Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three

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Interlude the first:

It all began, as I recall, in the village Nessus Vale.  I stayed the night there once, many years ago, you know.  It was such a charming, peaceful agrarian thorp huddled in a remote valley among the Western Mountain’s towering black peaks.  Nothing of interest had ever befallen Nessus.  But fate has a sickly sense of humor, and sometimes the most common of people are hunted down to have just a morsel of excitement in their lives.

Nessus Vale:

There are a few sounds a man does not, in any circumstance, want to hear when first rising from slumber.  Today, I was awakened to the morning air, crisp and cold, by the sound of my hut caving in on me.  I wasn’t dead, which was a little surprising.  Somehow, my cot was in just the right position under the whistle wood trunk my father – rest his soul – raised to support the aging shelter.  I was lucky, but still trapped under a mound of wreckage and rumble in air that didn’t seem to be getting any fresher.  Worse yet, as I picked away at the debris, digging for my own life, I began to worry that perhaps I would have been better off dead.

There are sounds a man does not want to hear.  His house falling in on him is one, yes.  The village where he grew up screaming in a unison cry of terror was on another level entirely.  I spent the better part of an hour listening to that hellish cacophony.  By the time I breached a hole, and got my first fresh breath of air, the haunting howl had died off.  At first I had been optimistic, but with that first whiff of air – a rich blend of soil and blood – I just think there was no one left to scream.

Outside the light turned a brilliant green glow; it could be dangerous, but I didn't care anymore.  I had dug my way out of one grave, and if my fate was to die in another, then at least I would see the world one last time.  When I finally made it out, I realized from where the emerald radiance was coming. There, just a few paces from me, was an enchantress; the most beautiful women I'd ever seen.  I was so entranced in by the aura of majesty she exuded even caked in mud and filth that I almost didn’t see, didn’t see the horrific beast she had been holding back.

“Help… me.”

Just a half pace past the beauty and the beast was an injured young man.  Willard, I think was his name, attempting to pull himself up on the town ward – something that had sat unused for as long as anyone could remember.

“Help me,” the man cried again, still trying to lift himself upward.  I climbed out – It was almost dawn now – and rolled down the rubble like a child’s rag doll: too weak to make the journey without the help of gravity.  “Pick me up,” Willard sputtered.

"What?" I said, stumbling over to him; I am thinking if I could feel my legs they would be in pain.

"Pick me up, so I can work the ward."  I tried lifting him, but I was too weakened, and my left arm felt like it was about to shatter.  "Hurry!" he shouted at me with a voice full of turbulent despair and anger.  I tried once again, but my left shoulder came completely out of it socket.

"I'm sorry," was all I could think to say.  I didn’t want to try anymore.  It hurt like the whip of a demon’s fiery chain; a young man – just barely older than a boy – who I had scolded just last week about stealing, was yelling at me; my grandfather’s house, which he had built with his own two rough hands had collapsed; all around me I could smell death; and there was a giant monstrosity that smelled like it had risen from the village latrine just a stone’s throw away.  Curse life!  Death just meant the pain would stop.

"Please hurry."  I looked up to see the enchantress staring back at me. "I can not hold it much longer."  My life might not have had a point any more, but I wasn't going to let her die. With the last fragment of my strength I got the young man high enough to use the ward. As a bolt of lightning arced from the sky and slammed into the beast, it just seemed to fall apart.

Ignobly, I found myself dropping Willard, and collapsing to the ground a half moment later.  As I waited for the long night to come, breathless, the last thing I saw was the enchantress standing over me – leaning against the ancient ward as if she had no more strength in the world – smiling at me.  I passed out.  But, I had a very good dream involving the enchantress.

A fortnight later, along the Northern Footpass:

Nathaniel "the Dragon's Call" Ebdale trudged alongside the supply wagon.  The winter winds had been blowing off the Western Mountains particularly harsh that day, and spirits were low among the troops.  But still, against the icy winds, they marched.  They had to.  These peasants needed an escort to TAO, and with bandit raids reaching a crescendo in troubled times, they would be demon's feed without the small war party protecting the poor souls.

The peasants still speak in hushed tones of the horrors that hit Runesbrook.  What little survivors made it to me, I'm glad we are heading towards the heartland.  I wouldn't want to be stuck on border patrol this season.

"Captain Ebdale!"  The call was one by Marcus, the Dragon's Call's favored forward scout; he had just come in from a recon run, and was back early.  Returning premature from a run meant only one thing – trouble.

"Captain Ebdale, word from a mark and a half to the North West.  A raiding party is heading this way fast.  We will be under storm before this hour is up."

There was no way to avoid the fight, for the second time since the patrol had picked up the refugees, a refreshed force had appeared out of nowhere, bearing down upon them.  As the Dragon's Call bellowed out orders to his men, and rushed the peasants to the rear of what would soon be a battlefield, he listened to the rest of Marcus' report.

Blast!  Again, these attackers are flanked by magic-users?!  My men are tired, wounded, and repeatedly they strike?  What force would be so vicious to hunt down a retreating, injured dog with such ferocity?

"Alright men, here they come!  Duncan!  I need you four paces to the right.  Cecil, finish charging our ward quickly, it won't be calling any lightning down if you have an arrow in the chest.  Here they come!  Brace for it!"

The battle was bloody and long.  Had the men been rested, they would have fared better, and lost less.  Duncan, the troop's most skilled swordsman lay dead.  Not even Cecil's most fervent of prays could find a spark of life left to revive.  He was buried in silence as Marcus left for another run.  There would not be time to give full rites – every moment left still was another chance for a raid.

After the bandaging of the troops was done – far too hastily for their own good – the caravan moved out.  Nathaniel "the Dragon's Call" Ebdale trudged alongside the supply wagon.

What is the force attacking the borderlands?  What will my orders be once we reach TAO?  Will the nobles stop their infighting and focus on these mysterious invaders or is already too late for that?  Sigh. I suppose it's not my place to ask some questions.  I am merely a lowly captain – a pawn to my lord's commands until my role is done.  But still, even a lowly captain can make a difference... can't he?

The day prior, an hour before dawn, in the Knight’s Quarters of Castle Fury:

Knight Simon was jarred awake suddenly from his sleep. His dreams had been filled with bizarre visions of devastation, and he was drenched in cold sweat. After wiping his face dry with the coarse bed sheet he arose and ventured to his window. Looking outside he could see the sun would be bringing light to the world shortly. The city was already coming to life with merchants carting their goods into the bazaar, bakers laying out their freshly cooked breads to cool, and in the distance the sharp crack of steel against steel could be heard, as the blacksmith did his work.

Looking on the window sill, he noticed a black feather. It was a crow’s.  "This is a bad omen.  Especially coming after my dreams," he thought. With a new wariness in him Knight Simon set off to rally his men, a little earlier than usual, for the day’s training. If something bad was on its way, he wanted his men to be up to the task of handling it. 

Interlude the second:

            What had started in Nessus Vale was by no means an isolated event.  For weeks, similar cases spread like a plague striking villages along the borderlands.  The South, as I recall, was especially hard hit.  Not a single village was left standing.  Those few that survived the onslaught were few and fled as refugees to the North, hoping to seek shelter in the great city TAO – the first creation of the host of hosts.  And so, these tortured few survivors began the arduous journey.  They took with them only terrible stories of the very earth rising to crush their homes, their loved ones, and far too often, their very lives.

            The orphan children took it especially difficult.  For the rest of their lives, a mere tremor would send them back to the day their village was razed.  And, in those days, earthquakes became as commonplace as the sun rising each day; for in the land of TAO, it seemed the very land had turned against the people.

The next day, in the great halls of Castle Fury: 

Telgar Drakore, a mere messenger boy in the Mighty Order of the Light, an army of knights and paladins that fought to free TAO with Lord Fury, walked down the corridors of the majestic palace where the greatest of all of TAO resided.  Paintings and statues of the grand battles and heroes of Lord Fury's campaign to free TAO hung on every wall.  The very audience room doors themselves held a magnificent image of a battle against a failing warlord by the hands of the king himself.  As the doors to the audience room opened, the very grandeur of the room could not at all compare to the graying, yet still possessing an unmistakable sensation of power, Lord Fury who stood in the vast room gazing at a particularly ornate stained glass window.

“Messenger, I have been waiting for you,” began Lord Fury, without turning to look away from the beautiful artwork, “I am concerned about the news from the countryside and wish to send the Third Battalion of the Order of the Light to investigate the Southern Borderlands.  They shall wipe out anything there that dares to step foot into my kingdom.  General Adonis shall lead the forces in this investigation.  He shall arrive to the battalion himself within the day. Inform commander, Relgis – I believe – that his forces must be ready to move out before nightfall.  That is all, messenger.”

“Yes, Lord Fury, I shall relay the message to my commander at once.  May the heavens shine upon you for all eternity,” said the shuddering messenger boy in a hushed tone of reverence.  Telgar Drakore rushed out of the audience chamber with great haste with his dismissal.  After being first in his class at the academy, he had been disappointed to receive a post of messenger, but clearly, if Lord Fury had deigned to speak to him, his scores had not gone completely unnoticed.  This was his chance to move up the ranks and perhaps one day see battle as a soldier, not a runner. 

High on the great South Walls of TAO:

"They're coming in like droves, sir," said Scout Varner, "Some from as far as Point Tregwall."  Knight Simon stood high above the silent procession in the portcullis chamber of the South Gate.  He was watching the people pass by like tiny clay miniature statues – solemnly plodding.  From his vantage point, he could see clusters as far off as the Western Piedmonts. Since midday, peasants from all over had been making their way to his precinct in hopes of gaining protection.  Some were content to huddle in the shadows, just inside of the towering bulwark of TAO, while others were pushing on, as if driven to try and reach the Core City where Lord Fury resides.  What Knight Simon wanted to know was from what they were running.  He'd attempted to gain information from the endless melancholy parade but he received nothing more than incoherent ramblings. They were clearly struck muted with fear.

"Varner, I want you to head out and see if you can shed some light on this matter," ordered the senior knight, Simon. "Whatever is chasing them is no more than two days hard march behind so move swift and get back as quickly as possible."

Varner acknowledged the order and moved out without hesitation. Sergeant Hysai stepped forward into the dimness of the portcullis chamber, sword at the ready, to await his commander’s orders. A short, yet rock sturdy man, he had been at Simon's side for over ten years now.

"Hysai, I think this is what has been haunting my dreams," speculated Simon. "Whatever it is that's out there, we can not let it pass. I want you to assemble the men and cut the force into two groups. Sargeant Forn will lead one group as an escort for taking all these people onto the Core City. The rest will stay here and await news from Varner." 

Hysai, always a trustworthy soul, followed his orders without question.  Knight Simon’s reputation for triumph, under any disadvantage, was guarantee enough to inspire conviction in his troops.  But… he was left to doubt.  All alone, high in the portcullis chamber of the monolithic South Gate, Simon worried.

Interlude the third:

I remember like it was yesterday.  The quakes had been particularly fierce in the moorlands surrounding Ther’wiskis Crossing.  Lord Fury’s Third Battalion of the Order of the Light had been marching all day; the troops were looking forward to a night under house quarter, as was customarily done in those days.  As it turns out, there was to be no rest that night.  No indeed, what the soldiers received for trudging through the peat bogs all day was nothing short of horrific.  There weren’t too many survivors, but the stories I’ve heard suggested that the swamps themselves rose up from the high lands of the moors and swallowed the battalion whole.  Whatever hit those poor boys did so hard and fast, like a wave of primordial wrath crashing down upon civilization.

  The curious part of the story is that the ol’ Crossing never got touched.  Nope, for all the anger in the land, that town wasn’t harmed.  It was like someone wanted the town standing to lure the battalion in as a fishhook pulls a shiny Blue Scale Gartskin out of a sparkling mountain stream.  But then again, people say a whole lot of things, especially about these times, when things looked so very dark for the people of TAO.  Who is to know what to believe?

Days after, deep within Castle Fury:

It was a foggy day in the Kingdom of TAO. Most people were still sound asleep when Lord Fury was awaken by a very strong quake.  "The abominations are here!" Knight Simon ran into Lord Fury's chamber yelling.  "I am sorry, milord, I was not able to fend off those monsters for you. My men insisted to die for me, holding off those abominations, so that I can rush back to inform you, and again fight by your side with your leadership, like the old times."

"Do not worry about that Sir Simon; I am relieved you returned unharmed. So, they have finally shown their true selves?"  The unknown dark forces that had been terrorizing the villages on the boundaries of the kingdom were ugly, repulsive creatures.  In the winding days of the battles, they would be named golems, but for now, there were more pressing matters than semantics.

"Prepare for battle, my brave knights!" The nineteen high ranking knights followed Lord Fury and set off to battle the evil monsters in the field. It was a short skirmish, and one for which the land’s defenders for which ill prepared.  Not knowing the monsters’ wicked abilities, the humans suffered immediate casualties.  The king had no choice but to retreat the field, dragging their wounded in desperation.

"Strange they did not pursue... perhaps they were simply testing our strengths. It means the real battle is yet to come!"  Lord Fury was correct.  Whatever force he had encountered, it was merely a forward scouting party for a far greater terror to the South.  Mere hours following the first clash, another hamlet was crushed under the weight of the advancing storm.

Desperate to protect his people, Lord Fury was forced to head off again and confront the fiends.  Unfortunately, yet again, he was not able to defeat the golems and retreated with severe casualties.  The golems did not pursue, but none the less had dealt a dangerous blow: one of confidence.  Lord Fury was starting to lose faith. Not knowing the invader’s powers, he was unable to conduct a wise attack, and with each passing hour he was losing ground.  If his best knights could not crush an advance scouting force, what destruction would be brought upon TAO when the storm reached the capitol?

Near the Southern Borderlands: 

Varner had been on the move for more than a day now, sleeping once every while for no more than an hour. He now stood overlooking one of the razed villages but had yet to see a sign of the enemy. He wasn't sure if this was good news or not since it meant that the enemy had either retreated back South or had somehow flanked him during the night. He didn't like the thought of that possibility.  In case they had passed by him he decided he had best investigate the village quickly and head back to base immediately after. Perhaps he'd come up behind the enemy.

As he got closer to the town he began to see the dead. They were strewn all over the ground and houses. The bodies looked like they'd been ripped to pieces rather than cut apart by swords.

How is that possible?  What manner of beast could decimate an entire village?

It didn't take him long to find some valuable clues. There were no weapons left behind, if they used any, but Varner did find huge mud caked footprints. Almost like a giant had lumbered through here; and yet there was something strange about them. They seemed to stop and start with no confineable order or rhythm as though the creature ... moved under the ground.

The blood left Varner’s face as the consequences of this explanation hit him.  An enemy that could move under the ground could easily get behind castle walls and barricades. No defense would be good enough!

With that thought, Varner slung his heavy supply bag over his back and prepared to move out.  He wished to return to base immediately, but then, out of the corner of his eye, witnessed a remarkable scene.  "It is midsummer, yet how could there are signs of snow dripping off of the trees and… crystalline frost on the ground? Are my eyes being deceived by some black art?"  He reached down and touched the white flakes on the ground; they were indeed, very cold.  "It is not an illusion then. What can this strange sign mean?"  Everything here was so cold… so very cold.

With a voiceless scream, Varner watched a headless body slump to the ground.  Just beyond it loomed a towering monolith of a creature.  Its body appeared to be roughly constructed from jagged ice incrusted rocks.  Just looking at the frosty monster, Varner felt like his blood was freezing.  Then it dawned on him.  The decapitated carcass was not any poor victim’s corpse… it was his own!

Interlude the forth:

            I still remember the day the golems broke the South Gate of TAO.  All who were there remembers that event, and did so until the eve of their long night.  With an earthquake that rumbled the very roots of the great city, the invading wave cracked the massive gates in pieces.  The cacophony of that event sent the metropolis into shock.  As the unwary army desperately fought the trespassers, a path was literally torn into the city, straight through to the core.  Soon, Lord Fury found his own battle at the gate of his castle.  Not even in the days of chaos when TAO was a splintered land of warlords, self declared regents, and near regular coups had the sanctity of that holy palace overlooking TAO been defiled.  Its ivory walls had been ornately carved in the time of the hosts, and since time immemorial, it stood untouched.  But on that day…  On the day when the golems broke the South Gate of TAO, nothing was sacred. 

            The spar of giants lasted through out the day, but as the advantage of surprise wore off, the golems slowly lost ground.  One by one, they pulled back, fleeing the hill leading up to Castle Fury, fleeing the piles of rumble where homes once stood, and finally, as the town returned to silence, the golems fled to the South past the ruined gates.  The golems had taken egress but the army was in shambles, and Lord Fury had no force left that could pursue.  For that night, the Kingdom of TAO was able to rest in peace and lick at its wounds.  But another conflict would come soon, for the quakes, though faint, persisted.

Back on the Northern Footpass:

The trek along the Northern Footpass proceeded; food and supplies were low, but moral remained high none the less.  After supplying at Fort Brantis, nestled in the piedmonts of the Western slopes, the raids had mysteriously ended.  Whoever was sending them had given up – for now.

Soon – just a few dozen more marks now – TAO will be in sight.  The men, what's left of them, are in desperate need of a warm mug of ale and a hearty bar wench.  It will be good to rest, if even for a few days.

The sight Captain Nathaniel "the Dragon's Call" Ebdale saw when TAO finally came in sight was not one that particularly inspired cheering.  A thick haze of smoke rose from the South Gate region of the city, and from that point, it appeared a wave of earth quakes had risen from the ground and stomped a path all the way to Lord Fury's grand gates high above the city.

"By the host of hosts... what happened?" was the first sound uttered.  It came from behind the captain, who could only in mute utterance agree.  Whatever had hit those villages had already made it to the capital.  There were no further signs of fighting in the city though, whatever had ripped a hole in the South quarter had made it no farther than the heavy wrought iron gates of the King's grand castle.  It was then that Marcus pointed them out.

"Captain!  There, about a hundred marks off, do you see them?"  The skilled scout's eyes were better trained than the tired man who stared in off in the distance.  Suddenly, out of the very earth rose a tiny speck of dust, then another, and another.  As the abominations appeared on the horizon, the Dragon's Call saw a small war band, no larger than his own engage.

If they brought about such destruction upon the City Core, what does that idiot hope to accomplish?  More death?

The far off skirmish was quick and brutal.  Whatever the small group of would-be-heroes thought they could accomplish by attacking was proven to be wholly incorrect; they were slaughtered in a rumbling display of brute power.  Whatever these things are, they were not to be trifled with.

Finally, the rampage was over, and the tiny earthy crumbs moved away against a setting sun.  With that, Captain Ebdale urged his own party forward.  They would be near the city of TAO soon.  The refugees had survived the journey, though they may not be welcome any more in a city where so many homes had been crushed under the weight of that assault.  With countless peasants likely homeless where will the refugees from the border villages turn to?

As the wagon wheel squeaked along the Northern Footpass, Captain Nathaniel Ebdale was deep in thought.  The troops were too, those promised mugs of ale were fast disappearing and being replaced by long hours of patrols or reconstruction duties.  War is hell.

And who sent those raids?  They were too planned to be simple bandits.  Is it just the work of a minor warlord or could a rogue noble be trying to attempt unrest.  Surely no humans would cooperate with those... things... Is there a darker hand afoot or simple coincidence?  Join the army, they said.  See the world they said.  Hah! I'm seeing it alright, I'm seeing it burn to the ground and I have no idea why.  What is happening to TAO?

            Several hours later, Lord Fury personally welcomed Captain Nathaniel Ebdale and his troops.

"Good work 'Dragon's Call!' You have done well in taking these people safely to my castle.  Although I cannot say it is any safer than where you came from, as you can see from the destructions along the way and in the city, but I will assure you that I will protect the ones that seek refuge here, with my life!  For now, rest well good captain, for I might need your assistance in battling the invaders in the near future."

Nathaniel Ebdale remained with his head nearly to the ground while his king spoke.  He was surprised at the personal attention, and knew his men felt the same pride as he did.  Sniff.  Well, pride was present as well as a particular pungent odor.  One cannot wash their armor on the road and after being on patrol for almost a month, his was particularly ripe.  The Dragon's Call hoped it did not offend Lord Fury.

"Thank you, my liege, let my sword be an extension your will."

It was hard to speak the words with that smell floating into his nostrils, but apparently, they satisfied Lord Fury, or perhaps he just wanted to get away from the stench.  With his departure, it was finally safe for the lowly Captain to stand again.  The creaking of mud caked hinges filled the air as the armor slowly gave way to rising.

There would be time for celebrations later; he could see the gladness in his men's eyes.  Yes, there was pride today in his troops, but that could be relived afterward: for now there were more important matters to attend to.  Desperate matters.

"Alright you rogues and scoundrels, you all smell like an ox's back end.  Everyone hit the baths!  I see that Marcus, don't you try to sneak out on me.  It's been three months for you, and if you don't bathe you'll kill the enemy just by standing upwind of them. Move out!"

The water felt good.  Icy cold, but the bath house's ovens were being used to prepare hot water for the wounded of the city and none could be spared.  It felt good to soak in the coldness and just go numb for a while.

I never though I would live to see the day the South Gates broken.  Against such a force as these monstrosities, can anyone in TAO sleep soundly? And would Lord Fury really pick me out to aid his battle? Maybe there is room for a lowly captain to succeed in life. Maybe...

Past the Eastern Borderlands: 

The ground shook slightly.

Merforga, Ranger of the Night and rogue mercenary, sat atop the hill surveying the land of TAO below.  He had heard that TAO was in need of some aid.  Where people seek help, there is money to be made.  The desperation of people was a near guarantee of good profit.  Suddenly the ground shook again – looking around, he thought nothing of it.

Again the ground shook, more strongly than before. Unexpectedly, curiosity took over, and Merforga placed his hand down on the ground to feel the land's lifeforce. The dirt below him started to shift, slowly at first, then quicker and quicker.  Piling high upon itself, until a large, rocky horror stood before him.  The beast roared.

Startled, Merforga fell backwards and watched the giant fist come smashing down towards his unprotected face.  He closed his eyes to await his demise.

Cling!  A sharp metal sound rang through the night.

Merforga – not quite sure why he wasn’t dead – opened his eyes and saw a single man over himself, bearing against rocky fist with a giant sword. That man was no other than the mightiest of Lord Fury's high knights, the legendary Cyrus Bloodbane!

"Quickly! I will hold it off while you escape.  You must go back!  Go to the Kingdom of TAO and tell Milord Fury that we have found out the wicked secret! They move through the ground; that is why the ground shakes when they are near! You must let him know before it is too late!"

With no time to thank the man, Merforga staggered up and slipped into the wilderness.  He moved with speed he did not know he possessed, all the while with the clangs of battle in the distance ringing behind him.  As fast as he could, he dashed towards TAO to pass on the warning to mighty Lord Fury.

The Final Interlude:

            There is little that goes on in TAO that surprises me.  I like to think I’ve been down the River Othenic more than once, as the saying goes.  The last great battle of what would later be known as the War of the Golem was just a little surprising.  Lord Fury, as I recall, had been up all night, praying to the heavens for guidance.  You know how the heavens are about such things, though.  Never feel like gossiping when you are really worried.  No, it seems who ever is pulling the levers up on those lofty clouds was working on their own schedule.  In any case, several dozen candles later, the great Lord Fury is still without an answer, and the threat of the invaders had yet to be answered.

            One thing was clear, however, the war could not be fought on the defensive.  Whatever other capabilities the shambling monsters had, earthquakes seemed to follow them as a boy follows a pretty girl in spring.  Quakes are simply bad business for a ruler to let near a city – and a fortress’ walls are expensive as well.  If it was the only clear thing, it was that the battle would need to be fought in the country side.  Fury had been dealt a great many poor cards, but he was sure this one would win him the pot.  It’s funny how people can be so wrong about things in which they are so skilled.

            The army had not faired well against the golems in the assault upon the city, but they were woefully unprepared to fight.  No army in the history of TAO had every cracked a gate like that.  War against cities typically was the stuff of months.  The old musical chairs sieges, don’t you know.  Round and round we go, whenever the music stops, whoever doesn’t have food, loses.  So the generals comforted themselves with anyway.  Surely, once the element of surprise had been spent, the vast force had retreated.  That’s what they said, anyway, as they hugged their decorated war-hero teddy bears at night.

            Lord Fury said some very inspiring words before leading the army out to do battle.  He always was something of a poet, you know.  Oh, perhaps never seriously, but I read a bit of his works now and again and they are not too shabby.  I can’t imagine why such a gifted man would ever want to get into the business of ruling, it sounds dreadful.  But I suppose he was good at that too, and you simply must stick with what you know.  In any case, disregarding my digression, Lord Fury marched his army straight into the enemy and they had a lovely event.  It was just everything the historians love about battles.  Epic fighting, lots of pain and hurting, noble sacrifice and some good old fashioned death – it just never goes out of style.  Oh, I just get giddy thinking about it.

            Lord Fury brought the full force of the Order of the Light down upon the sea of golems as if pouring sand into the ocean will drive it back.  And you know, for a little bit there I thought he just might do it.  Push the ocean back, I mean.  That Lord Fury could inspire a tasty Gartskin out of a stream sans hook.  He had conviction!  The Golems, however, had numbers.  Lots of them.

            And so, the battle was fought.  For days it raged across the rolling Western Piedmonts.  First one side had the advantage, then the other side.  They say the rivers clogged for a year after that fight, they were so full of mud and corpses.  It might have gone on like that for some time too, if fate didn’t conspire against our hero.  I told you about fate, didn’t I?  Fate has a sickly sense of humor about things, and though sometimes it likes to pick on common folk, more often than not, it is the big fish that are snatched up for the trophy wall.

            In one particularly epic charge, Lord Fury had broken the left flank of the mud wall, and was piercing deep into the back lines, crashing into the rarer golems that stayed back, wielding their own form of magic for the battle.  All looked well until the dreadful secret was revealed in the worst possible way.  I remember it all began with a loud crack of a quake.  Now these had been going on all throughout the battle, and nothing was thought of it, until a giant mud ripped through the surface of the ground directly in front of the King of TAO!

            Of course, his noble knights attempted valiantly to stop the inevitable, but the tower of mud was inexorable.  Forming by some strange will, a mighty fist flew forth from the muddy mass and slammed into the skull of Lord Fury.  It is said that the sickening crunch of the poor man’s face caving into his head could be heard through out the entire battlefield.  Lord Fury was dead.

In a tavern somewhere past the Eastern Borderlands:

            “Well, good sir Ranger.  You tell an interesting tale.  Here is your reward then, a mug of my finest mead.”  Gahun pushed a low quality brew across the countertop.  True, it wasn’t his finest mead, but he had to make ends met somehow.  Though the desperate, failed race to save the king of TAO was a part the bartender had not heard before, the rest of the tale was old news.  The War of the Golem was drawing to a close, and everyone had already been long told the heroics that had gone on before and after the death of Lord Fury.

            It was true that the battle extinguished with the death of the king, but the golems themselves had been dealt a terrible blow.  Their forces scattered, and over time, brave defenders of the realm hunted the rogue golem packs down.  The mage guilds even managed to tame the terrible beasts and by the dying days of the war, golems could be seen fighting with humans, even against their own kind

            Gahun picked up the coin left by the Ranger, who had gone missing after drinking only half the mead.  Oh well, guess he didn’t like ‘Gahun’s Finest,’” the large man thought.  The bartender set the mug aside – it could be mixed back into the next batch.  Why waste mead?

            Gahun greeted the man entering the tavern; it was a regular, and one who could drink down the house.  Ah, yes.  Business was good.  The war was slowing to a close, the races of golems had learned to fear humans, and though the nobles bickered constantly over who would take the thrown, having a little bit of chaos was good for business: more people want to get drunk in the troubled times.  It looked like more of those days would be coming.  Ah yes.  Business was good.