"Rubeus and Cauda Draconis? What was the Judge?"


     "I didn't think the signs could get any worse. Any word from the Seers?"

     "Only that a storm is gathering. Something is darkening all the scrying glasses. They haven't seen anything useful in days."

     "Keep throwing the bones and let me know if anything changes."

*    *    *

     The master's baracca stood pitched in a small, well hidden clearing in the Irit Mountains. I entered at the appointed hour and waited to be recognized.

     "Fezran Al-Sha'ir, shall the Jinn ally with our cause?"

     "They shall my liege." I said, "Each clan will ride with us, even the old blood feuds have been laid to rest for a time."

     The Old Man of the Mountain rose from his jeweled seat and began his own preparations for the coming war. He stood a head taller than myself and the light of the brazier cast his hawk-like face into sharp relief. He unlocked an ivory casket and withdrew its' contents. A talisman in the shape of a small silver key.

     "Deliver this to their king, than return to me, I have a final mission for you."

*    *    *

     Deep within the Black Pyramid on the outskirts of Hru, two figures held converse in the Conjurtorium. One living and one newly dead. The living man stood in the circle and brandished a rod carved from human bone. Though young of flesh he reckoned his years as the gods do and remembered each of his deaths.

     His companion knelt constrained within the Triangle of the Art. The bodies of three black cocks adorned the points of the triangle and their blood gave her fleeting soul enough substance to manifest a dim shadow.

     The magician finished the last of his incanting and spoke his charge: "Shade, tell unto me thy name and the manner of thy death. By Idron the Blood-Red Sword I bind thee. Speak only truth and I shall not deliver thee unto Sabbious, the Mouth of the Abyss."

     The dead thing spoke slowly, in little more than a whisper. "My name was Felicity. The winds howled out of the mountains and drove an evil storm before them. I was walking near the palace when I saw it. Green and blue fires danced within the heart of the storm. Hru was being ripped apart stone by stone but no matter where I looked I could not see the creatures that were rampaging all around me. An elderly man running past was picked up by unseen hands and smashed into the ground like a rag doll. Soldiers plunged their blades into thin air, and sometimes the air bled. Then the sand crashed down like a destroying wave and all went dark. The entire city was snuffed out like a candle and buried beneath the sands."

     "When did you die?"

     "Within the quarter hour. The storm that made my grave will be upon you soon. I hear the demons of darkness calling your name, Ardeth. They are laughing. The Mortal-Gods and their temple are doomed, but a greater doom waits for you. You will suffer as few gods ever have."

     As the shade spoke her curse the earth shook, and above the pyramid the sky turned black.

*    *    *

     Taus-Melek, Marquis of the Abyss and Lord of the Peacock Throne stood outside the Sanctum Sanctorum of the Mortal-Gods. He wore the guise of a giant, scaled and red and forked of tongue. His legs were planted on either side of the door and he held a scimitar in his hands. The sorcerers entered and the demon smiled. It would be the last time.

*    *    *

     In the center of the Inner Sanctum stands a bronze shaft called the Husking Pole. It extends thirty feet into the air from a set of tripod legs. Like a tree it has branches and a noose hangs from the end of each. Many of the nooses are fastened around the throats of disemboweled corpses. A shallow gore-stained pit is cut into the floor directly beneath the pole. Three thrones mark the points of a triangle around it.

     The sorcerers listen as Ardeth makes his report. Then the Hierophant stands from his golden throne and addresses the assembly;

     "So they have a few elementals and they can raise a storm. They have tried to overthrow us before and the results have always been laughable. The Black Pyramid has stood unassailable since its founding. Let the savages smash themselves to pieces on our walls. Once their hope is crushed we can teach them true despair."

     A murmur went through the conclave, and then Ananda the Pythoness rose and spoke.

     "I am troubled. My seers have been blinded and such a feat requires sorcery the natives have never before demonstrated. Perhaps one of our old enemies is striking at us, using these witch-doctors as pawns. Imperator, I want the entire temple guard and the slaves tested. We can't afford any traitors or changelings."

     Shamiel clutched at the ancient skull he habitually carried, than began stroking it as he considered. "There isn't time for the full trial, I can raise a dozen wraiths to ferret out any traitors."

     "Make it three dozen. We can loose them on the country side when they have served their purpose."

*    *    *

     The storm struck and the invulnerable gates of the pyramid shattered, nature itself running riot as the Jinn descended from the heavens to make war against false gods. The temple guards died hard, heads and limbs shorn off and cast into the sky. Scarlet rain fell upon the unforgiving sand and Fezran Al-Sha'ir slipped within the temple, his most trusted disciples behind him.

*    *    *

     "Don't trust the enslaved spirits!"

     Too late. The Imperator watched as his lover died, choking on her own blood. He struck her corpse with his wand, the devil crouching within her leapt free at the touch. He drew a pentagram in the air and shouted.


     The name drove the star into the demon, caught it, hurled it into the Outer Darkness.

     Good, let it burn in Melkun's embrace.

     Sophia lay dead at his feet, her dress stained red. How many wounds had she taken before she fell? He looked into the dormitory behind her. All of the young acolytes had been killed, the corpses of their enemies piled high around them. They had sold their lives dearly.

     The ground trembled and jagged stone hands broke through the floor, reaching up to drag him into the depths.

*    *    *

     Ardeth made his final stand in the Inner Sanctum. The Arch-Sorcerer and Pythoness had fought their way back to this room. Together they had renewed the failing wards that he had raised to protect the holy chamber. It had bought them a moment to rest. With every other heart beat a titanic blow shook the room, the invisible seals placed in the eight directions flashing under the impact.

     Ananda spoke, "They wove a spell of manumission into the storm itself. Whoever our true enemy is, he deserves praise for that."

     "Do we know if all the slaves are free?"

     "Even our door warden. He's leading the assault. I would be dead by now if you hadn't broken through."

     "Then we must lay a trap for him. Can you do it if we hold his attention?"

     "I've always feared a spirit of his potency slipping its bonds. I already have something prepared."

*    *    *

     I hear the struggle behind me as I use my own blood to scrawl the needed marks on the ground. The Arch-Sorcerer fell quickly. His latest body still too young for the hardships of battle. I feel his soul still fighting on the other side of the veil. The carcass of a Jinn strikes the wall before me. His neck breaking with a sickening snap.

     I draw out the keystone of my design, a golden plaque inscribed with Taus-Melek's name and seal. I ram it into my mouth and reach for the link. His mind is a thing of iron and fire. Glorying in his long denied vengeance. I sit in a pentacle of my own blood and pick up the final pieces of my trap, a hammer and four nails forged from the metal of the Husking Pole. I hope the Powers can forgive such sacrilege.

     The impact shook my arm as I drove the first nail through my left ankle and into the floor. My scream is drowned by the shriek of twisting metal. It worked! An arm from the Husking Pole had torn loose and speared the Demon Lord through the leg. Hurling him to the ceiling, pinning him there.

     I fumbled with the second nail, "Ananda, help me."

     Her face swam into my vision, she had been badly burned and her right eye was just a bloody hole. She smiled with a death's head grin and took the hammer from my twitching hands.

© Tobias Loc 2018