A slice of cosmogony from the world of the Cursed Eight
Accipiter G. Goshawk
So far, I have merely chronicled the adventures of the Cursed Eight as they wander the continent of Dersorrah. From time to time I have even told the stories of a few of the odd personages they have encountered in their travels.
Now I am slowly taking the time to reveal the more universal truths that bind this world together.
Here follows an excerpt from the journal of Korek Greenblade, the captain in charge of protecting the south-western border of the Evenlight Forest, 57 years after the implementation of the Barrier.
3rd day of Flameleaven in the year 5066 since the Founding
Year 57 since the return of the Twelve
These last few weeks have been extremely busy. The town is growing increasingly agitated: there are only five days left before the Barrier Festival.
I’ve already received a few tons in shipments from the capital; gifts from His Majesty to the citizens of the last elven outpost beyond the Barrier. Half of my men have been assigned to the unpacking and the distribution of the various goods: fireworks, banners, sweetmeats…it seems that every Festival is required to be grander and noisier than the last.
Which of course, it must.
I would be a fool if I didn’t acknowledge that the Barrier Festival is less a celebration of our magical prowess than an unsubtle insult aimed at the Twelve.
It has already been fifty-seven years since we received word from Dereillon. Fifty-seven years since we were ordered to come and bow before the…Twelve. Fifty-seven years since Master Wielder Anem Nill channelled the light of the stars into the Schism Spears and created the Barrier.
And even after all this time, I still cannot write…!y%67pbaiubd!
…The words twist away from my quill and refuse to become what my mind tells them they should be. Of course within the Barrier it is different. There I have no such limitations.
The power of the Twelve is truly great. Sometimes I wonder if it is wise to provoke them every year…
A few of the villagers have stopped by to collect fireworks for the celebration. It may be strange – for a high elf such as myself – but I find that I enjoy their company. There is something calming about these little folk and I believe that we could learn a lot from them.
Master Fireflower – the local wizard – just stopped by my desk.
“Interesting stock they sent you this year, Captain! It seems your fireworks are improving! Still, maybe I could take a look at a few packets? See if I could…spice things up a bit?”
I fight back a smile. Fireflower is a gifted wizard and a peerless gardener. However he is an abysmal alchemist: the last time I permitted him to “experiment” he almost set fire to the Untouched Grove…Keeper Nix was less than impressed.
Before he could make good on his offer, I thanked him and let him know that his usual contribution to the flower arrangements would be more than sufficient.
The sprightly old gnome seemed a little disappointed at first, but I turned the subject to his garden and he quickly perked up. He left soon after, followed by his hulking automaton.
7thday of Flameleaven in the year 5066 since the Founding
Year 57 since the return of the Twelve
Today should have been a day of joyous trepidation.
Instead it was marked by fear.
It happened while I was supervising the construction of the pavilion in which the Festival is to be held.
Suddenly everything went dark; beyond the canvas flaps the light of the sun appeared to have been extinguished, as if swallowed by a thing of shadow. A cold wind whipped around the town and the river, so far below us, roared ominously.
Then, it appeared.
A winged being, blue of skin and of impossible beauty. Taller than the tallest of the half-giants that own the local quarry. It strode into the tent, radiating arrogance and horrific power.
“I seek the master of this place,” it declared, piercing us with its brilliant sapphire stare.
“There are no masters here,” I answered, stepping forward while trying my best not to quail beneath its otherworldly glare. “However if you seek some form of authority, I am the captain of the local garrison. I am the representative of His Majesty Zithro Silverleaf. What is your business here, stranger?”
It smiled, and I felt my blood run cold.
“I am Erontaros, messenger of Thelas, most exulted of the Twelve. I come bearing a warning, elf: cease your childish celebrations. So far, my Lady has looked benevolently on this quaint practice: for years She has dismissed your lack of respect as a mere eccentricity. Now however, word of your “Festival” has spread as far as Surthoni and the remaining Eleven have grown tired. They have petitioned Thelas to put a stop to your unholy practices. The Lightmother, in Her infinite wisdom does not believe you to be truly blasphemous, but merely misguided. She asks you to prove that you are truly Her chosen children: renounce this pointless festivity and return to the light.”
Although the message was possibly meant to be the magnanimous request of a worried mother to her reckless offspring, the tone in which it was delivered was heavy with menace.
I steeled myself and tried to smile.
“Lord Erontaros. We welcome all people to our town, be they large or small. All celebrations are tolerated and most of us do not believe…in blasphemy.”
Its perfect face contorted in righteous fury and I braced myself, afraid that I would be blasted from existence.
“You are making a grave mistake, elf. My Lady is generous, but even Her patience is limited. You have been warned. Should you ignore Her words, you will assuredly suffer the consequences.”
Before anyone could move, it swept its wings out and around, filling the pavilion with furious wind. Then it flew through the opening and away, back to Dereillon, most likely. The sunlight returned soon after.
“Well, there is no way that I’m listening to that blue freak,” muttered little master Fireflower grumpily as he stomped over, followed by his metal gardener. “What do you think Captain?”
I stared into the old gnome’s face, not knowing what to answer.
It is now almost midnight. I still do not know what to do. I have sent word back to the capital, but the answer was less than satisfactory:
“Proceed as planned”.
We are trapped in a tug of war between a king and a goddess.
8thday of Flameleaven in the year 5066 since the Founding
Year 57 since the return of the Twelve
The town is gone.
I’m writing from within the Barrier, surrounded by what remains of my charges: half-drowned people and soldiers. Homeless and shivering; victims of the wrath of…whatever that bitch Thelas is!
The vicious snake struck at the worst possible moment. The festivities were almost over: people had enjoyed good food and wine…maybe a little too much of the latter. It was almost time for the fireworks, but everyone was still within the pavilion.
That was when we heard the terrible roar.
I was among the first outside and the very first to reach the top of the hill overlooking the river.
She was hovering above the waters, impossibly powerful and radiant beyond comprehension. She looked straight at me, even as her hands wove the waters into a frenzy.
Then, effortlessly, she unleashed the river on the town.
Towering waves crashed into trees, buildings, gnome hovels, the fort…dozens died in the first few awful instants.
We got as many out as we could: through the Gate and into the Evenlight, beyond the reach of that monstrous witch.
I was the last one through. I looked back, wanting to make sure that they were all safe…
That’s when I saw the gnome.
The crazy old bastard had gone back for the fireworks and was carrying them to the top of the hill, assisted by that mechanical manservant of his.
“Fireflower!” I yelled, forgetting myself and trying to fight the storm and rising water to reach him. “Come back!”
He turned towards me, an odd look in his eyes.
“Get out of here Captain. Save yourself. I have something that needs doing.”
“Are you mad? You’re going to get yourself killed! Get back down from there! There’s nothing we can do.”
His answer was only a whisper, but a kind breeze braved the tempest and brought it back to me.
“My Arra is buried here, Captain. I’m not letting anyone – Twelve or otherwise – disturb her rest. Go. Return to your wife and daughters! I’ll deal with Thelas.”
I hated it. But I had no choice: I left him on the hill.
As I was closing the Gate, a flame bloomed in the darkness drawing a terrible screech from the heart of the storm. I looked back to see two silhouettes outlined on the hilltop, facing the wounded horror.
Then lightning and water swallowed the town, reducing it to rubble.-