About the Rise of Al’daer
The ages long peace that has dulled the spirits of the old races and sunk the world of Malartú into an age of decay – is over. Now change is about to be wrought upon the old lands from those once thought defeated. As the Talghaern hordes amass, a new King and new spirit within the people is needed, but all sides will fight for what they hold dear and what they want to possess.
A chapter from Tales of Malartú – The Rise of Al’daer
~ 5 ~
Malborne scrys the battle of Rendered Flesh
“They survive where nought else can, yet strength in one form can be weakness in another. Our prayers and petitions do not go unanswered, either to the land or Bal’Shir”
Priestess Kerion blessing Intheer at the 90th dawn
Deep underground, protected by a great distance from the surface and the impenetrable granite of the Drenland, Shadow Malborne sunk deeper into his meditations. The lack of light, of fresh air, of life itself was of no concern to a Shadow. Born of the death of Outcast souls themselves he was as opposite to those who now threatened him as they were to him.
His conscience drifted back in time, to the surface and he saw the light, the life and the chaos of battle once more. As his perception of the present and the past blurred, he sensed a vast battle raging in the North and allowed his awareness to race towards the threat. Forests of tall pine, snow-capped mountains, clouds and rain all flew past in an indistinct blur. Shortly after sensing where he must go, he arrived to a vast plain outside the hill-top city of Rendered Flesh. His ethereal form floated above the ranked hordes of Talghaern, perhaps ten-thousand in all, armed with Calnesio metal and wielding cruel blades and spears. He saw they were split into eight units neatly arranged in ranks and files with each unit placed away from each other so as to entirely surround the city.
A cacophony of sight and sound rose up to meet him. Smoke from braziers, the shouts of the Talghaern crazed with a desire for battle, the baying horses and roaring Manantáls tethered to war machines of wood and iron. All around Talghaern shouted and waved the war banners of their clans, clanged their armour and readied their attack. The forces of Bal’Shir were back, this time to kill and not converse. A hoard of warriors to replace a delegation of priests. He already knew how this would end.
Sensing into the city he felt his lesser Shadows preparing for the attack, connecting their spirits with the Outcast souls who served them; connecting to draw from them enough power and protection to face the impending attack and face the day. To the Talghaern the city looked abandoned, but he sensed they knew only too well the battle would not be fought on the open ground.
Inside the city, doors and windows were barred, incantations were made and protective mandalas were drawn. The Shadows and their Outcast servants fell silent and awaited the attack, reassured by the presence of their master.
Shadow Malborne looked back to the battle field and saw a lone figure riding out from the ranks to the city gate. When the warrior was halfway between their troops and the city, Malborne seized the moment.
Gripping his seer stone tighter he channeled all the power he could through it. In the air above the amassed force his form became more distinct and he formed himself into an horrific sight. Half ghost, half rotting corpse. He swooped down, wreathed in gray and black strips of what might have been putrid cloth, entirely in tatters. Streaking decay and wretched air behind him he landed on the ground between the warrior and the invading force. Malartú itself seemed to shudder with fright as he stepped upon it and even the steadfastness of the Talghaern warriors behind was shaken as some cried out in disgust. However, the one ahead turned her Manantál towards him and smiled.
“Intheer,” he said with a voice that sounded like the wind echoing down a dank stone hallway in some dungeon befitting such an apparition.
“Malborne,” she replied in a slightly mocking tone, “I was beginning to wonder if the priests had guessed wrongly about you coming here.”
“Of course I am here, this is my city, my domain. This land is no longer Talghaern. The question is why are you here?” he demanded, pointing the tip of his rotten finger towards her as if accusing her of great crime.
“To destroy you and your kind, to raise the Talghaern banner once more and claim our rightful place in the world!”
“You will never succeed,” he hissed, “once you step through these gates you are doomed, your weapons are of no use against Shadows, even our once dead Outcasts have nothing to fear from being slain. When your rendered flesh feeds our servants the city will live up to its name!”
“I wouldn’t be so sure if I were you. Our weapons were of no use,” she replied, slowly withdrawing her great sword from its sheath laying along her Manantál’s body. “Times have changed, old spirit,” she continued, raising her sword, tip pointing towards the leaden sky.
For a few seconds Malborne didn’t understand the significance of Intheer’s words. He saw a Calnesio blade, a shaped piece of metal as inert as when it was a lump of ore in the ground. Why the confidence, why the lack of fear? he wondered. He shifted his mind, trying to connect with hers, to divine what knowledge she had that gave her such fearlessness in his presence, and then he heard it.
It was low and indistinct at first but as he concentrated he realised with horror what was happening. His countenance changed, she saw it and smiled.
“Yes, Malborne, our priests have learned your incantations, you allowed their clandestine visits to the Chasm to go unchallenged for too long. Our Runes are enlivened once more, enjoined to the very Soul Spire that animates you and your kind. Our weapons are as deadly to you as they are to all our enemies. You are a fool and now you will all die!”
With feline grace and speed, Intheer pounced from the back of her Manantál directly at Malborne. She raised her sword high and screamed a war cry as she arced through the air towards him. The shock of the moment combined with the confusion of what had just been revealed saw him frozen in place. The dark shape of Intheer dropped towards him and she swung her sword down to cleave him in two. In a move driven by pure self-preservation, he let go of the seer stone, falling to the cold stone of his chamber just as the stone did, smashing into a dozen fragments.
Intheer pulled her sword from the ground and raising it up as a salute to the Talghaern in front of her, bellowed a war cry even louder than the first. “For the glory of Bal’Shir!” she cried. Ten thousand bellowed and roared responses were given. She re-mounted her Manantál and signalled the siege engines forward to destroy the city gates and walls. The battle for Rendered Flesh had begun.
From the safety of his chamber, Malborne retrieved a Lesser Stone that allowed him only to watch, but not be present, as the city perimeter was destroyed. Rock after rock from massive catapults crashed against the main gate, until it exploded in a shower of wooden splinters and steel shards. Bolt after flaming bolt, each the size of a tree, were shot over the walls to smash into buildings and towers, setting wood and thatch alight. The city was pounded for what felt like an eternity even for him.
Intheer signalled to the Talghaern horde and with a great cry they raced forward as one dark and brutal mass, intent on the final destruction of the city. They poured through the broken gate and over the rubble of once imposing walls. Intheer spurred her Manantál forward and rode directly for the Crypt in the centre of the city. Battling her way through the wailing masses of Shreetan’s doomed followers and bounding over the piles of rubble and decayed flesh, she raced into the circular Crypt and the last of the defending Outcasts, cutting through them like a scythe through wheat. Malborne sensed the final deaths of his servants, their spirit energy at first dissipating and then coalescing back into the Great Cavern of Shreetan.
When at last the final enemy had fallen Intheer kicked her Manantál and it slumped to the ground obediently. She sheathed her sword and dismounted.
The Crypt was no ordinary tomb for the dead. This had been present when the city was part of the Talghaern empire, but that was generations ago and whether her prize was still to be found would now be revealed. With nervousness building she passed through the outer halls, lined from floor to high domed ceiling with rank upon rank of loculi, some still sealed, others with bones and treasures spilling out. Though holding long dead Talghaern nobles they were of no interest, there would be time for reverence later. Her anticipation rose as she passed through a stone archway and a few steps later stood before the door to the chamber of Vesinkar, the first of the Talghaern Lords.
The door was elaborately patterned, built from steel-like Oceanwood and undiminished by the passing of generations. A swirling design, like that of the spiral arms of a mighty whirlwind, presented itself at head height. As she looked at it the pattern appeared to move. “This is it!” she announced to herself, “the Vesinkar spiral.” Loosening the neck guard of her armour she retrieved a tube of Calnesio metal. In the centre of the spiral, the eye of the storm, a small ring had been carved. She placed the tip of the metallic tube over the ring and pushed hard. It sank deep and with a click the door unlocked.
With all her strength she pushed the door aside and entered the inner chamber. He heart almost leapt from her chest as she saw her prize in the dim light. Stood in the centre of the musty chamber was the upright stone statue of Vesinkar. One fist clenched and raised in a triumphant salute, the other wrapped around the handle of an immense weapon that she knew as the Star of Bal’Shir. The legend was true!
Walking over to the statue the weapon was far more beautiful than had been described. A rune covered metal handle gripped by Vesinkar’s image led down to three chains, which ended in three cruelly spiked balls. This was no ordinary mace, it had been blessed by Bal’Shir himself. A relic of immense importance and it was hers. She worked the handle loose from the stone hand and lifted the mace into the air. As she admired the perfection of the weapon’s construction, carvings and motion of its movement through the air, she recited from the Cantatas of Vesinkar; “The finest craftsmanship, the purest Calnesio and the eternal blessing of Bal’Shir.” Awed by having gained this new possession and the status it would afford she gathered it up in both arms and made her way back to the Manantál.
The sound of a gong being struck confused Malborne for a moment, but gathering his thoughts he came out of the dream-like state and back to the present time. Since the battle that had taken place three days ago now, he had meditated on it and watched the scenes several times, but there seemed nothing more to learn.
“Master, the gathering has been called,” a Primus Shadow announced to him.
“Very well,” he replied.
“Did your meditations reveal anything more of the battle?” the Shadow asked.
“We will not be destroyed, but our second city may not survive. Where are they now?” he asked.
“Since taking Rendered Flesh the Talghaern forces move further South into our lands and also West across the sea, Master. Where to, our vision does not permit us to see.”
Malborne pondered this new development and realised there was one solution he could offer, a way that might mean Shreetan’s children were left alone in the depths, at least until fates moved in their favour once more.
“Come, times have changed – so must we,” he said and made his way to the gathering.
The Rise of Al’daer – Coming when it’s ready…