Monday May 4, Seven Gates
The Fallen Lords are dead and the Dark has fled the land. Now we return to the difficult task of rebuilding. It will take many years to restore our cities and recover our farmlands and this time, we will remain vigilant.
I have chosen to follow the Emperor and his Heron Guard back to Muirthemne — there is nothing left for me in Strand, the place of my birth.
I have become fast friends with Nine Skull Crocodile, the man who has healed the many wounds I received during the assault on Tharsis. He is ancient, even by Heron standards, and speaking with him has given me some insight into what has happened to our world.
There are laws that govern the workings of the universe that have remained immutable for countless aeons. According to these laws, the forces of light and dark hold dominion over the world successively, the land belonging in turn to men, or to monsters.
Each cycle would be presaged by the appearance of a great comet, foretelling the rise of saviour or destroyer. Each golden age would give way to one of darkness, when foul things would stir beneath the earth, and evil spirits would plague the land. In turn, each dark age would fall to one of light; the evil would pass from the land just as the comet from the sky.
The saviours of each golden age were men who had risen to face the Dark and never turned away. They were men of unflinching heroism who would not rest until they had loosened the bloodless grip of wicked things which had dominated their lands. Many of these heroes were doomed to return in the following age as Fallen Lords, destroying all they had fought so hard to preserve.
Although the hero of every age of light is different, every dark age is ushered in by the same beast — a transient divinity that seeks only conflict — The Leveler. And so Tireces returned as Moagim to end the Age of Reason — and Connacht, the great hero of the Wind Age, returned as Balor to lay waste to the greatest empire the world had ever known.
The Leveler was never killed. He was immobilized by sorcery, beheaded and burned at the stake in the Second Era. A thousand years later he was drawn and quartered on the plains before Ileum, the tireless horses dragging the pieces of his lifeless body to the four corners of the world. Again in the Fourth Era his body was destroyed by fire, his ashes mixed with salt and buried under the Mountains of Kor. Balor, Moagim and all those before them wore the Mantle of The Leveler.
When I stated that Balor was vanquished but sixty years ago, Nine Skull nodded thoughtfully.
Soulblighter was not The Leveler. He may have been if he had survived into the next millennium – but, in his attempt to force the cycle, he perished and almost certainly will suffer at the hands of those who set it in motion. It is even conceivable that because of his actions the cycle has been broken, but we cannot be sure — at least not for another nine hundred and forty years.
Nine Skull chuckled, saying that with a little luck, he may still be around to see.
He told me about old Muirthemne, describing it with words that seemed out of place coming from such a grizzled warrior. He spoke of its many spired palaces and monuments and the grand bazaar during each year’s harvest. When I told him that I wished I could have seen the city at the height of its power, he said I might see it in my lifetime.
Then he told me that next year the Heron Guard will be reinstating the septannual tournament to fill out their ranks. Men of bravery and warriors of renown from every corner of the empire will gather to compete for the honor of joining them.
I will be there.
- Fallen Lords: Six sorcerer-generals of dark and fearsome power, led by Balor during the Great War. Numbered among their ranks were The Watcher, The Deceiver, Shiver, and Soulblighter. It was thought by the Nine that their powers were derived from Balor himself, but plainly this was not the case. ↩
- Journeyman: (Heron Guard) These men are all that remains of the Empire of the Cath Bruig. Formerly the guards of the Emperor, they disbanded and wandered the earth in self-imposed exile after the Fallen destroyed Muirthemne and everyone in it. In a further show of penance, they developed the ability to heal other people, though they are by nature loners and do not actively seek out company. ↩
- Muirthemne: (Llancarfan). The ancient capital of the Cath Bruig empire, Muirthemne was home to many great sorcerers and craftsmen, whose works included the Tain. Ruled by Connacht during the Wind Age, it was sacked and utterly razed when he returned as Balor during the Great War. ↩
- Tharsis: An ancient volcano overlooking Seven Gates. ↩
- Moagim: Once known as Tireces, the saviour of the Age of Reason. Moagim was an incarnation as the Leveler. ↩
- Connacht: Great hero of the Wind Age, Connacht trapped the Myrkridia in the Tain and imprisoned the Trow. Ruling during a golden age of peace, Connacht disappeared from Muirthemne, and was thought to be dead. Centuries later, Connacht returned as Balor, the Leveler, to raze the continent and lead the Fallen. ↩
- Balor: Once known as Connacht, great hero of the Wind Age, Balor returned wearing the mantle of the Leveler to lead the armies of the Dark during the Great War. Chief among the Fallen Lords, he fell in battle with Alric at his fortress in Rhi'anon, and his head was cast into the Great Devoid to ensure that he would never return. ↩