Basilus's Last Laugh

The Iori Wastes

Soundtrack: Dragonforce - Soldiers of the Wasteland

Pope Peter arrives with not a small amount of ceremony in Georgia, where he is welcomed to the royal court with pomp and dignity. The throne-room has been revamped, and some master craftsman has wrought a dual throne upon which Queen Tamar and King Pyotr sit below a now completely gilded dragon skeleton. They enter into some discussion about the disturbing visions received by Pavel Korovic the year previous. Pyotr bids a courtier out, and they return shortly accompanied by an immaculately dressed and beautiful Rus princess who is introduced as Katerina Vsevoloda.

She explains that she was indeed the subject of the vision, though she was possessed by a demon and that she is willing to lead Pyotr and Peter to the site from the visions and there make amends for what she did whilst possessed. This explanation staying the Pope's ire, Pyotr suggests that they make haste to the site with some of the Georgian Royal Guard and attempt to reverse any damage that might have been done.

Early the next morning with the sun barely risen, the Royal Guard set off into the mountains of Georgia with Pyotr and Peter at their head, accompanied by Katerina. As they crest a ridge, a huge panoramic vista opens up before them of the Iori wasteland, an eerie light emanating from the mists below and strange keening calls rising which cause the riders to have to wrestle with their horses who shy away from the unnatural sound. Below the mists, strange shadowy figures fill the area and strange processions of half-unseen forms wind up into the distant hills.

Pyotr and Peter look at each other as each recognises this place as being where Brother Basilus (or rather the hewn chunks of his body) was buried. The horrible recognition soon takes over their faces and they stare at Katerina.

“What… what did you do?” Pyotr's gaze flickers between Katerina staring out over the valley below and the valley itself.

“I think… I dug something up, and re-, uh, re-buried it.”

“Basilus's body. The seven-pointed star. You placed the last piece.” Peter's voice is solemn as he references Korovic's vision. “That's what he meant by 'It is complete'.”

“We have to fix this.” Pyotr starts forward with a determined look on his face, but Peter's hand on his shoulder stays him.

“Wait, the mist is clearing…”

The sunlight has crested the hilltops and is starting to burn away the light mist in the valley below. Some of the shapes become more distinct, but most just reveal a true grotesqueness about them. At the centre of the wasteland is distinctly a giant seven-pointed star and at its centre a… nothingness. The eye cannot even focus on it, for there is nothing there except an absence.

Peter wrinkles his brow as he remembers the words of the Al-Azif. “I think - it's what al-Hazred was talking about - it's a rift, a Gate.”

“I've never seen anything like it.” Katerina's voice is quiet.

Pyotr's voice is angry. “This must be where Satan is summoning the troops of the Others. We need to stop this, and now - every hour we waste is another thousand abominations entering the world.”

“But that would be suicide. The armies of Hell itself pour from the gate, and we have only the Royal Guard.” Katerina is shaking in fear.

“Do not forget, my child, that we have the power of the Almighty on our side. Surely he will grant us the strength to destroy his enemies.” Peter's confident smile shines.

Sealing The Rift

Soundtrack: Dragonforce - Where Dragons Rule

Kneeling on the rocky hillside with rays of sun breaking overhead, Peter leads the assembled Georgians, Pyotr and Katerina in prayer - short, but powerful; Peter's speech is inspiring and the response is resounding. Pyotr steps forward, and Peter lays a hand upon his head.

“In the name of our Lord, the Almighty God whose power over His creation is as absolute as His beneficence - I bless you, Pyotr Loria, so that we may triumph against the Adversary and his armies. Father, lay your gaze upon this man and see his good works. See his piety and his strength, and empower him with the strength we need to overcome through overwhelming odds.”

Pyotr looks down at his hands, which are beginning to feel intensely hot. From his fingertips, the tetragrammaton burns with a white fire, spreading up and around his hands wreathing them with a coruscating holy radiance. He touches his sword, and as he unsheathes it, it too is caught up in the flame.

The Royal Guard behind him rises almost as one man, as they see their King burning with holy fire. Pyotr waves them as they were.

“Pyotr, have your men create a distraction, see if you can draw some of the unholy creatures away from the Gate. Katerina, stay somewhere safe. You will need to warn people if this goes wrong.” Peter takes Pyotr by the shoulder. “If moving one of these points was enough to open this rift, moving one should close it again. I'll get us there.”

They survey the Wastes below them. Swarming with horrible beasts whose forms defied description and rationality, there is no clear path to the rift itself.

“That's going to be difficult.”

“Hopefully, less than it might seem. I haven't tried this, yet, but it should work.”

The Pope steps out into the air, somehow finding a footing and pushes himself up until he is standing there. Katerina's eyes widen and the Royal Guard behind them stand agog.

“I have been blessed such that I can ignore and change the elements of this world at will. Why not stand upon the air as if it were solid ground?” He frowns in concentration. “Let's go.”

Pyotr turns to relay orders to his commander of the Guard, but the smiling face of Bebur tells him that he understands already. Turning back to Peter, Pyotr takes his hand and is pulled up into the air with him. “Simpler than it looks.”

A wry smile. “You're not the one trying to keep you from falling.”

The Royal Guard, nervous but inspired by Bebur's leadership, form up on the hilltop. As they do so, Pyotr and Peter step into the air above them and walk slowly and steadily out over the valley. With a resounding cry, banners waving and a forceful charge the Guard flow down towards the thronging hordes. The clash as they met at the bottom of the hill is like a knife cutting through butter, but the hordes of cthonic creatures form an ocean of enemies who vastly dwarf the small but elite Guard.

The battle below continues to draw the hordes towards itself, with the troops quickly getting bogged down in hacking through slime, ichor and amorphous viscera. Above them, Peter and Pyotr pick up pace as Peter gains more confidence and finally at a run they near their goal.

“How do we get down-”

Pyotr doesn't have time to finish his question when he is pre-emptively answered by dropping unexpectedly out of the air. Peter drops with him, and just before the two hit the ground he catches them both on solid cushions of air. They are not far from the nearest point of the star, but between them and it are still many hideous beasts - giant crystalline insects, malformed chimeric horrors, chittering impish rodent-like creatures, and other nameless forms. Still more surround them and, noticing them quite literally dropping in, turn and loomed menacingly.

Pyotr jumps from his crouch and flings his arms wide, white fire bursting forth and throwing a lightning flash across the landscape. The creatures recoil, but then continue to close in around them. At a flat sprint, Pyotr and Peter head straight for the nearest point, Pyotr's punches shattering legs and burning through amorphous flesh. Several times the pair have to dodge and roll as claws scythe through the air at head-height and the huge hooves of massive lumbering beasts threaten to crush them underfoot. They are running on pure adrenaline, and barely scraping past taking nicks and cuts as they bolt for the rift.

They have almost reached the point, when the rift twists and disgorges its foulest form yet. Twenty feet high with huge furry legs, mantibles dripping steaming slime and hundreds of eyes covering its undulating body. It lunges forward with the speed of a striking snake - Pyotr dives to one side but Peter is not so quick and the beast seizes the Pope in its jaws. His arms grab each mandible and he struggles, just about stopping the beast crushing him in two. Pyotr bounds up a leg, heaves himself onto its back and summoning up some hidden reserve of strength buries his fist deep into the back of its head. Quivering, the beast collapses and spills the exhausted pair onto the ground.

Peter rolls to his feet and starts scrabbling at the ground right at the very point of the star. Around them, slavering beasts close in, and Pyotr faces outwards to protect the pontiff. His sword slides with ease from its scabbard and coils of flame lick up the blade. Blinding flashes leave traces of sword-image lingering in the air as he slashes and swipes, scything through any creature that dares approach the pair. Another beast-thing with tentacles and a huge many-toothed maw is vomited forth from the abyss and almost without thinking he decapitates it in a single swipe, the backswing severing tentacles which quest towards his feet. Still the swarms press in around them, but with a triumphant cry finally Peter pulls forth a half-decayed leg from the ground, pulsing with unholy energy from intricate runes covering its surface.

There is a tearing sound as the abyss shifts, as if unanchored, and twists lazily around an unseen axis. A deep bass rumble starts to shake the entire ground and reverberates out until as it reaches deafening loudness cracks begin to appear in the ground. Peter does not stop to think and, bodily tackling Pyotr, launches the two of them into the air upon a mighty concussive blast as the ground breaks up beneath them. A howling wind starts up, and dust, then small pieces of earth, and then large chunks of rock and horrible creatures are picked up and swept to the Gate. It consumes everything nearby, that which is swept up disappearing into the no-thing that impinges upon the very mind's perception.

Around the distant edges of the wasteland, monstrous beasts are fleeing and what remains of the Royal Guard are withdrawing, bedraggled and cut to a tenth their number. Eventually the entire valley is consumed and all that remains is the rift which hangs in mid-air, seemingly unbound.

Peter and Pyotr land with quite some force, impacting the side of the ridge and having the wind taken out of them. Still a gale blows, sucking towards the gaping void. Peter turns, and gathering what breath he can, gasps to Pyotr. “I don't think anything else will be coming out of that, any time soon.”

“We must send a warning to Jerusalem. We might have closed off the gate, but Satan's army is still within the world and no doubt he will still try to strike for Emmanuel.”

A Pheidippidian Warning

Soundtrack: Dragonforce - Through the Fire and Flames

Hooves thunder on well-trodden trade paths. Pyotr, Peter and Katerina tear up the distance, trying to outrun the armies of Hell on their tails. After passing through Tblisi where Pyotr picks up his Queen and warns the local guard that beasts may still lurk in the countryside, they travel through the countryside warning villages and towns along the way. At almost every stop they change horses in an attempt to travel as fast as possible, for there is a lot of distance to cover.

They travel through Georgia towards Byzantine lands, and when they reach Constantinople in time for a meeting of the Council of Patriarchs, Pyotr presents himself to them and recounts his part in the events of Temple Mount, explaining the new covenant and Gabriel's message, an asking them to and pledge to sending what men they have to fight the armies of Satan.

Much haranguing and careful avoidance of the issue of the Pope's involvement eventually leads to agreement - work has spread widely of the events at Temple Mount and testimony from such a pious individual is accepted with surprisingly little reservation. The Patriarchs then pledge to help with what they can as regards sending the faithful to war, and promise to examine the ecumenical issues in great depth after the coming trials.

They continue onwards towards the Holy Land, and exhausted relay the news of what had happened in Georgia, to the assembled leaders present. They retire to private lodgings to get some deserved rest and prepare for the forthcoming battle. Peter in particular is schooled by the most celebrated of the assembled fighting men, and quickly becomes more competent.

Satan and his armies are not long behind.

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Purging the Marked

Soundtrack: Dragonforce - Disciples of Babylon

The Morningstar's offer was heard by many - as well as the powerful Lords and Ladies of the Covenant, it seemed he had made his offer to many others. These mortal generals, warriors and other powerful figures sometimes publicly and sometimes privately pledged their support to his cause, but all once doing so seemed to become irrevocably corrupted and bore his brand, now merely pawns controlled by a malevolent and uncaring master.

Someone had clearly resolved that this corruption would not go unaccounted for. Spies planted strategically in sleeper positions activated, others infiltrated, and one by one Satan's mortal followers began to fall from the ranks - whether through crying for redemption to local priests eager to purge those revealed, lynched by angry mobs, or were simply found floating face-down in the river.

In one particularly gruesome case, it was found that a local priest had been corrupted and was preaching that the babe Emmanuel was the anti-christ and that the Morningstar was the true messiah returned to earth. Over the weeks he spread this gospel far and wide, until one morning was found impaled on the spire of his own church. Quite how he got there was a complete mystery.

With the purges ongoing, what remaining public support Satan had received rapidly dried up and was driven underground, now only to be revealed when the final battles approached.

A Last Party

Soundtrack: Dragonforce - Body Breakdown

Getan de Reys gathers the nobles as the preparations for war are being finalised. He announces a party the likes of which had never been seen before - after all, why march to what could very well be the final battle of all time without having enjoyed yourselves? A last wild party couldn't hurt, could it?

Soldiers from the various gathering armies attended in droves, being unlikely to miss a free piss-up. Many of the nobles took pride of place at the head tables with de Reys himself. The space arranged was large and de Reys boasted that he had never held a party quite so expensive.

The party was indeed one of the most lavish ever held in Jerusalem, and those who turned up spent the night eating the most amazing and delicately prepared food, drinking the rarest and most expensive vintages and indulging in all sorts of wonderful activities; dancing, games, competitions of skill, stunning feats of alcohol tolerance, recreational drugs, music, discreet orgies, philosophical discussions, and much more, according to their temperament.

The party continued late into the night, spilling out into the streets and carrying many people away into the night in its revelrous glory. Dancing continued through the streets and wound its way through most corners of the city; smaller parties broke off from the main one and people thronged the squares to celebrate what might be one of their last nights.

The morning brought hangovers all round and lots of damages to be paid for, but the general consensus was that it had been a wonderful party. Getan himself was nowhere to be found for quite some time afterwards - accounts varied; that he had been chased out of town by an irate nobleman after breaking some expensive item of sculpture, had engaged in some particularly lewd acts and was hiding out of shame until the welts died down, had been accidentally killed during the night by a jealous/drunken lover, or had trapped himself in a cupboard after being challenged to a bet, depending on who you believed.

Gathering The Armies

Soundtrack: Dragonforce - Operation Ground and Pound

The roads are packed and every boat capable of sailing carries huge numbers of passengers as the armies of foreign Kings and Emperors flow into the Holy Land from almost every corner of the known world. They assemble before the approaching Satanic hordes at the holy city of Jerusalem, there to co-ordinate before riding out as one.

From Byzantine lands arrive the Emperor Loxos accompanied by his parading battle elephants and the armies of the Empire, and a huge number of levied faithful led by Father Giannopoulos. Pavel Korovic arrives shortly afterwards with his Varangian Guard.

In the West Pope Peter publicly calls a Crusade against the armies of Satan. Kings, Knights, Priests and Peasants alike all join together under a Crusading banner. Armies from across Europe are involved; notably from the West arrive Burgundian troops commanded by Odo, brother of Queen Alix.

Hot on the heels of the Pope's announcement of a Crusade, the Orthodox Patriarchs convene and also call for a holy war against Satan and his armies, and call for all orthodox faithful to rally at Jerusalem. From Rus, Georgia, and Roman lands many more arrive and swell the ranks.

With pilgrims arriving the Order of St. Gertrude works overtime to ease their passage and rumours start to circulate that the Order are recruiting trained warriors to swell their own ranks and train the members for the coming conflict.

Finally from the South a curious army arrives led by a man wearing a Templar's cross and describing himself as the legendary Prester John. He claims to have been informed of the dire plight awaiting the faithful by a man called Simeon Gabriel, and greets Loxos and Pyotr as brothers asking how he may help.

The armies thus assembled camp around Jerusalem, massively increasing the city's size. Luckily most of the pilgrims from the events at Temple Mount have dispersed (though many were now members of the armies themselves) and the city has recovered from the previous influx. Special preparations are made to fetch supplies for the forces, which are rapidly drinking the rivers dry and eating the fields bare. Luckily not many troops are lost to disease or through lack of supplies, but the situation isn't sustainable.

The heads of the assembled forces meet with King Baldwin to discuss strategy. It is agreed that the armies need to march to meet Satan sooner rather than later - in part due to the logistical nightmare of keeping so many people in the same place for a long time, and in part due to the reports of devastation that arrived as people fled the worryingly close incoming hordes. The armies are roused, and they march northwards. No-one can escape the symbolism when the Crusaders arrive at Megiddo to see a shadow approaching from the North.

The March to Megiddo

The Armies Assembled

Soundtrack: Dragonforce - Heroes of Our Time

The forces of the Crusaders are far too large to comfortably form upon the hill at Megiddo, but they sprawl across the valleys to either side. The faithful command post, with the Generals from each of the armies, is set at the very top of the hill and from their perspective the countless numbers of troops under their command fill the land around them like some huge human flood. Camps are being haphazardly set up with fires and a number of baggage trains dotted here and there, but for the most part attention is drawn to the horizon to the north; Satan's armies arrival could be at any time now according to the scout reports.

It is late in the night but there is a hope that the battle, should it be pressed immediately, will be joined after dawn or at least once there is a little more light for mortal eyes to fight by. At the command post tired-looking guards stand at the entrance to a large tent, with lamps in their hands. Inside the tent is a buzz of activity and the flickering light of many candles makes it light up like a beacon even at the centre of the crusading armies' fires.

The commanders of the armies are present, plus a number of other notables including Pope Peter II himself, Praeceptor Abelard whose Order have most definitely joined the field as a fighting force, Brother Ambrose (for now, absent any of his “host”), Nizam lounging in his lamp carried by Loxos, Pyotr Loria still recovering from the ordeal of closing off the gate and the rapid journey, Donatien Desgranges who has joined to ensure “purity”, and lastly Joshua Ben Issac - staff in one hand, and with the other he is spreading out maps of the area on the large table at the billowing white tent's centre.

Collectively they are discussing their strategy, a round table discussion mostly lead by the generals. Discussions are not proceeding well, however, since no-one can agree what strategy to take against creatures never seen before on this Earth guided by an unholy master whose single-minded bent renders many traditional strategies untenable. None knew the weapons that might be brought to bear by the Morningstar; whatever foul spawn had crept through the gate, there was no doubt it would be no regular army.

In the end it is decided just to meet the opposition where they come; the Generals are to take elite squads to bolster the line and strike at trouble where it arises. Brother Ambrose volunteers his Djinn to be used for troubleshooting and Loxos promises that Nizam will be able to do the same with his shadowy court. Any other decisions would have to wait until the adversary revealed his hand.

At least the weather is clear. Not a cloud in the sky interrupts the glittering starry vista above, and a steady breeze wafts over the hill taking the final edge off the previous day's heat. The starlight and a faint but growing sense of an approaching dawn illuminate a dread vision to the north.

The Morningstar Arrives

Soundtrack: Dragonforce - My Spirit Will Go On

A shadow looms on the horizon. Dust is thrown up in great clouds - or is it a swarm of flying insects? - and there is a thunder which quakes the ground. In the half-light before dawn the distance appears filled with horrible inky-black shapes covered in a shadow blanketing the whole from end to end.

The shadow lifts and reforms itself, becoming a pair of colossal ebon wings whose span takes in one side of the horizon to the other. With one ponderously massive beat they rise, and at their centre is visible a gigantic figure of shadow and darkness barely visible despite towering overhead and hanging morbidly above the skyline.

What can be seen of the shapes approaching from the north is that they are for the most part certainly not men, and probably not any known animal either. Though they are difficult to make out from this distance it is clear that these are the true spawn of the Others, the armies of Hell with their dread master hanging in the air above them.

The morning hangs agonisingly on the edge of dawn; somehow as if the hellish armies have driven back the sun, afraid of their cloying shadow, only a faint light filters through to the battlefield. The winged form above seems not to be touched even by this meagre illumination and glares down blackly from its aerial loft.

As more and more creatures crest the limits of sight it almost seems as though the swarming hordes are infinite in number - a seething and writing mass of angry, hate-fuelled and unthinking malice made flesh. Their charge shakes the ground, the dust they churn up in their wake blots out the stars, and the horrible noises grate on the very soul.

This sight starts to cause groups near the front to break and attempt to flee. This is quelled by those nearby, however, and as captains and generals deliver inspiring speeches to their men, the armies of the faithful form into a more coherent battle-line, ready to receive the first charge. It is Praeceptor Abelard's speech which is later most often quoted:

“Warriors of the Ordo! You stand today on what might be the last day for all the world. You stand today at Armageddon itself! You are here to fight for your God; for your brothers and sisters; for righteousness itself! And the Beast has come, as he threatened, and he seeks to destroy what has been promised as the Kingdom of Heaven. He seeks to destroy this fourth covenant and deny us our final judgement. But we will not allow him this; we shall deny him his prize! We shall march upon him, sword in hand, voices raised in prayer to the Lord! And the armies of Hell itself shall tremble when they hear our cry! Today we fight - for survival in the face of death. For freedom from a great evil. For our God, and all that is good and holy!”

The battle lines surge towards each other.

The Battle

Joining Battle

Soundtrack: Dragonforce - The Fire Still Burns

There is a phenomenal clash as the lines meet, and the sounds of screaming. Numberless and nameless horrors literally rip experienced soldiers limb from limb. Blades hack and cut, spears pierce and impale and the nightmarish beasts are cut back in return.

On the western flank, Loxos's elephants are dotted along the line of Orthodox peasantry which is bolstered by units of the Varangian Guard. Donatien has joined the Guard, and their purified weaponry is cutting through flesh and chitin with equal ease. The elephants are rampaging masters of destruction and crush giant furred insectile bodies, swarms of tiny ravening lizard-like creatures, and amorphous beasts alike; from the howdahs arrows hail down upon the enemy. They are occasionally almost matched in size by some of the hellish flood, massive and horrible chimeras-made-huge. Loxos' dragon bow makes short work of any creature that dares survive his elephant's crushing footfalls; in particular as Panos is ministrating to some of the fallen it takes but a single long-ranged shot to fell a giant beast that bounds towards the poorly-defended holy man after breaking through the front lines. Loxos rides over to Panos as the mottled locust-like creature crashes to the ground.

“Get up here, you're not safe this close to the lines. Where is Demetrios?”

“He is helping take wounded back to the medics. My place is with our soldiers. They deserve what rest they can get.”

“You'll be the one needing laying to rest if you stay down there. I have men that need healing.”

Panos points to a hastily bound gash on Loxos' arm. “As well as yourself, you foolish-”

”-It's nothing. Just some bug that decided to get a little friendly with Cyril here.”

“Now I have to come with you. Who knows what trouble you'll get yourself into.”

Loxos smiles, and drops a knotted rope to his friend. On top of the howdah, they can see the armoured form of Pavel hacking dispassionately at an odd beast with far too many tentacles and Loxos urges his mount towards him, back into the fray. In the distance Korovic buries his sword deep into the beast's body until it stops moving, calling for his Guard to form on him.

Crusader troops under the banners of the Western Kingdoms hold the centre. Templar troops commanded by Prester John himself command the levied troops in holding the line against tremendous dark monsters of shadow, insubstantial but casting terror and confusion as they rail against units of men. Behind them are odd forms which seem to shift as they approach, and take on the very faces of those they are fighting. The newly spiritual Imam of the covenant Malik Az-Zahir stands behind them, preaching strength and valour, and for now the peasantry seem to be holding firm. Praeceptor Abelard and the troops of his Ordo just about manage to plug gaps where they appear, as the hellspawn break through the untrained lines.

On the eastern flank are the armies of Jerusalem and the Crusader Kingdoms, bolstered by whatever levy that could be raised from the surrounding lands and refugees uprooted by the demonic army's approach. Here they face what appear to be animals, corrupted and blackened with an oily sheen. They vary in form from ape to lion to badger to jackal, but none are natural. In addition a chilled air crystallises snow from the air as a formation of giant crystal-creatures, formed from a blueish ice scuttle ready to pounce with arachnid claws.

Behind the battle line, hovering far above but still dominating the view, the Morningstar is concentrating on something else entirely. A flowing coil of multi-coloured light washes in a circle below him, occasionally flickering and shining white.

The atmosphere of the battle changes. From the eastern flank the screams grow louder - not just the screams of the dying, but the panicked and the fleeing. From the top of the hill Brother Ambrose looks down and sees where the ice-creatures are breaking the line wholesale and driving through threatening to collapse the whole flank.

In the air, great gates open. Golden and shining, they swing open with a glowing light, and from them appear a number of angels. Ambrose looks confused for a while and asks someone nearby if they can see Ophanim, but he is nowhere to be seen. The angels circle around overhead, and look to Ambrose. He nods them in the direction of the collapsing lines. Understanding what needs to be done they descend upon the icy creatures and destroy them with blasts of fire. There, they join the mortal defenders and begin to push back the demonic tide - but they are soon bogged down and almost overwhelmed as yet more and more monsters surge forwards. The line is saved, but it is only barely holding.

The circle flows upwards and around the Morningstar. It is more solid now; rising until it is above him it disappears suddenly and the world becomes silent for an instant.

A Final Ace

Soundtrack: Dragonforce - Cry For Eternity

He throws his arms in a great arc, leaving trails of shadow. Space turns in on itself, and from somewhere far away something is being summoned - somehow without moving it is brought from far off and appears hanging in the sky above the triumphant Morningstar.

It is the rift, the Gate formed in Georgia. Now without its anchor to the earth, it swirls and into its surface light simply disappears. But something here is wrong - the portal, absorbing everything around it, is no longer a portal but a one way door; a door to the outside. The seven pointed space that surrounds it is missing one of the points, and the symbol is incomplete.

Terrible anger burns like molten rock, a fire brighter than a thousand suns, in the eyes of the Adversary. He casts down the portal in a furious rage into the very bedrock, and screams with a thousand voices crying anguish, anger, hatred and vengeance. Cracks begin to appear in his midnight veneer and an unholy fire starts to burn through. His burning gaze comes to rest on the command post, and with another single beat of his wings he hurtles towards it with murderous intent.

Loxos sees his moment. He detaches the lamp from his belt, and peers inside the lid with a hurried expression on his face. A twining of smoke rises from within, and soon forms itself into the sneering form of Nizam Ata. Loxos stares pointedly at him, and recites very carefully as if from memory:

“I wish you to raise up the army of the Shai'tan and to march against the forces of the so-called Elder Gods. To drive them back into this black gate they have spilled from, and then to venture into that bleak realm to make war upon them until either you or they are destroyed!”

Nizam's face is part gleeful, and part wistful. “Your wish is, of course, my command - oh, most gracious master.” He bows, obsequiously.

Drawing back, he uncoils himself and produces, seemingly from nowhere, a black key. He wipes some imaginary dust from it, and then cracks his knuckles.

“Here we go. You heard the Emperor, let's beat the snot out of them.”

He turns the key, and a great set of obsidian gates opens itself in the air, matching as a trio the gaping void and Ambrose's golden gates. Beyond the gate lies a sunless darkness, but visible within are stars both above and below a great garden suspended between two ebony towers from dozens of silver chains, delicate bridges spanning the gaps. From this morbid picturesqueness flood a thousand Djinn of the Shai'tan court, pouring like angry wasps from a disturbed nest.

They assail the Morningstar, harrying him with coils of shadow and flitting to and fro trying to dodge his claws' cleaving sweeps which threaten to rend them from the air. He crushes one in his grasp and snuffs it. They attempt to bind him with their darkness but he merely laughs, and responds in anger.


The ground shakes with his proclamation and the Djinn around him are thrown back. He stares downwards.


The air feels sticky, just for a moment. A great arc of lightning burst forth from the Morningstar's outstretched hand and grounds itself upon the lamp. More and more power is channelled through and in a pulse the lamp is shattered, even as it is still held tightly by Loxos.

Sultan Showdown

Loxos looks in horror down at his hand, at the fragments of the shattered teapot.

A discorporated laugh begins to rumble over the elephant heard becoming louder and louder, almost insane in its glee. A voice, thunderous and diabolic, echoes over the battlefield.


From the fragments of the lamp shadows boil; raging and seething into the air as crimson lightning crackles between them. As they rise they condense and a vast figure of black flesh with burning red eyes emerges from them…Nizam Ata, Sultan of the Court of Shai’tan. He towers over Loxos and his elephants, everything below his herculean torso lost in a vortex of midnight vapours. With a grin of malicious glee one great taloned hand reaches down to crush Loxos and his entourage into dust.

There is a brilliant flash high above. From the portal opened by Brother Ambrose a luminous comet streaks, trailing golden flames in its wake. It moves in silence followed several seconds later by a explosion of sound as it rends the air.

Straight towards the monstrous form of Nizam it speeds and from it comes a cry,


With a titanic detonation of shadows and aurous fire the two forms meet. Nizam somersaults through air, ploughing into the ground below, as Ophanim careens into him. As the raging shadows regain their form Ophanim hovers above, his wings even more spectacular than usual. He clears his throat and with a snap of his fingers a beam of celestial light spotlights him, a backup chorus of Angels appears behind him and from somewhere music begins to play.

(OOC: To the tune of:

I must admit,
Your Shai'tan tricks are amusing
I bet you've got some Jackals
Down in a pit!
But here's your chance
To be the evilest
Hope you’ve got a plot!
C'mon, Nizam,
Let's see what you've got!

You try to eat me
While a giant snake
But your reptilian fury
Is a piece of cake
I'll set the Shai'tan straight
‘Cause their Sultan’s lightweight
You're only second rate!

You think your serpent’s great
But your magic’s lame
You've got a lot to learn
About the Angel game
So much for invocation
I'll reiterate
You're only second rate!

Evil cowers at the power
In my halo
My sword has smited well
In every hell
But if you're not convinced
That I'm celestial
Put me to the test!
I'd love to lay this rivalry to rest!

Go ahead and trap me
In a magic lamp
Stab me in the back
if you are the champ.
Because your magic’s flawed
It won’t give me pause
You're only second rate!

You know, against Ophanim
You cannot win
It’s time to pay for all
Those deadly sins
You made me irate
So I’ll liquidate
You're only second rate!

Sultans shouldn’t trust ya!
What’s in your cave of wonders we’ll discuss!

So now you haven’t got a prayer
And the other Shai’tan better beware.
Because I rule the Host
You know this is no boast
Your vile serpentine cunning
Won’t prevent the roast
So you better start running
Cause you are toast
You're only second rate!

As the song ends the entire battlefield is quiet and even the Morningstar pauses to look contemptuously the two Djinn high above.

With his big musical number done there is self satisfied smirk on Ophanim’s face,


His words are cut off as Nizam’s body is enshrouded in a churning darkness from which, with dreadful speed, a gigantic cobra erupts, its huge fanged maw gaping wide. Before the metallic angel can even respond the serpent swallows him whole.

The reptilian Nizam turns, a leering smile on its scaled jaws, and looks down at Loxos once more but even as he does his stomach rumbles and his eyes roll back in his head. With a strange hurking sound the monstrous snake spasms and vomits a golden conflagration. From the molten inferno echoes Ophanim’s indignant voice;


The golden flames twist and distort, folding in on themselves and from them a second colossal creature emerges; wreathed in crackling fire, metallic wings stretching from its back, a burning halo above it head; a gigantic, angelic, metallic mongoose.

With twin roars the reptile of shadows and the bewinged mammal strike for each other, spiralling into the sky as they grapple with each other. As they rise huge arcs of black and gold energy dance between them, flashing out into the clouds in a spectacular pyrotechnic display.

In the chaos it seems that Ophanim may have the upper hand but as his sharp teeth bite into the snake's flank the shadows twist and Nizam becomes a nightmarish Hyena, its jaws locked around Ophanim’s throat. In turn the mongoose shimmers and a glittering lion the size of a castle swipes at the Hyena’s head which melts away into the dusky bulk of an enraged hippo.

As the forms blur into each other the two Djinn are lost in a maelstrom of incandescent magic from which booms a deafening cacophany; the screech of humongous hawks, the trumpet of elephantine elephants, the scream of mammoth monkeys and the snap of colossal crocodiles. Faster and faster the polymorphic duel goes, the combatants shifting through a thousand animalistic shapes but as the fight reaches its apogee in the heavens it suddenly stops. Alone in the sky hovers a single golden monster; a weird mix of winged turtle, shark and scorpion.

From nowhere Nizam’s laugh ripples,


The angelic chimera sneezes, its arachnoid legs quivering with the force, as black clouds of smog shoot from the shark’s nostrils. From between the rows of metallic teeth booms Ophanim’s voice;


As the thing sneezes a torrent of sickly black shadows streams from its mouth and at the same time it transforms back into the angelic form of Ophanim, while the cloud of vapour once more becomes Nizam.

The two Djinn gaze daggers at each other and then with a deafening battle cry a sword of blazing fire appears in Ophanim’s hand while Nizam’s claws length into razor sharp blades of darkness.

Smashing into each other they once more they battle amongst the thunderheads. Whirling and spiralling through the air as fire meets shadow. They seem oblivious to the battle below as they struggle and thrash.

Lost in a crackling ball of energy they hurtle downwards, faster and faster, straight towards the Abyssal portal.

With final simultaneous bellows the interlocked Djinn plunge into the rift, shadow and flame coruscating over its dull surface as they fall into the void and out of the world.

There is a great burst of energy as the portal shudders, and seems somehow to infinitesimally contract with the passage of the two powerful Djinn. Eyes stare and mouths hang agape, and the Morningstar smirks, urging his armies onwards once more.

Lights On The Horizon

Soundtrack: Dragonforce - Trail of Broken Hearts

A western sunrise.

To the west, there is is a great and blinding light. A great halo, an aurora, a singular brilliance which spreads across and through every thing, leaving no shadow and no dark place unlit. Far above the world it soared, the very divine light itself.

The sight is truly awesome, and as the armies of Satan recoil from its brilliance the battle stops, a brief moment of respite and even silence in which the mind is captivated and all attention is drawn to the beautiful and wondrous vision.

From this distance, the core of light becomes encompassed by swirling coils of shadow which rise around it and press inwards, constricting. There is a struggle as the darkness dances around the light, and concussive waves that leave only silence in their wake roll over the battlefield as the conflict continues.

There, in the centre of the vision - a hand wreathes in shadow reaches with dread purpose for the very centre of the light. Inexorably closer it stretches, and then makes contact.

The whole universe turns briefly inside out.

As the faithful climb back to their feet, there is an exultant atmosphere; but it is from the other side. The Morningstar rises on his shadowy pinions and laughs gleefully, a horribly mocking cackle spitting contempt for the mortals below.


He is swept up and forwards, and lands at the base of the hill. Troops around him break and flee in abject terror as he strides triumphantly up towards the command post.

There is a brazen flash in the air, and a number of blurred figures tumble to the ground in front of him. Turab Qualb, surrounded by a whirling blizzard of dust, wheezes with the exertion of power, whilst on the floor Zafir al-Nazihah drops to all fours and retches violently. Turab shrugs and places a hand on Zafir's shoulder “Sorry about that, it was the only way we could get here fast enough.” Zafir winces and draws his sword, climbing unsteadily to his feet, squaring up before the approaching angel of darkness.


A dark hand plucks a blackened sword out of the air, and swings lazily but with lethal precision towards Zafir who dives to one side to avoid the blow, but immediately stands and raises his own blade.

"THE IMPUDENCE." A dispassionate statement, nothing more. The blade swings again, this time with phenomenal speed and a certain intensity of purpose. Zafir, however, sees it coming and with almost preternatural speed deflects it and launches himself into a vicious assault on his attacker. Blades flash backwards and forwards, and at first it seems as though Zafir is getting the better of it. A few blows end buried in the demon's hide; however other than opening a few more burning cracks in the network that had spread across the Beast's skin it seems to be doing little.

Zafir finds himself being pressed back. The sheer speed and force of the blows raining down upon him are an inevitable wave of intensity, perpetually pushing him off-balance and not allowing him to catch his breath. Out of frustration, Zafir lunges forwards and plunges his scimitar through the Morningstar's colossal hand. For his efforts he is rewarded with a powerful blow to his left arm, a loud crack signalling shattered bones, and he is thrown like a ragdoll to the ground.

Standing there and looking at the blade stuck through his palm, the intense fire burns even hotter in the demonic eyes. Clenching his fist around the blade, it becomes wreathed in a black hellfire and molten metal drips from between his fingers. An annoyed grimace flashes across his features, and he continues his march up the hill ignoring the broken and crippled form beside him.

Only now it is Turab standing in his way, and Turab is also angry. Great hands of stone rise with a slow and massive strength from the ground before the Morningstar, and block his path. He sneers, and his sword flicks out, slicing through stone with a vorpal sharpness. The hand crumbles to dust, but another one rises to take its place. Another massive blow destroys another hand, and yet another rises from the dust. Faster and faster the Adversary rains blows at the grasping hands.

Another hand rises from the rock; this one is under Zafir. It picks him up gently and transports him with some care up the hill towards the waiting generals. Turab's concentration is waning, though, and the strain of keeping his enemy at bay is draining him. With Zafir safe, he sighs.

“I can't do this any more.” And, with that, he discorporates leaving behind only a cloud of settling dust. The hands melt away back into the desert floor.

Everything To Lose

Soundtrack: Dragonforce - Dawn Over A New World

With a few more strides the shadow-shrouds of the great wings enfold the top of the hill. Within them the leaders of the faithful prepare to make their final stand. Swords are drawn, arrows are readied, hasty prayers and blessings are spoken. But it is Joshua Ben Isaac who steps forward first, defiance burning in his eyes and denouncements on his tongue.

Proud and unafraid, he stares straight into the face of the Master of Hell. He raises his staff.

“Your machinations will be your undoing. He who was committed to guarding the babe is now committed to nothing other than your destruction.”


“Oh, but it is not just him.”

With two hands, he holds the staff high. A radiant glow surrounds him, and the staff seems to become a rod of pure light.

“With the power and authority granted me by the Almighty himself, I call upon the wrath of the Lord to strike down the enemies of God, to strike down the very Enemy himself!”

A white light bathes the hilltop, and a lancing beam of holy fire burns into the heavens.


The wicked obsidian blade lashes out, and finds a resting place in Joshua's chest. The holy man looks impassively at it, and smiles.

“I already am.”

From far above comes a sound as bright and clear as crystal. A blue-robed figure, with huge sweeping wings of grey, accompanies a gleaming golden chariot descending from the sky. It descends to Joshua's body as the Morningstar leaps into the air once more. When the angelic figure reaches the ground it carefully takes the body and places it in the chariot, which with great solemnity of movement rises into the heavens and returns from whence it came.

The two angels hang in the air before each other, their massive forms dwarfing even the magnitude of the ongoing fight below.




“Not just me.”

From the sky more figures arrive. One is bald and trailing a green mantle, his hands outstretched. Another is a majestic white and wears glimmering metal armour over flowing robes. A third's colour flickers, blue and white, settling on a deep red - flaming sword in hand.

The Morningstar notes each in turn.


Gabriel speaks, his voice a choir as it had been at Temple Mount.

“Brother, this ends here. We none of us have the authority to exceed our position.”


“What have you taken? Power? You have only sown the seeds of your own destruction. Your allies will not share power, not even with you. They only wish to see this world end.”


The green-clad Raguel spreads his wings and addresses the Morningstar with a rasping growl.

“Then you will die. You will be bound and left at the uncaring mercies of those who you trust so much, and you will spend forever in nothing.”

Prophecies Fulfilled

Soundtrack: Dragonforce - Valley Of The Damned

1And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.

2And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,

3And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more.

Sauriel, remaining silent, raises his sword to the air, and casts it up above the scene. There, it twists and transforms itself into flaming golden chains, made as if from fire. Samael rises on his ashen wings, a look of grim determination on his face, and takes them from the sky.

On powerful wings the angels circle until they surround the Morningstar, whose rage is burning ever more brightly than before. The cracks in his skin spread and join with each other, so that his skin becomes silhouetted plates of night floating over a molten form. He bellows, to each of the angels and to the world as a whole.


What happens next is almost too fast to follow. A volcanic eruption of unholy anger bursts outward and arcing light-echoes of blades carve chunks from the air itself. Amongst this, the angels weave a graceful dance blurred into the blue. Almost as suddenly, there is a ringing clash and the obsidian sword falls. The Morningstar is surrounded by the angels, bleeding shadow from his injured hand.

Samael lays his hand upon the Adversary's breast and binds him with the fiery chains. As he struggles against them the remaining cracks give way and a blinding white light, pure and clean, bursts outwards - shining from the Morningstar himself. He screams in agony and despair.

“It is ended.”

With a single motion, he is cast into the void, and it is sealed behind him - simply removed from existence.

The Aftermath

Soundtrack: Dragonforce - A Flame for Freedom

The battle is still raging below, but with their leader gone they are uncoordinated and are reduced to attacking with savageness rather than cunning. With renewed vigour and confidence the faithful troops launch themselves at their opponents and cut them down.

It is the work of several days of continuous hard battle to finally clear up the last of the demonic horde; fighting does not break for the night, but luckily the faithful commanders are able to bring in fresh troops from behind the front lines to counter the unbridled and untiring ferocity of their opponents.

There is a lengthy meeting on the hilltop at Megiddo, at which the battle is pronounced a victory and the troops are ordered to disperse. No formal announcements are made, but a heavy shadow hangs in the air waiting for reports from the events in the west and for the prophets of the fourth covenant to make a statement - to say something, anything, that would make it all okay. No statement is made immediately, but the generals, leaders and other notable figures leave for Jerusalem to discuss events.

Megiddo is consecrated as a holy site, and a simple but powerful monument is erected to commemorate the dead.

At Jerusalem the leaders meet, and decide that any announcement should come from an ecumenical source. There isn't much they can really say, in any case. There is no party, no celebration, and instead they merely gather their armies and head home.

news/armageddon.txt · Last modified: 2009/07/11 12:20 by innokenti
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