A shadow on the heart of the Earth
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|Posted: Thu Feb 23, 2017 5:54 am Post subject: The If Over There
|What if Covenant, Troy, Linden, Jeremiah, Joan, and Roger had never come to the Land? That is, what if no one from "beyond Time" had gone there? Well, who knows, but I was working on a fanfic centered on the Mahdoubt and her mom (the Legend, the first of the Insequent) and this popped into my head.
There was a tarn here, ready for the Mahdoubt as if patience incarnate.
So much soft grace, the dormant glory of the lush grass around the tarn, welcomed her every step. By the time she was at the edge of her goal, the bounty of the meadow had already emparadised her like the smile of the Creator.
Clasping the osseous ring in her right hand, she drank from the unquenchable water.
* * *
Worlds reeled, collapsed, collided, melded. Time became space and space became a shadow of the void, chaos without surcease, save in the lone ray of light Quehrn Ehstrel perceived as she was spirited through darkness.
As the chaos receded, the princess of the Insequent approached the ray with fading fear, terror transformed into thankfulness, gratitude towards life itself. Through the light, she came again into the paradisal field, witnessing the wind dance out of the sky and back into it, a mirror of the gavotting realms that dreamed forever within the great oceans and seas of the Earth.
Recalling Nicor music, their especial threnody, the Mahdoubt began to wander from the place of the tarn.
At first she had no understanding of what had happened. That she abruptly passed through whole seasons in moments, watching the sun and the moon run madly above her, she attributed only to the strange glamour or theurgy of her peculiar garment. But then a voice called out to her, questioning her tranquility.
"There will, in the last days, come men and women from a domain beyond the Arch of Creation. Behold the last day of all, should it come to pass that the champions among these find no friendship in the Land or anywhere else in the wide world-behold what would be, indeed, were those champions to arrive in this world not at all."
Hurled as if thrown by one of the Ranyhyn, the Mahdoubt rose to see herself on the threshold of a great keep in a long-to-be-awaited age of the Land. Between her and the keep an army of cave-delving creatures, exuding illness and hunger, stood, a palpable leader among them flailing power from a colossal emerald to his back and a fundamentally marred staff in his left hand.
Time accelerated again-the monsters blurred, breached the keep, butchered and burned all in their path, with blood appearing everywhere in events too swiftly taking place for the Mahdoubt to keep track of.
Millennia died: some centuries from torture, others famine, the rest sheer murder. By their end, the western Land had become a great midden for Ramen and Haruchai who still came to its defense-and the Unhomed, who marvelously persevered in the upper distance of the east nevertheless. The Stonedowners and Woodhelvennin themselves had all passed away ages ago.
For the forests, the epoch of the Illearth Stone proved difficult but not daunting. The Forestal of Mirinmoss, as a last resort, brought the krill from the Lords' Keep to the Colossus of the Fall, sealing the two together as a new beacon of hope in the heart of the Land. A new Forestal had been made for Andelain, which thus endured as well. -Yet in Gravin Threndor, evil churned.
Armed with the Staff of Law and the Despiser's bane, the Cavewight hosts achieved dominion over kresh and griffin swarms, but also over the ur-viles. Three-and-a-half thousand years after the fall of the new Lords, Creer Darkowl, the dying master of the Cavewights, revolted against a-Jeroth.
And Quehrn Ehstrel stood on a precipice in a dark cavern, darker and more submerged-in the Earth and its horror-than even the Wightwarrens of which she dimly knew, the possible oblivion hewn forth through the firmament of the dread mountain. Here, even magma was afraid. And a different form of magma scurried and ravaged in these chthonic depths, never afraid at all.
Down the precipice, a horde of bones had been fastened, forming a hideous puzzle or invocation, a Ritual of eternal Desecration.
Swaying madly, as if ready to die, Creer hefted the Illearth Stone into the abyss.
Each skeletal lattice it passed or smashed into burst into green fire that split into gold and sapphire sparks, igniting the dire Stone itself as it fell. Its mounting blaze illuminated the descending corridor of its doom, proving a deep as lost as the Creator. But in time it departed from the Mahdoubt's sight before impacting in the darkness with the ferocity of a slaughtered meteor.
To the roar of the shattering Illearth Stone came another roar in answer.
Creer no longer swayed. Laughing, hissing, coughing phlegm into the dark, he chanted in his people's language and leapt towards the monster rising in hate below.
The Staff of Law went with him.
As if again, in a burst of nauseating light, thousands of turnings of the moon eclipsed the sun of the deep bane's awakening.
Whenever the princess was now, she saw from a place known for holy and desperate reasons as Kevin's Watch that the wide Land all around her, haunting every horizon, had become a greater victim than even under the Illearth Stone. Appearing locked in eternal combat, a writhing storm of undead women, screaming in the unity of agony, struck against a man of giant stature, himself cloaked in a cloud of tremendous and demonic power. Their passage shredded whatever ground they fought upon. And against these combatants, even the Forestals had no lasting defense.
But worse was coming...
Deceived by the Despiser via a Raver, the perilous Elohim Kastenessen escaped his Durance in the ancient north of the Earth. With him escaped the skurj, a host of living immolation that swelled from regions even more abyssal than the domain of the ghost-horde Who had been roused against a-Jeroth. As these monsters devoured entire regions, ages more perished in horror, and the frangible Earth shuddered in dismay.
Blasts of time-light carried Quehrn Ehstrel ten times a hundred years more into the future.
In an act of incomprehensible majesty and loss, the Insequent as a people had come to the mad gambit of resurrecting the dead quellvisk host extombed upon the southeastern Land. These they tried to turn upon the skurj, but the crisis of these battles would rive cities and islands. And the Nicor began to die in enormous numbers, disturbing the Worm of the World's End, their howls becoming nightmares in the dreaming god's mind.
The ur-viles at the last all perished when they sacrificed themselves in an insane attempt to defeat the eternal ghost-bane-though whether they did this for a-Jeroth's sake, or something else's, the Mahdoubt could not see. As it was, they formed a being of pitch and delight and quiet, naming him Vain, whom they commanded to speak the half of Her true name to Her that the ur-viles knew. But in the act, both Vain and the ur-viles were destroyed as Her power desolated the region of the Sarangrave Flat in which the confrontation took place, wounding the lurker grievously and washing storms like the lamentation of the Soulbiter out across the Sunbirth Sea.
More time vanished from immediacy or determination. The Mahdoubt now witnessed the hour of the Worm's awakening.
Unleashed for so long, the ruin of the skurj had fragmented enough of the underworld of stone to bring the Worm to thrashing nigh unto the World's End. But the Theomach who guarded the One Tree had retrieved the krill for a final purpose of his own, as a means by which he might fend off all who would assail him ere he retrieved the Staff of Law as well. With the Staff, he strengthened the Tree, and stilled the Worm once more.
But it was, in the end, of no avail.
The Elohim were the epitome of paradox and unwisdom to the last. Convinced that they were to be the true saviors of the Arch of Creation, they Appointed all of their number to a single task. With Infelice shining like a vanguard for them, the holy and foolish beings assembled at the Blood of the Earth and drained its essence entirely into themselves. Thus they believed that even should the Worm awaken, it would never devour enough might at once to exceed the order of Law in Time, and thus in some way the Arch might be ultimately upheld.
Now a-Jeroth began to make his last moves. Unconsumed by the undead bane, he traveled to the Isle of the One Tree. The ghosts followed him, and quickly fell upon Kenaustin Ardenol. The Insequent champion effected himself greatly against them, but so too did the skurj and the quellvisk enter the fight, killing more of the Nicor, threatening the Tree.
Motes of pure force assembled out of the sky of the sacred vault.
The Theomach seized the Staff of Law and the krill. Reaching into the dagger's crystallized memories, he learned from its time with the Colossus the means to Forbidding. This he wielded to place a barrier between the Tree and the host of malice.
This valor was not enough to earn him the grace of victory. For the Worm-motes struck him from behind, wounding him severely, losing him his shield.
As this collapsed, the convergent armies of depravity massacred the One Tree.
Even as skurj submerged malice like pollution into its roots, the quellvisk savaged its branches with volleys of theurgy meant for Her-or the Despiser whom She pursued. And Her own weight wrought ruin upon the very cavern itself. Forging itself with raptured echoes of Her howling, the sighing and churning of the Worm assembled the crescendo of its eternal doom.
So with what life remained to his battered flesh, the Theomach departed from the Isle of the One Tree with his implements of hope in hand once more. He-and through him the Mahdoubt-watched as the Worm rose, and fed.
The heart of its ocean erupted upward, a pillar of water as fallen as the stars. Thousands of thousands of motes of decimation were flayed into being by the building dirge of the Worm's power. These scoured the pillar, blasting steam into the sky, coalescing hurricanes out of pearlescent lightning, the aura of massacred daybreak.
But this was not the ending of all things.
The Elohim, of course, fled. And empowered as they were by the EarthBlood, they withstood the test of the Worm's pursuit to perfect effect. So too did a-Jeroth, and Her with him, avoid the ur-menhir as it consumed what viands it could find.
Far from the lost Isle, the Worm engulfed an archipelago of orcrest anciently visited by the wandering Lord-Fatherer. From there, it rampaged towards the ruins of Vidik Amar, in which an elder deposit of the Earthpower, once exhausted in the genesis of the quellvisk, had been restored by the sheer mass of untouched millennia. The Home of the Giants fell to tsunamis beyond surpassing, and the Soulbiter that had drawn nigh of late to that land itself fell into the jaws of the Worm, nourishing the ur-menhir with the ravages of its feral nature.
While all others of the Vilespawn had perished from name and use and life by this time, one strand in the Demondim's legacy lived to see the last days of the Earth. These, the Waynhim, in strange love and risk chose to seek the aid of the remaining croyel, believing perhaps that these fell beings might find a better role for themselves at the end of all things. By this means, the Demondim-spawn thought to redeem their own legacy as well.
But the croyel had other plans. Possessing the last of the Waynhim, they marched the barking monsters to the sanctuary of the Theomach.
Unaware of his peril, the Insequent savior allowed the whole host into the hidden fane.
They barked with appallingly clear malevolence, then, and fixed their scepters or jerrids of power upon the Staff of Law.
The Staff trembled, contorted, warped in place, growing with a cancerous light, efflorescent perversity. Under the spell of the Vile-lore, the implement accepted transmutation into a great cathedral of pure angles and symmetry, a mirror of inviolate order. Vaulting through and out from the Theomach's malachite fane, the altered Staff called out like a beacon to all the Elohim upon the wide Earth.
Who, therefore, cascaded from their wandering across the sky, unto the desecrated citadel.
Not so far behind them, carrying the winds of final darkness with it, thrummed the stormfront of the Worm.
Yet neither She nor a-Jeroth were present.
Transfixed as if by the sculptures of the Viles, the Elohim patiently awaited their dire demise.
The Mahdoubt conceived that she should scream. But how? This vision allowed no howling save its own.
Yet the heart of Quehrn Ehstrel's will strained against this stricture.
Within its absolute tempest, the Worm surged a clarion of hunger at the fey angels, scenting in them both their first and second estates, slavering for the devastation of their apotheosis.
Its maw gutted the host of stormclouds purling from its aura, shining like a living sea of might, each of its teeth a mountain range massacred by the creation of the world.
Rage at the stupidity of the Elohim overcame the Theomach then. And at just this moment he noticed a-Jeroth on the horizon, Her fire hounding him, yet She was tangibly holding back, wary of the imminent Worm.
So Kenaustin Ardenol focused on the heart of the desecrated Staff. Because they held themselves aloft about the cathedral with the stasis of sleeping stars, the Elohim could not prevent him from killing them all.
He drove the krill into the Staff, seeking to slay the living implement, bleeding desolation through the ramified Earthpower of the fane, sundering all the Elohim before the Worm could devour them.
And still, this was not enough to forestall the ending of the world.
As She approached the fane, She captured the attention of the possessed Waynhim. Barking in exaltation, they knelt to Her, though She was yet too far to perceive this, even were She to care at all. And their guttural homage almost occluded the Despiser's words.
The Theomach saw a-Jeroth running, into the fane's high shadow.
"Melenkurion abatha," he began, defying ancient pain as he spoke.
Tremors wracked the fane-whether from the Worm or the Words the Theomach could not tell.
The exploded corpses of the Elohim drenched the raped Staff in the ichor of the Skyweir's sovereign haecceity.
"Duroc minas mill."
Motes like a counterpoint to the cacophony of the ur-menhir burst like embers from the dying Staff.
The krill fed potency to the Staff even as it executed its predecessor.
Kenaustin Ardenol wheeled on the Waynhim then, seeking a last risk. "Creatures of lore, I implore you: speak unto Her the other half of Her true name. If She is given such power, She could strike down the Despiser and wrest the Worm to slumber once more."
Barking palpable denial and glee, the croyel-victims ignored the Insequent.
Now the jaws of the Worm orbited everything the Theomach could see when he looked to the sky. Calamity bled from its descent, igniting the soil like a war of graveling, melting the stone trellis of the fane.
And the Render, standing unshaken, blasphemed the holy spirit of the Land completely.
Resonating utterly with the Seven Words, the Staff of Law conceived an immaculate flame in the sight of the Worm.
This the Worm drank like the suffering of the Blood of the Earth.
And while the Theomach and all the Arch of Creation with him came to be destroyed, the ur-menhir transformed into a nova of apocalypse that extinguished the last of redemption's darkness with its light.