-Mage of the Black Lake! I call thee forth, Swordmaster of Kyrman'ku! It is time! Now, I charge thee, for the glory of the Imperium... Speak the Words Which Unfetter!
And so, it began... the two pivotal players in the Emperor's plan, the two key figures in the Imperium's contingency, stepped forth to fill their most vital of roles in that grand theatre of carnage which now ran unchecked on the field of battle.
The Ogre-Mage and the Swordmaster began to utter fearsome words in a tongue which was ancient ere the gleaming stars shifted upon the fathomless countenance of the distant heavens, words which in truth were not words, but rather a resonant key which would aspire to unlock a dire power which had reposed shackled since the fall of the legendary Shadow King himself, whose ebon circlet's power they even now sought to thwart. The incantation they gave voice to in the midst of that sanguineous turmoil which engulfed them was not so much heard by those within earshot as perceived, sensed as a vague disturbance in the fabric of reality, as fuliginous ripples on the surface of a hitherto still and placid pool, growing ever larger and more far reaching; an unnerving and unnamable sense of change which insinuated itself into the mind of the listener and suggested with a cold and disturbing quasi-certainty that something of preternaturally ineffable magnitude was transpiring, as surely as a festering and gangrenous corpse would split to spill its noisome gore. And as that maddeningly implacable incantation reached its resounding climax, a momentary silence enshrouded the battlefield, swathing the vista of chaos in an aura of noiselessness more pure and untainted than the tranquility of the boundless and stygian void. It was as if time itself had halted for one immemorial moment.
And it was in that oddly immeasurable instant that the dark and peerless power unfettered by those grim pseudo-words finally, ultimately, made itself known before the sundered gates of ancient Gul-Kothoth...
To be continued in: Episode X: The Shadow-King Reborn
5. THE FALLEN KINGDOMS OF THE ABYSSAL PLAIN
Tribal creation myth and folklore from the Northern Hemisphere, dating from 650 B.T.C. (Before the Third Cataclysm), Antediluvian Calendar:
Hearken, children of the Ersatz gods, sons and daughters of the New Earth, for here is truth. Long ago, before the third of Earth's moons fell firey from the star-seared sky, there were those whom we have come to call the First Ones. These men-who-were-not-men were the creations of the Mera, beings from the far reaches of the limitless cosmos, whose essence still flickers latently within the minds of all their disparate progeny. Praise the Mera, fathers of the First Ones, bondsmen to the Kl'aa, sworn foes of the Z'xulth!
Sired in the great spawning vats beyond the fathomless deeps of the Pre-Cambrian sea, the First Ones throve. Those who were engineered to live on land duly constructed the grand Antarctic Megalopolis, ultimately becoming entangled in bitter conflicts with the hoary Serpent Kings before retreating into the subterrene depths of the vast inner world, whereas those First Ones that had chosen the embrace of the abyssal seas were the architects of vast and glorious submarine cities whose splendid spires and minarets towered proudly beneath the unfathomed waves. Those grand bioluminescent cities are now long since fallen, razed and dispersed, given over to the cruel whims of the unforgiving oceans.
From the lore of our ancestors, we know the true nature of the cosmos. We know of the hidden and silent places, the places which reside in between the veils of reality, the places which mankind was never meant to see.
All this we know... we who survive, we who are descended from those First Ones, and who give thanks to the gods-who-are-not-gods, for our creation, our genesis, for the breath of life that was forced into our progenitors during the early epochs of this cratered globe.
Hearken, children of the Ersatz gods, sons and daughters of the New Earth, for here is truth...
6. SHACKLED TO THE TRILITHON OF KUTULU
Seek ye to invoke the Lord of Dreams, to know His divine will via the dreamscape, to have power over His minions, to unlock the secrets of the deep? Enscribe ye the great seals 'neath the horned moon, when the black stars of the chaosphere spin in trine, prepare ye a supplicant, and offer up olibanum, storax, dictamnus, opium and the incense of Zkauba, in the shadow of the sacred trilithon that overlooks the endless sea...
"O' Thou that lieth dead but ever dreameth... Hear me, Lord of Dreams!
The Deep Ones knoweth Thy secret name, the Hydra knoweth Thy lair...
Dagon shall break Thy accursed bonds, and Thy kingdom shall rise once more."
Rise o' spawn of Chaos and elder night,
With these words (and by the sign of Kish), I summon thee,
Slumbering serpent, primal and serene,
Great Old One, hearken to me!
When the stars align in the Chaosphere, then the time of awakening shall be at hand.
"When death dies, Thy time shall be, and Thou shalt sleep no more..."
"Hear me, Lord of Dreams". "Hear, thy servant calleth thee."
In Thy tower they have sealed ye, dead yet ever dreaming.
O' great Lord of the Deep, awaken from thy deathly sleep.
And there fell a great star from the heavens burning,
Older than the Sphinx or Babylon.
O' mighty one, lord and master of the great abyss!
"Give forth Thy sign that I may know Thy will upon the earth..."
"Grant me the power to still the waves that I may hear Thy call."
"In his house at R'lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming."
"Yet he shall rise, and His kingdom shall cover the earth!"
7. THE HAMMER OF THE EMPEROR
Sinistrous legendry fulgurates from me. My name is a word of power on the lips of my followers. You can't escape me, I'm inside your mind. Beware the Grand Arbiter of Temporal Jurisprudence, for when it comes at last, terrible shall be thy punishment. In the ceaseless shadow at the centre of infinity, the spheres have aligned. After the day, comes the night. My time has come.
How seldom falls the opportunity to forge an empire without bloodshed. It will yet come to war.
She Came Bearing Dark Portents (The Foreshadowing):
Fever-dreams, dark omens and augeries. Prophecy!
Why, when I meet your narcotic sloe-eyed gaze, does the image of a viper nestling in a bed of blossoms fill my mind's eye?
Why, when you come to me by the pale light of a waning moon, do I glimpse the sheen of ophidian scales through the veils of sable?
Why, when you enrapture me with your envenomed kisses, does the flicker of a serpent's tongue score my flesh?
Enthralled by the vitreous lustre of your rubicund lips, your snow-pale skin musky with the intoxicating scent of night... but such wicked thorns beneath this rose. Come witch, fly to me!
A garland of newborn stars to adorn thee... the Permian Extinction, a parting gift. May your maleficent soul walk only in dark places.
8. UNFETTERING THE HOARY SENTINELS OF KARNAK
Fragmentary delusional recollections from within the confines of Grimm's Hold Sanitarium:
When Blackthorne returns from his expedition to Tiahuanaco and the Peruvian jungle I shall duly tell him of the catalyst which compelled me to those cursed black vaults in ancient Ur, should Hildebrandt allow me another visit. Yes... Giza, Karnak, Thebes... I see them now once more! In the grip of a waking dream, I walk those restless sands again. Egypt... here my journey began, and here I took the first steps towards destiny... and damnation.
(The events recounted here take place before "The Dreamer In The Catacombs Of Ur")
From the expeditionary journal of Doctor Ignatius X. Stone:
Giza, Egypt (March 17, 1890)
The heat here is damnably oppressive, and all day the omnipresent sand has been whipped up by an impudent wind, making progress all the more difficult. At dawn, I pinpointed the location of the Great Pyramid's secret chamber which my old friend Professor Caleb Blackthorne and his benefactor Lord Blakiston had discovered several months previously, but ingress to its concealed depths was denied me by a partial collapse of the age old edifice's stone ceiling. Excavation is evidently impossible, lest more of the mighty tomb come crashing down about us. At any rate, Blackthorne has studied the incredible inscriptions within that hidden alcove exhaustively, and in truth my own interests lie elsewhere in this desolate sand-flayed landscape. The traditionalists believe that, in keeping with Egyptian tenets, only mundane things such as new air shafts and ever more ornate sarcophagi are yet to be discovered deep within the tunnel networks of these cyclopean monuments. Feh! If only they knew the true extent of this great cosmic puzzle! They are as fools who view a tapestry in a darkened room by the light of only one candle, seeing only small sections illuminated one by one, and refusing to recognize or connect the darkened and unseen areas to the entirety.
Working from the geometric calculations which I prepared before our arrival here, I have studied the alignment of Cheops, Chefren and Mykerinos. It is as I suspected. Tomorrow, I leave the the imperious and hoary mausoleum of Khufu and seek answers within the Great Temple of Karnak...
Karnak, Egypt (March 18, 1890)
What oblations to the grim chthonic deities of the ancient world were once offered solemnly beneath the stygian skies of this sweltering place, I wonder? What sublime power awaits the aspirant, the querent who dares seek answers in those shadowed places where men of lesser fortitude fear to gaze? Blackthorne often berates me for what he calls my preoccupation with the arcane, the occult, the sinistrous lore of the chthonic... he insists no good will come of such delving into nighted realms. Ha! The path to elucidation is seldom devoid of thorns, the road to knowledge rarely free of perils! I seek enlightenment, and by the erudite tongue of Herodotus, I may have found it! Ancient tradition of this land has long spoken of strange flashes of light emanating from the depths of pyramid passages and temple catacombs. Over a thousand years ago the Arabs wrote of the transient walls and hidden chambers of these monuments; of secret doors moved by an unseen force and of implacable sentries who guarded the secrets of the temples with dour tenacity. What I found this evening gives credence to all that and more. Is the lore which I discovered carved into the ancient stone of Karnak's temple the next fragment of the cryptic conundrum which I have dedicated my life to solving? The Coptic papyrus states that, upon the walls of the pyramids and the temples were inscribed the mysteries of science, astronomy, geometry and physics; inscriptions of unknown peoples and lost civilizations whose lore was carved into the stone to preserve it from the ravages of the great deluge. The surviving knowledge of long forgotten antediluvian races!
Aye, prudent Surid, heeding the warnings of his priests, erected certain repositories of long forgotten knowledge to withstand first a great flood, and then an all-consuming fire which was prophesied would come from the sky. Masoudi, in the tenth century, described automata; titanic guardians of stone and metal which were placed to guard the treasures and the entombed lore, and which were tasked to destroy all those deemed unworthy, all those who dared enter the chambers unbidden. I see them! The hoary sentinels of Karnak unfettered! Rising from their sandy tombs to smite the intruder, the raider and the interloper with righteous fury! And what is this... was there once a glimmer of life within the sightless stone eyes of the Theban guardian? Does the silent watcher at Giza even now descend from its granite dias to once more stalk the shifting sands on carven claws? Hu! Horem-akhet!
The alignment of Cheops, Chefren and Mykerinos revealed,
Chthonic lore concealed in Khufu's imperious mausoleum,
By the erudite tongue of Herodotus, I have found the answers,
Arcane secrets inscribed in the ancient Coptic papyrus,
The Pyramid's legacy compells me to these dark discoveries,
The Theban guardian rises from its sandy tomb to meet us,
The Silent Watcher stalks, behold the Sentinels of Karnak!
Thebes, Egypt (March 19, 1890)
Niut-Ammon! Lucidity has reasserted its blessed hold upon me. I understand now the true nature of that knowledge which was revealed to me deep within the shadowed confines of Karnak's timeless temple. Telluric energy, harnessed by the ancients... triggered by lunar rays and solar radiation, channeled to impart static charges to rock strata and lines of natural power running through the earth. Neuro-electric energy generated, developed, creating light, separating inertia from gravity! And what more? The fourth state of matter, forged countless millennia ago in the hearts of burning stars... fettered, channeled, for creation and destruction! The secret of the great monuments of the ancients! Yes, secrets... answers. A rogue celestial body passes inside the orbit of the moon, becoming a captive of the earth's gravitational field. The world tilts upon its axis, its revolution slows, the planet shifts farther from its parent star... one of many such cataclysms. Asteroid strikes, floods, firestorms, the sky swathed in a veil of darkness through which the sun's light cannot pass, great ice-ages enshrouding the globe. And what is this? The forces of evil, of chaos... servitors of the sinister gods of the universe... manifesting upon the tellurian sphere? What dire agents of malignity were unleashed upon mankind? Bringers of carnage and destruction, pestilence and decay! The Z'xulth!
Secrets once known by the forgotten peoples... ancient Atlantis... time-lost Lemuria... Hyperborea, Ultima Thule, utopian Atland and its enduring legacy. Fragments, memories... descendants... the Incas, the Aztecs, the Maya, the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Britons, the Frisians, the ancient Sumerians. Yes, it is clear to me, like a diamond worked to perfection in the skilled hands of a master craftsman. The sigils and glyphs I beheld carved into the ancient stone of Karnak (which I somehow understood implicitly), the visions I experienced within the temple, it is all quite clearly compelling me to the next stage in my grand voyage of enlightenment. According to the inscriptions, the truth, the key, awaits me within the ziggurats of ancient Sumeria. I hear the call of the ancients, beckoning me to that aeon-veiled place across the unforgiving sands. We shall depart at once. I feel sure I shall find that which I seek between the two rivers, at the place of the seven cities. Yes, I shall surely meet my destiny within the mystery-haunted catacombs of ancient Ur...
(From the pyramids of Egypt, to the ziggurats of Sumeria, my grand journey of enlightenment must continue. Praise the Ancients!)
The Keeper of the Ancient Lore of Ur:
Hearken to the warnings of the Ancients... tread softly those sacred and unforgiving sands. Do not break the seal of the seventh city!
The Chief Cultist of Ur:
The Gate must not be opened. You dare not awaken the Dreamer!
Cuneiform tablets bear a grim, darkly portentous warning,
Sumerian catacombs astir with vile Chthonic horrors,
The lore of Babylon inscribed in stone as old as Atlantis,
Glyphs and sigils now compell me to the ziggurats...
In a waking dream, I hear the call of the Ancients. I shall find that which I seek between the two rivers, at the place of the seven cities... in the Catacombs of Ur!
(For the outcome of Doctor Ignatius Stone's expedition to Ur, see "The Dreamer In The Catacombs Of Ur" on the fifth Bal-Sagoth album, "Atlantis Ascendant".)
9. TO STORM THE CYCLOPEAN GATES OF BYZANTIUM
Spring, 196 AD (C.E.)
CENTURION DECIANUS VARUS: Alea iacta est! Emperor Publius Helvius Pertinax has fallen victim to the assassin's blade. As I stand gazing out across the massed ranks of our Pannonian legions, Septimus Severus duly strives to consolidate his newly acquired control of the Empire. Pescennius Niger is slain, his forces expelled from Cyzicus, Nicaea and Issus, and yet Clodius Albinus has sailed from Britannia and is raising an army in Gaul in his own bid to seize the throne. Severus intends to engage that northern host at Lugdunum once his campaigns here in the east are concluded. Behold Byzantium! We now prepare to lay siege to this ancient and splendoured city. Strangely, the order has been given that the Byzantine library is to be searched thoroughly following our victory. Rumour has it that Severus's aged soothsayer Angsaar is searching for a collection of arcane scrolls said to be of the utmost importance, scrolls which are reputed to be hidden somewhere here in Byzantium. Something about that wizened old shaman unnerves me... there is something strangely unnatural about him, something... sinister. Feh! What are those scrolls supposed to be called again? Ah yes, The Chthonic Chronicles...
10. ARCANA ANTEDILUVIA
Act 1: The Argosy on the Eldritch Sea
The Antediluvian Oracle:
And so it was written, that rage would carry him like a howling wind, leaving only frozen corpses, their bones rattling in hollow armour, to tell their tale in his wake.
The Black Mariner:
Behold, my blackened, grim and gory axe, the searing glow of trenchant steel.
I'll notch another widow to my haft, and wreak red vengeance 'cross the waves.
Tales of black-sailed argosies, bedevilled by base treachery!
The Antediluvian Oracle:
His gaze is as fire, his words are as spear-points, his voice is as thunder, his touch as the plague!
The Black Mariner:
Storm-prow cleaving, dragon rending, nighted deeps far, far below,
Hail-scur scouring, sea devouring, sunken realm's ethereal glow.
The Antediluvian Oracle:
And one night, there came a storm, a storm with searing red winds.
Fire and steel rode within it, and vengeance writ in thunder and blood!
The Black Mariner:
Down sixty fathoms, from stygian coral-clad tombs the pitiless abyssal sea disgorges its shambling mold-mottled dead, dank innards blackly acoil with nests of slithering things!
Ghosts aglide upon the eldritch seas, unfathomed voyage to ascendency,
Traitorous blood, the surf roils red, churning crimson, thrice-cursed dead.
The Antediluvian Oracle:
'Tis enough that men might dream of being kings without aspiring to the power of gods.
To be continued in "Arcana Antediluvia Act II: The Demon in the Dusklight Crystal"
11. BENEATH THE CRIMSON VAULTS OF CYDONIA
Ruminations from the Six Pyramids of Cydonia:
This red charnel pit of primal horror, howling black ecstasies to the void. Ancient and divine, older than the hidden Icosahedron, now rebirthed beyond the chaosphere. Rise... rise and destroy!
Hatred, carnage, slaughter, havoc, chaos, murder!
I am become the devourer of all life!
Phobos, Deimos! The moons' rays liquified in these blood red pyramids,
In the shrines of abomination, black tongues rapt with blasphemy.
Chaosphere, watchtowers, genesis, Cydonia...
The Abyss yawns wide!
Spirit of the carrion-thronged battlefield, open wide thy gate!
Colossal shapes etched against the moons, supine obeisance 'fore the mound,
Accursed fiends, hail the Slitherer, abhorrent jaws drooling lunacy.
The Abyss yawns wide... Claws sharpened on the dead,
The Abyss yawns wide... Ensanguined fangs agleam.
Great shadow, awaken and eclipse the suns of a thousand worlds...
Slumbering 'neath these crimson vaults, behold the majesty of the Outer Darkness!
Praise the Z'xulth!
Fell Worm of the Black Galaxy, awaken and descend without pity upon the Tellurian sphere! Destroy the flaccid priests of the newborn usurper faiths. Sweep away the thralls of the cruciform stave! Crush the lackeys of the corrupted hexagram! Devour the slaves of the eastern crescent!
Crush them, grind them, slay them all!
Plague-blessed, flay them alive!
Now, behold in terror what waits beneath the crimson vaults of Cydonia...
12. RETURN TO HATHEG-KLA
(The Sixth Key: The Omega Axiom)
Some would call it an epiphany, others would deem it the final descent into madness... whatever the
case, the last vestiges of those tenuous palisades which had previously, and blessedly, safeguarded
my reason and prevented my mind from accepting the full and staggering magnitude of the naked truth then crumbled, fading into nothingness like the dissolution of a night-mist. At length, one oppressively miasmic night, with such malefically portentous lore preying pitilessly upon my sanity, I began to descend through a myriad veils of sombre and swirling shades, finally surrendering my grip on wakefulness. And on that fitful, fateful eve, the last of the dreams came...
A waking dream? I dare not speculate. The vision was mine, the soul too... but the time, the place, the very flesh, all this and more was unknown to me. I stood upon a nighted vista... unfeasibly alien, and yet at once wholly, unnervingly familiar. In my hand I grasped a glimmering crystal which although beautiful in its shimmering radiance, was as black as the impenetrable depths of the most stygian midnight sea. As I gazed into the obsidian heart of the gem, a needle of black light lanced forth from its multi-faceted surface and filled my eyes with a panoply of fantastic hues, revealing to me in between its pulses of massing darkness certain fleeting glimpses of places and things so fantastically terrifying that I could not faithfully begin to recount their hideous and yet grimly compelling nature. A terrible sound filled my ears... an insidious resonance which sent waves of excruciating pain coursing through my mind... a sound which inexorably coalesced into a recognizable but entirely inhuman voice, a voice which slowly, inevitably, formed approximations of words which I could discern...
THE CRYSTALLINE ORACLE: Hearken, o' manling of the Tellurian orb... the Circle closes. Prepare to embrace the agony of enlightenment. Know you of the Six Cataclysms?
THE ASPIRANT: I do. Six times has the world perished and been reborn!
THE CRYSTALLINE ORACLE: You have discovered the true meaning of the six coruscating rings of arcane power?
THE ASPIRANT: Praise Klatrymadon and Zuranthus! The Six Keys!
THE CRYSTALLINE ORACLE: Know you of the blackened orb which burned bright o'er ancient Lemuria? Know you of the sidereal flame which engulfed the high seat of power in Ultima Thule? Know you of that martial sorcery woven in the pitiless throng of epic battle? Know you of the astral power permeating the multiverse and the might of the cosmic codex? Know you of the rise and fall of glorious Atlantis? Know you the blasphemies contained within the Chthonic Chronicles?
THE ASPIRANT: I know all this, and more!
THE CRYSTALLINE ORACLE: Have you, o' hybrid child of the cosmos, gazed into the Great Eye of the Universe?
THE ASPIRANT: I have.
THE CRYSTALLINE ORACLE: And what did you see there, young Xerxes?
THE ASPIRANT: I saw oblivion, and damnation. I saw truth, and enlightenment. I saw the closure of the Great Circle Without End. I saw the Sixth Great Cataclysm. I saw the alpha and the omega, I saw the beginning... and I saw the end. The end of all there is!