The Saga of Bal'met

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By: Jurixe Posted on: June 30, 2013 Excerpted from the private records of the Nagarani, Jurixe Nithilar, Viceroy of Mhaldor:


[ Aeguary 608 AF ]


I heard tell this month of a party of adventurers advancing to the northbound wilderness, through the Caverns of Riagath. Searching for...something, I do not know what.


I am almost tempted to venture north myself, but undoubtedly it is merely some orphan from some mountain village lost again and who requires half the continent to escort it back to where it came from for some reason.


Frankly, if it were me, I would feed it to the piranha instead.


Affairs in the city occupy my time, regardless. With a new Tyrannus comes a new style of government, and many changes will need to be made once again.


Kaevan was a great pleasure to work with, but admittedly I do think that Mhaldor requires a more militant leader to galvanise more into action. He knows this as well.


I do not know who will be replacing him, as Lord Shaitan is to decide.


I do not know what to expect.



[ Scarlattan 608 AF ]


The heathens in the previous month were, apparently, escorting a high-ranking Xoran from Prin to search for an ancient Xoran settlement in the north. I know little about the island, save that it is a popular hunting ground. My only experience with their Xorani inhabitants was the Xorani priestess that Sir Tirac abducted - long perished now, I assume. She did not seem overly tenacious.


They found bodies at the Vents of Hthrak, apparently, and some scrolls that appear to be some form of journal written by the slain Xoran. It speaks of things I do not understand - ormir, and broodparents, and other strange things. It must be some sort of peculiar Xoran vocabulary.


Supposedly, a few adventurers contracted a strange contagious disease that appears to be ailing the Xoran. I have not seen evidence of this in Mhaldor yet. I hope it does not affect other races as well.


If voyria is curable by death, perhaps we should preemptively execute all affected sufferers in Mhaldor to prevent the spread.


Though...perhaps it is a blessing by the Suffering Lord? I dare not hope. I thought similarly so for the orbs with the swirling ruby sands, but that, as usual, was naught more than dashed dreams.


When, oh Lord, will You turn Your gaze back to us, I wonder...



[ Valnuary 608 AF ]


High Lord Xenomorph ascended to the Tyrannus seat this month.


I have not worked long with the High Lord, and most of my impression of him comes from stories and documents of old. One hopes, however, that this will herald the revival that Mhaldor needs.


I have spent most of the month preparing all-new proposals for the new Tyrannus. Frankly, I am beginning to despair that the majority of these will ever see completion. The architects I have enlisted have been silent in response to my queries.


I sent a Maldaathi knight to deliver my last correspondence. He returned with a satisfying bag of severed heads, but that - while gratifying - still fails to resolve my problems. Surely some modicum of competence is not too steep a request in this world.


On the subject of the Xoran, a strange portal leading to some peculiar foreign world was discovered not far from the Vents. I was not present, but I felt the deaths of the heathens that ventured forward - Cyrenians, Shallamese, Eleusians, a scattering of those of the other cities - slain by peculiar creatures called ormyrr, I believe. That must be what the Xoran were referring to in their scrolls.


I have yet to explore the area myself, as Council work occupies my time. Regardless, any heathen death delights me. It is proving to be good entertainment.


When I make the trip, I will be certain not to tread so heavy-footed upon an alien land. Only the foolish and the unquestionably strong do so, and in this case, all were the former.


More scrolls, purportedly from the dead Xoran in that world, were released by the Lucretian Athenaeum this month. They speak of the rape of Elara, child of Callisto and Sinope, grandchild of Lady Maya, by foreign creatures - I believe, from the writings, that it must be the ormyrr - and thus the Xoran came to be.


'Born of violence', she described her parents and her children, and I find that apt.



[ Mayan 608 AF ]


Messiah Azor is officially appointed as a Viceroy, now. It will be peculiar seeing Father no longer a Viceroy, but I suppose such titles do not matter overmuch to him, for title or not he is still a Mhaldorian figurehead, and reputation cannot be discarded as easily.


I have finally found the time to journey northwards to sate my curiosity regarding this strange land - named Krenindala, I am told. Not being overly familiar with the northern wilderness, it did take me a little time to find the portal, but I found it - glowing with supernatural energy in the mountains near Hthrak, as promised.


Caves, many caves, a bubbling lava pool, lizards and whatnot. I likely saw less than I meant to, for there were heathens crawling all over the place and I also had to keep myself hidden from the gigantic, scaly lizard-like creatures, for I believe they are aggressive and will attack on sight.


Well, I know the large black one named Penwize does, at least. I am uncertain about the native reptiles, but caution does no harm.


A group of Sapients were clustered together in one of the caves, not speaking. I glanced up and noticed an opening, beyond which I could hear the howl of raging winds and the rattling whisper of rolling sand. I slipped past the silent adventurers and climbed upwards, emerging into a desert sandstorm.


It seemed like such, regardless. The sand blinded me, whipping about my ears and eyes, piling in my hair. It may have rained fire at one point as well, I cannot rightly remember. There was something strange about that desert - no matter what direction I set out in, I always returned to the beginning point. I could see what appeared to be some form of civilisation in the distance, but I could not make any noticeable progress towards it.


And, of course, the ormyrr.


I concealed myself the moment I saw them - no easy task in a sandstorm, but we Naga have our ways. I do not rightly know how to describe them - they are humanoid and walk on two legs, but otherwise they look reptilian and completely alien. Some appear strong and muscular, others wear robes and murmur strange chants, but all of them have a formidable aura about them.


I considered emerging to thank them for their part in culling heathens, but I suspect they are not overly discriminate in whom they raise their blades to.


I have not seen a Dala'myrr. I am slightly curious as to what these creatures look like now.



[ Aeguary 609 AF ]


Kupo was appointed Minister of War. This is welcome news, as Exsusiai Dontarion has long fallen into the embrace of slumber - and as an Aegean, there can be none more suited for the part.


Perhaps now our forces will find renewal under his leadership.



[ Ero 609 AF ]


This day, Ashaxei perished.


Yes, the Great White Dragon, she who led Han-Tolneth into battle and ultimately thwarted the Triumvirate in the War of Humanity, was slain. Torn from the sky by three sinuous Dala'myrr, I am told, during the Dragonhood ceremony of a Cyrenian - how apt - crashing into El'Jazira and creating such a huge crater that the bustling desert settlement was all but levelled.


It fills me with anguish that I could not be there to witness this, but I was present when the weeping Han-Tolneth began to explain the origins of Dragons and Dala'myrr. It seems they were both brought into being upon Krenindala during the creation of the Fire Behind the Flame, that which is best explained as being the very spark that sustains life.


They are polar opposites in every way, with the Dala'myrr travelling through the ground as easily as the Dragons soar through the air. The Aldar described them as bitter enemies, but the Dala'myrr and their ormyrr kin (which is apparently their 'minor' form before the strongest become Dala'myrr) finally gained the upper hand after they abducted Elara and took her piece of the sceptre of divinity, thus allowing the Dala'myrr to fly.


Now losing their advantage of flight, the Dragons barely escaped from Krenindala, made possible only by the sacrifice of Syx Sica Sycru Sycran Sy cae ru nax, father of Ashaxei. This, apparently, was when Han-Tolneth met them, and struck the infamous pact to save the Gods.


At this point in his story, Han-Tolneth demanded vengeance upon the ormyrr, and like the obedient, mindless sheep that they are, all present agreed and took up arms, setting off en masse to Krenindala.


It was not long before my innate deathsense began to burn, the snuffed lives of adventurers flooding my senses and washing my vision red for a good few moments.


Of course that was going to happen, fools. These creatures have the power to reduce a race of immensely powerful beings - Dragons - to near extinction, and only the cream of our races receive consideration from Ashaxei to become naught more than mere shadows of what true dragons are. You paid a just price for your arrogance.


That being said, I, of course, made the journey as well - though alone, and certainly not to fight. Such entertainment could not be wasted. At the portal, I sat and watched group after group of adventurers hurl themselves at the unyielding ormyrr - though one creature might fall, five adventurers would perish in their place, and the forces of the ormyrr seemed unending.


I admit it was relatively amusing, however, when the Shallamese forces were tricked by the Archon Dunn into leading the charge - though the end result was the same, as all that was left in the end were the souls of lost adventurers floating upon the bloodsoaked mountain, and the ormyrr seemed as numerous as ever.


Antidas joined me at the battleground as we watched their pointless struggle. When the Shallamite Silas fell, I noticed him drop a tiny ember, flickering and sputtering upon the ground. Most curious. I pointed this out to Antidas, but with the ormyrr standing such close guard, we dared not attempt to retrieve it. It is speculated that these are pieces of Ashaxei's corpse or soul, but I do not know if that is true.


It was then that Lord Shaitan spoke, His voice reaching us even in the far reaches of Krenindala, and instructed us to try and forge an agreement with the ormyrr, for their forces were vast and strong. Our attempts were largely fruitless, with Ambassador Nizaris receiving no reply to his letter (the messenger boy eaten, presumably), himself being slain on sight when he attempted to visit, and myself and Antidas unable to navigate through the desert storm to what I believe is their city.


The Lord is all-powerful, however, and eventually He informed us that an alliance had been struck. In exchange for our collecting a hundred primal embers a month, delivered through the daemon general Karkatul'maso, the ormyrr would lend us the strength of their legions and we would come to no harm from them.


Reports of roving groups of these ormyrr hunting down adventurers that carry embers have reached my ears, as well. This greatly amused me - it was merely a pity I could not accompany them.


Thus far, it seems that the embers grant various forms of protection from attacks, increase one's strength, constitution, dexterity and intelligence, and even have the capacity to bestow knowledge of skills beyond those of our own profession. However, the bigger they become the more unstable they get, and periodically release damaging waves of coruscating flame - even explode into an intense conflagration, at times, instantly slaying the holder. I can see why the ormyrr desire them.


I do not know what plans the Lords have for these creatures, but we must trust in Them, for They will lead us to strength and glory.



[ Lupar 609 AF ]


The Archbishop intends to give a sermon on Suffering in Hashan next month. I am of the opinion that it will largely be a waste of breath, but a number of Mhaldorians did originate from Hashan, so I may yet be proven wrong.


Supposedly, the Flame of Yggdrasil is wavering. I am told that it will not grant a fallen adventurer new life, and I have sensed some younglings being burnt to death in the Flame instead of being reborn. This is most interesting.


Additionally, Tyur has informed me that he seems to have contracted the disease, as well. He says he feels well enough beyond a minor tickle in his throat, but I am somewhat concerned as none have found a cure for it yet.


Perhaps I should insist that he visit Jirken - if naught else, Jirken can undoubtedly take a few samples to analyse and develop a cure for.



[ Sarapin 610 AF ]


We continue to collect ember after ember, placing them in the chest guarded by the daemon general. Thus far, we have had no trouble filling the quota, though I am still eager to see what transpires from this.



[ Daedalan 610 AF ]


It is with unchecked joy in my heart that I write here:


Lord Apollyon, the Suffering, returns His attention to Mhaldor and Sapience at large once more.


It...pains me slightly to think of His former Prophet, when I think of the Lord. During my last conversation with him, he said that he still pledged himself to the Suffering Lord, but I doubt the Lord will look upon that kindly - as He should not, of course, for Sabiru is still a traitor.


The Lord stripped me of my title, bestowed by Sabiru so long ago. It is His will, and I understand fully why it was made so. I have grown so accustomed to it that I find it peculiar, I suppose, not being able to sign my letters and posts that way any longer.


However, the Lord is correct, of course. Perhaps it is time we left memories of 'traitorous swine' behind - exactly what Sabiru called Mycen, when she betrayed Mhaldor and the Lord for Ashtan.


How low must heroes fall, for them to become what they once despised?



[ Scarlatan 610 AF ]


It was revealed to us this month by Lord Shaitan that we were granted the power to corrupt the shrines of the various Divine. Successful corruption of a shrine would cause it to change its appearance and switch its allegiance, transforming into a place of worship dedicated to Bal'met - the god supposedly worshipped by the ormyrr.


According to the retelling by Cleric Xer, who is proving himself quite an apt scribe in this respect, the Lords desired a stage sufficiently large for Their purposes, and instructed them to head to the Siroccians. Though the heathen forces attempted to thwart us, Father and Sir Tirac still succeeded in leading the Mhaldorian forces in corrupting every shrine within the area.


Finally, only the Shrine to Ascension, the place where Maya and Makali became One, remained standing - and it was not long before that, too, was corrupted.


I am told a Dala'myrr appeared at the completion of this task, hissing its approval before vanishing. My only regret is that I missed a glimpse of such an awesome beast yet again.


The Tyrannus has ordered that the Siroccians remain clear of enemy presences unless otherwise directed. In the meantime, it seems that the heathens have no way of removing this corruption as the shrines to Bal'met cannot be destroyed. As such, corrupting other shrines is our first priority now, and I am about to embark on just such a mission.


This should be interesting.



[ Lupar 610 AF ]


So. Bal'met does exist.


I am filled with frustration that I was not able to be present for what will surely be a memorable event in the years to come - the summoning of Bal'met, the god whom the strange ormyrr worship.


The embers were indeed the remnants of Ashaxei's spirit, and the ormyrr priests used their embers, combined with what we collected, to summon Him at the corrupted Shrine of Ascension.


I am told it was a glorious sight - ormyrr chanting, Dala'myrr rising from the ground, a pillar of white fire erupting from the shrine into the heavens, souls of dragons trapped within, the Dala'myrr diving into the conflagration and devouring the souls until the previously pristine fire was an angry red.


And then He came, coalescing from the bloody inferno into existence, summoned forth across time and space by the blood sacrifices of His ormyrr servants and the deaths of his ancient foes, the dragons. The God that was not yet - but now, is.


Surely the earth itself must have shuddered at His terrible presence, for even the Garden knew fear. They say threats and insults were hurled through the air by the other Divine towards the Masters - even, surprisingly, Lord Babel, whom one would think would welcome this - and, far less surprisingly, their sheep-like servants banded together on the ground for a siege upon the city, lashing out blindly in the only manner they know how.


We are no strangers to raids, but when I awoke I was told tales of fifty-strong raid groups at the gates and on the mountain to our twenty, though we still managed to mount an impressive defense against them. I can barely fathom the idea. The usual groups of Shallamese and Eleusians were expected, but this time even Cyrenians were glimpsed within; such momentous progression from cowering in their tiny Vashnarian refuge.


Truly, if this is not utter proof of the change that Suffering and Oppression can bring to an otherwise stagnant, complacent world, I do not know what is.



[ Phaestian 610 AF ]


I have never had cause to concern myself overmuch with Lord Hermes, the messenger God. Luck typically favours no particular faction, and I acknowledge there are certain elements of it instrumental in determining an outcome - it can mean the difference between whether I manage to escape within half an inch of my life, or if I perish at enemy hands, for instance.


Luck, however, is no substitute for intelligence, and surely for all His favour the Lord must have been lacking in the latter when He made that wager against Lor Bal'met.


Hmm. I am uncertain as to whether I should address Him as Lord, for surely He is divinity, yet He is also a tool of the Masters.


Regardless, risking your divinity on a literal flip of the coin, hoping that the Masters would not notice it being loaded, and what, for a planet full of legions of armies - to build casinos on? One would think a God would have more sense than that, but apparently They are not immune from folly, either. I suppose He is a relatively young Divine compared to the Masters, but still.


Banished to Krenindala without His powers, and Bal'met now strengthened by His essence. Such an amusing month it has been. And one wonders why I refuse to gamble, preferring to hold what I have in hand than chance it all on an uncertain, uncontrollable outcome. See what Luck it brought Him.


The heathens will attempt to find some way of freeing Him, I am certain, but frankly it will be a wasted effort. I am sure of this.


Mhaldor revels in the unrivalled malevolence of the Masters, and spirits are high.



[ Chronos 610 AF ]


The first Divine casualty of this war - for surely it is to be one, I think that much is evident - came in the form of Lady Kastalia.


Former Lady, I suppose.


While the Garden was silent, undoubtedly pondering on a rescue plan for the Messenger, She - along with Lord Lupus, a peculiar choice of companion, but then I suppose thoughtless, impulsive hunts always were His domain - marched on Krenindala, bringing an army of werewolves.


They were putting up a passable performance, but I knew the Lords would hardly allow for such wanton destruction of Their forces - and indeed They did not.


"Let us show you how real gods hunt."


So spoke the Lord of Oppression, and hunt They did, accompanied by Bal'met. If before it was bloodshed, now surely Krenindala must be drowning in a sea of crimson as the Twin Lords tore apart all that stood before them.


Then it happened.


Lord Apollyon struck at Lady Kastalia with His lash, while Lord Shaitan rendered to a pulp with His blades the werewolves that sprang to Her defense; the Dala'myrr shrieked, shrieked in ecstasy, a forewarning of the events to come, and then...


Bal'met destroyed Her.


Tore the very essence from Her, a brutal severing unlike any that has been witnessed in living memory as He claimed it for His own - and the Goddess, Child of the Moon and Sea, was no more.


Some hunters know when to stop, to acknowledge their foes too strong, to retreat and regroup with a stronger force.


Some hunters, blinded by bloodlust or some peculiar desire to prove themselves an all-powerful force, charge ahead regardless of how much more powerful their foe might be against them.


Lord Lupus was undoubtedly that of the latter category - that or perhaps simply plain naive, for He attempted to charge Bal'met alone. It should surprise no one that the Lord of Krenindala knocked Him aside as if a fly, especially with His newfound power.


The only reason He did not meet the fate of His Divine sibling is because His accursed werewolf pets mounted a pitiful defense for a time - the captain of which Lord Shaitan personally eviscerated, such a glorious sight to see the full force of necromancy in His hands - and because Lady Selene interfered with fate, flying across time and space to the stricken God and spiriting Him away.


One can only stave off the inevitable for so long, though. The Masters will have what They desire, and I suspect Bal'met will not let His prey escape so easily, either. I can scarcely wait to see what will transpire next.


The moon was red tonight, for Lady Ourania grieved for Her lost daughter. Blood-red.


I suspect it is a colour Sapience will come to familiarise themselves with, for this is only the beginning.



[ 2 Glacian 610 AF ]


As I write this, my hand is still shaking from a combination of adrenaline, exhilaration and triumph.


The Gods held Their council this month, one not unlike that held by the Aldar before the War of Humanity. No betrayals, this time, but as Sapience watched, seven set out for war against the Lords and Bal'met within Krenindala.


Lords Pentharian, Aegis, Matsuhama, Daedalus; Ladies Miramar, Ourania, and Pandora (again, another peculiar selection).


They were moved to action by the impassioned voice of the Moon Goddess, who demanded retribution for the death of Her daughter. Only moments earlier She had hurled a meteor at the Baelgrim in impotent rage; grief truly does blind, it seems, for it missed the city by a considerable margin.


I have never thought an unmoving, gargantuan mountain a difficult target before, but perhaps I am too accustomed to the precision sniping of the Naga. Evidently this is not always the case elsewhere, even for Divine.


Led by the Lords Matsuhama and Aegis, They descended upon the foreign land, truly laying waste to ormyrr and Dala'myrr alike with mace, sword, bow and...giggles, or whatever it is that Lady Pandora uses. I could not tell.


I admit, we grew somewhat concerned as the slaughter of the ormyrr continued unchecked and the Lords were silent - but, as per usual, we needed only to trust in Their wisdom.


Upon Krenindala, Lady Ourania found the staff of Her fallen daughter, but that is irrelevant. What is relevant is how the Goddess of Mischief found the bound Messenger, how She touched the chains that bound Him and was thrown back, how Lord Pentharian roared a challenge to Bal'met, how the God of Balance fought His way to the Messenger, how He realised too late, too late, He screamed for them to fall back but it was too late-


For a moment the sky was blinding, blinding gold, a thousand, a million times brighter than the noonday sun, searing our eyes even as we watched from the mainland -


Time slowed, everything slowed, it was as if a retardation vibration had settled over all of Sapience -


They turned, They all started to run, shock, horror, and behind Them we saw the visage of the Messenger, twisted in the agony of corruption -


And the world exploded.


I cannot even begin to describe the sensation - think, perhaps, of a million holocaust bombs setting off at once, combined with the deadly force of a million monks' kai deliverance, multiply that a hundredfold, a thousandfold, and it will not even come a fraction close to the eruption of power that swept over Krenindala, so immense, so thunderous that the shockwaves were even felt here on Sapience, the earth shuddering and rumbling as we were thrown to the ground.


We felt Them die.


Instantly, simply vaporised, no time even to scream, to shout, to do...aught. One moment They were, and then They were...not.


Amongst the scores of ormyrr, Dala'myrr, and whatever forces the members of the Garden brought with Them - all perished, for surely none could withstand so terrible a force, but most importantly...


Lords Matsuhama, Daedalus, and Lady Miramar are no more.


We heard the shattering grief of Their followers, the dreadful keening of Their abandoned servants as Their presence slipped from our awareness, ringing across the world through shouts, yells, every method of communication imaginable.


We?


We rejoiced. With restraint, for the most part, for we possess more decorum than that; but still we smiled, laughed, sang praises to the Lords, and there was joy in our hearts.


Even the Garden, in Their infinite wisdom, had not anticipated the depths of Bal'met's cunning. Truly He is proving to be an invaluable asset to the Lords in Their crusade to rid the world of weakness. Divine cries of shock echoed in the firmament directly after the blast, but then three meteors crashed into the earth - there were survivors after all.


Lords Pentharian, Aegis, and Lady Pandora (a true tragedy, surely, that the prankster Goddess survived and the others did not - Lord Hermes's last blessing to Her, perhaps?) were quickly rescued by the remaining members of the Garden and brought there to heal, as a protective dome - so reminiscent of that described in the War of Humanity when the gods realised They were doomed, just before Ashaxei arrived to save Them from their fate.


But there is no Ashaxei now.


There are only the Lords, there is only Bal'met...


And there is only surrender.


If They have any desire of surviva--


[a long line of ink skitters away from the page here, as if the scribe's hand had jerked away hastily]



[ 10 Glacian 610 AF ]


[a few drops of blood spatter the page haphazardly]


Vengeance.


The bereft followers of the fallen gods, the open-mouthed heathens - actually, all who were not Mhaldorian - powerless to retaliate against our Divine patrons, they turned on us instead.


Ninety-odd raiders, a mixture of all classes imaginable. Occultists standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Priests, forestals and alchemists working in tandem, Serpentlord and Dawnstrider united.


Lords, it was a chilling sight, and yet strangely exhilarating. Because of Oppression had we united Sapience, and to the West they came, thinking to pour their grief, their anguish at their losses through striking at the Baelgrim, a feeble attempt at salvaging some retribution.


The Lady would be proud, but I, personally, am more proud of how we defended our city despite the overwhelming odds. At the gates stood the Shallamese/Cyrenians/Eleusians/Hashani...


...behind us upon the mountain, in the Baelgrim, scores of Ashtani.


Trapped between a rock and a hard place, but we were prepared, had been prepared since the beginning of the great Council, and we fought. Led by Sir Tirac, we fought at the gates, held the first wave off (much to my surprise and delight), then the Ashtani came, we became disoriented, fell, retreated to the sewers, up and down, in and out, mostly a blur now - I cannot truly recall...no orders, opportunistic strikes, arrows, meteors, chokes, bodies falling left and right, smoke, rubble, screams and cries, steel clanging on steel, our guards so valiant, blood everywhere, corpses, rolling heads -


I was upon the road near the stygian crossroads most of the time, dashing back and forth between the gates to try to assist our guards. The group was gargantuan, but occasionally I would see a few de [three spots of red blot the text here] ves inexplicably from their group and stagger into the waiting guards - quickly slain. I retrieved their bodies for Sir Tirac. If they wanted to offer themselves...


On one such occasion I glanced up and through the haze of blood and fog, thought I saw Tagg, fingers to his temples, concentrating on something - behind me a Cyrenian I had not noticed turned abruptly about and lurched suddenly up the mountain into a group of my fellow Naga assassins, and they made short work of him - but then I turned back, and he had disappeared.


I do not know what to think. He is a traitor, why would he be helping...but then, it was a Cyrenian, so it is entirely plausible he walked himself to his own death.


Vengeance served us well in this case, too - more than once Father walked fearlessly into massed groups of raiders, standing unflinching as they tore at him - then as he fell, whispers of 'Vengeance!' and his wrath struck down five for every one of his deaths.


It was glorio [large spot of blood]


They slew most of our valiant guards, including Mhaldorus - we were at one point forced out of the city, but without order, without direction, still we regrouped with Sir Tirac on the mountain and proceeded to slaughter the stragglers at the gates, on the mountain, we burned, their souls burned at the behest of the Lords.


We hunted them, relentlessly, individually or in groups, it was a free-for-all the likes of which I have never seen. There were so many of them and still we persevered until they withdrew, streaming away from the mountain and the isle, our ormyrr and Dala'myrr allies aiding us. For days afterwards Sir Tirac pursued all who had raised a hand against our city - in numbers they found some semblance of strength; alone, a far cry. He is relentless.


Blood, so much blood, the city is drenched in heathen blood, upon the cobblestones, the walls, indistinguishable from our own. Our city is strewn with the aftermath of war, appearing every inch the battlefield it was. Piked heads of enemies, enough to line the city three times over, piles upon piles of decapitated corpses in the streets. Thick plumes of smoke in the air, so dense the red fog almost appears black. Mounds of rubble and glass everywhere, remnants of torn streets and destroyed buildings.


Mhaldor has never looked more beautiful.



[ 23 Glacian 610 AF ]


If this is what it feels like to be drunk, then perhaps I can now understand the constant desire of the Ashtani - Nihilists, especially - to imbibe, for I feel giddy, exultant, intoxicated with bloodlust and the adrenaline of war, drunk on power and triumph. It is a heady feeling, addictive.


My clothes are now so encrusted with blood that they have become stiff, and I suspect I may be suffering from fatigue and some internal bleeding. Something is scraping with an odd grinding noise in my chest, but I do not care at the moment; restorative salve later.


A Caspiite approached me while I was with a Tormented at the Avenue of Trapped Souls, having just returned from a corruption excursion. Through his intelligence and under the leadership of Viceroy Ruth, we corrupted the master shrine of Lord Neraeos within His Riparium temple, sweeping away with ease the pitiful one or two defenders who arrived.


But that was only the first of many - the master shrine of Lady Tarah was the next to fall, and then Father, in a typically outrageous move, attempted to corrupt the shrine to Lady Ourania right in the heart of Hashan, at their crossroads.


He perished, and the slave Daeven followed shortly after; but Father gathered the other Mhaldorians, telling them they would perish, but still they followed, and as one descended on Hashan - in the end their bodies lay strewn on the ground, but we rejoiced - for now a shrine to the alien God stood defiantly at the heart of the city, a taunting reminder of He who had slain Her daughter and brothers and sisters.


Father then decided that all cities should bear the mark of Evil's dominance, and together we made short work of a shrine to Lord Pentharian near Cyrene's arena, with Eleusis and Shallam having already been corrupted a few months earlier.


The most difficult to breach was Ashtan, as they had had forewarning of our intentions with our actions in the other cities - our first assault on a shrine to Lord Babel within the orphanage fell just short of completion, but in our next attack we set our sights on that of Lady Pandora, and without the deadly power of worldburn to hinder us, it was swiftly accomplished.


The undiluted joy and pride I am feeling at the moment is unparalleled.


Nevertheless, I am naught if not realistic. All options must be considered, and I am quite aware that this string of victories of us will lead to some form of downfall eventually.


It merely remains to see what form it will take - and when.



[ Sarapin 611 AF ]


It seems Han-Tolneth, roused from his grief-stricken stupor, has found a way to cleanse the tainted shrines.


They surrounded him in the desert as he asked for news, and showed him the embers. He led them to the shrine of Ascension in the Siroccians, and used an ember held by a young Priestess to cleanse it.


This, of course, cannot be allowed to stand. We attempted to retake the shrine numerous times, but there were too many guarding it, and Han-Tolneth - even a Han-Tolneth beset by grief - is a considerable force all on his own.


It does not matter. They can only delay the inevitable, for we have and are redoubling our corruption efforts. I eagerly look forward to the day when the Masters ground them all into less than dust beneath Their boot heels, and Evil takes its rightful place as rulers of the world.



[ Daedalan 611 AF ]


I can scarcely believe I am writing this.


Lord Apollyon. Dead.


Challenged by Lord Pentharian, They duelled in the sky - we watched our Master in all His glory, lashing the Lord of Valour with His wicked whip, cleverly using the red fog as His shield.


The other god was beginning to falter, even though He did manage to strike at the Master, but our Master only embraced the Suffering - daemons howled, angels sang (infernal noise), on and on They fought, but it was a stalemate-


Then Shallam, interfering Shallam, a thousand times over cursed Shallam, plague-ridden Shallam, [the words begin to grow steadily more untidy, the impression on the parchment deeper as if more force was applied], gods-bedamned Shallam, mindless sheep, mewling degenerates, cracked, splintered, shattered 'Jewel'-


They prayed.


They prayed, every worthless little ant overstaying their welcome on this earth prayed, and somehow their prayers bolstered the strength of the Lord.


He...


He shattered the kris of the Master and plunged his blade clean through Him, then...pushed the gem [a giant ink blot obscures any following text]


Suffice it to say, as happened when He was part of Lord Sartan, the Master was cleaved in twain once more. This time, however...He did not return. Instead, He evaporated into an oily black cloud that dissipated into the red fog.


Lord Shaitan was, understandably, livid beyond all comprehension. The very foundations of the isle trembled at His roar of fury, and I thought He was going to slay the Lord of Valour right then and there.


I wish He had, but strangely enough His rage soon abated, and He smirked and departed, a curious expression to have upon the fall of His Brother. I admit I did not pay it overmuch attention at the time, as the forces of Shallam soon besieged the isle again.


Regrettably I cannot say we performed overly stellar on this occasion, with the shock of the Master's death lingering over us - the isle defense fared quite well, with Antidas and Nizaris orchestrating a clever back-beckoning strategy, but for reasons unknown we then tried to attack the Jaruvians, and that ended less favourably.


Kelandra, I hear, is distraught - as I am certain the other former Adikoi are. Except Kaevan, I suppose. He seems as...unruffled as ever, but then I suspect the world truly would end before Kaevan ever showed any real emotion that was not anger, amusement or implacability.


Such a cruel twist of fate, to return our Master to us, only to have Him perish. The anguish of some was so great that their hearts literally failed them; I, however, feel naught beyond faint regret. Perhaps I am in shock; but I think the Master would not desire we grieve and cry like the hapless, snivelling heathens for their dead heathen gods.


His death was His final benediction to us, that His Suffering spur us onwards to transcend mortal limitations, and we should cherish it as such.


The time for Vengeance will come.



[ Aeguary 611 AF ]


Over and over, it seems I need to learn the same lessons.


Trust in the Masters, and They will show us the way.


The Lord Shaitan stood amidst the red fog of the isle, thunder rumbling in the firmament, odd tendrils of black within the swirling fog scouring His flesh relentlessly. A flash, and His features changed - I thought I glimpsed...Lord Apollyon?...


A bellow of pain, then He doubled over, clutching His horns.


The clouds scattered, and the world was silent.


Then...


"So have we endured. And so have we been made stronger."


As He did in the beginning, so did Lord Shaitan once again absorb the essence of Lord Apollyon - to return to us as Lord Sartan, original Master of Evil, making that which was Sundered now whole once more.


Such a cacophony did He rouse the delighted daemons of Hell to as He roared His challenge to Lord Pentharian, I could feel blood dripping from my ears.


If I were Shallam, I would be terrified presently.


But I am Mhaldorian...and I am ecstatic.



[ Miraman 611 AF ]


Cardinal Lodi launched a new exhibition for the Ivory Institute of Fine Art this month in honour of recent events. I took the time to view it, and it is an incredible array of work as always.


I particularly favoured the piece depicting Ashaxei's death.



[ Scarlatan 611 AF ]


Great delight, for I received a missive from the thrall Iaeum, formerly in the service of the late Suffering Lord. I sent a reply to him posthaste, and there followed a lengthy discussion regarding the various plans I desired to set in motion for the city.


He has made swift work of some issues already, and seems very efficient and intelligent, yet still deferential. I can see why the Lord favoured him.


I am anxious to see more of my plans progress, for they have been allowed to lie dormant for far too long. While the world continues to fall to ruins around us, Mhaldor alone will stand in all its glory at the end, high atop our black mountain.



[ Ero 611 AF ]


I saw them this month, after a conversation I should not have been privy to - but then, where else are you most likely to find a Naga?


They told me their faith had never faltered, would never falter. I wanted to believe them, but I know time inevitably brings change. It will not last.


For just a moment, as we sat there, it was as if the struggles of the past decade had never been, and all was right with the world.


But it was just illusion; and it pains me more than I can ever say to admit that truth. Change is a cruel master, and it is part of growth to learn how to adapt with it - and move on.


Perhaps someday that knowledge will come to me, as well.



[ Valnuary 611 AF ]


I awoke this morning to hear tell that Bal'met had been thwarted by Lady Selene while He attempted to slay Lord Lupus, still recuperating from His injuries within Her temple.


I was not overly surprised to hear next that She succumbed to Him with nary a fight.


Protected by Love, indeed. Perfect proof of just how weak it really is.


I do not know why Bal'met did not simply then turn on Lord Lupus once He claimed the essence of Lady Selene for His own (surely She could not have been worth overmuch) but perhaps He was sated for the moment.


The heathens often deride the Lord and Mhaldorians for pandering to the will of Bal'met - ludicrous, of course, the Lord serves none but Himself - but there was a tiny possibility of sense in their largely pointless drivel. They shouted that if Bal'met could overpower three gods, then He could destroy the Lord just the same.


I trust implicitly in the Lord, yet the ease with which the alien god is accumulating this power is, I admit, somewhat concerning. If I am not mistaken, Bal'met now possesses the essence of Ladies Kastalia, Selene, and Lord Hermes. Though His victims were some of the weaker members of the Garden, and the Master is, after all, the Master - combined it is still the essence of three Divine.


It may be paranoia, but then paranoia is my business. I am certain this would not have escaped the foresight of the Lord...but I suppose I cannot help the worry.



[ Phaestean 611 AF ]


The Divine battle upon Krenindala was naught - naught - compared to what transpired but moments ago.


I find myself still somewhat stunned by the enormity of the battle, still reliving it in my head; I scarcely even know where to begin. Perhaps I should start with Lord Agatheis, who used the lure of His own essence to bait Bal'met into a trap prepared by Himself and the other Divine near the Garden, somehow managing to confine Him.


Then I should write of the challenge of Lord Pentharian, answered by all the Divine of Mhaldor - Lord Shaitan and Ladies Keresis and Indrani - thus sparking a battle to end all battles that raged for days within the Garden, thunder and lightning and fire and storm, earthquakes and gales, arrows and swords. Perhaps this is what it was like upon Nishnatoba, all those years ago. Except this time the Triumvirate was now the Quadrumvirate, with Bal'met assisting the Masters; on the other side, the rest of the Garden.


Fifty journals would not be enough to contain all the awe-inspiring sights and sounds of the battle - it really was an event one had to witness with one's own eyes. Dreadlords, daemons and Dala'myrr bolstered the strength of our Masters; such legion, the forces of Hell, surely it must have struck fear into the hearts of our enemies. We are but a fraction of our Masters' power!


Though Lord Thoth was not Himself present for this battle, it was undeniably Death that ruled the battlefield. Blood was spilt in the gallons, Divine and mortal both as war raged across the heavens, us mortals transfixed by the scene as we could do little but watch - well, save for fending off the daemons that fell to Sapience when Lady Artemis summoned Her cyclone, but they naturally did not trouble us.


Many Divine fell in this battle, of a scale not seen since the War of Humanity - Lady Indrani, unfortunately, fell to the God-child Lord Pandemonium, destroyed as a consequence of Her own Pride; Her fight soon taken up by Lady Keresis, Herself strengthened by the completion of the Lord of Strife's long overdue vengeance.


It was an awesome sight to see the Gods in full battle regalia, causing death and destruction on a level surely even the former Lady Makali would have been proud of; however the point where the tide truly turned was when Bal'met uttered a single word from His prison, only His third word ever said in living memory:


"SYCAERUNAX!"


I recalled the name from the story told by Han-Tolneth, but could not imagine what use it would have to call upon a long-dead dragon; I was soon to be proven wrong, however, quite incredibly wrong, as the enormous silhouette of an undead dragon pierced the veil between the worlds and soared into view.


Even as the rest of Sapience watched, mouths agape at his unexpected appearance, the Father of Dragons made his presence felt immediately - with a swipe of his claws he destroyed the prison of Bal'met, who leapt astride him, and bore Him away; it was due to the wyrm's interference that Lord Pandemonium became distracted, and led to His death by disembowelment at the hands of Lady Keresis; then Ladies Melantha and Mithraea charged him together, thinking to fell him, but both met Their end at his mighty claws, skewered as easily as a voodoo doll upon a gleaming pin - the last memory of Lady Melantha the reverberating echo of Her agonised scream.


The light-swords of Lord Pentharian faltered with the passing of Lady Mithraea, and it was with no little amusement as, at the urgent behest of Lord Phaestus, we watched Lord Babel grudgingly return the Sword of Dunamis to Lord Pentharian - the very sword that that the Mad God had taken such great pains to steal from Him - lest the Te'Serran fall, and the forces of the Garden be overrun.


Of course, this was to be all in vain, for it was our own Master now that faced Him. I shall concede, I suppose, that the Lord was Valorous indeed as He grappled with the Malevolent One while His Divine allies fled; however never has Valour seemed to serve any particular use to me in the greater picture, and it certainly did not save Him from Bal'met.


Gruesome deaths are naught new to me, yet this one was particularly so; the alien God thrust His hand into Lord Pentharian's body from behind, as if there was no armour, no flesh impeding His way at all; He caught the Sword and drew it hilt-first back into the Lord, shattering His breastplate.


Never had I thought to see the fall of both the Sun and Her Valorous counterpart, much less in the same day. The dying God, however, did have a chance to cry out to Lady Tarah, gasping with His last breath for Her to save the Sword; this She managed to do, unfortunately, flying fleet-footed towards Shallam and hurling it into their midst - however She paid the price for its rescue with Her own Divine life, chased down and devoured wholesale by Sycaerunax with no more effort than hunting a newborn fawn.


I wager the slaughter would have thus continued, if not for the appearance of a God none have ever remembered seeing in recorded history - Aeon, Lord of Time. He bore an hourglass in His hand, tilting it slightly, and we felt the world slow; the escaping Gods were unaffected, however, and They departed swiftly. Given Their ultimate victory, however, the Lord and Lady returned in triumph to the Baelgrim with Their forces, and we rejoiced.


Atrocity shall overtake the world, and in that day all shall walk in fear!


I was told tales later of a great struggle between Nihilist and Shallamese forces, wrestling to regain control of the Sword of Dunamis. The precise details escape me, other than that there was a ferocious battle within Moghedu for it. I do not know whom possesses it at the moment, but I have a vague suspicion that it may be used for the resurrection of Lord Pentharian in the future - or at least one of the Good-aligned Divine.


I suppose time, indeed, will tell.



[ Valnuary 611 AF ]


Seldom have I ever held so much mirth within my heart.


The last of the Jewel's precious Te'Serra, Lady Lorielan - Goddess of Knowledge - has forsaken them.


I am uncertain of the precise details - no doubt they prayed for guidance or some such - but I am certain only of one thing: a portal opened for the briefest of instances to the Crystal Realm, Her domain, revealing a glimpse of Her.


Undoubtedly the faces of Her supplicants, the lost and grieving Shallamese, lit up with hope, naive hope, that She would lead them to salvation; only for Her to utterly crush their dwindling spirit with a single syllable:


"No."


And just like that - just like that - Lady Lorielan withdrew from the Jewel, and all was dark.


The once-shining Jewel is abandoned. Three of their Gods dead, and the last remaining hope outright denouncing any ties between Herself and them.


Where is your Light now, Shallam?



[ Chronos 611 AF ]


I awoke this month to a flurry of activity. It seems that interfering Dragonmaster, Han-Tolneth, has once again devised some new plan in (futile) hopes of thwarting the plans of the Master.


He has bade Sapience assist him in tracking the movements of the Dala'myrr with some form of enchanted flame, creating signal fires that will help indicate their direction of progress.


Naturally, this cannot be allowed to stand. The general of the Lord was once more instructed to create portable water globes with which we could extinguish these fires and thwart their efforts.


I admit I wondered for a moment, with the forces of five cities against us, how we would manage to keep their efforts at bay; yet I am told that there were moments where we managed to extinguish every single fire imaginable through an impressive sequence of teamwork involving hardworking falcons, swift Dragons, fleet-footed Serpents and endlessly labouring slaves besides.


Time and time again, numbers alone have shown to mean little in the grand scheme of the world.


They will not be a deterrent here.



[ Glacian 611 AF ]


The Lord has ordered all work unrelated to present happenings be terminated for the present. The inertia chafes at me, so much so that I have taken to reorganising city scrolls and the like.


When this all concludes - for surely it must, eventually - one cannot help but wonder if it will leave us with a rejuvenated Mhaldor...or if we will be left a Mhaldor, at all. Bal'met is of course merely a tool of the Lord, and He undoubtedly knows how to keep the God under control...


...and yet...


Such cynicism is a peculiar taste for me. I am not entirely certain what spurred it, yet it is what it is. It seems strange to think that it was not so very long ago that Sir Tirac inquired what alchemist I was employing for my draughts of optimism.


I shall have to tell him he was eaten by a Dala'myrr.



[ Mayan 611 AF ]


Extinguishing works continue. It is beginning to be tedious in the extreme, but I can only imagine how much more so for those who cannot fly, pierce the veil, or have access to wormholes.


With luck, it will only last a few moments longer.



[ Sarapin 612 AF ]


Han-Tolneth declared that he had collected enough information on the Dala'myrr, thanking Sapients at large for their assistance and mocking us for our diligence in carrying out the orders of the Lord.


Frankly, I think he is merely trying to console himself. Having watched the progress of the Mhaldorians and their unflinching dedication to extinguishing the flames, I find it difficult to imagine that he managed to procure information of any worth at all.



[ Phaestian 612 AF ]


In light of recent events, the leaders of Hashan and Ashtan have both declared their cities hostile to the city of Evil.


Dismissing Hashan entirely as a non-threat, the Tyrannus decided to focus our war efforts towards the Bastion, instead. As of this moment, we are officially at war.


Which is to say, business as usual.


The new Overseer Dunn is known to be far more ruthless and volatile in his methods than his predecessor, which is saying something. Unfortunately, he also has the advantage of understanding Mhaldorian tactics with his former stint as the Lord Marshal of Mhaldor. No doubt Ashtani will be waiting for Mhaldorians at every corner we turn, now, but then a Naga is used to constantly being hunted.


I wonder how the other Mhaldorians will fare, particularly the young. I suppose there can be no better trial of Suffering for them to prove their dedication to Evil; many have silver tongues and speak pretty words of unfaltering service to the Lord, so on and so forth, but how many will remain to see those words made action...in this, admittedly, I find myself overly pessimistic.


Trey seems quite the constrast, sure of himself and the city, as always, on the few occasions I have managed to speak to him of late. I wonder when the curse of pessimism began to shadow my own thoughts; however, glancing over the city and its population now, solitary hunters and mindless idlers, wraiths and rats far outnumbering our soldiers...there is little to boost my spirits.


Solitary indeed is the path to Strength; and the very fact that it is so deserted is truly a lamentable thing. Greatness calls, it beckons so alluringly; yet why is it that no one answers?



[ Lupar 612 AF ]


There are many who have taken to hunting the ormyrr who patrol the isle of Sartan. Whether this is because of some impotent desire for retribution, or for the less noble causes of profit, they come regardless.


For the most part, the ormyrr can look after themselves and there is no real need for us to protect them - at least, the Lord has not ordered that we do. We do not hesitate to assist them if we should notice them being attacked by enemies, however; any excuse to clash steel with the heathens, for all the world is our enemy now.


Jealous of greatness, they are, yet too timid to pursue the path. There is no room for cowards upon the dais of power; suffer like all the rest of the unworthy fools.


One in particular, a Cyrenian (Mojushai, no less) by the name of Iocun has been curiously persistent. Month after month he comes to the isle to hunt the ormyrr, almost as regular as clockwork. His visits have become so frequent that we watch for him, now, and usually find him; typically it ends in his death, though admittedly he has some skill in escape. There have been instances when I have watched him perish no less than five times in a row, and still he returns to the isle - sometimes even dashes right into the totem implanted in the defendable area.


Of course, if he so wishes to provide fodder and essence for us, I am scarcely the one to complain; a pity more heathens do not adopt this kind of attitude.


After one slew of particularly swift deaths, I saw that he lingered upon the clouds. In general, I have exhausted the greater part of my inclination to speak to heathens, preferring to leave that tedious task to those more gilded in tongue and greater in patience than I. However, he piqued my curiosity, and so I made myself known.


Our conversation was brief, but in essence, he stated that even though he knew his actions were but little dents - if even that - in the grand scheme, he persisted because it was his duty. The ormyrr, he said, were abominations that needed to be wiped off the face of Sapience - and somehow he thought his meagre efforts would contribute, if even a little.


Amusingly misguided, of course, for the ormyrr forces are legion - but then he is Cyrenian. I will grant that one cannot help but be grudgingly admiring of such dedication and tenacity, though - or perhaps I should call it denial - but I can afford to give him the benefit of the doubt.


Worthy adversaries in the Heart of the Vashnars are almost non-existent, but this unorthodox Mhun Serpent may yet prove me wrong. Again we see the power of Oppression manifest; for had the ormyrr not come and wrought such turmoil, I suspect he would still be wasting his days away giving their so-called 'respect lessons' to empty-headed younglings.



[ Valnuary 612 AF ]


The war rages on, ranging from small single-person defilings of the Lord's shrines to full-blown, dragon-dominated sanctioned raids by the Bastion. We have responded in kind as best as we are able - even with some raids of our own - but it would be optimistic in the extreme to say that we are anywhere near triumphant in this conflict. Already I have begun to notice a decline in our population, and still it is but early days.


Some of our young, however, have surprised me with their initiative in rising to the occasion - Xer, the young Sentry Ayoxele, and one of the new Jesters - Aeolithon - in particular seem to have formed somewhat of a fledgling strike force. Despite myself, I am beginning to feel a little more hopeful for the future of Mhaldor, if this partnership lasts.



[ 24 Chronos 612 AF ]


If ever any had asked me, "Do you think Shallam will ever be destroyed?" I would have replied with something to the effect of "of course, when the forces of Evil walk the earth," so on and so forth.


Never, however, would I have actually expected to see the ormyrr-besieged Shallam torn apart, stone by stone, crumbling into nothing but rubble, the earth swallowing large portions of the ruined city whole like a giant humgii's maw.


Rubble can be cleared, and new buildings built upon old ground; but Sycaerunax and the Dala'myrr were thorough in their annihilation of the city. While the Father of Dragons wreaked havoc upon the surface, the worm-like Dala'myrr burrowed through the earth and destroyed the foundations of the city itself.


It was with disbelieving eyes that we watched the pockmarked Jewel crumble into the ocean, the sea swallowing its glittering streets up whole, sapphire waves crashing over the ruins until there was naught to be seen but turbulent blue - no sign that such a large city, full of centuries of history and tradition and life, had ever existed.


There is no more Shallam.


Oh yes, the grieving peasants made their declarations of defiance, but they only ring-



[ 1 Glacian 612 AF ]


It seems I was right after all regarding the Sword of Dunamis.


Somehow, the essence of the long-dispersed Lord Deucalion, the Righteous Fire, found its way back to the Sword. It combined itself with whatever remnant of Lord Pentharian remained in the ether to reform, returning the consciousness of the original God of Righteousness.


The once-Shallamese may rejoice that they are not completely bereft - while they can -, but it matters little. Our concern is for the Masters alone; all others, Divine or mortal, make scant difference when they are all ground as dust underneath Their heels.



[ Mayan 612 AF ]


There are reports of Sapients scurrying to collect the fallen embers once more. I cannot fathom why; we lost the power to corrupt shrines some time ago, so there are none to cleanse regardless.


Intelligence suggests it has something to do with Sycaerunax, but naught else is known. I suppose we can do naught but be wary.



[ Sarapin 613 AF ]


The Master sent more of Bal'met's Dala'myrr forces northwards to Ashtan, intending, perhaps, to wreak the same destruction on the city as they had in the East for their bold challenge to Evil. Unfortunately, the Patron of Ashtan - Lord Babel - proved Himself less fickle or feeble than His eastern counterparts, materialising in the firmament to remove the alien wyrms with a far greater version of the Occultists' Pit of Golgotha.


Lord Sartan then called upon Sycaerunax, and he alone laid waste to the Bastion. The damage done was considerable - I hear tales of entire Ashtani fleets annihilated in a single stream of emerald flame, generations of Ashtani families lost in a second. The entire harbour was destroyed through his efforts, splintered and sunk into ruin, noxious green fire leaping and dancing over the wreckage - much like the former Jewel.


It was then, though, that Han-Tolneth called to him, goading him with mention of Ashaxei, his slain daughter. He lured him to the Mhojave, where the dragon saw an image of Ashaxei within the crater, now filled with water. At the urging of the Aldar, he plunged thoughtlessly in, and for a moment there was naught but silence.


Soon bright beams of light sprung from the crater, and to our dismay (though, if I am to be truthful, no real surprise) we saw that Sycaerunax had been restored. He was a great, glittering white wyrm, much like his daughter, powerful beyond compare - and unquestionably furious.


He easily destroyed the three Dala'myrr that Bal'met sent after him, accomplishing what his kin could not - and then he turned his gaze to the Baelgrim.


He did not accomplish overmuch before Lord Sartan and His daemonic legion put a halt to his rampage - the Master almost joined by Bal'met - but the city was not without loss. The council building, the Den of Iniquity, and the Bathory Chalet - all destroyed, and parts of the road now lie in ruin, making some paths inaccessible.


If Iaeum perished in that onslaught, I will have to find myself yet another slave to perform his tasks -and- oversee the reparations to the city, and I was rather partial to Iaeum for his efficiency.


I am quite, as you can imagine, irate - though admittedly grateful we did not suffer the same fate as the Easterners.


The idea of having to take shelter in Blackrock amongst Dwarves and bloodworms does not overly appeal to me.



[ Ero 613 AF ]


I think we all knew this day would come at some point.


Bal'met was simply too greedy, growing too powerful. With our Masters being, undisputably, the most fearsome Gods in the Garden, it was only a matter of time before Bal'met would be unsatisfied with the meagre powers of Their lesser siblings.


An altercation with some of the ormyrr forces at the gates led to the Lord demanding Bal'met recall His followers, but for once the alien god paid Him no heed. His Dala'myrr dove through the obsidian streets, causing more damage; this earned the ire of the Lady Vengeance as the tremors produced slew Alecto, Her long-time priestess.


Mhaldorians, I am told, were ordered to scour the island for ormyrr and slay every last one of them, which was accomplished in short order - with assistance even from a lycopod - finally a use for those tiresome vegetables. Lady Keresis Herself slew the two errant Dala'myrr with Her sword, the blade sinking deep within the earth where She had flung it.


Then Lord Sartan began some eldritch chant, tendrils of the red fog rising at His command towards the firmament to create a churning storm. Gradually a void opened in the centre, looking out upon the battleground of Nishnatoba. At its centre stood the Lady, the Bow of Malice in Her hands; at the urging of the Master, She loosed an arrow towards Bal'met, trailing links of crimson chain that wrapped around Him.


The Master gestured, and the vortex began to drag the alien traitor towards it, aided by the Lady as She hauled upon the chain. It was only a matter of moments before He was trapped upon the plain, and had the Masters stopped here, the tragedy that followed could have been avoided.


The Lady approached Bal'met, declaring that She would have Her vengeance, but Lord Sartan called for Her to return as He could not hold the portal longer. As She turned away, however, His loathsome Dala'myrr minions flooded the portal in an attempt to be near to their master, buffeting Her back with their sheer numbers.


Though I have no doubt She would have fought Her way free, unfortunately there was simply not enough time. Lord Sartan could hold the portal no longer, and it closed, sealing Her off with Bal'met and His minions.


Moments later, we felt the wrenching loss as Bal'met somehow fought free of his bindings and...slew the Lady. All of the Chosen felt it deeper still, the amethyst flames of our torques sputtering and dying as Her presence and influence departed the world. Her shrines crumbled into dust, the enchantment of the inner temple faded - and Megaera took her own life in grief.


I am certain my siblings of divine bond are heartbroken - Tvistor and Alynna in particular - but as for myself, I cannot summon more than weary resignation and regret. I doubt any of us truly believed that Bal'met's allegiance to the Lord was aught more than a facade for Him to gather power - and the Lady has paid the price for His services. As She did so long ago, so has She sacrificed Herself for the Master once again - Her purpose finally fulfilled, Her stay of execution hard-fought from Lord Thoth now expired.


Rest, Lady, whatever remnant of You might remain, for surely You have earned it.


To further complicate matters, it seems that the prison the Lord chose for Bal'met was the worst possible place He could have banished Him to, as the plane of Nishnatoba apparently is closer to the Fire behind the Flame than aught else.


What is to happen now?


I no longer know.



[ Valnuary 613 AF ]


Yet another Divine of the Light returns to blight Sapience with Her presence due to the interference and subsequence sacrifice of Lord Aeon, He who controlled Time. Will we never be free of Them? How is it that so many of the Garden knowingly choose to blind Themselves with the Light, whereas Evil stands alone? Can They not see the power -


Ultimately a foolish question to ask, I suppose, given that solitary dominance is the entire nature of Evil. Communism is abhorrent to those who tread the path of Oppression, and I cannot imagine the Master willingly sharing control with another, save for when He was split asunder. His followers know it too, and I suspect this was a reason they did not welcome the late Lady Keresis, for all Her noble intentions.


The restored Divine is Aurora, the Lightbringer, brought forth to the world during the collision of the Morningstar with Abbadon, the Destroyer. In a sense She was the original Twin of Lord Apollyon before He was absorbed by Lord Shaitan, as They were both products of that fateful crash.


One Light, one Dark (though not in the sense of Lord Twilight), and of Them both, only one remains a true God, though the influence of Lord Apollyon remains within Lord Sartan.


I refuse to take this as an omen. Lightbringer or no, She too will be snuffed out like so many candles in the wind when the legions of the Master descend.


For the present, however, Lord Aeon's parting words were that She would be our salvation from the utter destruction that Bal'met intends to wreak.


I cannot quite decide which the worse fate would be. Annihilated by an alien God that grew out of hand, or saved by a force of Good and Light.


O Suffering Lord, what remnant of You remains within the Malevolent One, be reassured that Your domain remains alive and well.



[ Glacian 613 AF ]


Five years since that fateful visit from the Xorans of Prin, the whole sordid affair has finally come to an end.


Even if I were to spend my life recounting the tale, I could not do it justice, but an attempt is still better than having the memories fade away over time into wild rumours and inaccurate tales. The life of an adventurer is never dull; yet wars of such a grand scale happen extremely infrequently (which is just as well, or there would be precious little of Sapience left to spread the Truths to), and so they deserve commemoration.


It began, after the sacrifice of Lord Aeon, with miniature disruptions in the flow of time. Combatants found their movements erratic and unusually fast or slow as the steadfast flow, so rigidly controlled by the Lord before, began to falter. It was theorised that this was directly connected to Bal'met's toxic presence near the Fire, and thus the Gods decided that They must act once more.


At first, following some plan of Theirs, we watched as Lord Agatheis and Lady Aurora approached the portal. The Lord broke the seal, and as Bal'met appeared, Lady Aurora drove the Sword of Dunamis through Him. It had little effect, however, beyond further enraging Bal'met - and the Elemental Lord realised Bal'met's connection to the Fire behind the Flame would need to be severed.


Thus, He made His choice. He leapt through the portal, sealing it behind Him; a moment later all knew that the link was severed, but it came at a high price, for soon all felt Him fall before the unquenchable rage of Bal'met - claimed at a time and manner of His own choosing, as He had prophesised not so very long ago.


As the remaining members of the Garden bickered upon various strategies, I retired to the Inexorable to watch, wanting a more secluded spot to observe from without the distractions of others.


All was silent for a moment, and the other Naga informed me that Lady Maya had called for a gathering at the Shrine of Ascension, and urged mortal and Divine alike to cooperate in vanquishing the threat of Bal'met - for He was a greater force than any of us had reckoned with.


The Lady proclaimed that Bal'met had grown stronger by drawing the power of the Fire into Himself, and She could not restore the Fire - this could only be done by the Logos Himself, He who had been before She was even a thought in His mind. Thus, She returned Her divinity to Him, restoring Him once more as the Supreme Creator.


For Him to succeed, however, we would need to thwart Bal'met - and to accomplish this objective, She had seen fit to grant us, mortals, with a fraction of Her power - temporarily elevating us to the status of Demigods.


The former Creatrix created a pool that would transport any who stepped in to Nishnatoba, undergoing the transformation process at the same time. Hearing this, I, of course, made my way to the Shrine - albeit invisibly - and joined the throng of adventurers who took that step.


In a way, it was very much reminiscent of when we departed Ceylon to emerge reborn as an adventurer; now we would do it once more, and emerge no longer mortal...


But a Demigod.


I cannot recall how long I spent in that pool, for time was meaningless. I felt every fibre of my being twisted and warped in ways I cannot explain. I saw the Logos and Lord Aeyr tending to the Fire, felt a spark of it leap into me; I saw the visage of Lady Maya, and She granted the remnants of Her divinity to me as Her final gift.


Abruptly, all that was unclear before became clear. I understood. I saw. I could see the Weave, and if I reached out, I could touch it, and bend Creation to my will. Suddenly I had mastery of all things; I could conjure a holocaust bomb just as easily as I could transform into a jaguar, perform a backbreaker throw with no more difficulty than flinging a tarot card, and summon a celestial angel while at the same time bending a demonic Baalzadeen to my will.


Power. So much power. It sizzled at my fingertips...and imagine, it was but a fraction of the Lady's gift. The true scope of Her power, of true divinity, is beyond my ken; suffice it to say that mortal inklings of strength fall abysmally short of the real experience.


As expected, when we arrived upon the ancient battleground that was Nishnatoba, the blighted plains were crawling with the reptilian ormyrr and Dala'myrr. In our mortal forms, it would have taken them mere seconds to fall upon us and tear us limb from limb; now, with the blessing of Lady Maya, we were more than a match for them.


Of course, Bal'met was not so easily defeated. Just as we were beginning to settle into our new powers, a thick plume of black smoke rolled across the area, solidifying into ominous shades of the twelve Divine slain at Bal'met's hand. All were shocked at this development, not least of which were the former followers of the defeated Gods. Even I, who hail from Mhaldor and should be used to the sight of abominations and atrocities, will admit to being slightly unnerved.


We decided to split up, all heading in different directions to better fight the shades - for while they were not the Lords and Ladies Themselves, they were still formed of a fraction of Their essence, like us of Lady Maya, and thus were extremely formidable.


The chaos on the battlefield...I am no stranger to battles of all sorts, but even the gargantuan raid upon Mhaldor could not hold a candle to this. Sizzling red and yellow streaks of fire seared the thundercloud-dark sky, ormyrr and Dala'myrr constantly harassing our forces, blood on the ground, in the air, on us, on them; powerful demigods congregated around the giant shades, mauling, slashing, tearing, ripping, and the shades just would -not- fall, decimating entire groups of demigods with a single blow.


For the most part, I remained as an observer, for the sheer confusion was making it difficult to keep track of things. I can only imagine what the War of Humanity must have been like, all those years ago; I did emerge, however, when the shade of the former Lady Keresis was seen. True to Her nature, She proved a most arduous opponent to subdue. Eventually, however, our relentless attacking weakened the insiduous enchantment placed by Bal'met enough that the remnant of Her trapped consciousness could escape, fleeing gratefully to its final rest.


Farewell, Lady.


Finally, when the last shade dissipated as smoke into the air, Bal'met Himself materialised upon a plateau in the very heart of Nishnatoba. The gods, now free of distractions, converged upon Him. Never will I forget the sight of all the gods of the Garden standing side-by-side together, in what is most certainly an unprecedented alliance in the history of time.


But once again, Bal'met had one last trick up His sleeve.


As He had created the shades of the fallen Divine, so too did He now create a myriad of likenesses of Himself, mingling amongst them until none could distinguish the genuine from the imitations. Still preoccupied with the ormyrr and Dala'myrr - whose numbers seemed never ending - we could only spare brief glances to the war raging upon the distant plateau; the impact of giant meteors shook the land as they crashed into one of the reflections, drawn by Lady Ourania; Lord Prospero, who seems to me like a Divine copy of Ironbeard, transformed another into a brilliant gold statue; a streak of sizzling lightning hurtled forward from the fingertips of Lord Vastar, blasting still another into nothingness.


Peculiarly enough, Lord Oneiros refused to raise a hand against the shadows, and though His power was great, eventually they managed to break His protective barrier and tear Him asunder. I cannot say this overly surprised me, for if you do naught but hold your position, you will eventually be overrun one way or another.


When the shadows engulfed Lady Artemis, I thought for a moment that She, too, had fallen; however, She emerged some time later, bloody and barely recognisable. I will admit I was a little disappointed.


All through the struggle, intermittent visions of the Logos labouring tirelessly to tend to the Fire would flicker into view, His toil watched over by Lord Aeyr. At one point, a horde of shadow minions sent by Bal'met attacked the two Gods - the God of Magic fought valiantly, but in the end, knowing He could not hope to hold them all off alone, sacrificed Himself by expending all His divine essence to eliminate all the shadows in a single blast of primal energy. It granted the Logos more time to work, but at the cost of His own life.


But at last, at last, the moment had come.


There was only Bal'met left now, and all the gods surrounded Him, advancing as one towards Him - Lady Aurora in the centre, protected by Lord Deucalion. Though all the other gods flung all Their awesome power at Bal'met, it did naught but amuse the alien interloper, though it did hinder Him somewhat. He, in turn, sent lashes of pure pain to strike and whip at the Lightbringer - but Lord Deucalion, being Her shield and bloodsworn, took most of Her injuries upon Himself - and She walked on.


Finally, when She was in range, She proclaimed, "Aeon has foreseen your fall. By Our hands you will be unmade, and His vision will come to pass."


With that, She raised the sword of Dunamis and thrust it hilt-deep into Him, and even we had to cover our ears as a ghastly chorus of a thousand wailing voices pierced our eardrums. Though the besieged god put up a tremendous struggle, writhing and twisting wildly, the combined will of the Garden and Lady Aurora - with the Sword of Dunamis - was still too strong.


One last, ear-splitting cry that reverberated from one end of the world to another, and Bal'met, the terrible, traitorous, alien divinity bent on complete annihilation of the sentient world, He who had slain more gods than had perished in any war before and likely ever since, Master of thousands of legions of a formidable, merciless otherworldly race, was dead.


And it was we, Sapients, Divine and mortal working in unison, loyalties and rivalries set aside for one great moment, that had brought about His ruin.


Before the enormity of the situation could sink in, however, we were abruptly summoned from our bodies to face the Creator. He explained to us that while He had generally been content to let His creations play out as They would, Bal'met was not of this world and had nearly destroyed it completely. As it was, the damage done to the Fire behind the Flame during His brief incursion was immense, and it would require His complete attention to remain alight.


As such, He could remain with us no longer.


Though I am not one to be easily moved by sentimental emotions, the fact that this sentence came from the Great Father, He who willed us all into existence and without whom we would not be, made it starkly poignant:


"I shall miss you all more than you know."


"Goodbye."


It seems inconceivable to me that I, or any of us at all, could have held any kind of significance to a being as all-powerful as the Logos; yet in that moment I felt like my existence had been of some importance, some relevance to Him, and that leaving us was the most difficult challenge for the Logos yet.


Foolish thinking, I know.


Nevertheless, the fact remains that the Logos has departed from this world, and we shall never see Him again.


As expected, the gift of the former Creatrix soon wore off, and it was not long before we were all mortal once more. For that moment, however, that single glorious day we knew what it was to be Divine, and I doubt any of us will forget so soon. Perhaps now that the heathens have tasted true Strength, they will hunger for it more, and come seeking for it - for surely all must know that of the Garden, the Master is the strongest of all.


What will happen now? Truthfully, I know not. Likely we will settle back into our mundane routines, burning forests, writing sermons, executing slaves and the like. There are still heathens that require converting and enemies that must be slain - one can no longer do so with a simple zap, after all.


Bal'met may have perished, but His short existence within our realm will not soon be forgotten. His ruthless cunning nearly brought the world to its knees; stopped just short of fulfillment by the combined efforts of all who called Sapience home. Gods fell before Him, entire cities and planets were reduced to rubble by His servants, and His actions forced the departure of the Logos for eternity to right the wrongs that He wrought. If one being can do this, what if there are more out there, in worlds presently beyond our perception? What should happen if another - or more - encroaches upon our world again? Many questions remain unanswered as well - the restored Sycaerunax is still at large, the Xoran disease that began this mess is still uncured, no adventurer can now be blessed with the soul of a Dragon, and so on.


Yet though we may wonder and speculate, as with most things, all will be revealed in time. For now, the saga of the alien god Bal'met ends here - a riveting tale of power and loss, enmity and unity, death and rebirth never before seen in the history of Achaea, eclipsing even the Mythos in the sheer magnitude of the events that combined to create an epic that will no doubt be told and retold through the centuries.


They say all good stories have a shred of truth to them; surely, then, this saga must be the tale to end all tales.


For every word of it is completely, utterly, and irrefutably true.